Saturday, November 25, 2006

Theology: Liberal, Conservative, Progressive, whatever...

This is why I love Gordon Atkinson.
He's one of my favorite Baptists.

Much of my life has been spent trying to find a balance between progressive, or liberal Christian ideas and the conservative, evangelical Christianity of my youth. That’s probably why I’m still a Baptist. The Baptist community is broad and diverse.

I think The Church needs the full spectrum of her theology. Look, when it comes to God, our language isn’t going to cut it anyway. How descriptive can we be of a being that is utterly beyond our comprehension? The language of conservative Christianity speaks to many people. I appreciate that. Hell, I love it. It brings me to tears.

On the other hand, liberal or progressive Christianity speaks to others, myself included. There was a time when liberal theology came to my rescue. It kept me in the game, you might say, while I worked things out for myself. It also made me intellectually proud, and that is a dangerous thing. Pride, in all of its many forms, is truly a spiritual killer.

Were we to be given a glimpse of the true nature of God, I wonder if our theological differences would be vaporized in that blinding moment of enlightenment. We might come away from that experience laughing at words like liberal, conservative, doctrine, and theology.

But whether you use conservative or liberal theological language, the central issue of our faith – as I see it – is finding a passion for the life and teachings of Christ and giving yourself to Him. Becoming a disciple, as we say, and by that I mean trying to live a Christ-like life. The details of your theology are far less important than that commitment.

Trying to live as Jesus lived is a humbling experience. It tends to shatter the pride of the intellectual and subdue the dogmatism of the provincial. Christian living drives us to a place in the middle that we might call Grace.

Theology is nothing more than language. And as nice as language is, it cannot stand up to the beauty of a life given in the service of God and humanity.

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