9 posts in this topic

I will apologize in advance -- I will probably step on some people's toes here.  I want to state upfront that I do not mean to demean anyone or their faith, or lack thereof, but I do want to discuss this topic, as it has very much been on my mind for quite awhile.  There's no way to have this discussion without the possibility of offending some.  So I'd like this to be a friendly discussion.  I do have strong views, but I know that others here do as well.

 

As I've said before, I'm probably one of the older members here....and I've been in the church all of my life.  I've seen and experienced different things in the church, and so I'd like to have a discussion about some of this.   I would welcome input from others here.  Maybe some of you have seen or are seeing the same things that I have....or maybe you don't see these things at all....

 

I guess I'd like to start this discussion off by asking you guys what you see taking place in the universal Christian church today.  (By saying universal Christian church, I'm not talking about a specific denomination or non-denomination...but rather the overall church).

 

Do you see most churches as teaching the gospel, and Scripture?

Or do you see somethings being taught that you think contradict Scripture?

Or do you see things that are not really against Scripture, but not mentioned in Scripture either?

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I don't know if anyone else is interested in this topic, but I'm going to go ahead and continue with it....

 

I would like us to consider first what is going on in traditional mainline denominations.   It seems to me as if there is a theological split, and this split is within denominations themselves.   There are members and congregations that tend to be more theologically liberal than others, and some tend to be more theologically conservative than others.  

 

When I talk about being theologically liberal and theologically conservative, please do not think about politics.  Although they often go together (being theologically liberal and being politically or socially liberal/ being theologically conservative and being politically or socially conservative), they don't have to go together.  I am only speaking about theology here.

 

I will define a theological liberal as someone who does not believe in the statements in the Christian creeds -- thus, these individuals would claim to be Christian, but say that Jesus didn't die on the cross for our sins, would not believe in the Trinity, would not believe in Jesus' deity, would not believe in original sin, would not believe that Jesus physically rose from the dead, would not believe that the miracles in the Bible actually happened, they would not believe in Jesus coming back, etc.  They are often universalists (they believe that everyone gets into heaven), they don't believe that hell exists, and they don't think Satan exists.  Some would go so far as to say that they don't think that Jesus ever existed.  They don't believe that people are sinners, and they don't think that they need Jesus to save them. 

 

I will define a theological conservative as someone who does believe in the creeds. 

 

Questions:

1.)  Do you see these theological differences within Christianity as a positive thing or a negative thing?  Or are you indifferent?

2.)  Do you know people who hold to each of these views? 

3.)  What has your experience been like?

4.)  Do you have any other comments about this?

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As you may have guessed, I classify myself as theologically conservative, using the definitions above.

 

My graduate school that I attended was actually a seminary.  I didn't study ministry, (my program was counseling), but I had to take some of the classes that those doing the M. Divinity program had to take.  Although I ran into a lot of liberal theology there, and many of the professors and other students were theologically liberal, to some degree, some people consider that seminary to be in the middle as far as seminaries are concerned.   (In other words, there are some seminaries that are a lot more theologically liberal, and some that are more theologically conservative.)

 

Some of the professors or former professors were part of the Jesus Seminar.  (A group of theologically liberal scholars who took all of Jesus' quotes from the New Testament and voted on whether or not they thought He actually said them, and all the things that Jesus did, and voted on whether or not He actually did them -- like Jesus' miracles.  They generally vote all of Jesus' claims of deity out, as well as all His miracles, and they don't like the Gospel of John...having voted most of it out.)

 

One adjunct who taught New Testament told the class that Jesus never existed, and that everything in John was made up.  (I had a couple friends who took his NT class.)

 

Some of my fellow students that attended had never even heard of Jesus dying on the cross for our sins, or had never really understood this in a personal way.   When they hear about Jesus dying for sins, they thought of social sins -- like prejudice and not loving the poor and the homeless, etc.   They had never heard of Jesus dying for our personal sins, or that we as individuals fall short of the glory of God.   Some of them grew up in churches, and some of them did not.   But I had discussions with people about this, and they told me that this was new information for them.

 

Others had heard about the theologically conservative views, and yet rejected it, which is their right to do so.   However, these individuals were often so closed minded, that they did not think anyone had a right to hold to any other view than their own.   The professors and students would state how open they were to all viewpoints, but this wasn't the reality in practice.   I know that theological conservatives can treat theological liberals like this too, but the theological liberals are blinded to the fact that they did were doing it. 

 

John Shelby Spong was invited to speak at the seminary -- and he did.   (He's a very theologically liberal scholar). 

 

The main attitude that I saw reflected at this seminary was this:

Only biblical scholarship that is theologically liberal in nature is to be taken seriously.  Anything that is theologically conservative in nature is suspect, and not to be considered legitimate.   This is especially true of evangelical theology.  Students who write papers with theologically conservative viewpoints, or who use theologically conservative sources for their work must be graded down and punished for their views. 

 

In college (undergrad), one important thing that professors impressed upon students was the need for critical thinking.   I do value that.   However, critical thinking can only thrive in an environment in which a person is allowed to hold a different opinion from the professor and other students.  Critical thinking does not mean "only the most theologically liberal views are to be accepted, and that only conservative views may be considered suspect."   That kind of thinking is one sided, and is just as bad as some theologically conservatives who say that no one is allowed to question their views.

 

Anyway, I wanted to share this so that you guys knew I wasn't just making up this theologically liberal category.   I know people in real life who express it, and this is the viewpoint that was seen as "correct" at my graduate school seminary.

 

I know people who were studying to become pastors who denied everything in the Christian creeds.   Now, some of these individuals are pastors.   There were students and professors from most of the mainline Christian denominations that held to these views...and by now all of these individuals are pastors, and they are leading churches.

 

I do want to say that not all students and not all professors held to all theologically liberal views.   Some held only to a few of them.  Others held to most of the theologically liberal ideas I posted earlier.   There were some professors and some students who were theologically conservative as well.  So, it was by no means everyone at the school.

 

So then... questions:

1.)  What are your thoughts on anything that I've said here?

2.)  People generally use the term "closed minded" in reference to those who are theologically conservative.   Do you think that those who are theologically liberal can be just as closed minded?

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1.)  Do you see these theological differences within Christianity as a positive thing or a negative thing?  Or are you indifferent?


 


Well, I disagree with your view of theological liberalism/conservatism, but that's just because I'd consider myself liberal theologically, and what you said doesn't apply to me. I believe in all of the creeds you listed, however, I'm somewhere between an inclusivist and universalist when it comes to salvation theology. (Inclusivism is simply that, if you are faithful with what you know--whether it be Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, atheism, etc.)--you will go to heaven.) I believe that when Jesus died for the sins of the world, He truly did die for everyone. I'm United Church of Christ, so you can tell I'm clearly fairly liberal  :P


 


2.)  Do you know people who hold to each of these views? 


 


What you described as "liberal theology" reminds me more of Unitarian Universalism or even the liberal Christianity at the turn of the 20th century that gave rise to fundamentalism--those Christians believed that Jesus wasn't necessarily divine, and just lived a good life that we should all try to emulate. I don't agree with that, of course. And UU's vary not only by congregation, but by each individual member, so that's really hard to pin down. I know a few UU's who would be what you call "liberal" (I would personally call them "extremely liberal" or radical in their theology).


 


3.)  What has your experience been like?


 


I'm UCC, as aforementioned. My most liberal theological points are probably my salvation theology and that I believe women should be allowed to be pastors (I'm planning on going into the ministry, myself) and that I don't believe homosexuality is a sin. Jesus taught us that God is all about love--as long as we love Him and others, we're living Christ-like lives. I don't think it's a sin to love someone, so I can't understand how some people can hate members of the LGBTIQ community (especially because it isn't a choice). I could go more into that argument, but I won't here.

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1.)  Do you see these theological differences within Christianity as a positive thing or a negative thing?  Or are you indifferent?

 

Well, I disagree with your view of theological liberalism/conservatism, but that's just because I'd consider myself liberal theologically, and what you said doesn't apply to me. I believe in all of the creeds you listed, however, I'm somewhere between an inclusivist and universalist when it comes to salvation theology. (Inclusivism is simply that, if you are faithful with what you know--whether it be Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, atheism, etc.)--you will go to heaven.) I believe that when Jesus died for the sins of the world, He truly did die for everyone. I'm United Church of Christ, so you can tell I'm clearly fairly liberal  :P

 

2.)  Do you know people who hold to each of these views? 

 

What you described as "liberal theology" reminds me more of Unitarian Universalism or even the liberal Christianity at the turn of the 20th century that gave rise to fundamentalism--those Christians believed that Jesus wasn't necessarily divine, and just lived a good life that we should all try to emulate. I don't agree with that, of course. And UU's vary not only by congregation, but by each individual member, so that's really hard to pin down. I know a few UU's who would be what you call "liberal" (I would personally call them "extremely liberal" or radical in their theology).

 

3.)  What has your experience been like?

 

I'm UCC, as aforementioned. My most liberal theological points are probably my salvation theology and that I believe women should be allowed to be pastors (I'm planning on going into the ministry, myself) and that I don't believe homosexuality is a sin. Jesus taught us that God is all about love--as long as we love Him and others, we're living Christ-like lives. I don't think it's a sin to love someone, so I can't understand how some people can hate members of the LGBTIQ community (especially because it isn't a choice). I could go more into that argument, but I won't here.

 

Cara,

 

I'm glad to see that you have joined my thread  :)  

 

Liberal and conservative are on a continuum.  There's always going to be somewhere that is more conservative, and there's always going to be someone more liberal.   Some people would consider me liberal, but many more would consider me conservative.   You're probably actually closer to the middle, but still on the liberal side.  A lot of people would consider you conservative, but at the same time a lot of people would consider you liberal.  So yeah, there are going to be different definitions of what it means to be theologically conservative and theologically liberal.   People aren't going to necessarily agree with any one definition, and that's okay.

 

The reason why I defined it the way that I did was because I needed an operational definition in order to be able to discuss this on here.   I needed a way to define the beliefs of those who are opposed to the creeds.  Theologically liberal is the best term that I know of that would fit.   I have encountered this stream of belief within Christianity, and I see it as gaining ground within mainline denominations.

 

I don't know if you would be interested, but I would be open to having a discussion about who gets saved/inclusivist and universalist/etc, but in a different thread.   If not, that's okay, too.   Just let me know :)  

 

I know people who are UCC, some are fairly conservative.  I also know some that are very, very liberal.   And many more are more in the middle.

 

It is true that what I described as liberal theology would fit very well with Unitarian Universalist -- or what would have been UU in the past.   I have some friends who joined the UU, and it seems that Unitarian Universalist, at least the congregations they were a part of, has become more inter-faith than Christian in nature.  I have a friend who wants to be a UU pastor, and she said the people in her congregation are uneasy about talking about God at all.   When she preached, she would preach from poems or fairy tales.   She didn't even use a religious text, although she told me that UU's respect all religious texts as being sacred and equally valid.  There were quite a few self-proclaimed pagans in her congregation as well.  So...I think there has been a shift within Unitarian Universalism as well.   There are probably degrees of belief among Unitarian Universalists as well.

 

However, the liberal Christianity at the turn of the 20th century that gave rise to fundamentalism is still very much alive today in many mainline denominations.   A lot of people that I know would still fit that definition -- their beliefs aren't really different from that turn of the 20th century fundamentalism.  So when I talk about liberal, these are the beliefs that come to mind.   I do recognize that there are a lot of others who would refer to themselves as "liberal," and yet would not embrace the kind of liberalism that I defined above.

 

As far as beliefs about allowing women to be pastors, yes, that is liberal to some people.  And using that definition, I would be defined as liberal as well.  So would many others.   I have no problem with women being pastors.  I've had several very good ones.  There are many generally conservative Christians who do not have an issue with women in the ministry.  There are others who have a huge problem with it. 

 

But then the same could be said of contemporary worship music.   I have no problem with it myself, and I actually enjoy it.   But there are some who are extremely opposed to it and believe that it is of the devil.  

 

Then there is the whole translation of the Bible question....I would say that the majority of conservative Christians don't have a problem with what Bible translation someone uses.  However, there are some who say that the KJV is the only version that should be used.  (Some go as far as saying that those who don't use the KJV are going to hell.)   I really don't care what Bible translation someone uses, as long as it is not the New World Translation (the one put out by the Jehovah's Witnesses).

 

You and I disagree on homosexuality, but that is okay.   :)   I don't really want to discuss it in this thread, but if you would like to discuss it in another thread, or through private messages, let me know.  I'd rather stay away from a discussion on this topic, but if you want to talk about it, I'm willing.  I just don't want it taking over this thread, as people have very strong opinions on it, and discussions about it tend to derail conversations quickly, so that's why I ask that if you want a discussion, that we do it on a different thread. 

 

I will say, though, that I think it is very wrong to hate anyone.   It is wrong to hate members of the LGBTIQ community, and it is wrong to commit acts of violence against them or any other group of people.   It is wrong to picket at funerals. 

 

Thanks again for joining this discussion :)

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Well I honestly think it depends on the church there are churches that do it right and some that do it wrong I believe in all of these categories. But also there are some of these things that don't even matter that people argue over just cause of personal preference.

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Well I honestly think it depends on the church there are churches that do it right and some that do it wrong I believe in all of these categories. But also there are some of these things that don't even matter that people argue over just cause of personal preference.

Oh good, someone else joined the discussion :)

 

Yes -- it does depend on the church, and that there is no perfect church.  

 

Thank you for your response.   And you are right that there are some essentials and some non-essentials, and these vary from person to person as to what is considered "essential" and what is considered "non-essential."    That's why I was using the creeds as a reference.   Most Christian denominations officially consider the creeds to sum up what has always been considered the essentials, and many non-denominational churches would affirm the same thing.  Throughout church history, the creeds have been used to sort out the difference between Christian orthodoxy and heresy.   That's actually the reason that many of the creeds were written. They are objective measures that the church has historically used.

 

Does that make sense?

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Hello, this conversation is late but I wanted to respond. I would call myself theologically conservative

 

Do you see most churches as teaching the gospel, and Scripture?

No I don't see most churches teach the gospel or Scripture and I think it is gradually becoming discouraged. Many churches that still do seem to be called out quite frequently by the internet media

Or do you see somethings being taught that you think contradict Scripture?

I see many things being taught that contradict scripture due to a more worldly/liberal ideology. I do not see it in my home church but when I visit others (when I go to my college in MA) it is sometimes there. For example, on the topic of homosexuality. I believe it is a sin and choice. I think scripture supports it and I believe if taught otherwise it is a contradiction such as those who say that it is not a sin nor a choice. Hopefully others can agree to disagree on that subject. 

Or do you see things that are not really against Scripture, but not mentioned in Scripture either?

I believe the Bible is more straightforward and not as vague so if it is against Scripture then there would be a passage for it and vise versa. 

 

 

 

 

Questions:

1.)  Do you see these theological differences within Christianity as a positive thing or a negative thing?  Or are you indifferent?

I used to be indifferent but I now see it as a negative. I see it as a negative because now there is a prominent division between those who are liberal and those who are conservative. It ends with a less than respectful disagreement and many have become very political. Personally I experience a lot of negativity from others who share a liberal theology and am viewed as being a bigot. 

2.)  Do you know people who hold to each of these views? 

Almost my whole college has a religious and political liberal ideology, lol. My college is Amherst College in MA. My family is more conservative though. 

3.)  What has your experience been like?

Not always pleasant. One of my friends has a conservative theology was actually mobbed and received hate mail for his conservative article. Only one student was suspended also so there are very few punishments. I have equally met those who choose not to talk to me and call me rude names. I am now quiet and I generally don't even talk about my experience at church or anything to anyone except my closest friends. There seems to be a push for tolerance but because my viewpoints are different it is as if I am deemed to not deserve respect. I have conservative friends though and we talk often about the problems. Many also believe that because I am black I must have have a liberal theology or something close which can also be very annoying since they then try to change my viewpoints even when I try to walk away. 

4.)  Do you have any other comments about this?

Due to my experience with people who have liberal theology I would have to agree that there is a disbelief of biblical scriptures or certain parts of the Bible. Actually my viewpoints on the definition of liberal theology matches with your well. One person I met even stated that she was a Christian but she hated the Bible and believed it was nothing but a book about prejudice or hate. 

 

So then... questions:

1.)  What are your thoughts on anything that I've said here?

I agree with what you are saying I just wanted to answer your questions :) . 

2.)  People generally use the term "closed minded" in reference to those who are theologically conservative.   Do you think that those who are theologically liberal can be just as closed minded? 

I agree that theologically liberals can be close minded. I have experienced it much myself. At my school a liberal ideology trumps anything conservative so the rule is "you can have freedom of speech but it does not protect you from criticism". As stated before this "criticism" can go from mobbing, to hate mail, to sneers. So it is very much "speak at your own risk" and that goes for professors also. I am not generalizing all liberals though but I have met few who do not have a one-side tolerance rule. I thought that tolerance was politely disagreeing with a person's viewpoint and tolerance can only be implemented when there are differing viewpoints. But when one's viewpoint is seen as intolerant/bigoted or anything else then they do not receive respectful disagreement and thus do not deserve tolerance. I believe tolerance breaks when a person attacks another personally instead of attacking the ideology. 

 

I hope I have answered your questions. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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