Saturday, September 09, 2006

Is Liberal Theology Killing Mainline Denominations?

Beth Quick says 'no'.

14 comments:

Keith McIlwain said...

On Thomas Coke's birthday, I can give you this answer: "Yes."

Not because liberal theology is inherently heretical (which it may or may not be...that's another story for another day), but because it's political ramifications (i.e., the homosexual debate, among others) distracts us from our disciple-making mission, and gives the impression that we're a ship on an aimless, chaotic course, with no port in sight...which I hope is not the case.

Joel Thomas said...

If liberal theology per se is destructive, then the decline of mainline Protestantism must be placed squarely on the shoulders of Martin Luther King, Jr., for that was his theology. Same for Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Instead, blame can be placed on the worst aspects of both liberal and conservative theologies, which include elements of self-worship and civil religion.

Joel Thomas said...

It also depends on what one means by "liberalism". Both liberals and conservatives tend to claim people such as Willimon and Hauerwas.

Keith enjoys reading things by Marva Dawn, whose theology is clearly liberal and hardly destractive from or destructive to mission. The constant blaming of gays for the problems of the church is so reprehensible as to be beneath contempt. (The fact is that a lot of Sotherners left Methodism over civil rights issues involving Blacks.)

Quite frankly, a lot of folks are presenting a simplistic notion of liberalism that is dishonest at worst or misleading at best.

Keith Taylor said...

Instead, blame can be placed on the worst aspects of both liberal and conservative theologies, which include elements of self-worship and civil religion.

I agree totally with Joel's comment above. The entire Protestant Reformation was a very liberal movement from the point of view of the Roman Catholic Church, but we would hardly consider Martin Luther or John Huss or any of our Puritan forefathers as "liberals" today.

We have a become a modern church that is more interested in "feel good" theology than what the Bible has to say and what Christ wants us to do. I don't think this has anything to do with whether or not one is a liberal or conservative, both can and do error in this matter. However, I do think it is much more apparent when a "liberal" church commits the error because they usually chose "lightning rod" issues when they do it as opposed to conservatives. For example, the liberals who install a homosexual bishop are torn to shreads by conservatives, but many of my fellow conservatives offer no rebuke at all to churches preaching how God will build their businesses and make them prosperous. But both are equally harmful to the Body of Christ as a whole.

Mark Winter said...

As a rule, conservative churches tend to emphasize right belief over right action, and liberal churches push right action over right belief.

Churches that have learned to balance both seem to be growing (look at Ginghamsburg UMC, Windsor Village and Church of Resurrection, for example).

Jason Woolever said...

I'm glad you didn't say Liberal Christianity, but Liberal Theology, because historical liberal theology kills not only churches but Christianity.

Liberal Christianity historically has deemphasized the virgin birth, the truth of the miracles, and the deity of Christ. This is the death of Christianity. Responsible Christian social action is the right expression of true Christianity, and should not be lumped in with heretical theology.

Joel Thomas said...

Jason,

I'm a liberal, I'm a Christian, and I'm not dead.

I believe in the virgin birth, deity of Christ, miracles and such and most of my liberal Christian friends do also.

Keith McIlwain said...

Perhaps we need to define "liberal theology"; it seems like we're working on several different definitions.

My point had to do more with the outgrowth of the theology, which has led (in my view) to often distracting social agendas.

But what comprises "liberal theology"?

Dan Trabue said...

I'd have to say that "liberal" christianity is no more political (ie, full of "distracting social agendas") than "conservative" christianity.

Further, I question the need to distance ourselves from "distracting social agendas."

I mean, the Bible is chock full of stuff that, if talked about in church, could be considered a social agenda. Mother Mary, Jesus' and James sometimes bitterly harsh criticism of the wealthy, for instance (not to mention the OT prophets' commentary on the same).

Jason Woolever said...

Joel. Right. I'm saying that you're not a historical liberal. You're the kind of liberal that every kind of Christian is supposed to be.

Jason Woolever said...

at least you might be. i don't know every facet of your theology.

Jason Woolever said...

i felt convicted to apologize for any remarks I made about liberals. I need to not pick fights. please accept my apologies all.

christopher said...

Maybe the finger-wagging is killing the church.

Jason Woolever said...

hey chris, i'm sure a point could be made for that too.