20 thoughts on “Is there common ground between liberal and conservative Christians?”

  1. Eddy,

    I am not Catholic and this is not a Catholic understanding I bring to the mix – it IS a catholic – small “c” if you like though.

    I also think it might help if YOU slow down a bit and try and understand what I am saying. The ONLY thing I was trying to say regarding the Bible, is that the Bible we know today was put together by the Church in a council – that’s ALL – There was no Catholic – capital C church at the time I am speaking of – that particular group of Christians wasn’t known as such until later – for a long time all we had was “the catholic church”.

    You seem to be making a much bigger issue of what I am saying than is necessary.

  2. Jayhuck–

    In this conversation, already established, discussion was around conservative and evangelical Christians and their belief in Biblical inerrancy; you brought a Catholic understanding into the mix with only a capital ‘C’ to make your distinction. I’m simply asking that you slow down a bit when responding and consider your own words with the same critical eye you use on others…do the people I’m talking to use this word the same way? will they know what I mean by the ‘capital C’ Church?

    Even with the capital C understanding, I think you are leaping to suggest they had no Bible. It may not have been the apocrypha or the New Testament but it was indeed ‘the Word of God’–the scriptures. Was it Timothy who commented that ‘all scriptures are inspired by God and are profitable for reproof’, etc?

    It seems that even as your Bible was being formed, the church (or Church?) was using the Old Testament as their Bible.

  3. Eddy,

    Yes – you are correct – The Old Testament or Hebrew Bible was around before the Church (when I capitalize Church like this I’m usually referring to the body of Christ – specifically, in this instance, I’m talking about it when it was all basically one and not splintered as we see it today) – The main difference today is that some churches still include the apocryphal texts that early Christians used and some don’t.

  4. Byron and Eddy,

    The Bible you know today was put together BY the Church during one of her great councils – that’s really all I was trying to say about that! The letters that became part of the Bible were circulating through some of the churches of the time, as were others that did not “make the cut” – so to speak. But in terms of the Bible – as we know it today – the Church – the body of Christ at the time – preceded it. Ancient Christianity, unlike some more modern churches, took direction not just from the Bible, but from tradition – but I know I’m taking us off topic again – in light of that, I’m not sure how far down this path anyone really wants to go!

  5. Jay,

    You’re probably right on the final point there, but we’ll have to agree to disagree on the “inerrancy” issue; I don’t think it has a lot to do with interpretation, and everything to do with the nature of the Bible itself. Nor would we agree that “the Church came before the Bible” (thought THAT, I’d agree, DOES involve interpretation!). Inerrancy, you’re correct, isn’t “historical” in one sense: people didn’t speak of it as such, but that’s because until the late 19th century, no one would have considered himself to be a “Christian” and yet doubt parts of the Bible to be true.

  6. Jayhuck–

    What do you mean by “that is not a historical Christian way of understanding theology”? I’ve been trying to figure out your use of the modifier ‘historical’.

    Also, please clarify your statement “The Church came before the Bible”. Which church? Which Bible? You are taking exception to Byron’s thoughtful statements by using words that are unclear. I’m supposing you meant that “The Church came before the New Testament” but talks of biblical inerrancy include the Old Testament which did predate the Christian church.

  7. Byron,

    I’m not sure if the issue is so much the “inerrancy of the Bible” – although that is NOT a historical Christian way of understanding theology – the Church came before the Bible – It seems that the issue has to do with the interpretation of the Bible – not its inerrancy.

    And as for Christian factions not recognizing others, well, I think that has been happening throughout history. I’m sure there are conservative branches of Christianity that would not recognize each other, regardless of what they might have in common – and then you have conservative Christians, like myself, who tend to be socially liberal – in the sense that I don’t believe it is right to legislate my Christian beliefs onto others –

    All these things of course can be discussed for hours – and I DO understand what you are saying – but I’m suggesting its not even as simple as trying to separate Christians into liberal and conservative camps when it doesn’t take that much for groups not to agree with each other.

  8. W,

    I think you meant “NOT” beholden… 🙂

    And ‘tenets’, not ‘teneSts’.

    From the Secretary of Picky,


  9. Byron – I agree regarding the theological issues. For an evangelical to take what may seem to be a socially liberal position, the rationale will include support from Scripture. Evangelicals should not be beholden to a political orthodoxy if in the final analysis, the orthodoxy is not faithful to the basic tenests of the faith. The Word is a light to the path even if the path wanders into territory inhabited by social liberals as politically defined.

  10. Jay,

    Yeah, there’s no question that there exists a continuum, in one sense. At the same time, as Francis Schaeffer so cogently observed, the watershed for the church is the issue of the inerrancy of the Bible, and those who come down on one side of that watershed will eventually end up a thousand miles from those on the other. I’m not sure what “both sides of the culture wars” means; that would be fertile ground for discussion. If you mean by that that there are Christians who take a variety of positions on particular issues, absolutely! Though I’m a conservative evangelical, I favor an end to the “drug war”, am ambivalent on “school prayer” (as folks want to popularly define it), and favored “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” back when liberals loved it and conservatives hated it—all positions generally opposed to the “conservative party line”. So it’s sure possible to be a conservative theologically and not toe what people would call the “strict conservative line”. Fair enough.

    That said, even though I’ll reiterate the need for civility, etc., there are all sorts of professing Christians whom many evangelicals wouldn’t even acknowledge AS Christians in the sense that evangelicals understand Christian faith. All sorts of liberals inhabit mainline churches, and deny cardinal doctrines of Scripture—the evidence is out there and not hard to find which suggests that the majority of mainline clergy, for instance, do not subscribe to very basic fundamentals of faith. I’m a pastor, but I have essentially zero in common with, say, an Episcopalian or UCC pastor who denies the bodily resurrection of Christ, or who denies the exclusivity of Christ, etc. We’re just not doing the same thing at all, because we have nothing in common. Literally. Deny the bodily resurrection, and you’re not a Christian; you’re a heretic, and might as well be Buddhist or Bahai or something.

    And when the issues are of that nature—and when we’re talking about people who are self-professed THEOLOGICAL liberals—I can’t muster any interest whatever in going against the idea, “can two walk together, except they be agreed?”

  11. I agree that this is potentially pretty murky. I posted this as more of an open forum and not as an endorsement for the coalition. I still haven’t read the report and may not get to do so until later this week.

  12. Byron,

    I may be wrong here, but I think there are people who exist in between the two extremes you have described. There are good and faithful Christians on both sides of the culture wars and a good degree of common ground that needs to be acknowledged.

  13. Yeah, Warren, this SCREAMS for definitions. If you’re talking about evangelicals (traditionally understood as people with a high view of Scripture as infallible and authoritative, and a commitment to share the gospel), evangelicals who differ on certain political viewpoints, and how they ought to work together, arrive at consensus understandings, etc., then that’s one thing. But it’s altogether a different one if you’re talking about evangelicals and theological liberals. People who call themselves “Christians”, but do not recognize the infallibility of the Bible or the need for redemption, who perhaps question the bodily resurrection or other cardinal doctrines of the faith, are not folks with whom I, as an evangelical, share “common ground.” It seems like the latter is what is in view, and while cordiality, decency, integrity and respect should characterize evangelical conversations with EVERYBODY, there isn’t any real shared basis of beliefs upon which to construct such a conversation. Any shared stance upon positions (and undoubtedly, some might exist) would be merely coincidental.

  14. What exactly is meant by progressive??? That has not been defined.

    It depends on the context, but progressive has basically replaced liberal as the latter became more centrist and also the term liberal was demonized by many who would fall under the conservative label.  You can get a decent description of these terms in relation to religion (Christianity, specifically)

    and politics.  

    From my experience, progressive is now used as the antithesis of conservative in most discussions, while liberal is falling from use or is qualified as "classic liberal" to distinguish it from progressive. 

    Like most labels, the terms are loaded and don’t really work well to describe people who tend to be more dynamic in their beliefs and ideologies.  In this instance, it seems to be used in the broadest sense to describe those who are on either side of the religious culture war.

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