Not a Neo-Liberal

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Adrian has clarified what he means by the term "Neo-Liberal". He says:

The concise Oxford Dictionary states theological liberalism is "regarding many traditional beliefs as dispensable, invalidated by modern thought, or liable to change". Since neo-liberalism indeed does just that but with post-modern thought and does indeed dispense with classical evangelical beliefs then surely this is a good word to coin?

He goes on to say:

Liberal theology is defined on one website as "The intentional adaptation of Christianity to modernity using insights from the new social sciences to redefine religious authority." I would define neo-liberalism as the intentional adaptation of Christianity to post-modernity.

That seems to me a pretty good definition as it makes very clear why he has chosen those terms. It seems to me that the term as defined is quite appropriate.

That being said, it looks like I am not a Neo-Liberal after all. My intentions have never been to adapt Christianity at all, to post-modernism nor to any other paradigm. My intentions have ever been to take a hard look at the doctrines that I have inherited and test them against Scripture. Many of those doctrines have passed the test with flying colors (e.g. the doctrine of the Trinity), but with others, the doctrines have required considerable modification (e.g. the doctrine of Penal Substitution). If those modifications happen to be more in the spirit of post-modernism than the traditional doctrine, that is purely by happenstance.

What worries me about Adrian's position is that there seems to be no recognition of people like me in his classification scheme. He says that "Neo-liberals need to realize that there are evangelicals who will [reexamine] their beliefs and practices in the light of current culture, then examine these in the light of the bible and conclude that the "old old story" need not be changed." That's true enough, but Adrian's statement leaves little room for the idea that the "old old story" might actually be incorrect (by "old old story" I am here referring to our inherited doctrines, not the Scriptures themselves). What Adrian and others like him (paleo-conservatives?) need to realize is that there are evangelicals who will reexamine their beliefs and practices in the light of Scripture and conclude that our beliefs and practices are wrong and do need to be changed. Church tradition is not always correct; surely any member of the Protestant church must acknowledge that.

Does Adrian have a name for people like me? Does he have a way of distinguishing us from the Neo-Liberals and the [whatever-he-wants-to-call-his-own-group]?

5 Comments

Well, lets rock and roll on this one Wink. Sorry for calling you parableman- didnt notice that greyed out text. What will the proprieter think of these discussions I wonder?!?

Anyway, this post raises an interesting question. I am willing to listen to why you feel you are not being a neo-liberal by ditching penal substitution.

I wonder how far you would go though? Do you defend the use of Chalkes phrase "cosmic child abuse" to describe the view held by so many evangelicals?

Where do you find a base your new found views? Is it truly the scriptures alone? I very much doubt it- few and certainly not myself can claim total independance from other theologians and nor should we in my book.

Who do you look to for confirmation of your understanding of the bible?

What I mean by this is, one should be very cautious of any novel view we think we have found in the bible. This is not to raise any teachers in the church to the same level of authority as the bible, only to say that we can be re-assured to discover that others have found in the bible what we believe we also have. So who reassures you? More importantly what is the biblical basis for your views whatever they are.

Once I have heard all this, I will decide whether in my view you are in this neo-liberal camp or if there is some other name to give you. What name would you give yourself?

paleo-conservatives, heh. good one, wink.

Actually, the label 'paleo-conservative' has been used of people like Pat Buchanan by neo-conservatives like Bill Kristol and William F. Buckley or compassionate conservatives like Marvin Olasky and George Will.

Wink isn't finding some new view in the Bible. He's saying Anselm (or whoever it was who first made the penal substitution view explicit) found some new view in the Bible. Wink is just observing the text and not seeing it there, the way I observe the text and see nothing about the distinction between teaching and ruling elders, nothing about pastors except as those exercising a spiritual gift, nothing about church-owned buildings, and nothing about an age of accountability for spiritual responsibility. I'm not inventing new doctrines by seeing that those things aren't in there. I'm saying those who have claimed to see them there have not seen them there but imported them into the text. Wink says that's what's been done with penal substitution, which he thinks contradicts our identification with Christ on the cross.

He'll be getting to his arguments in a separate post, so I'll leave him to explicate his view more, but you wanted to know what I think. I've asked him every question I can think of to clarify his view, and I don't think it commits any of the heresy most of the people you're calling neo-liberals do when they deny penal substitution. It wasn't at all what I expected. I disagree with him. I think it's in there and not in contradiction to the other metaphors and images for what the atonement accomplishes, but I don't think it needs to be as primary as modernists have made it. After all, it took a few hundred years for someone even to state it clearly and carefully as distinct from the other things the atonement accomplished (peace with God, identification with Christ, etc.).

I mentioned "paleo-conservative" just becuase paleo is the antonym of neo and conservative is the antonym of liberal. That it turned out so humorous was a fun coincidence. It sounded like something that had likely been used before, and of course Jeremy was able to find out where.

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