Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Liberals YOUR church?

From an Indianapolis Star book review of Dave Shiflett's "Exodus": Shiflett describes himself as "an itinerant Presbyterian" who sometimes attends a mainline Presbyterian church. He says that - surprise, surprise - Americans are fleeing liberal churches for conservative Christianity.

From his interviews with Episcopal priests who no longer believe basic Christian doctrines, he concluded that "these clerics are doing missionary work. They have considered God's ways, as revealed in their faith's Scriptures and traditions, and have found them wanting. They have a higher agenda to advance. This allows them to turn Holy Writ on its head: what was once forbidden becomes acceptable, if not celebrated; admonitions toward holy living suddenly become hate speech."

The result is that mainline churches have become so secularized that they have accepted society's culture.

The second part of the book tells us where those who are leaving mainline churches are going. He begins with the Catholic Church, which welcomes 200,000 adult converts in America in any given year. As one of his interviewees said, the Catholic Church "not only offers a sound liturgy but stands firm where other faiths no longer do. (It) deserves allegiance because it is a bulwark against a lot of the rotten things like euthanasia, abortion, and the devaluation of life."

Shiflett writes about the Rev. John McCloskey, head of Catholic Information Services in Washington, who has converted hundreds of people to Catholicism, including noted conservatives such as Al Regnery, Robert Bork and Robert Novak. His converts, McCloskey says, share a "voracious and insatiable appetite for books. I show them the intellectual beauty of the church through the great writings." He mentions 15 names of "great minds (who) have crossed over."

Shiflett acknowledges that Catholicism also "remains a warm home for some of the world's most vigorous leftists," and gives examples. But, he opines, "The dynamism is on the right."

Shiflett also has chapters on those who have accepted the Orthodox Church, the Southern Baptists and evangelical churches. He says that the Orthodox Church appeals to Protestants who like its "mysterious" liturgies and who can't accept the role of the papacy in Catholicism.

The Southern Baptist Convention is America's largest non-Catholic Christian group, with 16 million members, and growing. Shiflett says that this religion, too, was becoming liberal before conservatives conducted a purge. Today the stress is on the "inerrancy" of the Bible. Shiflett conducted interviews with two leaders of the Southern Baptists, R. Albert Mohler and Dr. Richard Land.

Well, then, the question is - are the liberals coming to your church and denomination? I confess, I don't think they are exactly flocking to mine. My family is Nazarene, previously Free Methodist, previously United Methodist. It was always thought by the Nazarenes, Wesleyans and Free Methodists that the more the United Methodist Church lost membership, the more the evangelical Wesleyan denominations would pick up their people.

I don't think that has happened to any great degree.


Catholicism and the Orthodox have certainly grown that way. Are we missing something?


At 9:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting article. However, I think it's dangerous to paint with too broad a brush. I attend one of the fastest-growing parishes in my Episcopal diocese - an Anglo-Catholic parish, very orthodox on the foundational doctrines of the Christian faith, but liberal on the issues of female clergy and gay folks (we have two gay clergy and about 50% gay membership) and with lots energy and a lot of stuff going on during the week. I could name other thriving churches with similarly liberal views. I could also name churches that are "conservative" that aren't growing at all.

So, I would guess that there are other factors in church growth or lack thereof, rather than simply where they fall on the spectrum of theology.

At 9:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's a question to put out there.Is it possible to be saved but not repent of your sins?

At 10:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How can a church be orthodox on foundational doctrines but liberal on gay issues? The two simply cannot walk together.

Second question: No. There is not salvation without repentance.

At 12:09 PM, Blogger Marsha said...

Anyone can say Jesus is Lord and 'do works' in His Name.A mouth that confesses Jesus but does not struggle to lead a life of repentance and obedience is like the parable of the fig tree. " A man had a fig tree,planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, 'For three years now I've been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven't found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?
'Sir, the man replied, 'leave it alone for one year, and I'll dig around it and fertilize it.If it bears fruit next year,fine!If not, then cut it down'"

People don't like God's way.They love their sin and so do not want to conform their life to his commands.I would rather have a small church of narrow-road believers than a stadium filled with unrepentant sin-loving wide-road "Christians".
I tell!But unless you repent,you too will perish.-Luke 13:3

At 3:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"How can a church be orthodox on foundational doctrines but liberal on gay issues? The two simply cannot walk together."

It depends on how you interpret (handful of) passages that purportedly condemn some type of same-gender relationship. Do they condemn all same-gender relationships, or just particular ones? If you are convinced that you have the correct opinion, and have no desire to be confused by counter-argument, then God bless you! Some of us who believe EVERY SINGLE ONE of the foundational creeds of the Christian faith are willing to differ on that issue, and others as well.

At 4:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Bible does say a time would come when people would not put up with sound doctrine.

At 11:25 AM, Anonymous Steve said...

I mean no offense to Anonymous, but it is non-sensical to suggest that someone can be "orthodox on the foundational doctrines of the Christian faith, but liberal on the issues of female clergy and gay folks".
First, the basics of Christian doctrine would affirm the inerancy of scripture. That means scripture is absolute- period. It matters not if there is a handful or a bucketful of scripture.
Also, concerning interpretation, while there can be more than one application there is only one interpretation. We may not understand some of the more difficult passages fully but if we live out just the basics, we won't have to worry about the rest. But as it concerns the gay issue, there is zero ambiguity. Take this passage in 1Cor 9:9-10 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. There's no wiggle room there.
In case you think I'm just picking on the gay community, it also names adulterers which would include me, before real conviction, confession and repentance.
Concerning church growth, I agree with Marsha. It's not about the size of the assembly but the spiritual vitality.
Focusing on the size of the assembly leads us to this point- resorting to all manner of things to get people to come. Churches grow because God moves and adds to them. It's not about youth programs, senior outings and the like, although there's nothing wrong with those.
It's about the people in that assembly living a life that is increasing being conformed to the image of Christ.

At 3:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I mean no offense to Steve, but to say that "it is non-sensical to suggest that someone can be 'orthodox on the foundational doctrines of the Christian faith, but liberal on the issues of female clergy and gay folks'" is in itself nonsensical and shows a complete ignorance of the real debate, which is NOT about ignoring anything Scripture says, but about fleshing out what the best and most reasonable interpretation and application of Scripture is (in this case, what type of same-gender relationship, if any, is identified in a particular passage). Not that many on the conservative side have any interest in subtle differences between things like rape, temple prostitution, etc., and two people who may be in love with each other. Some of us orthodox Christians are interested in those nitpicky distinctions and see a lot more grounds for divergence of opinion on the issue.


Post a Comment

<< Home