Confessions of an ex-liberal theologian

Thomas C. Oden is a prominent theologian who formerly was a major practitioner of liberal, modernist theology.  But then, after reading the Church Fathers, he did an about face, turning to orthodox, historical Christianity.  He tells his story in A Change of Heart:  A Personal and Theological Memoir.

This is the most stimulating and illuminating book that I have read in a long time, giving an inside look at the construction of liberal theology, explaining what happened to mainstream Protestantism, and describing in novelistic detail how a prominent scholar came back to an authentic Christian faith.

Reading this book, published a couple of years ago, was an especially strange experience for me because Oden’s background and mine are so similar!  Though he is 20 years older than I am, our experiences have been so similar or at least parallel that reading about them is like reading about my own life.  [Read more…]

Turning pride from a sin to a virtue

An LGBTQ theologian, apparently thinking of “gay pride” parades, wants Christianity to change its teaching that pride is a sin and turn it instead into a virtue.

[Read more…]

The case of the atheist pastor

Mainline Protestants have been casting away traditional Christian teachings with great abandon.  Pastors can now be female, gay, rejecters of Christ’s deity, atonement, and resurrection, etc., etc.  One wonders if, in liberal Protestantism, there is any minimum religious belief that is necessary in a pastor.  Or in a Christian or a member of the church.  For example, does a pastor (or Christian, or church member),  have to believe in God?

The United Church of Canada is having to make a decision about this, as it reviews the case of one of its ministers, Greta Vosper, who is an atheist and who teaches atheism from her pulpit.

PREDICTION:  Pastors in the United Church will not be required to believe in God.  Nor will church members.  Christians may be atheists.  And atheists will be considered Christians.  To their great annoyance. [Read more…]

“Is God Dead?” 50 years–and 439 years–later

This month 50 years ago, in 1966, Time Magazine featured its cover-story entitled “Is God Dead?” The article was about the “Christian atheists,” such as Thomas J. J. Altizer, of the theology faculty at Emory, who argued that the traditional deity is no longer relevant to the modern age and that we need to find new modes of spirituality for a new era.

Leigh Eric Schmidt has written a perceptive article on the impact of that cover story and of the theological fad that it discussed.  He says that it contributed to the rise of evangelicalism, as people sought a more robust understanding of God than was being taught in liberal seminaries.  Mainline Protestantism once exerted genuine cultural leadership and the public was attentive to its theological scholarship.  (Time also had cover stories on Paul Tillich and Reinhold Niebuhr.)  But Schmidt observes that the “Is God Dead?” story was mainline Protestantism’s last hurrah.

So, fifty years later, God is not dead.  Altizer is not dead either, hanging on at 88.  Time is also hanging on, despite big drops in circulation and the competition of the internet.  Mainline liberal Protestantism has also been dwindling in numbers and relevance, though you wouldn’t know that from academic religion departments.

After the jump, though, I offer a passage from the Formula of Concord, Article VIII, on the person of Christ, which discusses the death of God in a completely different way.  It takes up the controversy at the time of whether we can say that “God died on the Cross.”  Zwingli and others said that only the human nature of Christ suffered and died, and that we cannot ascribe such limitations to God (scriptural language to the contrary being merely a figure of speech).  But Luther insisted that because of the incarnation and the communication of the attributes of Christ’s two natures, it is true that the Son of God, the second Person of the Trinity, did suffer and die.  Otherwise, another human death could not help us.  We can indeed say that God died on the Cross.  But then He rose again. [Read more…]

Christian atheists

The BBC website has pages on the different kinds of religion, including “Christian atheism.”  Read the characteristics after the jump, and then I raise a question. [Read more…]

“Conscience,” “calling,” and the new pastoral counseling

More from Terry Mattingly’s column about the new Protestant-like role of “conscience” in liberal Catholicism:   He quotes Blase Cupich, the Archbishop of Chicago, on how he counsels the divorced and remarried, gays, and others in what the Church officially considers to be a sinful lifestyle. [Read more…]


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