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Ross Douthat on Liberal Christianity

Ross Douthat‘s thoughts on Liberal Christianity so struck me I thought them worth sharing here.

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Ross Douthat
In a New York Times Op-Ed, Douthat reflects on the recent theological changes within the Episcopal Church and on Christian Liberalism in general. Douthat writes pointedly and even prophetically throughout the article. However, two points in particular stick out to me.

1. The erosion of doctrine contributes to the erosion of the Church.

Douthat writes, “…liberal Christianity has simply collapsed. Practically every denomination — Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian — that has tried to adapt itself to contemporary liberal values has seen an Episcopal-style plunge in church attendance. Within the Catholic Church, too, the most progressive-minded religious orders have often failed to generate the vocations necessary to sustain themselves.” We must all hear this bit of historical, statistical fact and take heed. The move of liberal churches away from historic doctrines of Christianity in the name of progress and relevance simply fails. The erosion of doctrine is the erosion of the church. A church without a foundation, without the foundation will not stand.

2. Doctrinal affirmation must undergird church reform.

Douthat points out, “…the leaders of the Episcopal Church and similar bodies often don’t seem to be offering anything you can’t already get from a purely secular liberalism. Which suggests that perhaps they should pause, amid their frantic renovations, and consider not just what they would change about historic Christianity, but what they would defend and offer uncompromisingly to the world” (emphasis mine). Modern, theological liberals and would-be critics of historic Christianity have too often been characterized by their denials rather than their affirmations. Deconstruction is easy. Construction and subsequent legacy is difficult. True reformation of the Church cannot grow out of criticism alone.

Douthat then concludes that without such historic, theological considerations and moorings “their fate is nearly certain: they will change, and change, and die.”

Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” Jude 1:3

 

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Derek Griz

I am a Christian, a husband, a father, and a pastor (Immanuel Church). I write from those perspectives. Connect with me on Twitter (@derekgriz).

One thought on “Ross Douthat on Liberal Christianity”

  1. Or, is the problem, the failure, a reliance on doctrine itself, liberal, conservative, or whatever? 2 Peter 1:16 “We do not follow cleverly devised Myths (doctrines) when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Peter then goes on to describe the person he had seen and known. In Jn 5;39 Jesus says, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you will find eternal life; and it is they (the scriptures) that bear witness about me. (The person, Jesus.)”

    It is a subtle shift from worship of the person to worship of the doctrine (seeking eternal life in the book.) about a person. If we look at places in the world the Church is exploding we see the person of God’s Spirit at the center not a debate about doctrine.

    The scriptures are the medium through which God speaks to us, a focus on the medium rather than the one speaking will lead us into trouble whether our view is liberal conservative or otherwise.

    It is more important in discipleship to teach someone how to listen to God’s Spirit than to teach them what we think they need to hear.

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