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May 19, 2005



Thanks for posting this, Hugo. I'm always grateful to see a clear exposition of what it really means to be an Evangelical, as well as what it does *not* mean. Even though I grew up around a fairly typical Midwest Evangelical environment, much of what I've seen simply does not fit the usual stereotypes held by the general public.


I read the Lausanne Covenant Hugo. While it does discuss social responsibility and the like being a part of Christian duty, the main focus in on evangelization. In fact, the document uses "world evangelization" no less than six times while evangelization alone is used many more. It concludes with a solemn covenant "to plan and to work together for the evangelization of the whole world." I wonder what Asians of varying beliefs, or Muslims, or secular Europe where religion is subsiding faster than water in an unplugged bathtub, or anyone reading your blog for that matter, thinks of this charter to which you subscribe.

Before you give me the different strokes for different folks argument with regard to worshiping God, this comes directly from the covenant: "We also reject as derogatory to Christ and the gospel every kind of syncretism and dialogue which implies that Christ speaks equally through all religions and ideologies. Jesus Christ, being himself the only God-man, who gave himself as the only ransom for sinners, is the only mediator between God and people. There is no other name by which we must be saved."

So my main curiosity is this: How would people interpret the Lausanne Covenant if it was known that George Bush agreed with the bulk of it? Would it be right-wing zealotry?

Tish G

The journey of faith is a fascinating thing. It definitely waxes and wains as life goes on, but also can become the reason for continuing on with an active life. One never quite knows what will be on the next page...

I'm wondering if the Calvin College folks consulted the text on just war authored by my first theological mentor, Paul Ramsey. Quite possibly.

I'm not surprised, too, to hear that real conservative Chrisitans would be upset with Bush's views on social policies. Often, conservative Protestant Christian social thinking ends up being congruent with Catholic social teachings--which are amazingly at odds with Bush's thinking.

It was this strange alliance that coalesced in the polices of Roosevelt during the Depression.

The folks at Calvin should be applauded.


Dave, there's a reason why I said I agreed with the "bulk" of the Lausanne Covenant. I do believe, in my own heart, that all will be saved through Christ. That's different than saying they must know Christ in order to be saved by Him. It's a distinction many evangelicals have made. I do believe in world evangelism, but I believe in doing it in ways that are relevant, culturally sensitive, and focus on people's material as well as spiritual needs.

I welcome a healthy marketplace of religions. I want the Muslims, the Mormons, the Scientologists, the Pentecostals, the Hindus all out there urgently proselytizing. What makes us civilized people is not that we refrain from sharing our faith with those who may not have heard it, but that we agree to live amicably and peaceably, even lovingly and warmly, with those who don't.


I understand, Hugo. But bulk means majority, and 'world evangelization' is the message that permeates the Lausanne Covenant. My real question was how it could be interpreted using other figures, namely GWB. To read it and think "these are Hugo's beliefs" I imagine many that read your blog would think of you as a swell chap. However, if as an experiment it was stated that Bush believed the bulk of this covenant, I believe it would reinforce their views that Bush is a right-wing zealot, bent on Christian domination of all.

Same message, different individuals, far diffent outcome. I'm not challenging your spiritual beliefs. No, that's a fool's game. I am trying to demonstrate, and submit, that our own bias and prejudice influences us greatly and unkowingly in all arenas. We build our own self-fullfilling prophecies, if you will.


You're right, Dave. But I'm not going to pretend I don't believe what I do believe in order to avoid giving folks the impression that I share Bush's worldview. He and I read the same Scriptures, pray to the same God, and I trust that his faith is genuine. I don't like his politics, and he and I understand what it means to be a follower of Christ somewhat differently. I believe in the Great Commission, and though GW and I might interpret that differently, we are called to live it out as best we can. Bottom line, I see how Lausanne could seem triumphalist and threatening; it's my hope that some of us who can embrace its tenets theologically can help alleviate some misconceptions about what it means to be a modern evangelical.


Yay for evangelicals thinking critically about anything at all! especially in this area, it is great to read this.

Col Steve

"The letter is one way to register the fact that even in the heart of Christian America, religion does not dictate politics" - The author could have written that President Bush is a member of the United Methodist Church. Several of the President's positions on issues are not in line with the UMC's official position on the same issue. I recall a PBS Frontline show that plowed this ground more than a year ago.

I can see that the Bush administration is gaining capital from this appearance, but I don't see what it does for Calvin," said Dale Van Kley, who was a history professor at Calvin for 28 years before he joined the staff at Ohio State University in 1998.

"What it will mean for the students is that they will be objects of a kind of campaign appearance."

Well, I'm sure Prof Van Kley is speaking from experience since President Bush spoke at Ohio State's 2002 commencement - a very partisan, campaign speech if you consider the major announcement in the speech was the following:

"And today I'm announcing an historic partnership. We are bringing together the broadest group of service organizations ever assembled to create the USA Freedom Corps Network. The USA Freedom Corps Network includes America's Promise, the Points of Light Foundation, The United Way, Volunteer Match, ServeNet and many other organizations; will be the most comprehensive clearinghouse of volunteer opportunities ever assembled. This network will enable you to find volunteer opportunities within your neighborhoods and communities, and in countries around the globe."

Perhaps the good Prof doesn't think Calvin grads should hear the same lines OSU students heard that day- "A person in crisis often needs more than a program or a check; he needs a friend -- and that friend can be you. We are commanded by God and called by our conscience to love others as we want to be loved ourselves. Let us answer that call with every day we are given."

Dissent is great. I'm sure the faculty members and students in disagreeing with "administration" policies also know the difference in powers between Article I and II of the Constitution and how their congressional representatives voted on authorizing the use of force in Iraq in 2002, the continuing funding of such force over the past 2 1/2 years, various tax, bankruptcy, and other "economic justice" issues, and the budgets/funding of various agencies, organizations, and programs too.

I'm sure the ad departments at the local papers are hoping next year the college will invite a leading proponent of evolution to speak.


Thanks for this post, Hugo. I confess that I tend to make assumptions about the political stance of evangelical Christians, and it's good to see my assumptions disproven in this case.

I'm fascinated by the line I've never lost the certainty that God is faithful, faithful to me and to all of His people, many of whom worship Him by different names. This sounds to me like a tacit acceptance of the notion that some of us find God through other paths. It's unusual, in my experience, to see that perspective coupled with the title evangelical.

So I guess what I'm saying overall is, thanks for broadening my sense of what evangelical can mean.

Tish G

I welcome a healthy marketplace of religions. I want the Muslims, the Mormons, the Scientologists, the Pentecostals, the Hindus all out there urgently proselytizing. What makes us civilized people is not that we refrain from sharing our faith with those who may not have heard it, but that we agree to live amicably and peaceably, even lovingly and warmly, with those who don't.

I'm not sure that proselytizing and sharing one's faith are quite the same thing. Proselytizing implies persuation--sharing of one's faith encourages dialogue.

In sessions on ecumenicism that I was priviledged to have ringiside seat to back in the late 1980's, no one proselytized. There was no need to try to convince cathoics that the protestant view was the correct way of thinking. It was more important to find common ground than to prove one as right or wrong.

Further, certain faiths, such as Hinduism and Judaism (except the ultra-orthodox) do not openly proselytize. Discussions of these faiths (athough Hinduism, as well as Buddhism are considered more belief systems than religions in the Western sense) do not involve convincing another of the veracity of the path.

An individual guru may take it upon himself to forward a particular philosopy, as we see with someone such as Amrit Desai, but what Desai does is not the same as Western proselyzation.

The trick to sharing one's faith is to do so without judgement. One can believe that he/she knows The Truth, but often the vehicle for understanding that truth is a personal choice. If there is a dire need to persuade others that one's path is the only path to spiritual truth, then one is setting out to impede the spiritual journey of others.

Honestly, what kind of world would we have if eveyrone of every faith, daily, set out to proselytize, or convice others, of the veriacity of his/her faith? There may end up being more religious intolerance than tolerance.


But Tish, that sharing is based on the tacit assumption that others have nothing to gain from my faith nor I from theirs; proselytizing is based on the belief that there are unique and valuable features to one's faith that others deserve to know about. Missions work can be done civilly and with cultural sensitivity.

I don't presume to know the status of my salvation or anyone elses. I'm not entirely sure what salvation, in the otherworldly sense, even looks like. But I'm not going to refrain from giving money to groups (like Mennonite Mission Network) that spread the Gospel of Jesus through words -- and more importantly, through actions.


Sliding Left

I think being a progressive evangelical is a very lonely place to be since there doesn't really seem to be an evangelical church that inhabits that space exactly. But it sure is easy to end up there because all it takes is to tell another evangelical that certain favorite Bible verses don't apply to all time but only to the time in which it was written, and boom, you're "left-wing."


I already commented on this over at my blog but I wanted to mention here as well that I'm so glad to see progressive Christians speaking out. I'm afraid that many out there think that Christians look right-wing and crazy. And others start to think that a "good" Christian is one who hates gay people and loves war. I think challenging those assumptions is good for progressives and Christians.


"And others start to think that a "good" Christian is one who hates gay people and loves war."

A simplistic caricature, Stephanie, that only makes the holder feel good for not being "one of them." To be fair, we all do it to some degree and you will see it in spades in the debates on this blog. But, it's so facile and shallow it's not even worth arguing against.


Unfortunately, Stephen, I know a fair amount of shallow people who do make those assumptions and I think it is worth arguing against.

Tish G

Hugo: I understand your viewpoint on proselyzation, but would you share your view on your relation to those you speak with? are you more interested in learning about persons and their faiths/cultures or are you more concerned about explaining your position on faith to them?

I've often made friends with those of other faiths as well as those of other sexual orientations and procliviites--even, at one time, having two acquaintances who were Satanists. The love, patience, and humility necessary to listen to them and to understand why they were on this path was a great learning experience for me. To listen with love, rather than the desire to convince and save can often make great headway in changing the heart and mind of someone who feels shunned by God.

I do agree, though, that missions can be done civilly and with respect to other belief systems and cultures. What concernes me, though, when the term 'proselytizing' is used in conjuntion to or as the sole aim of missions, is the desperate need to change others.

Good to hear that you don't quite know the status of your salvation! To parapharse Thomas Merton: when you think you know absoultey and positivley what God's will is for you, you couldn't be further from knowing. We are always in process (to use a psycholotgical term) with our relationship with the Divine--and the process is certainly never static.


Great post! I've been trying to figure out the difference between evangelicalism and fundamentalism for over a year now, and these links were the breakthrough I needed.

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