I frequently hear people say they don’t like labels. They don’t like to be labeled. But what do we do if we don’t label? Everybody must fit in a catagory or two…or three or four. Sure it sounds noble to say you see everybody as an individual and you deal with them without any regard to labels. But is it realistic?
We do it in the church all the time. I consider myself an evangelical. But that label leads to some misunderstandings. I’m not personally an “Evangelist” and I don’t follow any of the “televangelists”. That’s a misunderstanding of the whole concept of evangelicalism.
But the idea of evangelicals conjures up all sorts of images in some people’s minds. Personally, I tend to think of evangelicals as shallow and sheep-like, who follow after every whim of doctrine and believe everything that claims to be Christian.
But the way I really see evangelicals is that they are people who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and strive to follow Him in their every-day life, turning their back on the world and their own sins and moving towards the Holiness that God demands of us. We believe the Bible to be the written Word of God, sufficient for any situation we find ourselves in, but also Truth and relevence for our total lives. (I think I need to work on my definition!) In other words, evangelicals, to me, are people who walk the walk as well as talk the talk.
I could call myself a traditionalist, but that doesn’t quite cut it either, because what I believe is much more than tradition, and I am open-minded enough that I would find that label very confining.
I like to think that my beliefs are orthodox, yet they’re not Orthodox. My theology tends to be Wesleyan, though I’m more Calvinist than John Wesley was. But still, I wouldn’t call myself a Calvinist, either. (Calvinist…boy, now there’s a term that conjures up images in people’s minds!)
Then there’s the liberals. That’s a label I use a lot. Liberals are basically anybody who claim to be Christian, but reject all or most of the traditional, orthodox beliefs of the Christian faith. Liberals tell you what they believe by telling you what they don’t believe. And when they do finally get down to their actual beliefs, they’re usually humanistic rather than biblical.
And then there are the Catholics. This is not to be confused with catholics. I consider myself catholic, but I’m definitely not Catholic.
Fundamentalist… now there’s a dirty word in some circles! Yet it’s not a bad thing to be a fundamentalist Christian … or is it a Christian fundamentalist???
We’ve got to have labels. But you have to understand what my labels mean, and I’ll try to understand what your labels mean, too! Then maybe we can start to communicate, even if we don’t agree!
I think I just confused myself.