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AN EVANGELICAL MANIFESTO FOR AN INTERFAITH WORLD

 

By Berit Kjos

June 13, 2008

NewsWithViews.com

"...we repudiate those who believe their way is the only way..."[1,p.18] Evangelical Manifesto

"...making the world safe for diversity, is one of the greatest tasks we face in the global era...."[2,p.60] Os Guinness, The Case for Civility

“Evangelicalism is about renewal, and renewal brings transformation." David Neff, editor-in-chief of Christianity Today and a member of the Manifesto's steering committee. [3]

"All too often we have concentrated on great truths of the Bible, such as the cross of Jesus, but have failed to apply them to other biblical truths, such as creation. In the process we have impoverished ourselves, and supported a culture broadly careless about the stewardship of the earth and negligent of the arts and the creative centers of society." [1,p.12] Evangelical Manifesto

This "Manifesto" is full of contradictions. While its authors claim to trust the Bible, they flout God's warnings. They claim to exclude no one, yet they redefine and "repudiate" fundamentalists. They claim to speak for themselves, but their message demands global transformation and prophesies disaster if not obeyed.. They claim to follow "the narrow way," but they call for a broad, interfaith "framework" (new rules) for participating in the "public square" without offending anyone.

By whose authority did this Evangelical steering committee draft this new social contract? It's not Biblical! Though it tells us that the Gospel freed us from legalism, it imposes man's rules and restrictions on God's people! That's legalism!

“An astonishing and horrible thing has been committed in the land:
The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule by their own power;
And My people love to have it so. But what will you do in the end?" Jer. 5:30-31

WHAT IS "COMMON GOOD" IN A PLURALISTIC WORLD?

The list of names on the Manifesto's Steering Committee suggests that this document is a collective effort of Evangelical leaders. But the primary author seems to be Os Guinness. His 2008 book, "The Case for Civility: And Why Our Future Depends on It," is simply a more detailed version of the Manifesto's social agenda. We find countless repetitions of phrases such as "common good" in both book and Manifesto.

This "common good" must be negotiated in a "Public Square" -- a global arena where people share their views. To keep their debates "civil," they must learn to appreciate pluralism and seek a "common life" compatible with all beliefs and lifestyles. Peace and unity must be forged through a collective "framework" that provides the social rules for "living together with our deepest differences." The Manifesto summarizes the challenge:

"...what we as Evangelicals lament in the culture warring is not just the general collapse of the common vision of the common good, but the endless conflict over the proper place of faiths in public life, and therefore of the freedom to enter and engage public life from the perspective of faith. A grand confusion now reigns as to any guiding principles...."[1,p.16]

"We are committed to a civil public square – a vision of public life in which citizens of all faiths are free to enter and engage the public square on the basis of their faith, but within a framework of what is agreed [by whom?] to be just and free for other faiths as well."[1,p.17]

In "The Case for Civility," Dr. Guinness elaborates. Notice the parallel phrases:

"The vision of a civil public square is one in which everyone—people of all faiths...—are equally free to enter... but always within the double framework, first, of the Constitution [assuming "separation of church and state"], and second, of a freely and mutually agreed covenant, or common vision for the common good, of what each person understands to be just and free for everyone else, and therefore of the duties involved in living with the deep differences of others."[2,p.135]

"The better approach is to pursue civility... through setting up a mutually agreed-upon framework, or covenant, or charter, within which important differences can be negotiated."[2,p.148-149]

Does this "common good" involve rules and duties that redefine "free speech" and censor "offensive" comments? Would it ban the name of Jesus from its Public Square? Based on the numerous references to a guiding "framework" and its corresponding "duties," that seems to be the case. But -- like educational change agents -- neither the book nor the Manifesto provide clear definitions. We've already seen signs of this transformation in classrooms and prayer gatherings.

Would Christian families be pressured to participate in this dialectic process and follow its rules? What if you simply want to live your life for God and train your children to follow Him? Would you still have to join the dialogue?


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Dr. Guinness' answer seems to be a resounding yes. You can't just separate yourself from the process, for--

"....those who claim the right to dissent should assume the responsibility to debate: Commitment to democratic pluralism assumes the coexistence... of groups whose ultimate faith commitments may be incompatible, yet whose common commitment to social unity and diversity does justice to both the requirements of individual conscience and the wider community."[2,p.194]

In the days of the early church, Peter and the disciples faced a similar challenge. They were teaching about Jesus in what would be the equivalent of a "Public Square." That offended the high priest, who commanded them to stop. Peter's answer is worth remembering:

“We ought to obey God rather than men." Acts 5:29

WHERE IS THIS PUBLIC SQUARE?

The two answers below, first from the Manifesto, then from "The Case for Civility" should raise some serious concerns about Internet freedom -- especially in light of the similarities between this Manifesto and various UN treaties:

"... the Internet era has created a world in which everyone can listen to what we say even when we are not intentionally speaking to everyone. The challenges of living with our deepest differences are intensified in the age of global technologies such as the World Wide Web."[1,p.17]

"...the two main storm centers of controversy today are the public square itself—which now includes the burgeoning, often irrational, and highly manipulative Web logs [blogs]—and public education....

"Both spheres require a bold, patient, and highly practical and systematic application of the principles of civility—within the framework of a vision such as... the Common Ground movement led by Charles Haynes, Oliver Thomas, and other doughty champions of religious liberty."[2,p.172]

Actually, Charles Haynes and Os Guinness have worked together on several transformational projects the last two decades. Dr. Guinness is a board member at the Bible Literacy Project, which published the unbiblical textbook, "The Bible and Its Influence."[4] While promoting its dialectical message, Haynes also served on the Advisory Board of The Pluralism Project' [5] with the Wiccan author, Margot Adler.

As senior scholar at the Freedom Forum's First Amendment Center, Haynes works closely with lawyer Oliver Thomas, who co-authored "The Right to Religious Liberty," "an ACLU handbook." Whose “right” would the ACLU promote? [6]

In "The Case for Civility," Os Guinness acknowledges both Haynes and Thomas as "friends and fellow advocates of the first liberty." Haynes was even included among "friends who read this manuscript in its entirety and make many invaluable suggestions."[2,pp.199-200]

The main obstacle to this agenda would be uncompromising convictions. So it's not surprising that the Manifesto "repudiates" what it calls fundamentalism. And by redefining it in confusing language and identifying it with wrongs committed by those who don't know God, they vilify it. For example:

"As this global public square emerges, we see two equal and opposite errors to avoid: coercive secularism on one side...and religious extremism on the other side, typified by Islamist violence....
"...we repudiate those who believe their way is the only way and the way for everyone, and are therefore prepared to coerce others...."[1,p.17]

"Fundamentalism has... developed into an essentially modern reaction to the modern world. As a reaction to the modern world, it tends to romanticize the past... and to radicalize the present....."[1,p.9]

In "The Case for Civility," Guinness repeats those criticisms:

"...fundamentalism... is an essentially modern reaction to the modern world.... [It] romanticizes the past... and radicalizes the present....

"This point about Christian fundamentalism being a modern reaction to the modern world carries a double warning about the perils of extremism.... The German Christians who fell for the siren sounds of Nazism were the very ones who had set out to fight for 'the order of God as the standard for the shaping of common life.'... With such an impulse, it was all too easy for Hitler to corral their support in coming to power.”[2,p.95]

That's not true! Faithful Christians, unlike Germany's compromising pastors and parishioners, refused to bend to Hitler's threats. Pastor Martin Niemoller and countless others would rather die than deny their Lord! Dr. Guinness must have known that! [See Day of No Return] And he surely knows this Scripture:

"Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.'" John 14:6

WHAT IS CHRISTIAN FUNDAMENTALISM?

Biblical Christianity has faced more than its share of media mockery. Some of Hollywood's favorite targets have been pastors and fathers. So it's not surprising that "fundamentalists" rank low in popularity polls. The Manifesto's spokesmen agree.

"What would be disastrous at this early stage of the global public square," wrote Guinness, "would be a combination of attitudes created by American superpower strength... and an overheated, apocalyptic, end-times fundamentalist style of thinking."[2,p.161]

Reflecting similar displeasure, the Manifesto complains that "...fundamentalism was thoroughly world-denying."[1,p.14] And well it should be! Remember what Jesus told us:

"...the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.... Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world." John 17:14-18

There's no wall between the world and us. We walk freely among its people as citizens of heaven and messengers of His love. But there is a wall between what's holy and unholy. God tells us to "Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good." Romans 12:9 Only by His Word and Spirit in us can we discern the difference.

Such Scriptures don't fit the Manifesto's principle of conciliation. Dr. Peter Masters, pastor of the church in London founded by Pastor C.H. Spurgeon, explained this transformation back in 1995:

"THERE ARE NOW TWO KINDS OF EVANGELICALS.... The old is the authentic, biblical position. The new is far off the track, not in its basic view of salvation, but in its readiness to compromise with doctrinal error and worldly ways. The new is selling the faith for earthly respect and recognition... and churches are being ruined.

"Those of us who are old-style evangelicals are now being labeled as fundamentalist by our critics, the new-style evangelicals. A repetition is occurring of what happened at Antioch, where the 'the disciples were first called Christians.' (Acts 11:26) That glorious name was given to them by their critics...

.

"Why are the new-style evangelicals calling us fundamentalists? They are doing so for reasons of tactical self-advantage. ... They founded the magazine Christianity Today as the flagship journal for their new direction.... The old, sharp line between worldly activities and spiritual activities was swept away, and believers were encouraged to be much more involved in worldly culture, leisure and entertainment. ...

"...the new evangelicals began to ... speak of themselves simply as evangelicals, and the old-style believers as fundamentalists.... All that remained was to give the term fundamentalist an objectionable, negative image, and the new evangelicals would then appear to be mainstream."[7]

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Their strategy is working. But our sovereign God will not be mocked. Though He warned His people that we would face increasing hostility in this world, He has promised to lead us in "His triumph" no matter how fierce the battle!

"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? ... Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us." Romans 8:35, 37.

Endnotes:

1, An Evangelical Manifesto
2, Os Guinness, The Case for Civility: And Why Our Future Depends on It.
3, "Reaffirmation, Reformation and Repositioning at the heart of 'an Evangelical Manifesto," May 7, 2008;
4, A more adoptable Bible?
5, The Pluralism Project, Advisary Board - And Margot Adler
6, The First Amendment Center and The right to religious liberty book
7, Are We Fundamentalists?

2008 Berit Kjos - All Rights Reserve

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Berit Kjos is a widely respected researcher, writer and conference speaker. A frequent guest on national radio and television programs, Kjos has been interviewed on Point of View (Marlin Maddoux), The 700 Club, Bible Answer Man, Beverly LaHaye Live, Crosstalk and Family Radio Network. She has also been a guest on "Talk Back Live" (CNN) and other secular radio and TV networks.  Her last two books are A Twist of Faith and Brave New Schools. Kjos Ministries Web Site: http://www.crossroad.to/index.html


 

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This "common good" must be negotiated in a "Public Square" -- a global arena where people share their views. To keep their debates "civil," they must learn to appreciate pluralism and seek a "common life" compatible with all beliefs and lifestyles.