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Love. Dick Davies.
This fascinating article looks at the rules of what makes a cult, and uses them to evaluate and critique the behaviour of evangelical churches. It comes from a left-leaning post-evangelical blog: Red Letter Christians.
Well worth a read.
A personal story from IHOP
If you google “leaving IHOP” you will find a “rich” (or rather very sad) vein of writings about a current example of abusive church.
Here is a link to just one of these posts:
Babel, Pentecost, and the House of Prayer: My Time at IHOP-KC
In this particular article Gary Wallin details his time at the International House of Prayer.
Much of the material on this blog is illustrated all too vividly in this contemporary example of an abuse of spiritual leadership.
Advice about moving on after suffering power abuse.
A guest Blog by Peter G Nelson (Retired lecturer at the University of Hull)
I am sorry about the difficulties Chris and others are having with Evangelicalism.
The problem is that Evangelicalism today is not what it used to be. It has branched off in various directions, each departing from the teaching of Scripture in one way or another. There is a need to bring the different branches together by combining their strengths and removing their weaknesses.
In the meantime, the best advice I can give to those who have had a bad experience is to forget what they have been taught and read for themselves the life and teaching of Jesus. A good place to start is Matthew or Luke, followed by John. Let Jesus speak to you. Anchor your faith in him. Then look for a local church that is seeking to follow Jesus in the same way. If you can find one, join it. If not, seek to follow him on your own, as faithfully as you can.
Remember what he said to a wayward church, ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and commune with him and he with me’ (Revelation 3:20).
Peter is a long time friend of Chris Pitts and has written books about the relationship of contemporary science to an Evangelical perspective on the writings of the Bible.
And more importantly is Liberalism the answer?
A Guest Blog By Dick Davies
I too suspect that the roots of abusive spiritual leadership are not so much linked to a particular theology such as evangelicalism (or for that matter liberalism). Rather they are in my opinion more linked to the way in which we hold to a particular “ism”, and use it to exert power. I very much appreciate Stephen’s careful discrimination between the words “Evangelical” and “Fundamentalist”.
I confess to be a U2 fan, and one of their songs has the lyric, “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for”. That makes sense to me. If we worship an utterly transcendent being, then all theology should surely be provisional. And if provisional, I would suggest also held to in a generous attitude. And yes I am aware of the irony in saying this as an evangelical!
The idea of generosity came to me reading Brian Maclaren’s excellent book “A Generous Orthodoxy“. It is also reflected well by him in his blog at www.brianmclaren.net where many less “provisional” evangelicals seem eager to pick fights! Brian’s responses always seem to me to be most generous and gracious.
Is Liberalism the answer?
I have read a couple of books recently: Stephen’s excellent “Ungodly Fear” and also Robin Meyers, “Saving Jesus from the Church”. Both books come from (what looks to me as an evangelical) similar standpoints. Both take a more classical “Liberal” approach to the Bible text. Quite understandably both look at problems in the church, and seem to see the answers in their own theological context. But is there a bigger picture? And if the whole answer to the abuse of spiritual power is not located in one particular theological stream, then where is it?
I think Stephen’s consideration of Psychology certainly merits further thought. There is however another big dichotomy in the area of philosophy – in particular between the “modern”, and “post-modern”. This dichotomy is giving rise to a significant growth of evangelicals in the USA who are on the political left. For me this movement gives great hope. These so called “red-letter Christians” emphasise a Jesus – centered orthopraxy (doing right) as distinct from orthodoxy (believing right).
More heroes less experts?
People such as Shane Claiborne are leaders of this new “red letter Christian” movement, politically & theologically radical, effectively saying not “believe what I believe” but “live like I live”. Living with the poor, involved in their lives.
Maybe we need more discipleship and less emphasis on orthodoxy – from whichever theological standpoint? I hate it when people use the Jesus “trump card”, but I’m going to do it anyway.
Isn’t that how he did it?