About a month ago, a group of "evangelical" theologians and thinkers went to the National Press Club to launch An Evangelical Manifesto. They felt, quite rightly, that the title "evangelical" had been hijacked and misused so that in the minds of the great masses of people there is a great deal of justifiable confusion about what an evangelical is. There is obviously much in An Evangelical Manifesto with which all believers should agree. Its critique of some of the excesses of evangelical churches is devastatingly honest:
"All too often we have trumpeted the gospel of Jesus, but we have replaced biblical truths with therapeutic techniques, worship with entertainment, discipleship with growth in human potential, church growth with business entrepreneurialism, concern for the church and for the local congregation with expressions of the faith that are churchless and little better than a vapid spirituality, meeting real needs with pandering to felt needs, and mission principles with marketing precepts. In the process we have become known for commercial, diluted, and feel-good gospels of health, wealth, human potential, and religious happy talk, each of which is indistinguishable from the passing fashions of the surrounding world."
However, there is much to cause alarm. Two aims of the manifesto are to distance Evangelicalism from Fundamentalism and theological Liberalism. From what the framers have written, I judge that they have certainly made clear their departure from Biblical Fundamentalism while cozying up to Liberalism by accepting or allowing for some of its deepest heresies. Take a few examples.
1. As to whether the Lord Jesus Christ is the exclusive way for anyone to be saved, the manifesto is strangely ambivalent. It is known that at least one of the framers was not an exclusivist. By what stretch of the imagination a person who does not accept that "no man cometh to the Father" except by Jesus Christ can be called an evangelical is beyond me.
2. The manifesto's definition of the gospel is broad and simply states, "[A defining belief for Evangelicals is] is the belief that the only ground for our acceptance by God is what Jesus Christ did on the cross and what he is now doing through his risen life." That sounds good until you remember that a number of "evangelicals" are advocating a "non-violent" theory of the atonement-that is, that what Jesus did on the cross might have been a ransom to Satan or an example but not the substitutionary bearing of God's wrath against us for our sins. This manifesto statement is disturbingly imprecise. No man who denies the vicarious atonement of our Saviour can be recognized as an evangelical.
3. The manifesto says: "All too often we have ... fallen into an unbecoming anti-intellectualism that is a dire cultural handicap as well as a sin. In particular, some among us have betrayed the strong Christian tradition of a high view of science ... and made themselves vulnerable to caricatures of the false hostility between science and faith. By doing so, we have unwittingly given comfort to the unbridled scientism and naturalism that are so rampant in our culture today." This is a clear repudiation of Young Earth Creationism. It sounds like a plea for Theistic Evolution and it automatically excludes the majority of professed evangelicals, for they believe in Creationism.