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January 25, 2008


Bob Almond

I loved the footnote referring to the EA and Steve Chalke's contribution to the 'atonement' debate: 'It is striking that this long-standing theological debate apparently only registered with EAUK as a result of a gost-written populist book by a self-confessed non-academic personality preacher' Not a trace of bitterness there, then. But it is a compelling read, and a chilling analysis. I can't see, however, that Rob's analysis - of a split between the two 'axes', with the undecided 'open' evangelicals going with one group or the other, is a likely outcome, given our past history. Surely it is at least as likely that a further centrist strand will develop its own identity?

Jim Gordon

I suppose Bob, the question is who decides where the parameters are that enable us to talk of two extreme axes and a centrist position. The current situation with Wycliffe and Elaine Storkey seems to be a collision between open evangelcilism and conservative evangelicalism - and in June a court will hear the case for each to decide if they are so different that they constitute two different 'faiths', and thus come under the Religious Discimination legislation.

All of which raises the question not only of definition, but of who has the authority to endorse, disqualify, confirm or reject. So from a position of opting in on the basis of agreed principles generously understood, we move to a situation where one group wishes to disenfranchise another by defining them out. It is as if the term evnagelical was a marketing logo that is being disputed and contested by interested parties. I deeply hope that British evangelicalism can again reinvent itself around such classic historic, theological and experiential expressions of faith as Bebbington's quadrilateral, and that we do so as people whose ways of relating to other Christians is Christ-centred, humbly open and with the generous welcome of the Gospel.

Warner's diagnosis and prognosis do not bode well for our future - and that may be because those of us who claim to be a Gospel people, have failed to live out the core values of the Gospel from which Evangelicalism draws its vitality - a gospel of reconciling service, of self-giving love and of fellowship in Jesus Christ crucified, risen and present amongst us by the Spirit. For some reason, we Evangelicals are often more interested in clarifying doctrinal positions over against each other, and over parts of Scripture where meanings are debated. We are not so good at living obediently udner those parts of scripture that are unambiguous. Strict doctrinal agreement and power games of control,too often take precedence over faithful living under the rule of Christ, as a Gospel people who witness to the reality of a God who, thankfully, will always escape our exercises in reduction, and render our tidies most theologically sound statements of faith, provisional.

Bob Almond

Couldn't agree more, Jim. That's a fine and perceptive analysis, and encapsulates much of what I've been trying to say in my own blog (http://revbobuk.blogspot.com) over the last couple of weeks. I guess that the real hope for a better outcome than the one Warner suggests from his sociological perspective comes from our trust in the overarching purposes of God, who through the Spirit is genuinely and actively engaged with our history. While it's important to look our past honestly in the face, as Warner does, and important not to get into the whole 'vision inflation' that he so accurately documents, it is noticeable that God is largely missing from the book!

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