Recovering my evangelicalism


It's amazing how the term 'evangelical' has been denigrated and developed into a pejoratively so quickly. Apparently the term 'evangelical' dates from the 16th century, originally used by Catholics wanting to be more biblical for beliefs and activities than much of the medieval church at the time, and pre-dates the reformation.

Then the term gained prominence in the reformation, until it reached its current Zenith in the western church and global south.

Yet in recent years the term 'evangelical' has become a word of revulsion in the media, and the doyen for most of the angst of the emerging church. And I must admit I have wrestled with and re-thought my evangelical roots and beliefs.

I became a Christian in 1987 at a wonderful evangelical Baptist Church in Luton, aged 17 through a dramatic conversion experience from a completely unchurched and non-Christian background. I entered into a life saving community from my abusive/destructive family. I went to an evangelical seminary/theological college, and joined a charismatic evangelical denomination for church planting. Yet like many I found myself struggling with my evangelicalism, like many of my friends.

I have seen friends lose their faith completely, some become liberal Anglo Catholics, some convert to other religions, or others slip into the agnostic religion of consumer media culture as a way of life. Some have become post church Christians, or a mixture of all or some of these.

I have been tempted to quit church as an enterprise many times, flirted and engaged with understanding my self as post/neo evangelical and emerging christian. But at this stage if my life, as I reflect on this process and journey, I see myself more and more as reforming within my evangelical beginnings and trajectory.

So in the brief space of this blog post here are few of the things that I have struggled with the most, and am finding I am engaging with the most with a renewed faith and hope (remember these are my issues, and all are brief headlines that need detailed outlining beyond this limited space).

Some Struggles

1. Gospel Reductionism: Too many years of having the gospel reduced to a prayer to pray to get to heaven when you die.

2. Foundationalism: An obsession with Cartesian foundationalism as a method for understanding truth, that replaces being in Christ, with 'knowing' about Christ. That Christianity is about being 'certain' and not about questions, doubts and mystery at the heart of faith.

3. Social Justice and The Environment: That these are optional add ons to discipleship and are not an integral part of what it is to become and be a Christian. A spirituality that is world escaping rather than world and life transforming, based around recovering notions of platonic 'perfection'.

4. Errant Inerrancy: The straight jacket of the modern doctrine of Inerrancy that focuses on formulas about errors in the bible to the detriment of living in submission to it . To reject/be uncomfortable with the recent doctrine of inerrancy does not mean you think the bible is full of error!

5. Thin Ecclesiology: The arrogance of thinking we have the correct and best way of doing and being church and everyone else is wrong. A fear and ignorance of the past heritage of the church catholic.

6. Exclusivism: Distorting the imperative to help others know Christ by using our knowing Christ to exclude and judge others. Also the status of women in the church and leadership.

7. Personality & Leadership Cults: The lack of accountability in leadership with leaders living separate from the communities they lead.

Some Affirmations: - Things keeping my faith alife, with a slight nod to C.S.Lewis and 'Mere Christianity' for my list here.

1. Jesus:It's about following, knowing, trusting, believing in Jesus, the incarnate son of God, divine and human who died and rose from the dead.

2. Scripture: That the bible is the supreme authority for my understanding of God, and my spiritual formation.

3. Trinitarian: That the Father through the Son by the Spirit, is reconciling the world to himself. The trinity is not just a metaphor but also a reality of the nature of God and his relationship to the cosmos and the means by which we understand and partake in our experience of God and his creation.

4. Ground of Being:That what we believe and how we live this life has eternal consequences. That the heart of the gospel is the handing over of my life, heart, soul, mind, spirit and body to the lordship of Jesus, for the transformation of the world with others.

5. Priority of Mission: That the church exists and is understood as a missional enterprise, to bring individuals into whole live conversion, and recruitment into ongoing mission.

6. Community: That the normal and natural habitat for all of this is in communities of followers of Jesus, learning and growing together, with the location of myself in the Church of Jesus.

If you have been through a similar process, or disimilar what would be on your list?