Monday, October 27, 2008

Liberal Theology: What is It?

What makes liberal theology liberal and not orthodox? I would suggest that it is the denial or twisting of a cluster of closely related doctrines that revolve around the person and work of Jesus Christ.

1. Divinity of Christ - liberal theology tends to view Jesus as merely a man of a special and unusual sort - a great teacher - but not consubstantial with God and the second person of the Trinity.

2. Atonement - liberal theology usually re-interprets the meaning of the cross in some sort of exemplarist fashion so that salvation becomes auto-salvation rather than trusting in the atoning work of Christ. The vicarious and penal nature of the atonement is almost always denied and extracted from the doctrine of the atonement.

3. Sin - the idea of sin is retained but understood as human beings failing to live up to their ideals and is not understood as disability and ruin. We can sin, but we can choose not to sin if we will.

4. Eschatology - liberal theology sees the kingdom of God as continuous with, and achievable within, history by people like us, providing we only follow Christ sincerely enough. Eschatology is historicized. The idea of a future, bodily return of Jesus Christ to judge the world and bring about the Kingdom in its fullness is dismissed as literalistic superstititon.

Any theological movement that substitutes social action or politics for the preaching of sin, repentence and grace is liberal in spirit and dangerous. Modernity disbelieves in the immortality of the soul but retains the symbol "God." Liberalism tries to re-interpret Christianity in such a way as to show its relevance to this world and it usefulness as a means of stimulating the progress that modernity believes is the way of salvation. Liberalism plays down the future life, the danger of eternal punishment and the need for forgiveness of sins through faith in Jesus Christ. Liberalism plays up social justice, concern for the poor and the need for activism.

To speak of the Kingdom as a human work is the first sign of liberalism. To think of the Kingdom as a social-political project is full-blown liberalism. To identify the Kingdom with a particular political ideology is idolatry come out into the open.

Liberal Protestantism has been almost entirely captured by liberal theology and liberalism has made significant inroads into the Roman Catholic Church and into Evangelical churches as well. May the Lord deliver us from this peculiarly modern heresy.

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