And Still More on (and from!) Ross Douthat and the Future of Denominations and Christianity

And Still More on (and from!) Ross Douthat and the Future of Denominations and Christianity July 17, 2012

Late yesterday I posted a round-up of links on this topic, and already there are enough for another, just on blogs to which I subscribe!

First, let me mention that Ross Douthat himself has written a follow-up piece, “What Is Liberal Christianity?” In it his primary conversation partner is Steven Holmes, a British Baptist who wrote a response to Douthat’s initial piece in which he addressed this issue of defining Liberal Christianity. Holmes has now responded to Douthat, tempering his passion in the interest of Anglo-American mutual comprehension across our linguistic divide.

Elizabeth Drescher provided a good overview of the key topics at the Episcopal General Convention which has sparked all this discussion.

Ken Schenck asks what the relationship is between truth and popularity. Likewise the blog Progressive Involvement notes the different interpretations conservatives offer when Liberal churches decline and when their own conservative ones do. The piece is worth reading all the way to the end, since the last line packs quite a punch. Morgan Guyton also emphasized that churches decline in attendance for a variety of reasons, some good, some bad.

John Byron joins Rachel Held Evans as another voice that feels caught between the two extremes. The Lead also chimed in on this conversation, as did Internet Monk.

AKMA offers many thoughts, including that simply improving preaching would do wonders for many churches.

Ed Kilgore has some sharp words for Ross Douthat, including the following:

It never seems to occur to religious “traditionalists” like Ross Douthat that an equally grave charge could be aimed at Christian conservatives who are in perpetual danger of confusing worship of Jesus Christ with such entirely secular preoccupations as maintaining economic privileges and mid-twentieth-century ideas of family structure and sexual morality—not to mention the worldly interests of the Church itself.

Indeed, instead of lecturing “liberal Christians” about our alleged lack of serious spirituality and advising us on how to put more posteriors in the pews and more money in the coffers, perhaps Ross Douthat should spend his time proctoring conservative Christians who attend churches he actually knows something about, and whose growing tendency to conflate the Gospels with the agenda of the American conservative movement and the Republican Party could use some critical attention.

Sarah Morice Brubaker calls shenanigans and offers a parable. This is Steve Thorngate’s favorite response to Douthat.

Fred Clark clarifies that “suburban” is not the same as “theologically conservative.” He also has a very good post which asks whether Rudolf Bultmann is killing Detroit.

Christian Piatt blogged about helping churches die right.

Brian LePort offers another round-up.

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  • I’ll throw my lot in with Christians who feel stuck in the middle. On the one hand we have Conservatives striving for a 1950’s like society created by people picking out verses that have to do with personal morality and claiming that liberals are simply acquiescing to popular trends of the time. On the other hand we have liberals striving for a progressive society envisioned by people and picking out verses that support social justice. They claim that conservatives are kowtowing to the racist, backwards thinking 1950s. Both groups let human-centered social movements dictate their beliefs and rationalize it with their interpretation of Scripture. It makes me want to take a view that is incredibly unpopular with everyone just so that I know I’m not getting sucked into some human-centered fad.

    I have to say, while you’re arguing against the notion that popular understanding determines truth (and I think you’re right to do so) I do remember hearing some liberal Christians (I’m thinking of John Shelby Sponge) justify their stance by arguing that traditional Christianity is out of touch with modern times and its message does not connect with people in a postmodern age. That seems to be just as much about a popularity contest as arguing that traditional denominations are better because they’re bigger.