How it can be that many evangelical Christians are actually liberals

Alan Roebuck writes:

Eugene Rose supplies the explanation: Although liberalism is multifaceted, classical liberalism, as per Rose’s analysis of the liberal nihilist, continues to use the language and forms of traditional thought and life, but does not believe in the truths which ground them. At best, the classical liberal believes only partially in these truths, and is constantly revising them to fit with the latest fads.

Regarding Christianity, it is fairly well known that mainline liberal Christianity redefined the meaning of Christian terms and rituals so that they would agree with secular modernism. But it is less well known that a similar process is happening in evangelicalism: Evangelicals continue to use the language and ritual of evangelicalism, which, to the average person, appear to stand against liberal Christianity and for the traditional faith. But behind the scenes, probably a majority of evangelical leaders are busy redefining Protestant Christianity to fit the spirit of the times, which is relativistic and individualistic. Although their churches’ official statements of faith remain orthodox (if often vague), what they teach from the pulpit often denies the faith.

In fact, the situation has gotten so bad that most well-informed traditional Protestants (such as yours truly) no longer call themselves evangelicals, at least not without making several qualifications.

In other words, most intelligent people know by now that liberal Christians don’t believe in real Christianity. But evangelical counterfeits are still not generally recognized as such.

- end of initial entry -

September 13

Kristor writes:

This topic has been getting a lot of play recently at Touchstone. Parodies of Emergent and House Christianity have started appearing. Emergent Christianity is to Evangelicalism as the PECUSA is to the mainline Protestant sects: the cutting edge of a wedge that includes the lot of them.

This is why Touchstone has a niche. There is no other place where conservative Protestants, Catholics and Orthodox can talk to each other without the distractions and heresies introduced to all of their communions by liberals.

Sage McLaughin writes:

I’ve put some thought into this but I think I’m just not quite literate enough in all the details of evangelicalism to offer anything very profound. Still, the question of why so many of evangelicals are actually liberals—which I first noticed because so many evangelical converts to Catholicism exhibit a cloying degree of liberal sentimentalism—haunts me. It’s important, too, as can be seen by the obvious example of George W. Bush. I do have this beginning of an idea:

Evangelicalism is highly “seeker sensitive,” as the phrase runs. It places an extreme emphasis on an act of the will (“Have YOU accepted Christ as your personal Lord and Savior?”) as sufficient to spiritual salvation. (They claim that the Church has placed undue emphasis on the power of human action to save one’s soul, but that argument isn’t really the point here.) Moreover, the weekly practice of evangelical Christianity has been thoroughly colonized by popular culture in many churches, with rock bands replacing traditional choirs and regional gatherings adopting many of the facets of more secular-pagan spectacles. Many evangelical churches have sold out to self-defeating conceptions like “relevance,” which is code for trying to adopt the forms of paganism while somehow sneaking in Christian substance. Evangelical language, then, often tries to place liberal obsessions like “tolerance” at the center of their theology, in the hope that they can do so in a peculiarly Christian way.

The bottom line is that in liberal society, which is quasi-totalitarian, absolutely everybody want to at least appear to be authentically liberal. The problem is that the powr of language makes it inevitable that over time, they are bound to become so.

John B. writes:

Alan Roebuck’s comments have reminded me of the story of Martin and Gracia Burnham, the American missionary couple who, along with others, were kidnapped by Islamic militants in the Philippines in early 2001 (yes, just a few months before the attack on the World Trade Center). I don’t really know the details, but I’m pretty sure Mr. and Mrs. Burnham had left their children behind, in the U.S.—maybe in the care of family members—while they themselves carried the evangel to the non-white heathens.

The husband, Martin, was killed in the 2002 rescue mounted by the Philippine Army—with some sort of U.S. assistance or guidance, I’ll guess, though I don’t really know. In 2003, the story was recounted in Gracia Burnham’s book In the Presence of My Enemies. An acquaintance of mine, who saw Mrs. Burnham interviewed on television at the time of the book’s release, relayed Mrs. Burnham’s report that, as the hostages were being transported to the place where they were to be held, they sang John Lennon’s “Imagine.” That is confirmed in the final paragraph of the book’s first chapter, as posted here (pdf):

Then we came to the song “Imagine,” John Lennon’s ballad about a different world. When we got to the line “Imagine all the people, living life in peace” I finally lost it. For the first time since we’d been kidnapped, tears began to stream down my face. It was so poignant—all these hostages singing about a world so near and yet so unbelievably beyond our grasp.

I personally find that song so boring that I can’t really give it attention, but it begins as follows:

Imagine there’s no heaven, it’s easy if you try No hell below us, above us only sky The second verse is this: Imagine there’s [sic] no countries, it isn’t hard to do Nothing to kill or die for, and no religion, too.

Such are the lyrics of a song that moved a Protestant missionary to tears.

Markus writes:

Alan Roebuck is right on the money. The basic doctrines that evangelicals have believed for centuries are being undermined most effectively, not so much by self-proclaimed unbelievers, but by wolves in sheep’s clothing, masquerading as evangelicals. Go to any mainstream Christian bookstore these days and you’ll see just how corrupt the situation is. Perhaps the most blatant example is “The Shack,” the best-selling novel that portrays the Holy Trinity as two women (black & Asian—natch!) and a man (mid-easterner with a big nose) who spout Oprahisms that make the reader feel comfortable with themselves while having their faith drained of all its content.

There’s a whole network of pseudo-evangelicals (part of something called the “Emergent Church” movement) whose unstated raison d’etre appears to be nothing less than quietly transitioning soft-headed evangelicals OUTof Christianity and into something that will enable them to still call themselves Christian, while they (1) deny many basic doctrines of the faith and (2) denounce as unchristian those who point out inconsistencies between their esoteric beliefs and biblical teaching. In short, mainstream evangelicals are becoming some of the most blatant and wearisome post-modern liberals.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at September 12, 2009 11:20 AM | Send

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