Thursday, 15 May 2014

Rachel Held Evans, Steve Chalke and Evangelical Alliance

If Rachel Steiner is reading this can I apologise for not phoning you?  I can't find your number.  I have meant to ring you loads of times.  It is thinking of you that I write this post.  If I remember right you asked me what I thought of Rachel Held Evans the last time we talked.  The answer is, 'I don't know, I know very little about her.'  What I do notice is that there is a real hostility in America between 'progressive Christians' and 'conservative evangelicals'.

It seems that the progressive side gets annoyed with the conservatives for being judgemental and narrow.  The progressives go mad when conservative exclude anyone from their club.  So the red-letter types are annoyed that Steve Chalke was removed from the Evangelical Alliance in the UK.  Yet Steve's understanding of how to read the Bible and his criticisms of penal substitution (which he referred to as cosmic child abuse) clearly put him at odds with the organisation's statement of faith.  From what I could see the head of the Evangelical Alliance was complimentary towards Chalke as a person and did not question his love for Jesus.

I am beginning to realise that no-one can own a label like evangelical (lit. good news/message).  Who doesn't want to be a good news person?  Yet evangelicalism as a theological movement has certain recognisable beliefs.  A movement like the Evangelical Alliance seeks to unite people from a common theological perspective and defend those distinctives.  I have no idea if Rachel Held Evans would sign up to the basis of faith of Evangelical Alliance.  If 'evangelical' simply means that you think of yourself as a 'good news' person then I can see why people get upset when people accuse them of not being evangelical.  But if the label 'evangelical' is used in reference to a theological movement with recognised common beliefs then it should be obvious if someone is evangelical or not.  With this in mind I think that the Evangelical Alliance acted with integrity in removing Chalke.

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