How to tell if you are an Evangelical or a Progressive Christian

As you probably know by now, Steve Chalk’s Oasis Trust has been expelled from the Evangelical Alliance. Despite this, Chalke has been insisting that he is still an evangelical.  There are two indisputable facts, as we look at the aftermath of this decision however:

Firstly, one of only two umbrella organisations representing Evangelicals in the UK has decided that they feel Chalke is out of step with the majority of Evangelical leaders in the UK.  I don’t believe for a moment, that the second, Affinity, would be inviting Chalke to apply for membership there, either.

Secondly, a cursory look at what Twitter has had to say in response to the actions of the EA reveals that a lot of people who identify themselves as Christians have been disappointed in the actions of the EA.  It would be a mistake, however, to assume that the twitter stream reflects the entire spectrum of Christian thought on this subject. 140 characters are perfectly long enough to express that you disagree with someone, but not long enough to adequately express the finer nuances of why you agree.

It does seem to me that the fundamental issue here is that many people have confused two important labels: “Christian” and “Evangelical.”  These words do overlap, but I firmly believe that Evangelicals are Christians, but not all Christians are Evangelical. This is explained more clearly in the following two key posts from my blog:

It is helpful for us to use labels, and that those labels actually mean something.  Labels act a kind of shorthand. If we have a shared understanding a single word can take the place of a paragraph in explaining who we are, what we believe, and what kinds of people we most closely relate to.

It seems to me that the EA have made a judgement that they believe Chalke is not an Evangelical. But they have not implied that they believe he is not a Christian.

Growing up in the UK, I always got the impression that the Evangelicals were the dinosaurs, that we were outmoded. That we were on the decline. And that we were intellectually bankrupt, not facing the realities of developments in science, culture, and biblical scholarship.There was a prominent group known to both their critics and each other as “Liberal Christians”  They believed they represented the future of Christianity. And yet it has been the Evangelicals that have seen remarkable growth while nobody remembers the liberal leaders of my youth.

For ten years now I have been arguing that Chalke and others are actually liberals.  Unfortunately, many see that as a pejorative term. This wasn’t the case in my youth.  People also argue that there is no historical continuity between the modern exponents of radical change in theology and the liberalism of the 20th century. I acknowledge that the historical point seems to be accurate, which is why I coined the term “Neoliberal

Historically liberalism has always arisen from within orthodox groups, and it has represented a movement away from traditional ways of thinking about God, the Bible, and societal issues. There seems no doubt that part of the drive behind such movement is that society has changed. The idea is that revising our dusty doctrine will lead to greater acceptance by the World. In other words, if the Church will “get with the program” more people will want to come to church.

I would argue that such an approach does not work even at a pragmatic level. The history of the Church in the last 200 years or more is that movements that become more liberal gradually die out. There may be an initial bump of interest, but over time, the passion wanes, the energy dissipates, and the people stop coming. I have even heard it argued that “nobody” becomes a Christian in a liberal church.  No doubt that is an overstatement. But the historical trends are insurmountable, “edgy” movements which aim to jettison unpopular teachings which stretch the credibility of the church in society tend towards decline.  Prophetic movements which aim to stay true to the Bible grow.

Note that none of this precludes the idea that the Church can change as a whole in the way it approaches certain issues. This is particularly true when it comes to issues that affect Society as a whole rather than the Church itself.  A good example of this is divorce. Historically the Church opposed attempts to make divorce easier to obtain. Now, even staunch evangelicals do not campaign to have divorce laws tightened. Christians as individuals within society often choose to follow a stricter line when it comes to divorce than society as a whole. They do this as part of their devotion to Christ, and their obedience to the Bible as they understand it. They do not seek to impose those views on the whole of society.

Significantly, most evangelicals will still believe that the Bible teaches that divorce is wrong except in very limited situations. Why? Because they believe that is the simple, obvious “face” meaning of the relevant Scriptures. Evangelicals tend to approach the Bible in a certain way. We can and do have all kinds of disagreements about all kinds of issues, and we can and do change our thinking on certain matters. But, you can tell who is an evangelical by the way we discuss such differences, and by our deference to the Bible. When I debated Rob Bell, it was very obvious we did not approach the Bible in the same way. Similarly, when Andrew Wilson debated Steve Chalke that distinction was if anything even more clear.

Generally speaking it is polite to call groups of people by the name they prefer to use of themselves. And the term, “liberal” has become a negative one. Many who have a similar approach to the Bible as Steve Chalke prefer to use the term “Progressive Christian” I may not like it very much myself, as it implies that the rest of us are “regressive” but perhaps we can see progressive as the opposite of conservative, instead. In any case, I do wonder if over time Chalke himself will own that label.

If you want to know whether you are an Evangelical or a Progressive Christian yourself, it seems to me that the test is really easy. Read the following two blog posts, one from my archive, and one from the Progressive Christianity channel here at Patheos. Then, decide which one represents most closely the way you choose to approach the Bible.

To summarise our differences, I will share some quotes from the first of those articles. If you find you agree with these statements then it would seem to me you are not an evangelical:

“Atheists and fundamentalists each tend to read the Bible in the same wooden, overly literalistic manner. The difference is that atheists reject what they read in that manner, while fundamentalists believe it.”

“We take the Bible too seriously, to read it all literally.”

“We don’t think that God wrote the Bible. We think it was written by fallible human beings who were inspired by (not dictated to by) the Holy Spirit. Hence, we don’t consider it to be infallible or inerrant.”

We employ a hermeneutic of compassion, love, and justice . . . A hermeneutic is “an interpretive lens” and intentional filter.

We also tend to employ a “canon within the canon” lens whereby we give greater weight and priority to certain texts over others.

[We are] willing to reject certain passages & theologies in the Bible and to affirm other ones

To me all that sounds a lot like Steve Chalke, and not like the majority of evangelicals at all.

About Adrian Warnock

Adrian Warnock has been a blogger since April 2003, and part of the leadership team of Jubilee Church, London for more than ten years, serving alongside Tope Koleoso. Together they have written Hope Reborn - How to Become a Christian and Live for Jesus, published by Christian Focus.

Adrian is also the author of Raised With Christ - How The Resurrection Changes Everything, published by Crossway. Read more about Adrian Warnock or connect with him on Twitter, Facebook or Google+.

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You are warmly invited to comment on this blog. We encourage you to review Adrian's comment policy for more information.

  • Alan Molineaux

    So many things I would like to challenge in what you wrote Adrian but I will limit it to these at this present time:

    1) you seem to feel more comfortable with antithetical positions rather than a spectrum (however much you try to add qualifiers). Your over simplistic test for evangelical orthodoxy simply won’t do because it is massively open to opinion and it is highly un-measurable.

    2) I am so very amazed that you cannot see the parallel between your current stand for the kind of treatment Steve Chalke has received from the EA and your own dismay at how we charismatics were treated by John MacArthur. He has his version of a test for evangelical orthodoxy and you, in my opinion, quite rightly argued a valuable case. Yet here you cannot see how in effect you are creating the same selective process as he did but with different qualifiers.

    I have offered to debate you several times on this but as yet you don’t feel the need to do so.

    • http://adrianwarnock.com/ Adrian Warnock

      Alan,

      1. Clearly there is a spectrum, and perhaps I need to write one of my theological spectrum posts about how people approach the Bible.

      2. When it comes to MacArthur he wasn’t just rejecting charismatics as non-evangelical, he was rejecting us as non-christian. He said we were part of another religion, like the Mormons, and many other similar things (see this post: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/adrianwarnock/2013/11/video-macarthur-consigns-charismatics-to-hell-and-likens-them-to-mormons/ )

      MacArthur and I could theoretically have an intelligible debate when it would be clear that however much we disagreed we would be approaching Scripture in a similar way.

      My debate with Rob Bell, and Wilsons debate with Chalke (both linked above) were very frustrating for more conservative evangelicals to listen to because it became impossible for a meaningful discussion to occur. I’d be happy to discuss this further, but to me it is clear that traditional evangelicals have a certain hermeneutical approach to the Bible which progressive Christians do not.

      Note that I do not presume to determine who among either groups are actually real Christians, that is for God to judge, but my simple definition of a Christian outlined in my “What is a Christian?” linked above would certainly encompass many Progressives, including judging by what he said in my debate with him about Jesus’ resurrection, Rob Bell, and I assume Steve Chalke as I have never seen it suggested that he doesn’t believe Jesus physically rose again.

      I’d be happy to debate. Shall we do it in writing? I would want to keep the debate on the subject of how we interpret the Bible rather than specific matters.

  • Cecilia Davidson

    Life is FAR too short to take the Bible literally.

    • Kirby Vardeman

      I would suggest that it is far too short to NOT take the Bible literally.

      • Cecilia Davidson

        and stress over Leviticus and how I’m not following every bit? No thanks.

        • Jeff Featherstone

          Cecilia. if God wanted us to follow the requirements set out in Leviticus would He, as God, not have the right to ask that of us? But the greater news is that, if we are Christians we are free from the Law. Through being in Christ. who fulfilled every aspect of the Law, we share in His righteousness without having to try and be righteous through our own self efforts (as if we ever could achieve that). But how do we know that Christ has fulfilled the Law and that we are free from its demands? Its not by having a low view of scripture and saying it doesn’t matter. Rather its by having a high view of scripture and believing what it says that we know we are free.

          • Cecilia Davidson

            Hilariously, I have 20 years of biblical education under my belt to know EXACTLY what it says – and why biblical literalism is the most wrong approach to take. I mean, do you suggest I should sell my sisters into marriage since I have the right to assume they’re virgins? One of them works on Sunday, though – so I how large a rock should I use to stone her for defying God’s mandate not to work on the Sabbath?

          • Jeff Featherstone

            Cecilia, doesn’t that come back to the very point I was making though-that your comments seem to be based on an assumption that Christians are subject to the Old Covenant Law, something which I would suggest that books like Romans and Galatians make clear is not the case. We really are free in Christ through His great work.

          • Cecilia Davidson

            So long as too many Christians make the assumption that taking the whole thing literally (or even one part literally) is the main thing to do, then we aren’t yet free in Christ. Once we realize that we AREN’T bound by the Bible and that we can serve Christ and God (not a book bound by leather), things can change for the better.
            However, as literalism is still an accepted approach, I will fight the literalists within the Evangelical side.

          • Jeff Featherstone

            What reason do we have for knowing we are free in Christ except for believing what the Bible says about it? Surely without that the best we can do is generally hope that we are free but we are left with no reason to believe that is true.

          • Cecilia Davidson

            It terrifies me a little that you’re reading into my intent rather wrongly. I have nothing against Christians, but to say that we HAVE to take the bible literally is to ignore the human aspect that went into it – Paul’s letters aren’t in the Gospels for a reason (they’re COMMENTARY). If we accept what Jesus has to say about the Law through his actions, then we have no reason to give the old Law any regard, as that was also driven by the needs of man at that time.

            Sure, we can believe we are free in Christ, but we don’t need to follow the bible literally to know that.

          • Jeff Featherstone

            If we only judge our status under the Law by what we read in the gospels then we have no clear basis for saying we are free from the Law. If anything, Jesus raised the standard even higher. Look at the Sermon on the Mount – ‘Moses said’…’but I say…’ . It is only by reading Paul that we understand that this is a standard of rightousness we could never achieve-but that Christ did-and so we did because of Him. We can’t treat the gospels as truth and the epistles as a commentary. Its only together that we see the whole truth.

          • Cecilia Davidson

            I’m arguing with a brick wall. You’re misreading what Jesus did in his setting a higher standard – Jesus was about fulfilling the spirit of the law (he did attack the Pharisees for cleaning the outside of the cups but not the insides, and he was talking about a much bigger problem than clean dishes). Paul was bringing it back to the Law with his letters.

            Treating Paul’s commentaries as if they’re like the words of Jesus is a very dangerous thing to do, because they ARE commentaries. They’re Paul’s instructions to various churches about how to deal with doctrinal differences and behavior problems.

            The problem with biblical literalism and the current state of Evangelicism is that both are too willing to blur the line as to what is the word of Jesus and what isn’t.

          • Jeff Featherstone

            Cecilia, Paul’s letters being advice to churches (and to individuals in some cases) is very different to saying that they are commentaries. Moreover, if you do not accept what is said in the the epistles as scripture, what basis do you have for being believing anything greater about the gospels? You appear to put a high standing on the words that Jesus is recorded as having said but, if you do not believe that the epistles are accurate and are scripture, what basis do you have for thinking that the gospel writers accurately recorded the words of Jesus? Or put it the other way round, if God was capable of making sure that the words of Jesus were recorded accurately, is He not every bit as capable of making sure that the rest of scripture is recorded accurately?

            The Bible makes its own claims about itself. For example, Peter in 2 Peter 3:16 clearly refers to Paul’s writing as being scripture. I do not think the Bible gives us the option of selectively believing individual parts as accurate because they fit with our worldview.

          • Godfrey Rust

            Jeff, why do you accept 2 Peter as scripture?

          • Jeff Featherstone

            Godfrey, if you want me to discuss how NT books got accepted as scripture I’m happy to do so but I suspect that’s not what’s behind your question. If you want to explain further what you’re asking I’ll try to respond.

          • Guest

            Jeff, please take it at face value, I’m not being mischievous. I’m sketchily familiar with the various opinions about the authorship of the NT books and the context of the acceptance of the canon, so I’m not asking for historical information or opinion, and as I am sure you will know 2 Peter is one of those whose apparent authorship is most questioned, with the majority scholarship view being that it is pseudepigraphical and 2nd century. As it is (I think) the only book that makes explicit scriptural claims about other NT books it is a useful example, and my question was serious and personal: what leads you, personally, to accept that 2 Peter is divinely inspired and free of any error (which I assume you do – please correct me if I’m wrong). It seems to me you stake a great deal (your life, perhaps) on it, so I assume you have asked yourself such a question quite often.

          • Godfrey Rust

            Sorry – the “guest” post was by me – I messed up the posting :)

          • Jeff Featherstone

            Godfrey, 2 peter is not the only book that makes scriptural claims about other NT books. For example, in 2 Timothy 5:18, where it states ; ‘For the scripture says’…’the worker deserves his wages’, Paul is quoting from Luke 10:7 and calling it scripture.

            As far as the authorship of 2 Peter goes, as you refer to, there are a variety of views about its authorship, and I do not pretend to be an expert in the issue. However, it is important to bear in mind that, although there are differences between protestant, catholic and eastern orthodox churches on the OT canon, all agree on the NT content. Whilst there were several disputed books including 2 Peter, the very fact that, having gone through additional scrutiny by the church, they were accepted as scripture, adds to their validity rather than diminishes it.

            Moreover, the explanations on the stylistic differences between 1 and 2 Peter do not of themselves point toward later composition. Take, for example, the approaches set out by John Piper (who is hardly a figure known for ‘progressive’ views-as much as I object to that term!) in his article at: http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/who-wrote-2-peter .

          • Godfrey Rust

            Jeff, thanks for reminding me of 1 Tim 5:18. You say “for example”, but I am not aware of others which are viewed as explicit references, and I Googled without turning up anything more – do you have any others in mind?

          • Rich Atterton

            This will sound like the beginning of a joke… how do you tell the difference between a protestant and catholic? Doctrine, Practice, Liturgy? All of the above.

            Now how do you tell the difference between Steve Chalk and the EA statement of faith which underpins membership? Much more difficult.

            It is certainly true that groups could be part of the EA and consider other groups within it demonically inspired when they speak in tongues or consider other members apostate who believe God does not have exhaustive foreknowledge of all future events. The EA allowed room for members to believe that Hell is not eternal though not an majority view. Yet the apparent redefinition what constitutes a sin is a step to far. Ask the Calvinist if it is a sin to believe God cannot ordain all and know all!

            Steve seems to be suggesting that there is no possible OT or NT understanding of a same sex partnership in the same way we might understand it today. In the context of a fledgling and growing nation, where a high premium is placed on procreation, the idea of childless couple by choice would be a similarly alien concept. Obviously stating that something is a not a sin when it is considered to be a sin causes much consternation to many but I wonder if there is there a degree of hypocrisy here though? Are there other sins that some members of the EA think are sins and other do not? Alcohol, over eating, smoking, etc… The EA keeps well out of arbitrating these issues except in matters of excess.

            This and other threads seem to get a little bogged down with whether or not God kills people. “Show them no mercy” 4 views on the Canaanite Genocide does a good job of exploring the alternatives. Greg Boyd in his blog explores a NT equivalenthttp://reknew.org/2012/08/how-… Whilst the Catholics rather arrogantly assert to be the one true Church, Evangelicals tacitly assert to be the one true interpreter.

            I can totally understand the difficulty Steve Clifford found himself in and I know the two Steve’s are good friends yet you have to wonder if the EA could have survived the last great taboo of evangelical glue being broken. This really leads me to my conclusion that the doctrinal tsunami that is Gay marriage hitting the old stone Church of England may well leave it shaken but standing whereas the plywood EA would shatter back into the thousand (or 2 million) pieces it came from.

          • Jeff Featherstone

            Basing an argument about a biblical position on homosexuality on whether or not in OT/NT times there was an understanding of the concept of same sex partnerships as exist today seems to me to miss the point. The approach suggests that, in some legalistic way, an approach can be found that says ‘scripture x and scripture y didn’t have current models of same sex partnerships in mind’.

            Rather, I would suggest, one has to look to creation to find the principles of sexuality. Here, man and woman together in sexual union express something about bringing back together as one God’s creation of mankind, separated into man and woman, and gloriously brought back to being one flesh through sex.

            It’s that which makes the issue of a different order than ones of what does the bible says about alcohol, smoking, gambling etc. It instead reaches back to sex reflecting part of God’s intentions and purposes in creation.

          • Godfrey Rust

            Thanks Jeff. Let’s leave the specific discussion of 2 Peter aside then, because I think what you are saying is that you accept that all the established canon of 27 books are “scripture” (with whatever that entails for you), and the also-rans like Shepherd of Hermas are not, because it was the consensus of the great and the good of the church in the 2nd-4th centuries (though not in all cases the unanimous view of everyone involved in the process, as some of the books got in, as it were, on a “majority vote”). Is that a fair representation of your view?

          • Jeff Featherstone

            I’d prefer to say that it was the leading of the Holy Spirit that led to that conclusion (who can speak every bit as much through the conclusions that are reached through processes such as the above as through Him speaking in more visible ways). i certainly believe that the God who made the universe is more than capable of ensuring that His word has the content He desires.

          • Alan Molineaux

            Jeff. I am about to start the church of the baptising for the dead, snake handling, we don’t have to be circumcised but I make you do it if we are travelling to Jerusalem.

            It’s all in their. Which bits would you like us to take literally and which bits can we ignore because you gave a construct that makes you feel ok about doing so.

            The bible is a vast array of different styles of writing and different objectives.

            This flat book approach might make you feel like you are taking it seriously but you will breaking your own rules if you don’t join me in snake handling, baptising for the dead, and circimcising people calked mark who are heading to Jerusalem.

          • Jeff Featherstone

            I thought it was Timothy whom Paul circumcised?

            But, with regard to the wider issue, there is no contradiction between Paul circumcising Timothy in Acts and saying that requiring circumcision amounts to ‘another gospel’ when writing to the Galatians. In Galatia Paul was dealing with a group of Jews who claimed to have become Christians but who were saying that Gentiles had to follow the Law, including circumcision. It is for that reason that Paul opposes them, making clear that requiring circumcision, and so trusting in the Law, is the total opposite of the new covenant.

            However Paul also makes clear elsewhere that, in terms of winning people for Christ, he was content to be a Jew for the Jews, a Greek for the Greeks etc. In other words, to not act in a way that would cause any cultural barriers to people being able to hear the gospel. Once people became Christans he could be clear that none of these things mattered in terms of being declared righteous by God. it is in that context he circumcised Timothy, so that Jews had no reason to refuse to hear him when he spoke about Jesus.

          • Alan Molineaux

            Thank you Jeff – Timothy indeed.

            You do go on to make my point very well. You can only discount circumcision for people called Timothy by showing a wider context.

            It is this same method that I use when I consider the biblical passage concerning homosexuality. Yet when I do it I am called a progressive.

            It is the same method that John Stott did when he questioned the perceived wisdom of hell. Some called him some names too.

            Yet you are allowed to use this method and I am not.

            Tell me why

          • Jeff Featherstone

            Alan, its difficult to know how to respond since:
            a) I haven’t got into a debate with you about scriptural passages on homosexuality (and, if I did, I suspect it would be based on different passages to the ones I’m guessing you’re referring to) and:
            b) I think that there is a legitimate biblical case for John Stott’s position on hell (as far as I understand his position).

          • Alan Molineaux

            And I think there is a legitimate place for seeing faithful gay relationships as not problematic. It is about interpretation.

        • Jeff Featherstone

          Cecilia. if God wanted us to follow the requirements set out in Leviticus would He, as God, not have the right to ask that of us? But the greater news is that, if we are Christians we are free from the Law. Through being in Christ. who fulfilled every aspect of the Law, we share in His righteousness without having to try and be righteous through our own self efforts (as if we ever could achieve that). But how do we know that Christ has fulfilled the Law and that we are free from its demands? Its not by having a low view of scripture and saying it doesn’t matter. Rather its by having a high view of scripture and believing what it says that we know we are free.

  • http://www.msf.org/ Wallace Grommit

    I’ve given up on religion, but continue to love and embrace Jesus. Religion is all about tribalism, clubbishness, “Christian Identity” as a proxy for love. I would rather be known as a non-Christian who has a sustained and demonstrated love for hurting people, than a Christian with all the “right answers, right theologies, right policies” (but a weak demonstration of loving others).

    As far as Love as the “only way” — I’m sold out to Christ. As far as the historical Judeo-Xn history that I happened to learn as an accident of birth into a 20c Western culture, I am long given up as a “member of the tribe.” My tribe is all humanity. I don’t see anyone as an enemy or outsider (how can I love someone I call my enemy?). And I feel increasingly attracted to people who do not use religious language or appeals to religious tribal identity or superior theology or “belief systems” or “left / right categorization” in moving closer to the love of Christ. I’m becoming more convinced that Jesus came to free us from religion and religious tribalism, not pile it on higher and deeper.

    Arguments about liberal v. conservative “belief systems” are like an echo chamber that nobody cares about. If you’re not out helping the hurting masses, you’re wasting your time with religious chatter.

    • Cecilia Davidson

      The whole “liberal v. evangelical” debate is a crock that’s meant to drum up membership, just like how there are so many contrived “debates” about the existence of God. Really, Jesus would have smacked all sides up the head a la L.J. Gibbs and said “that’s not what I meant.”

      If we’re focused on whether we’re taking the Gospels in the right view, we’re focused on the wrong thing altogether. We only had Jesus for a while – we still need to care for the poor and downtrodden. The fact that Warnock and others are focused on how to define an Evangelical (or Christian) just goes to show how sorry a state our modern approach to religion IS.

      • http://adrianwarnock.com/ Adrian Warnock

        Defining a Christian has eternal consequences as if you are not one, then the Bible promises of eternal comfort with Jesus do not apply.

        Defining an Evangelical makes it much easier to communicate with, debate with, and work with someone than if they are not.

        • Cecilia Davidson

          You’re still defining a Christian by your own terms. Sorry, but you’re not much better than a certain JM.

        • http://www.msf.org/ Wallace Grommit

          “Defining a Christian has eternal consequences”

          Many of us have lost interest in “eternal consequences”. We recognize that love is something we practice in the here and now, without regard for some “personal reward”. We understand love not in terms of what WE get in the future (“eternal comfort”), but simply because love is the only thing that matters.

          My eternal destination? Who cares! Frankly, such religious thinking is a very selfish and ego-driven way to live — posing as “spirituality”. It’s “carrot and stick” religion.

          • klhayes

            “Many of us have lost interest in “eternal consequences”. We recognize that love is something we practice in the here and now, without regard for some “personal reward”. We understand love not in terms of what WE get in the future (“eternal comfort”), but simply because love is the only thing that matters.”

            YES! I feel like those of us who want to be like Jesus (no longer Christian but I like Jesus) should try to create Heaven here and now. Not tell those who are struggling to wait for their “eternal reward”.

          • Ben Thorp

            Not sure I want to enter such a heated debate, but…..

            “We understand love not in terms of what WE get in the future (“eternal comfort”), but simply because love is the only thing that matters.”

            I think this is a somewhat unfair reading of what Adrian has said, as if worrying about eternal consequences is somehow purely a selfish motive. Surely if there _are_ eternal consequences, then part of loving others is doing our utmost to ensure their place in eternity?

            Now, that’s not to say (as klhayes comments below) that we shouldn’t try and “create Heaven here and now”, but if eternal consequences _do_ exist, then creating Heaven “here and now” whilst ignoring eternity would be like letting someone lick a piece of bacon but not eat it….

          • http://aremonstrantsramblings.wordpress.com/ Episcopius

            Then you have clearly moved away from what Jesus taught.

          • Andrew Dowling

            “Believe I am the Savior of the world or perish in eternal torment” said Jesus never.

          • http://aremonstrantsramblings.wordpress.com/ Episcopius

            “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (Jesus) And Jesus talks more about hell than anyone else in the NT. Look it up sometime. He has some pretty graphic language for it.

          • Andrew Dowling

            I had a feeling you were going to bring up a butchering of John. For starters, no serious scholar believes the
            “I am” statements in John (or the statements attributed to Jesus in the wide majority of John) go back to the historical Jesus. And on top of that, the evangelist with those statements was not implying “believe Jesus is the Messiah and get to heaven, don’t believe and go to hell.” That’s a juvenile allegorizing of the text and placing constructs the evangelist wouldn’t have even been familiar with onto the Gospel.

            When Jesus brings up hell or judgment in the Synoptics, the criteria is always how one treats others, not what one believes.

          • http://aremonstrantsramblings.wordpress.com/ Episcopius

            “…no serious scholar believes the “I am” statements in John (or the statements attributed to Jesus in the wide majority of John) go back to the historical Jesus.”

            That made me laugh out loud. Unless you’re using an adjective before the word ‘scholar’ to denote only ones who are liberal of course? All conservative scholars think these saying do (and some non-conservatives too). I think you’ve just demonstrated how unfamiliar you are with the scholarship of the gospels.

            But I see what you’re up to. It’s not the Jesus of the gospels you are referring to. It’s the one ‘found’ by the Jesus seminar et. al. after they’ve found a liberal, westernized Jesus among the crumbs of what’s left of the gospels after their funny coloured ball game. Funny how such cut-and-paste ‘Jesus’s’ always end up saying nothing that would offend a modern liberal eh? Guess it must be a huge coincidence! ;)

          • Andrew Dowling

            Sorry, my assertion is not only found among liberal scholars (and was recognized as being a more “spiritual Gospel” compared to the Synoptics centuries before the Jesus Seminar), unless you consider the likes of NT Wright and Raymond Brown “liberal” . .in which case that would encompass anyone who doesn’t engage in pseudo-scholarship working for some faux-college which endorses inerrancy (in which case they are not scholars, they are strictly apologists).

            There are real debates about the historicity of certain events described by John, and he certainly includes some early oral tradition in his Gospel, but you need to have a real logical disconnect to believe on some days Jesus spoke in parables and used short, pithy Wisdom sayings, not being clear about his identity, and then on other days engaging in long philosophical discourses in which he declared oneship with Yahweh. I know the works of several prominent conservative scholars and I’ve never heard them claim Jesus actually spoke like John has Him speaking.

          • http://aremonstrantsramblings.wordpress.com/ Episcopius

            I’m glad to hear you’re backing down considerably on your assertion that “no serious scholar believes the “I am” statements in John go back to the historical Jesus.” Yes I think Raymond Brown is generally considered to be a liberal – yes. I would be surprised if NT Wright held the view you say he does. Please provide a reference.

            And, of course, to attempt to write off conservative scholarship as mere “apologetics” is just ridiculous. That would be like me suggesting that all liberal scholarship is mere heresy and not engaging with it in the slightest. You wouldn’t have any time for someone who writes off a whole branch of scholarship you happen to like so I don’t know why you would expect me to take you seriously when you try to.

            Also to attempt to write scholars off on the basis of an ad hominem argument is probably not too smart. Arguments have to be considered on their merit and conservative scholarship is not ignored by liberal scholarship and vice versa.

            If you have never heard a conservative scholar argue for the authenticity of these sayings then you’re not reading both sides of the argument. No wonder you don’t think they’re authentic. I would suggest you begin with Carson’s commentary on John (where he argues for a background to the sayings coming from Isaiah 40-55) or the article in the ‘Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels’ by GM Burge. You could also look up the NT theologies of GE Ladd and Donald Guthrie. See also Leon Morris and RT France.

            Your attitude to the scholarly debate is one which is far removed from scholarship itself and therefore I have no problem at all dismissing it as childish. Sorry.

          • Andrew Dowling

            I write it off because conducting studies with the sole aim of “finding” and promoting a certain viewpoint is not scholarship . . it’s a charade. There are numerous examples of liberal scholars actually supporting conservative viewpoints in terms of the dating and historicity of certain texts . . you do not see any “conservative” scholars doing the same . . often they work for educational facilities which force them to sign statements affirming inerrancy!
            And really, that John is positing a more mystical, ethereal Jesus and that the Synoptics retain more of the actual historical Jesus’s actual teaching is not only widely accepted, but one can see it simply by reading the text . . you have to engage in serious cognitive dissonance to believe both are recording the words/teachings of Jesus.

          • http://aremonstrantsramblings.wordpress.com/ Episcopius

            “I write it off because conducting studies with the sole aim of “finding” and promoting a certain viewpoint is not scholarship . . it’s a charade.”

            Sorry but I think you’re plain wrong there and modern philosophy is against you. Modern philosophy has recognized that everyone has something invested when coming to doing studies (no matter what they are). Everyone has assumptions. In fact, Karl Popper went even further than that and suggested that people can have very deep and profound reasons for addressing the problem they are addressing.

            None of those things discredits a person per se. If it did then everyone would be ruled out of doing any study. Do you think that liberals have no agenda? Do you think they lack presuppositions? Do you think they are purely objective?

            Liberals usually work for institutions which are not conservative! So what? Do I rule them out like you’re trying to do with conservatives?

            Sorry Andrew but these complaints you have about conservative scholars are merely ad hominem attacks and I don’t think it’s ever a good idea to attempt to discredit a scholar or group of scholars using a logical fallacy. I would prefer to see what their arguments are and judge them on that basis.

            A good many scholars have addressed the different form of John (especially since the time of Bultmann) so it would seem somewhat unscholarly to fail to engage with conservatives because they disagree with you.

            Then accusing other people of “cognitive dissonance” is yet another ad hom. At least I read both conservative and liberal scholars. I have both kinds of commentaries on my bookshelf. But it appears you would rather rule out one kind of scholarship for spurious reasons. I would urge you not to.

          • Andrew Dowling

            Yes, no-one is completely objective. But there is a clear difference, if one is in search of the truth, from recognizing one’s own biases and seeking to minimize them, to thoroughly embracing them and in turn seeking to come to certain answers regardless of what the evidence says or not. If doctors practiced medicine like conservative apologists did scholarship we’d all be in big trouble.

            I’ve read Bauckham, I’ve read Dunn, I’ve read Hurtado . .Hurtado and Dunn especially do some good work and Dunn isn’t afraid to go against the grain a little . .but honestly after reading some Daniel Wallace I can’t go any more conservative than that, because the assumptions presumed become so preposterous that I find it a complete waste of time. It’s not honest inquiry, it’s designed to be feather stuffing for the pillows of conservative evangelical exegesis.

          • http://aremonstrantsramblings.wordpress.com/ Episcopius

            I cannot believe you would continue to attempt to attack these scholars ad hom.

            As I said before, you are doing something here no genuine scholar would. Liberal scholars don’t slur their conservative counterparts on this basis. Your approach to this matter is completely unprofessional and is one which your favourite liberal scholars would not get caught doing.

            As if an NT Wright is not attempting to genuinely recognize his own biases and seek to minimize them!! That’s absurd!

            It’s okay not to like or agree with a certain conservative scholar (do you think I like reading Bultmann?) and it’s okay to disagree with them. What I’m taking issue with is your attempted rubbishing of them as a group for personal reasons and/or suggesting that just because liberal scholarship says something it must be considered true without reference to conservatives.

          • Andrew Dowling

            NT Wright never has and wouldn’t claim the “I Am” statements in John go back to what Jesus actually said. There are some conservative scholars, like Wright and Dunn, who are genuine in their search and generally make sound arguments. But we’re talking specifically about a scholar who would claim that things like the language in the farewell discourse in John reflect what would’ve actually been stated in Jesus’s public ministry. That to me is as absurd as trying to scrap together an argument that the Apostle Peter actually wrote II Peter . . .it tells me the person making the claim is no longer seriously looking at the evidence before them.

            Again, scholarship REQUIRES the one studying and ascertaining the evidence entertain all possibilities. Conservative apologetics by its VERY DEFINITION does not entertain all possibilities . . thus why should a conservative apologist “scholar” be taken seriously? That’s like saying my dismissal of a Phillip Morris report on the safety of cigarettes is being “biased” and “writing them off” . . .yes I would also write them off because a 10 year old can see they are not even attempting to look at the issue honestly.

          • http://aremonstrantsramblings.wordpress.com/ Episcopius

            Well I’m afraid that what you find “absurd” doesn’t count for all that much. Scholarship as a whole does not write the conservative wing off in the ad hominem fashion you do and I think that ought to be a warning against you doing so. But it appears you have such a venom against it you are quite willing to employ logical fallacies to support your cause. When that happens I tend to think a person is beyond reasoning with and therefore I don’t think I’ll bother anymore. It’s not possible to reason with unreasonable people.

            You are also demonstrating, once again, that you do not know conservative scholarship very well. Take Craig’s commentary on Hebrews for example. It is FULL of constant references and interactions with liberal scholars. Your “DEFINITION” of conservative scholarship is both wrong and prejudiced.

            Please go and look up the ad hominem fallacy so you can stop using it!

            Since we’re going around in circles now I think I’m done discussing the issue thanks but I wouldn’t mind getting that citation from Wright if you’d be good enough. You said:

            “NT Wright never has and wouldn’t claim the “I Am” statements in John go back to what Jesus actually said.”

            Evidence of that please?

            Thanks.

          • http://aremonstrantsramblings.wordpress.com/ Episcopius

            I’d still really like to see that evidence for the view you claim NT Wright has on the “I am” sayings of Jesus.

            Thanks.

          • Andrew Dowling

            It’s implied when he says Jesus was not aware of his divinity in ‘the Meaning of Jesus’ dialogue book with Borg. Here is many a conservative’s favorite scholar actually making my point for me: http://larryhurtado.wordpress.com/2014/05/13/questioning-a-common-assumption/ and here: http://larryhurtado.wordpress.com/2014/05/14/jesus-and-christology-the-gospel-of-john-as-case-study/

          • http://aremonstrantsramblings.wordpress.com/ Episcopius

            Sorry but there are no quotes of NT Wright in either of those blog posts. And even if one took a progressive view of Jesus’ own view of his divinity that would not imply he did not say the “I am” sayings but rather that he meant something different by them.

            You have offered zero evidence that this is Wright’s position. Frankly I’m not surprised because if you read his commentary on John’s gospel or ‘How God became King’ you would know that Wright does not take the view you claim he does.

            Please don’t misrepresent conservative scholars. Try interacting with them instead.

          • Andrew Dowling

            “And even if one took a progressive view of Jesus’ own view of his
            divinity that would not imply he did not say the “I am” sayings but
            rather that he meant something different by them.”

            Clearly you didn’t read through Hurtado’s posts clearly . . he says the language in John of Jesus is the author’s reflections of the meaning of the post-Easter Jesus, not the historical Jesus.

            I told you the book Wright talks about it in. Find the quote yourself. Or better yet, since you’re so well versed in Wright, give me a quote where Wright affirms the Johannine statements as coming from the historical Jesus.

          • http://aremonstrantsramblings.wordpress.com/ Episcopius

            I didn’t say anything at all about Hurtado’s opinion if you read my comment.

            Try reading Wright’s commentary on John for yourself sometime. And next time – before stating with such confidence that someone takes such a view, make sure you’ve done the necessary research to avoid misrepresenting them.

            Given your general view of conservative scholarship it’s not surprising to find you content to misrepresent them though.

          • http://www.naturalspirituality.wordpress.com/ Howard Pepper

            I’ve read the entire interchange between you and Andrew, Episcopius. I’m not going to take time to check his links or look into Wright’s statements pertinent to the “I Am” sayings. But it all seems mostly a side-track, although I support being specific in many situations. I find Andrew’s points well-taken, having come from more years in conservative churches and conservative (unquestioned: Talbot Shool of Theology and Biola U., mainly) higher ed than years of “progressive” higher ed (48 PhD units at Claremont) and reading. About 27 adult years in the former, that including a mixed and transitioning period of about 4 years (1990-94)… then 20 years within a basically “progressive” paradigm, informed by readings and such, not formal ed.

            All that is to say I have had at least as much exposure (not counting childhood and pre-18 teen years) to conservative “scholarlship” as to progressive (and I agree with Andrew’s caveats on the term, while recognizing some valid uses). After my paradigm shift, I have quite frequently dipped back into more recent and new (at least to me) Evangelical or other “conservative” scholars, a few of whom I know personally. In so doing, I’ve actively looked for new arguments and/or data they might be coming up with, and generally found very little of any significance. However, I HAVE found some fresh formulations and helpful expressions in the little I’ve read or heard by Wright and a couple others considered at least not in the “progressive” camp (tho not fully Evangelical or “conservative” either).

            I follow blog posts by some who are difficult to categorize, such as LeDonne and Keith, Pete Enns, and PhD student, Brian LePort (NearEmmaus, about to go inactive), etc. There seems to be, at least via the blogosphere, some rise in these “in between” scholars who seek not to ID in one category or another and who seem honest scholars from varying (hard to pigeon-hole, as I’ve said) places on a conservative-to-liberal spectrum… and I don’t think such a clear spectrum actually exists, despite our tendency to place either ourselves or others in one “camp” or another. From what I gather, Hurtado may be one of these, as I would say that Wright is also (though conservative-leaning).

            And, it’s refreshing to have people like Ehrman who seems to manage (via my reading of several of his books, and hearing lectures) to be pretty neutral theologically and to stick with history, being agnostic as he claims. There are some Jewish scholars of the NT who I’d put in a similar “refreshing” position.

          • http://aremonstrantsramblings.wordpress.com/ Episcopius

            Thanks Howard,

            I think you raise an important point and that is that the labels ‘conservative’ and ‘liberal’ simply don’t do justice to the range of views in existence in scholarship. This is another reason I have such a problem with Andrew. He’s trying to disqualify a whole group of scholars not only based on what is essentially an ad hominem attack but also the group are not homogeneous anyway. Scholarship is a line more than it is a couple of distinct, well-defined, categories.

            I think we ought to be far less interested in what labels these scholars get categorized under and look more to their arguments. I remember first reading Ridderbos and someone telling me not to bother reading him because he was ‘liberal’ but I was really enjoying reading him at the time and I thought he made a lot of sense. Sometimes I really enjoy reading commentaries by people who I don’t know what their label is so I can be open minded to their arguments.

            Having said that I think that conservative evangelical (even ‘Reformed’!) is a fair title for NT Wright. Just because some very right-wing Calvinists (like John Piper) want to suggest he’s not doesn’t mean he isn’t.

            I would have to disagree with you on Ehrman being “neutral’ though. Firstly because I don’t think there is any such thing and secondly because he does have a theological agenda. Now, of course, that does not disqualify him in the slightest but it just means he in the same boat as everyone else.

            All the best.

          • http://www.naturalspirituality.wordpress.com/ Howard Pepper

            I do agree that there is no true “neutral” as no true “objective” either. And there are others in a similar position to Ehrman… and often what he is bringing out he is quick to acknowledge is not unique to him. But he and a relatively few others in NT scholarship are NOT tied to a seminary or a church-tied University, which I think generally increases their ability to and prospects of being more historical and less theological… of not having a philosophical or other “agenda”. Most leading (writing/influencing) scholars HAVE been tied one way or another to religious institutions, whether “liberal” or “conserv.”

            Another plus with Ehrman is that he was initially “inside” Evangelical scholarship (as was I to about the same level, though longer for me) and so knows and tends NOT to distort their usual positions and arguments. By the way, the same tends to go for many now liberal and/or progressive scholars… started as very conservative but gradually (usually) moved away. A few of my fav’s that come to mind: Burton Mack, John Cobb, David Ray Griffin, Philip Clayton, and (mainline but relatively conservative in youth) Marcus Borg. There seem to be very few that move from progressive very far into conservative in their educational and maturing process… since Barth and similar ones of neo-orthodoxy, particularly. (And few Evangelicals want to really “own” Barth, as you may know.)

          • http://aremonstrantsramblings.wordpress.com/ Episcopius

            Well I’m afraid I don’t buy into the idea that having been an adherent of a position and subsequently moved away from it makes you any better placed than anyone else to comment. I certainly see no reason why that would be an advantage. That’s like suggesting you cannot properly know or critique a position until you have been a proponent of it and I think that’s simply false.

            Ehrman has admitted that his move away from Christianity was actually more to do with his perception of a philosophical problem (the question of evil and suffering) than it was anything to do with NT MSS evidence or the like. It’s a shame he’s not read more on that issue because he actually uses a form of the argument which is considered to be dead in academia.

            Of course – the question of who scholars affiliate themselves with is very dubious grounds for questioning the standard of their scholarship. That is to attack the person not their arguments. I think we ought to avoid ad hominem attacks and it certainly feels like you’re flirting with doing that.

            Of course – not all scholars agree that Ehrman is everything he’s made out to be. He has recently wandered well outside his area of academic specialization in order to tackle theological questions (demonstrating that he IS interested in them – quite profoundly in fact). I am looking forward to reading Ehrman’s most recent book and then reading Michael Bird’s reply. Even in his area of specialization I think he’s been answered first by his former tutor (Bruce Metzger) and more recently by Peter Williams (Warden of Tyndale House, Cambridge).

            Best wishes.

          • http://www.naturalspirituality.wordpress.com/ Howard Pepper

            Again, a lot could be discussed here. Your precise point about critiquing without having been “inside” is certainly valid. Still, with complex systems such as theological/hermeneutical ones, I will still maintain that spending significant time somehow “immersed” in one (not necessarily as a “believer”) or closely interacting with it does advantage a scholar. That’s assuming said scholar is not mainly just reacting “against” things due to emotional factors… and no one is fully absent them, of course.

            As to Ehrman’s most recent book, I’ve not read it and only followed a little of the response book by Bird et al. That has been on NearEmmaus.wordpress.com. (It is currently being transitioned to archive only, so harder to find even recent-past posts.) Brian LePort (I believe it was, him being the lead blogger there), whose work is not clearly in one theological “camp” or another and I generally find incisive and solid, pointed out what he considered a number of weak points and inadequacies in Bird’s chapter particularly. From reading much of Bird’s response directly myself, I’d have to agree. The other contributors I imagine did some better.

            As to Ehrman’s being “answered by his former tutor… and more recently…” I’d be interested to know what titles (articles, books, etc.) represent those, and just what they “answered” and how (in brief summary, of course).

          • http://aremonstrantsramblings.wordpress.com/ Episcopius

            Yes I agree on “immersion” but I still think that’s a very different concept from embracing or being a part of a movement.

            I am aware of criticisms made toward Bird et. al. but I want to read the book for myself before reading the critiques. I hate judging a book on the basis of what others say about it. But I do already have about thirty pages bookmarked on the internet of exchanges between Bird and his critics for once I’ve read his book. NT theology is not even my primary area of study but I do my best to keep up. Unfortunately there is too much reading to do and too little time!

            Thanks for your comments. All the best.

          • Phil Warburton

            Yes. No one comes to the Father except through Jesus. This is both a promise and a warning however it does not say that you have to be a Christian to know the Father. Who comes to the Father is the gift of Jesus. Let’s trust him to judge right. We may find He judges more graciously than some evangelicals I know? I am sure he will judge with more grace than me!

        • http://www.fordswords.net/ Ford1968

          Positing theories about how salvation works is so much theological folly. You don’t know nor can you. Neither do I. What we do know is that the perfect prayer says “…Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” That sounds a lot more like orthopraxy than orthodoxy.

        • Alan Molineaux

          I think this reveals something of the problem with an evangelicalism that is over influenced by calvinism.

          Salvation is through Jesus Christ as Lord not through religious adherence. Not through style of baptism. And nit technically through theological understanding.

          If you are suggesting that unless a person believes in the Trinity and full immersion baptism and that every word in the bible is true they cannot be secure in eternity then heaven will be vastly underpopulated.

          Now I am not saying that these things do not have importance but once you say that ‘eternal consequences rest on them’ you are presenting a God who is limited in his offer of salvation to a religuous construct; namely are you ‘our’ kind of Christian.

    • http://adrianwarnock.com/ Adrian Warnock

      I don’t understand: how can you know Jesus except in the pages of the Bible? If the Bible isn’t accurate, how can you know Jesus accurately?

      • Cecilia Davidson

        You can’t, because there are so many other books outside of the four “accepted” gospels that offer slight differences that seem controversial. Barring the “Jesus was married” part because that was only a fragment of a fragment, there are other approaches. Not to mention the Josephus document that mentioned the events of Good Friday was badly vandalized.

      • http://www.msf.org/ Wallace Grommit

        Adrian, the vast majority of souls have come and gone never knowing Judeo-Xn history. And yet the love of Christ has been available to all persons of all cultures, regardless of their religion or tribe. If you don’t believe that, then we fundamentally disagree about the omnipresent and unconditional nature of God’s love.

        Our accident of birth into a Western 20c culture does not mean we have a more (as u say) “accurate” understanding of transcendent Love. Doing “God’s will” isn’t based on hearing Judeo-Xn history. Anyone who loves people, who helps to reduce human suffering and injustice, who seeks to comfort the marginalized, the slave, the prisoner, to reach out to their enemy in peace — these are followers of Jesus.

        Have we forgotten the Samaritan? After all the religious people, with all the “accurate” theology and all the right religious credentials refused to help the hurting person, it was the Samaritan who finally helped. The Samaritans were literally hated by clerical Jews as complete outsiders, yet Jesus says it was the Samaritan doing God’s will.

        Arguments over “Christian Identity” and “Evangelical Credentials” are about relevant to Christ’s love or “accurately knowing Jesus” as the religious people walking by the person in the ditch. Such chatter is irrelevant to Love.

        • Alan Molineaux

          Good stuff Wallace

        • http://kingscriercommissions.blogspot.com/ thekingscrier

          “Anyone who loves people, who helps to reduce human suffering and injustice, who seeks to comfort the marginalized, the slave, the prisoner, to reach out to their enemy in peace — these are followers of Jesus.”

          I strive to be all of the above, except a follower of Jesus. For me, the need to have someone tell to be a good person defeats the purpose of being a good person.

      • klhayes

        Even if Jesus was not real, how can you not love the story?

        • http://kingscriercommissions.blogspot.com/ thekingscrier

          Easy, if you think about it. A deity creates fallible humans and then condemns them for that fallibility. Said deity then creates a circumstance involving a temporary human sacrifice to circumvent the laws it created to provide a loophole for the fallible humans.

          Makes about as much sense as taking a long walk off a short pier.

      • Alan Molineaux

        99% of the people who existed at the time of his death and resurrection had never heard of Jesus by the time they died. In a Calvinist construct you might feel comfortable in describing them as unelect but it needs to be addressed that they didn’t have a NT to go off.

        Did God care about them?

        Added to that are the many people who do not have our privilege of freely available bibles.

        Does God care about them?

        Now scripture is importable for the church as a whole but I think we misunderstand the work of God, in Christ, that is happen all over the world.

      • Simon

        Adrian, you can know Christ as revealed in the Church, through Scripture, through the sacraments, through prayer. The conservative evangelical fallacy and idolatry is to elevate Scripture to deity. Christians are not “people of the book”. This is a title given to us by Muslims. We do not follow the Bible. We follow God. And, as solidly orthodox NT Wright has said, Christ didn’t say all authority will be given to the books you chaps are going to write! All authority is given to him! Scripture bears witness to this. Scripture read in it’s proper context – i.e. the Church, is the only proper usage of the text.

      • Robin

        Yes the scriptures testify, but often we are stuck on the testimony. Jesus was is a real person, it takes our full humanity to know him not just our minds.

      • http://www.whatisspiritual.com cardw

        I have the same question. I don’t think the bible is true. I think some of the ideas around Jesus are good and maybe an imaginary Jesus provides an icon that represents compassion and a world view that is far less judgmental. But, the whole substitutionary atonement, with Jesus dying for our sins, and the view that we are all sinners is are some of the most toxic ideas out there. These views of the Bible create an imaginary disease with an imaginary solution. It also creates a culture of emotional dependency where one is never good enough and because Jesus pays the price, people aren’t accountable, because we just can’t help ourselves because we are sinners. I have found that this god narrative gets in the way of people’s happiness because one has to explain why this god stands by powerless or unmoved in the face of extreme suffering. The answers Christians come up with are so morally offensive. And the eventual fall back to god’s mysterious ways is lazy thinking. If we would confront the problems of the world through the use of reason, and our empathy as humans, and stop wasting our time trying to figure out what god wants or trying to get to know Jesus better (whatever that means), I think we would be far closer to solutions than we are now.

    • Nathan

      You claim to refuse tribal lines on the basis that it causes enmity, and bring in the killer blow with this argument: “Ho can I love someone I call my enemy?” But doesn’t Jesus teach us to love our enemies? In saying this, he is implying that, 1) we would have enemies; and 2) it is actually possible – a duty even – to love even these, our enemies.

      What this would belie is a simplistic approach to what loving someone actually looks like. It’s a childish, playground like love to say that if you’re my enemy, then I can’t love you. Jesus’ teaching on love seems to me to be a lot more refined than the refusal to see any blatant barriers of opposition between people. His approach is to recognise that some are ‘in’ and others aren’t (sheep and goats anyone?), but to have the godliness to love even those who are our enemies.

      That’s simple, cross-shaped theology (when we were still far off, etc…). But you need to presume a Christian worldview to assume that, rather than trying to shoehorn Jesusinto the postmodern, anything goes, worldview that you seem to be advocating.

      • Andrew Dowling

        “His approach is to recognise that some are ‘in’ and others aren’t (sheep
        and goats anyone?), but to have the godliness to love even those who
        are our enemies.”

        When Jesus told people to love their enemies, he wasn’t juxtaposing some delineations of believers and nonbelievers . . you are throwing Christian allegory onto sayings which were orally transcribed to 1st Century Jews.
        To Jesus’s hearers, “enemies” would’ve been non-Jews (Samaritans, Romans/Gentiles) and especially, simply people who in everyday life are in opposition for a multitude of reasons (land, family, business interests etc.). In addition, saying “love your enemies” doesn’t presume there is a good reason to have any enemies in the first place.

    • http://www.naturalspirituality.wordpress.com/ Howard Pepper

      Wallace, now 20 days later, you may not see this. But I note 14 “likes” prior to mine, and a lot of discussion engendered. Anyway, a big “Amen” to your basic point, tho I stand guilty as one wasting some time on the theological discussions which are doing little or nothing to LIVE OUT the “good news” (in the nearly-universal sense most people take the main teachings of Jesus).

  • Alan Molineaux

    Thank you Adrian. I do appreciate your willingness to debate. I also appreciate you previous blogs about theological spectrums.

    1) I think you may have a little blind spot when it comes to the MacArthur/Chalke parallel I offer. If your concern, and others, was just to remove people like me from either Newfrontiers or the EA then perhaps you would have a point (I might not agree with it). Your continued concern, however, (and others that I have debated with like Gerald Coates) seem to want me to stop calling myself an evangelical. This is where I think the comparison is valuable. You felt the pain personally of being misunderstood and rejected by MacArthur and it drove you to respond by restating your understanding of why exclusion was problematic.

    I am simply doing the same. It is painful to be told that you do not belong because a particular group are selecting certain parameters to highlight your different way of understanding things.

    I would, however, applaud you for not going down the tack of suggesting that we on another side of the debate are being insincere, as some have chosen to do. I appreciate this about you and Andrew.

    (BTW I think you are a little too generous to MacArthur to suggest that you, as a charismatic, could have an intelligible debate – he has a certain disdain for charismatics and Pentecostals)

    2) I would be happy to debate on any subject but would want to suggest that your continued insistence that the EA decision is not about homosexuality is somewhat misplaced. Neither of us can truly know this as the decision was taken in private; without the consultation of any of the 2 million evangelicals they pretend to represent.

    My concern is not just the exegetical methods that are deemed as being specifically ‘evangelical’ but about how questions are asked in a way that makes it easier to exclude others.

    I am not saying that you have done this on purpose because I believe you to care deeply about truth but you are in danger of performing Franklin’s Gambit with your questions ‘what is an evangelical’ and ‘are you progressive’ – that is to say the way you compose the questions is the way that the media poses questions to get the result they want.

    In terms of a method of debate my concern is that the 27% of evangelicals (EA’s own figures) who either think like Chalke or are unsure on the matter of homosexuality will have been silenced by the removal of Chalke from the group. In this regard it would be better to be done in front of people giving them the chance for open questions and further debate. The EA should have done this before they made the decision.

    Because this is unlikely to happen how about we both write a piece for the same blog on agreed questions. For example we could both cover these three:

    ‘Is there a definitive biblical interpretive method for evangelicals’

    ‘Who should decide on evangelical orthodoxy’

    ‘Why do some differences in interpretation demand exclusion whilst others do not’

    Let me know your thoughts.

  • Godfrey Rust

    Adrian – thanks for this analysis. These days I am uninterested in doctrinal labels, after 30 years in or associated with evangelical churches, and I have come to the view that the orthodox evangelical view of the inerrancy of the Bible has no credibility whatsoever. There many reasons for thinking this, but one in particular strikes me as especially interesting, and I would like to hear your view. Jesus wrote nothing down that we know of (apart from his writing in the sand), and gave no instruction to his followers to write anything down, nor did he give any clue that there should be a “New Testament” that we should follow. Indeed, from his choice to be incarnate in a predominantly oral culture, and the obscurity of his career, he seems to have gone out of his way to avoid documentation. The nearest thing to authority that Jesus gave to the apostles’ words is his remark in the Upper Room that the Spirit would “lead them into all truth” (he never said that everything they wrote would be all truth). When the NT was eventually compiled, only one of the 27 books (Revelation) makes any explicit claim to be a revelation from God, the majority of the rest (at least 19, possibly as many as 24) were written by people who were not among the “upper room” apostles, and of at least one we have no identified author. Paul even makes the point in one place that something he is writing is “not from the Lord”. How do we get from this to an insistence that absolute loyalty to the inerrancy of these writings is, more or less, the defining characteristic of faith? If it is of such enormous importance, isn’t it a little odd that Jesus didn’t mention it at all? Or is he not our authority for life?

    • Alan Molineaux

      Godfrey I think you make some excellent points. Lesslie Newbigin made this point about Jesus not writing a book on several occasions.

      I would add to this the inconsistent way that many of those who are mire conservative use scripture.

      Inwardly I am sure they feel like they have a ‘method’ but to those outside it seems mire of a convenient construct.

      • Godfrey Rust

        I agree Alan. (I laughed at your typo “mire conservative” – that’s what I think it often is, a quagmire!). As the prophet Paul Simon put it “A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest”. But I await Adrian’s response with interest, because I find a conservative evangelical understanding of the Bible nowadays literally (to borrow a phrase) incomprehensible, but I know those who adhere to it like Adrian are often neither stupid nor rogues, so I remain open to persuasion. And as I am having to wait, I will leave another simple group of exemplary question for a biblical literalist/inerrancist (or whatever the word is :) : was there one or two shining figures at the empty tomb? Were they men or angels? Was he/were they inside the tomb when the women arrived, or sitting on top of the rock outside? If they were in the tomb, was he/they waiting when the women arrived, or did he/they appear after the women had entered the tomb? (I could go on, but that will do). Do you agree that in all four of those questions, at most one of the alternatives I have given can be true, and the other is therefore false? (For avoidance of doubt, I believe that Jesus did physically rise from death, so I don’t question the basis of the events behind these stories).

        • Alan Molineaux

          Mire – perfect : )

          I await Adrian’s response too

  • http://www.whatisspiritual.com cardw

    If you don’t interpret the Bible in a fundamental way then there is no way to define what you are. It sounds like you are sitting in the middle of the Bible as allegory and the Bible as literal. I can understand if you see the Bible like Joseph Campbell does, as an evolutionary description of the unknown through myth. The key question is, “Is the Bible true?” You seem to understand the Bible as true through vagueness. Atheists don’t interpret the Bible as fundamentalists do. They observe what people who believe the bible as true do and many of those actions are immoral because of their belief in the Bible. If you are going to discount those portions of the Bible that order people to kill those who simply believe differently or are of a different race or because they are gathering wood on the Sabbath you have to have an external standard from the Bible. At that point it seems to make more sense to me to establish a better external standard based on reason and empathy instead of the Bible.

    • Godfrey Rust

      I wonder why it has become so important to “define what we are”? Jesus quite resolutely avoided being categorized and labelled, and never applied any systematic theology to his chosen disciples, who were as diverse and presumably theologically muddled a group as one could hope to assemble in one “alliance”. The Jewish religious factions were constantly trying to entice Jesus into siding with them, or trap him into betraying himself as a heretic, and they were the only groups that Jesus routinely attacked and condemned. Even the Samaritan woman tried to use doctrinal differences to push Jesus into a debate, and he swatted it away and returned to his inclusiveness. Why are we doing all this? The one thing that the huge spectrum of theological positions and the endless splitting of dogmatic hairs should tell us is that no-one is ever going to get close to being “right”, and that perhaps that is because, in our narrow, human, logic-bound terms, there is no exclusive “right” set of doctrines when the most important truth is revealed in the paradoxes of the dying immortal, the God-man, the freely predestined and the perfect all-creating God presiding over a world enmired in sin which he didn’t create. Our faith is formally absurd and we are foolish to expect to find important answers in these binary distinctions, or to have security in a faith based on a representation of truth, not truth itself.

      • http://www.whatisspiritual.com cardw

        And if we apply this to the world at large there is no reason to even establish the distinction of being a Christian. This would be an argument for being no religion or belief.

        • Godfrey Rust

          Well no, I think that’s fallacious reasoning. You’re assuming that a difference in some belief requires us to stick more general labels onto ourselves and others, from which we then make further inferences (about our state of salvation and so forth), and it doesn’t, either in logic or in practice. You and I, I imagine from this exchange, would disagree about many things, in theology and religion as well as in life, and agree on many others, including some very important ones about Jesus. We are not obliged to use our disagreements to then stick labels on one another and make further judgments about, or on, one another. You may choose to, but no logic says you must. Nor do I find Jesus saying anything about that in his instructions to his disciples.

          • http://www.whatisspiritual.com cardw

            Well many of the claims of Christianity can’t be verified in the real world. We are basically saying that my imaginary friend is the true god. If there is no way to determine who is right then the label Christian is simply a self designation with no logical basis. You have said essentially this much yourself. “no one is ever going to get close to being ‘right.’” So your whole premise can’t be countered because it’s not based in logic. So you have no basis to say that my point is “fallacious reasoning.”

          • Godfrey Rust

            Sorry, having read back to the beginning of your thread I realise I have misunderstood you entirely based on my reading of your first sentence “If you don’t interpret the Bible in a fundamental way then there is no way to define what you are.” I read it as you asserting that a fundamentalist reading of the Bible was the only possible way of establishing human identity, and you were attacking any other position. I see from this last and from other posts elsewhere that you have an athiest view and that clearly isn’t what you intended. It’s interesting that I found your first two posts could be interpreted in quite the opposite way! I still think, actually, that your argument is technically fallacious, and verification and logic aren’t really anything to do with one another, but that’s just a process issue and I have no interest in pursuing it. Apologies!

    • Godfrey Rust

      And by the way, some of the Bible is intended to be literal, and some allegorical or metaphorical. I assume you don’t expect the trees of the field to actually grow hands and clap them? There are plenty of other genres with their own types of knowledge representation. The question of scholarship is not whether there are different genres in a diverse library of 66 books, but which method(s) of representation is intended or appropriate for each. As the psalmists and prophets unhelpfully don’t provide footnotes, we appear to be left to our own (and the Holy Spirit’s) devices to take our best shot at it. I note that nowhere in the Bible does anyone claim that all scripture is “literally true”, or even attempt to define what that means, and I do think fundamentalism really ought to eat its own dogfood. Or dogma food.

      • http://www.whatisspiritual.com cardw

        So is the promotion of slavery and treating women as property allegorical? Is the condemnation of homosexuality as an abomination allegorical? On what basis do you determine if it’s your own reason or the Holy Spirit telling you which is true? How come the Holy Spirit tells different things to different people about the same passage?

        • Godfrey Rust

          See my previous comment: we are not in disagreement.

          • http://www.whatisspiritual.com cardw

            I guess I don’t understand how one would determine the truth of the claim that the Bible is the word of god. An appeal to the Holy Spirit seems rather vague since the Holy Spirit seems to tell everyone something different. Why should I consider the Bible to be superior to any other ancient claim of knowledge about god or any claim of any book of knowledge about god? What appears to be happening, to me, is that everyone is using their own reason to come to understandings and then they pick and choose which texts to use or they shift their interpretation of the difficult texts to support things their own empathy and reason have already told them.

  • Dave Warnock

    I have just reread the post by Roger Wolsey on how progressives read the Bible. I would choose a different way of wording some of the points to be less antagonistic.
    If you re-look at the post with a little generosity with allowances made for language written in a heated debate then I suggest that the vast majority of his points are entirely compatible with a more traditional understanding of what an Evangelical is.
    I have long argued with you Adrian that you are attempting a redefinition of Evangelical making it much more Conservative and also limiting it to Calvinist theology.
    I continue to reject these changes although due to the unloving behaviour of so many who loudly claim to be Evangelical I am being forced into rarely self describing as Evangelical, which is very sad.

    • Alan Molineaux

      I would agree with Dave on this. The recent push to make evangelicalism more conservative and more Calvinist seems more obvious to to those of us in a different place in the evangelical landscape.

  • BrotherRog

    I would just point out that progressive Christianity is the post-modern influenced evolution of mainline liberal Christianity, and emerging/emergent Christianity is the post-modern influenced evolution of evangelical Christianity. It’s a matter of lineage and start place. Hence, people like Marcus Borg and myself are progressive Christians, and people like Rob Bell and Brian McClaren are emerging or emergent Christians.

    That said, the distinctions are increasingly becoming blurred and IMO, if an emergent Christian embraces a fully inclusive view of homosexuality, and the role of women in Church leadership, then I’d be okay with considering them fellow progressive Christians.

    Here’s a blog I wrote that speaks to this matter of labels: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogerwolsey/2014/01/progressive-christianity-isnt-progressive-politics-2/

    Roger Wolsey, author, Kissing Fish: christianity for people who don’t like christianity

    • Alan Molineaux

      I appreciated what you gave to say Roger. My concern is that Adrian’s continued theme seems to be that the definitions are mainly useful so that we can describe people as not evangelical – ie ignore your voice or at least find it easier to dismiss it.

      I am not saying this as an attack on Adrian because I know he cares about these issues.

      If it is possible to say that someone is a ‘conservative evangelical’ it is possible to say that someone is a ‘liberal evangelical’ – either way they are still evangelical.

      • BrotherRog

        Yes, but while Jim Wallis and Tony Campolo are liberal evangelicals, Shane Claiborne, Jay Bakker, and Rob Bell are emergent evangelicals.

        • Alan Molineaux

          Interesting. Could you explain how you make these categories. I am not aware that Rob Bell has ever called himself emergent.

  • Trip

    I’ve definitely moved in the direction of ‘progressive’ by your definitions above, during the last few years. If my 21 year old self met my 39 year old self he would think I was drifting from faith, and yet I feel stronger in my faith than ever.

  • David

    I would say that the EA is the only organisation which comes close to representing the generality of evangelicals. The web site indicates that Affinity is much smaller. My experience indicates that they tend to be more conservative. Calvinistic and suspicious of charismatics. Other organisations such as UCCF and SU work with all evangelicals in certain contexts.

    Where do you put Tom Wright in all this? He seems to be under continuing suspicion from the Gospel Alliance and is cited by Steve Chalke as his inspiration regarding atonement.

    I am concerned that evangelicals continue to paint themselves into a corner as anti-intellectual despite the wealth of good evangelical scholarship available.

    The issues then come down to the Bennington quadrilateral. http://www.evangelicalfellowship.ca/Page.aspx?pid=775

    If John Stott had led conferences on What God requires of Anglicans? What God requires of Evangelicals? and What God requires of Christians? how different his answers would be?

    • Alan Molineaux

      Some interesting points here David.

      I think one of the problems for the EA is that in previous times leaders tried to bring a broader consensus (charismatic, pentecostal etc) – people like Clive Calver and Joel Edwards were trying to make it truly ‘Better Together’.

      It seems, as Dave Warnock pointed out earlier, that there has been an increasing, and somewhat disproportionate, influence from the Calvinist wing. This along with a general fear of the questions raised by the emergent evangelicals has lead to somewhat of a reaction.

      One wonders why they fear asking their members for an opinion on these issues. And when they do and find a significant minority at odds with their opinions will they seek to still represent them or exclude them.

      Adrian and others can dance around the edge of the other parts of this conversation but I haven’t seen anyone take this head on – and I have asked the EA directly on some of this.

      • Frank2918

        The Word of God does not require a consensus among humanity. Also not all opinions carry equal weight.

  • Robin

    I think that evangelicals and fundamentalists have placed the cart before the horse when it comes to Scripture. In the zeal to fight early 20th century liberalism (which was a very good thing) evangelicals have elevated Scripture to heights that it was not intended. This gives rise to all sorts of bad interpretation and theologies and division. Scripture is divinely inspired, that is all it claims for itself. The word of God is the Son, he is the ultimate and final revelation of the Father.

    • Godfrey Rust

      Well said, Robin. Some branches of evangelicalism have fallen into Bible worship.

  • Simon

    Adrian, some cults don’t die out – like Mormonism. That is exactly where evangelical Christianity is heading for in terms of categorisation. You are right concerning liberal Christianity losing pace. They don’t stand for anything. You rightly point out that conservative evangelicalism is on the rise – particularly Calvinism in North America. However, there are many who are turning to the more solidly communions in Christendom – i.e. Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic. Unfortunately, conservative evangelicalism and Calvinism cannot be judged to be orthodox in any sense on a number of key doctrines. The most glaring error is their iconoclasm, which has been condemned at the 7th ecumenical council. Other wobbly areas for conservative evangelicals is Christ’s decent into Hell, which is clearly taught in the Apostles Creed and by most early church giants including St John Chrysostom. They are wobbly on the Theotokos, being very very uncomfortable with that title being used for St Mary. Not only that, but they have made penal substitution a dogma of their belief – not only a theory, but a dogma! And in doing so they have distorted the Church’s teaching on the atonement. Firstly, the church has never made any dogmatic statements on atonement theories. Secondly, the understanding of the atonement that has come down to us from the Fathers and in the liturgy shows that evidence for the primacy of penal substitution is scant. This is not to mention the violence evangelicals have done to the sacraments and to the sacramental life of the Church.

    All this means that eventually, evangelicalism will go to the fringes of a defined, creedal and confessional Christian orthodoxy. That is the best case. At worst, evangelicalism will descend into cultism. You only need to look at the fanaticism, the endless cult of personality, the commercial prowess of conservative evangelicals to see that this is happening. Meanwhile the traditional, pre-Reformation Communions (RC, Eastern and Oriental Orthodox) maintain the integrity of the faith, and have done so for centuries.

  • http://www.mormon.org Daniel

    I’m impressed by the comments on this article. I’m a devout Mormon and probably take a very different approach to scripture than all of you, but I appreciate that the comments on this article are thoughtfully debating a topic without resulting to name-calling, snark, and sound-bite reasoning.

  • Rich Atterton

    This will sound like the beginning of a joke… how do you tell the difference between a protestant and catholic? Doctrine, Practice, Liturgy? All of the above.

    Now how do you tell the difference between Steve Chalk and the EA statement of faith which underpins membership? Much more difficult.

    It is certainly true that groups could be part of the EA and consider other groups within it demonically inspired when they speak in tongues or consider other members apostate who believe God does not have exhaustive foreknowledge of all future events. The EA allowed room for members to believe that Hell is not eternal though not an majority view. Yet the apparent redefinition what constitutes a sin is a step to far. Ask the Calvinist if it is a sin to believe God cannot ordain all and know all!

    Steve seems to be suggesting that there is no possible OT or NT understanding of a same sex partnership in the same way we might understand it today. In the context of a fledgling and growing nation, where a high premium is placed on procreation, the idea of childless couple by choice would be a similarly alien concept. Obviously stating that something is a not a sin when it is considered to be a sin causes much consternation to many but I wonder if there is there a degree of hypocrisy here though? Are there other sins that some members of the EA think are sins and other do not? Alcohol, over eating, smoking, etc… The EA keeps well out of arbitrating these issues except in matters of excess.

    This and other threads seem to get a little bogged down with whether or not God kills people. “Show them no mercy” 4 views on the Canaanite Genocide does a good job of exploring the alternatives. Greg Boyd in his blog explores a NT equivalent http://reknew.org/2012/08/how-do-you-explain-the-violent-judgement-of-ananias-and-sapphira/ Whilst the Catholics rather arrogantly assert to be the one true Church, Evangelicals tacitly assert to be the one true interpreter.

    I can totally understand the difficulty Steve Clifford found himself in and I know the two Steve’s are good friends yet you have to wonder if the EA could have survived the last great taboo of evangelical glue being broken. This really leads me to my conclusion that the doctrinal tsunami that is Gay marriage hitting the old stone Church of England may well leave it shaken but standing whereas the plywood EA would shatter back into the thousand (or 2 million) pieces it came from.

  • Rich Atterton

    This will sound like the beginning of a joke… how do you tell the difference between a protestant and catholic? Doctrine, Practice, Liturgy? All of the above.

    Now how do you tell the difference between Steve Chalk and the EA statement of faith which underpins membership? Much more difficult.

    It is certainly true that groups could be part of the EA and consider other groups within it demonically inspired when they speak in tongues or consider other members apostate who believe God does not have exhaustive foreknowledge of all future events. The EA allowed room for members to believe that Hell is not eternal though not an majority view. Yet the apparent redefinition what constitutes a sin is a step to far. Ask the Calvinist if it is a sin to believe God cannot ordain all and know all!

    Steve seems to be suggesting that there is no possible OT or NT understanding of a same sex partnership in the same way we might understand it today. In the context of a fledgling and growing nation, where a high premium is placed on procreation, the idea of childless couple by choice would be a similarly alien concept. Obviously stating that something is a not a sin when it is considered to be a sin causes much consternation to many but I wonder if there is there a degree of hypocrisy here though? Are there other sins that some members of the EA think are sins and other do not? Alcohol, over eating, smoking, etc… The EA keeps well out of arbitrating these issues except in matters of excess.

    This and other threads seem to get a little bogged down with whether or not God kills people. “Show them no mercy” 4 views on the Canaanite Genocide does a good job of exploring the alternatives. Greg Boyd in his blog explores a NT equivalenthttp://reknew.org/2012/08/how-… Whilst the Catholics rather arrogantly assert to be the one true Church, Evangelicals tacitly assert to be the one true interpreter.

    I can totally understand the difficulty Steve Clifford found himself in and I know the two Steve’s are good friends yet you have to wonder if the EA could have survived the last great taboo of evangelical glue being broken. This really leads me to my conclusion that the doctrinal tsunami that is Gay marriage hitting the old stone Church of England may well leave it shaken but standing whereas the plywood EA would shatter back into the thousand (or 2 million) pieces it came from.

  • BT

    I read the list of statements at the end of this article that separate evangelicals from non-Evangelicals. It was a great list.

    The list seems very logical and reasonable to me. It’s clear to me that I am no longer an evangelical. Moreover, I wonder why anybody would be.

    • lowtechcyclist

      Ah yes, the list.

      “We also tend to employ a “canon within the canon” lens whereby we give greater weight and priority to certain texts over others.”

      Anyone who thinks they do not give greater weight to some texts than others is fooling themselves. For one thing, it can’t be done. Nobody can keep all the thousands of verses in the Bible in their heads at once, let alone give them all equal weight. Like it or not, our minds organize things while we’re unawares. Unless you’re Mister Roboto, you’re going to give priority to some texts above others.

      And the other thing is: you should. If you as a Christian don’t view Scripture as a whole through the lens of the Gospels, why not?? By what standard are the words and actions of Jesus not the most important part?

      If you read the four Gospels, you should come away with a great deal of insight about what Christian faith should be about. If you read an equivalent quantity of text from, say, Kings and Chronicles, you might come away with some insights, but not nearly so much.

      “[We are] willing to reject certain passages & theologies in the Bible and to affirm other ones.”

      Funny how conservative Christians who take other passages ruthlessly literally, find all sorts of wiggle room around many of the things Jesus said. So yeah, if you agree with that, you can be an evangelical.

      I could keep going from there, but that’s enough for one day.

      • http://aremonstrantsramblings.wordpress.com/ Episcopius

        “If you as a Christian don’t view Scripture as a whole through the lens of the Gospels, why not??”

        Erm… because the gospels don’t tell us to do that. If you are affirming that is the hermeneutic one ought to follow don’t you find it curious the gospels don’t make this claim themselves? In other words – you are getting that from somewhere else.

        Why raise the gospels up against other parts of Scripture? On what authority do you do that?

        Instead Jesus repeatedly affirms the truthfulness and reliability of the Old Testament (something Chalke differs from Jesus on).

        • lowtechcyclist

          “Why raise the gospels up against other parts of Scripture? On what authority do you do that?”

          Because we’re Christians, not Bibleians. We don’t have a centerless faith; Christ is the center of our faith. If we aren’t reading the rest of the Bible through the lens of the Gospels, then we are Bibleians, and our faith is in the thousands of Scriptural verses, equally weighted, and our faith is just as much about Job and Jeremiah as it is about Jesus.

          How can we talk about living a Christ-centered life – in fact, why conclude a Christ-centered life is a worthy goal – if Christ isn’t even at the center of our view of Scripture, but rather all verses are equally important? Why not have a Moses-centered life? An Isaiah-centered life? A Paul-centered life?

          Yeah, I know, the rest of Scripture points to Christ. My point exactly! You point to what’s important. That would be Christ. If the rest of Scripture points to Christ, let’s go where it’s pointing, to the part of Scripture that doesn’t need to point somewhere else, because He is there.

          It is Christ who has been in my heart for 44 years. Not Moses, not Jeremiah, not David, not Paul. The rest of Scripture is important, but Christ is at the heart of it, just as He is in my heart.

          “don’t you find it curious the gospels don’t make this claim themselves? In other words – you are getting that from somewhere else.”

          The Bible certainly doesn’t make the claim for inerrancy, however one defines it. Inerrancy itself is a human construct. How contradictions between the plain meanings of different Biblical passages are resolved is a human construct. Why all Christians don’t have a rail around the roof of their house, as dictated by Deuteronomy, must’ve come from human reasoning, and not from the Bible itself, because Peter saying the dietary laws of the OT no longer apply doesn’t cover that.

          But as I say above, a view of Scripture that’s centered around the parts directly about Christ seems to be pretty obvious if you’re a, um, Christian.

          • http://aremonstrantsramblings.wordpress.com/ Episcopius

            Indeed Christ is the centre of our faith but if you are going to take Christ as the centre of your faith then you would do well to agree with everything Christ said. And it’s pretty clear Christ affirms the Old Testament as being both true and authoritative. Nowhere does Jesus suggest, as Chalke does, that the writers of the OT made mistakes in terms of what God was up to. He does not even hint at that. So a truly Christ-centered approach to the OT would be to take the same view of it Jesus did. (cf. Matt.5)

            My problem with Chalke is that he only claims to have Jesus at the centre of his theology. In practice he actually disagrees with Jesus and therefore there is no reasonable sense in which Jesus can truly be the centre of his theology.

            And the same NT Chalke trusts for his understanding of the teachings of Jesus is the same NT which also affirms that the OT was the breathing out of God. If you’re going to begin picking and choosing which bits of the NT get to be authoritative and which don’t then I’d like to see a coherent epistemology and rationale for that position. Chalke certainly fails to make one.

            You appear to think that the centre of the Christian gospel means that there is nothing else around it. If that were the case then why did Jesus use the OT to explain his mission to his disciples? Something can be the centre and still have truth around it which the centre makes sense of! That appears quite obvious.

            You are setting up a false dilemma. Just because Jesus is the centre does not mean that everything else around it can be dismissed. Jesus can be the centre and the rest of the Bible can be incredibly important. Why you think having Jesus at the centre means dismissing everything else is very curious. As I’ve said, Jesus himself doesn’t do that so that is a practice which is contrary to the teachings of Jesus himself. You are getting that from somewhere else – not from Jesus.

            Of course – holding to the view that the OT is inspired does not mean having the view that all OT laws are still in force. That would be an incredibly naive way to treat the OT and Jesus makes it clear one should not read the OT that way. Just because OT case law does not hold does not mean that God did not give it for a certain time and place. I do not know of any conservative evangelical scholars who think the truthfulness of the OT implies its laws are timeless! Strawman much?

            Let me remind you that the historic position of the church has been that a Christian is a follower of Christ (of course) but that their view of him should be based on the revelation of him found, not only in the gospels, but in the WHOLE of the Bible. To wander away from that is to wander away from the historic position.

            PS. The charge of being “Bibleian” is a ridiculous ad hominem attack. Do you think there are any errors in the red letters of the gospels? If not then you are ‘red-letterian’. You make an idol of parts of the text in the gospels. See how ridiculous that charge is?

          • lowtechcyclist

            Indeed Christ is the centre of our faith but if you are going to take Christ as the centre of your faith then you would do well to agree with everything Christ said. And it’s pretty clear Christ affirms the Old Testament as being both true and authoritative.

            When Deuteronomy says, “You shall show no mercy: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth,” and Jesus says, “You have learned that they were told, ‘eye for eye, tooth for tooth,’ but what I tell you is this: do not set yourself against the man who wrongs you” how exactly do you read that as Jesus telling his listeners that they should do as Deuteronomy instructs, because it is both true and authoritative? Maybe I’m missing something here, because it sure sounds to me like Jesus deep-sixed the “you shall show no mercy” part here.

            If you’re going to begin picking and choosing which bits of the NT get to be authoritative and which don’t then I’d like to see a coherent epistemology and rationale for that position.

            To paraphrase Leonard Nimoy, I am not Chalke. I am not picking and choosing among verses. What I am saying is that all Scripture must be viewed through the lens of the Gospel. This is where you find Jesus. Finding Jesus is the whole point.

            You appear to think that the centre of the Christian gospel means that there is nothing else around it.

            I don’t know where you get this from.

            You are setting up a false dilemma. Just because Jesus is the centre does not mean that everything else around it can be dismissed.

            Ditto this. This is not something I have suggested. Consequently, when you ask:

            Strawman much?

            I must assume you are in a discussion with yourself.

            Of course – holding to the view that the OT is inspired does not mean having the view that all OT laws are still in force.

            Hey, you’re the one who said they were true and authoritative. That means they’re the authority; you are to obey them.

            There’s a big difference between inspired and authoritative.

            Let me remind you…historic position.

            Again, saying one should view Scripture through the lens of the Gospel doesn’t make the rest of Scripture disappear. The Gospel is not a fun-house mirror.

            The charge of being “Bibleian” is a ridiculous ad hominem attack.

            Nope. Not ad hominem, and it’s only an attack if you interpret ‘rebuttal’ as ‘attack.’

            See how ridiculous that charge is?

            Yeppers.

          • http://aremonstrantsramblings.wordpress.com/ Episcopius

            I think you have confused authoritative for timeless. No-one who uses the word ‘authoritative’ for the Bible means that everything in the Bible is for now. That makes me wonder if you read anything by the people you disagree with. What Chalke is suggesting is that the OT Scriptures (and some places in the NT too for that matter) get it wrong and that they put pronouncements on the lips of Yahweh which were not from Yahweh. In other words, those commands from Yahweh (which were not actually commands from Yahweh) were not authoritative in the setting they were spoken. Jesus, on the other hand, never once does that. Instead he affirms everything that is put on the lips of God as being from God but he also explains that sometimes God gave certain laws due to the hardness of their hearts (eg. divorce). What Jesus also does is bring many of these laws to an end (…but I say to you”). Some of them he also reaffirms.

            “Bibleian” is just an incredibly shallow jibe at those who have a high doctrine of Scripture. Most who use that word have an equally “Bibleian” view of the red-letter text of the gospels but somehow they don’t think they are worshiping the text or the MSS it’s written on while considering it all to be completely true. It’s a charge that just cannot be taken seriously. A “rebuttal” normally takes the form of an argument not name-calling. I see no reason to take this piece of name-calling seriously.

            Sorry but the rest of your response is too choppy to make any sense of what you’re getting at.

        • http://www.naturalspirituality.wordpress.com/ Howard Pepper

          What “Old Testament”? Even the canon of Hebrew Scriptures we now take as having been the “OT” was not formed until sometime around 50-100 years after Jesus. There were “intertestamental” books being cited as authoritative during this period, some of which seem to be so cited in the NT. And the Gospel writers, Paul, etc., were generally working from the Septuagint (Greek, of course) translations of Hebrew texts, often not very literally translated. We tend to transpose our ideas of “trustworthiness, reliability” as well as methods of interpretation back onto NT era folks.

      • Phil Warburton

        Yes the Christian bible is not a flat book – there are mountains and valleys. We surely read these texts with a christian lens?

  • lowtechcyclist

    “I firmly believe that Evangelicals are Christians, but not all Christians are Evangelical.”

    Actually, no. I don’t believe that evangelicals are necessarily Christians. Here in the U.S., I think quite the opposite applies: evangelicalism is a tribal identity, and most members of the tribe do not know the Lord.

    The reason I think this is that if they know the Lord – if they have this “blessed assurance” of the old hymn – if they have experienced new creation in Christ – then how come they all feel persecuted at the drop of a hat, by stuff that should be beneath the notice of anyone with even run-of-the-mill earthly assurance, let alone the assurance that should come from the presence of the Lord – you know, the Lord of all creation, the Alpha and the Omega, in one’s heart?

    I just don’t buy it. God is real to me, and has been so for 44 years now. The notion that we live in a secular society where the government has to remain neutral on matters of religion, and that a lot of people are going to think yours is ridiculous – well, so freakin’ what? Many Christians, at many places and times, have had to contend with actual persecution, and this isn’t it.

    My faith doesn’t need government support to prop it up. My faith thrives whether or not other people think highly of it. Saying that these things are background noise in the context of my faith isn’t, to me, a statement that my faith is strong; it’s just a statement that it’s there.

    So when evangelical leaders speak of persecution because of the absence of government support, or the presence of popular ridicule, it’s a red flag to me that they don’t know the Lord.

    Because if they did, they wouldn’t be such hothouse flowers.

  • Button

    Sorry for the late reply, I was only just linked here – but I would like to know, what would you say is the difference between evangelicals and fundamentalists? Or do you consider them to be two terms for the same group, theologically?

  • Andrew of MO

    Wow, you coined the word “neoliberal?” That is going to be a shock to political scientists.

    • http://adrianwarnock.com/ Adrian Warnock

      Only in terms of describing theology, not politics! As far as I know nobody had described people like Chalke as neoliberal before me, but they might have I don’t know

  • Phil Warburton

    Some thoughts re how non evangelicals read the Bible.

    1. Who wrote the Bible? Written by men (perhaps a women or two) inspired by the Holy Spirit. if you want a book wholly ‘dictated’ by God then become a Muslim. The bible suggests only small passages are dictated. e.g. The 10 commandments. I would also suggest that the majority of evangelicals do not believe the Bible to be ‘infallible’. It is a nonsense doctrine because: 1. Unlike Muslims we do not claim to have the original texts. Without original texts we cannot claim infallibility. Indeed my English Bible could never be infallible. 2. The bible does not make this claim for itself so who came up with that idea? 3. There is a very important point about Jesus here. Was he infallible ? Sinless YES!! Infallible? 4. The claim of infallibility leads to all sorts of ethical problems. Do we believe the Bible reports God’s will when his people are commanded to commit genocide? What sort of God does that? Can genocide ever be good? Can God say a triangle is actually a square? Can God can call genocide good? If you believe the bible to be infallible you have to deal with a God who may yet command genocide. We evangelicals must be very careful with that! Only done one point – will do some more later ….

  • Phil Warburton

    2. Intentional filter. Of course we have an intentional filter. The bible is a intentional filtered construction of God’s fallible but spirit inspired Church. It tells us the Christian story – the story of Jesus and his people. I hope all Christians are reading the bible through the intentional filter of the life and mission of our lord Jesus Christ and Though the intentional filter of the worldwide, historic and local Church. Otherwise we throw ourselves on the shifting sands of logic and “reason”. The danger is that these Greek constructions actually become our God’s not the God we know in Jesus.

  • Phil Warburton

    3. Equal weight. All scripture is equally inspired but does not have equal weight. You cant be an evangelical and thinK that all scripture has equal weight. Surely? Do I have to give examples?

  • Phil Warburton

    4. We all reject certain ideas in the Bible because the Bible is a story (not a list on doctrines) of a people with Jesus at the centre. Some people reject the command of Christ to ‘follow him and give what they have to the poor.’ Some people reject the idea of death penalty. Some people reject the idea of women covering their heads. In fact most British evangelicals reject these biblical ideas. So evangelical reject ideas in the Bible

  • Phil Warburton

    5. No evangelical reads the Bible literally. Been to any non blog stonings recently?

  • http://www.naturalspirituality.wordpress.com/ Howard Pepper

    I’m late to this, I know. But wanted to comment, still, as it is of real interest. I think your analysis is basically accurate, and fitting for the US in a similar way I assume it is for the UK (I’m American and my exposure to UK people and issues is minimal, although I know some British Christian authors, etc., of the past and present, but not Steve Chalke.)

    Having said that, I do think it isn’t particularly enlightening or helpful to work mainly with just 2 categories: Evangelical and Progressive (or Neoliberal). Among self-professed Evangelicals, many want distinction by something like “Emergent” but don’t consider themselves “Progressive”. Some of us “Progressives” also want further distinguishing, in my case as “Process” rather than generic “Progressive”, tho I don’t always object to the latter and sometimes (as above) use it for myself. But it fails to get across important nuances and keep out misconceptions (such as that “progressives” don’t believe in active “charismatic” gifts or “spirit-filling” for today, like many Evangelical rationalists).

    I also think your characterization of liberalization movements and processes in “conventional” or “conservative” churches misses a lot of the positive dynamic and abiding effects going on. The Church gets moved ahead largely by creative-thinking and synthesizing people, and kept tied (mostly positively) to tradition by more “conservative” (by nature) folks.

    And I do find small pockets, at least,of exceptions to the general trends about growth and vitality. One of them revolves around the “charismatic” issues I just raised and is well expressed in the great book, “Integral Christianity”, by Paul Smith. I would consider myself, via past Evangelical and then broader education, “conservative” past commitment, and experiences up to the present, a “Charismatic Progressive” (of Process theological bent).


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