Shake the Dust off Your Feet

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Those of us who are conservative struggle to know what to do in the face of a militant, hostile, and oftentimes violent version of social “democratic” liberalism. Cutting ties with family, friends, and professional associations is difficult, and most of us want to avoid doing that if possible. However, family and friends who are leftist ideologues make harsh, personal comments that make it difficult if not impossible to sustain meaningful relationships with those people. Professional associations in academia are condemning traditionalist positions; even the Society of Christian Philosophers leadership condemned the great Oxford philosopher Richard Swinburne for his opposition to homosexual practice. These are times of cutting ties on both sides of our sharply divided political spectrum. Mostly it has been the Left who are cutting ties, unfriending people on Facebook, refusing to invite family members home at holidays, and in the case of celebrities, publicly condemning family members for their “offense” of voting for Mr. Trump (as Ashley Judd did). While conservatives tend not to break ties, there are times in which doing such is unavoidable. Below are some of the ties I have cut.

I rarely unfriend people on Facebook, but I have unfriended a few. Some were personally obnoxious and insulting to me; others were indirectly insulting by labeling all conservatives and Trump supporters as racists, sexists, etc. I can even let that go, but some liberals have posted the most obnoxious, mean, hateful posts that I felt I had no choice but to unfriend them. That has only happened three or four times (0ut of 700 FB friends), and I hated having to do it. I am not going to renew my membership in the Society of Christian Philosophers due to its treatment of Professor Swinburne. I decided not to renew my membership in the North Carolina Poetry Society due to a ridiculous sexual harassment policy that would forbid a single man from asking a woman who is a member of that organization out on a date–even if such asking takes place outside the context of a meeting. It is not merely the silliness that merely asking someone out is sexual harassment; it is the evil and arrogant intrusion into people’s private lives.

I am also not renewing my membership in the North Carolina Writers’ Network. Their meetings have become libfests on the unholy trinity of race, class, and gender. Life is too short for me to waste time on such ignorance and stupidity. I have joined online organizations–a conservative, pro-Trump group of academics and writers, and a group for conservatives of all varieties who are creative writers. Long ago I joined the National Association of Scholars rather than the American Association of University Professors. I am hoping for an organization for philosophers to be founded that is similar to the group for traditionalist scholars in English.

At school I do my job quietly (and hopefully well–I try my best) and work on my research project on ghosts, philosophy, and theology. I continue to do creative writing and have kept up my membership in the Horror Writers Association, which has thus far avoided falling wholly into the politically correct cesspool.  I gladly argue with open-minded liberals and try to avoid those who are not. I stay at home when not required by teaching or office hours or meetings, but if there’s an interesting lecture, film, play, or music concert on campus, I enjoy attending those. But in all of life there seems more bitter division and fewer lasting friendships between people who are ideologically different.

To me, this division is sad. But world views are at stake, and human beings are naturally defensive about the fundamental values by which they live their lives. Since our real battles in society today are world view battles, I see the trend of division continuing indefinitely into the future.

 

 

Why I am not Theologically Liberal

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Sometimes “you can’t win for losing.” Fundamentalist Christians would consider me a liberal for not being a strict inerrantist on scripture–yet I have far more in common with a Fundamentalist Protestant than a theologically liberal Protestant or Roman Catholic. Definitions are important–a theological liberal will not be an inerranist on scripture, but that is not what makes him a theological liberal. Theological liberalism is an attempt to update Christianity for the contemporary period. Such updating may include substantial changes in Christian theological teaching, such as the denial of the full divinity of Christ, His bodily resurrection, His virgin birth as well as a denial of any subjective afterlife for human beings. Liberals may also accept substantial revisions to the doctrine of God such as, for example, denying that God knows the future and believing that God grows along with the universe. Some deny that God can utterly destroy evil. On moral issues, theological liberals tend to accept the rightness of abortion, premarital sex, homosexual practice, and trangenderism. All the above beliefs would be, to any traditional Christian, heretical. While liberals’ acceptance of social democratic economic liberalism is not heretical, one can argue that it is wrongheaded. In some cases, economic Marxists deny that human beings are fallen creatures, and such a belief is heretical.

Theological liberalism has its roots in the eighteenth century Enlightenment. During the age of reason some philosophers, such as Immanuel Kant, held that religion should be bound “within the limits of reason alone.” The French were divided between deists such as Voltaire, who believed in a God that created the universe and let it run like a clock; there is little or no divine providence in such a doctrine. Later, in the nineteenth century, Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution seemed to make biology like Newtonian physics–free of any need for a deity. In addition, modern Biblical study methods revealed that Moses did not write the first five books of the Old Testament, and the Biblical books in general are neither historically or scientifically without error. If Christians had read the church fathers such as Augustine, they would have known that earlier Christians recognized the Bible was not a science book. Instead, they hunkered down and accepted a modern, literalist interpretation of the Bible, making it something it was never intended to be. Theological liberals were correct in opposing the Fundamentalists’ strict views on inerrancy.

Theological liberals meant well. Friedrich Schliermacher, the “father of liberal Protestantism,” wanted Christianity’s “cultured despisers” to be open to a revised Christian faith that placed an emphasis on a “feeling of absolute dependence” rather than on specific dogmatic claims. Social Gospel liberals emphasized helping the poor and often supported a social democratic economic system, but some of them rejected the transcendent claims of Christianity about Christ. More recently, theological liberals have tended to become deeply politicized and influenced (though they may be unaware of the source) by the Cultural Marxism of the Frankfurt School (Herbert Marcuse and his de facto disciples such as Saul Alinsky). They rejected the traditional moral teachings of Christianity on sexual ethics, holding that they are remnants of an earlier, outdated social and moral system. Their emphasis is on “social justice,” where “social justice” is defined in terms of the social democratic Left. Many of these do not accept the fundamental teachings of traditional Christianity about God and Christ I mentioned above.

I cannot accept theological liberalism. Without its traditional doctrines of God as Trinity, Christ as God incarnate, born of the Virgin Mary, raised from the dead, and the general resurrection of all people and restoration of the universe at the end of time, Christianity collapses into a watered down social gospel with little theological content. While Process Theologians try to insert more theological content, their concept of God is too limited to support the traditional doctrines of Christianity. St. Paul said if there is no resurrection, “we are of all men most miserable” (in I Corinthians 15). Theological liberals who deny the resurrection except in some vague “metaphorical sense” are indeed, “most miserable” even if they deny such.

The theologian most admired by liberal theologians is Paul Tillich, according to polls of theology professors. Yet Tillich, which interesting, was a mix of Schelling’s philosophy with a watered down version of Christianity. His concepts of religion as ultimate concern and his method of correlation, in which philosophy provides the questions and faith the answers, while not wholly original, are helpful. But overall he was a heretical thinker wedded to some kind of belief in a vague “transcendent.” It is sad that his experiences in World War I destroyed his traditional view of God.

Catholic liberal theology is pretty much a variation on liberal Protestantism with some Catholic language added.

Recently, there have been some new theological liberals who accept the resurrection of Christ and the general resurrection from the dead–Jurgen Moltmann and Ted Peters, for example. However, they do not necessarily accept the moral views of traditional Christianity–Peters does not, for example. They are moving in the right direction, however.

It is clear that Jesus Christ made divine claims, even in the Synoptic Gospels, and such claims are central to Christianity, as the Church Fathers also recognized. I cannot call myself a Christian without believing this doctrine. The church’s teachings on sexuality are essential to the integrity of marriage and the bearing of children in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord.” The rules are there because they support the human good. To deny these teachings is not only to deny the natural law; it is to deny Christ.

I am grateful for the vibrant Evangelical movements in some of the liberal mainline Protestant churches. I am grateful for Roman Catholic traditionalists (though the legalism of some of them is unfortunate). I am grateful for my own church, the Anglican Catholic Church, which affirms the traditional doctrines and moral teachings of the Christian faith without lapsing into Fundamentalism on scripture (a few priests here and there may be that way, but the bishops are not). Hopefully we can live the faith better–faith is not merely an intellectual exercise–Satan is theologically orthodox–but it is a way of life, loving God and loving neighbor. Both doctrine and practice, truth and love, are essential to the teachings of Christ and His Church.