In 1923, J. Gresham Machen, then professor at Princeton Seminary, wrote the book, Christianity and Liberalism. The book was a response to the rise of liberalism in the mainline denominations of his own day.
In short, Machen argued that the liberal understanding of Christianity was, in fact, not just a variant version of the faith, nor did it represent simply a different denominational perspective, but was an entirely different religion altogether.
Put simply, liberal Christianity is not Christianity.
So insightful is Machen’s volume, that it should be required reading certainly for all seminary students, pastors, and Christian leaders.
What is remarkable about Machen’s book was how prescient it was. His description of liberal Christianity–a moralistic, therapeutic version of the faith that values questions over answers and being “good” over being “right”–is still around today in basically the same form.
Although its advocates present liberal Christianity as something new and revolutionary, it is nothing of the sort. It may have new names (e.g. “emerging” or “progressive” Christianity), but it is a rehash of the same tired system that has been around for generations.
The abiding presence of liberal Christianity struck me the other day when I came across a daily “devotional” from Richard Rohr. Ironically, it was entitled, “Returning to Essentials.” And that devotional listed out 10 principles that Rohr thinks Christianity needs to embody (his list is actually drawn from Philip Gulley’s book, If the Church Were Christian).
As I read over this list, I realized that it is essentially a confessional statement of liberalism (while, at the same time, pretending to deplore confessionals statements). It was, more or less, a “10 commandments” for progressive Christianity.
And when you read these 10 commandments, they sound not so much like they were gathered on the mountain top but rather in the university classroom. It’s less about God revealing his desires, but more about man revealing his. It’s less Moses, more Oprah. [Read more…]