Friday, January 11, 2008

More Thoughts on Liberal Evangelicalism

I love the Bible and do treat it as authoritative. I can make the statement, 'The Bible is true' but that won't help others work out what I mean and what sort of true it is. I can make the statement, 'I believe in God the Father Almighty,' but frankly there is a lot of metaphor packed into there so it needs investigating before I will know if I am in broad agreement with others who can say the same thing.

At a recent Church Council meeting, where we had agreed that the Bible had different things to say on the subject of divorce without complete consistency, one person put a hand on the Bible at the end of the meeting saying, and I can't recall the exact words so the quotes are a little unfair, 'I stand by what's in this book.' That disappointed me immensely. It was said as if it solved the problem whereas it was the problem; the one we had been discussing for the previous hour.

I think I like the self-delineation 'liberal' in the same way as some Afro-Caribbeans like the N word. I want to rescue it from being a term of abuse to being a matter of pride. I'm liberal. I think for myself. I help others to think. I see things from both sides if I can yet still get down off the fence regularly and decisively. One white motherliberal me.

I understand that faithful, Bible-believing Christians disagree about divorce, homosexual behaviour, baptism rites, prophecy, the leadership of women, Eucharistic practice and inter-faith dialogue, to name but however many that was. And I believe that the conversation and how it is conducted is more important than the outcome.

This may or may not be the start of a movement. Not quite off the fence on that one yet.


Mr Gnome said...

Well, as a friend from the 'fabulous community' would say: 'You go, girl!'

And Mr Gnome is cheering you on as well.

Custard. said...

I pretty much agree.

This is one of my questions with the term "liberal evangelical" or "open evangelical" - I haven't yet seen it defined in a way that excludes a large proportion of conservative and charismatic evangelicals.

Caroline Too said...

Reading your two posts, st, I wonder if the term you're looking for is 'emergent'

as an adjective

but sadly that has become a noun to describe, pigeon hole, denounce, celebrate, write off a group of people

Like you, I've journeyed a little from my conservative evangellybaby past but

I haven't really changed my theology, just the degree of importance I give it... in the past, someone disagreeing with me would have caused me a problem. the conversation would have been about which view 'won' in someway.

Nowadays, I hope the conversation would be more about how a different point of view could offer me something positive.

the emphasis is less about believing and more about doing and becoming

... and I have much becoming to do.

Mike Peatman said...

I quite like Brian McLaren's Generous Orthodoxy as a term. Having said that liberal = generous and evangelical ought to be orthodox.

If 'liberal' has some baggage, why not subvert the term by using it?

david said...

I understand that in the Elaine Storkey controversy , some (un)lucky person is going to have the fun of defining Open & Conservative evangelicalism at the employment tribunal. I also understand they have only been given one day to do it!