Wednesday 18 July 2012
Collapse or vitality: liberal versus conservative Christianity ☀
The “conservative” approach may be winning more people at present, but long-term prospects remain in doubt. Many of today’s most successful mega-churches are heirs of the 19th-century “New Measures” revivalism of Charles Finney which places an emphasis on the use of clever techniques, including the notorious Anxious Bench, to elicit huge numbers of “conversions.” If Michael Horton‘s analysis is correct, Finney himself appears to have held to a moral example view of Christ’s atonement. The “conservatives” may be standing unknowingly on the same shaky ground that is failing to support the liberals.
What if the church were to subordinate concern for numbers, budgets, and social and political causes to the primary imperative of biblical faithfulness? What if it were to place its concern for bringing in converts within the larger context of the call to live the new life in the power of the Holy Spirit? The church might be smaller or larger than it is today. Its members would not be ignoring social and political issues; in fact they might increase their engagement with these. But they would do so along lines that recognize the clear authority of God’s written word over the whole of life. They would be pursuing not just personal moral effort, nor social justice as understood in a narrowly ideological sense. They would seek instead to advance the kingdom in all its fulness through unwavering fidelity to the cause of Christ, consisting of properly oriented – dare I say “converted” – labour, leisure, liturgy and life.
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