The ‘Post Evangelical’?

After having an interesting conversation with a friend of mine and reading some articles on the topic, I have recently found myself thinking greatly about the ‘labels’ we seem to have awarded ourselves within the Christian Church.

Random as it may seem for a first blog post, the ‘label’ (although I hate to refer to wings or denominations of the Church in this way) seems to be a necessary means for one to divide and understand the different ideas and beliefs of each ‘wing’ of the Church.

One particular area of Christian thinking labelled under the ‘evangelical church’ ; the wing of the church that I would place myself in (if we have to classify ourselves under labels!) seems to be a hot topic for discussion among Christians and non-Christians alike, over what exactly constitutes an ‘evangelical Christian.’ Are there typical, fundamental doctrines that all who hold to the title ‘evangelical’ must agree un-falteringly on, or can we be evengelicals with a few ‘grey’ areas?

After reading some reviews on the popular book by Dave Tomlinson the ‘Post Evangelical’ I can see that this is something causing debate in our wing of the Church; an obvious divide seeming to have been created between those who feel that some ideas expressed in the ‘Post Evangelical’ are too liberal and unworkable for a “true evangelical”, as opposed to those who are “sighing with relief that somebody has spoken up”.

 

I have been wondering about this more since having some interesting discussions in different ‘Christian group’ situations, where a chance has been offered by those hosting the meetings for Q&A’s and “open discussion”. Yet, I have to admit that, often, this does not seem to be what then occurs – the invitation is issued, and I listen, ready to receive everyone’s ideas on the ‘hot potato’ subject we are supposed to be free to begin discussing, but what continues is a sense of awkwardness, with no-one wanting to admit to their own ideas but waiting for the ‘approved leader’ – the one everyone wants to agree with – to express their opinion so that everyone else can agree and nod enthusiastically, relieved that what they ‘should’ believe on this topic has now been handed to them in a non-heretical, appropriate for an evangelical, mould.

And then, shock horror, just as I thought that this event, advertised as a chance for ‘debate’ was going to be an utter flop with everyone agreeing with the outspoken leaders, one brave girl dared to offer an ‘alternative thesis’ – she disagreed. The response to her ideas, sadly, was one of total disrespect. It was as if her ideas, because they were generally disagreed with, were, therefore, not  worth further discussion, she was told that what she believed was ‘just not right’ and that she ought to change her ideas – sharpish – because they were “wrong”.

The group concerned operates and testifies under the ‘label’ of Evangelical. I see in it the sub-culture of evangelicalism that so many have expressed a discontent with; it was ‘right’ anything else was ‘wrong’.

This experience, as well as reading more about the subject of labels, has made me think twice about the group headings that I place myself under, and the way I think and respond to those who disagree with me.

 

I don’t believe we should leave obviously dangerous heresy unaddressed – there are some areas of theological understanding that seem almost universally clear for the Christian Church, however, this exclusivity of theology that seems to have taken root within some areas of the church worries me. The Bible, far from being clear, on many issues, is subject to many different ‘schools of thought’, and I have found that, the more it is studied, the more the Bible seems to have many grey areas, to be studied and expanded on, I am unable to apply the same rigid exclusive understanding on some topics that this sub-culture seems to command. I love my Bible, but in loving it, I want to understand what it really is saying, not just what it says.

 

So, what do others think? Should there be a number of conditions to be met which make someone ‘in’ or ‘out’ of the evango’ inner circle, or should we steer away from trying to define other people’s theologies into our own categories?

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“They think that God is a tiny little conservative being”

Watching Malala Yousafzai’s United Nations address left me inspired. This 16 year old girl, who was shot by the Taliban for campaigning for women’s rights to an education, spoke with wisdom and strength.

She was so very inclusive – mentioning figures from many traditions and religions as inspirers of her activism and work for social justice, a wonderful example of the beauty that a multi-faith cohesiveness includes. She is so obviously full of love and passion for her cause, her fellow students and her sisters the world over. She is a missionary for peace and progression.

And, aside from being incredibly moved and left feeling extremely grateful for what I have experienced growing up in England; as a woman who has had an education placed before her, her speech made me think upon other levels; of the Church in the West and our general way of contemplating things.

A line I loved from Malala’s speech was the one considering the Taliban’s fundamentalist theology that, in the context that Malala was referring to, was being used to deny women education: “They think that God is a tiny little conservative being”.

Prima farcie many westerners, particularly Christians might look at this sentence and agree, relishing the fact that THEY or ‘we’ as in the Church, don’t believe in a God who is so very restrictive or in such restrictions to be found in our holy text. And yet, although, thankfully, we have no brutal enforcements of fundamentalist theologies in the modern western church, it reminded me of a sermon I heard quite recently.

The preacher mentioned the equal marriage bill that was, at the time, still in its legislative stages, and how he “disagreed with it totally, because God did too”. I was in a Church along with a non-church attending family who had come for something similar to a christening. As he said the words my mind was whirring, hoping desperately that these people wouldn’t think that all Christians were unanimously in agreement with him and his right to condemn the bill from the supposed vantage point of some kind of assumptive moral high ground. Leaving the building, the question I went away with was ‘how do you know?’

 

The God who we believe in is almighty creator and sustainor of the universe and more, he is the author of science, the master of mathematics, the writer of the human genome, the presider of history, the highest King of kings, the unknowable, mysterious, unchanging, everlasting; the mover of mountains, the saviour of his creation, the healer of hearts and the knower of minds. He is so very above our comprehension that we can only ever hope to see even a glimpse of his glory when we follow the path that HE lays out for us, we don’t know him, find him or talk about him by ourselves, but, in his love, this ultimately awesome God has allowed us to know a little bit about him, I believe, through natural and revealed ways. His mark is left on nature, he moves in that nature in the person of Christ, I believe. And, probably, so too does the preacher of that Sunday.

And with this in mind, why do we still try and fit this unimaginable mystery into our little bottle-sized theologies; our churches mission statements and our ideological preferences. This God who named Himself ‘I AM’ because his name is so very great that He is who he is – God. We are subject to Him, not he to our theology, social conventions and prejudices! I don’t deny that we can know and distinguish right from wrong, and that we shouldn’t act on these convictions – take a look at the table-turning Jesus for more on this topic. But, when it comes to speaking about what God likes and doesn’t like, when there is NO biblical concept of, instructions on, or talk about some of the contemporary issues we face today, I believe we must take a step back, realise how little we know, and start being a little more like Jesus was.

A warm welcome to my blog…

So, you’ve stumbled upon my blog, eh?

HELLO!!!

I’m a blogger from the UK who writes mainly on religion and my experience with it, and how it relates to the rest of life. I like to ‘muse’ and ponder the sticky questions we come across – I do believe I can be classified as ‘thoughtful’ however, how deeply thoughtful, you will have to decide!

I’m afraid I’m no professor of philosophy, but a humble A-level student, however, any chance to discuss the interesting parts of life I relish, therefore I shall blog when I have something to talk about! I would love it if this blog could provide an opportunity for debate and discussion so, whatever your background and beliefs, please engage in what I hope will become a little community of ‘amateur thinkers’.

I had previously posted on my old blog by the same name, but decided to make the move to wordpress in the hope that it would better facilitate what I aim for with this project – I might re-post some of the few articles I posted on there which range from May 2013 to September 2013. Otherwise, this is a clean slate. How very exciting 🙂