Thursday, May 15, 2008

Explaining Evangelicals

So I joined the anti-social revolution recently and joined Facebook. Shocking, I know. But it hasn’t been all bad. I have been fascinated by certain aspects of the profile page. For instance, I always look to see what someone indicates as their “Religious Views”. Some are general and say “Protestant” or “Catholic”. I like the ones that are unique or try to distinguish what their views or beliefs are from mainstream, generic, seemingly vague descriptions like “Christian” or “Evangelical”. For example, some indicate specific Bible verses or passages. One of my friends put, “However you look at it 1 billion people are wrong”. Fascinating! Of course, he is right. But don’t you wonder about this? What do they mean when they say they are a “Christian”? Do different people mean different things?

A very interesting document was released last week called An Evangelical Manifesto – a public statement declaring “Evangelical identity and public commitment”. It is 20 pages, but well worth the read. There also has been much media response from both within and outside the Church. I recommend reading the response by Dr. Albert Mohler. The document defined “Evangelical” in one sentence this way (with further explanation included): Christians who define themselves, their faith, and their lives according to the Good News of Jesus of Nazareth.

My summary or key take away from the Manifesto and responses to it, especially by Mohler, is that the term “Evangelical” must be defined theologically, and not socially, politically, or culturally, as so many in the media are quick to do (especially during an election year). That is to say, if we lose the core definition of “Evangelical” as those who have saving faith through the Gospel of Jesus Christ and who seek to proclaim and demonstrate that Gospel to lead others to faith; if we lose that theological definition at the hands of social and political ideologies or cultural trends, than we lose the term “Evangelical” altogether, and in turn do great damage to the effectiveness of our witness to the objective, eternal, Good News of Jesus Christ revealed to us through the Bible. This document, I think, shares this emphasis and advises well how to approach this identity dilemma in our time, specifically in America, with civility. In the meantime, stay tuned for a future post where I’ll attempt to articulate what it means for me to say I am a “Christian” or an “Evangelical”. My explanation didn’t fit under “Religious Views” on my Facebook profile.

1 comment:

Sara said...

I agree with yours and the manifesto's distinctions between the theological and sociocultural definitions of evangelical. The political media has absolutely created - or at least perpetuated - the social definition that's become the dominant one. At this point, the burden must be on those of us who consider ourselves evangelicals to not only uphold the theological definition at its core, but ALSO to redefine the sociocultural implications of those theological truths. It can't be left in the hands of the world to apply the theological implications of our faith....