Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Saving Christianity from itself

The new issue of the 9Marks ejournal is concerned with "The New Evangelical Liberalism" [a pdf can be downloaded here]. The articles are about the inroads of theological — not political — liberalism. I haven't read all of them, but those I have read contain some good cautionary words. For instance,
From "How to Become a Liberal Without Attending Harvard Divinity School" by Michael Lawrence:
.... The pastors I want to talk to are pastors like me. .... And I'm not a rock star evangelist who's built a mega-church by walking the fine edge between relevance and faithfulness, always in danger of falling off that edge into a soft liberalism that loves Jesus, but mainly for what he can do for me, rather than for who he is. ....

A good and faithful pastor must love the sheep. That's the model Jesus set for us (John 10). But in fact, the New Testament never tells us as pastors to "love the sheep." Instead we're told to feed the sheep (John 21:15-17), to guard the sheep (Acts 20:28), and to set an example for the sheep (1 Pet 5:3).

But let's face it: the sheep don't always like the meals we've prepared for them; they sometimes chafe under the safeguards we put in place for them; they're not always impressed with the example we set for them. And it's at this point that our own wrongly ordered love for the sheep can lead us astray.

On the one hand, we can be so afraid of losing the love and affection of our sheep that we hold back from saying hard but true things that need to be said. This isn't typically the young pastor's failing, I think, so much as the well-established pastor's temptation. ....
And from Albert Mohler in "Air Conditioning Hell: How Liberalism Happens":
Theological liberals do not intend to destroy Christianity, but to save it. As a matter of fact, theological liberalism is motivated by what might be described as an apologetic motivation. The pattern of theological liberalism is all too clear. Theological liberals are absolutely certain that Christianity must be saved…from itself. ....

Interestingly, the doctrine of hell serves very well as a test case for the slide into theological liberalism. The pattern of this slide looks something like this.

First, a doctrine simply falls from mention. Over time, it is simply never discussed or presented from the pulpit. Most congregants do not even miss the mention of the doctrine. ....

Second, a doctrine is revised and retained in reduced form. ....

Third, a doctrine is subjected to a form of ridicule. ....

Fourth, a doctrine is reformulated in order to remove its intellectual and moral offensiveness. ....
And much more.

January/February 2010 9Marks eJournal - 9Marks