I’m certain this little book is going to bring on at least two questions: First, what is a liberal charismatic and second, how can one be both liberal and charismatic?
The answer is that I’m not sure what a liberal charismatic is, and I’m not sure that I’m liberal, though the title doesn’t scare me as it does some people. The title “liberal charismatic” was given to me by an opponent in online discussion. I’ve mentioned it to audiences several times since when I have spoken, and some of them say there may be a point to it. In addition, I use it precisely because people will ask questions. Some will even be turned off about this book before they open the cover because of the dreaded ‘L’ word.
So why do some people say it is appropriate as a label for me, and why do I embrace (or at least “sort of” embrace) this title that was given to me as an accusation?
First, it is somewhat appropriate. I believe in a Christian faith that is to a large extent driven by experience, and that is not limited very much by doctrines. It is defined at its center by the command of Jesus to love God will all my heart and my neighbor as myself. To those who would say Christianity is really defined by the incarnation I would say that the incarnation embodies those two principles in a way that nothing else could. I make it a principle both of life and of Biblical interpretation to try to hang everything off of those commands, just as Jesus said that the whole law and the prophets could be hung there. Because of this, I embrace many people who would seem doctrinally incompatible as brothers and sisters in the faith. I welcome dialogue, friendship, and cooperation with people who share with me only the love of one’s fellow human beings. This could be regarded as liberal. But you’ll find while reading these pages that I also hold some doctrinal positions that are not generally regarded as liberal, and some that are regarded as very conservative.
Second, I believe in Christian unity. By this I do not mean the unification of Christianity under one banner that I select. I don’t ask to define what “true” Christianity is. You get to define that, hopefully in your own dialogue with God. I mean working in unity in whatever we can agree on, and not judging one another, and not setting our own agendas for other people.
Christian unity in this sense does not mean an end of denominations and congregations, but it does mean an end to the stranglehold of organizations on Christian faith and Christian fellowship. I call on the individual to walk with God and to find a community with which they can walk with God, no matter how that community is defined. Find the fellowship with which you can work and serve.
Right now there are movements trying to unite charismatic and evangelical believers, and many movements for uniting groups of mainline and liberal believers, but there is a barrier between the evangelicals and charismatics on the one hand and liberal Christians on the other. I think I scare people on both sides of the line when I embrace believers from all of these streams, including the many variations within them. From revivalist to traditionalist, from liberal to fundamentalist, from charismatic to cessationist, we all have something to learn from one another, and we all have something to teach.
It is in that hope that I have written this book.
– Henry Neufeld, from the preface