Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Liberal Evangelical

Custardy says here that you can't be a liberal evangelical. It's oxymoronic. Is that why some evangelicals who are not so conservative as others describe themselves as open evangelicals? Does that mean, 'I'd say liberal but it's a dirty word?'

I wanted to chat about it but he's disabled comments on the post so I thought I'd start the war here.

Why should liberal be such a dirty word? I'm politically liberal although that doesn't necessarily align with the party of that name. I'm theologically liberal but I believe in God's initiative, God's grace and the authority of scripture (I simply interpret it liberally).

I think I'm going to be a liberal evangelical. I think I may be doing it just to annoy people.

13 comments:

Custard. said...

Well, it all depends by what you mean by "liberal" and "evangelical".

For some values of "liberal" and "evangelical" I'm right, and for some, you're right.

Chris Ward said...

Words carry bags, which makes using them difficult sometimes. We seem to be in a situation where you can be evangelical whilst not an Evangelical.

Same as liberal. And increasingly I find words like church and christian. And if I don't know what they mean anymore, what hope have people got that really need to know?

Having been really frustrated by this for a while, it made me realise why Jesus came to show us what the messiah was all about, rather than tell us that he was the messiah.

Malcolm Chamberlain said...

Steve... spot on! I guess that's why labels are so problematic. I think I'd go with Brian McLaren's sub-heading to 'A Generous Orthodoxy'... "Why I Am a Missional, Evangelical, Post/Protestant, Liberal/Conservative, Mystical/Poetic, Biblical, Charismatic/Contemplative, Fundamentalist/Calvinist, Anabaptist/Anglican, Methodist, Catholic, Green, Incarnational, Depressed-yet-Hopeful, Emergent, Unfinished CHRISTIAN" - long-winded but it gets the point across!!

St said...

Thanks Malcom (and hi by the way, nice to hear from you again). I think we night need, as Chris has hinted, to redeem the word liberal and no longer allow it to be used as a weapon. I like the post on your blog with Bishop Tom Wright's quote about packing big meaning into small cases and then hitting people with the case rather than unpacking them.

Let's get nuancing.

Cosmo said...

Liberal can mean so many things. Just check a dictionary.

a) Generous - what Evangelical wouldn't want to be generous with their time, resources and especially the gospel?

b) from the archaic: befitting a man of free birth - "the (free) gift of God is eternal life (re-birth)" Rom 6:23

c) Ample or Full - "From the fulness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another." Jn 1:16

d) Unorthodox - I herby defer to Jesus to explain/example that one.


So yes, liberal sounds like a fine title to give an Evangelical. Oh, wait...

e) Open-minded - I suppose that if, in whatever stream of the Christian faith you find yourself in, you realise that you have succeded in finding fully satisfactory answers to all things theological and can thereby justifiably close your mind (and perhaps do away with the need for faith) then, no, as an Evangelical the term liberal would be an awful title.


Now, I was just wondering the other day about...

Anonymous said...

I thought the noun was evangelist, evangelical the adjective; therefore are you a "liberal evangelist" or an "evangelical liberal"?

Graham

dmk said...

"I think I'm going to be a liberal evangelical" - that sounds like a good postmodern statement to be: try an identity on for size, see if it fits. I guess most postmodern evangelicals are also 'open' or 'liberal' in that we're more inclined to play with the truth rather than see it towering over us like an unmoveable monolith.

I don't think there's any problem with being a card carrying evangelical of any stripe, as long as you're happy to talk over a beer with people who aren't. The real split in Anglicanism is between people who can do this and people who can't.

St said...

Graham you are confused but who can blame you. Describing yourself as a liberal evangelical is to omit the word Christian. Both liberal and evangelical are adjectives.

And of course David, when I say 'I think I'm going to be...' I am assuming that I can label myself whereas in reality labels are for others to attach and what others choose to call me I, by and large, care not.

Mike Peatman said...

I'd like to join the liberal evangelical clan too. Frankly I'm past caring what people think of the label.

Mike Peatman said...

PS Put liberal evangelical in a facebook search for groups, and it came up with 42 including 'f*** politics' and 'evangelical sex club'.

Shall I start a group called liberal evangelical and see what happens?

Hannah said...

I think I also would like to be a liberal evangelical but actually I don't like having a label.

What worries me most is that all these labels and disagreements and court cases for goodness sake show no unity around the death and resurrection of our saviour and show the world what they already believe to be true, that people who follow Jesus whatever they call themselves can't agree on anything, don't love each other, and aren't interested in the issues facing people today and who would want to join them? Frankly it puts me off 'The Church.'

Why are we taking each other to court when people are dying without hearing about Jesus?

Rant over....

St said...

Then let's not label ourselves but let's start a group called, 'What is a liberal evangelical?

philg said...

I'll call myself a confused evangelical with liberal tendancies...I think that should cover enough ground until I get less confused... (!)