Saturday 12 September 2015

I have never once heard a liberal Christian admit that they are killing their churches - why?

Liberals have, over the past several generations, come to dominate all the mainstream self-defined Christian denominations; and all these churches have declined.

Furthermore the most liberal parts of these denominations have declined the fastest. Indeed, quite often the most conservative minority parts of churches have been growing, while themajority liberalest parts are declining.

In a very obvious, in-your-face, kind of way; it would seem that there is at least a plausible case that liberalism has been bad for Christian churches, and has perhaps been substantially (although not wholly) responsible for killing them.

Liberals might at least entertain this hypothesis; or they might even acknowledge its truth but claim that liberalisation was necessary anyway; or they might admit that liberalization had caused short-term decline, but that in the long-term it would lead to a revival... but no.

Liberal Christians have never - so far as I have seen - ever even acknowledged that there was a very straightforward and potentially significant correlation between liberalization and decline.

For example, the advocates of the ordination of women to the priesthood, or as bishops, never seriously consider the strongly-evidenced hypothesis that such change will, on the basis of considerable experience, almost certainly lead to the swift and massive decline of that denomination? 

(Somebody must have said something of the sort somewhere, of course; but I have never seen this hypothesis even discussed in hundreds of thousands of words advocating liberalization either of specific denominations or Christianity in general.)

Why is this? Is it sheer ignorance of the correlations? Maybe, but if so, that ignorance would have to be wilful - therefore not true ignorance.

Or is it just plain dishonesty? Do they actually know that liberalism is killing their mainstream churches - but choose to deny the fact because they want the liberalism to continue?

Yes, I think so; that's it.

And this would then mean that liberal Christians, who now dominate all mainstream churches, objectively value liberalism more than their churches - an interpretation which seems to be consistent with all the facts.


Note added: I think the key to thinking about this is honesty. We need to ask whether it really is possible nowadays to be an honest liberal Christian (except for the brand new and utterly un-experienced convert). I don't think it is - especially not in terms of the relationship between liberalism and the churches. It's not as if liberalism is anything new in Christianity, there are several generations of experience.

This fact of lying about the institutional consequences of liberalism would not necessarily of itself mean that liberal Christians also valued liberalism above Christianity itself - only that they valued liberalism more than their churches.

But of course they do also value liberalism above Christianity, and this is shown by the fact that liberal Christians always redefine Christianity to fit with modern Left Wing ideology, to a greater or lesser extent; and never the other way around. 


Leo said...

I can't answer your question, but the liberal revolution in the churches appears to be driven from the hierarchy not from the pews, with the liberals in the seminaries in the vanguard.

Anonymous said...

Liberal - defined - individual that gives away, squanders or destroys capital (moral, economic, military) created by individuals superior to themselves as a form of revenge but well disguised as a form of altruism for others.

Leo said...


I suppose their thinking must be that their decline would have been even faster had they not liberalized, and that the solution is therefore to move even more swiftly to the left and embrace the next new thing, whatever that is. This will create a death spiral. They must rationalize the relative strength of the conservative churches as reflecting a large residue of ignorant yokels not yet enlightened, but who will eventually die out while their children are educated by the enlightened elites. The resulting liberal secular society will be their equivalent of the millennium, so there is nothing really to worry about. Christianity will have triumphed as history reaches its inevitable and happy end. The death of their churches therefore doesn't bother them. Liberal political parties will be able to carry on their church's programs. Church and the leftist state will be one.

pyrrhus said...

How about this theory? Liberal "christians" are not Christians, they are something else, and that something else wants to destroy their denomination of Christianity.

Unknown said...

Obviously. As the Freemasons and the Socialists openly said, between 100-150 years ago, nobody was listening to them while they were radical pseudo-intellectuals throwing rocks at Western society. They decided, therefore, to enter and co-opt all the institutions - the churches, schools, media, etc.

It's not that they "prefer" Liberalism to their churches. They hate, loathe and detest the churches. You can see it palpably in the "ordination" for example, of a "female bishop" a few years back for the Anglicans in California. At some point in the middle of the ceremony - because they had to have it - they allow a male to come in dressed as a bishop and say the prayer of ordination. The whole rest of the ceremony consisted of pagan rites and dances from East Asia and the American Indians, followed by a rock concert led by the old, grey-haired lesbian, guitar-playing "bishopess." This is not "preferment of liberalism to church" this is - pardon the vulgar expression - a way of publicly defecating upon the ruins of fragmented Christianity in the West. It isn't denial; it's a victory lap.

Joel said...

I would love to join whole-heartedly in this thread, but I have to say that liberal Christians are often creatures of sincere principles. Many of the laity accept what they have been taught by their clergy about female ordination, etc., and assume that it's simply the way things are. If they are told that the Bible says something about this, and was incorrectly interpreted by others in the past, they accept it. If the congregation around them is getting a bit more gray-haired each year, they don't really notice it.

At the level of individual congregations, there are many successful liberal churches, and many unsuccessful conservative churches. The Fundamentalist / Evangelical brand of Christianity that would generally be called Conservative has much that I consider wildly radical about it. The type of worship and praise they favor isn't at all what you'd find in the 1662 book of Common Prayer that I prefer.

Yet if I had to pick a single issue that Christians could rally around, it would have to be sexual purity. Much of Liberal Christianity has been a surrender to the sexual revolution without being honest about it. Churches should drop the debate about Gay Marriage as a distraction, and start proclaiming that any sex outside of marriage is wrong and destructive. I think that very little of false Christianity can survive in an atmosphere of radical devotion to Christian principles.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Joel - At some point, what you say about devout liberal Christians becomes untenable. You may disagree; but I think that point has been passed, at least in the UK. I think things are now as clear as they will ever be.

However things may have been in the past,'good intentions' are not enough; and liberal Christians are now responsible for their false and wicked opinions, and the consequences.

Of course any individual can repent at any time - it is never too late.

Of course there is a sense in which modern people generally, and Leftists in particular, are nearly-all addicted dupes and hardly responsible for anything; but there are for everybody God-given moments of clarity when we perceive clearly and choose and take the consequences. (CS Lewis depicts this kind of 'moment' clearly in That Hideous Strength, and Tolkien more than once in Lord of the Rings).

ajb said...

What Leo said about the diagnosis.

From what I can tell, liberals think that the problem is that they aren't modernizing quickly enough.

Bruce Charlton said...

@ajb - Yes, that is what they always say. And if they really wanted to know what will be the outcome, there are by now plenty of examples of other churches which have done exactly this and that demonstrate what will happen...

Bruce Charlton said...

@Joel - One way of thinking about your point " liberal Christians are often creatures of sincere principles. Many of the laity accept what they have been taught by their clergy ... and assume that it's simply the way things are" is to consider the extent to which a person can be dishonest without realizing it.

A person becomes aware of their dishonesty in various ways - but perhaps the usual way is by the incoherence of experience - dishonesty is incoherent.

Against this is the teaching that life is incoherent, and therefore we should not expect coherence - and therefore there is no necessary consequence to lying - lies may be wholly compatible with experience if/when we do not experience to make any sense.

But then the question is to what extent someone can honestly hold the view that life is incoherent - it is one thing to say it, but quite another to live by it.

My believe, based on my own experiences, is that one always becomes aware of one's own lying sooner or later - and usually sooner. And when one adopts some kind of nihilistic doctrine that removes the possibility of detecting one's own leis, then we are aware that this is itself a dishonest evasion.

In sum, I believe that those who live by lies are aware that this is what they do. Perhaps there were in the past but now there are no 'innocent' liberal-Christians - ultimately, they all know what they are doing: they are all consciously making excuses for themselves.

Leo said...

The decline is seen as a feature, not a bug.

“If our increased thoughtfulness in understanding the human condition causes us to be open minded in a way that offends your prejudices, yes, the Episcopal Church might not be for you. I hope I’m being clear, I believe our decline is a sloughing off of the baggage of establishment and American Empire and not quickly enough embracing an expansive view of humanity within our Eucharistic communities. We became irrelevant to all but the most faithful and those far too in love with Jesus to leave the church despite its hypocrisy. But don’t worry, we’re on that now.”

In other words, the conservative people, those leaving the liberal churches are seen as the problem, and the liberal church sees itself as much better off without them. Certain sinners, i.e. those without liberal views, are not particular welcome in the pews or the hierarchy. Thus the numerical decline is a feature, not a bug. That the worldwide Anglican community, especially in Africa, is more conservative that the Episcopal Church (TEC) is not recognized or explained. Indeed, the TEC wants to export its pan-sexual views to Africa, which is arguably American imperialism. See

See where you can read the whole post.

Ralph Weitz said...

Frankly, I don’t think the issue is killing or growing a Christian church or denomination. It is an agenda issue, what we readily call liberalism. I believe their agenda is social, political and personal. Since the liberal theological message is hard to be founded on its own foundations, it has to co-op someone else’s foundation and use a progressive takeover by using the conservative institutions (seminaries, colleges, denominations, endowments, organizations and churches) that meets their needs. The social agenda is a progressive view of society. Stripping away the moral values well established from a biblical perspective. The political is used within the church, and the denomination. Henceforth, they use the denominational clout to change the government policy to meet their social agenda. Finally the personal, where can a person flaunt the beliefs of an organization and still remain employed. On top of that they can break the rules of the denomination with impunity.
A woman called me and asked if she could ask some questions. I’m accustomed to questions like, “Does your church use all the spiritual gifts.” Or “Do you believe in limited atonement?” I agreed to answer her questions.
“Do you believe in the virgin birth?” “Yes mam, we do.”
“Do you believe in the deity of Jesus? “Yes we do.”
“Do you believe in the resurrection of Jesus?” “Yes we do”
I said, “Can I ask you a question?” “Sure.” “I’d be glad to answer all your questions, but can you tell where are we going?”
“Well last night we had our new pastor [six months] over for dinner and he does not believe any of those things.” Having grown up in the Lutheran Church I asked her about the Apostles’ Creed. She said she had asked him about the Apostles’ Creed. His response, “I knew you would get around to that. I say that out of respect for those who have gone before me.” She continued, “And that’s the reason why we are looking for a church.” Flashing through my mind were the opening words of the Apostles’ Creed which I said so many times and affirmed them at my confirmation, “I BELIEVE in God the Father, maker of heaven and earth and in Jesus Christ God’s only Son our Lord. Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary…The third day He rose again from the dead…” Really this pastor says these words every week or the Nicene Creed. That’s called hypocrisy! By the way, this was a United Methodist Church.
I invited her to my church, an independent Bible church. After three weeks I received a call from her, “You have a fine church but I’m looking for a more structured worship service.” I replied, “You mean a liturgical service.” “Yes.” I sent her to The Falls Church Episcopal with my friend Rev. John Yates. I knew she would be pleased with BOTH the doctrine and worship style. That’s why I’m glad to be an evangelical, respecting each other even though we hold different polity and styles of worship.