There is a discussion traveling around "blogland" that the decline in mainline churches can be "blamed" on the liberal theology of our churches. I'm not going to argue that (although I disagree with it).
On the Connexions blog, Joel discusses liberal theology, and then tries to define it. I am also not going to argue if this is an accurate definition or not. I did find it interesting, and thought, for my own purposes of self discovery, that I would look at his definition, and see if I my own theology matches this definition. Blue text is a quote from Joel's list; black text is my comments.
- View of the Bible as inspired and not inerrant.I always feel guilty when I "confess" that I don't believe that the Bible is inerrant. I'm giving that guilt up -- I do believe that the Bible is inspired by God and that God is inerrant, but there are too many layers of humanity in the Bible for it to be inerrant. Translation, interpretation, human authors -- how can it be inerrant? Inspired? Yes. One of our best connections to God? Yes. The Word of God? Yes. A gift from God? Yes.
- An understanding that some passages in the Bible are metaphorical or “myth based.” I have to say that I don't care about this. It's the message that is important, not the cart that carries it.
- An emphasis on the need to apply human reason, experience and tradition in interpreting the Bible. Go, Wesley quadrilateral! Yes, I agree.
- Application of insights from the social sciences (which are also not inerrant) is crucial to interpreting the Bible. As the social sciences are themselves God’s revelation of truth, they complement rather than compete with Scripture. I have no idea. I'm not even sure what this means.
- An emphasis on Biblical criticism and literary analysis. Emphasis? I don't know, but these are certainly useful tools for undestanding God's word.
- Scripture must be viewed through the lens of time and culture. Yes, but that is not the end of the story.
- Doctrines, church authority and Scripture cannot be divorced from subjective personal experience. Can anything be "divorced" from personal experience?
- Community wholeness in relation to God is as important as a personal relationship to God through Christ. (“Shalom” creation.) Sometimes the personal relationship is more important to me, sometimes it is the community wholeness. Both are gifts from God.
- An understanding that the Bible contains “all things necessary for salvation” but not necessarily all things related to salvation. Yes
- A refusal to make creeds a test of faith. Yes, I refuse, although creeds can be a helpful statement of faith.
- Opennness to “finding Christ in the culture.” Christ is everywhere. God is everywhere.
- Doubt is not inherently the enemy of faith, but can be used by God to engage that very faith. Exactly.
- A strong commitment to social justice. I agree with this, although I am overwhelmed by it, and fail in its execution.
- The idea that self-reflection is a necessary component of faith. The closer we get to God, the more we learn about ourselves, so self-reflection is difficult to avoid.
- Acceptance that the Bible incorporates an intentional tension between “universal” and “exclusive” salvation. (To remind us that God alone judges?) God alone does judge, and the Bible is full of intentional tension.
- The possibility that not only may we acquire new understandings of God’s revelation but that it is possible that God is still revealing. Well, yes, absolutely.
- Humans, while tending toward depravity, are capable of responding to divine grace. Please, God, this is true -- we are capable of responding to grace.
- As “imitators” of Christ, we must engage the essential unity of faith and works. We are saved by faith, which motivates us to work. Work is our response to faith.
- That Christian existentialism is criticized but effectively practiced by the “orthodox” and fundamentalists but honestly admitted to by many liberals. Sorry, what?
- Rejection of an over-emphasis on a “personal relationship with Christ” that fails to adequately place faith in the context of community. See number 8. We are part of the Body of Christ. Our faith does have a community aspect as well as a personal one.
- A strong emphasis on “corporate sin” as being as evil and destructive as personal sin. I understand corporate sin, and feel that it can be destructive. Corporate sin may not seem as real to the individual as personal sin is. Personal sin is also highly destructive.
- That while miracles happen, God does not ordinarily suspend the laws of nature. Probably true, although God is God, and I am not -- He can do miracles whenever he wants.
Grant was elected as "Friendliest" in his 8th grade class superlatives.