Featured Reviews, VOLUME 6

David Gushee, Editor – A New Evangelical Manifesto [Feature Review]

[easyazon-image align=”none” asin=”082720034X” locale=”us” height=”110″ src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51ywUY3dRNL._SL110_.jpg” width=”73″]Page 2: David Gushee, Editor – A New Evangelical Manifesto

 

Cizik’s experience speaks to a dichotomizing shift in the evangelical movement between the elders, who define themselves as “The Moral Majority” and the guardians of Christian America, and the newbie’s who desire to have a less polarizing influence in society focused more on emulating the life of Jesus than enforcing right beliefs.  His essay paves the way to how subsequent essays deal with and reverse the way that evangelicals have addressed certain people groups and issues in the last century.

 
Regarding new perspectives on marginalized people, some chapters, such as chapter 8 on human trafficking, are very good, exposing the hidden slavery that our nation has been largely ignoring for decades and challenging the church to “accept our role as bold transformers of society.” (79-80)

 
Not all chapters are winners though. Chapter 9 on “Those Suffering from Preventable Diseases,” does not explore the scope and depth of the issue, so much as it serves as an advertisement for the work of the ministry “His Nets.”  For a group that often times gets ignored or stigmatized (I’m thinking specifically of those affected by the AIDS epidemic) this chapter was not handled very well.  Though, this will inevitably happen with any anthology.

 
In section three on new approaches to many issues affecting the American public, the authors boldly challenge the traditional positions held by evangelicals.  In chapter 16 on “Ending the Death Penalty” (gasp! goes the crowd), author Timothy W. Floyd challenges that Christians ought to seriously consider whether this form of “justice” is at all in line with the will of God and the testament of Jesus.  He writes:

 

    “Moreover, trusting the state to make the “right” decision as to who deserves to live and who deserves to die is problematic for Christians.  It is idolatrous to trust in government as the ultimate giver and taker of life.  Although many Christians cite Paul in Romans 13:1-7 as endorsing the power of the state to take life, Romans 13 should be read together with Romans 12 immediately preceding it, which counsels Christians to not repay evil with evil nor to exercise vengeance.  The government has a proper role in restraining evildoers (as Paul acknowledged), but deciding who deserves to die is properly reserved only to God.” (164).

 
Floyd’s proper contextualization of Romans 13 is a breath of fresh air to the Christian movement which has stood oppressed under this Scripture by the idea that the state’s authority lies above Gods commands.  To me, this statement seems more Anabaptist than evangelical, and to the author I say “hear hear;” thank God that someone is willing to stand and say that not all things “American” does not mean “Christian.”  He continues in saying:

    “The death penalty is often justified on the ground that certain people are wholly evil and are incapable of redemption… Christians should reject this notion.  Believing that certain persons are so evil that they do not deserve to live is not faithful to the biblical witness about humanity.  A biblical view of human nature insists that no one in this fallen world is beyond the possibility of redemption.  God’s mercy and grace are available to all.  Indeed, we are commanded to love our enemies precisely because God loves them.” (165)

Again, Floyd makes good use of the evangelical claim of following “Biblical” commands, turning it on its head and showing how the Bible does indeed support what is sometimes relegated to the camp of “liberal.”

 
Overall, this collection of essays serves the purpose of introducing the church to a new way of thinking evangelically.  In line with the evangelical tradition, it contains many different voices sharing similar perspectives.  It challenges the modus operandi of a movement which has swept the American church at an incredibly appropriate time in our history.  As the nation continues to divide over what might be called “right” and “left,” “conservative” and “liberal,” we need a new voice which seeks to unite two polarized positions.  What David Gushee offers here is not necessarily THE manifesto of the New Evangelicals, so much as it is a roadmap that points to what New Evangelicalism is and what it might be able to do.  While the public sphere fights over how Christians should feel about DOMA and drone strikes, these authors seek to allow the life of Jesus, rather than emotionalism, determine how to interact with these and other issues.

 




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C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at: C-Christopher-Smith.com


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