Liberal Christianity – A Critique

I have been thinking much about “liberal” Christianity in recent weeks. The term “liberal” is an odd description. In some contexts “liberal” can be positive in the sense of being generous or libertarian in something. We like the idea of “liberal” giving or having a “liberal” society where things are free and fair. In Australia our most conservative political party is called the Australian Liberal Party and they are not “liberal” in the sense of hard-left values (though perhaps leftist economically compared to the GOP). However, in terms of theology, “liberal” has negative connotations of compromised and revisionist beliefs. I’ve been called a “liberal” and I’ve been called a “fundamentalist” by different folks. The term “liberal” is used pejoratively but relatively to describe someone left of where someone else sits on a theological spectrum. The “Old Liberalism” that dominated Western/European Protestant thought from Friedrich Schleiermacher to WWI collapsed as its religious vision did not match the European reality of human evil. In its stead, there has risen a plurality of theologies including evangelicalism, neo-orthodoxy, Pentecostalism, and a host of “progressive” Christian theologies.  These progressive Christian theologies are the heirs of the Old Liberalism. Their aim is not to destroy the faith, far from it, they see themselves as saving it, by accommodating faith to the spirit of the age, making it more palatable to the masses, translating its idiom into contemporary language, engaging the challenge of religious meaning in a post-Enlightenement world, and even secularizing faith to some degree. Some liberals are just oxygen thieves like Jack Spong, others such as Rowan Williams (who really defies tags like “liberal” I guess), are more humble, learned, and even edifying. Some liberal scholars, both radical and the just less-conservative-than-me types, are good exegetes. They might not believe what they’re reading, but they are often jolly good at explaining what the text says and in what context. I concede also that liberals have a genuine heart for the poor and the oppressed. That said, I don’t think they actually do much for them since it is usually Catholics and Evangelicals who actually do ground zero work in social care. A friend told me about a Theological College Principal who said how constantly amazed he was about all these liberal theologians in North America who offered to come and visit his seminary in Australia to talk about justice and poverty, and yet they always insisted on flying to Australia in Business Class!

But I’m not a liberal. It’s a worldview I simply do not resonate with. I see a world with a God who remains active in it. I can’t treat scripture as something that is negotiable. Sadly, liberalism ends up with the god that Richard Niebuhr warned us of: “A god without wrath, brought men without sin, into a kingdom without judgment, through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross” . The world looks on with a crooked smile as the liberals acclaim their entire concurrence with all the values of the left-wing intelligentsia. The intelligentsia embarrassingly acknowledge their concord with the theological left, they thanks the theological liberals for affirming all of their values, but bid them adieu as they do not need any religious tokens at this time. Tragically theological liberalism claims to offer patronage to a group of intellectual who no longer want it. By removing a personal and speaking God from the church, they have nothing to say to people that they can’t already hear from Oprah, John Stewart, CNN, or the NYT. Former liberals such as Thomas C. Oden saw the theological and moral bankruptcy of liberalism long ago and he turned his back on it to become a leader in orthodox renewal movements in mainline churches. Another former liberal, Alister McGrath, said that liberalism had a pastoral weakness in that it had little to offer people in the harsh realities of unemployment, illness, and death.  I remember reading many years ago Thomas Reeve’s book The Empty Church: The Suicide of Liberal Christianity, and it dawned on me that liberalism had nothing of any value to give to ordinary people. Liberalism does not create it can only validate. Liberalism is an affirmation of the political left, a struggle for acceptance despite being vaguely religious, a denunciation of nearly everything that “mere Christianity” stands for, and a sacralizing of secular values. I’ve been to enough SBL sessions to hear professors whose religious discourse sounds like a cross between Marcion and Marx. Why would you get up early Sunday morning to listen to that?

Perhaps the most negative criticism I could make about contemporary liberal or progressive Christians, is that they are little more than “chaplains for Nero”. Imagine if me and some progressive Christian got in a time machine and went back into Nero’s court around 63 AD. I stand up and in rough Latin I explain to Nero who I am, which religious community I belong to, and read portions of Phil 2:5-11, 1 Thess 4-5, and Rom 10:9-10 as examples of what I believe.  I reckon I’d end up food for the lions in the arena faster than you can say “Nero is a Greek drag queen”. As I’m led away, up steps a progressive Christian, who reads out some of the UN millennium goal, gives a manifesto on LGBTQ rights, talks about their acceptance of gay marriage (Nero was involved in two gay marriages!), flaps their gums about being pro-abortion (Nero had no objections here), and discourses on the tolerance of religious pluralism over and against the “orthodox” Christians who recognize Jesus as the only Lord and Savior. For the progressive Christian, when it comes to religion, Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, or Isis, it’s pretty much all the same thing if you are a religious pluralist. So calling Nero “Lord” or worshiping him would not be a problem for anyone who is open minded or sincerely “inter-religious” (when in Rome eat spaghetti and offer incense to Nero’s genius!). Nero is not alarmed at anything this progressive Christian says, in fact, he’s even impressed. He asks the progressive Christian to be his own personal chaplain and become his adviser on how to deal with those pesky Roman Christians who go around secretly chanting “Jesus is Lord” and implying that Nero is not!

That’s why I’m not a liberal! Not that evangelicalism doesn’ have its own problems either, it can easily turn into folk religion, descend into little more than a baptizer of right wing values, and becomes a chaplain to conservative politics. But liberalism as a theological position divorces me from the God who saves me and refuses to believe in a God who speaks. I see no attraction. If you wrap up the values of the left in some religious wrapping paper and hand it onto them, they’ll thank you for affirming all of their values, but give you back your religious wrapping paper.

  • http://www.didaskelion.org Erlend

    Thanks Michael. This was a very helpful post

  • http://www.didaskelion.org Erlend

    Thanks Michael. This was a very helpful post

  • Stan

    Fine logic, love your writing.

  • Stan

    Fine logic, love your writing.

  • D. Horst

    Are you willig to apply the same straw man type characterizations and provide a critique of “Conservative” Christianities in any of it’s forms especially some of the American varieties.

    I usually appreciate your perspectives but you do yourself and me a disservice with posts like this.

    • Mike Bird

      D. I think I left open the possibility that some quarters of evangelicalism are a form of “folk religion” that simply attempts to provide religious sanction to a certain type of social and economic conservatism.

  • D. Horst

    Are you willig to apply the same straw man type characterizations and provide a critique of “Conservative” Christianities in any of it’s forms especially some of the American varieties.

    I usually appreciate your perspectives but you do yourself and me a disservice with posts like this.

    • Mike Bird

      D. I think I left open the possibility that some quarters of evangelicalism are a form of “folk religion” that simply attempts to provide religious sanction to a certain type of social and economic conservatism.

  • R. Morehouse

    I tend to think of liberalism in terms the authority of scripture, which I suppose carries with in the political baggage you cite. In response to D. Horst, his point is valid. One may, on the opposite extreme, think of “Chaplains of Constantine.”

    • Mike Bird

      R., I fully agree, some evangelicals are just chaplains to the GOP. I have no idea how anyone in Jesus’ name can say that the best way to help the poor is to make the rich richer!

  • R. Morehouse

    I tend to think of liberalism in terms the authority of scripture, which I suppose carries with in the political baggage you cite. In response to D. Horst, his point is valid. One may, on the opposite extreme, think of “Chaplains of Constantine.”

    • Mike Bird

      R., I fully agree, some evangelicals are just chaplains to the GOP. I have no idea how anyone in Jesus’ name can say that the best way to help the poor is to make the rich richer!

  • Rob

    Mike, I resonate with much of your above comments; however, your title for this post actually seems a little misleading. True, liberals are those who may accept “nero” as Lord but they at times may deny the bodily resurrection. I am sorry, but if Nicea is to be a guide for what is and what is not considered Christian, then I doubt that many liberals would be able to be considered “christians” according to that limited standard. Therefore, I struggle using the phrase “liberal Christianity,” if, of course, they deny the resurrection or other key aspects of the earliest confessions of Christianity. They may be something (humble, generous, compassionate, loving, liberal et al), but they most certainly are not Christians.

    • Truth Unites… and Divides

      “They may be something (humble, generous, compassionate, loving, liberal et al), but they most certainly are not Christians.”

      With regards to Dr. J. Gresham Machen, he would agree with you.

      With regards to Dr. James McGrath, I think your analysis has merit as well.

  • Rob

    Mike, I resonate with much of your above comments; however, your title for this post actually seems a little misleading. True, liberals are those who may accept “nero” as Lord but they at times may deny the bodily resurrection. I am sorry, but if Nicea is to be a guide for what is and what is not considered Christian, then I doubt that many liberals would be able to be considered “christians” according to that limited standard. Therefore, I struggle using the phrase “liberal Christianity,” if, of course, they deny the resurrection or other key aspects of the earliest confessions of Christianity. They may be something (humble, generous, compassionate, loving, liberal et al), but they most certainly are not Christians.

    • Truth Unites… and Divides

      “They may be something (humble, generous, compassionate, loving, liberal et al), but they most certainly are not Christians.”

      With regards to Dr. J. Gresham Machen, he would agree with you.

      With regards to Dr. James McGrath, I think your analysis has merit as well.

  • Luke

    You start off with some thoughtful comments about the vagaries of the term “liberal” and the vast spectrum of people and views it can cover, then appear to completely abandon that line of thought to dive headlong into some very broad paint-them-all-with-the-same-brush stereotyping. As mentioned, similar “conservative” stereotyping — especially when it comes to the American variety — would be just as silly.

  • Luke

    You start off with some thoughtful comments about the vagaries of the term “liberal” and the vast spectrum of people and views it can cover, then appear to completely abandon that line of thought to dive headlong into some very broad paint-them-all-with-the-same-brush stereotyping. As mentioned, similar “conservative” stereotyping — especially when it comes to the American variety — would be just as silly.

  • Craig Benno

    I’m not convinced that you can label Rowan Williams as a Liberal. In my understanding a Liberal Christian is one who denies the divinity of Christ and a literal resurrection…for without them there can be no salvation.

    It does appear that you are saying a Liberal is one who doesn’t hold to your own theological framework which is basically a Calvinistic one….

    • Saint and Sinner

      I doubt that Mike really cares about the Calvinism issue.

  • Craig Benno

    I’m not convinced that you can label Rowan Williams as a Liberal. In my understanding a Liberal Christian is one who denies the divinity of Christ and a literal resurrection…for without them there can be no salvation.

    It does appear that you are saying a Liberal is one who doesn’t hold to your own theological framework which is basically a Calvinistic one….

    • Saint and Sinner

      I doubt that Mike really cares about the Calvinism issue.

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  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath
    • Mike Bird

      James, I thought you might pop in for two cents!

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath
    • Mike Bird

      James, I thought you might pop in for two cents!

  • Nick

    You describe some very valid points here, some of which I agree with. However I find this deeply troubling…

    Your inability to nail down a definition of “liberal,” in all honesty, should prevent you from making very many claims (especially judgements) about it. It seems you’ve drawn a line in your mind and are pointing at those across from it. The problem is in not defining that line clearly it has degenerated from a potentially valid critique to an “us” and “them” session (“oxygen thieves”? that’s how “conservative Christians” value others?). Is “liberal” a worldview? Is it a position on certain doctrines? At one point you seem to imply that all Catholics are by definition not “liberal” (L.T. Johnson affirms gay marriage)? In biblical studies (or any discipline for that matter) it wouldn’t be appropriate to address a topic unless it was well defined.

    If by “mere Christianity” you mean Lewis’ brand of Christianity, then that’s one thing. But if by “mere Christianity” you mean the essence of a biblical faith, how can you get away with calling Rowan Williams a “liberal,” even if you are unsure if he fits there (after all, you did keep his name there)?

    “Liberals” don’t actually do much for the poor and oppressed? Some popular names: Jim Wallis? Shane Claiborne (who sounds as much like Marx as any popular Christian writer)? While both of those are or have been considered “evangelical” at one point, by most measurements they’re quite liberal. Which brings up another point: the line between “liberal” and “evangelical” is another that goes woefully undefined. Many folks who would seemingly fit snuggly into your vague description of “liberal” – like Rob Bell, Brian McLaren, and even Tony Jones – have at one point or another classified themselves as evangelical.

    I could go on, but the real damaging thing here is that you have created a vitriolic, “us” versus “them” environment and instead of setting out to critique certain world views or beliefs you’ve contributed to the centuries old shouting match. I’m just not sure in the slightest what this can do to contribute to the Kingdom of God.

    • Mike Bird

      Nick, the problem is that the “us” vs. “them” divide exists in denominations and institutions. I find those who tout themselves as inclusive and tolerant are anything but towards those who disagree with. The question of who is a liberal is, as I said, often a matter of relativity. I wouldn’t call Jim Wallis a liberal, just a theological conservative who is not economically conservative (much like me!). Rowan William defies many tags, but he belongs in the “liberal tradition” of the COE (albeit in his own unique way).

      • Nick

        I couldn’t agree more that “us” and “them” divides exist in institutions. They exist in almost every part of our world, especially the church. I agree that there are fundamentalists on both sides of every spectrum, but to declare that liberals are exclusive and intolerant – while accurate for some in the same way that the same is accurate for some conservatives – is just a massive overstatement. “Liberal” is indeed a relative term, as it applies to a comparative distance between two positions. But precisely its relative nature seems like it ought to give anyone pause to make grand statements about it.

  • Nick

    You describe some very valid points here, some of which I agree with. However I find this deeply troubling…

    Your inability to nail down a definition of “liberal,” in all honesty, should prevent you from making very many claims (especially judgements) about it. It seems you’ve drawn a line in your mind and are pointing at those across from it. The problem is in not defining that line clearly it has degenerated from a potentially valid critique to an “us” and “them” session (“oxygen thieves”? that’s how “conservative Christians” value others?). Is “liberal” a worldview? Is it a position on certain doctrines? At one point you seem to imply that all Catholics are by definition not “liberal” (L.T. Johnson affirms gay marriage)? In biblical studies (or any discipline for that matter) it wouldn’t be appropriate to address a topic unless it was well defined.

    If by “mere Christianity” you mean Lewis’ brand of Christianity, then that’s one thing. But if by “mere Christianity” you mean the essence of a biblical faith, how can you get away with calling Rowan Williams a “liberal,” even if you are unsure if he fits there (after all, you did keep his name there)?

    “Liberals” don’t actually do much for the poor and oppressed? Some popular names: Jim Wallis? Shane Claiborne (who sounds as much like Marx as any popular Christian writer)? While both of those are or have been considered “evangelical” at one point, by most measurements they’re quite liberal. Which brings up another point: the line between “liberal” and “evangelical” is another that goes woefully undefined. Many folks who would seemingly fit snuggly into your vague description of “liberal” – like Rob Bell, Brian McLaren, and even Tony Jones – have at one point or another classified themselves as evangelical.

    I could go on, but the real damaging thing here is that you have created a vitriolic, “us” versus “them” environment and instead of setting out to critique certain world views or beliefs you’ve contributed to the centuries old shouting match. I’m just not sure in the slightest what this can do to contribute to the Kingdom of God.

    • Mike Bird

      Nick, the problem is that the “us” vs. “them” divide exists in denominations and institutions. I find those who tout themselves as inclusive and tolerant are anything but towards those who disagree with. The question of who is a liberal is, as I said, often a matter of relativity. I wouldn’t call Jim Wallis a liberal, just a theological conservative who is not economically conservative (much like me!). Rowan William defies many tags, but he belongs in the “liberal tradition” of the COE (albeit in his own unique way).

      • Nick

        I couldn’t agree more that “us” and “them” divides exist in institutions. They exist in almost every part of our world, especially the church. I agree that there are fundamentalists on both sides of every spectrum, but to declare that liberals are exclusive and intolerant – while accurate for some in the same way that the same is accurate for some conservatives – is just a massive overstatement. “Liberal” is indeed a relative term, as it applies to a comparative distance between two positions. But precisely its relative nature seems like it ought to give anyone pause to make grand statements about it.

  • Roger Wolsey

    I’m not a liberal Christian either. However I am passionate progressive Christian. It seems to me that you unfairly equivocate the two. I speak to the differences between them in this article I agree! However, there is a difference between progressive and liberal theology. I speak to it in this article http://www.huffingtonpost.​com/rev-roger-wolsey/progr​essive-christianity_b_8927​27.html and much more so in my book Kissing Fish: christianity for people who don’t like christianity http://www.progressivechristianitybook.com

    Progressive Christians claim that “Jesus is Lord, and that means that Caesar isn’t” – and that stuff, my friend, can get you killed.

    • Natehardee

      I couldn’t get the link to work. I would like to hear your thoughts on the differences between liberal and progressive. I guess my problem with going fully progressive is that while a progressive might say Jesus is Lord, what does that mean to most progressives? Not much in my experience.

  • Roger Wolsey

    I’m not a liberal Christian either. However I am passionate progressive Christian. It seems to me that you unfairly equivocate the two. I speak to the differences between them in this article I agree! However, there is a difference between progressive and liberal theology. I speak to it in this article http://www.huffingtonpost.​com/rev-roger-wolsey/progr​essive-christianity_b_8927​27.html and much more so in my book Kissing Fish: christianity for people who don’t like christianity http://www.progressivechristianitybook.com

    Progressive Christians claim that “Jesus is Lord, and that means that Caesar isn’t” – and that stuff, my friend, can get you killed.

    • Natehardee

      I couldn’t get the link to work. I would like to hear your thoughts on the differences between liberal and progressive. I guess my problem with going fully progressive is that while a progressive might say Jesus is Lord, what does that mean to most progressives? Not much in my experience.

  • http://bramboniusinenglish.wordpress.com Brambonius

    What we call ‘liberals’ here in Europe (I live in Belgium) are an atheist version of the GOP, obsessed with free market capitalism, big corporations and all the yadda yadda (they are less scary than the tea party stuff still). There could be nothing mor eopposite to Christian values in politics… (The first church was quite socialist anyway)

    I don’t think ‘left’ and ‘right’ are helpful terms here, even apart from their loose definitions and the tendency of some to just use the other one them as derogatory term for everyting they disagree with (like conservative Americans tend to do with the word ‘liberal’) . (We would place Obama center-right in Europe anyway, and political pigeonholing doesn’t work on Jesus, especially if polarised in 2 opposites that have arbitrary grown that way historically…) Jesus would be ‘left’ on a lot of things, and right on other things, and overall way too radical to base contemporary polictics on. (‘easier it is for a camel…’)

    If liberal christianity consists of a anti-supernatural worldview including denial of the resurrection, it is a completely impotent form of christianity. I don’t see what’s attractive or Christian about it…

  • http://bramboniusinenglish.wordpress.com Brambonius

    What we call ‘liberals’ here in Europe (I live in Belgium) are an atheist version of the GOP, obsessed with free market capitalism, big corporations and all the yadda yadda (they are less scary than the tea party stuff still). There could be nothing mor eopposite to Christian values in politics… (The first church was quite socialist anyway)

    I don’t think ‘left’ and ‘right’ are helpful terms here, even apart from their loose definitions and the tendency of some to just use the other one them as derogatory term for everyting they disagree with (like conservative Americans tend to do with the word ‘liberal’) . (We would place Obama center-right in Europe anyway, and political pigeonholing doesn’t work on Jesus, especially if polarised in 2 opposites that have arbitrary grown that way historically…) Jesus would be ‘left’ on a lot of things, and right on other things, and overall way too radical to base contemporary polictics on. (‘easier it is for a camel…’)

    If liberal christianity consists of a anti-supernatural worldview including denial of the resurrection, it is a completely impotent form of christianity. I don’t see what’s attractive or Christian about it…

  • http://www.novuslumen.net/ jeremy bouma

    “liberal or progressive Christians…are little more than ‘chaplains for Nero’.” MONEY quotation! What a great story to give context to the ills of theological liberalism. LOVE!

  • http://www.novuslumen.net/ jeremy bouma

    “liberal or progressive Christians…are little more than ‘chaplains for Nero’.” MONEY quotation! What a great story to give context to the ills of theological liberalism. LOVE!

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  • Wu

    Great conversation! Thank you, Michael, for posting this.

    I would have thought that genuine Christianity would be persecuted by both Nero and another group, namely, Scribes, Pharisees and chief priests. Nero, I think, would reject Israel’s Scripture and the resurrection. The Scribes and Pharisees, I think, would uphold Israel’s Scripture and believe in the resurrection. The followers of Jesus the Messiah would be persecuted by both Nero and this other group of people for all sorts of reasons.

    Interestingly, many of my friends who actively engage in social justice and poverty alleviation would be labelled as “lefty” and “green”, and rejected by many Christians who believe in the resurrection and the authority of Scripture. But many of my other friends would be labelled as “conservative” and “narrow” simply because they believe in the authority of Scripture. I pray that we can all be loving and kind when it comes to issues like these, and seek to embrace one another.

  • Wu

    Great conversation! Thank you, Michael, for posting this.

    I would have thought that genuine Christianity would be persecuted by both Nero and another group, namely, Scribes, Pharisees and chief priests. Nero, I think, would reject Israel’s Scripture and the resurrection. The Scribes and Pharisees, I think, would uphold Israel’s Scripture and believe in the resurrection. The followers of Jesus the Messiah would be persecuted by both Nero and this other group of people for all sorts of reasons.

    Interestingly, many of my friends who actively engage in social justice and poverty alleviation would be labelled as “lefty” and “green”, and rejected by many Christians who believe in the resurrection and the authority of Scripture. But many of my other friends would be labelled as “conservative” and “narrow” simply because they believe in the authority of Scripture. I pray that we can all be loving and kind when it comes to issues like these, and seek to embrace one another.

  • Roger Wolsey

    A follow up comment. I think a far stronger case can be made that conservative Christianity is really the “chaplain to Nero” as it tends to bless the unjust status quo and tends toward a Dominionist wedding of Church and State that oppresses minorities. Again, progressive Christianity is not the same as liberal Christianity — and progressive Christians claim that Jesus is Lord – and that Caesar isn’t. Roger Wolsey, author Kissing Fish http://www.progressivechristianitybook.com

    • Ben

      Maybe Chaplain to Constantine would be a better analogy. The injustices you mention are real (I wear the wounds myself) but they are not neronic in kind or degree.

      Not everyone chooses to address whatever distinctions you intend by those two words. nor do they have too. “Liberal Christianity” is an unmbrella term used (saddly) often enough that despite its imprecision, people still get SOME definition out of it, and I can’t see how Mike was untrue that nuance.

  • Roger Wolsey

    A follow up comment. I think a far stronger case can be made that conservative Christianity is really the “chaplain to Nero” as it tends to bless the unjust status quo and tends toward a Dominionist wedding of Church and State that oppresses minorities. Again, progressive Christianity is not the same as liberal Christianity — and progressive Christians claim that Jesus is Lord – and that Caesar isn’t. Roger Wolsey, author Kissing Fish http://www.progressivechristianitybook.com

    • Ben

      Maybe Chaplain to Constantine would be a better analogy. The injustices you mention are real (I wear the wounds myself) but they are not neronic in kind or degree.

      Not everyone chooses to address whatever distinctions you intend by those two words. nor do they have too. “Liberal Christianity” is an unmbrella term used (saddly) often enough that despite its imprecision, people still get SOME definition out of it, and I can’t see how Mike was untrue that nuance.

  • Massbach

    Well put, but theological liberalism does not necessarily believe in a God who doesn’t speak. In fact, the favorite slogan of the ultra-liberal United Church of Christ is: “God is still speaking.”

  • Massbach

    Well put, but theological liberalism does not necessarily believe in a God who doesn’t speak. In fact, the favorite slogan of the ultra-liberal United Church of Christ is: “God is still speaking.”

  • Anonymous

    Just because Nero might have agreed with progressives about LGBTQ rights and same-sex marriage doesn’t make progressives wrong on this issue. For some progressives, promoting LGBTQ rights is simply an expression of love for our neighbor, not an attempt to curry favor. Equating loving one’s neighbor with pluralism has a long history: the Pharisees reaction to Jesus’ eating with sinners, for example.

    • Guest

      Jesus eating at the house with sinners was not promoting, advocating, enthroning or even encouraging their sinful lifestyle. If I were to stand w/ LGBTQ people on the street holding a sign and rallying with them I would therefore be promoting/encouraging/supporting their unbiblical beliefs to be true.

      Even though you may love someone, it doesn’t mean you keep encouraging them to live how they want to live. Gal 6:1-6

      • Anonymous

        Apparently the Pharisees thought that Jesus was encouraging sinful lifestyles (Luke 7:34).

        So, regardless of what other people think is going on, we still have an obligation to love, which in this case means (among other things) advocating for legal rights.

        If you have a problem with someone’s sinful lifestyle, that is best handled by private counseling (Matt 18:15, Gal. 6:1) not by turning your back on them.

  • Anonymous

    Just because Nero might have agreed with progressives about LGBTQ rights and same-sex marriage doesn’t make progressives wrong on this issue. For some progressives, promoting LGBTQ rights is simply an expression of love for our neighbor, not an attempt to curry favor. Equating loving one’s neighbor with pluralism has a long history: the Pharisees reaction to Jesus’ eating with sinners, for example.

    • Guest

      Jesus eating at the house with sinners was not promoting, advocating, enthroning or even encouraging their sinful lifestyle. If I were to stand w/ LGBTQ people on the street holding a sign and rallying with them I would therefore be promoting/encouraging/supporting their unbiblical beliefs to be true.

      Even though you may love someone, it doesn’t mean you keep encouraging them to live how they want to live. Gal 6:1-6

      • Anonymous

        Apparently the Pharisees thought that Jesus was encouraging sinful lifestyles (Luke 7:34).

        So, regardless of what other people think is going on, we still have an obligation to love, which in this case means (among other things) advocating for legal rights.

        If you have a problem with someone’s sinful lifestyle, that is best handled by private counseling (Matt 18:15, Gal. 6:1) not by turning your back on them.

  • Guest

    bat-shit crazy much?

  • Guest

    bat-shit crazy much?

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  • Anonymous

    God’s moral ideals do not change. And the command to “love your neighbour as yourself” must be upheld and put into practice. These do not oppose each other. As Paul says, the love command fulfils the law (Romans 8:10; Galatians 5:13-15). And since the love command is so important to Jesus (and Paul), it should underpin all our behaviour and attitude. I think we should expect that neither “Nero” nor “Scribes and Pharisees” would be happy with us, if we uphold both God’s moral ideals and sincerely love.

  • Anonymous

    God’s moral ideals do not change. And the command to “love your neighbour as yourself” must be upheld and put into practice. These do not oppose each other. As Paul says, the love command fulfils the law (Romans 8:10; Galatians 5:13-15). And since the love command is so important to Jesus (and Paul), it should underpin all our behaviour and attitude. I think we should expect that neither “Nero” nor “Scribes and Pharisees” would be happy with us, if we uphold both God’s moral ideals and sincerely love.

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  • Judy Redman

    Mike, I think you make some good points – I am also uneasy about some aspects of liberal and/or progressive Christianity, although I find myself more comfortable in their company than I do with many evangelicals.

    I also think, however, that you are indulging in hyperbole to try to make your point. You say “A friend told me about a Theological College Principal who said how constantly amazed he was about all these liberal theologians in North America who offered to come and visit his seminary in Australia to talk about justice and poverty, and yet they always insisted on flying to Australia in Business Class!” While I am sure that this has happened at least once, I doubt that many liberal theologians spend much time writing to Australian theological college principals offering to come and talk to their students and staff. This sounds as though at least one principal is inundated with such requests.

    You also say: “That said, I don’t think they actually do much for them since it is usually Catholics and Evangelicals who actually do ground zero work in social care.” I can, if you wish, provide you with a list of congregations and organizations from within my denomination, the Uniting Church in Australia, that are both liberal and doing ground zero work in social care. In fact, the Uniting Church, which is often maligned by more evangelical denominations for being so liberal it is barely Christian, is one of the biggest non-government providers of social care in the country.

    • Mike Bird

      Judy, fair cop. I was trying to ack that some “liberal” churches actually do good social ministry, but I have met alot of chardonnay drinking liberals who spend a lot of time talking about all the social work that other people should be doing.

      • Judy Redman

        Indeed, Mike, but there are also a lot of evangelicals whose main evangelical acts seem to be praying for the two missionary families whose prayer cards/magnets adorn their fridges. I am not knocking prayer, mind you, but …

        • Anonymous

          Thank you, Judy (and Mike), for this dialogue. Judy, you have said well!

          I have friends in both sides of the spectrum. I have to say that my personal experience is that those who actively engage in social justice tend to be more loving and kind. Among my friends, it is often those who actively engage in social justice who truly understand the justice and “hesed” (steadfast love) of God. At the same time I am very frustrated that there are those on the same side can be very unkind to those on the other side. That is, there are those who actively engage in social justice but fail to be loving and kind.

          These are my personal experiences. We should not generalise. We are all called to embrace each other, including our enemies.

  • Judy Redman

    Mike, I think you make some good points – I am also uneasy about some aspects of liberal and/or progressive Christianity, although I find myself more comfortable in their company than I do with many evangelicals.

    I also think, however, that you are indulging in hyperbole to try to make your point. You say “A friend told me about a Theological College Principal who said how constantly amazed he was about all these liberal theologians in North America who offered to come and visit his seminary in Australia to talk about justice and poverty, and yet they always insisted on flying to Australia in Business Class!” While I am sure that this has happened at least once, I doubt that many liberal theologians spend much time writing to Australian theological college principals offering to come and talk to their students and staff. This sounds as though at least one principal is inundated with such requests.

    You also say: “That said, I don’t think they actually do much for them since it is usually Catholics and Evangelicals who actually do ground zero work in social care.” I can, if you wish, provide you with a list of congregations and organizations from within my denomination, the Uniting Church in Australia, that are both liberal and doing ground zero work in social care. In fact, the Uniting Church, which is often maligned by more evangelical denominations for being so liberal it is barely Christian, is one of the biggest non-government providers of social care in the country.

    • Mike Bird

      Judy, fair cop. I was trying to ack that some “liberal” churches actually do good social ministry, but I have met alot of chardonnay drinking liberals who spend a lot of time talking about all the social work that other people should be doing.

      • Judy Redman

        Indeed, Mike, but there are also a lot of evangelicals whose main evangelical acts seem to be praying for the two missionary families whose prayer cards/magnets adorn their fridges. I am not knocking prayer, mind you, but …

        • Anonymous

          Thank you, Judy (and Mike), for this dialogue. Judy, you have said well!

          I have friends in both sides of the spectrum. I have to say that my personal experience is that those who actively engage in social justice tend to be more loving and kind. Among my friends, it is often those who actively engage in social justice who truly understand the justice and “hesed” (steadfast love) of God. At the same time I am very frustrated that there are those on the same side can be very unkind to those on the other side. That is, there are those who actively engage in social justice but fail to be loving and kind.

          These are my personal experiences. We should not generalise. We are all called to embrace each other, including our enemies.

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  • Ben

    I haven’t been able to comment until just now, but I wanted say that post was awesome. I went to a “christian” university largely ignorant of all the madness that can go on underneath such sheep’s clothing. It was- a very upsetting realization. It does me a great delight to hear the secularization of the Faith called out. Thanks.

  • Ben

    I haven’t been able to comment until just now, but I wanted say that post was awesome. I went to a “christian” university largely ignorant of all the madness that can go on underneath such sheep’s clothing. It was- a very upsetting realization. It does me a great delight to hear the secularization of the Faith called out. Thanks.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Rusty-South/1422777689 Rusty South

    In our word associations, liberal’s side-kick 1s progressive. “what ever “is” is.


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