A third form of liberal Christianity

David Watson, academic dean at United Theological Seminary, writes — in a much more theologically robust way — about the same topic in my last post.

In responding to an article that describes two kinds of liberal (or progressive) Christianity, Watson adds a third category:

There is, however, another type of Christianity that has attached itself to progressivism. I will call it “issues-based” Christianity. This type of Christianity leads with issues and couches the issues in God-talk. The goal of our faith is to transform society in such a way as to meet particular ideas of social justice. Salvation is primarily, then, a this-worldly social category. Issues of conversion, personal transformation, the inner witness of the Holy Spirit, the fruits of the Spirit, and eternal life are simply left out of the discussion. …

To be clear, as a Wesleyan I am thoroughly committed to the Church’s role in transforming society. My own passions in this area are mainly around people with disabilities. Our work in society, however, must be grounded in a full-bodied conception of the nature and work of the Holy Trinity. Our claims about God lead to our understanding of how we should live and what the world should look like, not the other way around. Theology must first and foremost be about God.

As I have begun to explore the issues of disability and theology, I have seen some of what Watson writes about here. The temptation is to start with people and let our conclusions about them shape or limit what are willing to say about God. I hear Watson calling for an inversion of this movement. That God-first approach is what I am trying to do in my own faith and spirituality.


4 thoughts on “A third form of liberal Christianity

  1. Thanks for the post, John. This is something that has been on my mind for a while, and Hobson provided a good conversation partner.

  2. We have the theist. We have deists. We have pantheist. We have Kant and Wolff.
    All who show some degree of contempt and rejection of establishment and religion that shapes their thinking.
    By the time the philosophers and theologians get done with the Christian faith, rejection of doctrine and infusion of mans logic and capacity, Christianity is lost in a maze of non-cognitive narrative no one can understand.

  3. The third form of Christianity you describe, could be called “Issues humanitarianism” or Issues —ism. People with issues seek any group or organization they can twist into agreement with their prejudices. They are not Christians , they are opportunists.

  4. It is also true progressives whose cry is reason and logic embrace the most unreasonable things.
    To say because I think I am I am is not logical or reasonable and yet it is embraced by many progressives today all in the name of inclusion. Progressives are continually looking for that missing link. The secret ingredient that has eluded all generations before them that will bring peace on Earth and justice for all.

    Christianity is about a people and their God.
    It is about reverence for their God.
    It is about belief in a God whose followers know God has a better way and mans attempt to follow those ways.
    It is a way of life that God says is good, acceptable and works to improve mans plight and save them from themselves.
    The OT are books about God and God’s relationship and interaction with man.
    It is about the good , the bad and the ugly. It is about success and failure.
    In the NT we have a clearer picture of God in the God man Christ.
    The God who sent his followers to teach us how to live the Christian way and the belief someday Christ himself will rule over his people .
    If that is a box it is a good place to be.

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