Saturday, 18 November 2006

this week's opinion columns

In The Times Geoffrey Rowell writes of An imperative call to Christian unity as Archbishop meets Pope.
In The Tablet there is a very valuable article by R William Franklin When Rowan goes to Rome.
The opinions of Rowan Williams on all this are in the Church Times.

There is also a leader column in The Tablet, related to the recent joint CofE-RC bishops meeting, Danger of Growing Paranoia.

In connection with all these see also the opinion of the editors of the Catholic Herald whose leader column is titled: An archbishop with whom we can do business.

Turning to other topics, the Guardian has a column by David Haslam on Hinduism. The Times has a column by Jonathan Romain on Judaism.

The Church Times has a column by Giles Fraser When the believers are the rebels. Another piece by Giles Fraser was his Thought for the Day on Friday on the BBC: Fundamentalism proposes a God built from layers of human insecurity.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 18 November 2006 at 10:02am GMT | TrackBack
You can make a Permalink to this if you like
Categorised as: Opinion
Comments

I am interested, as always, in what Giles Fraser has to say. It also interests me that many of the 'moderate' christians I have met have in part had their faith shaped by a fundamentalist phase.

There are some quite respectable theories of human/faith growth which suggest that a fundamentalist phase is normal, or at least not abnormal - so fear of fundamentalism is the fear of something far from extraordinary.

[On my bookshelf I have descriptions of the theories of Fowler, Scott Peck and Erikson (adapted by Capps). These theories can separate the mode of belief from the content of belief in a manner contrary to some belief systems, but they are genuine and intelligent attempts to describe reality.]

My intuition is that there is a fear of fundamentalism which is linked to a fear of youth - and that this relates to problems of indentifying the foundations of lives and beliefs - confusion over what we are living for; and also to confusion about growing up and taking adult responsibility in a complex world. There is also a deeper human craving, which some theoreticians identify, for a place of safety in a dangerous world.

Part of the goal of a university used to be growing up (a kind of finishing school for the intellectual elite), but try finding that in any recent official analysis of the purpose of a university. Both life long learning resourced by universities on an unprecedented scale, and the huge growth of student populations in places like Reading and Leeds, create new kinds of intergenerational encounters, which have not yet been adequately addressed.

I'm stopping now before this becomes a long essay or a sermon.

Posted by: Mark Bennet on Saturday, 18 November 2006 at 12:02pm GMT

"For one thing upon which they all agree is that any expression of God sculpted by human need is to be called an idol."
This is so true.It'd be interesting to see how the various streams of thought in our own communion would react to that statement.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Saturday, 18 November 2006 at 12:46pm GMT

God is not sculpted by human need (Giles Fraser) - Amen to that. Most heresies are of precisely this nature: projecting our own psychology or culture onto our vision of God. That is the number one reason why people have argued against GF's view of homosexual practice: arguing that it has nothing to do with God and everything to do with the particular culture and time in which he and his ilk find themselves. Yes: God is not a reflection of a particular culture.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Saturday, 18 November 2006 at 1:36pm GMT

The need for "unity" can become a need to become like the other, to render us into self-perpetuating amoebas with no diversity. I wonder whether instead of striving for unity, we should be striving for respect.

Like with the SE Asian Tsunami, the problems facing humanity are huge, and there is simply too much ground to be covered by any one faith or denomination. In some ways the fighting between and within the faiths is the equivalent of a medical team arguing over who should be resusitating the dying patient. The patient is secretly adoring the nurse, because while the doctors are posturing it is the nurse who is successfully treating their wounds.

I am glad to see the Pope intrigued to the benefits of interfaith dialogue that are occuring in the UK. Rabbi Romain's article was prophetically timely in articulating some of those benefits.

Giles Frasier's concerns about fundamentalism easily being idolatrous was excellent.

Mark's posting about maturity fitted in nicely at this point. I would postulate for some of us that it is not a fear of youth, but rather a fear for youth.

For example, we look at young men and actuarial statistics from insurance companies. We have a blimp in young men in their mid-teens to mid-twenties as many die stupid needless deaths (often killing others along with themselves when it involves motor vehicles). In their early adulthood, many men do really stupid things that put both themsleves and others at risk. Plus our societies often romanticise youth, men, adrenaline, and spectacular outcomes. We thus inadvertently feed narcissm, hedonism and personal idolatry in the form of "actualisation".

In turn, we shun and disrespect the things that would moderate such extremes and their consequent risks. It is therefore no surprise that many religious souls in trying to be "sexy" and able to stand their own, have incorporated that which is romanticised by society. They affirm the parts of the bible/holy texts that affirm the values of society. They are not so good at recognizing that which is romanticised by society is often that which needs to be moderated. Sometimes moderation is simply being the cold shower that cools down excessive testosterone, sometimes by modelling or affirming that which is not sexy (e.g. conscious objectors to conscription, Jesus refusing to pander to the Pharisees for permission to do his ministry).

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Saturday, 18 November 2006 at 3:16pm GMT

My fears of fundamentalisms of many sorts boil down to three repetitive digs of meanness which these habits of mind and heart regularly commit, or at least talk about committing or prizing as core pledges:

(3) At least for now, most of the fundamentalisms that do and should worry us as believers involve having us sign off on some effort in church or society to obtain, wield, and maintain power. Even the most die-hard secularist, atheist, or agnostic can easily see – from outside the eternal safety of the Ark of Fundamentalist Salvation – that obtaining, wielding, and maintaining power is complexly fraught with risks.

If so many fundamentalisms now so active among us, including so many of the Christian varieties, simply cannot scrutinize and give any critical intellectual account of their own hermeneutic choices in ethics and in reading scripture/tradition; they are equally unable or unwilling to reflect upon their drive to power. And, as every sort of tyranny ever teaches us in world history, power essentially comes to crisis as power over and against others. And power must be maintained by force, sooner or later.

The third repeat meanness of so many fundamentalisms is that old saw: Power corrupts, and absolute divine power corrupts absolutely and in God’s name.

Alas. Lord have mercy.

Posted by: drdanfee on Saturday, 18 November 2006 at 4:11pm GMT

I don't understand 'GF'. Should I /

Posted by: laurence roberts on Saturday, 18 November 2006 at 5:13pm GMT

Yes, the piece on Hinduism and the dalits was interesting and heartrending. But all the voluminous comments by Guardian bloogers, constituted a wonderful and mixed amplification of it.


Jonathan Romaine was as insightful and witty as ever. I loved his hilarious story of the Pope, and the two rabbis !

promote trust between Jews, Christians and Muslims in Ukraine. While bringing the faiths together there will be groundbreaking, there is as much interest in the composition of the Christian contingent.

Also I liked this and thought it brought a good dose od reality to be on the Christian scene :-

'It will be an astonishing achievement to have present at the same time representatives of the Russian Orthodox, Kiev Orthodox, Ukrainian Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Protestant churches. The seething animosity between them has blighted religious life, but the need to come together.'

I thought this quaotation would put the interesting tablet piece in context. For truth to tell, it is hopelessly unrealistic and out of touch, in a delightful RC kind of way. I quoate this as it casts like on the highly idealised Orthordox Churches, reminding us that the reality of Rome on the ground is , of course, similarly not the rosy picture of Rowan and other's musings.

In other words the Anglican Communion aint that bad after all !

Posted by: laurence on Saturday, 18 November 2006 at 11:03pm GMT

Drdanfee

Wrote


"If so many fundamentalisms now so active among us, including so many of the Christian varieties, simply cannot scrutinize and give any critical intellectual account of their own hermeneutic choices in ethics and in reading scripture/tradition; they are equally unable or unwilling to reflect upon their drive to power."

I'm interested to know who these Christian varieties are that you're referring to.

Otherwise wouldn't it be better rather than having the 21st century equivalent of reds under the bed to acknowledge that each one of us fails to spot the weaknesses in our own arguments. We all fail to admit our human sinful desire to have power over each other and God

Posted by: dave willliams on Saturday, 18 November 2006 at 11:11pm GMT

While on things Jewish thanks to Rabbi Romain, I want to say how much I enjoy on Thought for the Day Mondays. This week he endearingly told us of three times in his life when he experienced angels. One was a night in bed with another in a Youth Hostel, and what a warm revelation taht angel was for the young Lionel. (I also enjoy Giles Fraser on Fridays, and feel the programme to be improving in terms of doing my heart good. I can't stand patronisng churchy bilge!).

also did others her the Chief Rabbi and John Humphries ? I found the rabbi's words very deep and telling somehow. He sounded utterly convinced of the God he knows and I felt convinced too. It really seemed free of special pleading and the apologetic of the previous two interlocutors. Is this a special Jewish thing, or a Jonathan Sachs thing , I wonder ?

Also it was interesting to catch a glimpse of Christianity through his eyes.

I should like to hear more of him.

Posted by: laurence on Saturday, 18 November 2006 at 11:16pm GMT

"There are some quite respectable theories of human/faith growth which suggest that a fundamentalist phase is normal, or at least not abnormal - so fear of fundamentalism is the fear of something far from extraordinary."

Mark Bennet, I don't fear fundamentalism. As you say, it's a normal (juvenile) faith-stage.

No, I resent *fundamentalists* (especially those who are in a kind of arrested-development, and lead their age-appropriate young followers to embrace fundamentalism's most destructive aspects). It's fundamentalists, being humans, who seize power, and try to exert that power over those of us who've long outgrown that -ism ourselves.

It's when you get an age-INappropriate fundamentalist, w/ vast amounts of power, that you get (speaking of +++Rowan's "audience" this week) an intellectual-*sounding* old coot, who spouts oxymorons like "dictatorship of relativism", even as his institution works to *actually dictate* to those of us whose orientation doesn't conform to his (so-called!) "Natural Law". Fear of a fundamentalist like that is highly rational!

*****

Finally, I {heart} Giles Fraser. When can we make him Giles Cantuar? ;-)

Posted by: J. C. Fisher on Sunday, 19 November 2006 at 2:19am GMT

Dave Williams

I agree that it is easy to go looking for the bogeyman. Funnily enough, I blundered across an article the other month that referred to the anti-religious right as being in alliance with the reds, and that it would be better to be dead than listen to their arguments. Sigh, I did not note that one at the time.

One of my concerns is that some people seem to think that the issue is who is doing the bullying, and that peace comes if you are the bullying one in control of the situation. I would argue that peace comes when we realise that it is bullying and a reliance on bullying that is the problem, and when we develop models to constrain bullying to tolerable levels.

We can never completely eliminate bullying just as we can never completely eliminate sin. God is a pragmatist, we do the best possible with what tools and resources are at hand. Judges 7 is an excellent example of how God sometimes deliberately uses too few and limited vessels, so that all honour and glory is bestowed to him and not the souls who act on God's behalf.

I was reading more of Jonathan Sacks' book "To heal a fractured world" today. His chapter on The Holy and the Good is excellent. This section of the book brings forth the idea that faith and hope are active, and that there is a pattern of God's interventions in humanity fostering the child (humanity) to take more responsibility and an active role in helping God nurture creation.

I loved this passage: "Optimism and hope are not the same. ...hope is the belief that, together, we can make the world better. Optimism is a passive virtue, hope is an active one... The Hebrew bible is not an optimistic book. It is, however, one of the great literatures of hope."

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Sunday, 19 November 2006 at 9:11am GMT

Giles Fraser wrote “The most dangerous people in the world all have one thing in common: they think they have a monopoly on the truth. And they can be atheists or believers.” Why is that necessarily any more dangerous than those who don’t think they know any absolute truth?
Just wondering about this, doesnt that make Giles Fraser a self confessed 'one of the most dangerous people in the world', assuming he believes Jesus Christ is THE truth THE way and THE life. I would say that’s a good thing to know Jesus Christ as the truth way and life as saviour of the world.

Posted by: DaveW on Monday, 20 November 2006 at 8:46am GMT

No Dave W. You need to work on your logic. The force of my statement is that 'believing you have a monopoly on the truth' is a necessary condition of being in the class 'most dangerous people in the world'. That does not mean it is a sufficient condition.

Posted by: Giles Fraser on Monday, 20 November 2006 at 10:42am GMT

Dave W

Christians who believe that Jesus is the Truth certainly are dangerous. The question is "Who or what to?" and the follow up question is "is that a good or a bad thing?"

Posted by: dave williams on Monday, 20 November 2006 at 1:36pm GMT

Dear DaveW,
Well quite. Well said! But infact how can Christians not believe that Jesus Christ is the truth the way and the life when thats what Jesus Christ says. Matthew 28:18-20, Acts 4:12, Matt 25:31-32, John 14:6, John 8:31.
But as to dangerous, no more dangerous than those who dont believe in an absolute truth. The dangerousness should surely be judged on what the absolute truth or lack of it entails.

Posted by: DaveW on Monday, 20 November 2006 at 1:58pm GMT

Dear Giles Fraser,
It is far harder for people to speak out in public like you did, than people like me to criticise, so thank you so much for replying to my comments.
However you have misunderstood my statement. I dont believe I have the monopoly on truth, in fact I am not sure I have any claim to truth, all I believe is that Jesus is the truth.
So your logic is faulty, I have a monopoly on my belief that Jesus is the truth. Your view as to whether Jesus is the truth is entirely your perogative.

Posted by: DaveW on Monday, 20 November 2006 at 2:05pm GMT

Dave W

My point is that Christians may well be the most dangerous people in the world! Sorry for being a bit mischievous here...

but if Christianity offers a completely different worldview to what the rest of society offers

If people really are worshipping idols in opposition to God

then we are going to unsettle the situation somewhat -we are a threat to the world.

The Sanhedrin rightly identified that Jesus was a danger.

The Roman Empire recognised that early Christians were a threat

Christianity is seen as a threat to plenty of states around the world.

Why have we NOT been seen as the biggest danger to consumerist, secular Britain?

Posted by: dave williams on Monday, 20 November 2006 at 3:39pm GMT

Dear Dave Williams,
Well quite!.. I agree with you

Posted by: DaveW on Monday, 20 November 2006 at 3:56pm GMT

"The force of my statement is that 'believing you have a monopoly on the truth' is a necessary condition of being in the class 'most dangerous people in the world'. That does not mean it is a sufficient condition."

This comment opens up a plethora of contemplations. The first one that sprang to mind is that another condition is being prepared to use whatever force is necessary to affirm that you have the monopoly on the truth and to impose that truth upon others.

Souls can be absolutely convinced of the exclusivity of their paradigms. But a hermit meditating on a remote mountain top is only dangerous to those who seek the hermit out. Whereas a demagog in charge of a political, military and theological machines can juggernaut nations and even continents into chaos.

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Monday, 20 November 2006 at 5:52pm GMT

On DaveW's biblical passages

John 8:31 is a call to trust Jesus, but does not preclude advice from others.

John 14:6 is mitigated by John 14:2 and 10:6 - which refers to sheep not of "this" pen. And in Matthew 25:33, Jesus says that that sheep (Christians) will be on his right, and that the goats (others) will be on his left.

In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus was given all authority until the end of the age. Ages come and go, and this statement encourages us to introduce others to Jesus, but it does not demand their conversion.

Acts 4:12 quotes Peter in Spirit as saying "...no other name under heaven given to men..." This also links into the foreshadowing of an age, the period of the third temple, an age of exile. In that age, these biblical interpretations were uncontested, Jesus was the throne and the right hand of God.

Jesus continues to sit on the throne and the right hand of God.

But after Adam comes Eve, to complement his strengths and mitigate his weaknesses. The left hand of God has always existed and always covered the outcast, the foreigner, the afflicted. Her favourite passage in this regard is Ezekiel 34:17-31; because it acknowledges not just the sheep, but also the other beings of creation.

We see God's promise of hospitality in Zechariah 3:10 “‘In that day each of you will invite his neighbor to sit under his vine and fig tree,’...”

No individual soul is above being rebuked by God, no individual soul is above being counterweighted to avoid excesses. And if a solution does not already exist, then God will create one (as God made Eve whilst Adam slept).

One thing that I came to understand over a year ago was just how pissed off God was. If things have gone gently for some souls and their dignity and authority has been left largely intact; that is solely by the unilateral grace and choice of God.

The new age affirms souls' recognition of God and attempts to know God better. For every force, there will be a mitigating force to contain extremism, idolatry and excesses. Isaiah 49 epitomises this "watching each other's back" principle.

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Monday, 20 November 2006 at 6:01pm GMT

I don't think the conservative evangelical worldview reflects all of Christianity.

Posted by: Merseymike on Monday, 20 November 2006 at 6:33pm GMT

Dave Williams, again we agree! We aren't seen as a threat to consumerist Western society because we aren't a threat. We don't challenge the institutions of Western society, in fact in many cases we helped set them up. I firmly believe we are called to be a threat, to challenge the society we find ourselves in, which is why I believe strongly in separation of Church and State. We are divided in what we should challenge, though. For some, the great sin of Western society is its lax sexual mores, for some it's rampant consumerism and greed. We have hobbled ourselves, so we aren't a threat to anybody, we're seen as irrelevant instead.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Monday, 20 November 2006 at 6:41pm GMT

david williams d0nt flatter your religion--it's replete with idols including Molochs.....

Posted by: laurence on Monday, 20 November 2006 at 7:06pm GMT

Ford,

Yep we are definately in agreement on all of that. But it also should NOT be a moral or social crusade! If Christianity is rightly setting those things in the context of God's Grace through Jesus Christ then it is a threat to the religious establishment as well!

Laurence,

You seem to have missed my point which is exactly that the Church has been guilty of idolatry which is why it is not the threat it should be.

My point is that the Gospel of Christ calls us away from idols! So I'm not interesting in flattering anyone!

Dave

Posted by: Dave Williams on Monday, 20 November 2006 at 9:45pm GMT

Dear Cheryl Clough,
You wrote “The first one that sprang to mind is that another condition is being prepared to use whatever force is necessary to affirm that you have the monopoly on the truth and to impose that truth upon others.”
But in the case of Christianity that would then cease to be the truth as we see from the NT teaching that we make disciples of believers and there will be people who reject the gospel and us, but we must love them all the same.
As to John 8:31, I agree with your assumption that it doesn’t preclude taking advice from others but I was referring to what it says not assumptions from it. But if advice from others was contrary to Jesus teaching, I would as a disciple hold on to Jesus teaching rather than advice from others.
As to John 14:2, Jesus is speaking to His disciples and it is He who prepares the room and in His Father’s house, no mention of anyone else doing that or any other God or truth. But in John 14:6 Jesus says He is the truth the way and the life which you haven’t even addressed. Is Jesus the truth the way and the life as He says He is? If He isn’t all authority in heaven and earth cant have been given to Him, Matthew 28, and He cant be the one who comes back to separate the sheep from the goats from all the nations, Matthew 25.
As to the nature of age in Matthew 28:18-20, I never suggested this statement encourages us to demand others conversion, I don’t think it does, my point was that it shows Jesus has all authority not anyone else. .
You wrote “One thing that I came to understand over a year ago was just how pissed off God was.” I don’t think so. I don’t think things have changed that much since Adam and Eve, the sins are still the same, we still have disease, famine, murder wars, slander, theft, greed, sexual immorality, etc just as we did at the time God so loved us whilst we were still sinners that He sent His only Son so that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Dear Merseymike,
You wrote “I don't think the conservative evangelical worldview reflects all of Christianity.” I dont suppose I do either but it depends what you mean by conservative evangelical. It may be that the conservative evangelical worldview is Christianity... It depends whether its following Christ or something or someone else.

Posted by: DaveW on Tuesday, 21 November 2006 at 8:17am GMT

I'm sorry Dave,

but Merseymike just pointed out to you that Evangelicalism is it's own Idol. Don't project that away!

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Tuesday, 21 November 2006 at 10:16am GMT

Dear Göran Koch-Swahne,
You wrote "but Merseymike just pointed out to you that Evangelicalism is it's own Idol. Don't project that away!"
I dont know which Dave you were addressing but I have been addressing the NT record of Jesus Christ and His teaching, how what Merseymike is refering to with his classifications, fits in with that, is not yet clear.

Posted by: DaveW on Tuesday, 21 November 2006 at 11:51am GMT

Giles Fraser is correct that he is stating that it is only a *necessary* (not sufficient) condition for belonging to the group 'most dangerous people' that one believes oneself to have a monopoly on truth.
But he is not correct that the most dangerous people in the world all think they have a monopoly on the truth:
(a) To be concerned with truth at all is a sign of integrity. So concern for truth is always a positive place to start. By contrast, the most dangerous people in the world will presumably be more likely to be the people with *least* integrity, and least regard for truth.
(b) A lot of the most dangerous people in the world are concerned with nothing but fulfilling their own selfish desires for money, sex, and (in particular) power. Such desires are at odds with the claims of truth: they are elemental and non-rational. Truth doesn't come into it.
(c) In any case, a lot of the people who he thinks are claiming to have a monopoly on truth may not be claiming any such thing. They may, for example, be endeavouring to demonstrate that their own position on one particular issue is better thought-out than the status quo or the position adopted by the powers that be.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Tuesday, 21 November 2006 at 12:21pm GMT

Dave WIlliams,
I have a bit of a problem with social crusading for the sake of it, but I do believe that social action is part of our duty to be Christ in the world. It is easy, however, to fall into the mindset that marching and agitating are the be all and end all, and that simply giving food to the hungry is "mere charity" that is actually demeaning and perpetuates the system. While there is truth in that, it is also a fact that I don't do anybody any favours if I let them starve to death as I march by demanding they have better wages. Maybe I'm being a bit wild eyed, but I believe the Church should be set apart, not tied to the structures of society, no bishops in the Lords, no crowning of kings. Then, if we aren't answerable to the powers that be, we can actually challenge what's going on without fear of losing our position, since we wouldn't have position, and that definitely includes challenging the Church as institution as well.

And DaveW, careful. I know far too many Evangelicals, pretty well all that I have ever run into, for whom 'Christian' means 'conservative Evangelical Christian'. Where I come from these Evangelicals aren't Anglican, and probably like myself until recently, don't even know such a thing could be, so they were quite free in claiming that we Anglicans aren't Christians. Even the Abp of Sydney, or maybe his brother, I could be wrong, calls Roman Catholics "subChristian".

Posted by: Ford Elms on Tuesday, 21 November 2006 at 12:39pm GMT

Giles Fraser wrote "The most dangerous people in the world all have one thing in common: they think they have a monopoly on the truth. And they can be atheists or believers"
I am not sure what he means. Believers in what?
A believer in Christ believe Jesus Christ is the truth, which is what Christ says. So a believer cant think they have a monopoly on the truth. And indeed a believer in Jesus Christ believes He as the truth died for all.

Posted by: DaveW on Tuesday, 21 November 2006 at 12:53pm GMT

Ford,

Well I'm all up for disestablishing the Anglican Church as soon as possible! But we need a bit more than that.

You can still be the establishment and not a state church -look at the US.

And I'm not sure that we in the "Free Churches" can hold our heads up high just yet!

Posted by: dave williams on Tuesday, 21 November 2006 at 2:11pm GMT

Goran,

I'm not sure I get your point. Merseymike has not in any shape or form pointed out that Evangelicalism is its own idol. He has simply said that he doesn't think that evangelical Christianity represents all of Christianity.

Even if he is right on that it doesn't make Evangelicalism an idol.

I would agree with him if he means that Evangelical Christianity doesn't represent all those who claim to be Christians. I would also agree with him if he said that not all Christians classify themselves as Evangelical or articulate their Christianity in an Evangelical manner.

But I am happy to nail my colours to the mast and say that an Evangelical understanding is the correct representation of Christianity.

Evangelicals have idols -I have said this on plenty of occassions -I preached on the subject this las Sunday morning. Evidence that we have our idols is in the fact that when I preach out idolatry I always get people who say they were challenged because they recognise it in their own life.

But when you look at what Evangelicalism represents in terms of a genuine desire to submit to God's word, even when it says what we don't want it to say. When you note that our Systematic Theologies constantly talk about the Sovereignty and Majesty of God. When you see how Evangelicals have consistantly responded to that -not perfectly but consistantly with a real outworked faith based on that then you can see that Evangelicalism is NOT idolatry.

Posted by: dave williams on Tuesday, 21 November 2006 at 2:22pm GMT

Well, Dave, it's one thing to think that your beliefs are true. I believe Christianity is true. It gets to be a problem when you say that other people can't believe their beliefs are true. It's about extremists telling other people they CAN'T believe anything else. It's about telling people their beliefs aren't valid, or even legal. It's about believing that, since you are right and your particular God will save or condemn, then you can kill them if they don't agree. The terrorists who hit the WTC believed that, being good(as far as they were concerned) Muslims, they had a right to kill the infidel, and if any Muslims died, welll they were with Allah. I forget the Pope during the Albigensian Crusade who was asked before the sack of, I believe, Montseguer, what they should do about the Catholics who might still remain in the town. His answer was "Kill them all, God will recognize His own." It's about the mentality that says that because one is a particular kind of Christian, then one can tell other people they aren't Christians. It's about people who use "Christian" to mean conservative Evangelical Christian, because they are right and everyone else is wrong, and they are the only true Christians. It's about extremism born from exclusive "rightness". It's about people who can't understand that their right to the conviction that their beliefs are true doesn't allow them to deprive others of that right.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Tuesday, 21 November 2006 at 2:54pm GMT

Hi Ford,

Belief in one's views doesn't entitle anyone to kill or to force conversions.

Please lets not muddy the water by equating a firm conviction between right and wrong and a desire to pursuade others to convert with such wicked behaviour.

As for whether or not we can say that someone is a Christian. This comes down to the definition of what is a Christian doesn't it.

I posted on this a while back on my blog

Posted by: dave williams on Tuesday, 21 November 2006 at 4:18pm GMT

Dear Ford,
I still don't think you have quite understood what I am saying. All I am saying is I believe Jesus Christ is the truth the way and the life which I think is what Christians must believe. I don’t think one can believe in Jesus and follow Him as a disciple without believing and following Him as that’s what He says one must do to be His disciple.
But I don’t say that other people can't believe their beliefs are true, on the contrary.
You wrote “It's about the mentality that says that because one is a particular kind of Christian, then one can tell other people they aren't Christians.” Why not? What makes a Christian? Is everyone a Christian or are there some criteria that defines them?
You wrote “It's about people who use "Christian" to mean conservative Evangelical Christian, because they are right and everyone else is wrong, and they are the only true Christians.”
If you say so, I notice that despite having been called conservative evangelical I have advised not to use such labels. I think if we focus on Jesus as the author and perfector of our faith rather than ourselves we will do better.

As to extremism, I would suggest that an extremist of a faith that insisted never to kill anyone would be preferable to a liberal who may compromise on that, thats why I dont think the label is helpful. So it depends on what people are being extreme about. In my opinion Jesus was extreme about what He did for us on the cross and He was exclusive in what He claimed as the truth the way and the life, no one coming to the Father God except through Him.

Posted by: DaveW on Tuesday, 21 November 2006 at 4:53pm GMT

Dave Williams,
My point was that there are many who quite happily define Christian to mean "those who agree with me" or "those who are of my church". I grew up around Pentecostals who frequently preached that we Anglicans aren't Christians. As I said, either the Archbishop of Syney or his brother (I don't have time to Google which one it was) called Roman Catholics "subChristian". They do this out of a kind of malignant certainty that they are right and the rest of us are wrong. This is more than firm conviction. Firm conviction in one's beliefs is a good thing, but for many, it isn't enough to be firmly convinced of one's beliefs, one also has to deny other people's right to the same conviction about their beliefs. That can lead to the kind of wicked acts I mentioned. This doesn't mean that we shouldn't have firm convictions, nor that we should shut up about them. It does mean that we should recognize and respect that other people are just as firmly convinced of their own beliefs.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Tuesday, 21 November 2006 at 6:29pm GMT

DaveW

Your comment that ended with "...but we must love them all the same" is the crux of the problem. There are bullying Christians (and other dogmatics) who do not love them all the same.

E.g. they gloat over suffering after the SE Asian Tsunami, or discount the plight of the African continent for decades. (Don't tell me they don't, whenever I raised the issue I was told not to worry about it because it was all part of God's plan and will be fixed in the new heaven that is going to take away all of this world and its suffering).

Further, they repeatedly and aggressively advocate that only souls who completely agree with their theological paradigms will be saved.

This is the cruelest image of God that I can imagine. That God would create sentient beings to then tell them that they are condemned for eternal damnation. Either because they never had access to some information or refuse to reject their ancestors and descendants. I do not believe that God would bring sentience to a species to then gloat that the overwhelming majority were condemned to damnation.

If Jesus had known that some of his words were going to be used in this way, he would have been more careful in his wording.

Plus some of what Jesus says is only valid if he is bonded to the Daughter of Zion. If he is, then what he says is valid. If he is not, then the gentiles and outcastes have a different route.

So is he a posturing bully - happy to gloat over innocent souls condemnation because they aren't pandering to spoilt arrogant priests? Or is he the gentle inclusive advocate that he promised the Daughter of Zion from the back of the donkey?

It doesn't matter whether humans recognise how God has moved in orchestration. It only matters that Jesus knows the degree of affirmation that has happened. The only soul and relationship in question is his. To be honest, I don't give a toss about human opinions. You are under God's grace either way, the only thing that varies is the legitimacy of some of Jesus' statements. They are only legitimate if he is beyond Esau's self absorption and is prepared to fulfill the mundane obligations that come with the gifts he had been promised. What the Lord giveth the Lord can take away.

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Tuesday, 21 November 2006 at 6:34pm GMT

Dear Cheryl Clough,

You wrote “Your comment that ended with "...but we must love them all the same" is the crux of the problem. There are bullying Christians (and other dogmatics) who do not love them all the same. “
Well I am not here to judge individuals

You wrote “Further, they repeatedly and aggressively advocate that only souls who completely agree with their theological paradigms will be saved. “ which theological paradigm are you referring to ? Is it what Jesus taught?

You wrote “This is the cruelest image of God that I can imagine. That God would create sentient beings to then tell them that they are condemned for eternal damnation.”
Genesis 3 “The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, 'You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.' "
You wrote “If Jesus had known that some of his words were going to be used in this way, he would have been more careful in his wording.”
Mark 16:16 “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”

You wrote “You are under God's grace either way” Why do you think this?
You wrote “, the only thing that varies is the legitimacy of some of Jesus' statements.They are only legitimate if he is beyond Esau's self absorption and is prepared to fulfill the mundane obligations that come with the gifts he had been promised. What the Lord giveth the Lord can take away.” What make you think Esau existed?

Posted by: DaveW on Wednesday, 22 November 2006 at 8:59am GMT

The are Roman Catholics Christians is an important question though isn't it! After all the question from Roman Catholicism is whether or not non Roman Catholics are Christians and the historical view has been no though with some recent accomadation at a sub level. A consistant Roman Catholic is right to question whether or not I am a Christian if he believes that salvation is within the Church and my congregation are not part of the true church and if he sees the sacraments as vital to my salvation.

The force of "Evangelical Theology" is that people claiming salvation through Roman Catholic methods cannot be Christians. In that sense an Evangelical is being true to their own beliefs when they say that someone who is consistantly Roman Catholic in their beliefs cannot be a Christian. Someone who is Roman Catholic but is inconsistant in their beliefs might be!

A Pentecostal who believes that speaking in tongues is a vital sign of being a true believer would be right to question whether or not those of us who do not regularly speak in tongues are Christians would be right to question that. They are being true to their beliefs. The real question is are they right in their definition. I would say "no" based on Scripture as authority.

You see here is pluralism and tolerance at work. I'm quite happy to hear the arguments of other people who disagree with me over what a Christian is. I want to have that meaningful discussion with them. I will not stop being someone's friend if I disagree with them. I can be tolerant. But I would expect the debate to be passionate!

Posted by: dave williams on Wednesday, 22 November 2006 at 9:23am GMT

Still up for grabs answer to the question what is the "Thinking Anglican's" definition of what is a Christian?

Posted by: Dave Williams on Wednesday, 22 November 2006 at 9:24am GMT

Those who have studied psychology (e.g. Jung and neurolinguistic programming) will tell you that telling someone not to do something is a sure fired way of making sure that it will be done.

For example, if I tell you not to think about the colour pink, I can guarantee that you are now thinking about the colour pink. Well, I'm going to go off and think about the colour blue. So now you are thinking about blue? What happened to the colour pink? Now you are thinking about both?

If God didn't want us to eat of the tree, he shouldn't have put it in the garden nor drawn attention to it. I think God wanted us to develop to the next level of self-awareness and learn the concept of consequence. A painful lesson to be sure, and we died to our innocence in the process.

Plus I am not convinced that Eve was not raped. I had a particularly strong vision earlier this year that indicates that she was not as free willed as folklore likes to portray.

Finally, the biblical imagery of Zion is certainly consistent with a refuge for the outcastes. Then there is the Jewish understanding of the Shekinah, who chose to remain to protect humanity when all the other super luminaries had decided they were worthy of more than this planet. She refused to give up on this planet or grovel for comfort whilst humanity reeled through its turbulent exile. She was not prepared to allow all God's dreams for humanity to be swept away because a few angels got bored. For that she must get points for stubbornness, faithfulness, and pragmatism. (She reminds me a lot of Jacob's Leah).

From my baptism dream of many years ago and the vision in July, I do know that God sometimes leaves veils in place until souls have evolved sufficiently to be able to properly handle the next phase in their development. Moses came after Noah and Jesus came after King David. Sometimes some lessons must be learnt before the next lesson can commence.

And on your comment what makes me think Esau existed? Well the same things that make me think that Abraham, Moses, King David, Jacob, Noah, and Jesus existed. The bible tells me so. I still reel at how souls think some parts of the bible are legitimate and others are not.

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Wednesday, 22 November 2006 at 10:51am GMT

Well, I'm gob-smacked! It is up to you decide other people's Christianity for them? See, I see it this way. Someone is a Christian if they call themselves a Christian, within a few recognizable limits. Trinitarian belief is one such limit, not being a Satan worshipper is another, but not the only other. I am free to say that their understanding of Christianity is wrong, I am free to tell them I think they are wrong, but I am not free to tell them they aren't Christians! Would you tell Salvationists they aren't Christians because they aren't Baptised? I think the SA does more of the work of His Father in Heaven than a lot of other people who call to Him "Lord, Lord" so I'm not about to deny their Christianity because they were wrapped in a flag. I think Evangelicalism is woefully mislead and I think their understanding of Sacraments and Salvation and authority, and the "methods" of "seeking salvation" to be utterly misguided, but I'd never tell them they aren't Christians. Jesus didn't tell me to keep the judgement seat warm till He got back. It's one thing to say "I think you're wrong" it's quite another to say "You're not a Christian because you don't believe as I do." That this seems so uncontentious to you is disturbing. And saying "The Romans do it to us" is pretty lame! Why is it so important to you to have the right to decide if someone else is a Christian? And good for you if you don't use 'Christian ' to mean "Evangelical Christian" but you are in a very small minority in my experience.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Wednesday, 22 November 2006 at 12:52pm GMT

And there is the problem. You are already defining and admitting limits to what a Christian is! By implication you've excluded a lot of people who want to be Christians.

What about the person who says he is a Christian because he was born in Britain?

What about the Jehovah's witness?

Posted by: Dave Williams on Wednesday, 22 November 2006 at 3:20pm GMT

Ford and Dave Williams

Now you understand why I am so passionate! These people deny salvation even to "other" Christians. If they can not recognise God's ability to give grace within Jesus' folds, then how can they possibly judge outside of Jesus? Especially when they denounce the OT and Jews, thus denying the origins that affirm Jesus and thus negating even Jesus himself.

These are some of Jesus' words on passing judgment:
Luke 6:37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven."
and
Luke 6:39 “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit?"
and
Matthew 7:2 "For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."
and
John 8:15 "You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one."
and
John 12:47 "As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it."

Then in Luke 18:1-8 Jesus says that God easily grants justice to those who cry out; but Jesus' concern was whether he would find faith on earth when he returned.

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Wednesday, 22 November 2006 at 6:23pm GMT

What about the Jehovah's Witnesses? They are Arians. Even during the Arian controversy nobody said they weren't Christians. To be a heretic you have to be Christian, just one who doesn't understand the Truth. And I never said there should be no boundaries, I just believe the boundaries should be set quite wide. Certain definers of Christianity were established long ago, Trinitarian doctrine being one of them. And even then, what's wrong with defining Trinitarian Christians as opposed to nonTrinitarian ones? Being born in a place doesn't equate with being a Christian, that's pretty obvious. I would suggest that a lot of people who claim to be Christians today do so because of this "cultural Christianity". We should be telling them they should feel free not to call themselves such just because they were born into a Christian culture. Again, why is it so important to tell other people they aren't Christians because they don't believe what you do?

Posted by: Ford Elms on Wednesday, 22 November 2006 at 6:47pm GMT

Dear Cheryl Clough,
You quote Luke 6:37 etc.
Do you think that makes a Christian or not if someone judges others? Or would you say judging others is just something a Christian does not do?
Ford Elms says someone is Christian if they call themselves a Christian within a few recognised limits, would you say this was one of the recognised limits?
Personally I would just say judging people is something a Christian should not do regardless of what type of Christian people might like to judge and label them as.

Posted by: DaveW on Thursday, 23 November 2006 at 8:35am GMT

Dear Ford Elms,
You wrote “Well, I'm gob-smacked! It is up to you decide other people's Christianity for them?”
The point both Dave Williams and I have made is people are defining others as 'conservative evangelical Christians' and as you now say we shouldn’t be deciding other people’s Christianity for them.
You wrote “See, I see it this way. Someone is a Christian if they call themselves a Christian, within a few recognizable limits.”
What are the recognised limits? Who recognises these limits? I mean Jesus was a prophet so if someone believes Jesus is a prophet they may be more Muslim than Christian even though they call themselves a Hindu.

Posted by: DaveW on Thursday, 23 November 2006 at 8:39am GMT

DaveW,
Answer the question. Why is it so important to be able to tell other people whether or not they, in your judgement, are Christians? Frankly, I don't think about it often, so you'll find my ideas a bit undefined. And, I try not to define other people's Christianity. I regularly fail, I admit, as a result of bigotries that I have developed as a result of numerous experiences I have had with people calling themselves Evangelical. I do try to fight this though, it isn't right of me. Most of the things I have said about "Evangelical Christians" apply to people who identify themselves as such, so they're the ones defining what they are, not me. People are also quite willing to define themselves as 'orthodox' and 'reasserters' and others as 'heterodox' and 'revisionist'. Interestingly, those in the latter group don't seem to do the same thing, though I may be wrong on that one.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Thursday, 23 November 2006 at 12:33pm GMT

Dear Ford Elms,
I have already answered that question. I have already said I think what Jesus describes in the NT to be His disciple, makes a Christian, not what you or I think or decide for ourselves or others. Evangelical Christians means nothing really unless they basically believe what Christ taught like any Christian.

Posted by: DaveW on Thursday, 23 November 2006 at 8:09pm GMT

DaveW, you wrote and I agree with: "Personally I would just say judging people is something a Christian should not do regardless of what type of Christian people might like to judge and label them as."

What do you then say of leaders who at every tragedy (e.g. funerals, SE Asian Tsunami) rush to the pulpit to warn of judgment day and that every one is condemned who does not believe their paradigms?

Or those who say that acknowledging Jesus is not enough? That you must also attend church regularly, and not just any church, but a church under their umbrella?

What about when a twelve-year-old girl's father nearly dies in a truck accident, admits that he prayed to God because he thought he was about to die, and manages to swim out from a submerged truck with only a few cuts and bruises? I told the girl that her father was saved because he was a private Christian (believes in God but avoids churches because he doesn't like the politics). She raised this in a youth session and was told "sorry, your father is not saved, because he doesn't come to (our) church regularly".

By that statement, I am not saved either.

There are such Chrisitians! They pray to Jesus that the world is cruel and they are unfairly persecuted and that anyone who rebukes them is from the "evil one". They advocate that they should not be attacked because they are God's chosen ones.

Yet they consistently and persistently accuse others and act as though they are the ones who decide which souls are within the folds of God's grace. They play lip service to the rest of humanity because we will either be converted before judgment day or burnt to a cinder.

These souls hate and accuse, yet claim to be the bastions of God's purity.

Better to be with the sinners than with the accussers, I say.

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Thursday, 23 November 2006 at 8:10pm GMT

DaveW,
"Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned."

I agree entirely. I obviously read too much into what you said, I seem to be doing that a lot lately. Not that it matters to me, but it still leaves open the question "believes what?" You may not feel you have the right to deny the Christianity of others, but there are many who do. The people who call themselves Evangelicals and say I am not a Christian because I am not an Evangelical make up the vast majority of self-identified Evangelicals I have met. I'd like to hear Dave Williams weigh in on this, since, he seems to be quite explicitly defending the right to deny the Christianity of those who do not believe as he does. If I am wrong in my interpretation of what you say Dave, I stand to be corrected, though I fail to see any other interpretation of statements like:
"The force of "Evangelical Theology" is that people claiming salvation through Roman Catholic methods cannot be Christians."

Posted by: Ford Elms on Friday, 24 November 2006 at 12:35am GMT

Dear Cheryl Clough,
You ask “What do you then say of leaders who at every tragedy (e.g. funerals, SE Asian Tsunami) rush to the pulpit to warn of judgment day and that every one is condemned who does not believe their paradigms?”
Well as long as we dont judge those leaders who rush to the pulpit, lets judge what they say.
But my point was I believe judging people is something a Christian should not do, and I mean it is by recognising the fruit that makes it Christian, not a label people might like to judge and label the person as.
But I am sure there are people who call themselves Christians and say all kinds of things some of which you have pointed out.
So I don’t doubt you, I wouldn’t be surprised if there are people who call themselves Evangelical Christians who tell you that you can’t be a Christian; I also have no doubt there are people calling themselves Christians who don’t really believe anything about Jesus Christ and cant be a Christian. This was the issue. Is everyone a Christian? what makes a Christian? One cant label someone unless there is a set of criteria to do so and as soon as the criteria is used it will inevitably exclude some.

The point is do we know who we are in Christ, and is it Jesus Christ of the Bible Who we know and are talking about?

Posted by: DaveW on Friday, 24 November 2006 at 9:04am GMT

"I wouldn’t be surprised if there are people who call themselves Evangelical Christians who tell you that you can’t be a Christian"

Well, DaveW, my experience has been such that, for me, it is quite a surprise to find an Evangelical Christian who will acknowledge that I AM a Christian. I am not saying this sarcastically, nor angrily, nor am I accusing you personally. It has been my experience that those who call themselves Evangelicals believe, and are quite free in saying, that non-Evangelicals are not Christians. I am still genuinely surprised when I find one who does not think like that, to the point that I wonder if they are actually speaking the truth when they say it or just not wanting to cause a fuss.

"Is everyone a Christian? what makes a Christian?" And this was my issue: why do we ask these questions? What are the motives behind us wondering whether or not someone is a Christian? I know that my attitudes towards "Evangelicals" were shaped by long experience. It doesn't make these ideas right, but it explains them.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Friday, 24 November 2006 at 12:21pm GMT

Ford,

I agree with Dave that the answer is "Believe and be baptised."

So my response pastorally to anyone is to help them to check

1. That they have believed -it isn't just an intellectual assertion at a point in time

2. To check what they have believed -not that Jesus was a good man, not that Jesus gives us an example to follow and so on but specifically belief in Jesus and that his work on the cross is complete and sufficient for them.

Those issues can equally apply to those who claim to be Evangelical Christians which is why I agree with Dave W that it isn't about whether or not you are an Evangelical Christian -after all I can name those who claimed to be ECs before but are nowhere today!

Going up to someone and saying "You're not a Christian because you belong to that church" is not the issue and is not on. Rather it is about working through with someone to help them find true faith.

Posted by: dave williams on Friday, 24 November 2006 at 12:44pm GMT

Dear Ford Elms,
Until you can define what you mean by an evangelical or Christian I really have no idea who you are talking about. If you are a Christian do you follow Jesus Christ and His teaching? If you are Anglican do you follow Jesus Christ and His teaching and the Anglican Communion beliefs? If I am an evangelical do I follow Jesus Christ and His teaching and Evangelical beliefs? How is an evangelical supposed to differ from an Anglican?

Posted by: DaveW on Friday, 24 November 2006 at 12:45pm GMT

First of all, these are people who call themselves Evangelicals. As used by them, it seems to mean an acceptance of sola scriptura, often to the point of literalism, rejection of the three-fold order of ministry, a very different concept of sacraments, PSA as the only understanding of atonement, and numerous other points. Until a few years ago, they were either Pentecostals or Baptists, since those were the only ones I had encountered. In more recent years I have run into Anglicans online who also self identify as Evangelicals. Are you trying to say that there aren't people who call themselves Evangelicals? I stress, I am not the one saying they are Evangelicals, they are the ones who identify themselves as such to me.


As to how an Evangelical differs from an Anglican, I would suggest one can be both. Presumably the ones who said Anglicans aren't Christians would disagree. I follow Jesus and His teachings, yet I do not believe many of the things that people who call themselves Evangelicals say they believe, thus they tell me I am not a Christian.

Dave Williams, it is precisely about people walking up to you and telling you you aren't a Christian because you attend a certain Church. I have experienced this, not infrequently.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Friday, 24 November 2006 at 7:35pm GMT

Ford,

My point is that the type of behaviour you are talking about where as I read it someone has without provocation gone up to you and said Oi you, you are not a Christian and you are going to hell.

Indeed if I heard someone say to someone "You are an Anglican you can't be a Christian" I would actually want to sit them down and see what their understanding of the gospel is and ask them if they are really a Christian! It works both ways!


But at the same time I have to say that my personal experience has been that I state what the gospel is and then people come to me and push me along the lines of "Are you saying that I am not a Christian." not in the sense of I'm concerned and want to make sure I am but in the sense of "How dare you say that, indeed even believe it."

Maybe that helps you to know where I am coming from.

Posted by: dave williams on Saturday, 25 November 2006 at 12:54am GMT

For the record

My concern is not with a persons church affiliation or with their precise formulation of doctrine.

Rather, firstly, it is in, does the person believe that Christ died on the cross for them, that salvation is through his death. That no effort of their own or words of a church is needed or is able to save them and have they responded to that with heart and voice affirmation. They can get all sorts of things wrong after that and we might want to work on those things but that doesn't change the fact that they are a Christian

Secondly, I would be concerned if someone is claiming to be a Christian but is consistantly living a life that shows rebellion against God. I would want to be checking with them that they do understand the gospel in terms of its affect on their life.

Thirdly, I would be concerned if someone was showing a lack of interest in the Church body. No desire to meet with other Christians and no care or love for others within Christ's body

Fourthly I would be a bit worried if someone had no concern for those not yet Christians. No interest in telling them the gospel.

Again in these last two situations I would want to go back to their understanding of the gospel.

Posted by: dave williams on Saturday, 25 November 2006 at 12:58am GMT

Having a strong catholic background in my own spiritual formation, and having had to deal with various kinds of evangelicals over the years, I have arrived at the conclusion that evangelicalism is an entirely different religion from historic Christianity.

The typical 'evangelical' is pre-occupied with 'litmus tests', specific interpretations of Scripture, which s/he regards as a 'law book', in order to determine who is IN and who is OUT of the Christian community. Their obsession with Martin Luther's mis-reading of the Epistle to the Romans (here I would validate and uphold Krister Stendhal's critique of Luther), reflected in the Protestant doctrine of 'justification by faith', forces evanglicals constantly to 'justify' themselves rather than cast themselves on God's mercy and deriving comfort from the all-embracing presence of a loving God. It is no exaggeration to say that the typical evangelical views him- or herself called to sit on the right hand of God commissioned to JUDGE 'the living and the dead' and to raise the bar for sinners, so that 'justification by faith' actually becomes 'justification by works of righteousness'. Hence the evangelicals' obsession with one theory of the Atonement-PSA (penal substitution), which for them is another 'litmus test'.

Posted by: John Henry on Saturday, 25 November 2006 at 3:01am GMT

Dear Ford Elms,
Thank you for your response. You wrote "First of all, these are people who call themselves Evangelicals. As used by them, it seems to mean an acceptance of sola scriptura, often to the point of literalism, rejection of the three-fold order of ministry, a very different concept of sacraments, PSA as the only understanding of atonement, and numerous other points.
Well I know many Anglicans who call themselves 'Anglicans' and not 'evangelicals' who believe that the OT and NT are sufficient and the rule and standard of faith, have the Anglican concept of sacraments, believe in PSA as the only understanding of atonement. However I know some people who don’t even believe the OT and NT as the rule and standard of faith who call themselves Anglicans.
I literally believe all the scripture is true, but I don’t believe all the scripture is literally true. One needs to understand the context. Some is poetry, some history, some direct words from God and so on and so forth.
But you are still referring to Baptists and Pentecostals and the like, how do you knwo what they believe? I have referred to the section on the Anglican communion web page "What it means to be an Anglican" and already it seems some who call themselves Anglicans disagree with what it means to be an Anglican.

Posted by: DaveW on Saturday, 25 November 2006 at 10:42am GMT

John Henry,

I can only comment on the basis of my own views and also as I experience working with and worshipping with other Evangelical Christians. Studying with them, listening to Evangelical Sermons for and Sunday School lessons for the best part of 32 years. Reading evangelical literature for much of that time.

Your assessment of our beliefs are upside down! Justification by faith regards no justification of self. Rather the point is that we are dependent upon God's mercy not our own actions! The Bible isn't a Law book in the sense that you refer to it but the story of God's redemptive action in history (see Grame Goldsworthy Gospel and Kingdom for example). Evangelicals do not claim to be sitting at God's Right hand in judgement rather they believe that judgement day is coming and people have an opportunity now to be ready for it. We don't condemn to hell rather offer the invitation for people now to come to Eternal Life.

It is sad that this message is being distorted -perhaps by some claiming to be Evangelicals -but actually I would say that what we are seeing here is a complete distortion of the Evangelical message.

Please don't listen to the distortions here. You can find plenty of links to genuine representations of evangelical Christianity -I will use my blog as a starting reference and from there I will reference enquirers to Evangelicals in their own words

Posted by: dave williams on Saturday, 25 November 2006 at 12:43pm GMT

Dave Williams,
Well, when I was younger, it was usual to go to school on Monday morning to be told by the Pentecostal kids that their pastor the night before had preached that we weren't Christians. When invited to take part in an ecumenical event, they once responded no, because they don't associate with the ungodly! I'd suggest that if people accuse you of saying they aren't Christian, you might want to look at how you are preaching your message. If they are hearing something you aren't saying, maybe you're not making yourself as clear as you would want to be.


Regarding the four points on your second post, I'd agree with the first. The second is somewhat troublesome. Some Christian traditions would say that you are living in rebellion against God. The third would seem to throw out the lives and witnesses of hermits who have been a great blessing to the Church. My only response to your fourth point is that it is as much about how the Gospel is preached than anything: is it presented as condemnation and threat, or as an expression of God's love?

And, DaveW, I know what they believe because they tell me, and because I read their written statements of what they believe. I find your statement about Scripture to be interesting. How do you decide what is literally true and what isn't? For me, it's the Church that is the authority, what is the authority for you?

Posted by: Ford Elms on Sunday, 26 November 2006 at 6:28pm GMT

Ford,

Always happy to discuss how to make the message clearer but at the same time I do want people to think seriously about their Christianity. It's a difficult balancing act, you don't want to hurt the conscience of sensitive people that struggle with assurance -and I would aim to be very gentle with such people. But at the same time some people do need a challenge -and that includes a lot of people sitting in Evangelical churches too. (I hope you will appreciate that one despite our differences)

As for your responses -on your second point I beleive I acknowledged that issue above. On the third one -an interesting response. I guess that we might want to talk both about the benefits of some solitude and the problem of consistant avoidance and how the person then shows regard for the church. God can use some very mistaken people very powerfully. As for the 4th I agree with you completely!

As for Pentecostal's at school telling you that you weren't a Christian -maybe we aren't that different as I've had a similar experience at school! I have worshipped with some lovely pentecostals and even been allowed to preach in one of their churches...so they are no means all bad!

The important thing is that when I talk about what is and isn't a Christian then your church, whether you've spoken in tongues, your mode of baptism are NOT salvation issues -whether or not we agree on them. Nor for the record is our different view on church tradition! Nor indeed is whether or not you are homosexual -whether or not we agree or not on if homosexual sex is a sin-
A relationship with Jesus Christ based on his grace through the cross is critical and a defiant intention to live in continued rebellion against God is too. Does that help at all?

Posted by: dave williams on Sunday, 26 November 2006 at 11:25pm GMT

"A relationship with Jesus Christ based on his grace through the cross is critical and a defiant intention to live in continued rebellion against God is too. Does that help at all?"

Absolutely. Without defining what "rebellion against God" means. I've posted my disagreement with you on that point elsewhere. It's interesting, we agree on certain basic points, like this one and:
"But at the same time some people do need a challenge"
but I think we disagree wildly on pretty much everything that follows from those basic precepts. Ah well, we'll understand it better by and by. Interesting too that I disagree entirely with your statement that:
"your mode of baptism are NOT salvation issues".

I believe baptism IS a salvation issue. I will not deny the Christianity of SA's who aren't baptised, but I, brace yourself:-), believe the Bible is pretty clear on this point. Also, I have little tolerance for modalist formulae like "Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer" especially in baptism.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Monday, 27 November 2006 at 12:53pm GMT

Ford,

Goodness me -is that really getting used?

Posted by: dave williams on Monday, 27 November 2006 at 11:20pm GMT

Ford,

Yes I'm sure things will become clearer. A good man once said that there are some things that we need to asign under the category AFL -Awaiting Further Light.

I love a good robust debate. I also want to see people find faith and have assurance of eternal life -that's my priority -that's not the same as claiming to know everything about everyone and everyone! I'm happy to keep on learning with you!

Posted by: dave williams on Monday, 27 November 2006 at 11:24pm GMT

Oh, yes, Dave, it is indeed being used. Nasty modalist construction that deforms the understanding of the Trinity. Don't get me started!

I think a big issue between us is illustrated in the following:

"find faith and have assurance of eternal life"

it is this understanding of salvation that I have particular problems with, and probably is at the base of a lot of our disagreements. I think redemption is about so much more than that. Eternal life is of course part of it, Christ gives us the victory over everything, but I really draw back from the idea that salvation is all about where we go after we die.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Tuesday, 28 November 2006 at 2:26pm GMT

Ford,

Then perhaps you really have well and truly misunderstood me! I'm not going to claim that we have the same defintion of salvation, or indeed that some Evangelicals have talked in such a minimalist way. But (as per everything I've tried to refer people to to get me in context) I'm not talking about a ticket to heaven. Assurance of eternal life is fundamental -the Bible has plenty to say about it, redemption has to start with and deal with the human condition because it is our fault that the world is fallen -not the other way round. But as you can see I have a wider interest in what is formally referred to as "The Cultural Mandate" God's interest in his whole creation that is groaning and because I think in terms of recreation "here" not simply in going to heaven "There" I expect that transformation to start now. So "faith and assurance of eternal life" is shorthand for everything that goes into a transformed life.

Posted by: dave williams on Wednesday, 29 November 2006 at 12:02pm GMT

Sorry I was a bit sloppy, to say the least, in my description on baptism -careless typing. I'm with you on Trinitarian baptism and hope I never hear the version you mention, if you could just be a little bit intolerant and dogmatic when you come across it so you can save me the pain.

I also think there are some important issues surrounding our baptism but I don't see sprinkling/dunking, infant/adult as prerequisites to being a Christian. I do see implications arising from our understanding of these things -important but not essential if you like

Posted by: dave williams on Wednesday, 29 November 2006 at 12:08pm GMT

Dave Williams,
I'm not big on the when and how of baptism either. I have problems with those who say infant baptism is invalid, but that's as far as it goes. I DO believe that baptism is the way we become citizens of the Kingdom, though. I'm a big "community of the baptised" type of person, which is why I am always pleased to walk into a church that has the font smack in the middle of the door. You can tell that one aspect of sacraments for me is about God making the things of this world different through Grace, but I think I'm derailing here. As to Trinitarian formulae, don't worry, I've never been known to be reticent, as personal experience should tell you! Can you post the address of your blog again, BTW.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Thursday, 30 November 2006 at 1:55pm GMT

Ford,

My blog address is http://davewilliams-random-thoughtsblogspot.com. I'm aiming starting to drop in some posts on the first chapter of Luke and linking it back to Malachi. Be good to have your comments

Dave

Posted by: dave williams on Sunday, 3 December 2006 at 4:03pm GMT
Post a comment









Remember personal info?

Please note that comments are limited to 400 words. Comments that are longer than 400 words will not be approved.

Cookies are used to remember your personal information between visits to the site. This information is stored on your computer and used to refill the text boxes on your next visit. Any cookie is deleted if you select 'No'. By ticking 'Yes' you agree to this use of a cookie by this site. No third-party cookies are used, and cookies are not used for analytical, advertising, or other purposes.