I hear evangelical a lot these days. I have always assumed on some level I am always evangelical. I days gone past I have been a conservative evangelical with ties to The Vineyard churches, the Pentecostal movement, and the Presbyterian denomination.
I entered mission service with a very conservative interpretation and understanding of what it means to be a Biblical witness. I once understood my label as a “Christian” to be one rooted in a strong inerrant holding of scripture layer with a conservative political manifestation. So I opposed same-sex rights, I supported the proclamation of Pro-Life, I denied the ability or authority of women to serve in ordained ministerial roles. I would have self-identified as a “confessing” Christian.
Yet at that moment of time I can assure you that I was a product of my environment. I was raised in a conservative household. I attended a conservative church. I made on efforts to go outside of this context in fear I would be persuaded by the “liberal” churches or media that attacked my faith. I needed to guard against that and shelter [guard] my soul from the damnable influence of the other.
I went off to Kenya and encountered a far different way to be Christian. When I did attend church I did so in a context that was far more conservative than I had previously known. I was alarming to me to be bombarded with a witness that included the real warning of “Spiritual Warfare” in our midst. Even in the place I had left intellect was better than the savage movement of emotional responses to the gospel.
I left Kenya to go to seminary. There I was introduced to those “liberal” voices I had been warned of. There I met theologies that were well thought out and diverse. I discovered that I could disagree with leaders, experts through exploration of text and theology on my own. I discovered voices that said it was valid to be Christian and progressive.
It is my understanding that evangelicalism is rooted in personal conversion, an incarnational witness of the gospel, a central Biblical Authoritative primacy, and a strong Christological focus upon the salvific character of the shed blood of Christ.
I bear witness to the transforming power of my brotheredness to Jesus the Christ. I have personally experienced conversion via my intentional submission to Christ. I look to the parable of the Pearl and treasure [Matthew 13:45-46] as the Biblical witness of this. I too was searching for something other than which I possessed and came across a truth of great value. This truth inspired me to liquidate myself as payment for this truth.
I did not complete the transaction. Rather, I am continually in conversation with what I witness in the divine. I point to the end of Siddhartha when Gupta witnesses transformation before his eyes. Yet, he remains in a stasis of self. He cannot deny what has happened and e is not yet utterly free of what he was. He is new and old in the same moment. I am not what was revealed to me in that moment of conversion. Yet, I am not the same as I was before. I am on a quest to find the experience again. I am on a quest for a faith seeking understanding.
An incarnational witness of the gospel:
In my quest for faith seeking understanding I am compelled to be the Christ [the truth I have witnessed] to those God delivers in to my path. My joys, sorrows, and action is woven into the fabric of others faithful seeking. The gospel calls for a reorientation to the Ken-dom of God, with God as the focus and all other expanding outward. I am convicted to deny myself to serve the other. I am responsible for the other in a deep, intimate manner due to the revelation of my transformative encounter with God.
Therefore, I must provide food for the hungry, clothing for the naked, and comfort to the afflicted. It is the Biblical mandate to be Christ to all of creation. I cannot subject my human frailty upon the physical needs of the other. I am called to a radically different response than what is the cultural norm.
This does not mean that Christ is not revealed in and through culture and the human/non-human actors of culture. In the truth revealed via my encounter I must bear witness to the impossible nature of the possibility of Christ to reveal through all things.
A central Biblical Authoritative primacy:
Biblical authority does not rest upon my ability to understand, interpret, or wield it. The Bible is authoritative as a witness to the story of Creator and creation. The Bible is central to my faith as it informs and directs the who, what, and why of my existence as the encountered truth [revealed in conversion & witnessed in the Body of Christ] transforms my heart, my mind, and my strength.
The Bible as story binds me to the cross as it binds me to those that have come before me and those that shall come after me (D.V.). The primacy of Biblical authority rests in response to the story of Creator and creation. It presents a collective witness to all. The Biblical witness holds authority in that truth is revealed in the mutual relationship between Creator and creation. Biblical authoritative primacy moves me into a language where transformation becomes corporate. In this the other is revealed and proximity is restored to Creator and creation.
A strong Christological focus upon the salvific character of the shed blood of Christ:
The Christ is bigger than I can imagine. In the truth revealed in the conversion encounter I have a responsibility to be the Body of Christ here and now. Absent of Christ, my revelation holds no water. To simply say “Jesus Saves” is to discount the dynamic salvific nature of the Christ. To imbue the Christ with salvific powers absent of the cross is to again over simplify the nature of and relationship of the Christ.
I must hold a strong focus of the Christ [in all its dynamic proportions] as I encounter salvation daily with full knowledge that blood was shed. The atonement for sin was beyond my ability to simply pay it back. Yet, I fail in understanding faith if I solely focus upon this. I must exist in the tension of the fully, not yet, unrealized, and glorified witness of the shed, resurrected Body of the Christ to grasp what the Christ is and what the Christ means to creation. Therein, I do not own the Christ in interpretation or revelation. The Christ exists beyond time, in time, and with all, for all.
With this I self-identify as an evangelical, progressive, ecumenical, interfaith, esoteric, emerging, brothered one of Jesus the Christ.