Wednesday, May 20, 2009

what is a liberal Christian?

Paul is usually and very unfortunately not the first name one thinks of when one thinks of freedom of the mind or heart. And yet, and yet...Freedom was his watchword and that points the way for all liberal Christians.
JFC on the AP and Freedom:

"It is equally true that the apostle Paul is the founder of Liberal Christianity. For what is Liberal Christianity ? Liberal Christianity does not mean the liberty to believe whatever we choose; liberty to believe whatever is pleasant, and ignore what is disagreeable. We are bound to believe whatever is true, be it agreeable or otherwise. Liberal Christianity is not indifference, nor want of earnestness. It is earnestness about the substance of things, not their form.

Nor does Liberal Christianity mean this or that set of doctrines, — Unitarianism as opposed to Trinitarianism, Arininianism as opposed to Calvinism. Liberal Christianity means a principle -which may be found associated with very different creeds. I know many men Orthodox in their opinions, Trinitarian in their opinions, who belong to the front rank of Liberal Christians. Such men were Robertson, Maurice, Stanley, Arnold, in England, and in this country Dr. Bushnell and others.

These men I call Liberal Christians, though belonging to Orthodox churches, and holding Orthodox creeds. And this fact helps us to discover the fundamental principle and essential nature of Liberal ' Christianity. For example, we admit on the one hand that Dr. Channing, the Unitarian, was a Liberal Christian; and on the other hand that Frederic Robertson, the Trinitarian, was a Liberal Christian. What then was there in common between them which made them both Liberal Christians ?

These three elementary characters they both had : Holding earnestly each to his own opinions, his own church, his own religious experience, neither of them insisted that these were essential to Christianity; both of them admitted that men holding different doctrines might be as good Christians as themselves. While always ready to oppose what they believed false and wrong in the opinions of others, they did not undertake to judge the men who held the opinions. They were not only willing that other men should be as free as themselves, but also desired it, and were ready to help to make them so.

These three, then, are the elements of Liberal Christianity: —
1. To believe that the essence of Christianity is in the spirit, not in the letter ; which belief will destroy all bigotry.
2. To believe that Christianity progresses only by means of freedom, not by constraint; which principle will put an end to all intolerance.
3. To believe that the end and aim of Christianity is inward love, and not outside works; which will abolish sectarianism.



Bill Baar said...

What does it mean to write ...believe that Christianity progresses... How does Christianity (or maybe Christians?) progress?

slt said...

Hi Bill,
Great to hear from you. You know the Boston Unitarians in general and JFC in paricular were great on progress...Though I am sometimes cynical about institutional and personal progress, I can't help but have hope...Thanks again and Blessings. BU

Bill Baar said...

I realize that, it's just I've never quite seen it applied to Christianity itself.

Liberal Christians believed society would progress and become more Christian perhapes....

but I wonder about Chistianity actually progressing and becoming what?

....that each generation developes a deeper understanding of Christianity for the next to build upon?