Apparently Liberals Can’t Be Christians!

At least according to the latest blog post by B.C. Hodges entitled Why Liberals Can’t Be Christians.

Hodge is correct in that “liberal” doesn’t mean “Democrat” or “Republican”. There is a historical meaning to the word “liberal” when used when referring to one’s theological stance.

I disagree with Hodge that “conservative Christianity” is the “only category within Christianity that can logically exist.”  His reasoning for this conclusion follows:

The term “liberal” really refers to a person whose primary interpretive authority of reality is the Self. The term refers to the liberal, or free, position one wishes to have in interpreting life and experience. He or she is free from external authority as the primary guide in interpreting life.

Christopher H. Evans addresses this in his book Liberalism Without Illusion. Evans writes:

Liberalism is a movement that has historically stressed a balance between personal and collective experience. Most liberal detractors emphasize that, far too often, liberal movements elevate personal experiences of the weight of centuries of Christian tradition. Yet subjectivism is problematic in all theological traditions, especially in the Protestant heritage that elevates Scripture as the chief criterion of truth, above any form of tradition. However, liberal theologies, as disparate as the lite nineteenth-century evangelical liberalism of William Newton Clark, the late twentieth-century liberal theologies of James Cone and Rosemary Ruether, are untied in the belief that what makes Christianity transformative is that it extends beyond individuals to speak in behalf of a faith community that bears witness to the presence and power of God.  William Newton Clark, one of the most influential liberal theologians in the late nineteenth century, succinctly expressed this conviction when he noted that “human experience in religion bears witness to the good God, and affords in fact the most practical evidence that [God] exists.” (9)

What Hodge has done is effectively add a third criterion; right interpretation. Orthodoxy and orthopraxy aren’t enough here. Have we seen the advent of orthogesis?

Joel shares his thoughts on the post here. I think his thoughts on the “denial of Self” are spot on.

I would also argue that there are groups of conservative Christians who rely more on individual interpretation of the Bible than relying and submitting to the interpretative history of the the church catholic.


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