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In two conversations yesterday the topic of theological labels came up.  I do not like labels very much - they become the source/cause of much angst, mud-slinging, fear and division.  One of the best observations I ever heard on the whole topic was from a Scottish minister who, coming from a fairly traditional, ostensibly evangelical background said words to the effect of "I eventually realised that God might not like my theology and that other perspectives had valuable insights."

In one conversation I was asked if I thought it possible for a person to be a 'fundamentalist liberal.'  Well, if labels must be assigned, then yes, I do, because I have met some!  In the other conversation I was asked where I sat on a spectrum from 'fundamentalist' (person extends their left arm to the left - odd since this is usually expressed as 'right wing') to 'liberal' (extends right arm similarly).  My answer - which may or may not have satisfied - was 'somewhere in the middle.' 

If a fundamentalist is someone who has some fundamental beliefs they won't compromise on, then I am one.  If a liberal is someone who is open to new ideas and insights and doesn't think it can all be sewn up in a nice neat formula, then I am one.  If an evangelical is someone who think the gospel is worth sharing, I am one.  If a charismatic is someone who is open to the guidance and direction of God's Holy Spirit then I am one.  But maybe the people who use any or all of these labels would tell me I'm not one.  And the great thing is, I'm not bothered!  The murky middle ground that says 'I'm a follower of Jesus trying to work out what that means and it'll take a lifetime' is a place I am content to be, and a place that, I believe, equips me to learn with and from those at various 'poles' and to support others in their own quest for authentic discipleship.  And if that makes me a hopeless, helpless heretic, well I reckon I'm in pretty good company!

So, what label would I use?  I reckon that to be known as a Christian of the Baptist variety will do me fine! 


  • you and me both!

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