About

The Evangelical Liberal is a blog to discuss and debate ideas around more open, liberated and emotionally healthy ways of being a Christian, particularly for those who have struggled to find their way within the evangelical tradition. It’s a search for ways of emerging from the evangelical cocoon.

I can’t offer any hard-and-fast definition of what it means to be an Evangelical Liberal; rather this blog is a space to explore all that it might be able to mean. The best I can offer is a sketchy and personal Creed of my own current faith and doubt, with the proviso that actually it’s not so much about what you believe as how. The bottom line of my belief is that God is good, God is love, and God is most clearly shown in Christ – pretty much all else is up for grabs.

The Evangelical Liberal is also a conscious attempt to reclaim the ‘evangel’ of Christ’s good news from the religious right, and the ‘liber’ of Christ’s freedom from the opposite extreme. If nothing else, perhaps it can be a place of support for recovering evangelicals and fundamentalists – and maybe recovering liberals too.

I invite you to explore Evangelical Liberalism – or liberation – with me as a fellow pilgrim. I absolutely do not have all the answers worked out, and I welcome criticism and disagreement as well as encouragement and suggestion.

A Wayfarer waystation

In Alan Jamieson’s excellent Chrysalis, he talks of the need for ‘waystations’ for those who are entering or emerging from the chrysalis, dark-night or desert phase of faith. These are places where wayfarers and wilderness wanderers can stop awhile and find refreshment, encouragement and support for their new journey. I hope The Evangelical Liberal can be one such space. This blog is not really aimed at new Christians, eager for ‘sound’ teaching and worship resources. It’s much more for those who feel jaded or lost, battered or confused, or just looking for new ways and new expressions of faith – and doubt.

Moving out of black and white into full colour

So as an Evangelical Liberal I look to be 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.

Being an Evangelical Liberal then means being less wedded to certainty and more open to mystery. It is a seeking after freedom from obsession with facts, proofs and systems of theology in favour of the divine paradox of the ‘God of Surprises’. Instead of a neatly sewn-up and watertight doctrinal system that allows for no alterations, it is about holding beliefs with a kind of radical provisionality and uncertainty allowed by a faith in God’s greater reality. It embodies a sense that Christianity and theology, evangelism and worship are at heart incarnational and relational, rather than primarily logical, factual and systematic. It is an eschewing of black-and-white answers, not for shades of grey but for the full vibrant spectrum of living colour.

Both/and, not either/or

So when encountering apparently contradictory views, I seek first a both/and synthesis (or paradox) before settling for an either/or dichotomy – hence ‘The Evangelical Liberal’. This doesn’t mean that anything goes or that there is never a right or wrong, but that often our theological arguments dramatically and tragically miss the point.

It’s my belief that Truth is greater, deeper, more complex and paradoxical than our usual categorisations allow. Again, the title of this blog is intentionally oxymoronic (or perhaps just moronic). I’m not committed to either Evangelicalism or Liberalism but to exploring new ways that blend and transcend the old stark category distinctions. (However, I did deliberately choose ‘evangelical’ as the adjective and ‘liberal’ as the noun rather than the other way round.)

I’m also very happy to listen to atheists and to engage constructively with people of other faiths or none. I do believe that there are good, even compelling, reasons to believe in God, and above all in the God revealed in Christ; but this blog is not about trying to force others to see things my way, or indeed any particular way.

My faith journey

I believe we’re all on different but similar spiritual journeys, and that faith has a kind of life-cycle. If you’re interested in the path that’s led me to here, have a read of my faith journey.

A full listing of all posts is available via the Archives.

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34 Responses to About

  1. Pingback: The Evangelical Liberal | The Evangelical Liberal

  2. Julian Staniforth says:

    Hi Harvey,
    I saw that you had started this blog when was looking on facebook. Interesting to hear how your thinking has developed and is broadening. I would say that have been doing that for a while although the strands I’m more interested in holding together are open evangelical and catholic. In my own journey (and as a result of studies as well), I think the Trinity/trinitarian theology needs to be at the heart of the journey. This reminds us that this is the triune God’s world and that any mission is ‘missio dei’, that the church is then called to join in with and catch up with. So the Spirit is at work in the creation beyond the boundaries of the church, yet at the same time always looking to reveal and point to Jesus; the challenge and scandal if you like of the distinctiveness of Christ remains always. The church is always the fruit of the gospel; it doesn’t own it as sometimes it can seem. You might find the work of Ian Mobsby (http://ianmobsby.net/ and his book “The becoming of God”) as well as The Moot Community in London (http://www.moot.uk.net/ ) of interest as well as the book “Fresh Expressions in the Sacramental Tradition”. I’ve come to see that understanding of doctrine is critical, not so much as something to just defend and believe but because it reflects the wrestling of the church of the past with the reality of their experience of Jesus Christ which overthrew existing understandings and expectations of God. They stand like scaffolding provide essential frameworks and foundations for what can be said about God based on such experience and reflection, without ultimately being able to fully hold or constrain who God is. Anyway hope your journeying with this proves fruitful and life-giving; will be interested to hear how it develops.
    Best wishes
    Julian

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    • harveyedser says:

      Hi Julian, good to hear from you and thanks for your comments!

      I’m interested in the sacramental/catholic tradition too, though growing up in it wasn’t a great experience for me spiritually. I’ve got a lot of time for the concepts of ‘sacrament’ and ‘icon’ as mediators of spiritual reality, but not so much in the specific senses in which they’re used within the Catholic and Orthodox traditions. I increasingly see the whole of life as sacramental and iconic in some sense – something through which God’s grace can be received and given, and through which God’s reality can be experienced.

      I take your point about doctrines and church traditions, and I certainly don’t reject doctrine as such. I just need new ways of approaching it, imagining it, living it. Doctrine as a once-for-all, set-in-stone intellectual abstraction doesn’t work for me; but dynanic and living doctrine made real within a faith community is something different. But I’d probably need a less connotated word than doctrine for it.

      Do stay in touch!

      All the best,
      Harvey

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  3. glynn adams says:

    I don’t know you . . . and frankly, I don’t want to. Your use of the language and its subtle nuances is laudible but your understanding and, I dare say, your views of the reality of the Holy Scriptures — written, by the way, by men who lived and traveled with Jesus — are woefully inadequate for any hope you might have of salvation. A pity. Let me put it to you this way; if, and emphasize IF, you are correct in your assumption that the teachings of Christ are open to interpretaton by the individual, and that, in the end, we all end up back in the dust from which we came, then I will have been completely wrong in my understanding of His message. My error, therefore, will be no more punishment than yours (i.e. to return to the dust, etc., etc.). However, with an even bigger IF, you are wrong and I and several billion other followers of the New Testament and indeed, the very spoken words of Jesus, are right, then I can have nothing but sympathy for your inattentativeness to the truth. And, sadly, it is you who will do the suffering, not us. I truly feel sorry for you and if you should bother to waste more of your time by re-visiting the Bible with an open mind and heart, then perhaps you will notice one stark reality; there are absolutely NO grey areas in Christ’s teachings. His message is truly and unequivocally black or white. Follow His rules and be saved. Ignore them and die. There is no middle road. Look closely at the scriptures and try to find the words “maybe”, “possibly”, “perhaps”, or other meager attempts to soften the impact of His blunt warning. You will not. I pray, for your sake that, while there is still time, you will see the light, for if you let it go out, I can assure you the eternal darkness you will have to endure will remind you for a very long time just ignorant of the truth you really are.

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    • Well, thanks Glynn for reading at least some of my blog and for taking the time to comment. Thank you also for your concern for my spiritual welfare, even if it wasn’t perhaps expressed in the most charitable manner. 😉

      I think you may have misunderstood what I’m saying. I have no qualms about saying that I place all my trust in Christ as saviour and Lord. All I’m questioning is some doctrines and interpretations of scripture that have grown up, particularly in the evangelical branch of Christianity, and which from my own experience, reason and reading of scripture I am not convinced are correct, authentic or helpful.

      I am very willing to accept that I may be wrong. However, as far as I’m aware our salvation is not predicated upon the holding of particular evangelical doctrines or interpretations of the Bible.

      So yes, I do question the standard evangelical position on various matters – scriptural inerrancy, hell, homosexuality, penal substitution, etc. I believe these are all matters on which Christians can agree to differ in conscience without endangering anyone’s salvation or having to break fellowship.

      I see it as highly important to question and explore so that one can ultimately own and inhabit a truly authentic faith. It may be that after all my ponderings and wanderings I will find myself returning to the mainstream evangelical positions; or it may be that I’ll find myself more at home in another legitimate stream or expression of Christian faith.

      The pathway to heaven may be narrow but that doesn’t mean we have to be narrow-minded. There’s room within Christ’s church for diversity and difference, even disagreement over many issues. I personally suspect and hope that we will find that there are ultimately many among the redeemed who never saw themselves as Christians. I also suspect that there will be some who believed themselves to be doctrinally-sound evangelicals who never really knew Christ at all.

      You think I’m ignorant of the truth; you may well be right. But the truth for Christians is not merely a matter of propositions and doctrines; the truth is the person of Christ, and is mediated through relationship.

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      • jan2 says:

        I do wish christians would be honest, to follow christ, to love christ is to obey his commands and there are 50 at least. Then there are the other commands from the old testament which there are 600+ some of which we can apply today, some we can’t.
        So when they (christians) say we shouldn’t trust our feelings, we should trust God or god’s word there is an assumption that a) the bible is totally true and reliable, b) the God of the bible is good and trustworthy.
        I’d like to find a leader who is gracious and keeps all of jesus’ commands.
        Didn’t jesus and the apostles keep the feasts and fasts? so why don’t christians? At the moment I’m considering humanism.

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        • Hi jan2, thanks for your comment. I think I’m probably coming from a rather different place to you on this, but I take your point.

          So I wouldn’t agree with Christians who say we shouldn’t trust our feelings but should only ever trust God’s word. I believe our feelings are important, though not always an accurate reflection of reality. And I don’t believe that the Bible is necessarily 100% true or reliable, nor that it claims to be. I do however believe that God is good and trustworthy – if ‘he’ (for want of better pronoun) were not, it would be hard to see how he could really be God, the ultimate reality.

          But I don’t believe that Christianity is about obeying commands in any legalistic or literalistic sense. Yes, Jesus did say that if we loved him we’d obey his commands. But he also made it clear that the primary command (the one that summed up all the others) was simply – love. Love God, and love one another.

          Of course no leader (or anyone else) is both consistently gracious and keeps all of Jesus’ commands – that wouldn’t be possible. But with God’s grace and help, most do strive towards that ultimate goal, albeit rarely coming anywhere near it and often failing spectacularly.

          Jesus and the apostles did generally keep the feasts and fasts, but they did so as part of the Jewish community they belonged to. They didn’t seek to impose that on their gentile converts, and the only rules they did initially stipulate for these were to avoid sexual immorality and food that had been sacrificed to idols.

          I think humanism can be a good path, though it’s not one I could follow – at least not the fully secular type that denies any spiritual component to life.

          I truly wish you all the very best.

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          • jan2 says:

            I’d like to know if you enjoy going to church. I got to a stage when I was 25 where I really did not want to go. I don’t know what “spiritual” means.
            A spiritual home is somewhere you belong, often for christians that is the church because it takes up so much time and commitment. Personally, I want to play sports, go to help with scouts/cubs more. I get frustrated that I’ve not had time to do the things I’ve wanted and now I’m past the flower of youth so I can’t play like I want to either.
            Basically the church took over my life in my early 20’s and I want to go out and do “normal” things like cinema, pub occasionally, play sports, volunteer, perhaps see the odd gig. Arn’t christians supposed to help the poor, feed the hungry, clothe the homeless/naked? I mean what is the point of christianity exactly? especially when jesus said “the prostitues go in before you”, these kinds of statements left me feeling confused.

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            • Hi again,
              That’s a tricky question about enjoying church… it’s both no and yes for me. I wrote a post about this not long ago called ‘Why (not) to go to church’.

              I definitely don’t think that formal Sunday church is my main spiritual home at the moment, and I’m okay with that. I still feel that it’s helpful for me to go (sometimes), but I feel more spiritually at home in other settings and with other people. But my faith is very different to that of most of the Christians I know. I still believe, and it still matters hugely to me, but I’m not comfortable with a lot of church teachings or practices.

              I can identify with the church taking over your life, and I think it’s a real shame when that happens. It’s important to do the ‘normal’ things too – Jesus said he came to give us life to the full, not a load of church activities!

              I agree that Christians are called to help the poor, feed the hungry, clothe the naked etc – I think that’s at the very heart of what it’s all about. But of course it’s very difficult, and most of us don’t do it very well (if at all). It’s much easier just to do the ‘religious’ stuff, the Bible studies and church services. I’m as guilty of that as anyone, unfortunately. True Christianity is about really loving real and flawed people, and that’s never easy.

              On the ‘prostitutes going in before you one’, I also wrote a post ‘Christianity is for bad people’ if you’re interested… 🙂

              And yes, biblical metaphor is something that a lot of us struggle with! I think so many people read the Bible too literally…

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      • jan2 says:

        you know there is still a lot of confusion about hell and it comes back to poor translation the word hell is actually 4 words in the original. If only I could tell every person that has read the new testament what jesus actually meant, the number of people that get themselves in a pickle over this one.
        Actually that’s what made me leave the evangelicals in the first place it was all hell fire and fear preaching, who wants to listen to that every week? Is that really a good way to motivate people? I think not. it made me poorly in the head.
        Can we please, please, have clarity over what jesus really meant, I’m not following any church until I’m absolutly sure about what they are getting at.

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        • Hi again! I’ll do my best to answer, but I need to give your questions some thought so won’t be immediately. And my answers will be based on my own thoughts after 20 years of wrestling with Christianity, rather than being the Official Right Answers of any particular branch of the church.

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        • Hi jan2, I’m completely with you on the hell issue. Most translations of the Bible haven’t been clear enough on this one, and church teaching on hell (particularly evangelical church teaching) has often been poorly thought-through and unhelpful.

          It’s a very complex and emotive subject and I don’t claim to have the best or only answers. But I’ve studied it and thought about it a lot over the last 20 years as a (struggling) Christian. My main conclusions are that, whatever it is, hell is not a literal place but rather a spiritual state; and that it’s not a punishment inflicted by a vengeful God but something we do to ourselves or create for ourselves, within our own minds and souls.

          So I believe that, if ‘hell’ exists at all, it is simply the internal condition of a soul that’s completely shut in on itself – shutting out all goodness, light and love. I believe that God/Jesus is always standing outside such a soul, knocking to be let in, and I hope that in the end all will open up to divine love.

          Jesus spoke not of hell but of ‘Hades’ or ‘Sheol’ (the shadowy underworld realm of souls awaiting judgement that was part of ancient mythology). He also spoke of ‘Gehenna’, the burning rubbish dump outside Jerusalem, which was also supposedly the unhallowed site where some had sacrificed their children to other gods. These words are metaphors, picture language, not about a literal place but (I believe) about the state of a soul separated from God. And that separation is always the person’s choice not God’s, and there’s always hope of redemption in the end.

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          • jan2 says:

            As I said a lot of people are put off by the hell thing, 4 words greek but I’ve only just found out. Did you know that the Anglo Saxon godess of death/dead was Hel (one l), That must be where they got the word from. Someone could have, should have told me this when I sitting in (forced) bible class at age 15, I’ve had depression, fear and mental illness. And all it is, is a theory. No-one really knows what happens after death, numerous cultures have a story around creation, around what happens at death.
            Some people end up in the Pysch ward because of incorrect teaching.
            Fortunatly for me, I understood this at some point in my life, but my family were/are fundies and can’t accept that WE DONT KNOW if there is a god or not, if He/she judges us or not.
            I’m not keen on Christianity for my children, I was forced to go my entire life while I was growing up and they didn’t explain Hell and heaven properly. Totally unnecessary, people can be good without expecting a reward in heaven or being damned. Other religions/cultures have other ideas.

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            • jan2 says:

              I was very suprised to find out about tyhe Anglo Saon gods. Hel for death, Eostre for birth/spring sounds surprsingly like Easter!
              I’m getting a picture here, Christainity came over from the East and it was incorporated into the Anglos Saxon Pagan culural beleifs, eek, the KJV has pagan words in it!

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            • For me, I love Jesus but I don’t always love everything about Christianity – as in the religious system we’ve built up after Jesus (which is what humans do). Though at its best I still think Christianity can be very good – look at Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa, Desmond Tutu, Francis of Assisi and even Gandhi who took inspiration from Christ. But it’s up to us to make it good by following Jesus’ (rather difficult) example.

              You’re right that the English words ‘hell’ and ‘Easter’ come from Norse mythology. But that doesn’t mean that Christianity or the Bible have incorporated pagan beliefs. It’s just that when Christianity came to this part of the world, the existing culture already had words for certain religious concepts (afterlife/hell) and festivals (like Easter), so the Christians just adopted those words – but then gave them new, Christian meanings. And of course, many Christians like C.S. Lewis would argue that there is much truth in the old pagan beliefs, but that in Christ these old myths become real and take on their full meaning.

              So similarly, when the New Testament writers are talking about the afterlife and judgement, they sometimes use old Hebrew words (Sheol and Gehenna) and sometimes use words from Greek mythology (Hades and Tartarus). That doesn’t mean they’d adopted the Greek ideas of what the afterlife was like, but just that those were the only words for the ideas they were talking about in the culture they were talking to.

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    • tonycutty says:

      “IF, you are wrong and I and several billion other followers of the New Testament and indeed, the very spoken words of Jesus, are right…” and therein lies the problem. Harvey is following Jesus, not the New Testament, not His words. The Truth is a Person, not a book, and God is far too huge to be contained solely within its pages.

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  4. Ben says:

    Glynn is right in saying that Jesus offers some stark warnings about the reality of judgement; and we would all do well to heed what Jesus commands. But I don’t understand how we can do anything but interpret what Jesus says when we hear his words. The very processing of information is an interpretation. The way Glynn reads the Scriptures and the way Harvey reads the Scriptures will both require individual interpretation. There’s no getting around this.

    Some of Jesus’ teaching in particular (I’m thinking about cutting off limbs and things) draws the vast majority to a liberal interpretation. After all, I haven’t yet met a person who cut off their arms, legs, eyes, brain etc in response to sin. So of course, we have to interpret what Jesus says for ourselves. Thankfully Jesus says he came not to judge the world but to save it. But even if he does judge, it’s not really our say on who goes to heaven and hell. That’s the King’s perogative.

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    • I totally agree that Jesus offers some stark warnings about the reality of judgement which we would do well to heed. I’m certainly not denying the reality of judgement or even of hell, rightly understood – but of course I don’t know exactly what the ‘right’ understanding is, and I’m not sure anyone else does either! Those like Robin Parry (‘The Evangelical Universalist’) and Rob Bell (‘Love Wins’) who suggest that hell may not last forever or may not be a physical location are not denying that it is a terrible state in which to find oneself. They are saying that the reality may be a little more complex and nuanced than the heralds of Turn-or-Burn have imagined, and that God’s love and goodness is ultimately greater and more lasting than his anger or judgement.

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      • jan2 says:

        do you know what, nearly every religion in the past had a system of judgement, look around the globe the pharoahs had Ra, there have been Zoroastrians, the muslims beleive in Allah. In the new testament times of Jesus there was something called the Essenes. The rastas also beleive in the bible.
        How do christians know they are right and not just another ideology/religion?
        What concerns me more though is the number of branches within christianity, they’re not coherent they don’t agree with each other.

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        • How do Christians know they are right and not just another ideology/religion? Good question. 10 years ago I’d probably have tried to give you all the ‘Alpha course’ arguments, the rational evidence for Christian belief – why the New Testament is more reliable than other religious texts; why Jesus must be who he claimed to be; why the Christian way is the only one that really works, etc.

          I haven’t necessarily rejected all those answers, but I don’t find them so helpful now. For me, I’m not 100% sure my way is right and that other people’s are wrong. I think there may be different ways of coming to know God, different ways of following ‘him’. And I don’t necessarily think that everything in Christianity or the Bible is always perfect (well, I think Christ’s way is, but we don’t always understand or follow that).

          But for me, Christianity is where I’ve personally encountered the love and mercy, the beauty and reality of God. In Jesus I’ve found something that (for me) I’ve not seen so fully anywhere else, though I see glimpses in other faiths and also in art and music and nature. Now I believe that Jesus may be present in other faiths, though not named as such. But for me, Christianity is my spiritual homeland, even if it is flawed and not necessarily the only valid way.

          Unfortunately, yes, there are huge divisions within Christianity. That’s common to all religions of course – look at Sunni vs Shia Muslims, or different branches of Buddhism. It’s tragic, but that’s what happens whenever humans are involved with anything good – we try to turn it into a club with rules and entry requirements and dress codes, and we exclude others who do things differently. I believe that at the heart of all branches of Christianity is a shared common core, and there’s room for difference and diversity around that. But it depends on whether we see difference as basically good (as I do), or as bad.

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    • jan2 says:

      obviously cutting off limbs was a metaphor, he didn’t mean it literally. That’s the thing about scripture, we can’t see what it said in hebrew or aramaic or the tone that jesus said things, so we’re left guessing whether he was using a metaphor in some instances.

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  5. JimPruitt says:

    I’m a fifty-nine year old Christian living in northern California but I haven’t been to church for many years. My beliefs are not what I was taught at the First Baptist Church of Santa Clara, California or at Intervarsity or at various Christian groups at UC Berkeley and Michigan State in the 1970s or at Arrowhead Springs or by Francis Schaeffer’s books or by CS Lewis’ books – but I am a Christian.
    I saw the web site today and read through the posts and found some common ground.
    I’ve resolved by late-in-middle-age views on Christianity by writing a book entitled “The Common Sense Diversity of the New Testament.” It is “on-sale” at Amazon.com. I am pricing it as low as possible. If you can’t afford it I will gladly send you a copy. I am interested in feedback.
    “The Common Sense Diversity of the New Testament” examines the New Testament of the Christian Bible. It finds within the New Testament different answers to the question, “What is a Christian?” This is a diversity that is not talked about or well-known. I am pretty sure that Glynn would not like my book but from reading his comments I am pretty sure that like me he is a Christian.
    “The Common Sense Diversity of the New Testament” is listed on Amazon.com under my full name: Nero James Pruitt
    Thanks for this blog. I hope to respond to issues on it in the future.

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    • Thanks for your comment and welcome to this blog! Your book sounds really interesting and I’d certainly like to read it. Unfortunately on amazon.co.uk (my local version this side of the Pond) it’s only available as a Kindle download.

      I agree that there are many possible answers to the question “What is a Christian?” and I’d be interested to hear some of yours. Great that you can still recognise people at the extreme other end – such as Glynn – as also being Christian; I totally agree that they are, though they often wouldn’t recognise you or me as such! 😉

      I too feel I’ve parted company with Francis Schaeffer et al, though as you’ll notice if you read many of my posts I still have a lot of time for C.S. Lewis – but primarily his mythical fiction rather than his popular theology/apologetics. Systematic theologies, doctrinal statements and the like leave me rather cold at the moment, but Jesus himself still fascinates me and draws me on. I feel that all my wonder and delight at life and the universe – as well as sometimes rage at it – can’t be contained within the neat limits of evangelical theology, but I’m not abandoning old beliefs, just enlarging on them and incorporating them into new, bigger pictures and understandings… which are themselves inevitably limited.

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  6. JimPruitt says:

    Here are about 400 words on how I see that the New Testament recognizes different types of Christians:

    Paul, the “Apostle to the Gentiles”, set himself apart from Jesus’ brother James and his closest follower Peter whom he described as the “Apostle to the Jews.” (Galatians 2:8.) He traveled for ten or more years in big cities throughout the Aegean basin spreading a different brand of Christianity than that of the original followers. As he traveled he frequently received messages from groups of Jesus followers that he had helped set up in a previous city. Often the news was not good and he responded in typical Pauline fashion, he wrote letters – some of which survive – to address problems.
    From these letters, we can infer an often overlooked reality and it is of large significance for understanding that a diversity of beliefs in the 21st century can properly be labeled as Christian: Paul had enemies within the Jesus movement. In Jerusalem alone, the New Testament teaches that thousands of followers of Jesus were opposed to Paul. (Acts 21: 20-21.)
    Some of Paul’s Christian enemies said his presence was contemptible (II Corinthians 10:10.) Some tried to kill him (Acts 21: 20-31) and others took pleasure in his troubles with the authorities (Philippians 1: 17.) Paul returned full measure. He condemned those who preached “another Jesus” or a “different gospel” (II Corinthians 11:4.) He called those who would find the meaning of Jesus closer to Judaism, “dogs.” (Philippians 3:2.) He talked of the opposition causing his followers to keep on “biting and devouring” each other (Galatians 5:15.) He said these types of people “bewitched” his converts and caused them to “(fall) from grace.” (Galatians 3:1 and 5:4.)
    One who probably was not an enemy but who certainly had a different take on things was James the brother of Jesus. Paul was disdainful of James in the letter to the Galatians (Galatians 2:6, 12) and yet acknowledged to the Corinthians that James had seen Jesus after the resurrection (I Corinthians 15:7.)
    In summary: James and Paul had an uneasy relationship. James had a much closer connection to many of Paul’s New Testament enemies but Paul and he stayed in contact.

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    • Thanks for that – interesting stuff. I can certainly see the tensions in the NT letters between the different early schools of Christianity. However, on the whole the letters seem to me to present a reasonably unified – if diverse – voice; and Peter (if he wrote that letter) does apparently acknowledge that Paul’s letters are ‘scripture’ even if hard to understand! I guess that just as today we have different denominations and streams of Christian faith, even then there were different churches with different emphases, following different apostles and leaders. Paul refers to this in 1 Corinthians: ‘Is Christ divided? Did Paul die for your sins?’ etc.

      For me, diversity and difference are both good and healthy, and are not at all the same thing as disunity. Diversity only becomes disunity when we start calling our version the One True Way and trying to define who’s in and out or what’s right and wrong by the criteria of our group. This isn’t to say that anything goes or that it doesn’t matter what you believe or how you practise faith. But there’s a lot of wiggle room within the Way of following Christ, and a lot of space for disagreement without breaking fellowship.

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  7. dogswalker says:

    I decided to search for “evangelical liberal” with little hope for anything other than the definition of “oxymoron”. This is great; I’m anxious to read more.

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  8. Esteban says:

    Hi Harvey:

    I stumbled on your blog while I was searching for info on sacraments. And I found more than what I was looking for. As someone raised in a fundamentalist environment with his own shares of doubt, fear, and disappointment, I have found your reflections truly refreshing and challenging. I know I will be one of the many sojourners blessed by your writing. Will stick around. God bless you

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    • Hi – thank you so much for your very kind words! Comments like yours are what makes blogging worthwhile.

      I’m always hugely encouraged to hear from people who’ve been raised in fundamentalism yet haven’t given up on the whole God thing as a bad business. It saddens me how much so many people have been hurt or alienated by Christian fundamentalism to the point where they wouldn’t want to touch any form of faith with a 100-foot bargepole – and I think that’s completely understandable.

      I imagine you didn’t find all that much about sacraments on my blog unfortunately! I was raised in an Anglo-Catholic home so if you do still have any sacrament-related questions I’ll happily have a shot at answering… 🙂

      All the very best and God bless you,
      Harvey

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