how to tell the biblical story in a way that makes a difference

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John Tancock’s question about evangelicals relates to the questions I previously asked Cheryl above. I asked them because she had previously asked them of Andrew. She appeared to be asking to determine if Andrew was in a particular category (maybe evangelical) or not. Now John raised the issue here again with Jaco. But that category is irrelevant. Who cares if someone is evangelical? Was Jesus an evangelical? Was Peter? Was Paul?

This whole discussion really seems to miss the point of Andrew’s approach to scripture. One primary feature of evangelicalism (which is generally a fuzzy category) is a reliance on the Bible, not tradition, for determining faith and practice. And Andrew’s theology seems to fit nicely into that reliance in that it seems to be based primarily on a methodology of “what is the Bible really saying?” If he earnestly and honestly looks at a particular passage (or group of passages) that is widely used by evangelicals to “prove” the deity of Christ and decides that such is not the actual point of the passage, then what is wrong with that? If God is saying something to us in scripture that is not intended to show us the deity of Christ, but is intended for an entirely different purpose and we misunderstand it, then aren’t we being poor evangelicals in so doing? More importantly, aren’t we being poor followers of Christ? Just because a particular passage that is often interpreted to imply or show the divinity of Christ does not actually mean such is not the same thing as denying the divinity of Christ. It just means that passage is intended by God for another purpose. And understanding what God is saying is very important.

As an example that is less controversial than the Trinity, consider Matthew 18:20 - “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” This passage is often taken to mean that any time two or three believers gather together, Jesus promises to be present with them in some spiritual or supernatural way. But the passage is actually talking about church discipline. If someone in the body of believers sins, this passage prescribes a method for dealing with it, including a reference to Deuteronomy 19:15 regarding the necessity of multiple witnesses. Jesus is authorizing his followers to gather together in judgment of those who do not follow his commands. Now is it possible/true that wherever two or three follower of Christ gather together Jesus is somehow spiritually present with them through the Holy Spirit? Sure. But that is NOT what Matthew 18:20 is written to convey. It is very important to determine what scripture is actually saying to us. Remember that we are not called to be evangelicals. We are not called to orthodoxy. We are called to follow Christ. We are called to be obedient to him through the message handed down to us by his earliest follower in scripture. Wherever his truth takes us is where we are obligated to go. If we don’t really care so much if God might be saying something different that how it has commonly been understood, if we want to simply follow tradition, then we should probably be Roman Catholic rather than evangelical.

Note that none of this is intended to claim that the divinity of Christ is not true, merely to point out that Andrew has not made that claim either. This whole debate over the Trinity just seems orthogonal to the points Andrew has made.