In Defence of the EA
“The only time Jesus drew a line, it was religious people who were on the other side.” Well: since pretty much everyone in the Mediterranean world in the first century was religious, including a certain circumcised, Torah-observant, festival-keeping Jewish Messiah, that’s not a particularly striking claim. Everyone in that scene (John 8:1-11) was religious. So what? The key issue in the scene when read thoughtfully is not religion, but hypocrisy: mask-wearing, play-acting, living as if something is true, when in fact it isn’t. And while there is nothing obviously hypocritical about what the EA has done – read the reports and see – there might well be something slightly hypocritical about claiming to “restore confidence in the Bible” while affirming that it contains all sorts of mistakes, contradictions and inaccuracies, claiming to read the texts on sexuality “thoughtfully” while ignoring most ancient and contemporary scholarship on the subject, and claiming to start a “conversation” while closing your ears to what virtually every Christian in history has said about something. Maybe.
This is the sort of charge that gets thrown at anyone who dares to suggest that, since X is true, not-X is false. Outrageous as it may seem, affirming that certain things are true of Christ involves affirming that certain other things (e.g. Arianism) are not true of Christ, and excluding people who teach them. Affirming that God wants sex to be used thisway necessarily involves affirming that it should not be used that way. If the EA stands for anything, it must be capable of affirming certain beliefs and excluding others. We can argue about whether Oasis has acted in ways that damage relationships with other evangelicals, and whether their stance, or that of Steve Chalke, is outside the boundaries of evangelicalism – although imagining for a moment what (say) John Wesley would have thought of it will quickly point us in the right direction – but objecting to the very idea of excluding people in the first place is the most unthinking sort of soggy relativism. Of course the EA excludes people; all organisations do. If everybody is an evangelical, then nobody is.