Thursday, August 16, 2012

Is Liberal Theology Dying?

Is liberal theology dying? And if so, what is the cause? Liberal churches have the problem of losing people in large numbers, even after going to great lengths to tell people what they want to hear. Why is this? Now my purpose here is not to beat on liberal theology, but to ask if there is a lesson here for us. Liberal theology was designed as a compromise between affirming allegiance to Christianity and still following the philosophical and moral convictions of the culture at large. For it to be a viable option, there needs to some virtue to such a compromise. Historically, the virtue of this compromise lay in the respectability of Christianity. In Western Civilization it has been seen as part of respectability to be a Christian or to hold some similar belief. Therefore, it was desirable to have a way to make such a profession without being forced to question the generally held opinions of society. The problem with this is it erodes any significance to your religious convictions. You end up throwing out historic Christian theology, and then the morals that were connected to such beliefs. The final step is to question whether such an empty shell can have any relevance to a person being respectable and to cast it aside entirely. At the present time (at least in the United States), we have reached that point. Not only is it no longer required for respectability, but it is starting to be frowned upon. Therefore, the original compromise is collapsing like a house of cards.

Now I do not expect liberal theology to totally vanish. There will always be those who, for whatever reason, want a view that is a compromise between Christianity and secular culture. But I expect the position to become more and more marginal. Therefore, the idea that we can attract the world to Christianity by doing away with Christian distinctives will become more and more dubious. If Christianity has nothing different of value to say to our culture, why bother with it? If we throw aside the great Christian teachings that God intervenes in history, that He became a human being in Jesus Christ, that He died to pay the price for our sins and  rose on the third day and therefore offers forgiveness and eternal life to all who put their faith in Him, then we have nothing to say. We might as well close the doors to our churches and stay home on Sunday and watch football. Now I am not against finding ways to build bridges to people to deliver the message. I am not against asking which things are part of the message and which are unnecessary trappings. But if we, as evangelicals, follow the path of liberalism with the idea that this will help us win back our culture, we can expect to shuffle off into the same oblivion. If all we have to say is what the world says, with religious trappings, there no point to our existing at all. 

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