Skip to comments.Liberal Protestantism and Liberal Catholicism
Posted on 12/21/2008 6:16:18 PM PST by Salvation
|Liberal Protestantism and Liberal Catholicism|
|by David R. Carlin|
Catholic liberals (by which I mean theological liberals, not political liberals) never cease to amaze me. On the one hand, they appear to have a sincere devotion to their religion. On the other, they campaign for moral and theological changes that, if carried into effect, would tend to destroy their Church.
Why do I say this? Because the history of Protestantism has made it perfectly clear what happens when a Christian church turns liberal or modern. Unless a Catholic is quite unfamiliar with the sad history of liberal Protestantism, he would not call for the theological liberalization or modernization of Catholicism.
In America, liberal Protestantism has always had three characteristics: (1) It is an attempt to find a compromise or via media between traditional Christianity and the fashionable anti-Christianity of the day. (2) In seeking this compromise, it drops certain traditional Christian beliefs as so much excess baggage. (3) To atone, so to speak, for this weakening of doctrine, it intensifies its moral commitments.
Three great "moments" in the history of American liberal Protestantism illustrate what I mean here. The first was the emergence of Unitarianism in the first quarter of the 19th century. The fashionable anti-Christianity of the day was Deism -- as found, for instance, in one of the writings of Tom Paine (The Age of Reason). So Unitarianism, in pursuit of a via media, dropped the Trinity, the Divinity of Christ, Original Sin, and a few other Christian doctrines. To make up for these discards, it strongly committed itself to the anti-slavery cause.
The second moment was the emergence of Modernism at the close of the 19th century and the opening of the 20th, at a time when the fashionable form of anti-Christianity was Agnosticism (e.g., Herbert Spencer and Thomas Henry Huxley in England, and, in the United States, that skeptical windbag Robert Ingersoll). Modernistic Protestantism did not, like the earlier Unitarians, openly reject traditional doctrines so much as it affirmed its beliefs in these doctrines in an equivocal way. For instance, your modernistic Protestant would claim to believe in the Trinity, the Divinity of Christ, the Resurrection, etc.; but when you carefully examined what he meant by these beliefs, you would find that he didn't really hold them at all. Instead, he believed in something else, but he twisted the meaning of the traditional Christian phrases so that they would apply to his new and very non-traditional beliefs. (Many liberal Protestants --Marcus Borg, for example -- do the same thing today.) To make up for this casting off of doctrine, the modernist had a strong commitment to the "social gospel."
The third moment was the response to the Sexual Revolution in the 1960s and 1970s. This Revolution was the then-fashionable form of anti-Christianity, and it remains the fashion today. Liberal Protestantism, searching as ever for a via media, gave its conditional blessing to premarital sex, unmarried cohabitation, abortion, homosexuality, and -- more recently -- same-sex marriage. I say "conditional" because, instead of giving a blanket endorsement to these practices, as anti-Christians did, liberal Protestantism said it would endorse them only when those undertaking them did so in a thoughtful, prayerful, and loving way. In this third moment, the intensification of moral commitments no longer has to do with corollaries of Christian morality -- as in the earlier cases of abolitionism and social justice -- but with a strong commitment to elements of an anti-Christian sexual morality.
Liberal Protestants of any one generation have always said something like this: "We'll discard elements A, B, and C of traditional Christianity, but no more; we'll stop there." But the next generation says: "If our parents could drop ABC, we'll drop DEF -- but we'll stop there." Of course, it never stops. Once the "right to drop" is embraced, eventually everything will be dropped.
For the better part of 200 years, then, liberal Protestantism has been emptying itself of Christian content. First it got rid of Christian doctrinal content; more recently it has got rid of Christian moral content. Of course the liberals will claim that they have got rid of the inessential "over-beliefs" of Christianity and have boiled the religion down to its essential content, namely love of neighbor. That this love of neighbor largely consists of tolerating and encouraging what Christianity has always counted as serious sin is a reductio ad absurdum of that claim.
Who can be surprised, then, that the Protestant denominations that have been seriously infected with liberalism (the so-called "mainline churches") are rapidly declining in numbers, not just in relation to the national population generally but even in absolute numbers?
And who can be surprised that American Catholicism, many of whose members turned in a theologically liberal direction after Vatican II, is also declining? The Catholic decline, to be sure, is masked by the sloppy way in which American Catholicism counts its members. You're counted as a Catholic if you were baptized Catholic. That means that millions and millions of people are counted as Catholic who are quite indifferent, and in many cases downright hostile, to Catholicism. If, more realistically, we count as Catholic only those who continue to be somewhat serious about the religion -- for example, by going to church once a week -- we'll see that there has been a steep decline.
Those Catholics who are not ignorant of the history of liberal Protestantism cannot, if they are honest with themselves, favor the theological liberalization of Catholicism. But, of course, some historically well-informed people are not honest with themselves, while vast numbers of Catholics -- including many Catholic priests and more than a few Catholic bishops -- are immensely ignorant of the history of liberal Protestantism. And so Catholicism in America continues to slide downhill.
Making bets right now that this will be a very interesting discussion. Debating about the Ecumenical tag. Can we discuss it without slamming one another?
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Liberal protestants deserved to get slammed. You don't really have any problem with slamming liberal Catholics, do you?
So let's try to keep focused on the target here, and jointly nail folks that try to hijack the thread.
“Liberal protestants deserved to get slammed. You don’t really have any problem with slamming liberal Catholics, do you?”
I’d say the key is an awareness focus on the liberal sects of both groups, but not to do it in such a way as to undercut the beliefs of either conservative branches.
I’ve seen this done previously in FR threads; the accusation that 60% of Roman Catholics helped to elect Obama.
I can’t speak scientifically about a survey, but I would guess 70 to 75% of “these Catholics” haven’t been in a Catholic Church on a regular basis in many years.
From my studies, I have concluded that the very existance of protestantism is due to this. They did not like this or that about the Catholic Church, ie, king henry and wanting an anullment, Martin Luther and his 95 Thesis, The anabaptists, Calvin, Jan Hus, etc... All removed elements ABC and from there, followers split to remove through XYZ until it no longer represented anything of the original.
We now have mega churches refusing to take a stand on any issue that is divisive (Joel Osteen) to only preaching on the one or 2 issues that they, as their own pope feel are relevant (John Hagee).
I feel comforted to know my church is the same yesterday, today, and always; steeped the the scripture and Tradition of millenia past, given to Peter by Christ. As to liberal catholics, they are self excommunicated whether they like it or not if they hold a gravely moral belief and live in opposition to the church on the issue,ie abortion, homosexuality etc. It is not rocket science, and I do not understand for the life of me why they would want to belong to a church that does not preach what they hold so sacred.
In this country especially, we are all free to believe what we choose. We do NOT have to change our beliefs or our time honored faith to accomodate the new age or their belief system. It is the ultimate oxymoron, you are not catholic if you do not believe what catholics believe. We are not obligated to change our beliefs to fit yours since you are the one who changed.
In this world of political correctness gone awry, I thank God the church is moving, albeit slowly, back to its core and correcting the misconceptions and poor catechesis stemming from Vatican 2.
” (3) To atone, so to speak, for this weakening of doctrine, it intensifies its moral commitments.”
....Presbyterian Church(USA)is right in the forefront of this which is why the church is going down the tubes....civil rights, VietNam, nuclear disarmament, the Sandinistas, abortion rights, gun control, ordination of gays, marriage of gays, global warming...ect ect. whatever the liberal cause de jour they’ll embrace it.
Protestantism exists because the Church of Rome became an oppressive political regime and extremely corrupt. Things ebb and flow in this world. There are resurgent Protestant denominations that reject secular liberalism. There are plenty of Catholics that embrace secular liberalism. These groups are not monolithic so trying to generalize too widely is an error.
I agree — liberal in either bring the entire picture down.
**60% of Roman Catholics**
I read somewhere that this number was only 48% — Still much too many, in my opinion.
And I maintain that REAL Catholics did not vote for Obama, only CINOs did.
I think one of the saddest things I have witnessed is the departure of some protestant sects from the true definition of marriage as given in the Bible.
We don’t need those kind of liberals at all. Obama included.
This is so sad for the Presbyterian Church.
Perhaps we ALL need prayers!
Liberal Christianity = ISLAM
Isn’t it AMAZING how politics and religion KILL??? They both seek to control. Both of these crucified Christ. I can’t find where FAITH and trust in God killed anyone. So what do you suppose Christ’s real intent was with HIS kingdom? The big fancy multimillion $$$ buildings..all wrapped up in government favors??? I don’t think so.
not widely generalizing. Catholic church still teaches the same doctrines from the deposit of faith since Christ gave it to Peter. Yes, what is called the accidentals have changed over time, but none of the dogma that made Catholics catholic has. Protestantism has ebbed and flowed in many directions over the 400 years or so it has been around.
There are many Catholics who choose to believe the church should change dogma here or there. This will not happen or it would mean that the gates of hell prevailed against the church, and all faith would be in vain. Either you are right, or scripture is, and I am going to bet on scripture here, no offense.
The catholics who believe in something other than what the church teaches are not going to change it, be it women priests, gay marriage, birth control, abortion, or any other dogma. They are excommunicated by their own action in these instances and need to stop masquerading as catholics, ie, Pelosi, any Kennedy, Biden etc... The Church has begun to make this more clear, as when San Fran Bishop called out Pelosi on abortion this summer, but more needs to be done.
Please know that I approach this issue knowing what the other side thinks and feels. I was born catholic, converted to a fundamentalist Baptist for many years and was vehemently anti catholic during that time. I converted back after a long 8 year study of the Church fathers and the early church. I was actually learning hebrew and greek during the study. I found my answers, Godspeed on finding yours.
I mean no disrespect to any who are protestant, much of my hubby’s family still is, though my hubby converted. They are devout and no doubt in my mind love God. They firmly believe that their faith is correct, as I do. We have learned to agree to disagree. I will not, however, allow those who think they are “liberal Catholics” to get away with the charade. There is no such thing, and we need to call them out on it, whether they like it or not.
I'm all for open minds and open hearts, but not to the point where we start discarding the tenants of our own religion to try and swell our ranks and to gain approval from the secularists.
This article explains perfectly why me and countless others are abandoning the “mainline” churches for churches that won't discard Christ and the Bible in order to be popular or to be “modern” (even though Christianity is supposed to be Timeless).
That’s why people need to question the religions of men. There is no question about God and Jesus Christ, however.
**This article explains perfectly why me and countless others are abandoning the mainline churches for churches that won’t discard Christ and the Bible in order to be popular or to be modern (even though Christianity is supposed to be Timeless).**
It's called, "Doublethink", per Orwell.
I think we can all face the facts that there were a fair number of Catholics and a fair number of Evangelicals (more than we’d care to admit) who were either swept up into the whole thing, dont really care about the social issues or were simply misinformed or uninformed.
Well all find out soon enough how Obama is going to lead. I happen to believe that he is going to blindly push from the left, thinking that there will be no resistance.
I hope he will be surprised when true Christians rise up together and speak with one voice.
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