Why Confessional Faith Must be Vigorously Defended Against Liberal Theology

Sometimes people wonder why I choose to highlight the danger of liberal theology when Christians are expected to be polite and tolerant nowadays. The concerns of these people is that polemical debates are counter-productive. Good Christians should be nice and polite and avoid any semblance of being quarrelsome. We should engage in “conversation” rather in debates.

We should be courteous in defending our faith. But is it not the case that critical thought entails serious debates, if not polemics? This is especially true when the stakes of the debates are high, as they pertain not to secondary customs and practices, but to the central truths of Christian salvation.

J. Gresham Machen, the author of the classic book, Christianity and Liberalism (1923) understood the stakes of the debate better than any of his contemporaries. I strongly recommend every church leader read his clarion call to church leaders to be faithful in discharging their duty to hold fast to the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus and guard the good deposit that is entrusted to them (2 Tim. 1:13-14). Continue reading “Why Confessional Faith Must be Vigorously Defended Against Liberal Theology”

Hell for Open Theists

Christians who uphold the orthodox doctrine of hell have become fair game to liberal theologians who delight in putting them on the defensive by conjuring up terrifying images where denizens of hell are tormented by ferocious hell fire. Critics of hell argue that people should not be faulted when they fail to believe an ancient book, much less should they be condemned to hell to be tortured by devices ingeniously conceived by the sadistic imagination of Christians who stubbornly cling to an archaic belief. The scenes of excessive suffering in hell only confirm the suspicion that for all their talk of love, orthodox Christians are really heartless when they are fired up by self-righteousness. Not surprisingly, hell has become repugnant to liberal theologians and only a foolhardy Christian would dare mention hell in his witness to them. Continue reading “Hell for Open Theists”

Biblical Inerrancy Pertains to “Original text” and NOT “Original Codex.”

Now and then a biblical studies student tells me that he does not believe in biblical inerrancy because we no longer have the original manuscripts (autographs), and there are undeniable copyist errors in the existing manuscripts. But surely, this objection is based on a confusion of categories? After all, the doctrine of biblical inerrancy is based not on “original codex” as on “original text.” I assume that the doubting student is assured that contemporary textual criticism gives us  confidence in accepting the restored text represented by Nestle Aland/UBS Greek New Testament to be practically speaking an accurate representation of the original text (not codex). One may likewise extend one’s confidence in the restored Old Testament text  Continue reading “Biblical Inerrancy Pertains to “Original text” and NOT “Original Codex.””

The Concept of Heresy Arises from the Fellowship of the Church and not From a Lack of Love (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

Dog-Thoughts as we enter into the Year of the Dog: Part 4

If ‘sex’ was the impolite word which should not be raised in Victorian cocktail conversations, ‘heresy’ is the unmentionable word among ‘progressive’ Christians today. [Re: Post on ‘Progressive’ Christianity Beware*] Perhaps this is a reaction to the spirit of dogmatism, authoritarian and legalism found among leaders who are defensive about their faith when they perceive the Christian community to be a besieged and embattled minority. Doctrinal defensiveness is the outcome of a “Christ Against Culture” manifestation of Christianity. It is easy for these leaders to become unnecessarily alarmist as there could be genuine doctrinal disagreements which should not be stigmatized as departures from orthodoxy. Not every doctrinal or theological error is a heresy. Continue reading “The Concept of Heresy Arises from the Fellowship of the Church and not From a Lack of Love (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)”

Sheep Dog Alert: Beware of ‘Progressive’ Christianity?

Dog-Thoughts as we enter into the Year of the Dog: Part 3

I feel a sense of ambivalence whenever I read Roger Olson. His expertise in historical theology is beyond doubt. He is an excellent communicator which is not often found among theologians. But I find him rather intemperate and lacking measured judgment in his polemics against Reformed theology.

Surprisingly, I find myself nodding my head in hearty agreement when I read Roger Olson’s post on the subtle dangers of so-called ‘progressive Christianity.’ Surely, there must be truth when a Calvinist is in agreement with an Arminian! I invite my readers to ponder carefully some of Olson’s observations on ‘progressive Christianity’ given below:

Nine Signals of Liberal Protestantism Disguised as “Progressive Christianity.” Continue reading “Sheep Dog Alert: Beware of ‘Progressive’ Christianity?”

Friedrich Schleiermacher and “Dog Theology”

Dog-Thoughts as we enter into the Year of the Dog: Part 2

The Prayer of the Dog
Lord,
I keep watch!
If I am not here
who will guard their house?
Hatch over their sheep?
Be faithful?
No one but You and I,
understands
what faithfulness is.
They call me, “Good dog! Nice dog!”
Words…
I take their pats
and the old bones they throw me
and I seem pleased.
They really believe they make me happy.
I take kicks too
when they come my way.
None of that matters.
I keep watch!
Lord,
do not let me die
until, for them,
all danger is driven away.
Amen [From: Carmen Bernos de Gasztold Prayers From the Ark (Penguin 1976)] Continue reading “Friedrich Schleiermacher and “Dog Theology””

Liberal Transformers vs Evangelical Translators of Theology

It is possible to conclude from the last paragraph of my previous post, “Seven Characteristics of Liberal Theology,” that I am suggesting that evangelical Christianity has no interest in becoming relevant to contemporary society. This misunderstanding should be set aside as evangelicals seek to present a Gospel that is not only relevant to society, but also faithful to Biblical revelation.

Historically, liberal theologians ended up transforming or rather trans-mutating the Gospel to accommodate its teaching to the sensibilities of society and culture. In contrast, evangelical theologians engaged in translating the unchanging revealed truths of the Bible as they present a Gospel which confronts society and culture. In short, the issue between liberal and evangelical theology is whether the truth of Christian revelation has been preserved or transformed in the process of making Christianity relevant to modern society.

Millard Erickson gives a helpful contrast between evangelical translation of the Gospel and liberal transformation of the Gospel: Continue reading “Liberal Transformers vs Evangelical Translators of Theology”

Seven Characteristics of Liberal Theology

Some of my readers wonder what I have in mind when I refer to liberal theology in my discussions. It is indeed challenging, if not problematic when we try to define a ‘movement’ that does not accept authority (including biblical authority), rejects defining creeds and doctrine and displays an amorphous social mission. As Gary Dorrien aptly explains in his authoritative 3-volume work, The Making of American Liberal Theology (Westminster Press, 2001-2006),

The essential idea of liberal theology is that all claims to truth, in theology as in other disciplines, must be made on the basis of reason and experience, not by appeal to external authority. Christian scripture may be recognized as spiritually authoritative within Christian experience, but its word does not settle or establish truth claims about matters of fact. [vol.2. p.1]

Daniel Day Williams offers a classic definition of liberal theology,

By ‘liberal theology’ I mean the movement in modern Protestantism which during the nineteenth century tried to bring Christian thought into organic unity with evolutionary world view, the movements for social reconstruction, and the expectations of ‘a better world’ which dominated the general mind. It is that form of Christian faith in which a prophetic-progressive philosophy of history culminates in the expectation of the coming of the Kingdom of God on earth. [ Gary Dorrien, vol.1, xix.]

This definition anticipates that liberal theology evolves with its evolutionary worldview.  Gary Dorrien complements Williams’ definition as he captures the intellectual presuppositions that drives the evolving agenda of liberal theology: Continue reading “Seven Characteristics of Liberal Theology”