Response to a Post-Evangelical Manifesto

25 May

In response to the Evangelical Manifesto Raffi Shahinian wrote a Post-Evangelical Manifesto. Having read his document, and having read some helpful and challenging posts on Shahinian’s website, I want to make a few comments and ask a few questions which I hope Shahinian will respond to:

Dear Raffi Shahinian

I don’t write as one who has read the Evangelical Manifesto. I also confess yours is the only “post-evangelical” definition I’ve ever read. Yet there are some things that concern me in your Post-Evangelical Manifesto. Perhaps I have misunderstood them and if so I hope you correct me.

I ask these questions as a brother in Christ and in the spirit of love, desiring we both come to understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ more as a result.

Post Evangelical?

My first question is: if evangelical means “Gospel person” why would you want to be post-evangelical? You may want to reform the way Gospel people behave but surely you don’t want to be post people having the Gospel at the centre?

Evangelicals Never Unpacking Truths?

No Evangelical I know recites their doctrinal basis never unpacking those statements in full. Most evangelical churches preach through the Bible, preaching each passage (Old Testament or New) in light of Jesus’ great work and then applying it to the congregation.

Here is the metanarrative set out as God has ordained. In light of this I’m very interested to know what you think Evangelicals have missed out in their unpacking of these brief doctrinal statements.

Fighting Yesterday’s Battles

In some ways I would say Evangelicalism is too obsessed with the “big issues” of the day. We spend more time talking about homosexuality and women preachers than we do talking about the things that actually matter to average Joe. Which big issues do you think we miss?

A Political Christianity?

I heard someone once say “In the Koran I find no guidance for Muslims in the minority. In the Bible I find no guidance for Christians in the majority”. The Bible assumes we will be despised for the Gospel (2 Tim 3:12).

The nearest we get to politics is Paul saying we should pray we might be able to live a quiet life (1 Tim 2:1-2). That’s hardly a call to arms! Whilst obviously Christians in politics must act in a Christian way, I am unsure that we are called to act firstly on politics.

Love beyond tolerance

I emphatically agree that we must have a love beyond tolerance. What is love? Jesus bearing our sins (1 John 4:10). Thus it is essential for us to preach the Good News of sins forgiven and the way to God open that some in the world may come to know him and make it to the next. Excellent point!

Jesus saved all creation

I agree Christ saves creation as well as me, but evangelicals constantly remind me of the corporate nature of church and salvation as well as the individual. Maybe evangelicals in your area are different. Yet the individual should not be missed out. It is essential to the whole: “For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God” (Rom 8:19)

Shaped by postmodernism!?!

You say that post evangelicalism is “shaped by the postmodern critique”. It scares me you are shaped by anything of the world. When the church has associated with the world it has always turned out bad:

  • When associated with Modernism the authority of Scripture was undermined by Liberalism.
  • When associated with Gnostic thought “secret knowledge” and an opposition to God the Son made flesh developed.
  • When too close to Judaism the Gospel to the Gentiles was hindered (Gal 2:11-14).

Christians should engage with and evangelise our postmodern culture with Scripture, but I would never say we should be informed by postmodernism

Do forgive me if I have misunderstood your points I welcome clarification. Apologies also for my brevity which may limit the usefulness of my comments.

May we both glorify the name of Jesus in our culture.

Yours in Christ

Tim Wilson

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3 Responses to “Response to a Post-Evangelical Manifesto”

  1. Raffi Shahinian May 26, 2008 at 5:24 am #

    Great questions, brother. And thanks for engaging. You’ve brought a whole world of important issues, and I’d have to think a bit longer to present a response you deserve. But off the top of my head…

    I would never want to be post-evangelical, but I am post Evangelical, if you see the difference.

    On unpacking suitcases, I agree that most Evangelical churches unpack within their congregation. A post-Evangelical vision would have a lot more unpacking going on outside church.

    On fighting yesterday’s battles, I meant that more in the theological battlefield than in the polical/cultural one.

    On the political dimension of the gospel, there is simply too much to say in a brief response. I did a post a while back that briefly touched on the issue. Re: the single passage about Paul, I think you speak volumes by that argument. Because if we look at the actual life Paul and Jesus lived (the entire narrative, if you will), it would be very difficult to argue that the gospel is not a political message, and a revolutionary one at that.

    Regarding salvation, a post-Evangelical vision would go even beyond the “corporate” and extend the message, as did Paul in Romans 8, as did Isaiah, to the whole creation, human and non-human. It is within that picture that I understand my own, personal salvation. Kind of like a Russian doll.

    Re: postmodernism, I was using that term as a hermeneutical principal rather than a worldview. Each and every Christian uses a particular hermeneutic (or a combination of many) every time she or he engages with Scripture. No one comes to Scripture as an unblemished blank slate. And I trust you appreciated the point about hearing the postmodern critique but not getting bogged down within it.

    I hope that begins to clarify things. Once again, thanks for the engaging questions.

    Grace and Peace, my new friend,
    Raffi

  2. Tim Wilson May 26, 2008 at 7:36 am #

    Thank you for your answers and the gracious spirit into which they were written. I feel like I am beginning to understand your perspective.

    Fair enough on your name. Not one I would choose, but I at least understand it.

    A lot of our unpacking does goes on within the Church. I would argue if you read the book of Acts (since the letters are all written to Christians) the emphasis is on seeing that Jesus crucified and resurrected as the means for righteousness with God and the repentance that is needed to come to him by faith. I don’t have high expectations for non-Christians as they don’t have the Holy Spirit. I want them to get him and get themselves in the New Creation and then we can sort out their life.

    In terms of yesterday’s theological battlefield, I’m interested to know which battles are yesterday’s. The current battlefield is often Penal Substitution, a doctrine which is being popularly undermined today so I’d say it was relevant. Correct me if I’m wrong.

    In the political idea I read your post and I don’t see how it supports a political view. Jesus says in Mark 10 “the Gentiles lord it over them…But it is not this way among you“. The message is being spoken to the disciples. Jesus wants to change the world, yes, but the means to change a man is first to bring him to Christ then affect the way he acts in the world.

    You state in that post that Jesus was not satisfying an angry God, I think it is quite clear by Scripture we are. Our problem at the fall is the punishment God gave us. So our punishment from him must be borne. I could go on, but I’ll leave it for another day. However, you are right that the death of Christ is mutli-faceted and so the display of true love is definitely a part of that.

    Nevertheless, this does not undermine the truth of personal justification. For Jesus’ death to be a demonstration of love it must have some benefit for us. He washed our feet at his expense, so we must do to others. If we take out the washing it doesn’t make sense.

    In terms of the gospels and letters, they are indeed heralding a new society. Yet that society requires being brought into the kingdom first, otherwise we sinful humans have no ability to do it. In Paul’s letters to Rome, Ephesus and Colosse he starts with the Gospel and then gets to life change. It must be in that order. It can’t be a political message because Jesus and the apostles never deal with Ceaser or Herod or Pilate. They are reforming not a political system but a religious system. They cause an upheaval to the Pharisaic religion. Revolutionary, yes. Political, no. Though it affects how we act in politics it is not primarily political.

    I agree with that assessment of whole creation salvation, but I think the difference lies in this: I think saving individuals leads to the redemption of creation not visa versa. Our sin led to creation being in chains, therefore when only righteous persons remain (at the new creation) creation will have been released from bondage. Yet I confess evangelicals are often too personalised and can only hope we get both the larger and smaller view.

    I do appreciate your point about hearing the critique. We don’t come with an unblemished blank slate and we certainly must hear and engage with the concerns of our day and ourselves. I think Acts 17 is a good model. In Athens, Paul doesn’t rant on about the law as he does to Jews, that wouldn’t make sense to the culture. Instead he begins where they are at and challenges them with God’s truth. We don’t come with a blank slate, but equally we shouldn’t be marked with permanent ink, God’s Word should have freedom to wipe out sin in our lives and add new things we never thought of. If that is what you believe I agree.

    Thank you for your time brother and I look forward to reading your blog and discussing these things with you in the future. There can be nothing more essential to us than making sure we are engaging as Jesus would have with the world. I hope our conversations will glorify him.

    Blessings in Christ,
    Tim

  3. Raffi Shahinian May 27, 2008 at 7:45 pm #

    Tim,

    A fuller response to your questions is posted now at my site. I hope we can keep up the conversation.

    Grace and Peace,
    Raffi

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