Sunday, 1 February 2004

Don't call us evangelicals

In January, the Church Times carried a two-part feature article by Theo Hobson which is now online.
Part 1: Don’t call us evangelicals
Part 2: When the world is our parish . . .

These articles make interesting reading in conjunction with the book, Mission Shaped Church which is to be the basis for a General Synod debate next week.

Theo Hobson talked to a wide range of people including Nicky Gumbel, Mark Oakley, Grace Davie, Rob Gillion, Dave Tomlinson, and Si Jones.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 1 February 2004 at 10:22pm GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Opinion
Comments

I studied the Alpha course and found it dreadfully simplistic. The only effect it had on me was that it made me seriously consider becoming a Hindu or a Buddhist. The big problem with Evangelicalism today is that with all the research that has taken place in biblical scholarship and with the discovery of the Nag Hammadi documents the old claims of the evangelicals simply do not satisfy the contemporary mind. It is sad, because Christianity still has so much to offer, but nowadays Nicky Gumble, or for that matter CS Lewis just won't do. They just won't do.

Posted by: Rodolfo Guzman on Tuesday, 3 February 2004 at 3:01am GMT

"The big problem with Evangelicalism today is that with all the research that has taken place in biblical scholarship and with the discovery of the Nag Hammadi documents the old claims of the evangelicals simply do not satisfy the contemporary mind."

Maybe you could give an example of how biblical scholarship should lessen evangelical zeal? I don't see what Nag Hammadi has to do with the discussion, much of what was found there was Gnostic, and could be dated to much later than the traditional four gospels. Besides, Christians in any event should be prepared to ignore unpleasant archeological appearances when it undermines faith, the concept that Christ alone saves. If the public isn't willing to do so and would refuse the gospel, it is they who will be sadly lost, and there should be no shame for those doing what they can to spread the good news.

Posted by: Christopher Culver on Tuesday, 3 February 2004 at 5:24pm GMT


I am not proposing that biblical scholarship should diminish evangelical zeal - but it should make us think what the message of the gospel is for today's world. In the light of new research some Gnostic gospels are appearing as valid early Christian alternatives or complement to the canonical gospels, which, by the way, do not seem to be so early in the opinion of many reputable scholars. There is a new more inclusive, more mystical Christianity waiting to be born which will be much more relevant to today's world - a world in which not only Jesus saves, but also Buddha and Krishna. The churches are empty, and they are empty not because the world is evil, but because in today's world the traditional way of presenting the Christian message is increasingly irrelevant and indefensible - and yet Christianity is true and the fact that God became man so that man could become God will never cease to enlighten the world and rekindle the church - if only it would let it be so.

In Christ

Rodolfo Guzman

Posted by: Rodolfo Guzman on Wednesday, 4 February 2004 at 3:39am GMT

We are definitely the "have it your way generation" and this comes to mind when I read the comments that say "the traditional way of presenting the Christian message is irrelevant and indefensible" and that the "new more inclusive, more mystical Christianity [waits] to be born" and that "God became man so that man could become God." This new Christian message that you hope for is an echo of Satan's tempting words in the garden, that you too can become like God. Let's not let the Prince of Deceit get us in that way again. There are ways that seem right to us but the longer I live with myself and in the world the more I realize we humans are not the god I want to trust in. God's ways are not our ways and every generation will struggle with the familiar temptation to have it their way.

Posted by: A. Reasner on Wednesday, 4 February 2004 at 5:01pm GMT

"There is a new more inclusive, more mystical Christianity waiting to be born which will be much more relevant to today’s world - a world in which not only Jesus saves, but also Buddha and Krishna. The churches are empty, and they are empty not because the world is evil, but because in today’s world the traditional way of presenting the Christian message is increasingly irrelevant and indefensible - and yet Christianity is true and the fact that God became man so that man could become God will never cease to enlighten the world and rekindle the church - if only it would let it be so."

I'm sorry, but this is not orthodox Christianity and certainly not approved of by the Church of England. Christ did not die so that man could become gods, unless you're a Mormon, he died so that we could repair our sin in the Fall from the garden and live forevere, where we will spend forever basking in the glory of a God who is infinitely superior to us.

Posted by: Christopher Culver on Wednesday, 4 February 2004 at 5:22pm GMT

The Alpha course, and its emphasis on Christian community, has been the most profoundly positive experience that I have had as a spiritual seeker. Don’t agree with all of the theology? That’s ok, you’re still welcomed, still valued, still loved and prayed for and with. The message that Alpha offers is very basic (it is after all intended primarily for the unchurched), but it does a good job of telling the Christian story and a great job of modeling the Christian community.

I thank God for the program and leaders like Nicky Gumbel, as well as many of the leaders of the Emerging Church movement, who are committed to the idea that one must first be invited to belong before any effort is made to teach what to believe or how to behave.

Grace and Peace,
Joe

Posted by: Joe Snavely on Wednesday, 4 February 2004 at 5:31pm GMT

Christopher Culver said (quoting at the start
Rodolpho Guzman):

“There is a new more inclusive, more mystical Christianity waiting to be born which will be much more relevant to today’s world - a world in which not only Jesus saves, but also Buddha and Krishna. The churches are empty, and they are empty not because the world is evil, but because in today’s world the traditional way of presenting the Christian message is increasingly irrelevant and indefensible - and yet Christianity is true and the fact that God became man so that man could become God will never cease to enlighten the world and rekindle the church - if only it would let it be so.”

I’m sorry, but this is not orthodox Christianity and certainly not approved of by the Church of England. Christ did not die so that man could become gods, unless you’re a Mormon, he died so that we could repair our sin in the Fall from the garden and live forevere, where we will spend forever basking in the glory of a God who is infinitely superior to us.

------------

Actually it sounds quite a lot like "Orthodox" Christianity - the faith of the Orthodox Churches in Greece and elsewhere. The Greek Church Fathers had much to say about "theosis", meaning by it (as far as I can tell) a kind of union with God that mimics that between Jesus and his Father - a thoroughly biblical concept in the light of John 17:20-24. If this is mysticism, it has a long and thoroughly Christian history.

As for Mr Culver's remark that such thinking is "not approved of by the Church of England", well, the day may come when the Anglican Communion (hijacked by its Pharisaical minority) resumes heresy trials and witch-burnings - but those days are not here yet, Mr Culver, so stop rubbing your hands :-)

Posted by: daryl on Wednesday, 4 February 2004 at 8:53pm GMT

I should apologise for the last remark in my post above - the personal swipe, at least. Public and sincere apologies to Mr Culver for an unwarranted and unfair remark. Especially culpable since I'm a newcomer. If the regulars here wish it, I'll depart and not return.

But I make no apologies for remarking on the danger to Anglicanism of allowing its Pharisaical tendencies to hijack the definition of "acceptable" belief, especially to the exclusion of doctrines that might challenge and correct our very "Catholic" tendencies here in the west (Protestantism, and evangelicalism in particular, being in my view basically "privatised" Catholicism).

Now regarding the above dismissals of Mr Guzman's criticism of the "traditional way of presenting the Christian message", I for one would like to hear more from him on that subject. The apostles weren't too proud to "become all things to all men" (according to their aspirations, notice: to those under the Law Paul becomes like one under the Law, though he doesn't acknowledge the Law's claim on him), and we should always be prepared to listen to criticism of our methods if it makes our witness more incisive.

Posted by: daryl on Wednesday, 4 February 2004 at 10:13pm GMT

Greetings in Christ:
I few words to clarify my comments: when I said that "God became man so that man might become God" I was quoting the orthodox bishop and church father Athanasius. As to what the Church of England permits in terms of belief, I should add that my views are very similar to those of Marcus Borg, Richard Holloway and Alan Jones - all three very prominent Anglicans. Also, I recommend the books by Anglican theologian Geddes Mc Gregor - who has preached regularly at Westminster Abbey and who believes in reincarnation. I also recommend a visit to the Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, website - to get an idea of the kind of evangelism that I think could bring new life to Christianity. In their prayers of consecration, by the way, you can hear the priest chanting; "we offer this bread for those who follow the way of the Hindus, we offer this bread
who follow the way of the Buddha.....".
As Daryl stated, many of the things I have mentioned come straight from the very orthodox and ancient doctrine of Theosis, the Christian doctrine of Godmanhood - one which is a lot more beautiful and sane than the devil obssesed Calvinism which is emptying the churches of the post modern world and which is utterly un-evangelical.

Blessings,

Rodolfo

Posted by: Rodolfo Guzman on Thursday, 5 February 2004 at 4:20am GMT

Alpha is not 'working' as evangelism. If anybody has read Stephen Hunt's book 'Anyone For Alpha ?', which is an excellent sociological study of the impact of Alpha across the country, you will discover that only 5% of attenders of Alpha courses have absolutely no previous connection with the churches. The vast majority of attenders are already Christians and are using Alpha as a 'refresher course'. Their churches often send them on Alpha to 'brush up the basics'. What this really means is two things:
1) Alpha has failed as evangelism.
2) Evangelical churches don't know how to help people deepen their spirituality and grow up as Christians, so they send them onto Alpha - which of course bumps up the numbers on the courses and gives the impression that 'lots of people are coming along'.

Lastly, Alpha has, like all other evangelism packages, actually failed to stem the nationwide decline in church attendance. This is found in the graphs in 'Hope For the Church' by Bob Jackson, concentrating specifically on the Church of England. The problem is that Jackson avoids the conclusions the statistics show (as does Peter Brierley in his own nationwide statistical studies of evangelism).
Evangelicals have their heads buried in the sand because they don't want to realise that they have actually driven people away from the churches and the Christian faith by their simplistic, childish and patronising not to say often theologically muddle-headed presentation of Christianity.
It's time we came up with alternative ways of presenting the Christian faith to ADULTS.

Posted by: Carys Moseley on Monday, 22 March 2004 at 5:16pm GMT