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?