This article shows that the theo-left, as ususal, is clueless. Clueless distortions of what conservative evangelicals believe are bolded.
Posted on Sat, Apr. 08, 2006
What's wrong - and right - with liberal Protestantism?
No one disagrees that the heyday of influence and burgeoning membership rolls is past for most mainline Protestant churches. That's a statistical given. But too often these churches are written off as flickering embers that once were blazing fires. It's a harsh judgment that misses a bigger issue.
In case you're not sure which churches comprise mainline Protestantism, the lineup generally includes the United Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the American Baptist Church and the United Church of Christ.
Some religious observers refer to them as old-line or sideline Protestant churches. The inference is that they're, at best, one step away from some ecclesiastical nursing home or, at worst, on life-support with no more than a few years or decades before they flatline.
Recently, two people spoke out in defense of this liberal brand of Christianity.
One is Marilynne Robinson, an award-winning novelist and essayist, who won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction last year for her novel "Gilead."
In the spring issue of the American Scholar magazine, Robinson criticizes those who promote a narrow view of personal piety and presses instead for a broader -- and more biblically based--definition:
"What has personal holiness to do with politics and economics? Everything, from the liberal Protestant point of view," she writes.
[Here we go again: Marxist reductionism of all of life to economics. Where's Bill Herzog? Calling Dr. Herzog!]
She reminds religious liberals, among whom she counts herself, and other Christians that when Protestant reformer John Calvin said all people should be loved, he set no limits.
[And now, the implication is unless you are from the theo-left, you're a loveless Pharisee. How subtle...]
"There is no doctrine here, no setting of conditions, no drawing of lines," Robinson says. "On the contrary, what he describes is a posture of grace, generosity, liberality."
[Has anyone here actually READ Calvin's Institute's? I have. There are plenty of "lines" in there. What we have here is "center without borders" ala Roy Medley.]
When Robinson talks about personal piety, she always links it to helping those in need. In other words, faith without deeds is dead.
[There's an argument here? No one informed me!]
Then there's Gary Cox, pastor of University Congregational Church in Wichita. He recently published a series of sermons titled "Think Again: A Response to Fundamentalism's Claim on Christianity" ($17.95, University Congregational Press).
In his book of sermons, Cox examines several traditional Christian beliefs -- biblical inerrancy, virgin birth of Jesus, physical resurrection of Jesus, Second Coming, among others -- and contends that there's room for different interpretations about each.
[On the resurrection? The virgin birth? Take a detour here, and it isn't Christianity anyone. No matter what Cox or John Shelby Spong says.]
He rejects the "pat answers" of fundamentalists and the belief that "another person is lost forever beyond the grace of God because of the way that person practices religion."
Instead, he believes liberal Christianity offers another entry to faith, "open-minded and radically inclusive," that is separate from fundamentalism:
"I discovered that Anglican theologian W.H. Vanstone was correct when he claimed the church is like a swimming pool, with all the noise coming from the shallow end. I launched out into the deep end of the pool and have found comfort and nurture there ever since."
[Cute analogy, but insipid.]
Two liberal Christians who should make all of us think about faith beyond our comfort zone.
For Marilynne Robinson, faith is not only a personal experience, but also an outward-directed responsibility that compels believers to take action.
For Gary Cox, faith is about not only endorsing traditional teachings, but also encouraging fresh thinking of what they mean.
The two should give us pause to consider, whether we're liberal or conservative or somewhere in between:
Am I faithful to the message I'm entrusted with, or is faith a frill that decorates but has little purpose?
Does faith make a difference in how I interact with others -- from those closest to me to strangers in the street -- or is it a private experience with little public significance?
Do I try to understand the other person's faith -- even if I profoundly disagree with it -- or am I so consumed by the rightness of mine that pride and arrogance control my behavior?
In the end, we can write off part of the family of faith with whom we disagree, or we can listen with respect.
The fact is, whether we take our seat in a mainline, fundamentalist or evangelical church, each of us must finally decide how we'll relate to those who claim the same name as ours: Christian.
Reach Tom Schaefer at 268-6586 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org