Who Said Liberalism is Dead?

It’s been the opinion of some that theological liberalism is dead. Simplistically, theological liberalism describes those who call themselves Christians but deny many (if not most) of the doctrines that make Christianity Christianity. Some believe that liberalism’s sun has set and its dead and buried.

I don’t think so. Come to Orwell sometime, and I’ll show you. Or Grand Rapids, MI. Or Mentor, OH. But if you can’t make the visit, consider Martin Thielen…

Thielen is pastor of a United Methodist Church, and has also served as a Southern Baptist pastor. He served for four years as a national worship and preaching consultant and editor of Proclaim for the SBC.

He’s just published a book titled, “What’s the Least I Can Believe and Still be a Christian?” In it he lists ten things Christians do not need to believe to be a  Christian–

  1. God Causes Cancer, Car Wrecks, and Other Catastrophes
  2. Good Christians Don’t Doubt
  3. True Christians Can’t Believe in Evolution
  4. Women Can’t Be Preachers and Must Submit to Men
  5. God Cares about Saving Souls but Not about Saving Trees
  6. Bad People Will Be “Left Behind” and Then Fry in Hell
  7. Jews Won’t Make It to Heaven
  8. Everything in the Bible Should Be Taken Literally
  9. God Loves Straight People But Not Gay People
  10. It’s OK for Christians to be Judgmental and Obnoxious

You have to note the whimsical, almost sneering tone of this list. That kind of attitude is typical of theological liberalism, almost an ecclesiastical snobbery, looking down the nose at “those fundamentalists.”

It would take a significant post to comment on each of these. It almost makes me want to get the book and read it so I don’t misrepresent him. From the list, though, it appears that one can believe that–

  • Either God is not sovereign over all things or that there is no such thing as the effects of sin in the world  (#1)
  • Genuine faith does not require absolute submission of the mind, will, and emotions to God’s Word (#2)
  • The Bible should not be taken as an authoritative standard on the issues it speaks to (##3-4)
  • Salvation and ecology are on the same plane (#5)
  • The biblical account of divine judgment should not be taken literally (#6)
  • There is not an exclusiveness to salvation, despite what Jesus taught (John 3:18; 14:6; #7)
  • The Bible is not the written Word of God divinely authoritative in all it addresses (#8)
  • Homosexuality is not sinful (#9)
  • You can believe whatever you want to believe (#10)

Read some of the reviews of this book, and you’ll see that theological liberalism is not dead.

Thankfully, we’re not caught offguard by this sort of thing, nor are we left without hope–

You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry (2 Tim 3:14-4:5).

Continue in the Word! Preach the Word! Faithfully serve Christ until He comes!

Do Evolutionists Believe in God?

If there was ever an illustration of the truths of Romans 1:18-23, this latest news item from National Public Radio is it:

Jesse Bering’s mother died of cancer on a Sunday, in her own bed, at 9 o’clock at night. Bering and his siblings closed her door and went downstairs, hoping they might somehow get some sleep.

It was a long, hard night, but around 7 a.m., something happened: The wind chimes outside his mother’s window started to chime.

Bering remembers waking to the tinkle of these bells, a small but distinct sound in an otherwise silent house. And he remembers thinking that those bells carried a very specific message.

“It seemed to me … that she was somehow telling us that she had made it to the other side. You know, cleared customs in heaven,” Bering says.

The thought surprised him. Bering was a confirmed atheist. He did not believe in any kind of supernatural anything. He prided himself on being a scientist, a psychologist who believed only in the measurable material world. But, he says, he simply couldn’t help himself.

“My mind went there. It leapt there,” Bering says. “And from a psychological perspective, this was really interesting to me. Because I didn’t believe it on the one hand, but on the other hand I experienced it.”

Why is it, Bering wondered, that even a determined skeptic could not stop himself from perceiving the supernatural?  It really bothered him.

It was a very good question, he decided, to take up in his lab.

Bering says that believing that supernatural beings are watching you is so basic to being human that even committed atheists regularly have moments where their minds turn in a supernatural direction, as his did in the wake of his mother’s death.

“They experience it but they reject it,” Bering says. “Sort of override or stomp on their immediate intuition [cf. Rom 1:18–“who suppress the truth in/by unrighteousness”]. But that’s not to say that they don’t experience it. We all have the same basic brain. And our brains have evolved to work in a particular way.”

You can read the full article or listen to it here. Sadly, but predictably, when the article tries to come to some resolution on the matter, it basically throws up its hands by saying such answers are “As unknowable — ultimately — as God himself.”

Let’s listen to Paul again in Romans 1–

18For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.