Saturday, July 12, 2008

Christianity & Liberalism

This wont be very popular but sometimes things need to be said. These are observations made with sadness.

[It seems that Dave Warnock, who didn't really appreciate my employers stance on penal substitution last year, doesn't like the network my church is part of either (newfrontiers and women). Mark Driscoll would observe that the Church of England is doing 'church as mirror', reflecting culture rather than being defined Biblically. Warnock is offended and exaggerates. Yes, newfrontiers (who just spent the last week on the end of Mark Driscoll's critiquing hand) says no to women elders, but it also says a massive yes to empowering women to do all kinds ofher ministries from the high callings of being a wife and mother to the equally beneficial ministries of prayer, prophecy and many other things in the life of a local church. The women I meet in our church are lovers of God's word who live brilliant lives for his glory. I can resonate with John Piper's observation of women in his church that, if he were not already married, he'd want to marry many of them himself. We're not being dinosaurs, we're genuinely seeking to be Biblical - as no doubt are some of those who dispute with us, though no doubt not all. ]

  • Thirdly, I've also found myself talking with various people about Rob Bell's take on Christianity, where truth is relative and doctrine is optional... Bell and those in his shack dominate the Wesley Owen Top 10 sales and recommendations...
Three issues: Gay Bishops, Women Bishops & the Emerging Church seem to be in essence the same thing, albeit in different clothing. In all of them the issue is: do we let Scripture speak for itself or do we read it through the changing tides of our culture.

(Not to say any of us approaches with neutrality, but to observe that sudden innovations in convictions that just *happen* to match the changing tides of general opinion and lack warrant in church history should be treated with at least *a little suspicion* before being embraced).

What we can observe is two different religions. One called Liberalism (that isn't half as new as it's proponents suggest) which is really humanity ruled by humanity, dressed up in 'christian' clothing... when it undressed it's just Modernism. The other is Christianity. J.Gresham Machen definitively identified these as two utterly different religions and he takes them down in his book Christianity & Liberalism:

"It is no wonder, then, that liberalism is totally different from Christianity, for the foundation is different. Christianity is founded upon the Bible. It bases upon the Bible both its thinking and its life. Liberalism on the other hand is founded upon the shifting emotions of sinful men."

The ministry of the Holy Spirit divides. Over the past 40 years that has been perceived as a division within evangelicalism between those who believe in certain ongoing work of the Spirit and those who don't. That division was unfortunate, messy and based in part on charismatic error and in part on non-charismatic reaction.

In the days ahead surely we're seeing a different divide - between those who are founded on the Bible (whether charismatic or not), and those founded on shifting sands. Then we find, as has been observed, a new uniting around core doctrines of the cross and scripture to which many are happy to sign up - as noted by the breadth of those charismatic and otherwise who endorsed Pierced for our Transgressions and New Word Alive over recent years.

That is sign for encouragment, but not presumption or arrogance or complacency. The direction of the Christian is a default to drifting away from the gospel, only the Holy Spirit's gracious ministry gets any of us moving in the direction of Christlikeness. Robinson, Bell & co provide a helpful challenge to examine my thinking afresh, to check my foundations, assumptions and opinions. I need to keep learning and growing. If I don't watch myself, and receive the support of my local church and remain open to critique I could find myself sliding into liberalism myself.