Plague on both houses

An interesting look at liberal and conservative Christianity and the challenges that both face in the contemporary context.

As it becomes clear that the fates of liberal and conservative Christianities may not be as distinct as is commonly assumed, the time has arrived for a re-evaluation of liberal Christianity. For conservatives, the task is to stop interpreting the demise of liberal congregations as a victory for evangelical Christianity, and to explore what might be learned from the fact that liberal Christianity’s roots lie in the attempt to adapt and respond to cultural diversity and modern individualism. For liberals, the challenge involves far more than finding the courage to address the significant decline in church membership. Their task begins only after acknowledging that liberal Christianity has a real problem transmitting itself to subsequent generations. As Steve Bruce has observed, liberal churches generally appeal more to disaffected conservatives than they do to people with no previous background in Christianity. This fact suggests that liberals need to give greater attention to why the doctrines and traditions of Christianity should matter to someone not already familiar with them.

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11 thoughts on “Plague on both houses

  1. John, I believe, as one who went to a Methodist seminary but works in an Assemblies of God church, that the problem is the whole use of labels. “Liberal,” “conservative,” “fundamentalist,” and other labels don’t help win the lost to Jesus. When true revival, like the kind that swept England during the time of John Wesley, occurs, the labels will fall off and the mainline churches will begin to thrive again. But repentance is the key. Without true repentance, the status quo will continue.

    1. Repentance from what?
      Before repentance there has to be awareness of a wrong.
      Without study, training and understanding of the why’s of the christian faith how will someone know what to repent of?.

      1. John, good question, glad you asked. “From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” ( Matthew 4:17). No, without preaching people won’t know what to repent from. Preachers who won’t preach and talk about sin are the problem. Pastors have neglected their duties to warn their flocks of sin and the consequences: hell. Hopefully, this will change. Hopefully, a 21st-century John Wesley will come to the forefront and be unafraid and not politically-correct and call “sin” what it is “sin.”

        1. Scott, that was d’s question, not mine. But it is a good one and I thank you for your answers.

  2. ” liberal churches generally appeal more to disaffected conservatives”

    If that statement is true, they most likely became disaffected because they were not trained or did not understand the christian faith, it’s practices and beliefs and the why’s behind them in the first place and ….the teachers that are suppose to teach them don’t know either.

    A very simple example would be head covering for the female.
    That is cultural.
    Can you explain? Do you really know? Have you studied the issue?’ll give you a hint.
    In Pauls’ day it was related to high self esteem, dignity defined by modesty and royalty in position.

  3. Conservative have done a horrendous job of explaining the positions they hold any why.
    Conservatives have done an ever worse job of framing the question that divides every denomination today and we all know what that issue is.
    Liberals have done a great job of placing doubt in the minds of many and putting the church on trial.

  4. d — Your comment has me wanting “the rest of the story.” How have conservatives wrongly framed today’s salient issue and what’s the right way to frame it? Thanks and I look forward to learning from your answer.

    1. Conservatives did not lay the groundwork necessary to make their case. Everything I have read leads me to the conclusion the framework was handed over, built by others with conservatives running in trying to hold walls together that are about to collapse.
      The “salient issue” should start with a foundation.
      That foundation begins by looking at the broader topic and building from there.
      This salient issue includes many forms when the whole topic is studied.

  5. Amen! Too many Christians find their identity in what they are not: reacting against liberals or conservatives, instead of who they are as Children of God. The result is that most of what passes for Christian discourse is a farce: we all know what will be said before it is uttered, and we know we aren’t going to get anywhere. We retreat to our respective ghettos: Good News or Reconciling, Christianity Today or Christian Century, IRD or Red Letter, and argue incestuously for our own viewpoint. It’s not doing anyone any good. Thanks for this.

    1. “……we know we aren’t going to get anywhere.”
      If you believe that chances are you won’t get anywhere
      It’s a good thing Paul did not feel that way.

      Paul must have been an inspiration to others when they watched how he handled hostile groups.

      Paul before Agrippa:
      Agrippa to Paul, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian.”

      Assurance of position, groundwork laid, truth, convincing argument presented to a hostile group.

      “But they shook off the dust from their feet against them, and came to Iconium.
      Perseverance,”
      From the Book of Acts

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