I love this picture made by ASBO Jesus, a cartoon blog that I’ve recently decided to follow. The cartoons on it are designed to make people think about moral, ethical, theological and political issues. This particular cartoon caught my eye. Why?
The other day, my vicar and I were discussing statements of belief and doctrinal bases. We were saying that if we had a visible doctrinal basis that people had to sign up to, then the church would probably have more people going to it. And to be honest, I really do think that’s true.
Of course, we do have some sort of doctrinal basis, except it’s not written down in the way that many people would see one today. We hold to the catholic creeds (OK, don’t get angry on me – I mean the Nicene creed etc) and I guess we would, if we had to, describe ourselves as evangelical charismatic Anglicans. But we don’t explicitly describe ourselves in that way. Neither do we say ‘We’re an evangelical alliance church’ or ‘We’re a New Wine church’, even though we go to New Wine every year and share in the beliefs of the evangelical alliance.
One problem within evangelicalism today is that people want to be uniform. And with uniformity comes a limitation in how much you’re allowed to think, study and research the Bible and Theology for yourself. I’ve talked about this before. And I think a very scary outcome of this limitation is the sort of situation where Christian leaders get scared of people asking questions or objecting to ideas from the leadership. Along with that, Christians equally feel scared to ask questions and are therefore often left in the dark. This results in a stinted growth of discipleship and of the Church generally.
Evangelicalism is not a denomination. It is a movement of Christians who hold to certain key principles, and even those key principles are contested and debated hotly. It’s OK for there to be diversity within the church. None of us are going to get everything right. And a lot of the stuff we believe may be wrong.
But let’s not get to possessive over doctrine just because someone is asking a question. It is allowed.