I’m a formal theological liberal. Why? When I first started learning about Christianity all I knew was that I didn’t want to be a stuffy old school Christian like George W. Bush or something. Ironically, in retrospect, I realize that people like George W. Bush really aren’t Christians at all.
However, I read up quite a bit on Biblical criticism, read my Harper Collins Study Bible cover to cover, and eventually concluded that these theological liberals quite simply did not know what they were talking about.
Recently, I figured out why. Their whole epistemology is wrong. They want to make their faith “respectable,” but to me faith has no evidence and hence no basis in proof or intellectual respectability to begin with. Their attempt to ground their beliefs in materialistic reality are a charade, because by definition the supernatural cannot be understood intellectually.
So, what you find in theological liberalism isn’t just unsubstantiated faith-based beliefs typical of all the world’s religions, but you get a really tortured and intellectually sloppy unsubstantiated faith-based system that holds zero basis in Christianity and has no intellectual merits whatsoever.
Hence, if faith in Christ is “foolishness to the gentiles,” liberal theology is a step below even that, if that were at all possible.
So, I began the conversation by asking the following questions:
As a former liberal Christian, I have a simple question: Why bother if Christianity isn’t really true? If the Bible doesn’t really say what it says, if it wasn’t really dictated by God, why even continue with the charade?
My point is fairly obvious. If you doubt everything the Bible teaches and it doesn’t really come from God, why even waste time trying to pick and choose things out of it and pretend to be religious?
The most informed person there made the following responses. You can see my replies after them.
I’m guided by historical Jesus Scholarship.
There is a major philosophical problem with this: Christianity is a faith, it ultimately does not have a logically defensible basis. So, even if the whole historicity of Jesus is a muddy issue to begin with, how do we know He is really God and what He really said on earth is true?
And if we just have faith that He is God and everything that He actually said is God breathed, what indication do we have of this? The Scripture defines the entirety of itself as “God-breathed.”
Without accepting the Scripture, I don’t see under what specific basis we can accept who Christ is or what He said. The Scripture argues from Scripture that Christ is who He is, proving it from Old Testament prophecy. If the Scripture is defective, then it cannot prove that Jesus is the Christ. And, if that is the case, your search for the historical Jesus is in vain.
I don’t operate in isolation. My views are typically similar to other mainline Christians. They’re illuminated by scholars and theologians, but obviously I pay the most attention to those that operate under similar principles. You will only rarely find me saying something different than PCUSA public statements. I also look at Calvin, though of course Biblical scholarship in the 16th Cent was only at the beginning of applying critical methods.
What basis does your tradition have, however? If it is not the Scripture, which is the only true attestation of Jesus, or in Church Tradition, which modern scholarship rejects anyway, then you don’t really have a basis at all. Your basis is a group agreement that you want the trappings of religion, but none of the substance.
* Women’s roles: Jesus was quite unusual as a rabbi in having female followers. Paul recognized female colleagues. Yet we have a few explicit statements, mostly in later letters such as 1 Tim.
You forget 1 Cor 11, Col 4, Eph 5, 1 Peter 3…and the argument liberals use is that Peter didn’t really write 1 Peter because its disputed and Paul didn’t really write Colossians or Ephesians because its disputed, and that even though Paul really wrote 1 Corinthians 11 & 14 and the manuscript tradition is unanimous as it pertains to the verses in those chapters, they just blatantly make up that Paul didn’t write the verses in question in 1 Cor 11 and 14.
Do you see a pattern here?
There seems to be a wholesale denial of something that is taught everywhere in the whole Bible because of the preconceived notions of a group of readers. This is not good scholarship at all, especially when you resort to calling everything you don’t like “not original” even though there is zero evidence of this. It’s intellectually bankrupt and its laughable in any other historical context outside the realm of Christianity.
I was just watching this video at 9:50 and liberal (and atheist) scholar Bart Erhman makes the ludicrous claim that “this idea that you can have secretaries write books for you has no basis in the evidence that survives from antiquity at all.” He uses this argument to say that Peter could have not have written 1 Peter because it is in Greek.
The problem with this is that Erhman’s assertion is patently false. He is either a liar or is so unqualified for his position, that he should lose his tenure and be fired. I work in a repair shop for a living and I know immediately of two instances that come to mind to prove him wrong:
Through Silvanus, our faithful brother (for so I regard him), I have written to you briefly, exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God. (1 Peter 5:12)
I, Tertius, who write this letter, greet you in the Lord. (Romans 16:22)
Of course, shoddy assertions like this essentially make up the whole of liberal scholarship. It blows my mind.
However conservative Christianity has typically emphasized sexual sin over the kinds of sins that Jesus condemned.
If you covet once, you are guilty of sin and against God and apart from His grace are damned. T misunderstand this is to misunderstand what Christ talked about and what Paul has fully explained in his epistles.
The Bible does not teach moral perfectionism. It teaches that Christ paid the full penalty for our sin.
I think that interpretation based upon inerrancy systematically leads to bad results, because it lets unusual views displace the most common ones. [BEFORE THIS STATEMENT HE REJECTED THAT THE BIBLE CONCLUSIVELY TEACHES THAT CHRIST IS GOD AND THAT THE BIBLE TEACHES THAT ALL WOMEN ARE EASILY DECEIVED.]
Actually, what we just saw are a couple unorthodox teachings which totally miss the mark of what the Gospel is even about (that all men fall short of the glory of God and our only hope is God’s grace, which is shown in His Son who has paid the penalty for all our sin.) If we believe this, we are saved. If we reject this, we are damned.
Of course, if the Scripture is rejected, the Gospel is rejected.