Emerging from the evangelical chrysalis

Two of my favourite book titles are The Christian Agnostic and The Orthodox Heretic. Both express a paradoxical condition: believing while being radically uncertain; holding long-established beliefs while being radically unorthodox. As the father of the epileptic boy said to Jesus, ‘I believe; help my unbelief’, or as U2 put it, ‘Yes I believe it / but I still haven’t found what I’m looking for’.

Let me reassure (or disappoint) anyone concerned – I’m not losing my Christian faith. In fact, I’d say that my faith in Christ and love for God were stronger and deeper now than they’ve ever been. But I feel that I’m emerging, slowly and cautiously, from the confining chrysalis of many years of evangelical doctrine, literalism and legalism (‘oughtism’), into the fresh air, light and freedom of a new way of being Christian. It’s a way that owes much to the contemplative and mystical streams of Christianity.

Small tortoiseshell butterfly

Chrysalises are not the only life-stage

Chrysalises are good and necessary, but are only meant for a time – they are just a stage in the full life cycle. However, growth and even metamorphosis does not have to mean turning your back on the past, rejecting what nurtured you. I’m not cutting off my evangelical roots; I’m quite happily remaining within the charismatic-evangelical Anglican church I’ve been part of for 17 years. Nor am I turning theologically ultra-liberal, jettisoning belief in God or miracles, the uniqueness and divinity of Christ or the reality of the resurrection. (Have a look at my sketchy Creed to see my current beliefs and doubts.)

Rather I would say I’m simply becoming more open in my beliefs and in my ways of believing; less hung up on right answers, sound doctrines and ‘correct’ ways of interpreting the Bible; more open to insights from other traditions and even other faiths; more open and honest about the flaws and inconsistencies in my own tradition, and about my own real doubts and struggles. I’m becoming less wedded to certainty and more open to mystery. I’m giving up my obsession with facts, proofs and systems of theology in favour of divine paradox, which I increasingly see as one of the creative cores of living Christian faith.

I’m even open to the possibility that Christ may be present and active incognito in and through other faiths than my own. I think my overriding sense is simply that God is greater, bigger and more than I’ve yet understood him – and than I will ever be able to understand.

Happy to be a heretic

So for now I’m happy to be agnostic and even heretical about parts of my faith. Agnostic merely means not knowing, and who but God can claim – or need – to know everything? ‘Heretic’ itself comes originally from a Greek word merely meaning ‘to choose’ or ‘to take’; and even the most orthodox of us cannot claim to be free from heresy. Pete Rollins (author of The Orthodox Heretic) suggests that true orthodoxy is not so much about believing the right things, as believing in the right way – the way of love; the way of Christ.

Meanwhile it looks like all the best titles have been used so for now my own (as yet imaginary) book will be called The Evangelical Liberal. After all, ‘liber’ refers to freedom, and ‘evangel’ to the good news of Christ, and I can’t find much fault with either of those.

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About TheEvangelicalLiberal

Aka Harvey Edser. I'm a web editor, worship leader, wannabe writer, very amateur composer and highly unqualified armchair theologian. My heroes include C.S. Lewis and Homer Simpson.
This entry was posted in Emerging, Stages of faith, The faith journey and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Emerging from the evangelical chrysalis

  1. johnm55 says:

    I like this idea Harvey. I think that it can and will go a long way, and I am with you on the journey. Aslong as I am not expected to sign up to the creed.
    A couple of blogs you might want to add to your blogroll The Slacktivist and Maggie Dawn

    Like

  2. Robin Parry says:

    Have you read “Chrysalis” by Alan Jamieson?

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    • harveyedser says:

      Thanks – no, I hadn’t come across ‘Chrysalis’ before but will definitely try and get a copy now. It looks very interesting.

      I think whenever you start a project like this you (well, I) always end up finding that you’re re-inventing the wheel – but that’s probably no bad thing. I’m very glad that other people are walking the same path!

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  3. Pingback: The life cycle of faith – stages of spiritual development | The Evangelical Liberal

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