Writing in the Church Times, Miranda Threlfall-Holmes, rector of St. Bride’s Liverpool, says that she wants to reclaim evangelism for liberal, progressive Christians such as herself.
What is the gospel of liberal Christianity? ‘The belief that God’s love is unconditional, and is enough.’
That’s about it. For the rest, it is about ‘exploring spirituality’. Liberal theology ‘does not see our salvation as relying on our getting Christianity right.’ It does not believe in ‘original sin’, but in ‘original blessing.’ It is about ‘commitment to relationship and genuine dialogue’. …
And so to the tenth and last chapter of Phillip Gulley’s book. If the church were more Christian, he says, ‘this life would be more important than the afterlife.’
Too many people, the church offers an alternative reality, an escape from the real world. A big part of this is its obsession with our ultimate destiny in heaven or hell, contemplated without due regard to living well in the here and now. And this obsession stems from a need to control – to control who is ‘in’ and who is ‘out’. …
If the church were Christian, then, according to Philip Gulley, ‘inviting questions would be valued more than supplying answers.’
Gulley says that he has come across ‘many’ Christians who are content to rest their faith on some decision, made years before, to ‘invite Jesus into their heart’. They have no desire desire to explore, question, or deepen their outlook beyond that. They are encouraged in this apathy by intellectually lazy pastors, teaching dogmatic truth as a package that must be accepted in its entirety without demur.…
In chapter 4 of If the church were Christian, Philip Gulley contends that in such a church ‘gracious behavior would be more important than right belief’.
This is, of course, the old ‘Jesus versus the Pharisees’ thing. The Pharisees were sticklers for theological orthodoxy, yet their behaviour lacked grace. Jesus, on the other hand, was relaxed about doctrinal correctness, but exuded love and compassion.
The valuing of belief over behaviour doesn’t just affect the doctrinally conservative:- ‘It happens wherever and whenever people insist that their way to the Divine is the superior path.’
The problem occurs not only in individuals, but also in institutions. …
Philip Gulley puts it like this:- If the church were more Christian, ‘affirming our potential would be more important than condemning our brokenness.’ (If the Church Were Christian. HarperOne)
The church’s teaching about the sinfulness of human nature, it appears, has done great harm. It has brought the church into disrepute, and caused individuals to feel damaged and guilt-ridden. Gulley supports this with anecdotes of horror stories from which every reasonable person would recoil with horror.…
In his 2010 book, If the Church Were Christian: Rediscovering the Values of Jesus, Quaker pastor Philip Gulley offers a recipe for, well, making the Church Christian. Richard Rohr thinks that the recipe is ‘superb’. (Actually, if these two men are on the same page about what a desirable form of Christianity would look like, then I prefer Gulley’s more straightforward approach. Rohr’s slipperiness is reflected in this wording…
‘Jesus is a model for living more than an object of worship’ (my emphasis)
…whereas Gulley says that if the church were ‘more Christian’:-
‘Jesus would be a model for living rather than an object of worship’ (my emphasis).…
In 2014, Old Testament scholar Peter Enns began a series of posts in which he invited biblical scholars to share key moments when their inherited conservative view of the Bible was challenged, and subsequently modified.
Here’s the (very) distilled essence of each entry in the series:-
Peter Enns – realised that Paul accepted, apparently without demur, the extra-biblical legend about a ‘moveable rock’ (1 Corinthians 10:4).
John Byron – found that Jesus (or Mark) was mistaken about what 1 Samuel 21:1-9 says about David and his men eating the consecrated bread from the tabernacle.
Kent Dobson, who succeeded Rob Bell as pastor of influential Mars Hill Bible Church, has recently announced his decision to step down.
He had begun, he says, with a desire to follow Paul by offering the traditional gospel in culturally-relevant dress. But he had come to question not only the packaging as traditionally offered by the church, but also the message.
“I have always been and I’m still drawn to the very edges of religion and faith and God.
It was J. Gresham Machen, in Christianity and Liberalism, who commented that thorough-going theological liberalism is actually a different religion from orthodox Christianity. It is, in fact, a different kind of religion.
This observation was borne out in a recent discussion on Premier Christian Radio’s Unbelievable? show between Ben Witherington III and Stephen Thornton. Ben is an evangelical biblical scholar, Stephen a retired URC minister of liberal persuasion.
The topic under consideration was the narratives of Jesus’ birth as recorded in Matthew and Luke. …