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How does evangelical and charismatic Christianity relate to classic Christianity?

One of the difficulties in answering this question is that some of the terms used within late modern Christianity have become ambiguous in meaning. We have tried to define our understanding of what classic Christianity means, and how 'reformed Catholic' and 'Anglican' relate to that. We have tried to do this in a positive way - not defining ourselves in terms of what we are not or what we are against. We have avoided the use of the terms evangelical and charismatic because of difficulty in defining now what they mean, and also because of how unwieldy all the terms become when synthesized. Evangelical and charismatic Christianity are movements derived from the primary and original conceptions of Catholic Christianity, and specifically reformed Catholic Christianity (I suggest that this is the case within Roman Catholic charismatic movements also - that they have been influenced by this aspect of reformed Christianity). While we are not defining ourselves as evangelical or charismatic Christians, there are many aspects of our fellowship which may be understood as encapsulating the best of those two broad conceptions within classic Christianity. We aim to include the best of evangelical and charismatic while not reducing classic Christianity to one of those more limiting or mostly contemporary innovative conceptions. 

So, for example, we are committed to the substantial preaching and teaching of Scripture - preaching and teaching which aims to hold the person and work of Jesus Christ as central. We are committed to being clear in our preaching and teaching about human sin, God's grace, and the work of the Holy Spirit in converting our hearts and minds towards holiness. At some point, no matter how young or old or how long someone has been associated with Christianity to some degree, we all must individually respond to God in repentance, receive his grace, and grow in faith and knowledge by the work of the Holy Spirit. Of course, this depends upon our capacity to direct our minds and wills in this way. The problem with making individual response absolute is that you necessarily exclude people from full membership in the church who are incapable of directing their minds and hearts in this responsive way. What about the very young? What about those who have been born with intellectual challenges or those who have suffered some kind of injury which reduces if not completely eliminates their ability to think and communicate (at least for all intents and purposes - God ultimately knows). What about old age illnesses such as dementia or Alzheimers?  In any case, to the extent we are able, we must respond. God's grace and mercy must cover all, for even our best and most wholehearted responses are never holy. To some extent even the best we can muster is inadequate. God knows this more than we know it. All this to say that in these respects it would be fair to say that we are Evangelical Christians. So defined, the term Evangelical expresses an aspect of what classic Christianity has always espoused to some degree (or ought to have espoused if it aimed to be faithful to the Gospel as received). 

Also, for example, when we pray, there must be a genuine (however strong or weak) faith that God actually hears us and that the Holy Ghost is working in our lives and situations to God's purposes and glory. There are times of silence during our services where we allow for contemplation and specific individual prayer - we are not afraid of silence. We regularly ask, in faith, that God will heal people by the working of the Holy Spirit (though we do not regard prayer as some sort of mechanism which exerts control over God in order to make him do what we want). We believe that the Holy Ghost is actively at work in the heart of every Christian who is living a life of true repentance and 'unfeigned' belief (genuine, true belief). We believe that all the activities of the local church can only be effective for growth in faith and holiness by the work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit convicts, draws, and works in people according to his purposes. The most charismatic elements of Christian worship are when a person is baptized and made a child of God by his grace, and when the Lord nourishes us with his own person through simple elements of bread and wine. These things may or may not coincide with emotional religious experience or even a keen awareness of God's active and ineffable presence in the church. The reality of what is going on transcends our individual emotional experience or perception of things - the work of the Holy Ghost does not require a manufactured emotional state. In fact, such a state may actually be a form of avoidance of actual growth in maturity and holiness. All this to say, insofar as we fully embrace the life and ministry of the Holy Spirit in our individual and collective lives, we may be said to be charismatic Christians, so long as this is not misconstrued with various contemporary manifestations and conceptions of the term.

The terms understood in this way may go some length in explaining why it is that many evangelical and charismatic Christians find themselves drawn to classic Christianity. While providing a way into the deep and rich history of Christian thought and devotion, classic Christianity does not exclude the best of what is gained in churches which specifically define themselves by the terms evangelical and charismatic.





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