Oasis, unity and bad news for evangelicals?

This has been milling around my head for some time before I started to draft it a couple of weeks ago. After the events of last Friday, when the Evangelical Alliance decided to eject Oasis from membership, this has come into sharp relief. The discussion that then follows has been reshaped following this, though I have kept some aspects of the more general blog post I had begun. I hope it still reads OK, though please forgive me if it subsequently reads slightly jumbled and for any repetition.

The original question I had in mind was:

Are evangelicals bad news for the Church?

It’s a question that’s been bugging me some time. Whenever I read the term ‘evangelical’ (or the more condescending ‘evo’) it is almost always used in a negative sense.

I have written before about my frustrations when evangelicals are misleadingly portrayed. My objection is not a denial that there are issues within the very broad church that is evangelicalism, but rather that the negative aspects are those that people go looking for in order to highlight and then apply more generally so that they are portrayed as being in some way symptomatic of evangelicalism as a whole.

Part of the difficulty comes in trying to pin down precisely what one might mean by the term ‘evangelical’. There is little consensus (though not a violent disagreement, either, it might be added) amongst those who identify as evangelical as to precisely what they mean by it. I’ve broached the topic before, as has Danny Webster (who works for the Evangelical Alliance). My own church has its view here and the Evangelical Alliance has its own take. And these are just British viewpoints!

For an American viewpoint, one may look at the Evangelical manifesto. I must confess I was not aware of it’s existence until a few months ago, though upon reading it, I was struck by how much I agreed with it and was pleased by its moderate tone, in distinction from the tone one often hears coming across the Atlantic where the boundary between evangelical and fundamentalist views seems somewhat fuzzy.

As has been pointed out by others, the very breadth of evangelicalism sometimes waters down the effectiveness of the term. One danger is that ‘evangelical’ simply becomes a catch-all term used by those who don’t identify as such to label anyone with whom they disagree. In much of modern parlance, adjectives can be used as insults, and the most common word read in association with the term evangelical is ‘conservative’. In a world of black and white, it is not uncommon for ‘conservative’ to applied to someone, not on the grounds of a fair description, but rather to push them away and effectively say “[they’re conservative (i.e. bad) but we’re liberal (i.e. good)]” – The difficulty with this is that things aren’t really black and white and especially within christianity there are elements of being conservative and elements of being liberal in just about all strands of christian belief and expression. [late edit: as has been pointed out in the comments, some use the ‘liberal’/’conservative’ insult the other way around. My experience is that this is less common, but I acknowledge my limited experience may not be representative] To take just a few:

Social attitudes

This encompasses some of the hottest topics in the Church today, not least those surrounding women in leadership roles and whether or not we fully affirm christians who identify as LGBTI. For the record, this evangelical does recognise women in leadership and has no issue worshipping alongside LGBTI christians, a term I would deny is oxymoronic. In so doing, I acknowledge that there are some who would differ from me in good faith; while I might, from time to time, try to persuade such a person, I would not seek to enforce my view on them or to break fellowship with them over such a matter. What sometimes frustrates me is when I see christians who like to portray themselves as liberal attacking or criticising other christians who hold different opinions on such matters, especially when they go looking for areas on which to disagree. It demonstrates a level of intolerance that I think is quite unloving and certainly a betrayal of the term ‘liberal’. [late edit: I saw this comment was under discussion on the Changing Attitudes FB page. An example which I would cite was a post I saw from a friend who consistently affirms as ‘liberal’ but who said they would not consider in a million years going to a church they perceived as being conservative, going so far as to question why such churches exist at all. In my view, this goes too far.]

Economic attitudes

Roughly speaking, is one a capitalist or a socialist. Confusion comes here when capitalists try to claim to be liberal by means of “neoliberalism” or “economic libertarianism” which are both shorthand terms for, in my view, “freedom to economically oppress others”. This is a massive topic which I have written a bit about before, so I won’t further expand on it today.

How one views the bible

Much of the discussion around (and around and around) this centres on how one views the principle of sola scriptura. In so doing, one needs to bear in mind the historical background of the reformation in which the principle was formed. It is an instance of ‘definition by opposition‘. One may get a glimpse of how non-evangelicals think evangelicals view the bible from a comment on this piece, but which represents a slight caricature. I cannot do justice to the matter here, so in summary all I will say is that I view the bible as a collection of books which is the most reliable source we have for understanding the origins, themes, aims and beliefs of the christian faith. To get as true and fair an understanding of christianity, out of which flows a faithful adherence, the Church and its members must make the best effort to understand it in its his historical context and from there to apply it to the society, geography and time that we find ourselves in today. That understanding may be aided by any available tools we have, whether that be linguistics, historiography, tradition, etc. (all of which may be brought together under the umbrella term, ‘theology’).

How we express our christianity

In very broad terms, which are sometimes helpful and sometimes not, we might use the analogy of “high church” or “low church”. Similar terms one might hear are “creeping up the candle”. Though this terminology originated with the English part of the reformation, it has come to indicate how ceremonial a church is. So a church that has a very conservative expression of worship, where the leaders have to dress in special clothes and where there’s bits of processing around and chanting could reasonably be called “high church”. In contrast, one might have a “low church” which is far more informal and where the worshippers are allowed a greater degree of freedom of expression. These latter churches, in their style of worship, is far more liberal.

Unhelpful adjectives

Of course, these 4 I’ve listed are neither exhaustive nor are they mutually exclusive. For example, how one views the bible may well inform how one approaches the other 3. Yet it is sometimes the case that those which are more liberal in their expression of christianity are more conservative (capitalist) in their economic views. I think here particularly of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) which is known for both having an exuberant Pentecostal worship style and for advocacy in some parts of the church for the prosperity gospel. So it is that almost any church may be described as conservative by one group and as liberal by another.

Yet with almost any term one may choose to use to describe oneself or to describe other churches and christians, we risk trying to hold on to so tightly to the  adjective as to what type of christian we wish to describe that we lose focus on being a christian. As such, I would advocate using adjectives with the utmost gentleness and little to no sense of posession, as one try to hold a bunch of bubbles in the hand. To press the matter too hard will simply burst the bubbles which may sparkle for a time, but are ultimately empty and pass quickly.

So with that said, what of the matters of the last week?

Oasis and the Evangelical Alliance

I would assume by now that anyone reading this is familiar with the events of last Friday. If you are not, I would refer you in the first instance to the two press releases made by the Evangelical Alliance and by Oasis regarding the expulsion of the latter from membership of the former.

The debate that has been stirred up has been phrased by some (unhelpfully in my view) as a battle for who gets to decide how the term ‘evangelical’ is defined, and consequently who can and cannot be described as such. This seems to me like too much stock is being placed in the adjective and that in so doing, emphasis from the noun is lost. i.e. in my view, it is more important to identify as a christian than it is to identify as an evangelical. So the actions of the Evangelical Alliance is not so much a threat to the use of the term ‘evangelical’, it is a threat to the use of the term ‘alliance’.

One of the great ironies over the Oasis/EA separation has been that in choosing to eject Oasis, the Evangelical Alliance has stepped outside of the reformation ‘tradition’ (for want of a better word) of questioning the status quo. They have sought to impose their own form of orthodoxy on others and have chosen to excommunicate a valued part of the alliance for not adhering to one particular interpretation. In so doing, they have acted, not as the reformers did (the latter of whom had great courage to step out of the shadow of medieval Catholicism), but have played the role of the authoritarian who dictates how scripture can and should be interpreted. [late edit: This is not intended as a Marcus Borg style ‘because is it orthodox, it must be wrong’ type argument. See the comments below]

While Chalke wanted to be open and welcoming, the Evangelical Alliance chose to make it a divisive issue. In my view, the most appropriate response is to try to restore unity, rather than exacerbate disunity. This is why I would disagree with @losthaystacks who indicated that she thought the most appropriate reaction was to end her personal membership of the Evangelical Alliance. There is a point to it – that to maintain membership may be interpreted as giving consent to the action taken – though I would disagree, preferring to maintain church unity and to speak plainly that one disagrees with a particular stance. In this way, I would agree with the Evangelical Alliance’s policy, which in this instance they seem to have chosen to not apply in this instance:

“We respect the diversity of culture, experience and doctrinal understanding that God grants to His people, and acknowledge that some differences over issues not essential to salvation may well remain until the end of time.”

“We call on each other, when speaking or writing of those issues of faith or practice that divide us, to acknowledge our own failings and the possibility that we ourselves may be mistaken, avoiding personal hostility and abuse, and speaking the truth in love and gentleness.”

So in that very spirit, I recognise that my view may be wrong (as always) but the evidence of the Evangelical Alliance’s treatment of Oasis appears to be an attempt at unity by bullying. In other words, “agree with us or we will have no fellowship with you”. The statement regarding the matter makes clear that there had been prior communication and that Oasis had been asked to distance themselves from the view held by Chalke. Yet the idea of resigning membership over the matter seems to be to be equally ungracious and no less an example of an attempt at unity by bullying.

The usefulness of an analogy

One of the key objections that Evangelical Alliance later cited was that Chalke was endorsing a change in the definition of marriage. During the discussion on the legislation as it was going through Parliament. As an example, you can read a well-articulated objection on these grounds over on @PeterOuld’s blog. Underlying the objection is the assumption that marriage should not be redefined. It is this assumption I would challenge on 2 accounts.

Firstly, the idea of marriage as being “between one man and one woman” is not a permanent an unchanging definition that has stood since time immemorial. It just hasn’t (until now) changed an awful lot in western democracies in the last few centuries. I well recall a useful set of seminars I attended a few years ago given by Rabbi Lionel Blue about how the changing definition of marriage can be seen just within the Torah; the example that sticks in mind was from Deuteronomy 24, where the granting of a certificate of divorce was a radical change recognising that the wife being divorced had a “greater level of humanness than a pot or a pan” (Rabbi Blue’s words, not mine).

The second objection is the analogy in the New Testament regarding the analogy of the church as the bride of Christ. As an approximation (hopefully not a caricature) the argument goes that to change the definition of marriage undermines or invalidates this analogy. Yet in my view, the underlying message of the analogy is not so closely tied to referent in the analogy that a change in the latter renders the former redundant. We might need, in later years, to do some more work to understanding it, but it seems odd to think that same-sex marriage is any threat to the idea of the Church as the body and bride of Christ. To cite 2 examples of this, one may understand the Parable of the Good Samaritan on a surface level as an encouragement to see all people as our neighbours, to whom we are to behave in a way honouring (and being part of) the kingdom of heaven, but one understands more how counter-intuitive this was once you realise the animosity between the Samaritans and the Jews. The fact that that precise ethnic tension is not obvious to today’s readers doesn’t render the message of the parable null and void. As a second example, the invention of the seed drill for regular planting of seeds did not invalidate the Parable of the Sower.

What does this say in our witness?

I am coming to an end, but if you have read thus far, I thank you for your patience. Though it has been pointed out how general the term ‘evangelical’ can be, I would hope that there can be agreement that a key feature is a particular emphasis which is placed on evangelism. Evangelism takes many forms. Part of it is pedagogical – teaching the world about the gospel so that one may make an informed decision as to whether or not to accept it. But it is more than that. Our very lives are to be a witness to the calling we have received; how we treat one another says a lot about the values we hold. This may be seen in Romans 12 and in particular in Jesus; exhortation: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

So what does the forcible exclusion of an organisation that is open and welcoming to all say as a witness?

What is says to me is that the message of the Evangelical Alliance only differs from that of Westboro Baptist Church in its tone, but not in content. [late edit: I am aware this is a provocative comparison. I considered removing it, but once drafted, I could think of a good reason to delete it; it remains my honest (though of course, potentially flawed) opinion] This undermines the living out of the principle of “love your neighbour as yourself”. In ejecting Oasis on the basis cited, there is an effective statement which says “evangelicals oppose equality for LGBTI people.” That is not a sentiment I agree with. Yet it would be a mistake to cause further disunity or to use this as a reason to abandon the Evangelical Alliance and all the very good work that they do, through their member organisation and individuals.

Unity isn’t easy. So while I agree with the support and inclusivity that Chalke has expressed, and while I disagree with the actions of the Evangelical Alliance, I will not speak a word of condemnation. That is all too easy to do and is, I believe, the cheap way out.

My remaining hope is that the hurt cause to LGBTI individuals, families and communities as a result of this will not deter them from the gospel. Not all evangelicals are open and welcoming, but many are. And I hope that there is peace and forgiveness, in spite of the cost.

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10 responses to “Oasis, unity and bad news for evangelicals?

  1. “One of the great ironies over the Oasis/EA separation has been that in choosing to eject Oasis, the Evangelical Alliance has stepped outside of the reformation ‘tradition’ (for want of a better word) of questioning the status quo.”
    Quite. Excellent paragraph. I think I pretty much agree with you on this situation. It’s frustrating that the EA haven’t played by their own stated guidelines and don’t seem to be willing to try and work with Oasis and are missing out on partnering in good stuff they could potentially have achieved together, if you follow. It shuts down dialogue, smacks of being a bit personal, and certainly raises the question of whether one’s stance on sexuality, marriage, LGBTI etc. has become an unofficial shibboleth for being evangelical in many people’s minds.

    One thing that I would add (and I’m sure you are probably aware of this but didn’t write about it because of the focus on the evangelical end of things in this post) is that the false dichotomy you describe as “[they’re conservative (i.e. bad) but we’re liberal (i.e. good)]” can and is often also seen in reverse. Talk of so-and-so having “gone liberal” with an implication or tone as if to say “gone dodgy” or something is very much not unheard of in certain circles. And either way it’s needlessly tribal and not a bit snobby.

    • I’m aware of it being used that way sometimes (as on Adrian Warnock’s blog which I linked to), though my experience is that it’s rarer. That might just be the particular company I keep. At work, where most are economically conservative, as outlined in the post, the term ‘liberal’ is not really used, but rather “Labour-supporter” seems to be the insult hurled at me, in spite of being more sympathetic to the Greens on policy issues.

      The point I may have failed to make clear is that just about everyone is liberal in some ways and conservative in others. If we perceive one to be negative, we might substitute a term, like ‘progressive’ or ‘orthodox’.

      While there does need to be a discussion of ‘who is in and who is out’ – I would side with N.T. Wright’s analysis that the matter is one of justification by faith, not by “[having the right view on certain matters]”. In effect, what some christians do (and I fully affirm their christianity) is taking the issue of homosexuality and making it is an important as questions of the nature of God, incarnation, crucifixion and resurrection. I will add more to that in my response to Phill later.

      • Yes, it probably does depend on one’s company. And I take the point that the term evangelical, as is associated in many people’s minds with fundamentalism or whatever, is probably a more popular insult/’othering’ term in general.

        I think you did make that clear about everyone being liberal and conservative in different ways – and it’s absolutely true. I was thinking last night idly about how it’s interesting that you could use the same word ‘traditional’ in different ways to apply to a) high church folks (in terms of their dress during services, words used, actions performed etc.) and b) low church folks/(conservative) evangelicals in terms of ‘traditional values’, i.e. conservative attitudes to sex. That’s the thing with words.

        Yes, it’s that exalting of homosexuality as THE deciding matter which annoys me. Sadly it seems to be rather popular these days in some circles.

  2. Thanks for this. There’s a lot here and although I think you make some good points, if I may I’d just like to pick up on your comments on the specific Oasis / EA situation. As I write this I am quite tired so I apologise in advance for … well, everything really.

    “They [the EA] have sought to impose their own form of orthodoxy on others and have chosen to excommunicate a valued part of the alliance for not adhering to one particular interpretation”

    Given the EA’s subsequent clarification (which you link to) on this I don’t think this is exactly what happened – they claim it wasn’t down to anyone’s view on this subject per se. They also claim that their policy was followed.

    I’m not sure your reformation analogy holds: you make it sound like the reformers would have agreed with anything so long as it questioned the status quo, which is not the case. Most of them would have been horrified at Chalke’s usage of Scripture. In a sense the reformers *were* dictating how Scripture should be interpreted, over against the medieval Catholic church. And I the right response for the Catholic church would not have been to say, “Well, we’ll accept you into our midst and let’s all agree to disagree”.

    In terms of marriage, and the Biblical understanding thereof, this is the heart of the matter. I have read a lot of arguments on this, from both sides and I have come to the conclusion that the conservative / traditional understanding of sexuality is correct. I have yet to see a pro same-sex marriage argument which takes all the Biblical data seriously. Andrew Wilson, in his debates with Chalke, said that essentially there is no scholarly debate on this, at least not within evangelical circles. To my mind, the objections you raise are more than adequately dealt with in a good theology of marriage.

    Final thing; sorry – it was a long post! 🙂 “So what does the forcible exclusion of an organisation that is open and welcoming to all say as a witness?”

    I agree that that is what the world sees, and it’s not good, but we cannot be bound by what the world thinks. Anyway, I don’t think forcibly excluding “open and welcoming” people is what is actually going on: “Open and welcoming” are not the only criteria which count. The EA should not accept people who believe that Jesus was not the eternal Son of God, for example, however open and welcoming they might be. And, if the traditionalists are right on sexuality, then being open and accepting on sexuality may even exclude people from the Kingdom of God.

    Your conclusion suggests that traditional / conservative churches – such as mine – would be unaccepting of people. That hurts me, because I would want to welcome everyone – we are all sinners. Yes, I think the gospel calls on people to repent of their sins – and I include sexual sins, such as same-sex relationships, in that. But if that makes a church “unwelcoming”, you are basically saying that such churches do not have the gospel.

    This makes me wonder whether it is possible to “agree to disagree” over sexuality. I don’t think it’s as simple as one side believing that someone has one less thing to repent of. At any rate, it’s got people talking about evangelicalism and its definition, which is surely better than brushing these issues under the carpet. Perhaps part of the problem is that issues have been brushed under the carpet for too long, and this is merely exposing them.

    • Given the EA’s subsequent clarification (which you link to) on this I don’t think this is exactly what happened – they claim it wasn’t down to anyone’s view on this subject per se. They also claim that their policy was followed.

      It’s this claim that I doubt. I just can’t see the direct line between the policy and the action taken. Some have speculated that wider issues may have been at play with funding for the EA reliant on the more conservative churches who may have chosen to leave had the threats against Oasis (and subsequent expulsion) not been made. While I can see a possibility in that, it’s a hard claim to justify without further evidence.

      Though I would stand by the term “threats” as it seems quite clear that Oasis were requested to change the content of the websites to state a view that they did not hold. This is a level of interference which I think does cross the line of authoritarianism.

      you make it sound like the reformers would have agreed with anything so long as it questioned the status quo

      That certainly wasn’t my intention. I may clarify in an edit. My personal view is that questioning is just about always good. What questions we ask often say a lot about what we are thinking and what we suspect the answers may be. But it would be wrong to advocate free-for-all relativism. Some (many?) questions have good answers, but the act of questioning them at least forces us to think through our reasons and hopefully turn back to the scriptures. So while the resurrection may be regarded as a crux (pun intented) on which christianity stands or falls, there is a time and place to question its historicity and its implications. Those questions may have answers, but if the questions are not allowed, then dogmatics turns into dogmatism. This relates back to a previous conversation we’ve had on uncertainty.

      In a sense the reformers *were* dictating how Scripture should be interpreted, over against the medieval Catholic church.

      I can see that this is what came out of the reformation. Though its many strands and relationships with its contemporary history and renaissance are rather complicated, the origins of the reformation came from questioning. What frustrates sometimes is then an assumption that the outcomes the reformers came to were 100% (or near enough) correct. Such a view may be seen in some work by, say, John Piper or in this take where some writers appealed only to tradition and ignored scripture wholly.

      To my mind, the objections you raise are more than adequately dealt with in a good theology of marriage.

      If you have any specific resources in mind, I’ll be more than happy to take a look. Though I would press home the parallel with the Parable of the Sower; in effect – looking at a theology of analogies before looking at specific examples.

      Your conclusion suggests that traditional / conservative churches – such as mine – would be unaccepting of people.

      I can’t speak of your congregation, though it is something I have sadly witnessed. I’ve known people who have grown up in a church who later came out as gay and have been rejected by a small number of people in an otherwise accepting congregation. Because of that, they chose to turn their back on christianity and now speak vociferously against christianity as being a homophobic religion. In their experience this is true, though I wish it weren’t. The best example I have seen was within a housegroup where one person was a lesbian and another thought that that was incompatible with being a christian. It was the latter’s hope that being in church would change the other person, but that having them in church was a better place for renewal/restoration to happen than to send them away and ask them to come back when they had stopped being a lesbian. That is a kind of conservative attitude I commend.

      To bring a few threads together, one of the key words in the discussion is adiaphora. If I have understood you correctly both here and in the post on your own blog, how one views sexuality is a matter of salvific importance. Believe the wrong the thing and one steps outside of God’s saving grace. This would, as indicated in rely to Rachel earlier, mean that belief about sexuality is on the same level of important as questions of God’s nature, the incarnation, crucifixion and resurrection. It is this elevation of status of the question that bothers me and which is why, in several years of blogging, this is the first time I’ve written explicitly about the matter.

      I would regard that matter as one of adiaphora and you do not (please correct me if I have misunderstood you). It seems that there are 2 approaches to possible resolution. 1) Create a list of adiaphora topics or 2) create a list of non-adiaphora topics and allow all others, by default, to be adiaphora. The latter is, of course, a description of a creed.

      Since many creeds have been created down the years, there is a fair wealth of history to look at, yet I struggle to find much mention of sexuality in them, which leads me to doubt the socially conservative assertion that theirs is as “traditional” as they would like to think. If you can point me to an early creed which does put forward such a view, then I would be most interested to read it.

      I agree with you that there does not seem to be enough rigorous theology on the matter and that things shouldn’t be swept under the carpet. It’s then a question of who sits round the table to discuss the matters. In such a discussion, I would want all points of view to have a free airing, to allow them to be questioned and critiqued, whether liberal, conservative and everything in between.

      • Thanks for your reply, I think in some ways we’re actually in agreement.

        I agree with you that questioning is a good thing. I think any idea should be allowed to be questioned – that is a reformation idea. I include sexuality in that: I am prepared to give anyone who wants to present to me a Biblical argument for same-sex relationships a fair hearing, and I think any organisation should do the same. However, I think when we are dealing with 2000 years of unbroken teaching on this, plus the potentially serious ramifications of changing the church’s teaching (more on that in a minute), it’s right for the church (or EA, in this case) to hold back and fully work through the Biblical arguments. Especially when the EA published “Biblical and Pastoral Responses to Homosexuality” a couple of years ago, which followed the traditional line.

        On doubt and uncertainty – Andrew Wilson, who I mentioned last time, wrote a blog called Hermeneutical Humility where he concludes:

        Lest I be misunderstood, let me say again: as a statement, “ah, but there’s lots of interpretations of the Bible” is quite true. That’s why we need to work hard to understand what the original authors intended; it’s why research matters; it’s why theology matters; it’s why I do what I do. But if that card gets played with unrepresentative frequency when people start talking about what we do with our genitals, then we may be excused for wondering whether something else is going on. It often is.

        I think he’s right – people do seem to play “The Bible is not clear…” card mostly with respect to sexuality. From certain quarters the message I get is that the Bible is apparently clear that Jesus would have been politically left-leaning, opposed the death penalty, and so on – but when it comes to sexuality, we need to do a fair amount of interpretation.

        The usual go-to book on the conservative side in sexuality is Robert Gagnon – The Bible and Homosexual Practice. He is very thorough, very methodical, and responds in detail to critics on his website. I have yet to see a pro same-sex argument which even comes close to this. (Not sure what you mean about a “theology of analogies”?)

        Thank you for clarifying and qualifying your statement on traditional churches. Please can I request that you watch your language on this, though, because I think it can easily drift into an “us and them” mentality. “We are welcoming whereas they aren’t…” kind of thing.

        In terms of creeds and sexuality – as far as I know, no historic creed mentions gluttony, greed, or adultery, for example. Does that make them adiaphora? Remember that the creeds were only meant to be a bounded set for orthodoxy given the debates of the day. It’s not the case that “everything else” was adiaphora. As far as I know, homosexuality has never been considered anything other than sinful by the church, until extremely recently in our Western context.

        I note that the Westminster Confession (1646, according to Wikipedia), chapter XXIV, does talk about marriage and divorce. Comparatively recent but still. Some of the patristics wrote on this, of course, although I can’t cite chapter and verse right now.

        Last thing on Justification: of course I believe in Justification by faith alone. However, I think that forgiveness follows repentance (e.g. Luke 24:47, 1 John 1:9). If same-sex relationships *are* a sin, but someone believes they aren’t and enters into one, it’s not possible to repent. And if you can’t repent, do you then receive justification for something you have deliberately entered into? The apostle Paul seemed to think that certain things would exclude people from the Kingdom of God, for example (1 Cor 6.9).

  3. 2nd attempt! Wrote long one & screen went blank just as I finished 🙂 Briefly I like what you say a lot. However, I agree with Phill’s representation of trad. evang. as fair & accurate. ‘Lines drawn in the sand’ are part of what makes them distinctive. As you and all other New Evangelicals (Emergent, Brian McLaren, Leonard Sweet etc., may wish to extend evangelical to an open and inclusive circle rather than a bounded set, you have to accept that you do that without their recognition of you as one of themselves.
    For myself, on the basis of this, I decided to abandon the descriptor quite some time ago.
    I also agree with Phill about the reformed church’s position !
    I’ll stop there. Thanks for the time and effort you give to these writings.

    • The message is: copy your comments before hitting send! Or use a word processor with a save function. I’m sure you’ve done this before.

  4. Great post, Simon.

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