According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson
We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord
Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

Monday, January 13, 2014

Christopher H. Evans - American Liberalism Isn't What You Think It Is

Christopher Evans' book, Liberalism without Illusions, discusses the affective movement of Christian liberalism upon the Orthodox Church, writing of its more positive religious impact in an historical context across a broader, dissimilar spectrum of lives and cultures incapable of remaining stagnant in time and space as many may think or wish. As such, a liberalism that can cause older, more popular traditions to rethink themselves is a good thing, and one that may create contemporary relevancy in the Gospel witness of Jesus to men and society in need of new ways of hearing the Gospel.

For myself, I regard the wider word "liberalism" as a more helpful word filled with illuminating tendencies evoking human compassion, generosity, greater self-reflection and awareness, and tolerance for other societies and cultures dis-similar from myself. My older tradition would castigate the term and banish all who deem it constructive as unlike themselves and worthy of condemnation. To the mature in Christ, this way of thinking and behaving cannot accede with the dictates and anti-intellectual posturings by this more conservative segment of Christianity. It would be wrong to do so and unhelpful in the study of God's Word. Placing authority in the hands of men and not in the hands of Almighty God through discernment, prayer, contemplation, historical reflection, scientific discovery, and affective scholarship. I give two-thumbs up for Evans' newest book discussing regenerative roots of American liberalism.

R.E. Slater
January 13, 2013

Amazon Book Description
Publication Date: January 12, 2010

By the 1930s most mainline Protestant traditions promulgated the key tenets of liberalism, especially an embrace of modern intellectual theory along with theological and religious pluralism. In Liberalism without Illusions, Christopher Evans critiques his own tradition, focusing in particular on why so many Americans today want to distance themselves from this rich and vibrant heritage. In a time when attitudes about “liberal” vs. “conservative” theology have become the focus of the culture wars, he provides a constructive discussion of how liberalism might move forward into the twenty-first century, which, he argues, is indispensable to the future of American Christianity itself.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly - Starred Review. Evans (The Kingdom Is Always but Coming), a professor of church history at Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School, makes no pretensions about the scope of his work. This book does not include a comprehensive view or extensive history of liberal theology-that can be found elsewhere, and in much larger tomes. Instead, he sets out to reclaim and rejuvenate this misunderstood, formerly vibrant, and ostensibly weakening movement in American Christianity. To rejuvenate any school of thought, that school must be understood, and here Evans is at his finest. He begins by immediately confronting the pejorative meaning the "culture wars" have attached to the word "liberal" and follows by proposing a new foundation on which to build a more historical, rather than hyped, understanding of liberal Christianity. Finally, Evans transcends the limits of stereotypical "ivory tower history" by offering more than just analysis. He offers solutions. The liberal Christian movement in America is not dead, he concludes, and history shows how to prevent it from dying. Anyone interested in 20th- and 21st-century American Christianity needs to read and consider the suggestions Evans has to offer.


A strong argument for the appeal and relevance of a liberal theology. Evans brings the liberal and evangelical stories into a compelling conversation, making a case for a liberal theology that reclaims its evangelical roots and its place in the life and witness of the church. - Gary Dorrien, Reinhold Niebuhr Professor of Social Ethics, Union Theological Seminary, and Professor of Religion, Columbia University.

Evans transcends the limits of stereotypical "ivory tower history" by offering more than just analysis. He offers solutions.... Anyone interested in 20th- and 21st-century American Christianity needs to read and consider the suggestions Evans has to offer. - Publisher's Weekly, 1/26/2010 

Evans is an expert guide for the liberal Protestant tradition, showing us the lost treasure and nuggets of power and wisdom that can and should be harvested. This book is an antidote against those who separate piety and social action, levying a powerful argument that any adequate theology enables church leaders to inspire its members to love justice, seek mercy, and walk humbly in service to the world. It is a prophetic call and important reminder of the dangerous good news of an applied gospel waiting to be lived. - James K. Wellman Jr., author of Evangelical vs. Liberal: The Clash of Christian Cultures in the Pacific Northwest.

Product Details

Print Length: 234 pages 
Publisher: Baylor University Press (January 12, 2010) 

Liberal = Evangelical and Modern
Theological liberalism is a historical movement born in the nineteenth century that supports critical intellectual engagement with both Christian traditions and contemporary intellectual resources. As opposed to more traditional forms of Christian theology, liberalism has been characterized by an affirmation of personal and collective experience, systemic social analysis, and open theological inquiry (6).
Notice what’s at work here: a creative synthesis of the Christian tradition (evangelical) and modernism. The result focuses on both personal and collective experience, a clear emphasis on systemics, and a general disposition of opennness. In chps 2 and 3 Evans sketches the dominating voices of liberalism, and it is a sketch to which I will at times turn again.

Human reason matters, and here he dips into both Kant and Hegel, and he rightly (I think) sees the impact of Hegel on liberalism because of his more immanent approach to divine activity in history. God can be known through reason and in historical processes, and this all leads him to speak of the undeniable significance of Schleiermacher for understanding liberalism.

Now briefly:

1. American liberalism emerged out of New England Calvinism.

2. A leading influence can be seen in Charles Sheldon’s famous “What would Jesus do?” question and life. Christology was refashioned in exemplary terms and also in anti-Trinitarian ways with Unitarians (William Ellery Channing’s voice). Then comes Horace Bushnell and “new theology.” He saw Christianity as a historical religion and was one who helped create a more positive sense of human goodness (Christian nurture flowed from this) and he pushed for a sacrifice of his life on the part of Jesus against typical penal substitutionary theories.

3. The pulpiteers included Henry Ward Beecher (anti-slavery) and David Swing (4th Pres Chicago), and it was Swing who perhaps best articulated emerging liberal theology: OT criticism was embraced, as was Darwinian thinking, and cultural conditioned-ness.

4. Kingdom theology, and this means socialistic Christianity, or the application of Jesus’ compassion and justice to national and global problems.  Here he looks at Shailer Mathews.

5. All leading to his specialty: Walter Rauschenbusch and the social gospel and social Christianity. Salvation becomes more robust and the focus is on social problems with the church taking the initiative in justice issues. The social gospel gave important ideas to liberation theologies. He looks, too, at Washington Gladden and Howard Thurman. The social gospel is the most enduring legacy of Protestant liberalism and is in my view here to stay. It can tie hands with Kuyperian thinking to focus the energies of Christians on the public sector, on politics, and on social activism — though the two orientations (social gospel and Kuyperian thinking are hardly the same).

The arena of God’s work was history and society, Jesus’ moral vision and his humanity were central, and they tended to diminish theological centralities of orthodoxy as well as the church. This led in part to therapeutic emphases in the gospel as well as to pastoral care and prophetic theology. Social justice was combined with pastoral care for the folks in their local church (e.g., Ernest Fremont Tittle, from Evanston). It garnered interest in the ecumenical movement… but listen to this observation Evans summarizes from Sidney Mead: “the social gospel was a movement that did not lead to the creation of any new churches, and was largely consigned to the corridors of power within preexistent Protestant denominations” (76).

And it’s focus, even obsession, with economic concerns made it blind often to other concerns, like race and gender equalities.

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