Restoring the Kingdom to Israel

As Christians, should we expect the Kingdom of God to be restored to Israel? And if so, what would it mean? The last question that the apostles asked Jesus before his Ascension was about this:

Then they gathered around [Jesus] and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Acts 1:6-8 (NIV 2011)

The Kingdom of David and SolomonGeorge Athas has posted an interesting series asking what the apostles meant by “restore the kingdom to Israel”, and more to the point what Jesus meant in his answer to their question. In part 1 he skilfully demolishes the argument that the modern state of Israel is this restoration of the kingdom. In part 2 he is equally deft in dismissing the “replacement theology” by which the church has entirely replaced Israel. Then in part 3 he puts forward a middle way in his own understanding of what the book of Acts, and the New Testament more broadly, teaches on this matter.

George links restoring the kingdom to the apostolic witness “in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth”. This makes a lot of sense of the book from which these words are taken:

in the first eight chapters of Acts, we witness the reunification of Israel under its Davidic king. What the prophets of old had looked forward to now becomes reality as Jews and Samaritans both put their faith in Jesus as ruler, saviour, and Messiah, for the forgiveness of their sins (Acts 5.31, 42). Here, then, is the beginning of Israel’s restoration. … Only once the restoration of Israel under its rightful king, Jesus, is truly underway do we then observe the gospel going out to the Gentiles.

But I find a problem with George’s argument when he moves on from Acts to Romans. He may be right that in Romans 9

Paul views only those in Israel who have believed (or will believe) in Jesus as members of the true Israel.

But this doesn’t really make sense of Romans 11. In verse 7 Paul distinguishes “the elect” within Israel from “the others” who are “hardened”. From verses 8 to 24 he talks about these “others”, and contrasts them with Gentile believers. In verses 25 and 26 he refers again to the “others” when he proclaims the end of the “hardening in part”, at which point “all Israel will be saved”. Clearly the “all” here is meant to include the “others”, as well as “the elect” who have been saved all along.

Verse 23 implies that at this time the “others” will believe in Jesus, and it is only on this basis that they will be grafted back into the olive tree. So it is true that only those in Israel who believe in Jesus are members of the true Israel. But this chapter makes it clear that God has not simply rejected those of Israelite descent who do not believe.

So George Athas is somewhat confused when he writes:

we should not be expecting a mass conversion of Jews to Christianity marking the last days of history as we know it. Paul was not envisioning such a thing in Romans 11.26. … Paul was not predicting a sudden eschatological conversion of Jews against all previous expectations, but was rather advocating some good old evangelism.

It seems very clear to me that Paul was expecting a large scale turning to Jesus among the “others”, ethnic Jews who had at first rejected him. This was in the future for Paul, which doesn’t necessarily mean in the future for us. He probably wasn’t expecting anything miraculous here. More likely he saw this happening through “good old evangelism” among Jews, although not necessarily by “conversion … to Christianity” as commonly understood. And “all” may be hyperbole for the great majority from all groups. But God has not forgotten those ethnic Jews who have rejected the gospel, as Paul makes clear:

As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies for your sake; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, 29 for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.

Romans 11:28-29 (NIV 2011)

Yes, God’s call to the physical descendants of Jacob is irrevocable. It has been transcended by the wider Christian call to all nations. But that ethnic group has not been rejected or replaced. And in the end God’s promises to his original chosen people will be fulfilled.

Thanks to Tim Bulkeley for the links to George Athas’ posts.

UPDATE: I have addressed some questions left unanswered here in a follow-up post Restoring the Kingdom to Israel: when and where?

The Backfire Effect: why you can't win that argument

Duty Calls (Someone is wrong on the Internet)Why do so many bloggers, myself included, persist in trying to win arguments even when it should be obvious that we are getting nowhere?

I remember this cartoon from some years ago. I was happy to come across it again, shared by a Facebook friend, in a post Why You Can’t Win That Argument on the Internet by Adam Dachis, which links to an article The Backfire Effect by David McRaney.

McRaney’s point is a simple one:

The Misconception: When your beliefs are challenged with facts, you alter your opinions and incorporate the new information into your thinking.

The Truth: When your deepest convictions are challenged by contradictory evidence, your beliefs get stronger.

He supports his claims about this Backfire Effect with evidence from a scientific study. Apparently this happens “instinctively and unconsciously”.

This is why hardcore doubters who believe Barack Obama was not born in the United States will never be satisfied with any amount of evidence put forth suggesting otherwise.

When arguments like this happen on the Internet, this is the result:

Most online battles follow a similar pattern, each side launching attacks and pulling evidence from deep inside the web to back up their positions until, out of frustration, one party resorts to an all-out ad hominem nuclear strike. …

What should be evident from the studies on the backfire effect is you can never win an argument online.

Sounds familiar? Dachis summarises the argument as

McRaney points to several studies showing how people are willing to completely ignore scientific proof that their beliefs are wrong.

How much more true this is, whether the proof is scientific or biblical, when the beliefs are part of their Christian faith!

Do Evangelicals have to condemn gay sex?

Benny Hazlehurst of Accepting Evangelicals, in a comment on my post I’m an Evangelical – don’t let them steal the name, raises the issue of whether one can be an Evangelical and not condemn homosexual practice. He does so by linking to a post at the Accepting Evangelicals blog by Jeremy Marks, Why I am an Evangelical gay Christian…

Jeremy MarksJeremy Marks is the founder of Courage, “a UK-based … evangelical Christian ministry” primarily for “Gay and lesbian Christians who are seeking a safe place of friendship in which to reconcile their faith and sexuality and grow towards Christian maturity”, and which also seeks, among other objectives, “to dialogue with our brothers and sisters in churches who find homosexuality difficult to understand or accept”.

In his post Marks explains how and why Courage moved from “the traditional view” to a position of encouraging “embracing our true God-given sexual orientation”. He also links to a 2005 article by Roy Clements on the Courage website, What is an Evangelical? Clements is the former pastor of Eden Baptist Church, Cambridge, and council member of the Evangelical Alliance, who resigned from both in 1999 and “came out” as gay. Clements makes some important points here about Evangelical identity, including this:

Evangelicals, I say, occupy the middle ground between the fundamentalist and liberal “extremists”.

There is a story here in which the Evangelical Alliance does not come out as well as I suggested in my previous post. The article Cast Out by Roy Clements, on the Courage website, includes as an Appendix a 2002 press release from the EA explaining why it asked Courage to resign. The EA’s official position on homosexuality is given at the end of the press release:

1. The Alliance affirms that monogamous heterosexual marriage is the form of partnership uniquely intended by God for full sexual relations between people

2. We affirm God’s love and concern for all humanity, including homosexual people, but believe homoerotic sexual practice to be incompatible with his will as revealed in Scripture

3. We call upon evangelical congregations to welcome and accept sexually active homosexual people, but to do so in the expectation that they will come in due course to see the need to change their lifestyle in accordance with biblical revelation and orthodox church teaching.

4. We repudiate homophobia insofar as it denotes an irrational fear or hatred of homosexuals. We do not accept, however, that to reject homoerotic sexual practice on biblical grounds is in itself homophobic.

This is taken from the EA’s 1998 publication Faith, Hope and Homosexuality, still recommended on their website.

Personally I would accept this position. However, I would not make it a condition for being accepted as an Evangelical. I would not want to expel from the EA all Christian ministries which fail “to welcome and accept sexually active homosexual people”, not least because not many would be left inside. Nor would I want to expel all ministries which do not make explicit “the expectation that [sexually active homosexual people] will come in due course to see the need to change their lifestyle”.

The Alliance took issue mainly with Courage’s “New Approach” according to which

while homo-erotic sexual practices cannot be actively commended there are certain circumstances in which it would be inappropriate overtly to condemn them.

Well, surely the EA’s call for “evangelical congregations to welcome and accept sexually active homosexual people” implies that their sexual practices are not always to be overtly condemned. But the real point seems to be that Courage

refuses to take a clear position on homo-erotic practice

– and presumably the only acceptable position would be against it. I guess it was a step too far in 2002 for the EA to allow a member simply to refuse to take a clear position on this controversial issue. Quite likely other members would have left if Courage did not. I wonder if things would be different in 2011?

In a second comment on my previous post Benny Hazlehurst makes a distinction between

‘gay-affirming’ and ‘gay-accepting’ Evangelicals.

I am happy to declare myself ‘gay-accepting’ in the sense that, in Benny’s words,

although I may not agree the theology of openly gay Christians, I do accept their Christian integrity.

But what does it mean to be ‘gay-affirming’? If this means to take the position that homosexual and heterosexual practice are entirely equal in God’s sight, I would have trouble accepting that as Evangelical. But if it means what Courage seems to be saying, that gays and lesbians should be accepted as Christians and not condemned for their lifestyle, then I would accept this as a possible Evangelical position although not one that I fully share.

Amazon Affiliate links should now be localised

I have installed the Amazon Affiliate Link Localizer plugin for this WordPress installation. This means that links from Gentle Wisdom to Amazon products should be automatically redirected to each reader’s local Amazon store – but only where the same product is available there.

The popups are still mostly for Amazon.co.uk and so sterling prices will be shown. To see your local product and currency please click the link in the main text. The Gentle Wisdom UK and US stores are unaffected.

I hope this works correctly for each of you my readers. I can’t check it properly without travelling to your countries. Please let me know of any problems.

This should make it easier for you to order your Amazon products through Gentle Wisdom.

Doctor Who Meets Jesus

TARDISI know I am showing my age by saying so, but I remember when police boxes like this were really to be seen on the streets of England. I remember where I was, in the town of Leatherhead, Surrey, when I heard that President Kennedy had been shot. And I also remember where I was the very next day, at home nearby, when I watched the first ever episode of Doctor Who, now

the longest-running science fiction television show in the world, and … the “most successful” science fiction series of all time.

I didn’t watch any more of that first series, probably because my parents thought it too scary for their eight-year-old boy. Over the 48 years since then I have seen quite a few of the nearly 800 episodes, but I have never been a regular fan.

But I know that several of my blogging buddies are fans, although the Americans among them cannot have been watching for anything like as long as I have. Among them are James McGrath, who has posted on Harmonizing Judas With Doctor Who. As part of that he has started a meme

to come up with the most creative, outlandish, entertaining or humorous way of harmonizing the [biblical] accounts that you can.

His own offering harmonises the different gospel accounts of Judas by bringing in Doctor Who, and his TARDIS time machine in the form of a police box. My offering towards his meme (first seen as a comment on his blog, slightly edited here) is a continuation of his own story. This isn’t so much harmonising the gospel accounts as reconciling their harmonised accounts with the science fiction world view:

When the Doctor had finished with Judas, he took the TARDIS to Gethsemane, while Jesus was praying and the disciples were sleeping.

“Jesus,”, he said, “you don’t have to die. Just come with me in the TARDIS.”

“No, Doctor. Get behind me, Satan! God’s will has to be done.”

“OK, but come with me for a short trip first, and I’ll bring you back here, before your friends even wake up.”

First they travel ahead three days and appear outside a guarded tomb. The Doctor makes himself look like an angel, puts the guards to sleep, opens up the tomb, and takes the body. Then he sends Jesus out to comfort a woman in mourning.

They move on and in the evening materialise the TARDIS inside a locked upper room, and Jesus takes another trip outside.

Then a few more appearances, including one by the Sea of Galilee, and another at the Mount of Olives, where the TARDIS hovers in a cloud and draws Jesus up with a tractor beam (oops, wrong sci-fi series there I think).

Finally they fast forward a few years and appear in a blinding flash on the Damascus road.

Only then does the Doctor take Jesus back to Gethsemane. “Now at least they won’t forget you after you die”, he says in parting.

Or maybe the biblical accounts of the Resurrection are more believable taken at face value …

By the way, in case anyone from the BBC reads this (Tom, that includes you!), I claim copyright on this storyline, but I am prepared to licence it to the producers for a reasonable fee.

Taking over mountains from the grass roots

The Guardian, the UK’s top left-leaning newspaper, has an excellent article today Could this be the church to calm our secularist outrage?, written by the sceptical agnostic (his words) John Harris, and an accompanying video. The article and the video feature Frontline Church in Liverpool, 15 miles from my home, and its project among prostitutes in the area: not open evangelism but “a weekly operation in which a handful of volunteers take food, tea and condoms to the city’s sex workers.” The agnostic reporter is clearly impressed, and muses on the response to this, or lack of it, from militant secularists.

Nic HardingWhat the church is doing is impressive. But I want to look more at what the church is saying – at least at the words of its pastor Nic Harding, who is seen preaching in the video. In fact he writes about his struggle preparing this sermon in a post on his own blog. Following this in the video, John Harris interviews him.

Here is the video, followed by a partial transcript:

(04:09) Harding (preaching): Our calling is out there … Social justice, education, health care, politics, government: these are all areas that God says “Who is willing to claim that mountain?” … How can we make a difference? How can we challenge the prevailing attitudes of money being the bottom line for everything? How can we add value to what we do? How can we touch the lives of people, even though we are dealing with products or commodities or services? …

(04:56) Harris: If the people here took over all those mountains and ran the show, what would society look like? …

(08:39) Harris: You see I think about these things politically, about the ideal way the society should go. I think in terms of it being more equal, less individualistic. You know, the structures of society should change. Are we talking about the same thing?

Harding: I think we probably are. But we probably are approaching it from a different starting point. Because politics tends to look at things from a top down model. It tends to see … You start to change society by changing how you run society from the top, from political systems, whether it be capitalism or socialism, whatever it might be. Whereas Christianity starts at grass roots. It starts with individuals’ lives changing. It starts with families, broken families coming together and reconciling. It starts with children being raised by parents who care about what happens to them. It starts with parent governors in schools making a difference in their local school. It starts with people who go into work with a different attitude and mindset. It’s a bottom up thing.

Harris: But you know where you’re going? Because if you ask me I will tell you. I would like a society where the rich are less rich and the poor are less poor. How would you feel about that?

Harding: I think a society where people are generous with what they have got would be fantastic, where people are willing to share their goods, their possessions, their time, their energy – not in an enforced way, because I think once you enforce it you take the whole spirit out of it, but on a completely free will basis, because people’s hearts have been changed.

In the sermon extract, Harding seems to be alluding to the Seven Mountains Mandate popularised by Lance Wallnau among others, which encourages Christians to seek

to gain influence over the “mountains” of government, church, education, family, media, arts, and business.

Now according to Joel Watts these seven mountains are the same as the ones in Revelation 17:9, over which the Beast reigns. I’m sure this point has not escaped Wallnau and friends. Joel writes:

Stay with me for a minute –

  • Wallnau identified seven mountains and one to rule over them.
  • John writes of seven mountains/hills with one to rule over them.

Anyone? Anyone at all see anything wrong with this whatsoever?

No, Joel, nothing wrong. Wallnau and John agree that the enemy temporarily rules over the seven mountains. Wallnau teaches that Christians should bring them under the rule of Jesus, the kingdom of God. John also teaches, in verse 14 of the same chapter, how Jesus and his armies will defeat the enemy and conquer the mountains. Where is the difference?

Joel also considers that the Seven Mountain Strategy is all about “Dominionism”. Well, as Wikipedia says,

The use and application of this terminology is a matter of controversy.

Nic Harding certainly isn’t talking about Dominion Theology as described in this Wikipedia article, and I’m pretty sure Lance Wallnau isn’t either. Neither of them envisage setting up a kind of Christian Sharia Law to replace secular law. There also seem to be quite a few differences from Wikipedia’s “Dominionism as a broader movement”. There may indeed be influences from Kuyper and Schaeffer, but not from Rushdoony. Harding is explicit that what Christians should do must be “on a completely free will basis, because people’s hearts have been changed”. Society is to be transformed according to Christian principles not by imposition from the top but by Christians working up from the grass roots.

Is this something from the right or from the left? If this is “Dominionism” from the Christian right, why is it so appealing to the Marx-quoting agnostic from the left-wing Guardian? Militant secularists may rage, but the label doesn’t matter. What does matter is that people that the world, and the secular government, ignore or reject are being accepted and provided for by Christians. This is the love which can turn the world upside down.

Thanks to Phil Ritchie and the Evangelical Alliance for their links to this article.

Archbishop Rowan's New Statesman media triumph?

Archbishop Rowan WilliamsLate last week, while I was busy with other things, the press and the Christian blogosphere here in the UK went wild over what Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, wrote in the New Statesman magazine, in an issue for which he was the guest editor.

But was this affair really the media disaster for the Archbishop which some have made it out to be?

Even before his article was published a storm broke out in the press. The Daily Telegraph started it by portraying Rowan’s words as “a sustained attack on the Coalition [government]”. But the Church Mouse, in a very sensible post about the matter, summarises what the Archbishop actually wrote:

In the entire article, Rowan does not actually criticise a single government policy.  What he does say is that people are afraid of them, and the government needs to explain what is going on better.

After a few days of uncharacteristic silence, Doug Chaplin weighed in with some comments suggesting that this was another PR disaster for the Archbishop, like the 2008 Sharia law affair:

One point I haven’t seen made in the stuff I’ve read – although I’m sure someone has made it – is to ask what’s happened to Rowan’s media person? Surely this is something where they should have got their leak and spin in first? … That kind of news release followed up by phone calls should have trailed the New Statesman well in advance and tried to set the agenda. Did they try and fail, or were they asleep at the keyboard?

In a comment on that post, I mused on whether “Rowan’s media person” even existed. After all, as I reported at the time, in May 2008 the Archbishop decided not to replace his press officer who had resigned. But it seems that rather quickly Rowan saw the error of his ways and, not later than September that year, appointed a certain David Brownlie-Marshall as his press officer.

David Brownlie-MarshallIt wasn’t hard to find out more about Mr Brownlie-Marshall, as his LinkedIn profile and his personal website, not to mention his page looking for work as a model, were easily found with Google. This is how he describes himself at LinkedIn:

I am an ambitious, energetic and entrepreneurial individual, who has worked in PR, Marketing and Social Media roles in London, New York and Edinburgh. My current role at Lambeth Palace involves managing the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Social Media strategy.

Somehow, after reflecting overnight on this matter, I don’t think this young man presided over a PR disaster. He is clearly highly creative, even if not an expert in traditional ways of handling the mainstream press. He may well agree with Brendan Behan that

There is no such thing as bad publicity.

So my guess would be that Brownlie-Marshall deliberately provided “their leak and spin” to the Daily Telegraph to provoke the reaction seen in their article, fully intending to start the kind of controversy which we have seen. Perhaps he wants the church to be portrayed as somewhat left-leaning and opposed to government policies. After all, he knows that that will win it a lot of friends. Of course it will also make enemies, but mainly among people who I suspect Brownlie-Marshall, and perhaps also Rowan, secretly despise. I’m sure they would both be very happy to put a final nail in the coffin of the old myth that the Church of England is the Tory Party at prayer.

This matter has got the country talking about issues of social justice and how the Christian faith relates to them. And it has enhanced the Archbishop’s reputation, at least among that majority of the country suspicious of government policies in this area, for taking a strong stand on these issues. It has had, I would think, a very positive effect on the Church of England as a whole. Rowan Williams and David Brownlie-Marshall are to be congratulated for how they handled it.

Harold Camping silenced

Harold CampingHarold Camping, the infamous preacher of the Rapture, has suffered a stroke which has affected his speech, according to the Christian Post (thanks to Joel for the link) and the Daily Mail. It seems that he has not exactly been struck dumb (UK) or mute (US), just that his speech “appears to be slurred”. So this may not mean a complete and immediate end to his radio ministry. But perhaps it should serve as a warning to him that at 89 it is time for him to take things easy, if he is to survive even until his predicted date for the end of the world, 21st October.

Did God have a hand in this? Did he strike Camping dumb, like Zechariah father of John the Baptist (Luke 1:20)? Well, it is clearly part of the divine design that the human body is frail and prone to sickness after nearly 90 years. Camping has very likely been under more stress in the last few weeks than is good for him, especially at his age. It would be wrong to suggest that this was a direct divine punishment for Camping’s false preaching, arrogant claims to know what God has not revealed, and more general heresy. But maybe this stroke will make him reflect more deeply on his life and on who is in control of it.

I pray for a quick recovery for Harold Camping. I pray also for a genuine repentance and a return to the true gospel message with which he started.

US online store now available

The North American version of Gentle Wisdom’s online store is now available. With apologies to my Canadian readers, I am calling this Store (US) as it is an aStore with the US company Amazon.com.

amazon.com logoTo set up this store I first joined the US Amazon Associates Program. So I am now required to add the following to this site:

Gentle Wisdom is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

My readers in Europe would probably prefer to use the UK store, announced in a previous post.

Most of the same products are in both stores. Currently the Anglicised NIV 2011 and Women and Authority: The Key Biblical Texts by Ian Paul are only in the UK store, and The Kingdom New Testament: A Contemporary Translation by N. T. Wright is available for pre-order only from the US store.

I'm an Evangelical – don't let them steal the name

I’m an Evangelical, and I’m proud of it. I believe that the Bible is the authoritative guide to truth about God and to the Christian life. I believe, in Roger Olson’s words, that “authentic Christianity requires a conversion experience of regeneration and that faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and repentance for sin are necessarily included in that”. I accept without reservation the Basis of Faith of the Evangelical Alliance here in the UK – although I do have reservations about some American definitions of evangelicalism which define the Bible as inerrant. I’m also a Charismatic, but that’s a separate story.

But my right to call myself an Evangelical seems to be under attack from all sides at the moment.

A few weeks ago I discussed here how Adrian Warnock seems to accept as Evangelicals only those who take the Bible literally. His reasons for not accepting a particular person, Rob Bell, as an Evangelical also include him

speaking with people who had problems understanding what God is like. Hence he looks at what it sees in this world and then formulates a theology … he sees life then tries to interpret Bible.

John Richardson, the Ugley Vicar, wants to put a different kind of restriction on being Evangelical. In a post yesterday Episcopal appointments – from subtle exclusion to overt discrimination he discusses when “the last Evangelical appointment was” of a bishop in the Church of England. The answer he gives, 1997, shows that what he really meant was the last appointment of an Evangelical opposed to the ordination of women – a point clarified in a comment by Beryl Polden.

Dave Warnock, a somewhat liberal Methodist minister unrelated to Adrian, offers an outsider’s perspective on the limits of evangelicalism. Phil Whittall posted about the sad story of Gordon Lynch who lost his Christian faith, largely, it seems, because of abuse by power-hungry Evangelical church leaders. In comments in response to this Dave offer a rant (his word) against Evangelicals, which he repeats in a post on his own blog. Here is part of the rant:

a) The number of Evangelicals willing to engage in critical thinking on these issues is close to vanishingly small.

b) The number of Evangelicals willing to trot out proof texts, anger and aggression on this issues is huge.

c) I know many women who have articulated the response they have got from trying to engage with many Evangelicals on issues of power and gender. Evangelicals do not come out of this well at all. …

In his response to my comment about this, Dave clarifies that he is

addressing the “hard Evangelical position”, in other words the Evangelicals who take a hard line on issues such as gender and sexuality and who eagerly condemn those who disagree with them.

But what he originally wrote makes no such distinction. He seems to be putting about a stereotype of typical Evangelicals characterised by his five negative points, of which I quoted three above. He accepts that there are thoughtful Evangelicals like me but implies that our numbers are “close to vanishingly small”.

Then for a North American view: Joel Watts writes I’m a Evangelical Reject I reckon based on a post by Kurt Willems You Might Be An Evangelical Reject If… It seems that Kurt and Joel both consider themselves to have been put outside the Evangelical pale because of a number of attitudes and positions that they take. I share with them most of these attitudes and positions. But I do not accept that these make me an “Evangelical Reject”. I don’t care too much if others reject me, but I won’t accept their labels. I know that I still stand within the fold of historic evangelicalism, and it is before God, not before men and women, that I stand there.

Roger Olson has written on Why I can’t give up the label “evangelical”. I’m not sure I agree with him that the media are to blame for the distortion of the term, at least here in the UK. I put the blame on other Christians like the ones I have quoted in this post. But I stand with him in this:

All labels have their problems and, to be sure “evangelical” is fraught with them.  But I am not giving it up.  Instead, I will fight for it.

I’m an Evangelical, and I don’t have to believe that the Bible is an inerrant source of facts which its authors could not have known or understood.

I’m an Evangelical, and I am allowed to let my theology be informed by what I see, and what scientists see, in the world which God made.

I’m an Evangelical, and I don’t have to believe in a worldwide flood within the last 10,000 years.

I’m an Evangelical, and I don’t have to believe that God the Father punished his Son for sins he was not guilty of.

I’m an Evangelical, and I don’t have to believe that nearly everyone in the world, including anyone with homosexual inclinations, is going straight to everlasting torment in hell.

I’m an Evangelical, and I am free from behavioural rules of conservative Christianity such as “no drinking” and “no dancing”.

I’m an Evangelical, and I don’t have to believe that women cannot exercise leadership.

I’m an Evangelical, and I can believe that I should live in the world, as a good Christian, and not separate myself from it.

I’m an Evangelical, and I can believe that God is interested in social justice and in protection of the natural environment.

I’m an Evangelical, and I don’t have to believe that the world is inevitably going to get worse and that all Christians are soon going to be miraculously raptured out of it.

I’m an Evangelical, and I can work towards the Kingdom of God in this world while I wait for Jesus to return and bring in the fullness of that Kingdom.

Evangelical AllianceI applaud the Evangelical Alliance for its largely successful efforts to keep UK Evangelicals together, under a broad umbrella which can include people like myself as well as all but the most extreme fundamentalists. They have weathered storms like the Steve Chalke controversy and emerged stronger. I trust that they will continue to maintain this unity despite efforts to break it from inside and out.

I accept the right of other Evangelicals to disagree with me on some serious issues, as long as they don’t compromise the basic gospel message. Healthy debate, on blogs and elsewhere, is a good thing. But please let’s all be more careful about divisive statements, even in throwaway comments, suggesting that some other person or group is not Evangelical.