Newsweek-WaPo site ‘on faith’

Some very interesting responses to the Evangelical Manifesto can be found on the Washington Post’s site, “On Faith“. The list of contributors is a potpourri of the broadest kind of ecumenicalism.

Among others, Deepak Chopra(!) comments on what he calls  a “new evangelicalism”.

In light of recent discussions regarding the social activism of some, one of his comments is interesting.

Chopra, commenting on one of the doctrinal comments of the manifesto, says:

3. Salvation as God’s gift grasped through faith. We contribute nothing to our salvation.
–This point, which demands rebirth in the holy spirit as the only way to salvation, contradicts the broad Protestant social movement toward good works (endorsed even by Pope Benedict on his recent American visit) and returns to a quasi-medieval belief that the elect are chosen by God and the non-elect damned to hell. Yet if our good works can’t contribute to salvation, why should our bad deeds affect it, either?

Another comment comes from the well known professor, Martin Marty. He says, “Evangelicals are Not Weird“. Marty says:

The most helpful, though not original, feature of the Manifesto is to show that the Evangelicals represented in it are more and other than scrubbed-up and toned-down ex-Fundamentalists.

He goes on to say:

While the drafters and all fair historians and lexicographers would point out, “evangelical” connects with the Christian gospel in all ages. Three times by my count their word became a party label.

His ‘three times’ would be

  1. The Reformation (because of their emphasis on the gospel of grace vs. the ‘perceived’ legalism of Catholicism – ‘perceived’ is Marty’s word)
  2. The 19th century anti-slavery movement and attendant vigours of the evangelical church
  3. The 1940s-1950s New Evangelical movement

Here is his whole comment on that last point:

The third time, in America post-1942/3, when they organized a National Association of Evangelicals they criticized the hardest-line fundamentalists, kept to their doctrines, but became ‘Neo-Evangelicals.” Think Billy Graham, who was converted by a fierce fundamentalist and spent his later life showing openness to many kinds of Christians and friendliness to those in other faiths–without compromising his own. The early stage was mainly “otherworldly,” non- or anti-political, but after around 1980s many were organized into what became the Christian Right, which had a narrower agenda than the Manifesto writers appreciate.

And one last quote, Marty’s comment on the ‘social’ aspect of the manifesto:

6. And this is huge, and being recovered: evangelicals believed and believe that, after being “saved by grace through faith” they were and are to make faith active in love, through works of mercy and, though less clearly, works of justice. Today many new energies–including embrace of environmental and justice issues–moves evangelicals.

As always, these perspectives from outside fundamentalism (and even outside Christianity) often cause one to shake the head at the naive foolishness of some so-called fundamentalists who want to broaden the tent and make common cause with folks who really don’t share a biblical agenda. Broadening one’s tents always leads to increased pressure to broaden even further. Taking away restraints only means that the new restraints are open to question.