Monday, February 9, 2015


       When it comes to matters of religion and faith, I don’t like labels, because of the baggage they carry with them. I try not to label others, and I don’t like to be labeled.
        I have not found a single term that describes who I am. I am more comfortable with adjectives than with nouns. On social justice issues I am usually on the liberal side. Morally I am conservative. Politically I consider myself to be quite independent. Theologically I would call myself confessional and in some respects radical, but I’d want to describe what I mean by that. Faith-wise I am evangelical, but I don’t want to be called AN evangelical, or A liberal, or A conservative, or A radical, because not one of those terms by itself defines who I am.
        There is a huge difference between being evangelical and being an evangelical. The adjective evangelical comes from the Greek word euangelion, meaning “good message,” or “good news.” The corresponding Anglo-Saxon word was god-spel, which was contracted, as is the way with words, in English to “gospel.” So the adjective “evangelical” means pertaining to, or characteristic of, or devoted to the gospel or the good news, specifically the good news of Jesus Christ. How could any
Christian preacher not be evangelical? But I don’t call myself an evangelical, and I have very little in common with those who do, when it comes to politics, or social justice, or theology, or biblical interpretation, or even matters of faith.
        Of one thing I am certain: Christian faith has to do with faith in Jesus Christ, faith that must be expressed in words and deeds. Christians are those who believe in Jesus Christ, and who are called to be disciples of Christ. We recognize our need to help one another fulfill that calling. We try to make sense of the amazing claims Jesus made about himself, including his claim to be “the way, and the truth, and the life” —the way to God, the truth about God, and the life in God.
        We don’t, or at least we should not, claim to have the truth. Rather we feel we have been encountered by the truth in Jesus Christ. We recognize, or at least we should recognize, the right of people of other faiths to believe what they believe, and we welcome opportunities to engage in interfaith dialogue. Regardless of our religious affiliation, should not all seekers after truth be willing to embrace truth wherever they encounter it?
        Genuine dialogue requires that the participants confess their faith assumptions at the outset. When we do that, we discover that we can indeed share our experiences of God in meaningful and mutually helpful ways.
        In the process we discover how inappropriate and inadequate are the labels people often pin on one another.

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