Am I an Evangelical? Are You?


by Rachel Held Evans Read Distraction Free

A few weeks ago, a group of church leaders led by Os Guinness released An Evangelical Manifesto in an effort to explain “who evangelicals are and what they stand for.” The effort was largely motivated by their desire to pry evangelicalism from the grip of the religious right, and the resulting document is quite generous in its definition of evangelical orthodoxy, thought it has been criticized for being too vague. 

Among other things, the document states that “evangelicals are Christians who define themselves, their faith and their lives according to the Good News of Jesus of Nazareth.”  It asserts that “Jesus Christ is fully God become fully human” and that salvation comes through grace, not works. Interestingly, nothing is said about inerrancy. 

The manifesto has been criticized by both evangelicals and the press for being too broad. 

Scot McKnight made an interesting point about the subject on his blog.  He claims that an attempt to unite evangelicals beneath one creed will fail because “evangelicalism never has been and never will be uniform in theology…[Evangelicalism] has always been ecumenical for the sake of the gospel.” 

McKnight believes that three groups are currently threatening to hijack evangelicalism:

“1) The Religious Right, which seems to think all evangelicals have the same political views; 2) The Neo-Reformed, who think Calvinism is the only faithful form of evangelicalism; and 3)The Political Progressives, who like the Religious Right think the faithful form of evangelicalism will be politically progressive.” 

I’m not sure An Evangelical Manifesto is an attempt by the third group to redefine evangelicalism by progressive standards. However, it does have the ring of inclusiveness and tolerance…which doesn’t bother me, but might bother other evangelicals. 

I guess over the past few years I’ve become less and less certain about what it means to be an evangelical in the first place. I’ve been wondering: Can I still be an evangelical and vote for a democrat? Can I still be an evangelical and support gay rights? Can I be an evangelical if I prefer the word “authoritative” rather than “inerrant” to describe the Bible? Can I be an evangelical if I have a blog called “Evolving in Monkey Town”? 

I affirm the Nicene Creed and consider myself a follower of Christ…but am I an evangelical? 

Based on An Evangelical Manifesto I think I am. But based on other standards, the ones that get talked about a lot in evangelical circles, I’m not so sure. 

So, what do you think? 

Have you read the manifesto? Do you think it accurately explains evangelicalism? Is it too broad or too narrow?  Do you think you are an evangelical? Why or why not? Do you think I’m an evangelical?

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