Tag Archives: liberal christianity

Why Liberal Christianity is a Dead End

dead-endI appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. (Roman 16:17)

Back when I was in high school, I was a member of a “service club.” The service club provided assistance to the poor, cared for the needy, and fought hunger in our community. This was great stuff.

But to my knowledge, this group had no spiritual component to it. It appeared to function well without spirituality, so what was the point of mixing “God” up into the whole business?

So it was a really strange thing, when my church youth group back then decided that they wanted to become like this “service club.” The church group would no longer study the Bible or talk about Jesus. They wanted instead to focus on social service work, just like my service club.

My time was valuable, and so I simply could not justify being a member of two social service clubs that were doing the exact same thing. So I left the church group. If there was nothing distinctively “Christian” going on in the church group, what was the point?

I ran into a long time friend of mine this week at the hardware store, and this person had a similar story to tell me. My friend had started working for a church a few years ago, in a ministry that was doing great work caring for a needy group of folks in our community. But just recently, some of my friend’s colleagues in the ministry were offended by my friend’s sharing of “Jesus” as “the Son of God” with recipients of the church’s ministry. As the story unfolded, it turns out the church had also recently hired some people to work in the ministry, who did not believe in the classic doctrine of the Triune nature of God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  To deal with the division, my friend was asked by the church staff not to talk about “Jesus” anymore.

Keep in mind, this is not a government agency or a school we are talking about. This is a church.

Rightly disturbed, my friend asked to see the church’s statement faith.

“We have a vision statement that you can look at.”

“No, I want to see the statement of faith.”

Sadly, the church had no statement of faith. After my conversation, I checked the church’s website. And sure enough, there was not a single statement online as to what the church believed.

When a church begins to drift away from the “doctrine that you have been taught,” as the Apostle Paul puts it, what typically goes with it is the church’s statement of faith. I know that historically, the denomination associated with this church has for several hundred years taught the doctrine of the Triune nature of God. But like a lot of churches that tend to identify with “liberal Christianity,” communities like these put Bible doctrine off to the side. Instead, these churches put their focus on social type of ministries. These social ministries do great things for our community. These efforts must be commended.

But in the long run, the mission of such a church leads to a dead end. It becomes extremely difficult to “watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles,” when your community lacks a clear understanding of what is being taught. Sadly, “liberal Christianity” provides no moral or spiritual basis for why it is doing its work.

My friend learned a valuable lesson. Check out the church’s statement of faith before you sign up for the job. But my friend’s story is far from unique. It happens over and over again, hundreds of times in liberal churches across the globe. The Pew Research Center published a report last year, showing that Protestant mainline churches, which constitutes the bulk of “liberal Christianity,” is continuing to rapidly shrink year after year in America, with no sign of reversing.

Liberal Christianity is ultimately a dead end because there is effectively nothing different in this movement than what you would find in fully functioning social service clubs and organizations elsewhere in the community that make no mention of God. What is the point of a church disposing the “doctrine that you have been taught,” only to replicate what the rest of the world is doing? It just causes divisions and creates obstacles.

It is a dead end.


Marcus Borg: Friendly Liberal Critic

One of the most well-known liberal critics belonging to the Jesus Seminar died on January 21, 2015, Marcus Borg. Marcus Borg was an influential writer in liberal Protestant circles, such as in my late father-in-law’s church in the last years of his life, but with respect to Borg’s conservative evangelical critics, like Dallas Seminary’s Darrell Bock, Borg was a respectful and friendly dialogue partner.

My first encounter with Marcus Borg was in a highly recommended book he co-wrote with Anglican scholar N.T. Wright, The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions. N.T. Wright defended an evangelical orthodox position affirming the virgin birth of Jesus, the divinity of Christ, and the bodily resurrection of the Lord. Marcus Borg denied ALL of these doctrines of the faith, but he nevertheless endeavoured to identify himself as a Christian, something that most evangelicals find incomprehensible. Borg aligned himself with the Jesus Seminar, which was notoriously known to gather together regularly to “vote” on which statements in the Gospels were actually authentic or inauthentic. Evangelical critics of the Jesus Seminar noted that was basically like using a democratic system of decision-making in order to establish what is true versus what is false, relying on the wisdom of man as opposed to the wisdom of God as revealed in inspired, sacred Scripture. Nevertheless, Borg was always rather cordial in his disagreements with his conservative evangelical dialogue partners.

Gospel Coalition author and blogger Derek Rishmawy best describes the Protestant liberal mindset as of “those who can at best recite the creeds with their fingers crossed. Having embraced the various presuppositions of Enlightenment and postmodern thinking, they are skeptical of supernatural claims and often doubt the very idea of objective truth.” Those who identify themselves as “liberal Christians,” like Marcus Borg, can say that they believe in Jesus, but when honestly challenged, their doubts regarding the supernatural get in the way of them having a full confidence of the genuine reality of a personal Lord and Savior in their lives…well, maybe the theologically sophisticated like Marcus Borg can somehow convince themselves, but in my experience the typical pew sitters in a liberal congregation under the influence of Borg and his followers find it difficult to overcome their doubts.

I, on the other hand, contend that there are other ways to address the question of doubt, as opposed to the way Borg sought to do it. While I am sympathetic that doubt is always something that challenges us in our faith, we can nevertheless move through our doubts and have the confident assurance that “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirt who dwells in you.” (Romans 8:11) … and this is no mere “spiritual” resurrection. It is bodily full and real! Seeking to move through our doubts is part of the journey of personal discipleship behind the purpose of this Veracity blog.

In honor of this friendly liberal critic, it might be worth observing this classic debate between William Lane Craig and Marcus Borg on the topic, “Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?” Though I do not agree with Marcus Borg, it is nevertheless important to learn from this exchange how to challenge this way of thinking in a manner that is gentle and respectful.

 

 

 

 


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