Re: The Problem of Liberal Theology

From: george murphy (
Date: Tue May 07 2002 - 15:55:55 EDT

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    "Terry M. Gray" wrote:

    > George,
    > I always appreciate the Christocentric and Trinitarian character of
    > your posts. This is a bit off-topic, but in light of some questions a
    > while back about the definition of an evangelical, I ran across
    > something last night that I thought was interesting. It's a statement
    > by evangelicals and endorsed by a wide-variety of evangelical
    > leaders. Somewhat surprisingly, it doesn't focus on the Doctrine of
    > Scripture or origins, but mostly on the Work of Christ and the
    > Doctrine of Justification by Faith. Although Rome is not mentioned by
    > name, I think it is incompatible with official Roman Catholic dogma
    > especially as articulated at Trent. My fuzzy recollection of some of
    > this is that it is in response in part to some perceived compromises
    > being made by leading evangelicals on the doctrine of justification
    > and the relationship between faith and works (along the lines of the
    > so-called "new view" of Paul).
    > The site is
    > I'm wondering if you've seen it and what you think (others as well).

             This "Call to Evangelical Unity" was published in the 14 June 1999
    Christianity Today. (I am referring below to my hard copy of that.)
    There's a
    great deal I would agree with. It's been awhile since I looked it
    over in detail.
    Bearing that in mind, some points on which I would raise questions are:
             1) The distinction between law and gospel is not addressed. In fact,
    Affirmation 3 says that "the Gospel diagnoses the universal human
    condition as one
    of sinful rebellion against God". But this is (at least in Lutheran
    terminology) a
    function of the law, not gospel.
             2) One model of the atonement, that of "substitutionary
    satisfaction of
    divine justice", is insisted upon (Denial 9).
             3) The rejection of any biblical hope for salvation of those
    outside the
    explicit Christian faith (Denial 4) seems to me too absolute in view
    of Eph.1:10 &
             The document certainly seems to reject some Tridentine
    position. But what
    would be required here would be dialogue between Evangelical and RC
    theologians to
    determine whether the views that Trent intended to reject in the 16th
    century are
    those espoused here & vice versa. A major way in which progress was made in
    Lutheran-RC dialogue was by considering such questions.
             This document deals only with justification and closely
    related matters, and
    not with implications for science-theology dialogue, nor did it need to. A
    confessional document is intended to address challenges which have
    been raised to
    the faith & is not supposed to be a comprehensive systematic theology. But of
    course science has raised questions about traditional formulations of Christian
    faith, and it would be interesting to have a corresponding
    Evangelical response.

    > WRT the sacrament question...again, I appreciate the connection that
    > you are making, but in general I regard the sacraments question not
    > to be uninteresting or not worth discussing, but rather simply not
    > the focus of this group. FWIW, while I'm not a consubstantiationist,
    > I do accept a real, spiritual presence and stand against the
    > so-called Zwinglian view that I do think is prominent among many
    > evanglicals. Don't know if you are familiar with Michael Horton, the
    > Alliance of Confessing Evanglicals, and the Whitehorse Inn radio
    > broadcaset, but there are Lutherans and Reformed folks willing to
    > come together (without necessarily ignoring the differences) to
    > stress a Word and Sacrament theology of worship and the church. While
    > I'm a lot more tolerant of some contemporary worship practices than
    > they are, I am right there with them on the importance of Word and
    > Sacrament.

             There has been progress here many Lutheran and Reformed churches are in
    communion fellowship. (I think, however, that ELCA approval of this
    with the UCC
    was unwise.)
             Again let me say that the reason I raise questions about
    communion here is
    not because of a direct relationship of them with issues of science
    and technology
    but because I think our different approaches to them can help to illumine the
    different ways in which we approach the interpretation of scripture.



    George L. Murphy
    "The Science-Theology Interface"

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