The 1974 Lausanne Covenant quickly became the defining theological document for missions and evangelism--two things evangelical Christians care about most. That statement, largely drafted by English pastor-theologian John R. W. Stott, was broad because mission touches on everything from the nature of Christ to critical engagement with cultures. But its most notable feature was a careful affirmation of the proper place of sociopolitical involvement next to evangelism as a Christian duty. It carefully distinguished between the two categories, but it held both to be "necessary expressions" of Christian belief.
Now comes the Cape Town Commitment, the first half of which deals with Christian belief. It was fittingly crafted by Irish biblical scholar Christopher Wright, Stott's successor as leader of the Langham Partnership/John Stott Ministries. In the spirit of the Covenant, the Commitment affirms not only deeds of mercy, but also "solidarity and advocacy on behalf of the marginalized and oppressed." But that is not what it will be remembered for.
The most obvious difference from the previous statement is that the Commitment is organized around the theme of love. Statements of belief invite us to mentally check off our agreement with each article. This can reassure, allowing us to connect with our forebears in the faith as we recite a creed or read a historic confession.
But the Cape Town Commitment is disturbingly organized as a series of properly ordered loves. "We love because God first loved us," "We love the living God," "We love God the Father," and so on, through, "We love God's World," "We love the Gospel of God," and "We love the mission of God."
It is easy to mistake mental assent for faith. But introduce the language ...