What Is Liberal Christianity?

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

  1. Dondi

    Dondi Well-Known Member

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    Thank you Ruby. I am learning. I'm learning to be discerning when it comes to people. Like Kenny Roger's, I'm starting to "know when to hold them, know when to fold them, know when to walk away, and know when to run". When Jesus sent His disciples out to preach the gospel, He told them that if they are not received in a house to just "shake the dust of your feet" and move on.

    Another thing that I am learning is that Jesus knew how to approach people where they are. He had an innate sense of where the person was spiritually and had a way of speaking truth to them in a personal way, like the woman at the well, or the diminutive Zacchaeus, or the noble Nicademous. I suppose witnessing is an art. And in order to be effective, we must hone our talent, study human behavior, and read the signs people display. Learn to find the needs in peoples lives and minister to them compassionately and acceptantly. You are right, Ruby, it is the Spirit that draws and we must be sensitive to the wisdom of the Spirit as we deal with people.

    Another major change I'm implementing is that while I know from my own experiences the consequences of sin (God knows I've made a mess of things in my life in the past), I'm no longer prone to dangle the "H" word in front of folks when I share. I think it is sufficient enough to warn about the consequences sin in this life NOW, rather than add the possiblility of hell later. But don't get me wrong, I not going point to any particular sin in a person's life, for that would make me appear judgmental, which is the least effect I want. People know what their sins are, so I need not remind them. Rather, I would stress how sin affects our relationship with God and with each other. And how God wants us to learn how to love more perfectly. Because "love covers a multitude of sins". When we learn to love God and others, the natural outcome is that we will be less prone to sin. Would you not agree?

    As far as impinging on people's right to freedom of religion and thought, which you, Ruby are so against, well, we live in a world of many influences. Some good, some bad. But as Paul Simon sang, "A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest". We have the power to choose, to listen or not to listen, and that is a freedom we can exercise.
     
  2. RubySera_Martin

    RubySera_Martin Well-Known Member

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    Is it okay to ask for clarification? I find Flow's Post 2 somewhat difficult to understand. I suspect the part I bolded is the offensive part. So I assume it is okay to ask for clarification. I will go through it and rephrase to see whether I've got it right.

    Liberal or Progressive Christianity believes it is okay to question and examin beliefs that were held in the past as doctrine. It should not take place lightly, but in a way that fits with today's understanding of the world and universe according to research findings like in science or psychology.

    The researchers have to come to an agreement about the new discoveries before they are made available to the public. When the researchers have come to an agreement, then the new information is fitted into the belief system, keeping the old parts that are still good and only replacing the parts that are out-dated.

    In contrast, Conservative Christians mostly hold strictly and purposefully to the biblical text as it has been approved in the past by the church hierarchy. The hierarchy of the church makes sure the old beliefs are kept in place by incorporating them into liturgies, texts, rituals and other formats that can be passed on from generation to generation. These are kept in place by church government that keeps a strict eye on them.

    In summary of these definitions, it could be said that Liberal Christianity, with the methods it uses to find and examine new knowledge, tries to move forward, progress, from the old beliefs. While Conservative Christianity tries to "freeze" traditional understanding of central beliefs, and discourages its members from accepting new ideas, etc.


    Scholars are universities are always testing science and technology to see how it will fit into the public realm before it is made available to the public. This new information is verified over time. As that happens, education programs (university courses?) feed this fresh information to students.

    I think the rest of the post explains the history of progress, or how people viewed progress throughout history. So it seems Progressive or Liberal Christianity accepts new information and ideas that better reflect today's situation. And Conservative Christianity holds onto old doctrines and discourages its members from accepting new ideas.

    Am I anywhere near what you are saying, flow? Justified was asking about sound doctrine. I'm asking myself exactly how or if sound doctrine is of concern to Liberal Christianity. It seems it is but that Liberal Christianity uses a different standard for measuring sound doctrine that Conservative Christianity does. The liberals want it to make sense in light of present-day understanding, but it also has to keep the parts of tradition that still fit in. The conservatives believe sound doctrine means keeping the old beliefs that the church has sanctioned over time.
    If this is what you mean, it is about like I thought but it's far more clear than anything I could put into words.
     
  3. RubySera_Martin

    RubySera_Martin Well-Known Member

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    I feel encouraged by this. May I ask a question? I have always thought that "shake the dust of your feet" means to pronounce judgment over the people who would not accept the gospel. Does it perhaps signify just as much that the person has committed responsibility to God so that it is an act of submission rather than of judgment?

    Yes, this agrees exactly with the thoughts that were going through my mind. I thought you do have a point about the people you have seen who really needed the message but I didn't know how one would put it into practice, so this sounds like maybe there is a way.

    Because my experience has been from the humanist perspective I now understand the NT that way. In order for me to answer your question I have to translate it into humanist language. My way of stating it is that when one learns to be true to oneself, the "natural outcome is that we are less prone to [being selfish, and more prone to bring forth fruits of the Spirit]. Since I believe being true to oneself is love of God, and since I believe fruits of the Spirit are the natural outcome, I think we are saying the same thing with different words. It seems like we arrive at the same changed life that is changed in a positive way and brings forth the same kind of behaviour. So I would say I agree. Maybe my humanist language causes problems for you. I don't know how to overcome that. It is the only way I have been able to see God's love. That is why I have to use this language to figure out my answer to your question. I hope that is okay.

    Somewhere you said witnessing is an art. I love that. A spirit-guided art. Yes, I think we are having a meeting of the minds, at least to some degree.

    I've been doing a lot of self-examination over the past several days. I believe I am hyper-sensitive to this because of my history. What you describe seems to allow room for a person to say "I'm not interested" when you try to witness to them. I think that is fair. It's a whole lot more respect than many people in my life have shown me so that is a good sign.

    Oh, I feel so much more hopeful just knowing that there might be a way for all of us to live in the same world:).
     
  4. RubySera_Martin

    RubySera_Martin Well-Known Member

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    Dondi, seeing that a meeting of minds may be possible gives me the courage to answer a post you addressed to me yesterday. I was feeling too confused to respond at the time. Perhaps it will help bring about more understanding. Here it is:

    Dondi, I was deeply touched by this post. However, the fact remains that I had to twist my brain to do what had to be done to become a member of the church. Not becoming a member of the church was not an option because it meant being ostracized by my entire social universe.

    Several decades later when I wanted to join a less old-fashioned church I was forced to twist my brain and confess that I'm a sinner. Again, not becoming a member of a church was not an option at the time.

    I've moved away from that church, too. For a time I attended a more liberal church on a very regular basis at considerable cost to myself. I went through the process to become a formal memeber, but I could not cross the final step of lying about what I believed. I had finally gotten strong enough to stand up for my beliefs.[FONT=&quot][/FONT]
     
  5. RubySera_Martin

    RubySera_Martin Well-Known Member

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    Above I tried my hand at interpretting flow's definition of Liberal Christianity. I have a story from personal experience that might show Liberal Christianity in real life. I'll post it for what it's worth.

    [FONT=&quot]This story that serves two purposes:[/FONT]
    1. [FONT=&quot]a suggestion for what liberal Christianity is[/FONT]
    2. [FONT=&quot]evidence that I have truly experienced a different kind of Christianity than I was raised with.[/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot]
    I have, since then, learned that there are traditional Christians alive today who understand how to be true Christians. I don't know what it would be like if I tried going to church with them. But at the school where I am studying I have been fully accepted as a member of the institution regardless of my beliefs. Students and profs alike have been openly accepting of me.

    I have been very wary but I found myself in a situation where I had to speak openly about my beliefs in order to pass a course I needed for my degree. I went in trembling in my shoes and fully expecting to be charged with heresy and/or blasphemy but I really had no choice. I told my personal experience on which my belief was based and explained how I arrived at my belief. And it was fully accepted by both students and prof.

    For the final assignment for that course we had to write an essay on "Why I am Christian." I felt like the Day of Judgment had come early that year. I felt so distressed that I had to call a special meeting with the prof. By then I knew that he was very tolerant but I could not find the strength to actually ask permission to write "Why I am Not Christian." He gently prodded me to find another definition for Christian.

    It felt hopeless. I hadn't the faintest idea what he meant. He knew that I like Tom Harpur. He suggested that Harpur identifies as Christian. I wanted to protest that Harpur is not a real Christian because he does not believe in salvation through Jesus' death and resurrection. Before I could reply my prof said something that helped me past that block.

    Then I remembered what Harpur had said in his intro for The Pagan Christ. He said Christmas and Easter had more and deeper meaning for him since he discovered via research that the Jesus story comes from a variety of ancient myths. To me that legitimized his claim to the Christian name. I further realized that a person who follows the teachings of Jesus Christ is just as rightfully a Christian as a person who follows the teachings of Menno Simons is a Mennonite or as the followers of Karl Marx are Marxists.

    Some Christians disagree very, very strongly with this. However, my prof accepted that and gave me a very good grade. Since the grade is mostly an evaluation of scholarship, I cannot take the grade as a full endorsement of my statement. He went beyond assigining a grade. He wrote a fairly lengthy comment with suggestions on what kind of theology I might find more compatible with my beliefs. So far as I am concerned, that was a full endorsement of my qualifications to identify as a Christian. Since people are asking for a definition of liberal Christianity, I offer this as one suggestion.
    [/FONT]
     
  6. Dondi

    Dondi Well-Known Member

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    From a historical perpective, then, could one say that there had always been a form of Liberal Christianity that has progressed through the centuries?

    Even at the advent of Christainity, there has been there had been a diversity in Christian thought and theology which caused division in the church. And it made it all that much more difficult to get a firm consensus of topics such as the nature and divinity of Christ, the nature of the soul, spirit, and body, the doctrine of salvation, etc. We see this even in the Book of Acts where Paul contends with the other Jews whether it was necessary for the Gentile converts to observe Jewish customs like circumcism. And , of course, there were the gnostic sects.

    Then I think of much later when scientists such as Copernicus and Galileo broke traditional beliefs and came to head with the Holy Roman Church with the idea of a heliocentric solar system. And the Reformation took place because of progressive thinkers like Martin Luther. Pentacostalism and the Charismatic movement had it's birth in the early 1900s.

    So my question: Is Liberal or Progressive Christianity of today destined to be the traditions of tomorrow? And will those traditions be replaced by the Liberal Christianity of tomorrow? Will the cycle ever reach an apex?
     
  7. leastone

    leastone Well-Known Member

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    Indeed, Dondi.

    The NT book known as the Acts of the Apostles might as well be called the Acts of the Holy Spirit. It is the account of real men taking the message into the real world, simply armed with the conviction of their hearts and the words of their mouths.

    And this Spirit-directed work has never stopped. And rather than critically evaluating a person's witnessing finesse, one should perhaps be sensitive and respect the fact that the Spirit using that person, even in on-the-job training, and might even be saying something to one personally by his efforts. The foolishness of God is perhaps never so much evident as in the foolishness of preaching.

    We are to be salt. The purpose of salt is not to make something salty. I add salt to the potato to enhance its natural flavour; to bring out its goodness. When I eat it, I am not aware of the salt, I taste the goodness of its flavour.
    It's when there's too little salt, or too much salt, (according to my taste), that I will notice it.

    So, its a question of just enough salt, in exactly the right amount. And in witnessing, where one gives an account of the hope that is within you; when one is not ashamed to speak His name before men, learning what constitutes just enough comes with maturity. The zeal of the enthusiastic disciple of Christ should not be discounted too easily----all of it is the work of the Spirit, Who is the Lord. Enthusiasm, after all, means en theos.

    I also had a friend called Steve. He was the Spirit's instrument to bring me to a spiritual rebirth and a new relationship with God. At first, I was simply "tolerant" of his testimony, and wouldn't commit myself to change---but the light that came from his countenance was his real testimony. Then, on occasion, I accepted an invitation to attend a meeting. During the meeting there was a sudden disturbance and everybody fell to their knees in prayer. I was the only one left standing. "This is not for me," I thought, and I walked out. My pride had me convinced that a man should stand tall before his "God". Of course, it also blinded me: I did not perceive that the disturbance was a sudden overwhelming sense of the Spirit of Holiness' presence.

    While I was walking away from the building, Steve came running after me, calling my name. I stopped, and turned. The next moment Steve was down on the ground in front of me, grabbing my feet, lying there in the dirt, weeping on my shoes, pleading, "Please come back, please come back!"

    Of course, I did, and though I never joined his church, I became a servant of God---because God made our paths cross almost thirty years ago. I have never seen him since. It took some years for me to realize that, on that eventful day when Steve was begging me to "turn", it was the Spirit of Jesus weeping at my feet for my precious soul. Only He has that kind of humility.

    Submitted out of reverence for Christ Jesus,

    Learner.
     
  8. Dondi

    Dondi Well-Known Member

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    Seems to me, Ruby, you've already had a theology set in mind no matter where you went. You were just looking for a place that agreed with you. I'm sure what you believe now did not formulate overnight, and you have expressed in some of your other posts in other threads a sense of where you are going with it (or not). Seems like you are trying to free yourself from the bonds of church, yet retain your spirituality, however progressive in thought that may be now.

    In the end, denominations won't matter. If there is a God and we are to face Him and give an account, then there will be only one church that will matter: the Church of Ruby. One promise in Scripture I do hope you will believe is found in Jeremiah 29:13, "And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart." All I can say is follow the your path as truthfully as you can, Ruby.

    I go back to what Howard Storm wrote in his book, "My Descent Into Death":

    "The best religion is the one that brings you closest to God."
     
  9. flowperson

    flowperson Oannes

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    Hi Ruby:

    I believe that you've got the gist of what my definition and explanation was driving at in my post #2. It is a systemic view that is really no different than the basic ways that nature works.

    New things are born or appear. They wax and grow to maturity under appropriate conditions. Reproduction occurs and the future is protected for life to go on. Death occurs and the raw materials of the original are used to transform the life form in order to equip it for the future. Birth, life, death, rebirth...sound familiar ?

    In the course of any belief system such cycles also occcur. A seminal event, usually mystical in nature, occurs and begins a new thread of belief. Conditions are gathered around it and applied in order to preserve its vibrancy and continuance. Modifications to the belief system are incorporated into it as new knowledge concerning its foundations and attributes are brought to light. The older aspects of the belief system are modified or discarded as they become less meaningful to the participants, but their historical understanding is preserved and conserved in order to maintain the character of the belief system.

    It appears that both you and Dondi have grasped the basic modeling description for Christianity that I attempted to draw from my knowledge of how human knowledge progresses over time according to our collective history; and, according to the basc principles governing the activities of complex systems in nature.

    It's such a delight to communicate these things among caring brothers and sisters, isn't it ?

    flow....;)
     
  10. RubySera_Martin

    RubySera_Martin Well-Known Member

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    Dondi, I am not quite sure to what you are responding here but I suspect it has something to do with the history of Christianity. Rather than repeat myself I will direct you to a post where I wrote a brief history of Christianity as I understand it. It's Post 88 in that thread.
     
  11. RubySera_Martin

    RubySera_Martin Well-Known Member

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    I think I sense a feeling of apprehension in these questions, esp. the last one.

    Why is this important to you?

    I feel totally incompetent to respond to the middle part of this post. Maybe flow has a better handle on things.

    Your Post 48 resonates deeply with me. Thank you for articulating it.

    Ruby
     
  12. RubySera_Martin

    RubySera_Martin Well-Known Member

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    I love it! It helps me develop my own ideas if nothing else.
     
  13. JustifiedByFaith

    JustifiedByFaith Contending For The Faith

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    Dear lunamoth,

    Great. Let's assume that flow has answered the thread question. thank you Flow.
     
  14. JustifiedByFaith

    JustifiedByFaith Contending For The Faith

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    Dear lunamoth,

    Thanks...it is a tough question sometimes... ;)
     
  15. RubySera_Martin

    RubySera_Martin Well-Known Member

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    He has. It's safe to look. Post 2 remains the professional and "official" definition for us so far as I know. It's an excellent definition.

    Some of us others also tried our hand on it in our own way and fashion. Might be easier to read but less professional and less accurate.

    Very simply stated, we think progressive Christianity finds new ways of expressing the old beliefs. (Flow, does this pass? Have I tortured language too much???) Conservative Christianity holds onto the traditional beliefs.

    I think you had also asked a question about doctrine. You can see some ideas on this in the thread "The Goal."

    It is quite possible that you disagree with progressive Christianity. If we are allowed to keep our way we have no problem if you keep yours.

    Let's see. Maybe I should not speak for "the group." I personally think flow's definition was excellent and can hardly be improved upon. I personally think it is probably okay for you to disagree with us so long as you give us the same priviledge.

    Ruby
     
  16. wil

    wil UNeyeR1 Moderator

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    What is Liberal Christianity?

    how about....Wherever two or more are gathered in his name, to openly study, contemplate, discuss, learn and grow?
     
  17. Dondi

    Dondi Well-Known Member

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    Ruby,

    I'm just saying that there seems to always have been some progression in Christian thought. The Catholic Church, for example, established their doctrines over a period of centuries via the various councils and papal decree. Are we doing any different when it comes to liberal Christianity?

    My question you highlighted is rhetoric. We may or may not see an end to the development of new ideas about Christianity. Nor do I see in any immediate future a universal consensus of Truth in Christianity.

    Maybe what is happening is that the progression we have seen in the past the tightening of the grip on doctrines and dogma in traditional churches, while now it seems all those doctrines are starting to unravel in the form of liberalism. It is as is there is a learning curve throughout history starting with the early church up until now. And what we see now is what we saw in the early church as it tried to establish itself. The same types of variant forms of Christianity were present then just as they are emerging back in populaity now, for there is a sense of freedom in returning to these ideas. The old traditions tried to form some sense of stability in knowledge, which led to the apex of bondage to dogma, the new forms we see now frees one to seek the truth in their own fashion.
     
  18. leastone

    leastone Well-Known Member

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    Dear Friends,

    In my part of the world, (academic) theologians who began to write about their new liberal or progressive views on the need to reinterpret Biblical doctrine in view of scientific knowledge available to us, were soon forced to resign from their churches, and before long like-minded souls pressured them into forming a movement, called Die Nuwe Hervorming ( New Reform). Some months ago a call was put forward (on their forum) that the movement be "branded". It proposed that what it stood for be clearly defined: logo, mission statement, etc. The reason put forward was that people would then know what they stood for and they could then easily identify with it. This, of course, is typical corporation-speak.

    Given the global village and the multinationals, the loss of local identity has been replaced with identifying with brand names. Your 'brand' is no longer only the make of cigarettes you prefer, but has come to include everything you use or wear. A recent report said that people have even recently begun to name their children after Big Brand Names.

    The problem is, of course, when you name something like a progressive movement, you are pinning it down. A name defines it; sets boundaries; imposes limitations. By doing that, it might even unwittingly contribute to its stagnation, demise, or death. It is obvious that once you have defined yourself within a certain set frame of reference, moving beyond that would compromise your integrity, or constitute a new movement that will get you in trouble with the new brand of conservatives.

    Earlier I acknowledged flow's excellent summary of what liberal Christianity implies in contrast with what others wish to conserve. I would again suggest that this be the general idea of the boat that will take us to new, open, and undefined frontiers. If not a boat, at least the jetty or pier from where we leave the solid ground on which we stood before. Or, if you insist, the lay of the land containing the airstrip from which we are attempting to leave.

    I only discovered the concept of memes a few weeks ago, so I am no authority on it. I found that Memetics proposes that ideas follow a similar course of evolution as does biological/physical evolution. It states that we copy ideas and carry them forward, sometimes altering them by adding to them, or taking something away. Ideas that are the strongest (fittest will survive the longest (in its original form). Weak ideas are soon discarded. Memes also go forward connected in groups or colonies.

    I have come to think of all doctrine as the result of the evolution of memes.
    Doctrines such as of the Triad, or of the Holy Spirit, only came into existence in the 2nd/3rd century, and mostly because of attempts to answer so-called heretics. The strongest ideas survived and were passed on, and added onto. Perhaps flow could us a better perspective on this as he seems well-informed and knowledgeable about genetics and life processes.

    What I want to say is that this scientific insight gives us the freedom to take those memes forward that accord most with the revelation of Truth, both scientific and spiritual. We cannot not take somethings forward with us. That is not how life works.

    Respectfully,

    Learner.
     
  19. JustifiedByFaith

    JustifiedByFaith Contending For The Faith

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    Dear All,

    As I contemplate the overall direction that the church is traveling, I see the word "grace" and actions of grace being mis-used. There are very clear quidelines in the scriptures regarding men & woman in the church and homosexuality. In my opinion, for a congregation to even "consider" ordaining a homosexual pastor is in my opinion "apostacy" at it's highest degree. I am afraid that in the name of "getting along at all costs" or as some might call this "liberalism" , we as christians are dropping some of the basic essentials that "unify" and "separate" us from the ways of the world. We are appearing to be more and more like the world itself.:confused:
     
  20. wil

    wil UNeyeR1 Moderator

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    One thing that is the most amazing about the bible is that any subject may be debated and many will find chapter and verse and interpretations of same to prove their point.

    If we are going to jump up and down that we must take this statement completely litterally, than it follows we must take the next...and we don't always want to.

    I fall back on the two commandments...the two Old Testament Jewish Commandments, that Jesus as a Jew correctly answered as the most important.

    They don't imply that it is ours to judge or condemn or worry ourselves constantly with what others do. They tell us what we are to do, and they are fairly clear.
     

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