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Christianity - Liberal or Conservative
Christianity was always intended to help people become like Jesus (Eph 4). However, even before the persecution ended (or perhaps aided by it) Christian groups organized themselves into small collectives. Elements of the Greek academy were brought in to catechetical schools. Individual Christian maturity and growing in faith (surrendering self to the leading of the Holy Spirit) was gradually replaced with classroom type instruction where increasingly arcane and abstract elements of theology fostered the advancement of the intellectually gifted into a clergy class disconnected from the laity.
Over the centuries even though Christianity became increasingly hamstrung with obtuse doctrines, ritual instead practical Christian living, and a growing bureaucracy instead of person to person connections, many people still could obtain the benefits of limited selfishness and deeper love that come from growing in faith.
The period of the enlightenment accelerated the divorce of the intellectual class from Christianity. In all fairness, what they observed that was called Christianity was pretty distant from where it started. They were also not aware that there were consequences for rejecting even the knowledge of God that are detailed at the end of Romans chapter one.
To illustrate this phenomena one can consider a man asleep in the back seat of a speeding car. The man who has faith in God is like a man who suddenly awakes and sees someone he trusts driving the car and goes back to sleep. The man who does not believe in God is like a man who suddenly awakes and sees no one driving the car so he clambers over the seat and grabs the wheel himself.
Contemporary liberalism is a direct descendant (through progressivism) of the enlightenment view that man is the master of his own destiny. One might see the liberalism of today as the natural movement of change towards the goal of a utopia of man’s design.
Conservatism might be better seen not as a religious desire, but a reaction against change and a desire to keep or return to a previous condition. This might be seen from the early 20th century. The impact of Marx, Darwin, and Freud were representative of much of the liberal change taking place at the time represented by progressivism. The fundamentalist Christian reaction was an attempt to resist this change more than a return to authentic Christianity. In this way, conservatism can be more accurately seen as resistance to change which can arise in a religious movement as well as political or other environments.
Today what is called Christianity might be seen in several categories.
1. Social gospel. This represent the contemporary liberal / progressive tradition.
2. Fundamental. This often represents an attempt to resist change often employing legalism.
3. Contemporary. This often presents a consumer approach with an emphasis on experience.
4. Traditional. These are usually legacy denominations with a dwindling membership.
While number 1 and 3 might be called liberal and 2 and 4 might be called conservative, sadly few are very much interested in Jesus except as a market brand.
It is sad that Christians seem to only have the option of a conservative or liberal church. This might be because the denominational approach to Christianity usually offers a static “package” of doctrines and as such is not well suited to a process of growth and maturity. If the package is old fashioned it is considered conservative. If the package is hip, it is considered liberal.
In contrast, our Christian journey should not be so much about selecting the “right” doctrinal package. Rather, we should seek out those who can help us grow in our closeness to the Lord, become increasingly more like Jesus, and learn how to apply Christianity to our daily lives.
Information about Christianity and the Christian life.
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