No one should be an accidental evangelical—or a merely cultural one. Unfortunately, few evangelicals can actually articulate the gospel. They can lead people to Christ and help them pray the sinner's prayer, but when it comes to setting forth just how Jesus saves, most of us flounder.
Last year, two evangelical theologians had a bright idea. Wouldn't it be wonderful, they said, if evangelicals could achieve a broad consensus on the gospel and join in a common statement? These theologians felt the pinch of recent tense discussions over how to define the doctrine of justification, a key element of the gospel. They saw the need for a reference document for those engaged in interchurch dialog, for theological students, for pastors, for parachurch ministries, for itinerant evangelists, and for the rest of us. Those two theologians recruited some top Christian leaders and scholars (along with two representatives of Christianity Today). Now, almost a year later, the fruits of their passion appear below.
Of the making of many statements, there is no end. In the history of evangelical Protestantism, issues and opportunities have called forth declarations on various topics. The Lausanne Covenant (1974) is the most famous and influential, with the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (1978) running a close second.
Curiously, those who bear the name evangelical (a term that means "of or relating to the gospel") have never put forth a large-scale defining document about the gospel. That is because the gospel itself has not been at the center of modern disputes. In the decades when many evangelical institutions were being founded (from the National Association of Evangelicals and Youth for Christ in the early forties through Fuller ...