The Trouble with Conservatives -- By: P. Andrew Sandlin

Journal: Reformation and Revival
Volume: RAR 12:2 (Spring 2003)
Article: The Trouble with Conservatives
Author: P. Andrew Sandlin

The Trouble with Conservatives

P. Andrew Sandlin

We know the main trouble with theological liberals. They want to reconstruct Christianity to conform it to the modern (and now postmodern) temper. Liberalism, in the succinct words of David Tracy, is “the need to rethink the fundamental vision and values of traditional Christianity in harmony with the fundamental vision and values of modernity.”1 During the nineteenth century, this meant questioning (among other beliefs) the divine authority of the Bible and the supernatural redemptive events it relates. In the twenty-first century this means (in some quarters) support for homosexuality, abortion rights, and goddess religion. With Bishop John Shelby Spong, it means denying the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. Liberalism infecting the evangelical camp appears in the so-called “Open Theism.” Its most revolting and antibiblical tenet is that God is not omniscient, since future events are not by their very nature knowable by man or God.2 This fits quite nicely, thank you, into a postmodern age that questions certain knowledge: “We humans can’t know very much, so we’re pretty sure [!] that God can’t know everything.”3

“Don’t Give Me that Old-Time Modernism”

This fact doesn’t imply that theological conservatives are home free, however. In fact, sometimes those considered most

conservative entertain rather “liberal” beliefs. This problem started quite early in the Church’s history. The big theological predicament of the post-apostolic Church was a tendency to compromise with the surrounding, urbane Greek culture.4 One example of this compromise is a rather static view of God (against which today’s Open Theists flagrantly overreact).5 Today’s theological conservatives who depict God as absolutely unchanging and unemotional are nearly as erroneous as the Open Theists. The only real difference is that the conservatives have preserved (conserved!) the “liberalism” of the first couple of centuries, while the Open Theists are creating their own liberalism in the twenty-first century. But ancient liberalism is no less dangerous than contemporary liberalism. The trouble with conservatives is that they tend to equate their own long-inherent beliefs about the Bible with what the Bible actually teaches. But if the Bible, in fact, is the only written revelation from God, then all beliefs must essentially be judged by it. This idea doesn...

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