Land points to the document's explanation of one the bedrocks of evangelical conviction: "Second, we believe that the only ground for our acceptance by God is what Jesus Christ did on the cross and what he is now doing through his risen life..." The narrowing effect of the possessive pronoun "our" leaves open the possibility of other ways to salvation, a possibility that Land insists evangelicals do not entertain. Land agrees with the document's call for reform within evangelicalism to make it distinct from the larger culture. But in addition to listing the ways evangelicals "have become known for the commercial, diluted, and feel-good gospels of health, wealth, human potential, and religious happy talk," as the document reads, Land wonders why it doesn't mention the way evangelicals have conformed too fully with practices of the larger culture in areas such as sexual infidelity and divorce.
Land also charges that imprecision complicates what evangelicals should try legitimately to achieve in the public realm. When the document asserts that evangelicals "have no desire to coerce anyone or to impose on anyone beliefs and behavior that we have not persuaded them to freely adopt," Land argues that it would seem to suggest that abolitionist evangelicals were wrong to work for politicians and policies to coerce slaveholders into abandoning slaveholding. The way in which one coerces is important, Land acknowledges, but that does not rule out the necessity of legal coercive means to bring about reforms that Christians and others see as consistent with religious or philosophical convictions.
Guinness counters that some critics focus so much on examples and details in the document that "they miss the point that it's a call to reform." But in addition to a renewed emphasis on the theological meaning of evangelicalism, Guinness and other manifesto authors clearly mean reform to include an expansion of the evangelical agenda—a topic that has provoked conflict within the larger movement in recent years. Leaders of the religious right tend to see an expansion of the agenda beyond family and life issues as a subtle way of leaving them behind, or even exchanging them for a greater concern with the environment or global poverty, issues often pushed by more liberal or progressive evangelicals. But the manifesto authors insist they mean an expansion, not an exchange, of crucial concerns. "We call for an expansion of our concern beyond single-issue politics, such as abortion and marriage," the document reads, adding in the next sentence that "we cannot back away from our biblically rooted commitment to the sanctity of every human life, including those unborn, nor can we deny the holiness of marriage as instituted by God between one man and one woman."
Intentions aside, an expansion of concerns can lead to a lessening of intensity and dedication to some. And in that sense, the manifesto typifies some of the recent changes within evangelicalism that have been identified by Rice University sociologist Michael Lindsay, author of Faith in the Halls of Power. In particular, Lindsay sees a new breed of evangelicals—what he calls cosmopolitan evangelicals—with a growing influence and presence in some of the highest offices of government and public affairs, including the Oval Office. These evangelicals are broadening and, in some cases, tempering the concerns of the older generation of "populist'" evangelicals precisely because the younger evangelicals are now playing the politics of coalition and negotiation rather than confrontation. The manifesto, he says, "points to a divide between cosmopolitan evangelicals and the old-style populist evangelicals."
But what may such a tempering of evangelical concerns lead to? Perhaps, for example, to less concern about preventing single-sex unions (though not marriages), Lindsay suggests, but to no lessening of concern about abortion. "I think the evangelical manifesto shows the growing influence of the cosmopolitan wing of evangelicalism," he says. "It's the new public face of the evangelical movement."