My faith journey

If we’re going to walk virtually together a few steps, it might help to know a little about how I got to where I am on my stumbling ramble (or rambling stumble) of faith.

So far it’s been a journey of two parts – the circuitous peregrinations via which I came to a Christian conversion at the age of 20, and then the second stage of journeying out of a more fundamentalist faith to the point I’m at now, writing this blog.

The first stage is probably a more interesting tale, starting with an ecumenical high-church upbringing and moving through late teenage brushes with drugs, the occult and mental health issues to conversion. However, it’s not so directly relevant to the subject of this blog so I’ll come back to it another time. (You can read a bit about it in my Theism post under the heading ‘Where I’m coming from‘.)

New-found faith and early difficulties

Post-conversion, I joined a thriving, vibrant and welcoming charismatic-evangelical C of E church plant which met in a small school gym. I was tremendously excited by the activity of the Holy Spirit in words of knowledge, prophecy and healings, and by the presence of God I often felt during the times of both exuberant and intimate worship. I went on an Alpha Course; started avidly reading Christian books by Ronald Dunn, John White, C.S. Lewis etc; joined the church’s worship band and soon started leading worship.

I should however mention that I was still finding some of the adjustments to the new lifestyle quite hard, and was still smoking, getting drunk and watching the odd dodgy film with mates. I was also still in a slow process of recovery from some mental health difficulties, so things weren’t entirely straightforward or easy.

And even at this early and highly enthusiastic stage of faith, I was not convinced by standard evangelical theology. I was bothered by the obvious discrepancies in the gospel narratives (e.g. the calling of the first disciples in John compared to the synoptics), I couldn’t accept a literal view of the Genesis creation accounts, and I viewed hell as a state of separation from God’s presence rather than a place of eternal conscious torment.

Charismatic confusions

Later that year (1994), the ‘Toronto Blessing’ swept through the charismatic community and our church embraced it wholeheartedly, with all the attendant whoopings, barkings, fallings-over and uncontrolled laughter (though nothing very dramatic happened to me). I look back on that time with mixed feelings – I believe that I did experience the presence of God quite profoundly, but there were also many excesses and bizarre elements, and so many of the people who fell over and laughed ‘in the Spirit’ have since then lost their faith.

Then, through a church family whose son I was close friends with, I began to receive and be influenced by the ‘prosperity gospel’ literature and tapes of Kenneth Copeland and Hagin. When I found that most evangelicals viewed these preachers as false and heretical, I felt confused. And I was further shaken to find that others were deeply suspicious of the whole charismatic movement, which had been so important in my conversion and to my new understanding of faith. What on earth was the true Christianity among all these differing views? Was my version valid?

Evangelical certainties

At this point I think I was starting to crave a bit more doctrinal certainty and solid biblical teaching – moving into Peck’s Stage 2 in other words. I tried (and failed) to read Jim Packer, and regularly consulted Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology (a book I wouldn’t now give shelf-space to). I attended the conservative evangelical ‘Word Alive’ Bible week with speakers like Don Carson, Roy Clements (then a highly-acclaimed evangelical) and members of the Proclamation Trust. I found their uncompromising messages – including a terrifying one on hell by Clements – both inspiring and uncomfortable. They seemed so brilliant, so godly, so utterly certain. Yet I never felt completely at home with this kind of Christianity, which seemed to have little room for the creative, the beautiful, or indeed for the supernatural unless confined to the pages of the Bible or to certain prescribed spiritual practices. It seemed to me too austerely ascetic, too coldly cerebral; too limited and limiting.

Trying hard

Over the ensuing years I got married, graduated, experienced unemployment, undertook short-term mission in Mumbai, and went through various times of personal and emotional difficulty which challenged my faith and my perceptions of God and the Bible.

As a young married couple we set ourselves ridiculously high standards of prayer and worship times, and tried overly hard to live out Christian ideals of hospitality and service, but without proper boundaries to keep ourselves safe or prioritise our relationship. A suicidal anti-Christian college friend claimed hours and hours of my time; we bailed out an alcoholic ex-homeless friend in our desperation to lead him to Christ. We also came within a hairsbreadth of joining Wycliffe to do overseas Bible Translation work; our decision not to was perhaps one of the small turning points in our journeys.

Becoming a dad

Becoming a dad at the age of 29 led to a deep seismic shift in my faith. Up till that point, I’d never really felt that comfortable with ideas of God as Father, preferring just to address him as Lord. The process of learning to relate to my children, loving them totally and unconditionally despite at times being exasperated with them almost beyond measure, began to change my understanding of God and my relationship with him. It also began to affect my attitudes to certain doctrines – divine judgement, hell, penal substitution. I could no longer square the traditional evangelical take on these with my growing understanding of God as Father.

The erosion of certainty

Apart from this, I can’t say that any one thing led to me abandoning the earlier evangelical certainties or the charismatic exuberances over the years that followed. I read widely; I met others who were also journeying out of fundamentalism; I experienced depression and other difficulties which altered my perceptions; I gained valuable life experience and found that the world both outside and inside the church was far more complex and curious than I’d imagined. And I began to feel increasingly distant from an evangelicalism that only seemed able to focus on defending and promulgating its own beliefs in biblical inerrancy, divine sovereignty, penal substitution, hell, homosexual immorality and so on.

For a while I felt I had to take time out of church involvement while I worked out what I did believe and think. I didn’t stop going to church but I did largely disengage.

Paradigm shift

Along with fatherhood, I think one of the big turning points – or realising points – for me was about a year ago when a long-time work friend asked if we could have a chat about my Christian faith. I knew she had been hugely put off Christianity by well-meaning but insensitive hell-preaching evangelicals at university; that she had in her own way been seeking Christ for years but had felt evangelical Christianity to be an almost insurmountable barrier. Suddenly I found myself speaking what sounded to me like heresy. I told her I didn’t view everything in the Bible as God’s own Word. I didn’t believe in the evangelical vision of hell, and nor did I believe that non-Christians would all burn in it; in fact I was pretty sure that a lot of people who weren’t Christians would find themselves among the redeemed. I didn’t think that all other religions were completely wrong and mine was completely right.

I hadn’t pre-planned any of this, but suddenly it felt right to me. Scary; dangerous even; but an honest statement of my own beliefs which I hadn’t admitted previously even to myself. It felt liberating.

So here I am. I believe, and I doubt. I have faith, and I’m uncertain. I’m part orthodox, part heretical, sometimes both simultaneously about the same thing. I’ve not given up on my beliefs, but I feel the need to believe them in a whole new way. And at last I feel glad to be able to shake off the old dead chrysalises and move on out into new light and air, come what may.

Advertisements

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.

31 Responses to My faith journey

  1. Terry says:

    This is all very interesting, Harvey, because I always thought that once you’d ‘converted’, you were pretty sorted. I had no idea of all your ruminatons while we were at KCL – and the idea that one of your main turning points was a mere year ago.

    By the way, your hospitality is excellent, if Saturday’s impromptu meeting was anything to go by.

    Like

    • harveyedser says:

      Thanks Terry – and that’s with the dead pigeon, baked beans sandwiches and tour of the local dead people!

      Maybe you’re right – in some ways at King’s I did have a fairly settled and open-minded faith. I certainly enjoyed hanging around the Chaplaincy and being generally silly and creative. I think it was probably mainly after those days that I got more anxious, angry and mixed-up about it all.

      Also I suppose it’s partly a matter of perspective, and it’s quite likely that my own memories are a little faulty! And it’s hard to sum up 17 years in a blog post so I’ve edited and filtered and telescoped massively.

      I guess with last year’s mini-epiphany it wasn’t so much that my faith had suddenly and dramatically changed, as that I’d finally admitted to myself that it had been changing gradually over many years. Or maybe it was just that I finally had the courage to accept what I’d always really believed deep down anyway.

      Like

  2. Julian Staniforth says:

    Thank you for being so honest and open in what you’ve written here. Having been nurtured and shaped by the evangelical tradition, even before getting to Wallington, I can relate to some of the tensions you’ve highlighted with that tradition. I think a weakness in that tradition can be that there’s such a focus on conversion, that the ‘what next’ can be tricky. The reality is that we’re embarking on a journey in which we’re going to be changed and re-shaped and so it’s a continual, ongoing and at times difficult process for the reality is that often the ‘spirit is willing but the flesh is weak’. I recall those Toronto days as well, and have sometimes wondered what it all meant. Yet who knows what the Spirit may have been prompting, it may well be nudging in different directions……which you have been exploring……even if it’s taken this long……

    Certainly I remember as a new Christian as sense that going forwards was about gaining more knowledge, yet as time has gone on I think it’s more about being stripped back, layers peeled away, facing questions. The journey is not so much about answers as about trust……when all is stripped away……where do we put our trust.

    Have you ever come across Rublev’s Icon of the Holy Trinity? A beautiful image portraying the Trinity, that also speaks of hospitality, of invitation as if together the figures are pointing to a place for the viewer to be and participate. The early church fathers coined the word ‘perichoresis’ to try and express the mutual self-giving divine dance between them that is Love in to which we are drawn to participate as those who are beloved children of God and so find fullness of life. Worth sitting with if you’ve not come across before……

    Like

    • Harvey Edser says:

      Thanks Julian. I completely identify with all of this – the evangelical focus on (or obsession with) conversion and the idea that to grow as a Christian means gaining more and more head knowledge. I think there’s also a belief that if you have regular daily ‘quiet times’ and tell lots of people that they’re lost without Jesus (preferably using some formulaic approach such as the ‘four spiritual laws’), then you’re pretty much sorted as a Christian. (I realise this is a bit of an extreme caricature, but I think there’s some truth in it.)

      Jacqueline showed me Rublev’s Icon of the Holy Trinity last year and was also highly enthusiastic about it. I do really like the ideas that it encapsulates, and although at this point I don’t find painted iconography particularly helpful to me I’m very willing to try and engage with it! I think I find the idea of icons more helpful than the actual paintings.

      Like

  3. dsholland says:

    Hmm, I was a child of the 60’s so we share many common experiences though my upbringing was primarily unchurched (with the notable exception of my grandmother, my step-father’s mother).

    I was involved in a Fundamentalist church after my conversion in ’73 and had a real crisis of faith in ’79-80 after being divorced. I finally left that church in ’84 shortly after being remarried. Over the intervening years we attended several churches some more vital some less and my walk reflected those congregations, more or less.

    About two years ago work related pressure drove me to a more immediate relationship with my Lord (something about atheists and foxholes) and my wife and I began to attend a Fundamental church again. At first I was afraid I would be toxic to these believers. Nevertheless I began to attend a men’s breakfast and found a delightful group of intelligent and devout men who were not afraid to discuss the gnarly aspects of walking with Christ in this world. I guess there is no temptation not common to men.

    Let me share an experience I had many years ago when I went to hear a speaker who had been imprisoned several years in Romania for his faith. I don’t remember who he was but I never forgot what he said. I am paraphrasing but essentially it was that torture strips away all dogma, practice, pride and conceit. When you have lost everything else only faith remains unadulterated by our preconceptions. As the old poster used to read, “The truth shall set you free, but it puts you through the wringer first.”

    May God bless and keep you.

    David

    Like

    • harveyedser says:

      Thanks David – it’s good to hear your story. I’m very glad you found an intelligent and accepting, non-judgemental ‘fundamentalist’ church. I know such do exist and it’s encouraging to hear of them! May the Lord bless you too, as I’m sure he is doing and will continue to do.
      Harvey

      Like

  4. nickerrare says:

    I stumbled across your page. It darn near made my day. I can’t tell you how deeply many of your thoughts resonate with me. I, too, would classify myself as a recovering evangelical….maybe a recovering pseudo-fundamentalist….as I still believe in good news….i’m just trying to be free of the hardcore dogma that is so often wielded like a hammer by so-called evangelicals. I found your page as I have been working as this really lengthy Rob Bell piece (which I’m happy to share with you, but it’s uber long and didn’t want to post it here unless you want to have a look). My argument is simple…I just obfuscate things with the way I write.

    1) People will not all agree on Bell’s book, because we’re living in the wake of post-modernity. There are different understandings of what truth is and how to find/get/discover/receive it. As people argue about hell, they are arguing from different vantage points and aren’t going to reach ideological concord.
    2) This is ok. We’re justified by grace through faith…not by the clarity of our theology. Part of what we’re forgiven for is our pride in our “theology” and our “theology” itself.
    3) What gets lost in all this talk about hell (with people using Matthew 25 as a prooftext for the existence of it) are “the least of these.” (what I call the marginalized verses and people of Matthew 25). While we debate about what hell is GOING to be, the poor and the oppressed are living in a hell on earth waiting for the church to be obedient. (I’m a liberation theologian at heart, i guess)
    4)We must find a way to partner together to love a lost and broken world…our theological differences notwithstanding. Matthew 25 suggests that praxis rather than correct doctrine is called for. Whatever hell is, Matthew 25 suggests that those headed/living there, for whatever reason, did not love Jesus in the face of the other.

    I’ll send you the entire thing, but only if you want to have a look at it. In it, I affirm the same distinction you make between the word of God (Bible) and the Word of God (see John 1) and the necessity of the ongoing activity of the Holy Spirit to give the “scriptures” any “authority”. I gotta tell you, I thought I was the only one thinking these things…and feeling pretty isolated from the broader Body (and the more isolated I’ve felt, the more bitter I’ve become…which is no good). I’m very glad to have found a blog that is saying so much of what I’ve been wanting and trying to say…and just says it so much better. Let me know if you want to see my Bell piece. I’d love to hear somebody’s feedback on it, but 1) its really long and 2) I’m scared, to be honest, to really put my ideas out there (pathetic, I know). Anyway…wonderful page. Grace and peace be with you!
    Nick

    Like

    • Hi Nick, thank you so much for your comment! Firstly I want to reassure you that you really aren’t alone in thinking these things. I’d guess that there are thousands, perhaps even millions around the world who are walking a similar path out of a rigid and closed fundamentalism into more open, flexible, honest and non-judgemental forms of Christianity.

      I can’t recommend highly enough Alan Jamieson’s book Chrysalis, which deals with the painful ‘dark night of the soul’ experience of moving out of fundamentalism into an ultimately more liberating faith. I’d also recommend A New Kind of Christian or A Generous Orthodoxy by Brian McLaren. If nothing else, these books may at least reassure you that you aren’t on your own in rethinking your evangelical/fundamentalist beliefs.

      I’d be glad to read your Rob Bell piece, though as a very part-time blogger I can’t guarantee how quickly I’ll be able to read and respond to it! But what you’re saying sounds very interesting.

      I do find it odd when evangelicals use Matthew 25 as a proof-text for hell, as in other ways the story seems to undermine evangelical doctrine quite radically. Jesus appears to be saying that it doesn’t especially matter what doctrines you believe or even whether you see yourself as a Christian – what matters most is how you treat the poor, enslaved, imprisoned, sick, hurting, hungry, or anyone else in need. In other words, what matters is love.

      God bless you,
      Harvey

      PS I’ll email you direct so you’ve got my email address to send your Rob Bell piece to.

      Like

  5. Mr S says:

    Hi Mr E

    Interesting blog…

    I stumbled across this blog and have been scurrying around like a mouse digesting some of your thoughts. I see you’ve name-checked me and I thought it might be interesting for your readership to learn something of my journey.  I was the son of the fundamentalist family.

    I also need to say it was interesting to see how you recall what happened in the early 90s and it has helped me in my reflections upon that time.  Thank you for your honesty. 

    I was brought up in a strong evangelical  tradition, which I am grateful for as through it I learnt much of the biblical text.   By the end of the 90s, after spending time in a very intense and abusive evangelical environment, I would have called myself post-evangelical with liberal leanings.

    I never fully admitted to myself that I was a liberal as I found this stance was at odds with some key verses in the bible.  On the flip-side, I found it difficult to accept the strange discrepancies amongst the Evangelical Orthodoxy and the scriptures.

    However, I digress…

     I then went to a liturgical village CofE in mid 2000s and found some certainty and comfort within the liturgy and seasonal festivals, even though this tradition was alien to me as I grew up. 

     I recently left this CofE and am now going to a evangelical church which appears to emphasise a positive and realistic view of Christianity.  The sermons are theologically lite compared to most evangelical churches but heavy in practical application.  In all honesty, I have found it enthusing and refreshing. 

    On a personal faith level I am journeying towards the idea that Christianity is all about cultivating and maintaining a deeper and deeper relationship with God.  I am tending to see the semantics of biblical theology as a distraction (all  be it an enjoyable one) from the fundamentals of the Good News and BTW it is very good news…

    It would be good to catch up with you at some point…

    Mr S

    Like

    • Mr S, all I can say is how incredibly lovely it is to hear from you!!

      Thanks so much for your comment, and I promise I will reply a lot more fully just as soon as I possibly can!

      All the very best,
      H

      Like

    • Hi again Mr S, one thing I really want to say is that, while I might not now agree with a lot of your parents’ theology, they were (are) two of the kindest, warmest, most welcoming and generous people I’ve ever met and I think of them only with tremendous affection. And to me that’s far more important than whether or not their (or my) theology is right (and I’m pretty sure my theology isn’t right in all sorts of ways!).
      Bless you mate,
      H

      Like

      • Mr S says:

        I complete agree.  I do love them and I feel fortunate to know them.  (what a thing to say about your own parents-how uncool)

        Oddly enough,  even though they still hold fast to those beliefs, they are now involved heavily in their local Anglo-catholic church. There is even a picture of my Dad carrying the icon!

        I have come to believe that how the journey of faith/theology is worked out is as individual as fingerprints.  

        I believe God is a games player. He plays Hide and Seek with us. He sometimes plays Chess. Sometimes it feels like He plays Snakes and Ladders.  But fundamentally the reason God enjoys playing games is because for the game to continue, we need to respond. Once we respond, He will respond back and the game can advance.  Without a response, whether that be in doubt or in acceptance, the game is put on hold.  Or ends…

        I guess the key is, like Captain Ahab, never give up.  (I think the analogy works well up to a point)…

        It would be good to catch up. Is your email address in your blog/website?

        Mr S

        Like

  6. Eddie Jensen says:

    Hi Harvey,

    I stumbled across your blog and have been reading through bits and pieces when I discovered that you are in New Zealand! Me too, I live in Auckland. I would really like to talk to you about some spiritual/church things, I’m hoping you may be able to give me some advice or point me in the right direction with regards to healthy groups to get involved with. Can you email me so I can talk to you directly? Or not if that’s a little too much to ask 🙂

    Cheers,
    Eddie

    Like

    • Hi Eddie,
      Thanks for your comment, and I’d be very happy to chat on email. Only thing is, I’m afraid I actually live in the UK not NZ… sorry! I’m not sure where you saw that and I’m very sorry to disappoint you 😦

      I’m a huge fan of New Zealanders Mike Riddell (author of ‘Godzone’) and Alan Jamieson (author of ‘Chrysalis’) – I wonder if one of my blog posts about one of them gave the impression I was from NZ too?

      The Prodigal Kiwis blog might be a good place to find someone who can help you with healthy groups to get involved with…

      All the very best,
      Harvey

      Like

      • Eddie Jensen says:

        Hey Harvey,

        thank you for your reply. ok I must have got mixed up, easily done for me 🙂 thanks for the link, I’ll investigate. Have a great day and thanks again 🙂

        Like

  7. Tony Bellows says:

    Sorry to post here, but I couldn’t leave comments on the Narnia blog. Are you planning a follow up to your excellent analysis of Dawn Treader?

    Like

    • Thanks Tony, and please don’t worry about posting in the ‘wrong’ place! – it’s good to hear from you.

      Do you mean the analysis of Dawn Treader I posted here ?

      Thanks for asking – it’s a project I’ve been meaning to follow up for a while, but haven’t yet managed to find the time. I was thinking of maybe turning it into a separate blog (or blogs). I had no idea that anyone had read what I’d written, let alone liked it, but now I know there’s at least one then there’s more incentive to get moving with it again! I’ll let you know if/when I manage to put something new up. 🙂

      Thanks again,
      Harvey

      Like

  8. doncher says:

    Hi, I’m not one for commenting on blogs really, but I’ve been reading your blog for over a year now and felt it rude not to comment at least once. I know you say that your blog isn’t really for new Christians, and I can see why you say that. However, as a new Christian myself, I’d like to say that you’ve helped this new Christian very much.

    I’m 39 and have held a lot of prejudices and uncomfortable thoughts about Christians for many years (although I have some very wonderful friends who are Christians). About 2 years ago, I realised I couldn’t do life on my own and, sort of out of nowhere, stumbled messily into becoming a Christian myself.

    The last 2 years have probably been the most important of my life and, yet, I don’t share some of the beliefs held by other Christians in the church I go to, and, much as I’ve tried to reach a point of stability and certainty about doctrine, I seem to constantly find myself knocked off my perch, and, in terms of reading, the stuff that fills me with the most hope and joy is always the less evangelical, non-fundamentalist stuff – the more rigid, evangelical teachings always leave me wanting to run as fast as I can away from Christianity. I continue to struggle with the idea that everyone within the church is ‘saved’ and everyone outside of the church is ‘lost’ and needs converting.

    Anyway, finding your blog and Morgan Guyton’s blog have been so very, very helpful to me already, as I continue to stumble along this path of trying to adapt to a new life with Jesus at the centre. I can see from your blog entries that your own life of faith is far from straight-forward or easy, but thank you for being willing to share parts of it.

    Like

    • Hi, thanks very much for commenting!

      I’m really glad (and more than a little surprised) that as a new-ish Christian you’ve found this blog helpful. Thank you for saying so!

      I’m very much with you about the things that give you joy and hope being the less evangelical stuff. I really struggle with a lot of evangelical ideas, particularly those around who’s ‘saved’ and what happens to those who aren’t (and indeed what it means to be ‘saved’ in the first place). These days I strongly tend to the view that God will do his utmost to redeem all people, regardless of their belief system.

      I certainly don’t think that having faith in Christ makes life easy – but at the same time I wouldn’t now be without it. In fact I’m not sure I even *could* be without it – though I’m sometimes angry with God or simply don’t understand stuff, I find I can’t turn away. And I’m grateful for that.

      All the very best and do stay in touch!

      Harvey

      Like

      • Doncher says:

        Thanks for replying. It might sound a bit silly and naive, given that My faith is pretty new, but I can already agree with you that I couldn’t be without it. That’s the one thing I’ve been clear about, even though I already struggle with so much about Christianity. Whenever I have the feeling that I want to run in the opposite direction, I realise that I genuinely have nowhere to run to, and the only option is to somehow find a way forward… Thanks again.

        Like

  9. Hi EL. I enjoyed reading about your journey; in many ways it is similar to mine. I was raised a fundamentalist but left fundamentalism for Pentecostal evangelicalism in 1970. I did not succumb to either the Toronto movement or the prosperity movement.

    I now consider myself a theologically progressive evangelical (sounds a lot like evangelical liberal, doesn’t it). I am reading some of your previous posts and will follow you by RSS.

    Like

    • Yes, I think ‘theologically progressive evangelical’ would work for me too! Actually these days I’m not sure I’m really either evangelical or liberal, but something a little different which I don’t have a name for. Though it may just turn out to be Anglican! 😉

      Thanks very much for reading and contributing.

      Like

  10. Hi (again) Harvey,

    I’ve been on mostly your last post and a couple others… Had never read your “About” section. Fascinating story (along with the one on Xns and mental health, with some of your own story of struggles)… a couple fascinating overlaps with my life struck me, making good sense as to why I’ve appreciated your articles… the few I’ve read… a lot, and the stance you are taking.

    This wasn’t one of the “overlaps” or rough parallels, but I was a “Christian counselor/psychotherapist” for a good decade, late 70s to late 80s. That was one key input and source of experiences that predisposed me toward, several years later, shifting paradigms to a more “integral” one, much more progressive.

    The parallels were my being influenced and somewhat “opened” neurologically and psychologically via charismatic (mainly but not solely Vineyard-style) influences and worship. That was after my long, more rationalist non-charismatic upbringing and early adulthood.

    What especially struck me was this statement by you: “We also came within a hairsbreadth of joining Wycliffe to do overseas Bible Translation work; our decision not to was perhaps one of the small turning points in our journeys.” As newly married, I also came fairly close to the same decision, and my wife was willing, though I don’t think emotionally prepared… but I wasn’t really either, and not truly passionate about the linguistics part, so pulled back after attending a full summer of “Summer Inst. of Linguistics” at the Univ. of Washington, far from our SoCal home.

    On the mental health front, I’m glad it sounds like you’ve had some wise and helpful input. The way much of Christianity handles emotional and mental health struggles I feel is just atrocious… and I do see it largely as a direct outgrowth of worldview and theological paradigm issues (plus machismo, etc.). So I feel when I’m trying to prod the Christian world toward maturity and wisdom, I’m indirectly helping the mental health issues which are so widespread and deep in the US and probably similar in the UK and continental Europe, etc.

    Like

    • Hi Howard,
      That’s interesting (and oddly reassuring) to hear about the parallels and connections between our journeys. Also very interested that you were a ‘Christian counselor/psychotherapist’ – I’d love to hear more about that. Counselling is something I’ve long wondered whether I should train for – it’s certainly something I’m fascinated by, and I do quite often find myself unofficially counselling various people by accident!

      I’m very grateful for the wise input I’ve had on mental health issues over the last 20 years – I can’t imagine what might have happened to me without it. I’m also glad that these issues are becoming better understood and less stigmatised both in secular society and (to an extent) the church, but I think there’s still a long way to go.

      Re Wycliffe, I was quite interested in the linguistics aspects, but wasn’t really committed to the evangelistic elements, nor to some of their theology – I seem to remember they wanted us to sign a belief statement including biblical inerrancy, which even back then I struggled with.

      I’d still see myself as semi-charismatic deep down – certainly far more so than evangelical. I shudder at some of the weird excesses of extreme-end charismatics, but I do believe in spiritual gifts and I value the experience of worship where there’s a deep sense of God’s presence.

      Like

      • Harvey, first, if this conversation becomes extensive (which I’m quite open to), we might want to take it to personal emails… or even onto Skype (which I’ve not used for years but presume it’s still free). However, after today, I’ll be “off” for a week and not blogging or doing much beyond vacationing.

        Anyway, interesting re. the charismatic aspects. I feel about the same from what it sounds. And perhaps you’ll agree with my strong sense now about worship and/or use of “the gifts”: that only a few very broad elements need be in place for a group/personal “deep sense of God’s presence”: A certain level of harmony and common intention in the room; desire/expectation re. “God’s presence”; faith only in the goodness and/or love of God or a higher realm of being (or basic “trust”, no other theological specifics). Of course, the kind of music, prayers, etc., and how they are managed is critical as well… the Vineyard churches (and others) had this down to a “T”.

        To tie to the therapy area, I have a strong hunch that such worship times are peace-inducing and/or healing for many largely because they DO require and draw upon that very basic (early child development) trust. There are other things going on neurologically that have parallels in the practices of most religions, especially on the contemplative or “mystical” side. I’ve felt very similarly, been uplifted, etc., in what some might call “New Age” or “perennial philosophy” settings, including one in which a Sufi master spoke (ever so slowly, calmly) and led a brief meditation. In that one experience, I realized that even within Islam can exist a very peace-oriented practice and viewpoint (albeit a very minority “place” within Islam, much more universal than either Shiite or Sunni) – one that I could relate to and participate in.

        As to being a counselor, of course there are a number of options, but I can only speak for the American scene, and some requirements and structures vary by state. One that might seem to be a fit for you would be either pastoral counseling or spiritual direction. In the US at least, there are 2 or more certified, quality programs for spiritual direction training that I briefly considered not long ago… they do take a year or 2 generally, but are less extensive than the route of professional secular credentialing. Again for US laws/practices, if one is ordained in ANY church/denomination, pastoral csg. can cover about anything (except physician privileges, of course, such as medication prescribing).

        As to non-church-related, one has to have a Master’s degree or PhD (besides the MD, psychiatrist track) and either a license or supervision (generally toward licensing)… any of several related areas – counseling psych; marriage, family and child csg. (my area); clinical psych; school psych; social work. And of course, many specializations within these areas. If you have a Bachelor’s already, it may be similar in the UK as to here: that Master of Social Work may be both the broadest and most flexible and door-opening degree to get. However, you’ll tend to get such breadth that not as much training in counseling itself, or any particular area of psychology… however, probably a better feel for the effect of one’s environment, social standing, etc. (and that is somewhat different in the UK, I believe, with a stronger remnant of “class system” than in the US, tho it is also subtly at work here, especially in relation to “minorities”).

        As to a fairly similar system and training, UK to US, I’m generally aware, in that my daughter of 27 is headed for Reading, about 1/2 hour from London, to do at least 2 years of social work. She will leave as early as Nov. perhaps. She has her Master of Social Work but only a tiny ways toward the hours for “Licensed Clinical Social Worker” (LCSW in our system). Her UK experience will not count toward it (unfortunately). If you live somewhere near or in London, Harvey, I’m sure she’d love to get to meet you and/or your family. I plan to go to visit her there eventually, tho probably not for a year or so after she arrives.

        Like

        • P.S. to above: If taking a degree program is “in the way” or too extensive, I’d imagine there are some opportunities for unpaid, volunteer kinds of counseling (or informal as you mentioned), especially in the substance abuse area. But I can say from my own very minor experience that that is a very challenging area, and one that it definitely helps to “have been there” or have strong addiction tendencies, which I have not/do not.

          Like

        • Hi Howard,
          Thanks very much for this – it will take me a little while to fully read and digest all you’ve said here (let alone act on it!), but I just wanted to thank you before you go on holiday/vacation.

          Yes, I think you’re right, email might be the way forward if we go on with this… anyway, have a great holiday, and I look forward to continuing this conversation when you’re back. 🙂

          PS I’ve long been interested in Sufism too…

          All the very best,
          Harvey

          Like

  11. Pingback: My faith journey | The Evangelical Liberal | Joe's Blog

  12. Alison Vaughan says:

    I have just come across your site and it is just what I need! Thank you for sharing your thoughts.
    I have been a liberal for the last 5 years and it feels quite lonely especially if you go to an evangelical church because the kids work is good.
    Many thanks!
    Alison

    Like

    • Hi Alison, you’re very welcome and I’m very glad if this site is helpful at all!

      I know just what you mean about going to an evangelical church because the kids work is good – which it very often is in evangelical churches, and quite often isn’t in others. And I wonder deep down if that’s partly because the evangelical belief system is more ideally suited to children than adults!

      …Which isn’t meant to be as dismissive as it sounds. I just think that evangelicalism is great for laying the groundwork and the overall structure, and is good at a developmental stage when you need certainties and polarities. But (for me at least) there comes a time when the whole system becomes too restrictive and one needs to break out into something wider, freer, more open.

      I haven’t completely rejected all of evangelical belief by any means, and I can see that it’s a valid way to be a Christian. But it just doesn’t fully work for me any longer. I can no longer fully accept the Bible as completely inerrant and authoritative, nor accept the doctrine of eternal torment in hell for non-believers, nor many of the other beliefs that come with evangelicalism.

      I probably wouldn’t call myself a full-on liberal either as there are still some ‘biblical’ beliefs I haven’t jettisoned – the resurrection, Jesus’ divinity and humanity, the atonement in some sense, and various others. I’m sort of in a rather muddy middle ground, hence ‘Evangelical Liberal’… though others have suggested that the label ‘Anglican’ might work just as well!

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s