18 September 2014

"A Manifesto against Manifestos"

by Phil Johnson

From 2006 to 2012, PyroManiacs turned out almost-daily updates from the Post-Evangelical wasteland -- usually to the fear and loathing of more-polite and more-irenic bloggers and readers. The results lurk in the archives of this blog in spite of the hope of many that Google will "accidentally" swallow these words and pictures whole.

This feature enters the murky depths of the archives to fish out the classic hits from the golden age of internet drubbings.

The following excerpt was written by Phil back in July 2011. Phil warned about modern ecumenical manifestos and their attacks on historic boundaries of faith.

As usual, the comments are closed.
Why are front-row evangelical leaders so enthralled with drafting formal statements and grandiose-sounding declarations? Virtually every year since the release of the first "Evangelicals and Catholics Together" statement in 1994, some group or another (usually consisting of self-appointed "evangelical" strategists and Christianity Today contributing editors) gets together to repudiate evangelical principles and discuss post-evangelical strategies—while pretentiously laying claim to leadership in the amorphous evangelical movement.

In the end, with great fanfare, they invariably issue "a historic manifesto." The profound historic significance of their work is typically declared by the drafters themselves in the lead sentence of all their press releases.

One can't help noticing the common thread in this growing quiltwork of documents: virtually all of them strongly promote an ecumenical agenda. And the urgency of the ecumenical appeal is inversely proportional to the level of enthusiasm for whatever few shreds of evangelical conviction (if any) are expressed therein. If I read the trend correctly, the ecumenical agenda being pushed in these documents is growing more brazen and more demanding with each new document.

For example, "Evangelicals and Catholics Together II" (1997) included this statement, carefully crafted to sound as if it were full of evangelical conviction: "In justification, God, on the basis of Christ's righteousness alone, declares us to be no longer his rebellious enemies but his forgiven friends, and by virtue of his declaration it is so." But, of course, the statement simultaneously solicited signatures from Catholic priests and others who formally disavow the principle of sola fide. So notice: that sentence (the best in the whole statement) purposely omitted any mention of imputed righteousness and gave just enough wiggle-room to permit, say, a Jesuit theologian to put his own spin on the words and sign. It was a subtle approach to undermining the central evangelical distinctive.

Twelve years later, ECT VII (titled "Do Whatever He Tells You: The Blessed Virgin Mary in Christian Faith and Life") took a much less subtle approach. That document repeatedly scolds Protestants for their "neglect of Mary" and the supposed lack of evangelical reflection on Marian themes in their soteriology. The document goes on to make this promise: "We [evangelicals and Catholics] will seek together the mind of Christ about Mary." Then it states: "Evangelicals need to consider whether more reflection on Mary would strengthen their relationship with Jesus Christ."

Now, does anyone truly believe these ecumenical diatribes are strengthening evangelical conviction? Isn't the real point rather to undermine the very truths that make evangelical doctrine distinctive, so that (quietly setting all such things aside) we can join hands with the Vatican in the name of brotherhood and unity?

No one who understands what historic evangelicalism is could possibly think that type of "unity" represents anything other than the wholesale rejection of everything that truly differentiates evangelicals from Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Coptic Christians, and the cults.

As a matter of fact, that is exactly what these statements are aiming for. Sadly, the evangelical movement is being commandeered by people who do indeed reject evangelical doctrinal distinctives and would like to see a brand of evangelicalism that can easily syncretize almost anything from Roman Catholic mysticism to postmodernized versions of Socinianism.