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What kind of religion

Thought balloon…

So, primarily through James McGrath’s blog, I’ve been reading & thinking about “liberal” Christianity… His latest installment is a roundup of others’ posts on the matter.

All the standard disclaimers – to the extent I can be called “religious”, I am a religious liberal. However, I rarely cop to the name since I am profoundly secular and skeptical and don’t want to mislead. Nevertheless, I have historically considered myself more or less friendly with liberal religion, including liberal Christianity. My new thought is this – it isn’t liberal that turns me on per se. It is positive religion that I feel friendly with. Not just liberal religion can be positive. A conservative Christian can still acknowledge – or at least remain respectfully agnostic on – science. There is no rule that says a conservative Christian has to believe and repeat stories about death panels, or even necessarily be a political conservative at all. To a certain extent, a conservative Christian may even subscribe to the historical-critical method of Bible reasearch (though they have to draw the line somewhere or BOOM – they’re liberals!). The point is a Conservative can, one way or another, believe most or all of the really central creeds without becoming anti-intellectual or anti-everything-’other’.

I think maybe conservative Christians are just as able to be positive Christians, but maybe certain positive characteristics simply lend themselves more readily to liberal Christianity – or maybe they lead to liberal Christianity over time.

Anyway – the posts that started all this are about liberals and they make interesting, good points. The rest of them:

Debunking Debunking Christianity Christianity at James McGrath’s place.

Why Liberal Christianity is Bankrupt at Answers in Genesis BUSTED – a reply to McGrath.

Why Liberal Christianity Isn’t Bankrupt again from McGrath…
Somewhat related: Homo Religious from Michael Shermer.

Almost afraid to ask… Thoughts?

9 comments to What kind of religion

  • RW

    Being a Christian has nothing to do with being liberal or conservative.
    Jesus wasn’t a liberal.
    Jesus wasn’t a conservative.
    People too often lie to themselves while trying to contort the scripture in such a way so that the text ‘really’ says what it needs to say in order to assuage their political sensibilities. Saying liberal Christian or conservative Christian is akin to saying liberal ditch-digger or conservative Dentist; one has nothing to do with the other.

    If one believes that Jesus Christ is the son of God, the risen savior who died for the sins of mankind and who rose from the tomb to one day return, who is the one true way to heaven…then they are a Christian. The liberal/conservative stuff is an aside & has nothing to do with the obedience of God’s word and worship of the Lord.

  • RW

    Reminds me of one of my favorite songs of faith:

    It’s not conservative or liberal,
    However they’re defined;
    It’s not about interpretation,
    Or the judgment of the mind;

    It’s the opposite of politics,
    Power or prestige;
    It’s about a simple message,
    And whether we believe.

    It’s still the cross,
    It’s still the blood of Calvary;
    That cleanses sins,
    And sets the captives free.
    It’s still the name,
    The name of Jesus,
    That has power to save the lost;
    It’s still the cross.

    We can water down theology,
    And preach a word to suit our needs;
    We can justify sweet subtle lies,
    That are wrapped in noble deeds;

    We can alter our convictions,
    To adapt to social whims;
    But we cannot change the gospel,
    Or the truth contained within.

    It’s still the cross,
    It’s still the blood of Calvary;
    That cleanses sins,
    And sets the captives free.
    It’s still the name,
    The name of Jesus,
    That has power to save the lost;
    It’s still the cross.

    Though some may say it’s man’s religion,
    Or ancient history;
    The cross of Jesus still remains,
    The price for sin that sets us free.

    It’s still the cross,
    It’s still the blood of Calvary;
    That cleanses sins,
    And sets the captives free.
    It’s still the name,
    The name of Jesus,
    That has power to save the lost;
    It’s still the cross.

  • It sounds like you are, from your own direction, agreeing with me.

    Of course I have to point out that the definition you give of Christian leaves out a number of modern liberal Christians… certainly a large number of early Christians, and if I had my guess probably leaves out the Apostles (minus Paul), and Jesus himself.

    I prefer a definition that includes all “followers” of Jesus – which would include the groups I described above, except Jesus himself – his religion was the Jewish one.

  • RW

    from your own direction,

    Not mine, Jesus’.

    “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”
    If one believes the words of Jesus, then one is not [left] out.

  • If I wanted to be picky, I would say, “not Jesus’, John’s – since those words were likely never uttered by Jesus himself.”

    But I don’t want to be picky. :) I was just saying that the sentiment you expressed was similar to the one I was expressing, just with a bit of a different angle.

  • RW

    I prefer a definition….

    There isn’t a laundry list to choose from.

    There are liberals who are Christians. There are conservatives who are Christians.

    There aren’t “liberal Christians” any more than there are “conservative Christians”; a mechanism is being put forward to simply compartmentalize the “good” (the liberal, positive) kind from the “not so good” (conservative, anti-whatevercomestomind) kind. Again, that’s no different than saying left-handed Christian or right-handed Christian. One either believes, has faith in, and is obedient to the words of Christ (accepting that mankind will fall short on the ‘obedient’ part, as we are sinners), or one isn’t. Reading the text to say what we want it to say is just another example of what Madonna did during her ‘cafeteria Catholic’ days. There are Christians who disagree on any number of things & politics is right there alongside favorite-college-football-team on the “items that don’t really matter” list. Jesus didn’t care if you were liberal or conservative, politically.

  • I could have been pickier still and said “not John’s but those of the author of the 4th Gospel”. But that’s getting ridiculous. Still I think those words would include Christians both ancient and modern that the definition you gave in your first comment would exclude. IOW, in this passage, John doesn’t rule out the possibility that one could come to the Father “by” Jesus without believing that Jesus was (in any literal or unique sense) the Son of God, or that his death was “for the sins” of mankind… or that he necessarily rose “from the tomb” (as opposed to a spiritual resurrection) or that there would be a “second coming” in the future.

    And in fact, many people believe(d) they would come to the father without believing one or more of those other things. And some “followers of Jesus” don’t even believe in an afterlife or in the resurrection of the dead.

  • here are Christians who disagree on any number of things & politics is right there alongside favorite-college-football-team on the “items that don’t really matter” list. Jesus didn’t care if you were liberal or conservative, politically.

    You and I seem to agree on the central point. I think what we disagree on is how properly to define “Christian”. I don’t see my definition as a laundry list – I see it as pragmatic. One who self-identifies as a follower of Jesus is a Christian… I can see no grounds for excluding them over different views of the Bible, different notions of the afterlife, or different ideas about what Jesus did or didn’t do.

  • Funnily enough most, but not all, of modern Christians that you r criteria would exclude would be theologically liberal Christians. I think that your criteria might exclude the Twelve, the Jerusalem church for as long as it existed and large swaths of early Christianity that couldn’t be characterized as “liberal” or “conservativie”.

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