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Liberal Theology in a Sentence

Al Mohler:

H. Richard Niebuhr famously once distilled liberal theology into this sentence: “A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.”

Read the whole article here.

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Categories: Theology
  1. March 25, 2011 at 7:52 am

    Hey Chad,

    School’s been keeping me very busy, but I’ve been trying to keep up with the “blogoshpere”. The Rob Bell “controversy” has been very interesting. I haven’t read the book yet (it’s next on my list), but I’ve been a bit disappointed by “reviews” that have practically equated the Gospel with belief in a literal hell. This is dangerously close to fundie dispensationalists who hold so tightly to the “rapture” that to disbelieve this is to deny the Gospel itself. I just can’t go there. Doctrine is important in many ways, but only Jesus saves. And I don’t believe that the Gospel is as “exclusionary” as many people seem to want to make it. I think Mohler (and many others, especially in the West) have been conditioned to misread and misunderstand the nature and purpose of God for centuries. I’m not saying that Bell has gotten it completely correct (though I’ve enjoyed much from him throughout the years); but there is a legitimate Christian tradition that predates Augustine and his 16th century “reforemed” progidy as well as the “liberal” theology that Mohler laments. Based on previous lectures I’ve heard by him, I think Bell is tapping into a legacy that needs to be rediscovered.

  2. March 25, 2011 at 9:14 am

    >>”Doctrine is important in many ways, but only Jesus saves.”

    Jason, Jesus saves from what?

    • March 25, 2011 at 9:28 am

      In a word? Jesus saves us from a life of estrangement from God. In the positive sense, He saves us unto “true humanity”.

      • John
        March 25, 2011 at 9:34 am

        And what does Jesus call this “estrangement”? How does he describe it?

  3. March 25, 2011 at 10:00 am

    The bible calls this estrangement “death”, the result of sin and the curse. Jesus described the consequences of unbelief in the graphic imagery of “hell”.

  4. March 25, 2011 at 11:35 am

    Don’t you think the Bible (especially Jesus himself) speaks far more about the primary thing from which we are saved as being God’s wrath? Death is surely a consequence of being under his wrath as sinners and not the central dilemma we face? That being said, Jesus hardly (if) ever says ‘get right with God and pursue righteousness to escape death’. But he almost always say ‘get right with God and pursue righteousness to escape hell’ (e.g., Matt 10:26-31).

    In the end, I applaud the desire to faithful to the biblical text and being clear about the gospel. But it seems to be me the good news always stands in contrast to the bad news: that we are sinners, condemned under God’s wrath, destined for a deserved and eternal hell. Jesus saves us from that by making us right with God, appeasing his wrath and winning righteousness for his people. Without the reality of hell, how is there a gospel at all?

  5. March 25, 2011 at 1:43 pm

    John,

    I think your question (at the end) is a valid one and gets at the heart of this Rob Bell debate. Now as I said, I haven’t read his book; but it seems that for many people the very gospel is at stake if we don’t get the concept of “hell” right. I beg to differ. And I think the question What is the Gospel? is the all important question that should be asked. (And, by the way, I never said that “hell” wasn’t a reality; just that maybe it is not the reality than mainstream, Western Christianity has promulgated for so long).

    I would certainly be happy to discuss the question, What is the Gospel? with you since this is really the question we are debating; but I’m not sure that Chad would want us to do that here. If you would like to continue this discussion, please let me know.

    As an introduction to our conversation, think about this: Adam’s sin didn’t bring God’s wrath upon creation (or man), it brought death to creation (and man). “Death” is the over-arching concept that characterizes the paradigm in which creation (including man) exists before Christ. The Gospel is the Good News that Christ (the Last Adam) has “undone” what was done in the first Adam: Life has come! And Christ did not simply “undo” or overthrow the curse, He has accomplished the original purpose of God from before the beginning–to join Himself to “man” and thus fulfill His purpose to share His life with His creation in His image-bearers. Even without respect to Adam’s sin, Christ would have become incarnate to fulfill the purpose of God for His creation.

    This, I believe (in a nutshell, so-to-speak, is the gospel of what Christ came to (and did!) accomplish. Obviously, this needs to be unpacked. If you are wanting to discuss this, I will be more than happy to oblige via e-mail. Let me know.

    • March 25, 2011 at 2:01 pm

      What I’m trying to get at is this: The Gospel is much, much larger than simply that Jesus appeases an angry (wrathful) God to save us from an eternal hell of never-ending torment. The Gospel is the redemption of the entire cosmos in Christ!

      • John
        March 25, 2011 at 2:34 pm

        I agree that the gospel is about “The Gospel is the redemption of the entire cosmos in Christ!” but it isn’t anything LESS than “Jesus appeases an angry (wrathful) God to save us from an eternal hell of never-ending torment.”

        Your original point (seemed) to be: “I’ve been a bit disappointed by ‘reviews’ that have practically equated the Gospel with belief in a literal hell.”

        This is what I was addressing. And what I’m saying is that I think the biblical data says that this *is* precisely true: belief in the gospel does necessitate a belief in a literal hell.

  6. March 25, 2011 at 2:57 pm

    Well, I would have to respectfully disagree with you. I don’t think Jesus or the NT teaches belief in a literal hell as a necessity for belief in the Person and Work of Christ. I’m sorry, but I think you’ve gone beyond the Gospel into speculation that may or may not be true; and to conclude that to believe the Gospel one must also believe in a literal hell is, in my opinion, just not true at all.

    I stand by my original sentiment: if a person equates the Gospel with belief in a literal hell, then he/she has missed the Gospel.

  7. John
    March 25, 2011 at 3:12 pm

    You’re allowed to disagree 😉 But I would tweak your last statement to say the gospel includes a belief in a literal hell (not equated with).

    And this is a far cry from a belief in the rapture (like you mentioned earlier). A belief in a literal hell has been held by Christians by all stripes far more than not. So, even if Bell and others are right that hell doesn’t literally exist, they are in the VAST minority of people who call themselves Christian.

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