Cooper & Cary Have Words

#157 What Even Is An Evangelical? (With Matthew Fisher)

July 13, 2023 James Cary & Barry Cooper Season 1
Cooper & Cary Have Words
#157 What Even Is An Evangelical? (With Matthew Fisher)
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Cooper and Cary have extended words with Matthew Fisher about the Bebington Quadrilateral and the definition of evangelical. They also get into whether or not the evangelical focus on a person's "conversion" is a healthy one. Barry's "conversion experience" was quite a dramatic one - but to what extent should we presume that kind of thing is normative?

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Speaker 1:

Hello, welcome to Cooper and Carey. Have Words. My name is James Carey. I live in England, which is one of the kingdoms of the United Kingdom, and Over There in Florida is a previous resident of the United Kingdom, now living happily married and a pastor in Florida in Dilland, barrie Cooper. Hello Barry, how are you?

Speaker 2:

Hello James, i'm excellent and enjoying this kingdom over here, the kingdom of sunshine, and if you're watching the video, you can see I'm looking slightly orange today, so try not to let that be off-putting. Now we have a very special guest with us, and when I say very special guest, i mean that because this is a long time friendship. I don't know Matthew super well, but you do, so tell us a bit about our special guest.

Speaker 1:

So Matthew Fisher is here. He is a co-host because, as listeners know, i am Poddy Amaris. I have done other pods that are not of this pod pen, and one was called Hello, mormonism, and that was with the guest Matthew Fisher. I'm just going to say hello to Matthew. Hello, matthew. Hello, he's come round for lunch And we often talk about this sort of thing anyway. So I thought, well, let's get Barry in and just hit record and see what happens, because Matthew is doing a PhD on church history. He's pretty much read everything And he's read it And we haven't.

Speaker 2:

And we haven't It's ideal.

Speaker 1:

So yeah, and he also does a lot about Mormonism, but which we're not going to talk about today, because the thing we're going to talk about today pertains to a conversation we had the other day which also throws a bit more shade on John Bunyan, and we'll come to that shortly as his here's yet another thing which is an unintended consequence perhaps of pilgrim's progress, and it is to do with testimonies.

Speaker 1:

So my testimony used to be along the lines of the standard evangelical one, which is I was taken to church as a child, i was baptized, but I didn't become a Christian until the age of 11, because at school I understood what Christ on the cross was doing And I understand that my sin had to be paid for, and I became a Christian at age 11. I've kind of changed my story since then And more in line with the fact that I was baptized into the church, in particular the Church of England, when a Christian education went to a chapel every morning, sung hymns and really understood what it meant to be a Christian when I was 11, let's say 11 in a very spartan way. There's a conversation here, therefore, about pressure on you to make your testimony A a bit more exciting and B have you made a decision?

Speaker 2:

And C essentially have a conversion story, so sort of a moment of crisis almost. is that what you're talking about?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, but also yeah, and as I've spoken to Matthew and he'll explain in great detail in a moment, one of the hallmarks of evangelicalism is conversionism, and this is something that I'm increasingly uncomfortable about, although maybe, given where we are in Christian history, maybe it's all coming back. But do you want to just say something about what conversionism is and what it has to do with evangelicalism and a guy called Bebington?

Speaker 3:

Yeah. So in the 1980s a professor in Scotland called David Bebington started looking at evangelicalism and going how can we decide who's an evangelical and who isn't? And I think it came from the idea that, a few years before, martin Lloyd-Jones has said the problem with definitions of evangelicalism is it includes everybody or nobody. So Bebington came up with these four ideas. It's called the Bebington Quadrilateral, and most generous interpretations of what evangelicalism is have come from his 1980s writings on this topic. So he comes up with the idea that it's biblicism, so you've got to really have your the Bible. It's the centrality of the cross, it's that once you are a believer your life will change. And then this big one that you want to talk about, which is conversionism, that people will be converted from one position to another. But one of the things that it is worth noting with the Bebington idea is that it's very broad within each category.

Speaker 3:

So there is a spectrum where a conversionism I suppose, could go from anywhere, from a profession of faith to you know, if you confess you believe certain things about God and Christ and the churches, then if you're creedal, that you then go. Well, i believe all of that. I think it would be hard to say, well, no, we then exclude you from evangelicalism because you don't have this sort of creation story. And then at the other end is this sort of conversion sort of narrative or conversion story where there was a dramatic event. So, like Barry said, you sort of lurch from a crisis into a point of faith And that has become in my lifetime, has certainly become the dominant form of what conversionism means. But I think when Bebington writes, conversionism is a spectrum of where you can hold. You know, you can be brought up in your faith. You've not been to prison, you've not done all the things that fetishize a testimony to make them more exciting. But really evangelicalism today is all about individual conversion stories.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and the reason that Bebington's doing that is not because he's curious as to know who's in and who's out. From an academic point of view, it's just infuriating if everybody is using terms differently, isn't it? So in his religious, his role as a religious historiographer or historian, he was trying to establish some agreed what we mean by evangelical looking back. So John Bunyan was some kind of an evangelical And people like to say that, you know, and people talk about your heart being strangely warmed. That was, that was.

Speaker 2:

Wesley, wasn't it?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, Yeah, Yes, that's right. It just reminds me of I did an interview with Fergus Butler Galley once who said the last time he was strangely warmed he was in the swimming pool. He didn't really have an awful lot of time for that, for that expression, which I kind of enjoyed, obviously.

Speaker 2:

One love. Why don't you just make 10 louder, and make 10 be the top number and make that all the louder.

Speaker 1:

These go to 11. So I'm wondering, thinking aloud on this podcast, as it were, to what extent conversionism is an expression of our individualism and the way society is gone, or whether actually we are much more individualistic. that that's a good thing And maybe we should just embrace that and I should get over it, because we're also at a different point of Christian history. Barry, where are your thoughts on this?

Speaker 2:

Well, i was just going to say. I can imagine some listeners at this point hearing that definition of conversionism, a belief that humans need to be converted, and certainly the sort of people who listen to our show will think, yeah, what's the problem? I mean, doesn't Jesus say in John 3, you must be born again? There is a sort of a sense you have to pass from death to life. Now, of course, that might not necessarily be in a single moment or a single week or single month. It could be a period of time, but so we're not sort of underplaying the reality of what Jesus teaches. There are we just to clarify.

Speaker 1:

No, I think what we're saying is essentially that if you're a total unbeliever and if an apostle turns up in your town we're speaking, you know, just nearly 2000 years ago and preachers of the gospel, and you respond, you're going to become a believer. But what I'm saying is that if you're already part of a Christian society, some part of Christendom, you've been baptized into a church. Whether how attendant you are in that church or not is a bit of a moot point, But you've got lots of people brought up in Christian homes with Christian parents, and their parents are sitting there as their kids are saying, yeah, but I didn't really become a Christian till the age of 15. And the parents are thinking they're going oh, thanks, That's like how helpful is that? Because this, to some extent, is your testimony, isn't it, Barry? Because you were brought up in a Christian home? Yeah, it is, I mean.

Speaker 2:

I was born up going to very sort of evangelical Methodist churches and definitely heard the gospel, went to a church of England school, albeit the religious education teacher didn't believe in the physical resurrection of Christ, but still I certainly had plenty of education. My Christians both prefer parents, both professing Christians. That said it. and again, this is going to be completely existential, anecdotal, just about my experience And maybe that's unhelpful, but what I can say is that, although I certainly would have said I was a Christian when I was, say, 15, my experience as a believer at the age of 20, post Eastern 1992, when I went to university there was, there was a remarkable difference between the two experiences.

Speaker 2:

The former was I could certainly give a sense to doctrinal truths, i believe that I would say Jesus is the Son of God and yada, yada, and I put my trust in him and all that kind of stuff. And yet something happened, yeah, in Easter 1992, which meant that I suddenly had The desire to please God, which I hadn't had before. so it seemed, it seemed to me that something had changed. And again, i'm not saying that happened overnight, but it was fairly rapid and my memory of it is that it happened in the space of you know, maybe a, maybe a week or two, and I really was not the sort of person I was previously, so I'm not quite sure to I've always thought of. I've always reached for the biblical language of being born again to Explain what had happened there, but maybe that's not what I'm hearing you say, is that might not be helpful.

Speaker 3:

I wouldn't say that obviously in today. Today We can't say your, your personal experience is wrong.

Speaker 2:

But I would say it's alright.

Speaker 3:

I would wonder if, if you take you at 15 and you at 20, i mean are, are you saying in in 92, when you, when you're 20 years old, that you go, that the Change is so dramatic that you go from outside the kingdom to inside the kingdom, that that is the salvation moment, or is it Like a maturation? Well, what does that mean? Well, maturing, yeah, oh, yeah, yeah is yeah. So is it you sort of moving on? because you're moving on into adulthood and your life? Our lives are changing at that age and what I think now is not what I thought when I was 25. What I think now is not even actually in many ways I'm 46 now. What I think now is not a lot of what I thought at 42.

Speaker 1:

Yeah well, when we first met, we've both changed our opinions on quite a few things. We've almost swapped on a couple of things, that's true.

Speaker 3:

And just because that is our experience and I agree with you on the born-again thing and I, i grew up in Pentecostal and charismatic Verging on what today could be described as new apostolic reformation style churches, and I Definitely had a conversion experience. But I went from no Christian upbringing to nothing, no Christians in my parents or siblings, and then suddenly I started going to church and Became a Christian quite dramatically quite young. But I would then look back and go Look, see my life through my life as I get, as I mature and I change and I read, read the Bible more and just begin to understand Christian history more. That I don't look back and go. When I was seven or eight I was unsaved.

Speaker 3:

I was just I was just different and I I think in today's evangelical World particularly non-conformist. I think Anglicanism It's got a million other problems.

Speaker 1:

But at least on paper. I resent that. I would say it's hundreds of thousands.

Speaker 2:

I resemble that comment.

Speaker 3:

At least on paper. The Anglican church Holds to this Covenantal idea of children are part of God's kingdom. Children born into Christian families are Almost you know, are Christians, until they tell you otherwise. And I think and it's whether or not, that being born again is an opting in or an opting out of of Christianity. What do you read, my lord?

Speaker 2:

What is interesting, which really sort of tracks with that, is that so many Testimonies do begin with well, i was brought up in a Christian home. You know, that's the sort of cliche, isn't it? So there is certainly there, seems to me anyway, again anecdotally, i've got zero statistics to back this up.

Speaker 1:

That's the way we do things on this podcast.

Speaker 2:

It does seem as if, yes, of course, there is a correlation between the things one is taught as a child and and later for and particularly, there seems to be a correlation between Parents really living out their faith and then the, the child, actually following in that faith.

Speaker 2:

So it's not to discount that. But what's interesting for me is when we're talking about the maturation Kind of theory of this is that if you were sort of making a film of my life around that time, the graph of godliness would certainly not be a sort of a gentle upward trajectory. It would have been, you know, sort of a fairly sort of static one, and then an absolute plummet around the age of sort of 18 and 19 where things would just become a real car crash. And then you have this remarkable Just almost sort of over the course of a week turn around of outlook and belief and joy and Christ and all of those things. So again, this is a, this is a. You know we're taking a survey of one here, so maybe that's not particularly helpful, but that, from an artistic point of view, you say whether your experience resonates with others.

Speaker 1:

I think that's the way out of it, isn't it?

Speaker 3:

That's the way to say it, yeah, yeah the question I would ask about that And not about that specific thing. But if so, anyone has you know if anything happens in church or if anyone has you know and any sort of Um like theology on of anything is is it? Is it ordinary? Is that ordinarily how things should happen? There's a lot of people, evangelicals particularly, that don't that go. Well, i can't find a church, i won't go to church. I'm part of the invisible church, which I think has been way overemphasized, and they go. You know. Oh well, god can meet me on the golf course. You go, absolutely he can, but that's not ordinarily the way he's chosen that he does things.

Speaker 3:

So that seems a bit extraordinary or even disorderly, and I wonder if, because of the way that evangelicalism has developed, and Bebbington would only date it from 1730, so he blame, you know, not blames, that's harsh, but he puts it on Whitfield and Wesley, he doesn't put it on Bunyan. But the idea that if sort of evangelicalism being sort of that's being a normal way that things are done, or if it's extraordinary And I think my reading of Scripture would be that the ordinary way to do it is that God places you in families and those families bring up people in the Lord And then those children go on and bring up people in the Lord And then you just go. Well, the conversion experience is missing because perhaps since 1730, we haven't lived in ordinary times, right?

Speaker 1:

So I mean, of course, let's say, 1,300 years before then it was also abnormal, not ordinary, because the Gospel was still hardly established in England at least. Obviously it was in other parts of the world. But yeah, do you want to say something? We were talking earlier about how this is a post-Reformation problem And you know, i think, the 17th century and Bunyan and people, and you have itinerant preachers and those sorts of things and you get non-conformist churches and of course, the act of toleration in the late 1680s just suddenly means all bets are off and you can really go your own way. I mean, you can't become an MP or go to university unless you're an Anglican, but you know other than that you can do what you like. But you were saying actually that's not the case and you've got people like Moravians. Do you want to say a bit about Moravians?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, so the Moravians are kind of 17th century like. Their influence is from the 17th century, but their influence is really on early evangelicalism and what. They're the ones that talk about it being the heart, not the head, and so instead of going like the Puritans, for example, are preaching the heart and the head all the time, and if you read or listen to Puritans they're sort of firing you to emotionally respond to things whilst intellectually challenging your mind And it's sort of it's like just it can be exhausting, not just because of the language, reading Puritan writing but it can be exhausting because it's so dense and it's so heart feelings-led and it's so intellectual in the head and the mind And it makes you think.

Speaker 1:

No wonder they had a Sabbath. It took it very seriously because it was exhausting. Do you want to? but who are the Moravians? So where are they?

Speaker 3:

The Moravians in the 17th century end up in Europe and they are prolific writers. We probably today consider them a little bit of a cult. They're living in communes on rich people's lands and things like that. But they hold to that view that they promote piety, individual piety. They promote individualism, which is in its early stages, so previously movements are about larger groups of people, whereas liberalism that comes in in the 17th and 18th century makes starts making things about the individual.

Speaker 3:

So if you take Bunyan, for example, and you read Pilgrim's Progress as society rather than an individual, so Christian is a Christian society. It's not an individual. It's read very differently. And then Is that how he meant it? I don't think it is, is it? I would say probably not, because there is influence from that individual conversion. But there are academics that blame Dickens for taking it and making it and sort of superimposing post-1730s evangelicalism on it in the readings in. I think it's in the old Curiosity Shop that someone like in that book someone is reading it And they're saying that's where the Bunyan gets a bad rap.

Speaker 3:

And I think Mark Noll, who writes about evangelicalism, basically says about Bunyan he would be bemused that he's used by the evangelicals, that it's quite an astounding thing. But actually early 17th, 18th century people took him on And I think he tended to be read, i think, by people from all stripes. So it's you know. In the same way you know, there are people that the Roman Catholics love, that Calvin and the Reformed people also love, and then Bunyan seems to go into that category, it's there's a load of sort of fairly liberal 18th century Armenians that love him, and then Calvinist evangelicals tend to love him as well. So that does always set off a few alarm bells in my head. But these.

Speaker 1:

If somebody's universally highly regarded, there's something wrong. I think that says more about you than anything else?

Speaker 3:

I think it probably does So. But so the Moravian's, though, they're about piety, they're about individualism and they are about the conversion experience, and so they're the ones that basically convince Whitfield, by reading some of their works, that he needs to keep repenting until he feels it OK. And that's basically what he does. And one of the one of the problems is is then the, the reviews and the historiography of people like Whitfield are written by people who love Whitfield. Yeah, so things like the Banner of Truth, arnold Dalimor's biography.

Speaker 3:

It's. it's in places it's brilliant And in places it's over kind and it's over generous and it's uncritical. And that part is that's part of the problem is that you're just going somewhere Now you know another generation down the line and no one's gone. hang on a minute. He got his influence from these people. These people, you know, created sort of pietism. So piet, personal piety, is probably a good thing right, not just probably, i think.

Speaker 1:

I think we can come out and say personal piety, yeah, let's put our heads about it, our heads above the paraphernalia.

Speaker 3:

Yes, pietism, where you then you then start to sort of legislate about it. Yes is a is a problem because it basically then creates this version of Christianity that the assurance of salvation is super wobbly, and I think that's what conversion experience, or conversionism that Bellington identified. I think that's what he's he's noticing is this people striving for assurance. They people want to know they're saved, so they they go, it's all right. You know, i really really repented this week. I really really believe it And it becomes this try harder Christianity.

Speaker 3:

When you do be like, why don't you just settle down, have a cup? of tea with the opening chapters of Ephesians and just see that assurance is something that is from God, not something that you manufacture.

Speaker 3:

And I think probably that's where it And so growing out of piety.

Speaker 3:

I think that's where evangelicalism has gone wonky And my, my preferred term, rather than conversion experience, is profession of faith.

Speaker 3:

Because you know if, if Christianity explodes in an area of the country and there's a huge amount of conversions, or around the world, or wherever it is and there's a huge amount of conversions, the next generation will, I would argue, would would hold more James and I's view, where the children of those people will naturally feel and believe they are part of God's kingdom And they do it not through conversion but through professing their faith, through the statement that they believe. And I think anyone that is converted has a profession of faith. And you know, anyone that's gone through a conversion experience or conversionism has a profession of faith. And people who are brought up in the faith will also have a profession of faith. So my kids, for example I know they're 15 and 14, at present they know nothing about not being in relationship with God, not have it, not believing in God. They know nothing of it. And what do we men do? Hope that they go or wonky when they're older so that they can come back to know that they're saved.

Speaker 2:

It seems a strange one to them, and I think I definitely not, would be the answer to that, and I think there's always, it does seem to me, clear in the Scripture that I mean this is what First John's all about.

Speaker 2:

He's a constant sort of emphasis on needing to be born of God, because those who are born of God no longer make a practice of sinning. Born of God, born of God, born of God is the refrain, and it may be, of course, that our being born of God is almost, is concurrent with our being born of our mother. Right, it could be something that is, extremely early on, maybe indistinguishable from that fact, but for others, of course, that is not the case. The issue is well, all right, yes, are you professing faith? But I would also add to that are you working out your salvation? Not that that becomes the basis for your phreny assurance, but simply that the fruit of a tree is how we judge the tree, And that seems to me a fairly sort of solid biblical grounds on which to stand, yeah, and I think Bevington identifies that when he talks about activism In fantasy.

Speaker 3:

I think that's the one that's been the most pushback There's been a lot of pushback about once you are converted, your life will change. There will be a visible difference And I think some of the pushback on that makes it sound like you're going well, it's a works-based solution to a sin problem then, and you're like well, no, that's not true either. But I think I agree with you. There will be evidence there that the way you live your life is different. And I think Bevington says if you're going to be an evangelical, then he calls it activism. But again, i would look at it and I'm not even sure that's a distinct evangelical position. I think broader Christianity would be looking for the same thing as well.

Speaker 2:

The conversionism thing, though, is really interesting.

Speaker 2:

That really got me thinking about the way in which there does seem to be a sort of theological minimalism with many people who identify as evangelicals. You see this in the States a lot, where people are so focused on being saved And usually what they mean by that is, i'm going to escape hell and get to heaven that there isn't really much sense of what they've actually been saved for, and perhaps that comes from that focus on you know, am I saved? Well, okay, if you'll say well then, what for? And I think quite often you see that thinking exposed if you're to ask that person the question well, what do you think heaven's going to be like? Why are you looking forward to heaven? And very often, with evangelicals, the answer will be things like well, you know being reunited with loved ones, or you know just sort of, there'll be no more pain or suffering or tears. All of those things are, of course, wonderfully true, but there's very little sense of oh, i get to be with Jesus forever, i get to see him face to face.

Speaker 3:

I get to just worship the Lamb.

Speaker 2:

Exactly And be happy about that. And that does, i think, speak to what you're saying, which is that there is this very individualistic fire insurance policy view of salvation which is just truncated and just really anemic, and the you know the sort of stuff that John Owen writes about in communion with God. It would just presumably seem like a totally foreign language to some of those self-professed evangelicals.

Speaker 1:

And I think, therefore, it's no coincidence that one of the four hallmarks of an evangelical, according to the Bellington Quadrilateral, is crucicentrism, a focus on Jesus' crucifixion and its saving effects, and rather than other church traditions which are equally excited about the incarnation and others are also excited about the resurrection. Now we as evangelicals will say, well, of course we celebrate the incarnation. No, you don't really. And of course we are thrilled by the resurrection, are you? Because, as we've said on this podcast quite a few times, we think that penal substitutionary atonement is the only game in town, that that is what the Bible is. It is penal substitutionary atonement. The Lamb of God takes away the sin of the world.

Speaker 1:

Now, it's true, and it's important and it's central, but it's not total, as I often say and even hear myself say when I edit this podcast, and I'm going to leave that one in. So I think, in a way, that obsession with personal salvation is rather baked into this format, into this quadrilateral, which I think is quite helpful because it is very descriptive. But obviously you know people from other church traditions, matthew, because obviously in your church history you've been looking at ritualists and Anglo Catholics who are much more excited about the incarnation or things like that. Is that true?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, so my, the working title of my, the PhD, is something like the evangelical theology and the high church practice of Victorian slum priest ritualists And I think what we particularly with it. I think this is one of the Anglican problems. One of the one of the Anglican problems is that 19th century and onwards particularly, or until the mid 20th century, evangelicalism inside Anglican churches mainly Calvinistic and it is very, very reformed in and it is very, very Biblicist and it doesn't leave sort of any, any leeway, so anything that wasn't emphasizing the cross, the cross, the cross, the cross, like, which in that sense became like evangelistic in its style, like where you just go, you assume that there's people in the congregation who are unsaved and you preach to them the cross so that they get saved and you preach them and preach them, and what you end up doing in some ways unless they come to your midweek Bible study stuff you end up starving your congregation of any other discipling It's protein, protein, protein, protein protein.

Speaker 1:

No carbs, no fiber, no, nothing else.

Speaker 3:

So of course, they think it's all about the conversion experience, because all you're telling them is the cross is where you come to Christ and are converted. And so therefore, the people I study and the reason I really enjoy studying them is because they in a, in the context of a mission and unsaved people being being there, so they go down and do a mission to a mine and things like that that they preach the cross in a way that you go, that's, that's purge and recognizable that, even though they're bells and smells people from inside the Anglican church. But when they come back and they preach to their congregation, they preach the, the importance of you know, and, and the crucial part, that the things that evangelicals find fairly abhorrent the, the high view of Mary, not a Roman Catholic view, but an Anglican high view of Mary and they preach the incarnation and they preach the resurrection and they preach Pentecost and they the ascension. Yeah then they really do And they preach all of those things. But we find sort of within evangelicalism, broader evangelicalism it's so limited that we're so not I don't want to play it down and we're so worried about people's salvation And we must be worried about that.

Speaker 3:

But, like you said, it's not the only game in town. You know, if we're going to, if our lives are going to be changed as the Bellingdon said is called to activism I think Barry called it something slightly different, but like the evidence of salvation being there then people have to be discipled And the evangelical context is the right in my opinion. I'm part of an evangelical church. I would say that's the right place to do that, because of the high view of the Bible, because of the understanding of who God is and who man is, who people are really, and that it should change your life. But the only way you can do that is by not starving people. And so the bigger, more enthusiastic, let's say, churches that align themselves with evangelicalism. They're so concerned about making converts, that people converting to Christ, that they starve the people, and so people, people don't know any different. They don't know. They don't know that Christianity is more than penal substitution.

Speaker 2:

And the natural, the natural air of that to some extent over here would be those sorts of evangelical mega churches in, and the seeker sensitive ones in particular, grew out of Willow Creek and so on, where it really is just about focusing on getting people inside the kingdom.

Speaker 2:

Then, once you get them in there, it's like, okay, well, you're done, you just sit over there and be quiet, because we've got to still keep reaching for these guys who are out here somewhere in the culture And it is. it's weird that we're Jesus calls us obviously to make disciples, And I think that's a wonderfully holistic statement which embodies not just evangelism what we think of evangelism, reaching for people who are not believers but also, of course, people who are believers, and maybe even believers for many years, that you're still wanting to make disciples of them. and you're doing that by, as you say, Matthew, preaching the whole Council of God, not just a few favorite proof texts.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, the very next sentence, or the very next words from make disciples at the end of Matthew is teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you to you know, that is, that is really important that all that I've come on.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, no, that's it, It's the whole lot. Yeah, You know, and, and, and. Obviously without the cross there is no salvation Right And in many ways, without the incarnation, if there is no incarnate Christ and I think John sees that in John one there's no like how brilliant the incarnation is, And yet we just don't see it.

Speaker 1:

And, and, and I think we use Christmas for evangelism and to preach penal substitution retirement.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, but because it's not the baby in the basket, it's the man on the cross.

Speaker 1:

And.

Speaker 3:

I've been to plenty of Christmas services that are like that, but the baby is born to die.

Speaker 1:

Oh, hang on, look, it's a baby. Can we not just do that bit first?

Speaker 3:

It's actually one of the reasons that in in as I've got older, i've become slightly more appreciative of sort of liturgy and church calendars, because it it does help not go on so many walks or or down the rabbit holes that we really love, yeah, and I know what gets you through all of the doctrines, doesn't it?

Speaker 1:

over the course of a year, because you do get ascension Sunday and you do get Pentecost and you do get so if you're doing it right and you use the lectionary. There are many upsides to that. I'm not going to die on a hill for them, but I think they are very helpful.

Speaker 3:

And I think quite often our reaction So the 19th century reaction against the Oxford movement and Anglo-Catholicism and the elevation of Mary and things in the Roman Catholic Church is to go so far away from those ideas. So you know, mary has been over elevated and then suddenly she becomes no more than a sort of an oven to cook the Saviour. Thank you very much job done. But you're like the scripture doesn't have her like that. You know, if she is the most blessed woman that ever lived, okay, you know, we probably ought to pay some attention to that Sort of evangelicalism I think is particularly guilty of being reactionary. So the Oxford movement was very in many ways I think it's probably better looked at as proactive. They were trying to high church the thing up and elevate the thing and get it back to what it should be And in many ways align it with Victorian Roman Catholicism.

Speaker 3:

The next generation, who the guys I study, come along and they go oh no, let's go pre-Reformation Church of England. That would be better because looking at Roman Catholicism in Victorian England, that on Victorian Europe, that's a mess as well. Let's try and find a time. Keep going back, keep going back, keep going back. And as the evangelicals respond to that. They just, i think the effect is kind of a ricochet. It's like you land miles away from, you've gone way past what's true, way past what's helpful, and you've just ended up with the idea that, oh well, you know, mary doesn't matter, the ascension doesn't matter, the birth doesn't matter, the only thing that matters is the cross, because the people that are telling us that those other things matter, they look like the bad guys.

Speaker 1:

Is that a fair chance? you think, barry? I mean because I would say lots of people listening are going no, no, i think all of those things matter.

Speaker 2:

I think it's not true. I think, particularly in reform circles, i'd say, we do a better job. Those who are schooled in the Puritans, for example, know that there is a wonderful experiential realm of knowing God which we need to be serious about and work at as well as enjoy. I guess I'm thinking of the kind of the evangelicals, much of it in the South, here in the States, where, again, it is something that happened to me in the past I prayed the prayer, so I'm in, i'm good.

Speaker 2:

So you read Paul in Philippians is it Philippians 2, philippians 3, where he says I want to know Christ. I don't know what these people make of that verse because I imagine the knee-jerk reaction to say, dude, you're an apostle, you're a Christian, you know Christ, you're okay, you're in, when Paul's point is clearly no, no, i want to know him, i want to explore the majesty, the transcendence, the wonder of the full counsel of God. I want to know more and more and there's a hunger there for that that is restless. There isn't a restless in much evangelicalism. There's actually a kind of complacency, i would say.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, i think the thing that really saddens me from my church upbringing everybody is saved to be the next evangelist, that you have children and they become the mini evangelist in the school and against the science teacher or whatever it is And it's their job. Their job, all this pressure, make converts, make converts, make converts. And I think in the end I look back to the churches I've been to and I go. I don't think a large amount of people who were sent out to teach the gospel or preach the gospel or to evangelize to their friends had any idea what it was they were trying to present. And I think that's where And I come I'm thinking of a very, you know, pentecostal charismatic Christianity in Britain is. It's even quite there.

Speaker 3:

There aren't mega churches in the way that that that you guys have it, but the influence from those, so the influence of people, that A big, mega church pastor in America that says the Sunday you became a Christian is the last Sunday. This church was for you. You're now one of the workers, basically you're now part of the mission, but the people who are on mission you were to be missioned against, as it were, and now it's your job to go and make More converts. That has snuck in horrendously Here to where I look, i get really sad.

Speaker 3:

And when I look at the Pentecostal movement that I grew up in, which used to be distinguishable between that and charismatic Christianity, and now it isn't because of its embracing of that over simplified Idea and I just see there are people Who are, who are starving, who are so hungry that even when I say things to them, they're like you know they. It sounds incredible because they've never heard it before, but I'm just an idiot like the rest of the people who just seem to think we should take these things a bit more seriously.

Speaker 2:

We're obviously sort of throwing the evangelicalism movement under the bus a little bit, and I think we would, we would all, we would all identify, i guess, as evangelicals, at least in some sense.

Speaker 1:

We should back up the bus. Yeah, i'm going over somebody's body there, sorry.

Speaker 2:

That's a bit awkward, but to what extent, matthew, and you would know this much better than a couple of bozos like us. But what? to what extent do you think we ought to? again, we're big fans of the Reformation, love the Reformation, think the Reformation was a good thing, trademark. However, to what extent do you think we ought to do a bit of under bus throwing of the Reformation? I mean, are the Roman Catholics right that what the Reformation has bred is essentially a World, a society in which every man does what is right in his own eyes And there is a sort of an individualism that comes from that which, which has been unhelpful.

Speaker 3:

Again, like with Bunyan, the problem isn't the Reformation.

Speaker 1:

That's good. That's a start, Yeah do you stay with us subscribers?

Speaker 3:

I'm gonna have to think of a good reason why it isn't. No, i have got one The. The reformers could never have thought of the context Which we are in now. So the, the like the post romantic era, for example, of Which led, which brings the rise of individual liberalism, is very, very different. So the autonomy of people through the whole of history is not something that exists very, you know, very much Like the freedoms that we have now.

Speaker 3:

I know we we could probably complain about some of the are Cattailing of freedoms, but the freedoms we have now, compared to Before the Reformation, during the Reformation into the 17th century, are unbelievable, and so the context with which they are writing And preaching and teaching and and reacting is is what gets forgotten. We look at it through this sort of Victorian Romanticism, liberalism, ideas and then we end up with oh well, we've removed the context of what Calvin and Luther are trying to do. But I think we must also think that Just because these guys have said stuff and in fairness, they didn't agree with each other all the time But just because they've said stuff, we need to think of it Sometimes, as they have ricochet, that they have looked at what Roman Catholicism Was doing and they sort of bashed up against it and pinged off, too far falling off the horse the other side.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, it's klaxon, yeah and so I just, i just think, if we're playing goodies and baddies, which is over simplistic, No, go on, let's do it.

Speaker 3:

The reformers are the good guys right, and they are people that we should be reading, and we and the Puritans the same. But we must read them in context. We have to think what was 16th century Europe like, what was 17th century and 18th century England like, and then so the same as when I do um, the, the work on ritualism, what is going on in 1890 to 1917? You know why? Why is one of my preachers suddenly talking about all these people losing relatives to death? You're like, oh, because there's a war on yeah, and so in 1880, no one.

Speaker 3:

Well, apart from in 1880, less so, people are concerned about that, except in military And you know, naval and army towns. But you know, the normal life for people changes massively Over periods and we need to think what's going on, why? why suddenly is there a whole load of preaching from Anglican churches in towns on poverty From about 1830 to 1870? you go because there's a problem of poverty. So it's almost like going the things that Calvin focuses his time on, the issues he's dealing with, and they very much left us an incomplete story. Hmm, because we're not stuck. We're not stuck dealing with the issues that they were dealing with, but also we have new issues that we need to then go back. I think that the idea would be then to go back to description C about how to reassess them in light of sort of good people as well.

Speaker 2:

So we can stay on the saddle, hopefully, rather than tipping off the other side Or at least just about cling on.

Speaker 3:

I think in many ways that would be a step in the right direction.

Speaker 2:

If we'd been dragged behind the horse That's right holding onto the rope and being dragged through the dirt?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, we've just got a stirrup court and being dragged head on the ground, bumping across every rock and cactus as the horse charges off into the distance. I feel like that quite a lot. We should probably draw stumps there. I'm not quite sure where we've landed, but in a way I think we've.

Speaker 2:

No, we're still circling hopelessly. but that's okay, We're still circling.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, but I think what we have talked about is we've hit fairly hard this individualism that's crept in to evangelicalism, to the point of defining it in terms of our own personal salvation. Whilst personal salvation and piety are important, they're not everything. They are Christianity-like.

Speaker 2:

We should keep the former whilst not neglecting the latter. Yes, yeah quite.

Speaker 1:

And conservative evangelicals particularly, are guilty of looking at other faiths and saying this is Christianity-like, this is Christianity-like, this is just a lifestyle, because it's like, yeah, okay, but we want to be a bit careful that we're not doing the same And still short-changing people, just not short-changing them as badly as others. Well, let's not short-change people at all. How about that? That would be something We'll probably talk a little bit more with Matthew for the Patrons for a few more minutes, if you can bear it. So, if he can bear it, frankly, that seems a bit harsh.

Speaker 3:

Hopefully not a car crash.

Speaker 1:

But thanks so much, matthew, for giving of your brain and your mind and your reading, and we look forward to more conversations in the future. Thank you, It's been fun. Thank you, matthew.

Speaker 2:

Thanks very much for listening.

Speaker 1:

There are other episodes, which just feels like this links to the Church membership episode we've done recently. We're also going to talk about paratroops organizations if we haven't done so already by the time this episode goes out. So have a listen to those too. But do join us on Patreon. If you go to the show notes, that would be the best way, wouldn't it, and click on the Patreon button. Or if you listen on Apple Podcasts Cooper and Kerry Plus, and also, why not tell a friend about this podcast? We're not quite sure how to get more listeners, or whether even we should want more listeners, or whether, frankly, we already have too many listeners. So, but we are. We would love it if you would just tell a friend and get them to listen to an episode and say what do you think of that? And maybe you didn't want that friend after all. Maybe that's fine. We're done, barry. I think so. Thanks so much, matthew.

Speaker 2:

It's been really, really illuminating. And, yeah, do come again. You're very welcome, see you next time.

Speaker 1:

Cheerio Bye. I will admit I was a really bad pastor And, like I was, it was not my gifting, And James was the only person that actually told me that at the time.

Speaker 3:

Okay, That's right. Let's just say I didn't say to Matthew that he was a bad pastor. He's such a barnabas, isn't he, James?

Speaker 1:

Such a barnabas I'm not sure, i'm not sure, i'm not sure, i'm not sure.

Speaker 3:

I'm not sure. I'm not sure.

Speaker 1:

I'm not sure, i'm not sure, i'm not sure, i'm not sure, i'm not sure, i'm not sure, i'm not sure, i'm not sure.

Exploring Conversionism in Evangelicalism
Conversion and Christian Upbringing
Exploring Christianity's Piety, Individualism, Conversion
The Importance of Balanced Evangelicalism
Reformation and Reactionary Evangelicalism