Differences betwen US and UK evangelical christianity

Discussion in 'Free-For-All Archives' started by The Undiscovered Country, Dec 1, 2004.

  1. The Undiscovered Country

    The Undiscovered Country
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    Its very striking from looking at this and similar Boards how different US and UK evangelical Christianity seem to be. This is particularly so now compared to perhaps 30 years ago when I suspect the differences would not have been so great. The main differences I perceive are as follows: (and I've tried in doing this not to purely look from the perspective of the sort of church I'm part of-which is a New Frontiers church. Other posters please say if you think I've got it wrong)
    1. The majority of evangelcial churches in the UK are to some degree charismatic wheras the US picture is rather more mixed.
    2. Isues like alcohol are pretty much non-issues in the UK. Most Christians drink alcohol.
    3. Issues like women wearing trousers are equally non-issues and indeed to object to it would be viewed as postively legalistic. I took a quick count in my church last week and all but 5 women were wearing trousers
    4. Whilst there are a number of Christians involved in different social issues and an increasing number involved in politics, they are a much smaller proportion than appears to be the case with US Christians and many UK Christians would lean toward the left politically (though I personally am an exception to that).
    5. The kinds of pre-tribulation scienarios set out in the Left Behind books have much less support in the UK. However what UK Christians actually believe on this issue varies. Many New Churches have to varying degree a Restorationist/post-tribulation theology. However the worrying aspect is the lack of clarity in many UK Christians over what they really do belevie on this issue-even in the New Churches where I am sometimes bemused by Christians who refer to reading things like Left Behind without noticing any apparant discrepancy between their content and what their church might teach. With some exceptions (and it is not unfair to say that New Frontiers is such an exception) systematic theology of any persuasion is not the strong suit of many UK churches and I think that is a real problem.

    What do others think? Is his a fair picture and how did the US and UK end up with such a different situation?
     
  2. Matt Black

    Matt Black
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    I'll see your five points...

    1. Agreed. But also the definition of 'charismatic' seems to differ across the Pond. On these boards you'll see people using the term 'Bapticostal', which seems to imply that they see charismatics exclusively through the rather narrow (from a UK charismatic POV) lens of classic Pentecostalism. In addition, I've noticed that other posters view charismatics as being Word of Faith/ GOD Channel types; most UK charismatics I know are not into WoF at all and view those who are as, frankly, a bit strange.

    2. Confirmed, unless you're a Wee Free Presbyterian or Plymouth Brethren.

    3. See #2.

    4. Agreed. UK evangelicals seem to take a much more 'holistic approach' to the Gospel - proclaiming the Gospel of salvation whilst engaging in social action and concerned with social justice issues. I think the divergence between the two countries there is because in the US social issues were promoted initially by the so-called Social Gospel movement (Washington Gladden, Sojourners, etc) who were liberal in theology, hence social action tends to be seen by evangelicals in the US as being 'liberal' and conducted by liberal Christians (cause or effect?), whereas in Britain social action on issues like slavery, child labour,etc, arose from within mainstream evangelicalism up to about a century earlier (Wilberforce, the Clapham Sect, Shaftesbury, Barnardo, Kingsley, Maurice etc).

    5. Agreed; eschatology here is much more of a 'free vote' issue for UK Christians, few churches or denominations have an 'official policy' on the subject.

    ...and I'll raise you a few too!-

    6. 'Evangelical' and 'fundamentalist' are much more interchangeable terms in the US than in the UK. In Britain, whilst all fundamentalists are evangelical, not all evangelicals are fundamentalists (not even a majority I would hazard). Thus issues like inerrancy, YECism, are much more 'free vote' issues here. Thus also the Evangelical Alliance is very careful in its Statement of Faith to place Scripture highly whilst avoiding controversial statements on inerrancy etc

    7. Partly flowing from #4 and #5, evangelicals in the US are much more likely to be pro-Israel than in the UK, where we tend to have a more balanced approach

    8. Evangelicals in the UK tend to be more non-denominational in that you will find them in all manistream denominations apart from Catholic and Orthodox in addition to specifically evangelical denominations, whereas in the US they tend to form their own denominations more exclusively (it's difficult to think of an evangelical group like Reform in the Church of England existing within the ECUSA, for example)

    Yours in Christ

    Matt
     
  3. Matt Black

    Matt Black
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    Addendum:

    Flowing from #4,

    9. Evangelicalism in the UK is much less of a party political issue, as TUC has indicated. That's partly I guess because of the fact that hot button issues like abortion and gay rights are (a)ranked equally alongside other hot button 'social action' issues such as relief of poverty and (b) determined in Parliament largely of the basis of a 'free (conscience) vote' rather than on party political lines.

    Yours in Christ

    Matt
     
  4. Turpius

    Turpius
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    Matt, in some areas of the US, many fundamentalists would disagree that they are also evangelicals. There is a sort of "spectrum" of labels goings from most conservative to "less" conservative, you have Fundamentalists, Neo-/Pseudo-Fundamentalists, and the Evangelicals,(sometimes refered to as New Evangelicals). Most of the arguements are as to degrees of seperation, old earth/young earth creationism,the KJV and other text issues, and to a lesser degree, eschatology.
     
  5. The Undiscovered Country

    The Undiscovered Country
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    I have a problem with the evangelical/liberal divide on the inerrancy issue. I can certainly accept that there are those of a liberal persuasion who do not accept the inerrancy of scripture but who have a genuine relationship with God. I can also recognise that it is possible, for example, to believe in the inerrancy of scripture and have a variety of views on whether the seven days in Genesis are a literal or figurative picture-those concerned are still accepting the scriptural account. My problem is with those who say that they do not accept the inerrancy of scripture and do not believe in significant parts of it but still want to label themsleves as an evangelical. That seems to be want to have one's cake and eat it but it does seem to pop up too often in the UK Christian scene at the moment.
     
  6. dean198

    dean198
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    Here my two cents/ two pennies worth: In America church going is still very much a part of the culture. Many churches in the usa teach easy believism, and so one often meets young 'believers' who talk zealously about God and the bible, whilst using foul language, telling dirty jokes, and generally living like the world. When challenged they talk about how one cannot lose salvation or how salvation is all of grace etc. Christians in the UK tend to mix together a lot more, whereas in the USA, partly just because of the society, people tend to stay in their own worlds. In the USA i think people tend to divide easier (and get nasty) over doctrinal issues. I do prefer the fact that American Christians are not wishy washy on political issues, and will vote for conservative men and women, and not abortionists and liberals and other haters of God. Still, alot (but not all) do think that Bush is some great Christian man which is a complete deception - but alot do not.
     
  7. Eric B

    Eric B
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    Don't forget music and worship styles. Although that could really be classified apart of "separation". Also for that matter, who to "separate from" (Catholics, charismatics, even).
     
  8. Matt Black

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    And, talking of Catholics, a couple more:-

    10. UK evangelicals are more ecumenically-minded it seems, and most would quite happily go to a joint event involving Catholics.

    11. The conflation of 'God, guns and gays' just wouldn't happen here. Guns are a non-issue here, since 1988 when, following the horrific massacre of 17 people by Kalshnikov-toting Michael Ryan in Hungerford (up until then 8000 automatic weapons were legally held in the UK), automatic and semi-automatic weapons were banned (this was extended in 1995 to most hand-guns too). Gay rights are non-party political and most evangelicals here would see evangelism and persuasion as more effective than legislation , except where gay rights impinges on eg: church employment policies, then we get quite vocal!

    Yours in Christ

    Matt
     
  9. Matt Black

    Matt Black
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    See the EA's SoF to which I have already linked. That does not make reference to inerrancy precisely to give that kind of latitude to which you are referring. But I don't think that that is having one's cake and eating it. It's perfectly possible to believe in salvation by faith in Jesus and grace alone without even having a high view of Scripture; the EA at least does demand sucha high view but that does not necessarily have to amount to inerrancy

    Yours in Christ

    Matt
     
  10. The Undiscovered Country

    The Undiscovered Country
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    But in a way that seems to reinforce what I was trying to say. To my mind, salvation by faith and grace alone are minimum requirement for being a Christian, not minimum standards for being an evangelical. Yet some basically seem to believe in the above and not believe in the inerrancy/accuracy of scripture (even allowing for a broad definition of inerrancy/accuracy) but still describe themselves as an evangelical. Its that position I have difficulty understanding.
     
  11. Matt Black

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    I suppose I was referring to 'evangelical' as opposed to 'liberal' or Catholic. Evangelicals would tend to emphasise (ever since Luther) salvation by grace through faith alone; neither your liberal or Catholic Christian (and there are many in both categories despite what some of us would like to believe) would normally believe this, Catholics because they would add an economy of works to salvation as means of communicating grace, with particular reference to sacramental soteriology, and liberals would say that there is more than one way to skin a cat.

    I think the misunderstanding creeps in when you try to define what inerrancy means. A lot of evangelicals who shy away from that term, including myself to an extent, have seen inerrancy all to often couched in terms of "the Bible is literally true and is to be interpreted thus; therefore you must believe in 6-day creation, the Flood, that there were literal people called Job and Jonah to be a Proper Christian (TM)". Now, fundamentalists may believe that, but most UK evangelicals are not fundamentalists...

    Yours in Christ

    Matt
     
  12. Link

    Link
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    I read a statistic on another page that a huge percentage of churches with outreaches to the poor in the US were Pentecostal (perhaps a majority.) It was posted on one of the other forums. The idea that liberals are more involved in feeding the poor, etc. in the US seems to be a myth. Political liberals want to use taxes to feed the poor.
     

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