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Source: (consider it) Thread: Purgatory: So how liberal can you be and still call yourself an evangelical?
welsh dragon

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# 3249

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Well, I am surprised in some ways at how much Oxford evangelical culture seems to have moved on since I first came up as a student...it doesn't seem nearly so staid and ghastly as I seem to rememeber...

but I am going to a much more more conventional village church as well as one of the biggies.

The conventional village church (church B) gives out an evo line about repenting, being forgiven and saved from the pulpit. There is also a corollary about it not being whether you are good or bad that tells whether you go to heaven or hell, but whether you are *forgiven*. But heaven and hell and being saved definitely feature.

The strong implication is that you have to do the evo thing or you will spend eternity being very warm...

Aa I was explaining to kingsfold and John Holding in the pub last night, it definitely dumbs down and evos up (scary) when there is a "family service". Then there is *lots* of stuff about being saved and *lots* more stuff about go tell the good news.

The assumption that you have to be pretty Prot. To Be Saved varies through the village church; people have different opinions. (1 or 2 of them are still technically Catholic or orthodox.) The Prots 'R' Us emphasis really doesn't come from the pulpit; though the Churches Together effort tends to involve 2 other very Protestant churches.

Oh, and church B tends to be pretty quiet about demons.

On a good day in church A however you can probably get the whole caboodle I listed from the pulpit.

Church A helpfully has a contingent of Ship of Fools stow-aways however, which means that I don't feel I have betrayed my sense of self when I walk in the door.

And Church B has a congregation of extremely intelligent, mainly retired people who have had sufficiently interesting lives and sufficient life experience to temper their beliefs with a lot of wisdom.

I think the spread of views in the congregation is at least as important as what comes out of the pulpit (and I also think that's quite a Protestant view to hold, isn't it?)

it is still not just the Woodian tenets I have to deal with, in reflecting on whether I want the evo label, it's the culture as well. When you talk about someone being an evangelical, aren't the cultural implications what would first come to mind?

The Ship is a bit different, because anyone who has their sea legs on the Ship is going to be a bit more sophisticated than your average evangelical churchgoer...

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Wood
The Milkman of Human Kindness
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quote:
Originally posted by JimT:
1. Revelation is primary. It is also personal and thus variable but always rooted in Truth and Love.
2. Religion should have no roots in fear. It is fact that we are imperfect and fallible but it is fallacy that we are detestible to God in our native state and that he is reluctant but willing to punish us eternally for any sin.
3. Christ is the human face of God. This face can be seen to varying degrees in everyone, even the most hardened “sinner” or “heathen” but it is discernable nonetheless and can be brought out of anyone.
4. If religion is to have any impact at all, it should be applied on a societal as well as an individual level. In other words, it is not purely a matter of private belief and individual practice.

The only one of those I would apply in general to every liberal I've met is point 4. Thing is, I agree with both these and the four points of Pete Ward. So what does that make me?

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ptarmigan
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Welsh Dragon - well said; well put; hear hear.

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All shall be well. And all shall be well. And all manner of things shall be well. (Julian of Norwich)

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JimT

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quote:
Originally posted by Wood:
The only one of those I would apply in general to every liberal I've met is point 4. Thing is, I agree with both these and the four points of Pete Ward. So what does that make me?

Wood my friend we may have to consider the frightening possibility that when you throw in politics, I am actually an evangelical and you are actually a liberal but we can't stand to apply the correct labels to ourselves. [Big Grin] Not really. But from my (ancient, distorted and no longer relevant) perspective you are more liberal than evangelical.

I do have to make one Purgatorial challenge: you can't really have two items that are both "primary." The top of my list says revelation is primary and the top of the Wood list says that scripture is primary. My customers always had ten top priorities and perhaps theology should allow this logical inconsistency but it is of concern to me. To say "scripture is primary" invites the problems associated with literalism. To be sure "individual revelation is primary" invites the problem of "anything goes" but I just like that problem better.

Perhaps I am putting thoughts into people's minds instead of words into their mouths, but when I read Jack Spong (notorious and some would say nefarious liberal) I hear these four points made consistently. It genuinely surprises me to hear Wood say that he has not heard the first three points coming from liberals. I suppose I can imagine it if the conversation starts with an assertion that scripture is primary and substitutionary atonement is essential. A liberal like me is likely to lauch into a fuming fit about literalism, anti-evolution, blood, and Hell before the dazed evangelical has a chance to properly explain themselves.

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FatMac

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quote:
Originally posted by daisymay:
OTOH, there is a long tradition within evangelicals of studying other scriptures and religions
  • so that evangelism can be more effective
  • because they believe that God prepares the way for evangelism by making sure that there is an element of truth in other beliefs and cultures that can be expanded and explained so that belief in Christ ensues
  • because of the tradition in evangelicalism of becoming literate and expanding the mind as far as possible, so that study is what God planned for our minds

Firstly, thanks to hatless and JimT for the welcome back. It's good to be back and I hope there will not be any such long absences again.

Daisymay I understand what you are saying, and as a matter of fact I do read widely from other religious traditions - probably primarily motivated by your point 3. My point was simply that that is not how I develop my theology - as a Christian I have an overriding commitment to building my faith on the Bible. As a liberal and a post-modernist I have an understanding that that choice is simply my choice and not necessarily a better choice or the only correct choice.

And clearly my entire worldview is influenced by and affected by the truth I find in other traditions (as well as scientific and other sources of truth). Clearly also, I am interested in the points of contact between Christianity and other traditions which make possible mutual learning and growth through dialogue.

Finally, a comment on the discussion between Wood and JimT. ISTM that the tension JimT posits between 'revelation as primary' and 'scripture as primary' is predicated on a modernist framework. As a post-modernist I would be happy to affirm both that revelation is primary, and that my own chosen route to such revelation is a commitment to the primacy of scripture.

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Do not beware the slippery slope - it is where faith resides.
Do not avoid the grey areas - they are where God works.

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Dave the Bass
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Welsh Dragon, I just saw your list of the defining characteristics of evangelicalism as found in your churches, and they reminded me of the evangelicalism I was experiencing 10-20 years ago - I really hoped that evangelicals had moved on since then. But I don't think that you're describing all evangelicals - certainly the church I left 6 years ago wouldn't fit your description, though it still wasn't liberal enough for me [Wink] And if you look hard enough, and speak to enough people in the churches you attend, I'm sure you will find people who share your ideas of how the church should be.
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ken
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quote:
Originally posted by JimT:
I do have to make one Purgatorial challenge: you can't really have two items that are both "primary." The top of my list says revelation is primary and the top of the Wood list says that scripture is primary.

The evangelical stock answer to that (which I happen to believe [Smile] ) is that Scripture is our record of the self-revelation of God Incarnate. And as we trust God not to lie to us, any personal revelation anyone might have, any new revelation, is going to be at least compatible with Scripture. If it isn't, then it isn't from God.

Scripture is a privileged witness because it is our witness to the Incarnation - it derives its special status from Jesus Christ who we meet in its pages.

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Jack the Lass

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quote:
Originally posted by Jim T:
To say "scripture is primary" invites the problems associated with literalism. To be sure "individual revelation is primary" invites the problem of "anything goes" but I just like that problem better.

Though to complicate things, it seems to me that in some churches who would say that scripture is primary, "anything goes" still seems to be acceptable. I remember hearing a sermon at a church I visited which consisted almost entirely of "God said this to me...and then he said this to me...". On the rare occasions where the Bible was quoted, it was used out of context to back up this "revelation". I agree with Ken, any personal revelation in my view should be weighed up against Scripture. But the question should be "is this revelation in accordance with scripture?" rather than "what verse can I find which backs up this revelation?"

There is of course also the thorny issue of interpretation of Scripture to complicate things further. Which I suppose might be one way of guarding against literalism.

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Alan Cresswell

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quote:
Originally posted by JimT:
you can't really have two items that are both "primary." The top of my list says revelation is primary and the top of the Wood list says that scripture is primary.

It does leave open the question of what you mean by "revelation" - for evangelicals the primary route for revelation is from Scripture through personal and group study, expository preaching, a host of books and songs, and sometimes even (shock horror!) traditional formulations of Christian faith such as creeds and liturgy. Such revelation will, of necessity, include reason and experience and will be guided by tradition (though not all evangelicals are happy with the word). Do liberals really see revelation as something completely different? or just a different emphasis somewhere?

And, yes, I also agree with both sets of 4 points.

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fatprophet
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I know very many people who attend evangelical churches that are not fully evangelical in theology/morality.

(But then many people have liturgical preferences at odds with the theological baggage that is normally attached to such liturgy, including I note many "liberal" anglo-catholics)

I would define evo theology as including Welsh Dragon's list of charistics and particularly emphasise biblical literalism and the priority given to scripture above church radition/reason/experience)

I think you can enjoy the contemporary feel of evangelical worship/setting, their initial extrovert welcoming of visitors and having lots of evo friends as long as one does not discuss one's own theology too much. I am currently awaiting the day of execution when my local baptist church demands that I lay my theological cards on the table. It has not demanded it yet but has been making overtures that I should sign up for membership. However I will strive to hide my theological dishonesty for a bit longer for social reasons.

The evanjellyfish community is riddled with theological double agents like me (and maybe,like you Welsh Dragon?- apologies if I am mislabelling you). I was surprised to find many people who go to evangelical churches that have typically liberal theology or stances on issues like homosexuality that I accept are probably not compatible with a strictly literalist reading of scripture. Indeed I think the opponents of evangelicalism (inc the current media) would find that it was a far from solid constituency if it came to the popular vote of the laity.

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JimT

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quote:
Originally posted by Alan Cresswell:
Do liberals really see revelation as something completely different? or just a different emphasis somewhere?

I sort of pulled the word "revelation" out of the dim mist of memory. Liberals of several decades ago needed a positive word that describes how you can get real spiritual truth without a literal and inerrantist view of the scripture and many chose that word. I would say that it means what "liberal evangelicals" of today say: that is, you must bring scholarship, science, and human experience to bear in interpreting the scripture. An open and honest seeking of the truth will lead to a revelation of truth. Something like that.

May I ask for an evangelical volunteer to explain how "substitutionary atonement" avoids the picture of a bloodthirsty God whose fallen creatures were redeemed from deserving eternal punishment? I couldn't really get that from John Stott as I alluded to in an earlier post.

Also, without starting internecine wars on both sides of the pond I have heard it said here in the past that evangelical environments described by Welsh Dragon are more popular in Wales. Is this a misperception or stereotype? We have the same sort of thing with the Southern "Bible Belt" in the US.

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Merseymike
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I would see new revelation as helping to make sense of Scripture in the light of new knowledge and insight, Alan, and that without it, there is much of Scripture that is seriously problematic.
Hence , I would see liberals as giving a far higher plasce to reason and experience in theit interpretation of Scripture.

Liberal anglo-catholics ( I regard myself as one) give strong emphasis to Tradition too, particularlly with regard to worship and practice, which in a strange sort of way makes them the most liberal of all, in the sense of least reliant on Scripture alone.

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Christianity is not a problem to be solved, but a mystery to be experienced

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JimT

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# 142

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quote:
Originally posted by Merseymike:
Liberal anglo-catholics ( I regard myself as one) give strong emphasis to Tradition too, particularlly with regard to worship and practice, which in a strange sort of way makes them the most liberal of all, in the sense of least reliant on Scripture alone.

...or the least liberal in the sense of most rooted in the past as well as most supportive of ritual. Seriously Mike, with no disrespect you strike me as a gay conservative. You say many times that people would be surprised if they really knew how conservative you are (sacramental, monogamous, traditional). It seems that what you regard as your extremely liberal position on scripture is rooted in one thing: there are scriptures that clearly say homosexuality is wrong. Since you don't believe it is wrong, you take a strong position against scriptural literalism and define that as "extremely liberal." I could be wrong, but my perception of you is that subtracting out the gay issue, you are a very conservative anglo-catholic rather than an "extremely liberal" anglo-catholic. What are your other "liberal" positions?
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Merseymike
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That's really made me think!

Can I get back to you on it. I'm being serious, because I'm aware that some evangelicals view me as a wacky liberal, but thats not actually how I see myself, no.

Take away the gay issue ... I still don't think I'm a conservative in the evangelical sense, but I do worship in what would certainly be seen as a traditional church. Yes, I'm a conservative with regard to worship and ritual - definitely. It comes down to definition again. If we define 'evangelical' as 'biblically conservative' - I don't think I'm either one of those things. I take an inclusivist view of salvation , for example, and I'm with you on substitutionary atonement. I think I am socially liberal on most issues, although I'm not a stereotype ( as should be clear, I am right-of-centre on issues relating to the Third World)

Maybe you could fire a few issues at me on which you think I am not liberal, or where you don't know my views.

Good post - got me thinking!

[ 12. July 2003, 18:49: Message edited by: Merseymike ]

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Christianity is not a problem to be solved, but a mystery to be experienced

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Orb

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quote:
I do have to make one Purgatorial challenge: you can't really have two items that are both "primary." The top of my list says revelation is primary and the top of the Wood list says that scripture is primary.
Why not? Perhaps they are in constant conjunction - like faith and works, or free will and predestination, or bacon and eggs (well maybe not the last one, bacon can be very nice with cheese I find...)

Revelations and their imprint on disciples and followers of Christ ("and" obviously Yahweh) make up the Bible. The Bible helps us to have "revelations" by God's Spirit speaking to us through his Word (I mean "speak" in the vague, wishy-washy "oh, I see this is true" not the Southern Baptist "PRAISE THE LORD THAT THESE WORDS ARE TRUE!" kinda way). These "revelations" are not out of hand because, after all, they are words written down on a page. God may speak to us through other means - people, images, places, music etc. but this doesn't rule out either Scripture's primacy nor revelation's primacy.

Now AUTHORITY... that's a WHOLE different kettle of de fish... [Roll Eyes]

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“You cannot buy the revolution. You cannot make the revolution. You can only be the revolution. It is in your spirit, or it is nowhere.” Ursula K. Le Guin, The Dispossessed

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Kevin Iga
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# 4396

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quote:
Originally posted by Wood:
I think Kevin's nine criteria are way too specific.

While point 4 (emphasis on difference of life before and after conversion) is indeed emphasised by many evangelicals I know, points 8 (social conservatism) and 9 (obsession with eschatology), while certainly strong tendencies within evangelicalism are not really borne out by the evidence, at least in my own experience here in the UK. I think the problem is that Kevin is conflating the culture (with the social aspects, the sci-fi eschatology and the sentimentalisation of conversion) with the theology.
...
I still think that the four points I posted at the beginning of the thread for the umpteenth time (and which I got from Pete Ward, in The Post-Evangelical Debate, SPCK/Triangle 1997, p20) are the most useful definition.
...
quote:

  • A focus, both devotional and theological, on the person of Jesus Christ , especially his death on the Cross;
  • The identification of Scripture as the ultimate authority in matters of spirituality, doctrine and ethics;
  • An emphasis upon conversion or a "new birth" as a life-changing experience;
  • A concern for sharing the faith, especially through evangelism.


The points I listed were not strict criteria, as I mentioned above the list. They outlined a pattern. I, myself, as an evangelical, do not see conversion as a one-time event necessarily, though that's how it was with me. I am also politically liberal, especially on issues related to homelessness, education, immigration, human rights, etc. That just means I'm not at the epicenter of the evangelical phenomenon. But I am, at core, evangelical.

On the other hand, Wood's list (from Ward's list) applies to many people I would be hesitant to call "evangelical". Many traditional Protestant churches (or at least their conservative branches) are full of non-evangelicals who fit in Wood's list. For that matter, it's easy to find people in the reformation period who agree with those points.

About eschatology: I didn't say what eschatology. There's a wide range of different beliefs on the specifics of the end times among evangelicals. But I felt safe identifying the relevance of eschatology as characteristic of Evangelicals. Not the relevance of the details of eschatology, but the relevance of the fact that Christ will come again.

I didn't mention trinitarian belief, partly because that goes along with being Christian, but partly because although evangelicals tend to be trinitarian, this is not typically emphasized in evangelical circles. Grab a random evangelical off the street, and he can quote Bible verses about the need for salvation, but he'll be flustered if asked to define the doctrine of the trinity.

Incidentally, since people are sharing, I'll say why I consider myself evangelical at the core. I find that more and more as I read these forums. When, in an argument, someone uses a Bible verse to back up their point, I look it up, and see if I agree that the Bible (as a whole, not just the verse) supports that view. When, in another argument, someone argues based on the "tradition of the church", or what the governing church authority has authorized, or what seems reasonable in our general experience, I often think, "yes, but what does scripture have to say about it?"

I agree that salvation is multi-faceted, and there's probably no way I can truly wrap my mind around the whole thing as God sees it: it's hard enough wrapping my mind around any two given ways people see it. But I find my grounding in the Evangelical perspective of substitutionary atonement. And I do think there's something real about "being saved".

Like most evangelicals, I don't pay much attention to denominational boundaries when looking for a church; similarly, membership in a church, even with all the sacraments, is not what makes someone "saved". In particular, I don't resonate with a notion of "salvation applied to a community" beyond the tautological definition of the Church as the community of saved.


OK. I hope you're convinced now that I didn't just pick my points from the things I happen to believe, but rather to delineate a territory where Evangelicals can mostly be found in or near--like an ecologist who sketches out what s/he believes is the habitat for a certain species. To whatever extent I may have been conflating culture with theology, it may be because I think "evangelicalism" is at least somewhat descriptive of a culture, and not wholly descriptive of a theology.

So in response to the OP, you don't need to agree with ALL points to call yourself an evangelical (for that matter, call yourself an evangelical for all you want; as I mentioned in my previous post, the term "evangelical" is just a descriptive term helpful to people who interested in the study of religion). The term "evangelical" might be most descriptive of you, though, if the things you feel strongest about tend to put you in alignment with the list, or if the things that are not in alignment are derived from other concerns that make you fit in to that characterization.

For instance, I'm politically liberal, but I see that as derived from how I see God as revealed in scripture, and how I think we are commanded to act in the Bible. In this, I am to the left of my local church, its governing board, and the clergy. But they don't command my will; only my commitment. So my politically liberal position, in this case, because of its character, shows even more clearly that I am an evangelical.

Kevin

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Presbyterian /prez.bi.ti'.ri.en/ n. One who believes the governing authorities of the church should be called "presbyters".

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JimT

Ship'th Mythtic
# 142

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quote:
Originally posted by Rob - ID crisis InDiE KiD:
quote:
I do have to make one Purgatorial challenge: you can't really have two items that are both "primary." <snip>
Why not? Perhaps they are in constant conjunction - like faith and works, or free will and predestination, <snip>
Since this has generated a few posts, I'll expand just a little bit. Rob, you are essentially saying the same thing as ken: revelation comes through the scripture and the scripture reveals truth. Therefore, one is not "primary" over the other; both are essential.

But here is my point: when Wood says "scripture is primary," I hear that the scripture can overrule science, reason, and "gut feelings." The scripture is primary. Therefore, it can overrule what is secondary and tertiary. If you don't like it, you have to lump it.

If "primary" does not mean "overrule" I don't know why one would use the word. I truly believe that "revelation" overrules the literal words of the scripture. If science teaches me the utter implausibility of the ark story, it is instantly myth. The literal words of the scripture are "overruled" by the primacy of revelation in my world.

So my question back to evangelicals is, if "primary" does not mean "overrule" then what does it mean? A starting point, but not an ending point perhaps?

quote:
Originally posted by MerseyMike:
quote:
Maybe you could fire a few issues at me on which you think I am not liberal, or where you don't know my views.

MerseyMike, it is not so much specific issues that I see you aligning with conservatives on. It is the way you describe yourself. This is the description I hear: I am a traditionalist, a sacramentalist, and a liturgist. I follow the practices of the church, I follow the teachings of the church, I am honest, and I am compassionate. I am in fact a model anglo-catholic and have always been. In one and only one regard am I different from the supposed model: I am gay. Many gay people are exactly like heterosexuals. Exactly. Except for one thing: the sex of their partner. Were I closeted, I would be considered a model. In fact, the church has tacitly allowed closet homosexuality in its clerical ranks. But that is hypocrisy. I am conservative enough that I cannot tolerate hypocrisy and dishonesty. I am therefore determined to reform the church I love. At times, I want to throw in the towel but I love the church too much.

That to me is not a liberal line of thinking. It does not stretch in a new direction. It makes one, tiny change to the existing order and justifies it in terms of the existing order. Therefore, it is conservative reform rather than liberal reinterpretation, and there is nothing wrong with it in my opinion.

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Kevin Iga
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# 4396

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quote:
Originally posted by JimT:
May I ask for an evangelical volunteer to explain how "substitutionary atonement" avoids the picture of a bloodthirsty God whose fallen creatures were redeemed from deserving eternal punishment? I couldn't really get that from John Stott as I alluded to in an earlier post.

I'll bite. Here are three possible options (all, I believe, with long traditional roots, but I forget from where. They can be extracted from Romans though):

1. Justice stands as judge. God has been wronged. God can choose to forget, but this would violate God's justice. Instead, God comes down and becomes a man. As a man, he pays the price that Justice demands: His life. A variation on this theme: Satan accuses mankind in God's heavenly court. It would be injustice if God were to just let man off the hook. But God demands justice, then steps off His throne and pays the price Himself.
2. Sin has captured mankind and holds him in slavery. God comes and pays the asking price with His own life.
3. Not only that our death (that is, penalty for sin) becomes God's death, but that God's death and resurrection becomes our death and resurrection, through baptism. We then are free from the claims of death and sin on our life, since we have already died and live again.

Kevin

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JimT

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# 142

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quote:
Originally posted by Kevin Iga:
Here are three possible options (all, I believe, with long traditional roots, but I forget from where. They can be extracted from Romans though):

1. <snip> [God] pays the price that Justice demands: His life.
2. Sin has captured mankind and holds him in slavery. God comes and pays the asking price with His own life.
3. Not only that our death (that is, penalty for sin) becomes God's death, but that God's death and resurrection becomes our death and resurrection, through baptism.

Kevin, I thank you for taking a crack at this, but I have to say it doesn't do it for me. Item one is rooted in the penalty for sin (any sin) being death. That is not rational to me. You've ducked the implied bloodthirstiness by saying it is "justice" that demands death and not God. Where is the justice in killing someone for being too selfish, especially if they grew up poor? As to item two, if one is being held as a slave, how is the death penalty appropriate for freeing the slave? I don't understand this at all.

Item three again echoes back to the assumption that the death penalty is appropriate for every sin. In addition, it inserts substitionary atonement into baptism in a way that appears unnecessary to me. You can die and be reborn regardless of whether God or anyone else dies.

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Orb

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quote:
That is not rational to me.
Because everything HAS to be rational in OUR eyes. Has anyone ever explained the Trinity properly? Do we know what the death and resurrection mean? Yes - we do, but only broadly and through interpretation by men (could it have been any other way? Yes, they were inspired by the Spirit of God, but that doesn't make anyone super-human and unable to make mistakes in their writing, ethics or reaction to cultural norms). What I think you're asking for, Jim, is for all mystery to be taken away from God and placed in our hands, because we obviously handle the truth BRILLIANTLY, don't we? Not that we can't, we just usually don't...

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daisymay

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Another try:

But I do have problems with the idea of a bloodthirsty God - the Morrigan, goddess of life and death, healing and wisdom; she gobbles you up and then gives birth to you. [Eek!]

What if substitutionary atonement works like this - Adam and Eve choose to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and so are banned from the tree of life, therefore go into death.

God is upset and wants them to live. God decides to take on the responsibility for them, after all God created them, gave them free choice and so it is God's responsibility. God becomes one of them. God dies in their place and resurrects in their place and carries them with God so that they go through death and resurrection together.

It's not just for "sins" but for "sin" also.

Given that God tried to make sure the Israelites did not sacrifice their children by giving them laws to "redeem" them at birth, I don't think God enjoys human sacrifice.

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JimT

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quote:
Originally posted by Rob - ID crisis InDiE KiD:
quote:
That is not rational to me.
Because everything HAS to be rational in OUR eyes. <snip> What I think you're asking for, Jim, is for all mystery to be taken away from God and placed in our hands, because we obviously handle the truth BRILLIANTLY, don't we? Not that we can't, we just usually don't...
You're damn straight everything has to be rational. It has to make some kind of sense. We are rational creatures and we DO handle it BRILLIANTLY. We were not born for irrationality. It's been a few months since I've asked CONSERVATIVES to COOL IT with the captial letters. Unless of course they REALLY WANT to piss me off. I had conservative rhetoric shouted at me enough for several lifetimes.

I am not saying that Love has to be explained to me with a mathematical and chemical equation. The ultimate source and reason for it are unknown. But "substitutionary atonement" has to be described to me in terms I can understand. And I don't believe in the Trinity (I am a Unitarian) exactly because no one can explain it to my satisfaction. It makes no sense to me.

Rob, for every religious conservative who scoffs at rationalists who need solid reasons for everything there is a rationalist who can scoff at people who believe things that they don't understand. I've seen those people crumble when a real test comes along. At 48 years old, I've heard plenty of empty speeches about "just accepting mysteries." There are plenty of mysteries in my life and I enjoy the wonder of them. "Substitutionary atonement" isn't one of them.

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fatprophet
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I amazingly began to understand (though not necessarily adopt!) substitutionary atonement theory when I looked closely at the cultic religious practices of other ancient (including pagan) religions:

For every tribe everywhere paleo-anthropologists suggest, sacrifice universally garners the divine favour,and at its crudest it is giving the gods some gift, usually by burning in a sacred fire, to demonstrate the sacrificer's dedication, honour and submission to the gods.
If the gods are angry with me then it is becuase he has been dishonoured by my actions. Said god cannot let us get away with that and as a blot on the cosmos we need to be expiated i.e terminated (e.g. by thunderbolt)
However the gods can be propitiated by an appropriate sacrifice where the sacrifice is of such value that the gods' moral government and divine status is starkly reaffirmed by the sacrificers. Lots of ancient cultures(notably in the ancient greek world) had tales of people being sacrificed to propitiate gods (as well as sea monsters) usually on behalf of whole cities or communities.
Christianity includes a modified version of this idea so deeply imbedded in ancient paganism that gods need propitiating so that divine favour and blessing may be restored.
Don't understand the bible? Can't be an evangelical? You really need to get into the mindset of a bronze age nomad.

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quote:
Originally posted by JimT We are rational creatures and we DO handle it BRILLIANTLY.
I don't have any idea where you got this idea from, but it is patently false. Have you SEEN the world?!

I don't consider myself to be particularly theologically conservative by the way. But call me what you want.

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GeordieDownSouth
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quote:
Originally posted by Rob - ID crisis InDiE KiD:
quote:
Originally posted by JimT We are rational creatures and we DO handle it BRILLIANTLY.
I don't have any idea where you got this idea from, but it is patently false. Have you SEEN the world?!

<snip>

Yep. There's a lot of hope in it.

How would the question "How liberal Can you Be and still be called an evangelical by other evangelicals" be answered?

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JimT

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quote:
Originally posted by fatprophet:
Don't understand the bible? Can't be an evangelical? You really need to get into the mindset of a bronze age nomad.

See, this post makes perfect sense to me. It is exactly the way I interpret substitutionary atonement. Fatprophet's exegesis is exactly the kind that I can follow. It is very much like Spong's explanation for the development of the resurrection story. It is very much "liberal" reinterpretation of a fundamental of Christianity. I can easily take the next step of saying, "Christ, his contemporary followers, and his subsequent followers all realized that this primitive notion of forgiveness needed to be dispensed with and that confession and forgiveness needed to proceed at the speed of thought. The reason is that sin is rooted in thought and not action, therefore it arises at the speed of thought and must be dealt with on the same basis. Therefore the Apostle Paul says, 'if we confess our sins to God he is faithful to forgive them.'"

What a huge and positive shift in paradigm! I then have to say however, that the "substitutionary atonement" doctrine arose as a way of explaining to first century Jews why animal sacrifice is no longer required. I would not present it to 21st century people as a primary tenet of faith. Rather, I would say it is essential to follow your heart and examine it if something tells you that you've done wrong. If so, you must get to the very root of it, by yourself or with the assistance of a priest, friend, or psychologist so that you fully "confess" or understand it. It will then be natural to make amends and then remake yourself into a person who no longer needs or desires to do that thing. Having been through full and complete confession, contrition, and penance there is no more need for guilt or shame but rather gratitude for having been prompted into the process and guided through it to a liberating conclusion.

I could say that Christ provided the basis for substitutionary atonement to early Christians from a Jewish background. But my liberal description to people today is that Christian theology transcended "atonement" and presaged modern psychoanalytic theory, where thought is to be mastered more than actions and responsibility replaces shame as a means to spiritual growth. In dispensing with the old language and old paradigm after having understood its roots, I take the path of the "liberal." Insisting on the old language and then despairing of people's lack of interest and difficulty in understanding how it applies to them is the path of the "conservative" and the "evangelical." And responding to their protests with "you're not supposed to understand it; it is a mystery of faith; let go of the god of reason" is the path of a sickin' sackin' frickin' ackin' consarn gull-dern @#$@!

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Spong

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I want to shift back a bit from SA theory to the definition of liberal, because I'm not sure Jim's points sum it up for me - I don't really disagree with any of them, but I don't think they are the sine qua non of liberalism.

To come up with four, I think I'd say:

1. Liberals believe that the Bible contains the Word of God, but not that it IS the Word of God - God speaks to us through the Bible, but not everything in the Bible is God-breathed. So they apply historical and critical approaches to the Bible when considering it as a historical document, but may use other approaches (e.g. narrative ones) when considering it as a faith document.

2. Liberals raise personal experience and judgment to a higher level than evangelicals, and may allow it to overrule specific areas of scripture if it seems out of line with the overall story of God: eg Jim's rejection of SA because the view it gives of a bloodthirsty God is not the one that he (or I, or most people here) experience. As another example, I simply believe that Paul is wrong when he says that a man praying with something on his head is disgraceful and a woman praying without something on her head is disgraceful (1 Cor 11:4,5), because a petty-minded and legalistic approach is not the God I see in the teachings of Jesus.

3. There is a tendency to downplay the personal, and emphasise the pantheistic or panentheistic in a definition of who or what God is. That in turn tends to lead to a hermeneutic of suspicion when looking at the miraculous.

4. Other people may have equally valid but different faiths, either different versions of Christian belief or different versions of faith altogether, many (though not necessarily all) of which are equally valid as ways to know God.

I've tried before, and will probably fail again, to say that for me there is a realm to the OTHER side of liberal from evangelical, which is 'radical'. Those, ISTM, are the ones which Wood is talking about - the ones who more or less discount 4 above, see little relevance in 1 other than a set of stories to be used as allegories, and are really full-blown pantheists with a lite-Christian frosting... That's where I'd put the Sea of Faith approach.

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Orb

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I think the Sea of Faith lot are a cross between liberal and radical myself. And on your continuum, that would make them evangelical Spong!

Hmmm... [Confused]

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Merseymike
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Spong ; yes, I could and do go along with all of those, and thats why I think of myself as liberal.
But I don't find that any of them clash with being anglo-catholic.

3 particularly appealed - I so often find that one's language about God is very different, and its the 'personal relationship' language I find most dificult to handle, since it just isn't how I experience or understand God

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Spong

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quote:
Originally posted by Rob - ID crisis InDiE KiD:
I think the Sea of Faith lot are a cross between liberal and radical myself. And on your continuum, that would make them evangelical Spong!

Er, no.. I think I made that mistake last time, but I can't see that I did this time! I said radical is on the OTHER side of liberal from evangelical. So it goes evangelical - liberal - radical.

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The needs of our neighbours are the needs of the whole human family. Let's respond just as we do when our immediate family is in need or trouble. Rowan Williams

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ptarmigan
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quote:
Originally posted by Spong:
...
3. There is a tendency to downplay the personal, and emphasise the pantheistic or panentheistic in a definition of who or what God is.
...

I think there is a world of difference between pantheism which is totally at odds with the religious beliefs of almost every bible writer, and panentheism (God indwelling all) which is surely compulsory for a bible believing Christian, though sometimes downplayed by evangelicals.

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gbuchanan
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Well, if I were to describe myself using the general labels of churchmanship, I'd have to describe myself as both liberal and evangelical.

However, I have problems with using either.

Firstly, with 'Liberal', most Evangelicals use it as a 'Black Spot' of disbelief, and some who frankly are secular liberals who borrow from Christianity call themselves "Liberal Christians", which is false on at least the latter term. I see a number of (self-appointed) liberal "Figureheads" (e.g. Cupitt and, to some extent, Spong) who are pretty much outside the Church theologically yet for their own, apparently self-serving, purposes remain within it socially. Personally, I'd see the Iona Community and individuals such as (say) Habgood and Harries as more properly liberal and Christian, and they are generally use "liberal" theology as a tool than as a war-cry of any form.

As a political Liberal (i.e. I'm a member of the Liberal Democrats in the UK), the headline grabbing theological liberals are closer to the agenda of anarchistic libertarians of politics than to anything genuinely Liberal - it takes egocentricity to beyond any coherent or viable position.

Contrarily, Evangelicals have their own hardliners, who often are literalistic, conformist and doctrinaire. Sadly, many of my Christian friends (the majority of those friends being Evangelical) are tainted by the colour of that extremism, as the tribalism of Evangelical church culture is much stronger - are you "on side"? do you tow the line? are you sure that you are not "slipping"? Are you the right sort of evangelical? It reminds me, rather sadly, of the sectarian mind-games of N.Ireland. Condemning any single attitude of a key Evangelical figure is like criticising Ian Paisley - are you really going over to "the other side"? Will you sign the DB?

As someone raised in a very low-church, personal-convicition Protestant Evangelicalism, such extreme demands for conformity are more in keeping with the negative stereotypes of Roman Catholicism than anything genuinely Protestant. Anyhow, it seems to me that this attitude could more readily, in the political sphere, be equated with Stalinism, where being seen to step off the line is tantamount to treason.

Personally, I don't see anything in either picture which is really compatible with Christianity as I understand it - each places its own idol before God, and between Him and His people and neither really well reflects the person of Jesus.

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Merseymike
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I would be seriously worried if Cupitt and Spong are viewed as typical of liberal Christianity. Though I liked Spong's demolition of fundamentalism and the bible, I would have thought both were mavericks and not representative of liberals.

[ 15. July 2003, 00:17: Message edited by: Merseymike ]

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gbuchanan
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quote:
Originally posted by Merseymike:
I would be seriously worried if Cupitt and Spong are viewed as typical of liberal Christianity. Though I liked Spong's demolition of fundamentalism and the bible, I would have thought both were mavericks and not representative of liberals.

...I'd agree - however, the basic truth is that those who criticise Liberalism tend to use such folks as a definition of what Liberals are.

Similarly, the views of the former Bishop of Durham (David Jenkins) are usually posted in their most simplified and posterised form to suit such purposes. "Liberal" as a theological label seems grossly detached from the reality I'd use it in, and actually more like the product of a need for some bogeymen for conservatives to use as Aunt Sallies than anything to do with reality.

However, I doubt I can change that tide of misconception... [Roll Eyes]

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Merseymike
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Whereas David Jenkins is much more reflective of liberal Anglicanism, in my view.

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gbuchanan
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Sure.

Your new avatar is - erm - interesting! Is that a Liberal tomato?

Even DJ's view has been polarised & simplified in its representation in the media and by his critics. To be honest, though, he is himself somewhat of an "extremist" in terms of CoE Liberalism - compared to (say) Harries, he is a veritable firebrand.

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daisymay

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quote:
Originally posted by GeordieDownSouth:
Can I test the waters here please?

Would the view that God saves people not just for there own sakes but for the sake of the world be considered evangelical or not?

Or to put it another way, God chose Israel to bless all the nations on the earth. When someone becomes a Christian that calling still applies, and not just through more "conversions." They start to live in a more Godly way which benefits those around them.

I think that might be both liberal and evangelical, but coming from differing angles.

Liberals might look on "being a christian" as very much living at the moment, in this world, now. So obviously affecting the world. And if they were universalists, they would expect everyone to be saved, not just christians, so they would expect God to affect the world positively through various faith groups and those who didn't believe anything in particular, but had morals and ethics that worked for the good of humanity.

Evangelicals might major on "the New Israel" as coming specifically from biblical teaching. They might say that God called Israel into being to spread good news and morality and knowledge of God, and to produce the Saviour of the world. And then also the above, but those who were regenerate would be totally aligned with God's will and so more effective.

These are my ideas, as I haven't heard much discussion about this.

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Orb

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quote:
Originally posted by Spong:
quote:
Originally posted by Rob - ID crisis InDiE KiD:
I think the Sea of Faith lot are a cross between liberal and radical myself. And on your continuum, that would make them evangelical Spong!

Er, no.. I think I made that mistake last time, but I can't see that I did this time! I said radical is on the OTHER side of liberal from evangelical. So it goes evangelical - liberal - radical.
I think it goes: liberal (sometimes radical)- evangelical (usually not, but sometimes radical).

Why is radical a separate group?

Can't we scrap the groups altogether? Wouldn't THAT be radical?! [Wink]

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Kevin Iga
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I think it's more like a landscape, myself, with different kinds of terrain in different areas. There is an area of "evangelical" terrain, with perhaps a vaguely-defined epicenter, a "liberal" terrain (I actually think there are several unrelated kinds of "liberals", ranging from scientific modernists to myth-loving postmodernists to gay rights activists and more), a terrain of people who think of their Christianity in terms of nationality, a terrain of "traditionalists" (by which I mean explicitly see their historic tradition, including in form of worship, to be crucial) and so on.

I'm not sure what people mean by "radical". I take it you don't mean the radical reformation, leading to the Anabaptists, do you? They, of course, belong on the map, though overlapping considerably with the evangelicals.

These all overlap each other in various ways, actually.

Kevin

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JimT

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I'm in much better humor about this thread now.

First, Kevin, can you not see that Spong is using "radical" to mean "extremist?" But he has restricted it to liberal extremists, which allows him to be a centrist. Look again:

evangelical -- liberal -- radical

[Killing me]

Excellent way to define yourself into the middle, Spong!

And Rob, you have finally arrived! One label for all, reflecting our shared human values, all trying the very best we can to be the best we can under the difficult condition of being human. Let's see...what kind of "ist" or "ism" would link us together as humans? It's on the tip of my tongue...this is going to bug me. Let me get back to you, OK?

[Angel]

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Orb

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quote:
Originally posted by JimT:
And Rob, you have finally arrived! One label for all, reflecting our shared human values, all trying the very best we can to be the best we can under the difficult condition of being human. Let's see...what kind of "ist" or "ism" would link us together as humans? It's on the tip of my tongue...this is going to bug me. Let me get back to you, OK?

Ok. I don't think it's humanism. I think that's intrinsically an ugly term because it deflects attention from God onto humans.

This is what keeps me from being a liberal and keeps me being an evangelical. In fact, it's probably the only thing - an attempt to respect God more than individual human readings of God (including my own). I think evangelicalism has the potential to be far more inclusive than liberalism. Only it has sadly never lived up to that potential.

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“You cannot buy the revolution. You cannot make the revolution. You can only be the revolution. It is in your spirit, or it is nowhere.” Ursula K. Le Guin, The Dispossessed

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Anselm
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# 4499

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You can define a set of points two ways
One can define a set by overlaying a shape over the range of 'dots' and then seeing which points fall within the square. You define the set by the boundaries.
Another way is to examine the 'vectors' of the points, where are they heading? You define this set by the centre.

Although the intial question of this thread was stated in terms of boundaries, I wonder if it might be more helpful to consider the issue from the perspective of direction?

From this perspective I would say that an evangelical is defined by a focus on... scripture [tempted to say 'Jesus', just to raise a few hackles and fulfil a few sterotypes [Wink] ] as the source of understanding God and what it means to be a follower of Jesus.
A liberal christian's trajectory of belief is heavily influenced by what is 'reasonable' to the culture (as with F. Schleiermarcher - the Father of liberalism). The scriptures

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Anselm
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# 4499

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Good Lord!
There has been some sort of flood and my entire post has been washed away as I submitted it [Mad] . Too late to retype it in now, will have to wait till tomorrow.
And it was so well worded, rebuted the opposition flawlessly, compellingly stated an arguement... [Big Grin]

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Anselm
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# 4499

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Ah [Embarrassed] yes well [Embarrassed] . It appears that my post is here after all. [Embarrassed]
Hmm, yes definitely time for bed!
sorry for messing up this thread with so many posts! A triple post!! [Embarrassed]

you do understand that I was joking in my last post don't you?

[Embarrassed] [Embarrassed] [Embarrassed] [Embarrassed]

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Orb

Eye eye Cap'n!
# 3256

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Do you think if I use THIS [Embarrassed] smilie one more time it will break, Anselm? [Big Grin]

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“You cannot buy the revolution. You cannot make the revolution. You can only be the revolution. It is in your spirit, or it is nowhere.” Ursula K. Le Guin, The Dispossessed

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Anselm
Shipmate
# 4499

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Yes.
I tried one more time and was told that the limit was 8. [Smile]

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carpe diem domini
...seize the day to play dominoes?

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perceval
Shipmate
# 4742

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It's been intriguing to read this discussion, because I had no real idea that there was such a range of opinions in Evangelicalism. Do you feel that media reporting gives both Evangelicals and Liberals a bad name? Because in the British press, evangelicals are portrayed as the nutters (Guardian) or vigilantes (Daily Telegraph) that prevented the ordination of Jeffrey John, but there's no space for the shades of grey I've seen on this thread.

percival

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Always look on the bright side of life.
***
It blogs
here

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ken
Ship's Roundhead
# 2460

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quote:
Originally posted by Merseymike:
I would be seriously worried if Cupitt and Spong are viewed as typical of liberal Christianity. Though I liked Spong's demolition of fundamentalism and the bible, I would have thought both were mavericks and not representative of liberals.

They are, I assure you, the first two names that spring to mind when evangelical Anglicans try to think of well-known liberal Anglicans.

Maybe we'll promise not to mention them again if you promise not to mention Reform again - who, AFAIK represent even fewer Anglican clergy than See of Faith do.

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Ken

L’amor che move il sole e l’altre stelle.

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Alan Cresswell

Mad Scientist 先生
# 31

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quote:
Originally posted by perceval:
Do you feel that media reporting gives both Evangelicals and Liberals a bad name? Because in the British press, evangelicals are portrayed as the nutters (Guardian) or vigilantes (Daily Telegraph) that prevented the ordination of Jeffrey John, but there's no space for the shades of grey I've seen on this thread.

It's not just the media. We sometimes do it to ourselves. And I don't just mean the tendancy of evangelicals to equate liberal with Spong and Sea of Faith, or liberals to equate evangelical with Falwell and Reform. Its the tendancy of the vast majority of evangelicals to keep quiet and not speak out when the more extreme end of the evangelical spectrum go and make idiots of themselves (and us in the process). No doubt there's a similar tendancy among liberals to not publically counteract the effect of their own extremists.

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Don't cling to a mistake just because you spent a lot of time making it.

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Spong

Ship's coffee grinder
# 1518

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JimT is right, I have, of course, positioned myself neatly in the middle of the spectrum I set out - don't we all... [Wink] ?

I'm happy with my namesake Spong as a liberal, if you look behind the headlines of what he says he's actually a bit more orthodox than he appears. Certainly more nuanced. I DO see people like Cupitt, Hick, the whole Death of God school, as a different type of 'terrain' - I like Kevin's analogy, very useful. Those were the ones I was trying to label as radical, though yes of course there are all sorts of radical movements at different times.

The distinction I was trying to get at is that liberals seem to me to still 'stand on the shoulders of giants' that have gone before, whereas radicals say 'sod that for a game of soldiers' and cut them off at the knees.....

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Spong

The needs of our neighbours are the needs of the whole human family. Let's respond just as we do when our immediate family is in need or trouble. Rowan Williams

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