I mostly read and sometimes skimmed Tom's article. He says the theological stuff so much better than I can. So, I'm going to comment on the oxymoronic etymology of the term conservative evangelical. To be an evangelical means to hold to the primacy of scripture as the basis for doctrine and to interpret it anew for each generation. The essential nature of an evangelical therefore is one of change. Now, to be conservative means to preserve. To keeps things as they are.Therefore, conservative evangelical is an oxymoron. An example; We are coming up the to 200th anniversay of the banning of the trade in slaves. "Led by evangelicals," I hear you exclaim. And rightly too. However, before we get too self-righteously carried away, let's remember that there were evangelicals on both sides of the arguement. There were conservative evangelicals who knew that the proper interpretation of scripture allowed and perhaps even insisted on slavery as part of God's defined order. Evangelical churches in Bristol cheered and gave thanks to God when the first four attempts at passing an abolition bill failed. The point here is that a new interpretation of existing scripture produced a change in evangelical thinking.Now today's conservative evangelicals wouldn't dream of re-instuting slavery. I suspect some of them would quite like women to start wearing hats in church again. What they do want is the status quo preserved. Classic conservatism, poor evangelicalism.The irony of the situation is that as soon as you are more conservative than evalgelical and want to preserve things, you are starting to rely on an historic interpretation of scripture. That's a tradition (we believe it because we've always believed it) and we know where relying on tradition gets us ! That's right, straight to Catholicism. So, next time you bump into a member of Reform, just say, "Get out of my church and back to Rome, you papist B@st@rd !"That should cheer them up.
As it goes I'm pretty hopelessly "conservative evangelical" - I just love the way God speaks and cuts through to my heart through his Word too much to get my knickers in a twist and become all liberal. But I find Wright's sentiments most agreeable - the spiky bits of the "covenant" feel like "power-play" and reminds me too much of my sinful nature wanting to bite people's heads off when they disagree with me.Is there a cool trendy "grouping" for "gentle yet conservative, clear yet lovey-dovey evangelicals"? I'd join right away.
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