Moving beyond conservative and liberal
It seems we are still living out the battle for the bible. In the minds of some you either believe in the inerrancy of scripture or you are a godless liberal. This has become the unfair litmus test people use to judge the authenticity of one another’s faith.
I believe that the bible is the highest authority for faith and life. I also believe that the reformation got it wrong. One person, by themselves, cannot accurately interpret and apply scripture with absolute clarity. There are several reasons for this.
Scripture was written in an ancient language that is translated in to our language. The translations often vary as the translators are forced to make best guesses.
We are biased by our culture, insecurities, spiritual experiences, upbringing, mood, education, race, gender etc… We each have a lens with which we interpret everything around us, that lens skews what we see.
There is an element to truth that is spiritually discerned in the body of believers.
There are some things that are abundantly clear and held in common throughout the history of the church. There are others that are less clear due to the complexities of interpretation and illumination. This is why we have thousands of distinct theologically divided groups each claiming they know the truth better than the rest.
There are some who chose to ignore this and maintain that everything they hold to is abundantly clear in scripture. I believe that these people are not being honest with themselves. Instead of admitting this they act out of fear. In their mind as soon as they admit that other perspectives might be valid they have become a relativist, a liberal, or even a heretic.
By the old definitions I’m far more conservative than liberal. I admit I have friends on the other side of spectrum and I disagree with them. Before I engage anyone on these issues I make sure I understand exactly what their position is. You have no credibility when you start making unfair accusations. Through friendly dialog both sides can learn and change.
In a great many debates I’ve encountered online I found myself arguing against the people I’m closer to theologically. Usually because these specific people were dishonest, poorly researched, and very unkind.
What I’ve found is “liberals” are often terribly misunderstood by the other side. They can be very hurt when people question the authenticity of their walk with God. Many are following Christ as best as they know how.
Jesus said that “by their fruit you will know them.” I’d say that the general fruit of liberalism hasn’t been that good. Churches that modernized through liberalism are in steep decline and have failed to inspire a lot people to a life of discipleship. The fruit of conservative evangelicalism is different but I’m not sure it is much better. They have more people in their churches but those people often don’t exhibit any change in behavior. They have sold out the gospel and discipleship in favour of perceived ministry success. A lot of these people start freaking out when they perceive that someone has stepped out of their doctrinal box but don’t seem to care that very few people in their ministries show any evidence of Christ’s character.
I think people all across the spectrum have realized that we are missing something. Many have decided we need to move beyond modern era categorizations of Christianity.