Posts Tagged ‘evangelicalism’

Rhys Llwyd took the “Anglican Identity” quiz and the result is: Modern Evangelical

March 18, 2009

Facebook is the hub of community life these days, sounds odd I know, but in a post-community world Facebook is the closest you get to the real thing unfortunately. And it’s on Facebook tonight that I entered a rather deep theological discussion with a friend of mine. So interesting that i thought it would make a blog post. Tom will be entering the ministry through the Anglican Church and he came out as an “Anglo-Catholic” on the quiz on Facebook. Here’s how the discussion unfolded:

Me: i got “modern evangelical” in the anglican quiz!

Tom: hmm, do you think it fits?

Me: well, it depends what other categories there were? If I’m “modern evangelical” rather than “fundamentalist evangelical” then I’m happy with the label i was given!

But personally I try to avoid the “evangelical” label because of the unfortunate connotation attached stemming from the marriage between evangelicalism and the political right in the US 😦

Tom: Hmm, I think in modern Wales the denominations are quite blurred, though something of a Church Chapel divide still exists. I once went to a chapel funeral and afterwards I met an American Evangelical Missionary hoping to set up “missions” in Wales. He was from Bob Jones University apparently.

Me: yes, your right. Most of the activities I’m involved in are post-denominational (meaning all nonconformist denomination and non-denominational churches are involved) but Anglicans are never on the scene, thats odd really. Have the Anglicans got their own youth/young adults networks perhaps? Or do they generally lack that demographic group full stop? Not a loaded question, just a’n honest interest!

Tom: Personally, I dont think Anglican Churches get involved enough with social justice. Did you meet John Butler the previous Anglican Chaplain? In my home diocese of Birmingham there are quite a few youth groups and they tend to cross varying churches, for instance there is a Church in the centre of Birmingham which acts as a sort of hub for fresh expressions. The Cathedrals tend to attract the largest proportion of people and so tend to have groups for varying age ranges. Generally, parish churches have youth groups if they have any youth and on the whole that demographic is quite small.

Me: Interesting. I believe in the one universal catholic Church but within that I think we need different congregations, I believe it’s healthy and it goes to show the strength of the body of Christ. Unity in diversity is a model we see over and over again in the New Testament. The ecumenical movement tried to get unity through union, the movement failed because in my opinion it wasn’t a Biblical model. True unity can only be forged by a willingness to respect and tolerate diversity and to do that it’s naturally to have a choice of congregations: evangelical and high-church, traditional and charismatic, pedo and baptists, congregational and presbyterian etc. etc.

Tom: Well I see the Biblical model for church as being part of a universal church too, that church is part of one body that is in a particular place and carries a particular character according to the people of that place. For instance, the Church IN Corinth and Paul adapted his ethics to the issues facing the people of Corinth rather than seeking a universal ethics applicaple to all churches. I think the same applies to communion, that seems to be used as a means of recognising the validity of certain churches. So the ecumenical movement attempted to bring all churches into communion into with each other and that of course required a universal doctrine about communion, clearly this does not work as doctrine forms to time and place.

Me: yes, the requirement of universal doctrine was the nail in the coffin of the 1980/90s ecumenical movement. The movements leaders condemned evangelicals for damaging unity because they wouldn’t let go of their doctrinal stand point but what the ecumenicals were blind to their own dogma which stated that doctrine was not important – but that standpoint in-itself was a doctrinal one!

Very interesting discussion, must head to bed now! Take care. Rhys

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Stop Press: Tony Campolo visiting Wales this summer!

March 17, 2009

Tony Campolo, well-known American pastor, author, sociologist, and public speaker is coming to Wales this Summer! He is best known for challenging Evangelical Christians by illustrating how their faith can offer solutions in a world of complexity. With his liberal political and social attitudes, he has been a major proponent for progressive thought and reform in the evangelical community. He has become a leader of the movement called “Red-Letter Christian”, putting the emphasis on the reported words of Jesus, found in many Bible publications in a red font. He is, one of my present day heros.

He’s the keynote speaker at a conference organized by the Baptist Union of Wales to be held at Carmarthen on the 11th and 12th of June. As i understand the Friday night meeting will be held at Tabernacle Chapel and attendance is open to all with a request for a £5 donation. The Saturday event needs people to pre-register – i have no more information about the Saturday event yet.

This is very exiting news indeed!

Pictures of WalesWide conference

March 13, 2009

Yesterday I went to the WalesWide Church planting and transplanting conference. It was an awesome day filled with inspiration from the Spirit. I’ll try and find time over the weekend to write a detailed post about the conference but for now just a post to share some brilliant pictures i took at the conference:

David Ollerton

The rest of the photo set

Placing R. Tudur Jones on the theological spectrum

March 4, 2009

R. Tudur JonesHere is a little introduction to Tudur Jones’s place on the theological spectrum.

R. Tudur Jones was born in the Cricieth area in Eifionydd, North Wales, the son of John Thomas and Elizabeth Jones. The 1904-1905 revival had a profound influence on his parents and so we can take it for granted that religion was more than a cultural custom for his family. Although he was brought up in a Christian family, Christianity did not become a real experience for him until he attended an evangelistic crusade in the Promenade Pavilion in Rhyl in 1939. As he stated in a documentary on S4C in 1994, Christianity came alive for him during that meeting; he said ‘…a day comes when the match is lit, and that’s what happened to me in the Pavilion that night…’ The preacher in that meeting interestingly was the evangelical leader Martin Lloyd-Jones.

Dr. Tudur was a reformed Protestant rather than a liberal Protestant. He is of J.E. Daniel’s line rather than that of John Morgan Jones. In addition to the influence of the greats of the reformed faith such as Calvin, and Thomas Jones of Denbigh and Thomas Charles in Wales, Tudur Jones was also influenced by Dutch Calvinist theologians. Individuals such as Abraham Kuyper, who was the Dutch prime minister, developed Calvin’s doctrine on the sovereignty of God, ‘…Kuyper had to be practical. As Prime Minister he had to consider education, promote the arts and the relationship between the overseer and the servant etc…’

One of the Calvinistic teachings that Kuyper emphasized, and which attracted Tudur Jones, was the doctrine of common grace. The common grace doctrine states that grace ‘…falls on everyone with no exceptions’ – God doesn’t discriminate between who can receive the general blessings of grace. The aspect of the common grace doctrine which is relevant to my PhD thesis (i.e. the politics of Tudur Jones) is the concept that the blessings of grace means that justice is possible on this earth, at least at a civic level. The theologian Louis Berkhof said:

Common grace enables man to perform what is generally called justitia civilis, that is, that which is right in civil or natural affairs… Reformed theologians generally maintain that the unregenerate can perform natural good, [and] civil good…

Considering the social and spiritual condition of Wales in the twentieth century, it is understandable that the Dutch Calvinistic school of though with its reformed orthodox theology on one hand and its practical implications on the other was so attractive to Tudur Jones. Of Kuyper he says: ‘He took the challenge of secularism to the national life of the Netherlands very seriously’ and that his doctrine on

…Christ’s kingship echoed some of the fundamental ideas of Frederick Denison Maurice, the founder of the Christian Socialists in England.. And there is a striking similarity between Kuyper’s teachings on sovereignty and the radical and collective nationalism of Michael D. Jones

On the theological spectrum, Tudur Jones would therefore place himself close to Kuyper and the Dutch Calvinists but he was his own man. He was enough of a thinker to come to his own conclusions. Densil Morgan said: ‘…Kuyper and his followers corroborated the ideology that he already had, and Tudur was never slavishly indebted to them.’ It should also be noted as well that I don’t think Tudur Jones would necessarily commend and agree with Kuyper’s political views (for example Kuyper was an imperialist and he held unfortunate views on race and supported apartheid); it was Kuypers rational towards the political sphere that he agreed with rather than the politics itself.

Tudur Jones’ theology therefore was to do with this world as well as the next world.

Trouble in Amish Paradise

February 26, 2009

This post in Welsh | Y cofnod hwn yn Gymraeg

AmishLast night I watched an interesting program on BBC iPlayer, Trouble in Amish Paradise. Unfortunately I don’t think it’s sill up there so if you missed it I can’t think of a way for you to watch it for now – they might put a repeat out though. The program was very interesting and I felt there was a lot in it for us Christians in Wales – especially evangelical – to learn from.

First of all the program made it clear that the Amish today are a cult to all extends and purposes. They manage to persevere as a cultish community because of the absolute subordination of their members to their elders, called the amish bishops. The program followed the story of one particular brother; he had broken away from the cult side of amish through looking at God’s words for himself and refusing to accept the bishops leadership and guidance un-questioned. He was like a modern amish version of Martin Luther I guess. I very much admired this brother and found him to be a very humble and gracious man. But one of the most interesting things about him was that he wanted to keep to most amish traditions and culture despite his new life in Christ.

Are there any lessons to be learnt from this story then? Well, for starters it teaches us again that we must search God’s words and follow it rather than follow our movement, denomination, organization or tradition unquestioned. For example is it really wrong to play ball on a Sunday? No it’s not! Is it really a sin to have a pint or two? No it isn’t! I remember hearing a story once about a little boy who had a rather conservative evangelical upbringing; he saw a car drive past and declared that they were not Christians because the wife was driving and the husband was in the passenger seat! That goes to show how the power of tradition can deviate the word of God. Ok, the boy was little but there must be something wrong with the culture he was bought up in that he was lead to make such a remark in the first place.

The second lesson that can be learnt from the amish brother is that we shouldn’t turn our backs on our communities and culture after coming to Christ but rather we should commit to it anew so to serve humbly. This is a real problem in Wales today because some Christians leave Welsh churches to join English evangelical/charismatic churches after coming to faith. On one hand I understand why; trying to bear witness in a lot o Welsh churches is hard, unfruitful and disheartening; but when we have new energetic Christians leaving it just makes it much worse. Is this the right thing to do? What about your responsibility to your people? It would have been easier for the amish brother to turn his back on the amish community after coming to faith in Christ; but no, he was determined to stay with his people so to witness to them and to serve them. I have huge admiration for him.

Stop Dating the Church by Joshua Harris (Review)

February 18, 2009

Stop Dating the Church - Joshua HarrisRecently I read Joshua Harris’ book Stop Dating the Church (Multnomah, 2004). It’s a small book, pocket sized, and only 129 pages; you could easily read it in a day. In the book Harris argues that an unfortunate culture has risen in church circles where people casually “date” the church rather than commit to a serious relationship. Welsh language denominational churches are an obvious example of the phenomenon Harris talks about because church attendance at most churches are at best half it’s registered members. Members don’t even turn up to worship without mentioning further commitment. Harris argues that the Church is important because God himself sees the Church as important; so important in-fact that God the Father gave God the Son, Jesus Christ, the Church as his bride. Harris goes on to explain that Christianity is a faith that is meant to be lived communally in relationship with other Christians. The book also contains challenging chapters on how we should choose a church and how to spend our Sunday; one should treat it special he argues, but not in a legalistic way.

Although Harris has plenty of good things to say in his book there are a few weaknesses, especially reading it from a Welsh perspective. While you read the book you must keep in mind that Harris leads what would be classified by our standards here in Wales as a ‘mega-church’, he is the Pastor of Covenant Life Church, the founding church of Sovereign Grace Ministries, in Gaithersburg, Maryland, USA. It is obvious that Harris has never come face to face with some of the main problems we face here in Wales. This is no criticism on Harris, it’s just a warning to those who would be tempted to apply his words exactly as they read in the book to our situation in Wales. One must contextualize. He comes to the subject with a blank page and therefore gives no advice to those of us who’s got a page blotted already with nonconformist scribbles; i.e. the legacy of Welsh Chapelism.

Despite the weaknesses and the US culture-specific aspects of his narrative I would strongly recommend this book especially if your interested in Church renewal.

Stop Dating the Church by Joshua Harris (Amazon, £6.99)

Darwin, Creation and Miracles

February 17, 2009

DarwinWith all the fuss about Darwin these days i found it funny to read that the top book in the Amazon (US) charts over the past few weeks in the category of ‘Atheism’ was not any of Richard Dawkins books but rather a book written by a Christian offering some sort of critique of Atheism. The book was You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence but You Can’t Make Him Think (WND Books) by TV personality Ray Comfort. I know nothing of Ray Comfort and have not read his book so I can’t commend and neither will I condemn it but it’s popularity at least goes to show that atheism is not the self-proclaimed victor it’s adherents over the past few weeks claim it is.

I’d better give a word about my stance towards Darwinism, Creationism and all that stuff since it’s deemed to be newsworthy these days. On the whole I tend to avoid the issue, not because I’m afraid of it but rather because I don’t think it’s of eternal importance. I tend to agree with the emphasis Rob Bell put forward in his book Velvet Elvis. Here’s a quote for you:

Somebody recently gave me a videotape of a lecture given by a man who travels around speaking about the creation of the world. At one point in his lecture, he said if you deny that God created the world in six literal twenty-four-hour days, then you are denying that Jesus ever died on the cross. It’s a bizarre leap of logic to make, I would say… no six-day creation equals no cross. Remove one, and the whole wall wobbles… if the whole faith falls apart when we reexamine and rethink one spring, then it wasn’t that strong in the first place, was it?

John Houghton speaking at a recent Tearfund conference on Climate Change

John Houghton speaking at a recent Tearfund conference on Climate Change

What Atheists fail to understand is that Darwin only challenged the literal belief of the story of Genesis, Darwin didn’t put forward any convincing theory to disprove the divine completely. This is the reason why leading scientist Sir John Houghton, who is an evangelical man of integrity, could say: ‘Creationism is an incredible pain in the neck, neither honest nor useful, and the people who advocate it have no idea how much damage they are doing to the credibility of belief.’

Personally I have no problem in believing in miracles. If God created the world in six literal twenty-four-hour days then it was a miracle. The problem with creationists like Ken Ham and the people over at Answers in Genesis is that they try and use the laws of science to “prove” the literal story of Genesis. But if they ever succeed (which they won’t) the only thing they’ll accomplish is not prove God but rather to disprove God’s miracle!

More on Pietism (a reply to David Ceri Jones)

February 13, 2009

Today I return to Pietism. In comments left on the post about Martyn Lloyd-Jones and Pietism by Dr. David Ceri Jones, lecturer at Aberystwyth University’s History Department, and also a member at St. Mike’s Church Aberystwyth, he raise questions about my definition and understanding of Pietism. He wrote:

Firstly I think you completely misunderstand pietism (if you’ve got this from Bobi Jones’ highly pejorative language, I can understand why – do you really think that the Moravians, Francke, Zinzendorf etc were heretics?) – there was certainly an element of withdrawal from the world in Lloyd-Jones’ thinking – go back to his Aberavon days and his advice to the Church Secretary, E. T. Rees to leave the Labour Party after his conversion, but that wasn’t pietism – I’d argue that you’ve got the wrong label – fundamentalism might be a better fit.

Pietism, like say nationalism, is a difficult term to define. It means different things in different context at different times in history. I think pietism is like one of those ideologies which is like bad breath. The thing with bad breath is that you can never smell it on your self but others can smell it on you; therefore i would argue that pietism is a spirit or mind-set or attitude. It is sometimes hard to recognize because it is often a matter of degree of emphasis of a particular doctrine or overemphasis or misemphasis.

The definition give by R. M. Jones in his volume Mawl a Gelynion ei Elynion (translated: ‘Praise and the Enemies of it’s Enemies’), originally in Welsh but loosely translated (loosely so to make the meaning clearer) into English here, is as follows:

Pietism is the untimely withdrawal by some religious people from the practical turmoil and the harsh reality of this world… and also the failure to see the cosmic relevance of religion to every aspect of life; a tendency to limit Christianity to the Sunday, to see the church as an exclusively respectable institution (with a conservative style), and to give all attention to the doctrine of salvation to the detriment of others. Pietism tends to make the Christian faith and the Church very alien to our contemporary culture.

Pietism I believe imposes limits on the power and scope of Christ, his Gospel and his Kingdom to some spheres only. If we believe that Christ is King of history then I must agree with R. M. Jones that pietism as understood in the definition give here is wrong and deprives Christ of the glory he deserves.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones and Pietism, Part 2

February 11, 2009

This post follows directly from the last post seen below or by clicking here.

Inevitably when there is a split or a schism both sides look towards their leader for inspiration, counsel and advice on almost everything, and that explains in my opinion how Martyn Lloyd-Jones acquired an almost absolute intellectual influence over the conservative evangelical world. I find it especially interesting to compare Martyn Lloyd-Jones with the other leading evangelical figure in Wales during the Twentieth Century, R. Tudur Jones. Both were Evangelical Calvinists when it came to strict spiritual matters but they differentiate when it came to matters of public theology. On one hand R. Tudur Jones was Vice-President of Plaid Cymru and also the Editor of both their Welsh and English newspaper, he was a keen supporter and advocate of welsh language civil rights groups such as Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg (Welsh Language Society) and UMCB (Bangor Welsh Students Union) and he also played a leading role in the pacifist movement in Wales. On the other hand Martyn Lloyd-Jones kept himself to strict spiritual matters only, limiting himself to the four walls of the Church, he was essentially a pietist. And i should note, at this point that I agree with Prof. R.M. Jones when he said that pietism is tantamount to heresy.

But was Lloyd-Jones really a pietist? His faithful followers would argue that he wasn’t a pietist by going on to explain that all he believed was that the clergy should not meddle with politics and social matters. Christians in general should do, Lloyd-Jones’ limitations was only directed towards church leaders. Until fairly recently I was happy and accepted that explanation of Lloyd-Jones’ thought towards the public sphere. But when I delved into his hagiography written by Ian Murray I soon discovered that Lloyd-Jones’ attitude towards public theology was fundamentally more different than that of R. Tudur Jones than what I had originally thought. I was lead to believe that the differences between Lloyd Jones and Tudur Jones’ were only minor differences, different emphasis and nothing more. But after a closer look I discovered that the difference between the two brothers stance on public theology was vast.

It was in 1980, when Lloyd-Jones was nearing the end of his life long ministry, he gave an interview to the magazine Christianity Today. The interviewer asked him “what do you think Christianity ought to say to the economic situation today?”, and he answered as follows:

I think the great message we must preach is God’s judgment on men and on the world… The main function of politics, culture, and all these things is to restrain evil. They can never do an ultimately positive work.

Lloyd-Jones’ emphasis here is clear to us all; he sees the things of the public sphere in a negative and in a sin restraining way – it’s a get our hands dirty and get the job done as fast as possible and then get out even faster type of mentality. Tudur Jones on the other hand enters the public sphere with positive overtones; he sees a Christians ingenuity and activity in the public sphere in positive and creative light and he even sees it as an act of praise to God.

Considering Lloyd-Jones’ almost absolute influence over the conservative evangelical tradition I was bought up in it comes as no surprise that on the whole the tradition that I was bought up in is a pietistic one. My parents, thank God, are not pietists and neither were great men like R.M. Jones, Geraint Gruffydd and the already mentioned R. Tudur Jones. But R.M. Jones’ anti-pietist remarks are heard, even cheered, but hardly have they been acted upon unfortunately. So on the whole the current young generation of evangelical Christians in Wales are still pretty pietistic and this is to the detriment of Welsh public life and also contact points for mission. Much of this, I would argue is down to the influence of Martyn Lloyd-Jones, not the man himself, but the lasting influence of his miss-emphases in relation to the public sphere.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones and Pietism, Part 1

February 10, 2009

To someone like myself who has been brought up in the evangelical tradition there is but one DoctorDr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. He was the hero and he was the Moses like figure who led his people through the hard and lonely decades of the Twentieth Century. He was, it is said, the last Puritan. His influence on the conservative evangelical world was almost absolute and it all came to head in 1996 when he called on evangelical folk to a “call to decision”. He caused controversy when, at the National Assembly of Evangelicals organized by the Evangelical Alliance, he called on all clergy of evangelical conviction to leave denominations which contained both liberal and evangelical congregations. As a significant figure to many free churches, Lloyd-Jones had hoped to encourage those Christians who held evangelical views on subjects such as the atonement, regeneration and the inspiration of Scripture to withdraw from any churches which did not share these beliefs. Many evangelical people in Wales including the dear brothers and sisters in Aberystwyth at the Church where I was bought up followed the Doctors marching orders. New Welsh evangelical congregations were established at Aberystwyth, Bangor, Cardiff, Carmarthen, Llangefni, Colwyn Bay, Waunfawr and Talsarnau. But not all responded positively to his call.

At the crucial meeting in 1966 when he gave his address John Stott, who was chairing the meeting, was supposed to give a word of thanks to Lloyd-Jones after the address and then bring the meeting to a close; but instead John Stott went straight into a reply explaining how he disagreed which portions of Lloyd-Jones’ address. The leading evangelical Anglican John Stott, refuted the stance of Lloyd-Jones by stating that his opinion was against history and the Bible. This crucial meeting in the history of the Protestant Church saw the seed sown of a sort of cold war type schism within the evangelical world, a schism we here in Wales still have to cope and deal with today.

In the next post I hope to discuss the implications of this event on the churches of Wales, and specifically its influence on Welsh evangelicals’ attitude and stance towards politics and social action. Also, from the outset here I should note that of what he did, mainly exegetical preaching, he did it like no other, my words are not to be read as an attack on the man but rather an honest discussion about his lasting influence on the Welsh church scene today.