It has gotten me thinking about "Liberalism" and "Conservatism."
I think we had better define our terms.
Liberalism and Convervatism can mean different things in different contexts. What are we talking about? Political? Social? Theological? The difficulty is that every one of us conflate these together, and therefore have difficulty analyzing the issues in each context.
For instance, Christian Conservatives are forced to believe:
- that the Bible is the foundation from which we believe, that Jesus is God, and that justification is a legal transaction between man and God (theology),
- that Republicans are the only Christian choice, that western capitalism is the only Christian way to live, that the government must step in to stop abortion and gay marriages but not to alleviate poverty and care for the sick (politics),
- and that abortion, homosexuals, school prayer, and the Ten Commandments in courtrooms are the major issues of our day (social).
Many modern Christian philosophers and theologians very often bring all these together under one umbrella. When you are a "conservative," they tell us that we've gotta go all the way!
Christian Liberals, on the other hand, are forced to believe:
- that experience (rather than the Bible) is the foundation from which we build what we believe (and therefore we can question the Bible based on our present circumstances and the latest advances in philosophical, sociological, and psychological thought), that Jesus may have been God but that other religions offer insights into God as well, and that our salvation is more tied into what we do on earth—after all, will not Jesus separate the goats from the sheep on this basis? (theology),
- that Democrats are the only intellectual choice, that government must step in and care for people in need, but that government must not allow a breach of the ‘separation of church and state’ for the good of both (politics),
- and that poverty, hunger, healthcare for the needy, the environment, globalization, abortion choice, and world peace are the major issues of our day (social).
What some do is bring all these together under another umbrella.
But what we Christians need to do is this: Move into a post-conservative, post-liberal Christianity. We seek to deconstruct both sides and rebuild based on better presumptions. We need to get beyond labels and camps and get into the reality of Christ for our day. So, let's openly discuss the merits and faults of both sides in all its contexts—which will make people who have lived for a long time staunchly in one of the camps (like you and me, I would presume, coming from more conservative Christian experience) uncomfortable at times. But I'd rather be uncomfortable and authentic (by evaluating our current expression of Christianity) than to be comfortable and naïve.
We must move beyond looking at these issues in a shallow way. We should dig deep into theology and philosophy and anything else that may help to get us nearer to the truth.
Books like Murphy's Beyond Liberalism and Fundamentalism (like Stanley Grenz's works) are challenging in that they get us to the reasons why we are in these two camps in the first place. In her first chapter, Murphy explains the philosophical presumptions of modernity that have shaped both the liberal and the conservative theologies. Both conservative and liberal theologians have let Descartes' foundational philosophy invade the way we understand out theology. Foundationalism is a very MODERN way to see the world, and may have been foreign to the biblical writers.
Before we draw lines in the sand, I think we need to read these things and talk about these things and seek common ground so that we can be closer to what God has actually revealed to us about himself (as opposed to our presupposed ideas of what he has revealed, based on some fundamental modern philosophical ideas we possess).