Monday, July 10, 2006

"The meltdown of liberal Christianity"

At the Los Angeles Times, Charlotte Allen writes that "liberal Christianity is paying for its sins" (HT: open book):
Embraced by the leadership of all the mainline Protestant denominations, as well as large segments of American Catholicism, liberal Christianity has been hailed by its boosters for 40 years as the future of the Christian church.

Instead, as all but a few die-hards now admit, all the mainline churches and movements within churches that have blurred doctrine and softened moral precepts are demographically declining and, in the case of the Episcopal Church, disintegrating.
Ms. Allen's essay describes the decline in attendance of mainline Protestant churches and offers this assessment of why:
When your religion says "whatever" on doctrinal matters, regards Jesus as just another wise teacher, refuses on principle to evangelize and lets you do pretty much what you want, it's a short step to deciding that one of the things you don't want to do is get up on Sunday morning and go to church.
Years ago I defended liberal Protestantism as superior to evangelicalism because it was in step with the most progressive thinking in the broader culture. Now I see how very naive and worldly I really was.

9 Comments:

Anonymous Ranten N. Raven said...

Ditto that, good sir! At one time, I even looked kindly upon the Nation of Islam for it's apparent ability to help men in prison get their acts together.

A few years ago, we abandoned the ELCA version of Lutheranism and have settled into a Missouri Synod church. My mother and sister went to a Wisconsin Synod church, which is even more traditional.

Our church is on fire -- growth is something our pastors are having to work hard at managing. The Spirit moves through them, and the word is preached in love--but preached with honesty and no giving in to modern notions that do not match what we understand the bible to say.

That is the key, I think. Take the bible seriously? It's the Word of God, and it works miracles!

8:05 PM, July 10, 2006  
Blogger Milton Stanley said...

Glad to hear you're with those who take the Bible seriously, Robin. I made the jump, too, from the Episcopal Church to the Church of Christ! If we really take the Bible seriously, seeking the truth, God will lead us there, won't he? Peace.

8:25 PM, July 10, 2006  
Blogger contratimes said...

Brother Milton,

Your candor is a bright light in the wilderness! Thank you.

I can't say that I ever praised liberal Protestantism but for a few isolated moments. That does not mean I have not been a fool countless other ways. What I did do when it came to liberal Protestantism was to treat it as "cool": its ideas were enticing, engaging, challenging. It's a bit like listening to progressive rock and roll: I don't praise the ideology but I sure do like the grooves and the riffs.

None of this makes sense, I am sure. Oh, well. I still find you cool.

Peace and mirth,

Gnade

8:46 PM, July 10, 2006  
Blogger PamBG said...

It seems to me to be a typical secular newspaper article that is theologically sloppy. I'm getting quite tired, for a start, of the recent equating of female leadership in the church ("women bishops") with "having gay sex".

What does this writer mean by "liberal theology"? Does he know? He says liberal theology is what mainstream denominations proclaim, so is Stanley Hauerwas - for example - a liberal? Walter Wink? Jimmy Dunn? They are considered 'liberals' by the denomination into which I was born. As far as I'm concerned as someone who has been reading theology for the last thirty years, theologians like these have reinvigorated Christianity.

It is true that popular liberalism - poorly defined as in this article - can turn into "anything goes", but I don't think that's what mainstream theology is about. It is true that popular conservatism may give people the firm "dos" and "don'ts" that they may want to hear, but give me mainstream Christian theology any day and let me reason it out.

It is true that popular conservatism says one can just pick up the bible and "read what the text plainly means", but in a lot of cases that just isn't true. Let's not even talk about the fact that conservative groups pass on their own hermeneutic to their followers but - at a popular level again - most of those followers will go beserk if you suggest they are interpreting the bible.

2:15 AM, July 11, 2006  
Blogger Milton Stanley said...

Thanks, Bill. I appreciate your encouragement, brother. Peace.

1:39 PM, July 11, 2006  
Blogger Milton Stanley said...

PamBG: I appreciate your adding to the discussion. You're right about the hermeneutical fallacies of some conservative groups. It's the very issue addressed in the post immediately following this one. All the best, and hope to hear from you in the future.

1:41 PM, July 11, 2006  
Blogger PamBG said...

The LA Times article is just a broad swipe at liberals, as far as I'm concerned. But I risk repeating myself, so I'll stop and answer the other post above.

5:15 PM, July 11, 2006  
Blogger RavenNC said...

I have swung the pendulum myself. From ultra conservative, to extreme liberal to very conservative to just trying NOT to add things to the scriptures that aren't there, but keeping true to things that are. Quite challenging, but much more peaceful internally.

6:35 PM, July 14, 2006  
Blogger Milton Stanley said...

Amen.

8:07 PM, July 14, 2006  

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