Liberal Anglicanism’s love of confusion

THE RECENT Wellington Anglican Synod provided another example of how progressive Christianity is a beneficiary of unclear and confused thinking. Brothers and sisters on the left of the theological spectrum, I love you. But this is a problem you have.

I’m Anglican. I also oppose the liberal tendency of some Anglicans to want to constantly update the theology and practice of the Church to bring it “up to date” with the progressive concerns of the day, and one of the main such concerns of the day just now is the church’s view of sexuality and marriage. Continue reading “Liberal Anglicanism’s love of confusion”

The Primates Oust The Episcopal Church (for now)

At the recent meeting of the Anglican Primates, the issue of same-sex marriage rose to the surface. In a refreshingly conservative, faithful and courageous move, the Primates have issued a statement declaring that the Episcopal Church in America, because of its unilateral choice to part ways with the Anglican Communion by solemnising same-sex unions in contravention of both Scripture and the teaching of the Church (which welcomes all people and celebrates marriage as taught in Scripture), is no longer a representative of the Anglican Community. Things will remain that way for three years, giving the Episcopal Church a chance to get things in order. Continue reading “The Primates Oust The Episcopal Church (for now)”

Should Evangelical Ministers Respond with Fight or Flight?

Dear Charlie Hughes, the (former?) vicar of St Michael’s Anglican in Henderson…

You don’t know me, but I saw your story in the newspaper. You’re disappointed by the direction the Anglican Church has taken in announcing that it will establish a process by which those ministers who wish to do so may bless same-sex unions, without actually performing same-sex weddings. I’m disappointed by this development as well. You’re so disappointed that you’re leaving the Anglican Church, and pursuing ministry elsewhere.

Charlie, I really appreciate the difficult spot you were put in, and I totally understand your call to move on. You’re right, the Synod got this wrong (Anglicans are allowed to say that, and very often do) and is catering to a vocal minority, setting aside what is, let’s face it, pretty clear biblical teaching. In case there is any possibility that I might give you some pause (if it isn’t too late already), I’d like to make my pitch. Continue reading “Should Evangelical Ministers Respond with Fight or Flight?”

Nuts and Bolts 010: Theological Liberalism

I thought it was high time we had another “nuts and bolts” blog, part of a series where I unpack some of the basic terms and concepts used in either theology or philosophy. This time we’re in theological territory, looking at the question of what this thing called Liberal Theology (or “theological liberalism”) is.

As I’ve noted before when discussing the issue of inerrancy, Martin Luther said that the Bible made statements that weren’t correct about the number of people involved in battles. John Calvin said that the Bible made statements that weren’t correct about a bright star in the sky when Jesus was born. Charles Hodge* said that when it comes to truth and error, the Bible was like a marble building, where marble is truth and sand is not. Sure the building might contain the occasional speck of sand which isn’t marble, but we can still call it marble overall.

Now as I look around the world of conservative evangelicalism, I notice that nobody calls Luther, Calvin or Warfield a liberal (or at least, nobody that I am aware of). And yet for expressing this sort of thought about the Bible myself (namely that everything it teaches is true, but it contains incidental claims that are not factually correct), I’ve recently been called a theological liberal (albeit by a very small number of people whom I can count on the fingers one hand and still have a couple of fingers left over). Theological liberalism is the movement represented by the likes of John Shelby Spong, Lloyd Geering in New Zealand, or historically by folk like Rudolph Bultmann or Friedrich Schleiermacher. I wonder how these guys would feel at being lumped in with Calvin and Warfield?

Moving on to the issue of the afterlife, well known evangelical scholar John Stott claimed, on exegetical grounds, that the lost will one day be no more and that only those people who have eternal life in Christ will live forever. The same position was expressed by other evangelical authors like Michael Green, Philip Edgecumbe Hughes and John Wenham. The church father Arnobius of Sicca taught the same thing (this is just meant as a tiny list of examples).

And yet, for defending this same doctrine – on the basis of detailed exegesis of many parts of Scripture – I’ve been dubbed by one or two people in recent times a theological liberal. I wonder how John Spong would feel being told that he was in the same camp as John Stott!

Of course as many readers will see right away, something has gone askew here. All of this is just a case of confusion. Unfortunately there’s a tendency for some evangelicals (although fortunately not the majority) to think that their stance on any theological issue is the default conservative one (naturally!), and that if a person doesn’t hold their view then they must (obviously) hold a view that makes them a liberal. What’s on display when this happens is actually just historical ignorance of what theological liberalism actually is, combined with confusion over the difference between erroneous beliefs and a theologically liberal stance. As I said when I started the “nuts and bolts” series, rather than just getting frustrated at ignorance, it’s better to become part of the solution. So today I’ll be answering the questions: what is theological liberalism, and how is it distinguished from say, error or heresy? Continue reading “Nuts and Bolts 010: Theological Liberalism”