Greatly enjoying the Evangelical Ministry Assembly this year, especially having the privilege yesterday to speak on grace, the Holy Spirit and preaching - what a joy!
My favourite comment came from Terry Virgo during a round table discussion on Wednesday when he (mischievously!) described himself as a conservative evangelical. And then immediately - and correctly - defined what the term means: someone who wants to "conserve" biblical truth, the biblical gospel, biblical church, biblical Christianity.
Terry went on to describe what it doesn't mean, but which it has come to mean for too many - "cautious evangelicalism."
I agree completely with Terry in this. Doctrinally I am a conservative evangelical, but stopped using the term to describe myself some years ago for two reasons:
1. in the eyes of too many conservatives it meant cautious as opposed to radical, often justified by an appeal that they were simply making sure that the message wasn't being changed. For some I think it therefore became identified with being dispassionate. Dispassionate Christianity ought to be a contradiction in terms
2. people made a category mistake in putting "conservative" and "continuationist on spiritual gifts" at opposite ends of the same spectrum. This effectively implied that, in their view, you couldn't be a conservative evangelical and believe in the continuation of spiritual gifts. Those two views would be mutually contradictory under this understanding. However it is a category mistake, because these terms describe different things. The first is predominantly about the person and work of Christ, the nature of the atonement and the doctrine of scripture, the second is about the person, work and doctrine of the Holy Spirit, and how he interacts with the lives of Christians and churches. That is, they do not describe the same thing and therefore do not have to be made mutually contradictory
It seems to me that many conservatives are now not doing either of these things, which makes it a label I can much more naturally pick up again, which is great. Thanks EMA and thanks Terry, for this blessing. As Hugh Palmer said in the same discussion there are those of us who hold somewhat different views on spiritual gifts who have realised afresh that we are brother and sisters, not enemies, and that the discussion is one that rightly takes place within the family rather than being a reason to disenfranchise those who aren't quite on the same page as me.
Long may the discussion and friendship continue in the glorious spirit that has been exemplified by Adrian Reynold, Vaughan Roberts, Hugh Palmer, Terry Virgo, John Coles, Liam Gollagher and others at this EMA.