Another blog I read even though its author and I often disagree is Answers in Genesis Busted. Today that blog offered a response to my post that was in turn a response to several posts on Debunking Christianity. I love it when a bloggersation comes together! The AIGBusted post is about the “bankruptcy of liberal Christianity“. I responded briefly in a comment on that blog, and will try to expand my thoughts on the subject here.
AIGBusted claims that “What Liberals like McGrath have done is to strip Christianity of any meaningful empirical or philosophical implications it may have, and turn it into mere artwork, a lump of clay that may be shaped into anything the believer wants it to be.” I believe that what us liberal Christians have done is rather to point out that Christianity has always been a “lump of clay”, a work of art, and to take responsibility for molding and shaping it, rather than doing so while pretending it is not us but only God who is doing so.
As for Jesus as God incarnate, if the historical figure of Jesus seems not to have thought of himself in those terms, why should anyone today be berated for not doing so either, just because the majority of Christians down the ages have thought about him in those terms? But at any rate, a lot depends on what one means by “God” and what one means by “incarnate”. The idea that is so prevalent in popular Christian thought, that Jesus was simply a divine person dressed up in a human being suit, as it were, was condemned by the Council of Chalcedon more than a millenium and a half ago.
So even by “official” standards, what the vast majority of Christians thinks rarely meets those criteria. And therein lies the problem. Christianity has never been for most Christians what the official line is (as though there were a universally recognized body or leader who could provide such an authoritative line anyway), and so the attempt to say that those who are seeking to be creative and critical are either watering Christianity down or departing from it is hard to justify. I don’t think liberal Christians are changing the nature of Christianity to a more significant degree than some of the New Testament authors were transforming the Christian tradition they inherited.
Christianity has never been a pure essence with a shell or some outer trappings from each era to make it relevant. Christianity has always been a dialogue between a tradition and its time, and contained varying admixtures of both. While many American Christians today have posed a conflict between “Biblical science” and what I can only call real science, that conflict has not been part of Christianity down the ages – we have plenty of evidence for Christianity adapting to current scientific knowledge. And when Christians have discussed the nature of God, they have drawn on and dialogued with contemporary philosophy. And so I don’t see that, just because some of us today are reaching different conclusions than some of our forerunners in the faith, we are approaching these matters in a fundamentally different way. And if we’re not, then I don’t see how we are doing anything other than standing in the long and diverse line of expressions of Christianity.