Re: The Problem of Liberal Theology

From: Dr. Blake Nelson (
Date: Mon May 06 2002 - 20:45:42 EDT

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    I second your change of direction. This should be

    --- Michael Roberts <>
    > Can I put in a change of direction?

    > As I am in a broad church which covers the whole
    > range of theological
    > opinion - The Church of England (I was in the Church
    > of Wales til last
    > August and was one of the ultra-conservatives!) - I
    > see and feel the damage
    > done by extreme liberals.
    > Blake cited dear old Bish Spong, who actually has
    > not 'adopted a pastiche of
    > modern scientific methodology ' but rather is stuck
    > in an old mind set which
    > is dependant on the conflict thesis of science and
    > religion, in which any
    > conservative theolgy has to be rejected as it is
    > assumed that conservative
    > means literal.

    This is what I meant by a pastiche. He clearly
    rejects the idea that Jesus was a God-man, thinks the
    resurrection merely legend, etc., only because he
    thinks that in the modern world we KNOW that these
    things cannot be true.

    We have several similar sorts in
    > Britain, There is Bish
    > Rcihard Holloway who delights in taking a radical
    > position. In his 60s as
    > the Presisding Bishop of Scotland he took drugs to
    > see what it was like. His
    > books sell a bomb especially among anglican clergy.
    > I reckon every time he
    > opens his mouth scores leave the church either to
    > agnosticism or
    > fundamentalism (one may as well be hung for a sheep
    > than a loaf of bread)
    > Then there is Don Cupitt - a Cambridge theolgian
    > who started the Sea of
    > Faith Movenment for people who dont believe in God
    > but cling to
    > Christianity. He argues for a non-realist view of
    > God. His book "The Sea of
    > Faith" is classic conflict thesis of science and
    > religion and he uses the
    > rise of science to "prove" his non-realist view of
    > God. However he gets his
    > history of science absolutely and utterly wrong -
    > completley misunderstands
    > William Smith according to Torrens the Briish
    > auhtority of Smith, parodies
    > Hugh Miller and gets Darwin wrong.
    > Lastly Paul Badham a Welsh theologian wrote a book
    > 'The Challenge of
    > Modernist Theollgy' and claimed that in 1890 there
    > had to be modernism to
    > provide an intellectually viable restatemnet of
    > Christianity which accepts
    > science to counteract the 6 day literlaism of
    > orthodox Prots. His histroy is
    > plain woeful to be charitable yet it has had glowing
    > reviews except for my
    > hatchet job in the Expository Times in 2000.

    Yes, I agree with your critique of these "rogues",
    however, I think we have some more interesting
    discussion with the folks below.

    > And dont forget some science and religion exponents
    > like Arthur Peacocke who
    > though brilliant in his attack on reductionism has a
    > closed universe which
    > denies any miraculous.

    To me Peacocke dances around this issue quite a bit.
    In DNA to Dean and Creation and the World of Science
    (I might have garbled that title), has the same essays
    that talk about how close to the event Paul's relating
    the resurrection was. He seems to accept that Jesus
    was taken up into the life of God in some way that is
    unique. He implies (but does not state) that the
    resurrection is clearly real.

    Beyond this, he doesn't seem to talk a lot about
    distinguishing the miraculous from the not miraculous.
      It doesn't seem to be an issue that concerns him
    much. This may be due to his panentheistic view of
    the world. I have not read anything by him that takes
    a hardline, Humean view of miracles. Please point me
    to where he does. He fudges around a lot without
    saying anything definitive.

    > We also see in it Keith Ward
    > who is very multi-faith
    > and like so many liberals ditches the whole
    > uniqueness of Christ.

    I don't see this in Keith Ward at all. He seems to
    focus on the uniqueness of Christ. What he seems to
    have done is something that I sympathize with,
    realizing that theists have a common cause against
    atheists. Peter Kreeft has said the same sort of
    thing. I sympathize with this. He is perhaps overly
    ecumenical, but I do not think he leaves the
    uniqueness of Christ behind.

    >One can
    > also note that the atonement went a long time ago,
    > there is no empty tomb
    > and now the divinity of Christ is under question.
    > Since Sept 11 some feel we
    > must be inclusive to other faiths especially islam
    > and not try to uphold or
    > mention the unique claims of Christ.

    This describes the World Council of Churches (and
    surprisingly, John Paul II) and that "ecumenical
    movement" I do not think it describes what I have read
    of Ward.

    > All this is very confusing to the average Christian
    > and tends to unsettle
    > their faith. Blake is absolutely right to say they
    > do as much harm to
    > Christianity as YEC.

    True. The problem in part is that it is also
    difficult to say in today's social climate that
    Christianity is the one true faith because it is
    considered "intolerant". I actually find John Paul
    IIs approach even more destructive in that he has said
    that Jews and Muslims worship the one true God, but
    still catigates protestants because he considers them
    willfully rejecting the true Church. So from JP2's
    perspective, you have Muslims and Jews being "closer"
    to right than protestants. This is all the more odd
    given JP2's reputation as conservative.

    But, I think that there does need to be some
    recognition, as Tolkien put it so well, that all other
    myths and religions are not necessarily wrong, they
    are only partially right and have intimations of the
    true revelation of Christ.

    > What we are being offered by such is a general
    > transendence in contrast to
    > the reductionism of Dawkins et al but none of it
    > will put fire in our hearts
    > and is simply a featherbed to catch a falling
    > Christian (an expression used
    > by grandad Erasmus Darwin to describe Unitarianism)0

    Again, I think this is true, because most theists see
    secular humanism as the enemy. In terms of politics
    and the public square, I think they are right. The
    second biggest enemy is Christian denominations
    prosletyzing and engaged in internecine warfare in the
    public square.

    > Now there are many issues raised by liberal theology
    > but ones which affects
    > us on the ASA list is the portrayal of Trad
    > orthodoxy as literalism, the
    > conflict thesis of science and Christianity, the
    > issue of miracles or rather
    > the involvemnt of God in his Creation, and the
    > necessity of Creation ex
    > nihilo (Yes Burgy I have read loads on the subject)

    I know you don't like him, but I think Keith Ward has
    done an excellent job of trying to maintain Christian
    Orthodoxy from that pastiche of literalism in several
    articles and books. I have only read a couple things
    by him, but did not see him to be as ecumenical or as
    liberal as you suggest. I am happy to be educated



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