What Is Liberal Christianity?

Discussion in 'Christianity' started by JustifiedByFaith, Aug 15, 2006.

  1. JustifiedByFaith

    JustifiedByFaith Contending For The Faith

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    Since I don't know what the proper or agreed upon definition of Liberal Christianity is... here is my best shot?

    Is it?

    Feeling based sensitive type discussions and interactions?

    A broad interpretation vs a literal one?

    A more general theology vs concise?

    A flexible gospel vs unchangeable?

    How did I do? Like I said, I am just guessing based on my understanding of the word liberal.
     
  2. flowperson

    flowperson Oannes

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    Justified:

    Try this.

    The term "Liberal Christianity" (or some might refer to it as Progressive Christianity) infers that the past, and beliefs related to it, may be questioned and examined in the light of contemporary research and interpretation. The results of such rigorous researches and interpretations are then available, upon consensual agreement by the examining and questioning parties, to be extended into new avenues of belief concerning what has gone before and its relevance to current conditions.

    This should be contrasted with "Conservative Christianity" which, in the main, rigidly and purposefully ties itself to cannonical texts, approved by church hierarchy as "acceptable" in the past; and, such texts, liturgies, and rituals are incorporated into formats which are prepetuated and preserved through orthodoxy and strict hierarchical governance of the institutions which practice them.

    One could summarize these definitions by saying that Liberal Christianity, through the methods that it employs to obtain and apply newly discovered knowledge in its practices, strives to move its understandings of the past forward in time: while, the Conservative Christianity approach tends to "freeze" interpretation and understanding of past events central to its beliefs in the past and encourages its participants not to accept or practice new ideas that may be proposed by others concerning the Christian Faith.

    This research and application process is essentially what scholars at research institutions do continuously, and this process is used to test the applicability of science and technology all of the time before it is allowed into the public realm. This is the sister process to traditional educational programs that feeds them fresh information for educational purposes as it is verified over time.

    This overall process is essentially the engine of progress that has advanced civilization since, at least, the enlightenment, but it was also prominently used in older societies such as classical Greece and within Islam to determine and apply the laws that governed nature at large as it was understood at those times.

    And it should also be pointed out that relatively conservative and orthodox religious entities, notably the Roman Catholic Church and The Greek Orthodox Church are actively engaged in the expansion of scientific knowledge and its applications in the world through the educational activities which they support. So there is not so much an issue of "black and white" here, rather a gradation of activities on the right and left sides of the central Christian understandings.

    The Jesus Seminar at The Westar Institute is probably the best known of the organizations doing this sort of work in Liberal Christianity at this time. The application of such scientific methods is a controversial technique of approaching new understandings concerning Christian belief regarding the past of the Faith. The Seminar has come under attack quite often from those on the conservative side because of their fear of change in core beliefs that might result from such activities.



    flow....:)
     
  3. JustifiedByFaith

    JustifiedByFaith Contending For The Faith

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    :) Huh...thanks Flow.
     
  4. Abogado del Diablo

    Abogado del Diablo Ferally Decent

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    Very, very nice. :)
     
  5. RubySera_Martin

    RubySera_Martin Well-Known Member

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    Flow, did Post 2 come out of your brain? I mean, did you compose those definitions and the explanations? My hat's off to you. You must be a professional policy drafter.
     
  6. leastone

    leastone Well-Known Member

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    Dear Readers and Writers,

    I have thought about Ruby's question somewhat this morning, and while I do not have a clear-cut description for Liberal Christianity, an analogy of sorts did come to mind, which I will now present briefly.

    Let us start by saying the whole idea of loosening (liberating) oneself from what others seek to conserve reminds one of new frontiers, since it is going from the known into the unknown. If our purpose here is to explore that unknown frontier of a new liberal expression of our faith, then we should see ourselves as pioneers in search of something we do not already have, and therefore, unable to define exactly what awaits us.

    To give too firm a definition to it, would have us draw on what is known, and force us to express ourselves negatively all the time, by saying, "It's not this, it's not that, it is certainly not this either."

    It is good that we have more or less an idea of the boat we find ourselves in, as adequately described in Flow's post. But the purpose of the boat (or bandwagon) is to bring us from one place to another, where we can embark on our exiting journey of spiritual exploration. The spiritual realm remains that frontier least known by men.

    The country up ahead will inform us of our new reality.

    Respectfully,

    Learner.
     
  7. wil

    wil UNeyeR1 Moderator

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    JBF, great question,

    Flow, excellent words....but...


    While we entertain what we see as 'Liberal Christianity' can we also entertain what we see as the 'Liberal Christianity' forum inside belief and spirituality?

    Now if I had my druthers, if all my wishes were to come true...

    We would create a safe haven for all. WWJD would be the theme, the thought in mind prior to every post.

    When asked what is most important, when we feel personally challenged, we remember, prior to our fingers hitting the keyboard....the two commandments.

    Instead of piling on to stone a percieved negative post that climbed over our wall, instead we determine if we are ready to start building glass houses.

    When one of our own cut off the ear of a soldier who is taking us to the cross, one of us would say, "There is no need, for we could manifest and army, but that would not justify or exemplify our cause"

    Am I too pie in the sky fundamentally conservatively liberal? Can we as the instigators of this rebelious heretical section follow a higher purpose rise above the fray and walk our walk deliberately?

    Will be a challenge, one that often one of you will be required to give me a nudge, a push, a shove back onto the path...but if we could set the example in here...and be the example when we leave our walls...we could eventually leave the virtual and take this practice to the streets.

    If that isn't the goal....what is?

    bless you all for putting up with me.
     
  8. Abogado del Diablo

    Abogado del Diablo Ferally Decent

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    wil:

    What do you think of Matthew 23?
     
  9. Dondi

    Dondi Well-Known Member

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    Words to the wise, wil, if anyone here is wise.

    Is Liberal Christianity a walled garden, or are we trying to break down walls?

    Perception is everything. Didn't Jesus say that if one asks you to walk a mile with him, walk two? If we are going to get anywhere in this forum, we ought to be able to walk together in that two mile trip without stepping on each others shoes.

    I suspect that of all the forums in CR, this one is going to get the broadest responses, for it is so open. I'd rather think that if it is that open, then our minds ought to be open to the differences we will encounter here.

    OK, we all have come from various Christian influences. Some from fundamental, some from orthodox, some from liberal, some from strict, some from pagan, whatever. For some of us are new to this liberal Christianity thing. And some of us have residual baggage left over from that which we are familiar with.

    Personally, I don't think we should be offended when items come up that is perceived as an attack when it is only these old paradigms that have been part of our background. The whole purpose here is to gain understanding of new ways to look at the Christian faith. But change is hard. And you won't sharpen many knifes without sparks.

    Coming from a fundy background myself, I've read some of these posts with at first some objection. For the fundy beast in me would rise up and defend what I've been familiar with all my life. I was particularly put off by taij's post here:


    http://www.comparative-religion.com/forum/what-who-is-g-d-5536-4.html

    And I was about to rattle off a retort.

    But I then realize that from his perspective he has every right to feel that way. That is his perception of fundamentalism. And it gave me pause because it occurred to me that he hasn't been on my side of the road. Because in my fundy thinking, witnessing Christ is a basic tenet of what I believed. To be fair, I would say that what taij experienced is an extreme case of witness overkill, and even I wouldn't condone what those students did, not was it professional for that doctor to inject witnessing into his profession. But if that is the extent of what taij thinks fundamental witnessing encompasses, then it is no wonder that he has such distain for it.

    But I do commend you, taij, for being civil about it your handling extreme fundys, though you definitely did not show it in your post.

    But that's ok, because I'm not offended now, though initially I might have been. On the contrary, for since most of the fundies I know are not out to purposely offend anyone, the light that is reflecting through the dark prism has shifted a bit and gotten a bit brighter. And I see taij on the other side.

    Instead, I hope to share some ideas about how fundamentalists view witnessing as a tool to reach the "lost", and hopefully shed a brighter light on the subject, which is what the forum is all about. Hopefully by sharing perspectives, we might gain a better appreciation of where we are coming from.

    Paul said in I Corinthians 9:

    "For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more.

    And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law;
    To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some."

    Not that I'm trying to save anyone, but for liberal Christinity to work, we have to be tolerant to other's perspectives as we let loose the bonds that hold us. I think I have come quite a way from my fundie root, but I still have much to learn. And much what I learn is from what I read here.

    Let's tear down the walled gardens that separate us, but if we do so brick by brick, then let it be with patience.
     
  10. Abogado del Diablo

    Abogado del Diablo Ferally Decent

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    Dondi:

    I don't disagree. And I'm all for forgiving. But there can't be any meaningful sharing if we sanction someone judging someone else's feelings. And that has to be made clear.

    I'm not for the "walled garden" approach, though I appreciate I'm in the minority. I will say this, after you share a difficult personal story and the feelings you associate with that story, to have someone self-righteously judge you for those feelings is a sure way to put an end to you sharing anything else. That's a nasty thing to do to someone no matter where one does it.

    I know that in certain circles, that type of discourse is the norm. But it isn't conducive to a dialogue.
     
  11. wil

    wil UNeyeR1 Moderator

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    Quite the rant. I think Jesus was trying to make a point, to his followers. I need to go back to the Jesus Seminar book, I like to see whether there existed a concenus whether this was actually Jesus speak or the writers. But however it came, I think it contained some dramatic hyperbole to make a point...tis how you act, tis your work, tis your behaviour that counts.

    He indicated that the scholars had a value in their knowledge, but didn't take it to the streets. I read it in NIV, KJV, Contemporary, the Living and The Message....thanks for the trip down memory lane.

    I remember the first time I saw phylacteries, I was rooming with an orthodox Jew at a workshop, I came out of the showers to see him bound and in prayer. Can't tell you what I first thought...my brain was jumbled, then I heard the prayers....afterword he told me what it was all about. I see that as different, his prayers were for him. I had known him at workshops, on stage, in public, he always wore a hat, but I never knew he was so devout. To me he is not, was not what set Jesus on his rant...

    I also think this is a bit of information, a bit of the bit of information we have on Jesus...he wasn't ranting on this all the time, but that day, he was on a roll.
    In no way do I discount your thoughts or concept of this. But isn't it possible to do it in a manner that maintains your goal to become more? The tit for tat attitude is exactly what leads to what goes on in the middle east, and in our inner cities all the time. Someone stepping on someone's tennsis shoes leads to a shoot out after school. Somewhere it needs to stop, somewhere someone needs to be responsible for their actions despite the actions of others. No one was born to live upto our expectations, and if we feel the need to tell others how we feel, let us do just that..."I feel...." we need to separate the personal attacks and discussion killers and move forward.
     
  12. Abogado del Diablo

    Abogado del Diablo Ferally Decent

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    It would depend on how his perception of his devoutness predisposed him to see and treat others I suppose. At least that's the message I take away from the "rant."

    But should he have forgiven, shut his trap, and walked away? Or was there something for those who could hear him to learn from what he said?
     
  13. Abogado del Diablo

    Abogado del Diablo Ferally Decent

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    Move forward with what?
     
  14. Dondi

    Dondi Well-Known Member

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    Which is exactly why I didn't retort against taij's rant against fundies in the other thread, for if I did that i would be judging his feelings. But how can we fault someone else's feelings?


    I agree with that. There has to be a degree of respect when sharing. Even in debate.

    But is Liberal Christianity a place for walls?
     
  15. Abogado del Diablo

    Abogado del Diablo Ferally Decent

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    We can't. I'm not faulting learner for his feelings. I'm faulting him for his callous disregard of someone else's feelings. And if Taijasi callously disregarded a feeling you had expressed, perhaps you should have said something.

    No. Like any dialogue, it's a place for listening.
     
  16. wil

    wil UNeyeR1 Moderator

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    Still wanting to see whether those couple hundred scholars deemed these to be his words or not...but..I definitly read this as a time when he wasn't having a Jesus moment. This is a chapter in Mathew...but it would be a what 3 minute speech? Full of generalizations, condemning a whole group of people as having these negative traits when we can imagine that it could be the majority but there were some who wouldn't deserve all of this. Also it is was most probably already known.

    Aren't there posters on this very site which you take their words with a grain of salt? You know how they are, are we really expecting to change them? Can we possibly change them by taking them to task? Or how do we change the situation? The only one we can change is ourselves, and the only way to do that as Jesus indicated to those listening, don't follow that way, don't be like them (don't respond to that post in kind, they may act pious and have knowledge but look at what they do) and take the higher road....decide if vengefulness is your mentor....or is there a better way?

    edit: ps like trying to get out of our old boxes old ways...my dove appears to be a metaphor for peace trying to leave its circle....his little wings have been beating for almost a year....
     
  17. Abogado del Diablo

    Abogado del Diablo Ferally Decent

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    I know I can't change learner, or anyone else. The reason for my response is so that people know that when someone launches a personal attack like this, there is someone who sees it for what it is . . . and cares.

    Whether Jesus said the "rant" or not (or whether a literal historical Jesus said anything attributed to him) does not change the truth one might perceive in considering the meanings. By vocalizing that such lack of love is not the way, there is still a message to be heard, even though the audience for the message is not the subject of the message. Indeed, the example set by the subject of the message - for the precise reason that they don't get they are the subject of the message - is the message.
     
  18. Dondi

    Dondi Well-Known Member

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    I think what is being overlooked hear is that these were "religious leaders" of Jesus' day. They had the responsibility of the spiritual wellbeing of the common people. And I think Jesus beef with them is that they were leading people away from God. The blind leading the blind. The purpose of a religious leader ought to bring people toward God. Yet these scibes and Pharisees were putting yokes on people that discouraged that.

    Jesus' "Woes" reached two groups. One was the scribes and Pharisees, who evidently didn't take the rebuke kindly. Second was the multitude, so that their eyes would be open to the hypocrisy they were being subjected to.

    I'd say that Jesus' aim was more for benefit of the second group, the multitude that He loved and was trying to bring back to a right relatioship to God.
     
  19. Abogado del Diablo

    Abogado del Diablo Ferally Decent

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    Exactly. :)
     
  20. RubySera_Martin

    RubySera_Martin Well-Known Member

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    Dondi, the issue you raise about the mandate for Christians to proselityze is a serious issue. I understand exactly where you are coming from. I've been on that side of the fence. It's a matter of conscience for you. It is also a matter of conscience for me to take care of myself. I don't know how to reconcile the issue of your conscience with my conscience. How can the same God give opposing commands to his children?

    Here's the cold logic:

    The fundy approach makes for unmanageable depression in some people. This drives them to suicide. For the fundy not to proselytize it means loss of his salvation. However, he also believes the person who commits suicide goes to hell. So the fundy is sending a person to hell so he himself can get salvation.
     

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