J. I. Packer Nails It

Dr. J.I. Packer, one of the brighter minds in Christianity and author of many excellent texts including the modern classic Knowing God, beautifully and succinctly defines liberal theology with the following paragraph:

"Liberal theology as such knows nothing about a God who uses written language to tell us things, or about the reality of sin in the human system, which makes redemption necessary and new birth urgent. Liberal theology posits, rather, a natural religiosity in man (reverance, that is, for a higher power) and a natural capacity for goodwill towards others, and sees Christianity as a force for cherishing and developing these qualities. They are to be fanned into flame and kept burning in the church, which in each generation must articulate itself by concessive dialogue with the cultural pressures, processes and prejudices that surround it. In other words, the church must ever play catch-up to the culture, taking on board whatever is the "in thing" at the moment; otherwise, so it is thought, Christianity will lose all relevance to life. The intrinsic goodness of each "in thing" is taken for granted. In following this agenda the church will inevitably leave the Bible behind at point after point, but since on this view the Bible is the word of fallible men rather than of the infallible God, leaving it behind is no great loss."

With this paragraph, Packer does a fantastic job summarizing in basic terms the mindset of a liberal theologian. So often we can get caught up debating the details (why is the Episcopal Church ordaining homosexual priests? Haven't they read Romans 1?) and miss the underlying root cause (Is there a God who has infallibly spoken, and to Whom we are beholden?). This is worldview stuff through and through. And as you can see the need to understand people's basic premises is alive and well inside Christian churches as well as outside.

All Christians, and especially elders and pastors, are called to watch over their congregations and protect them from doctrinal drift. Such protection starts with being aware of what causes doctrinal drift, and evaluating in our own minds whether those conditions exist with us. Then it proceeds to teaching the congregation the same things so they too can be hedged against the dangers of straying from truth. Because that's liberal theology in a nutshell: drifting away from truth with the best of intentions.

This paragraph appeared in an article in which Packer describes why he is leaving The Episcopal Church. The article itself is a good read.


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