I want to thank Reformed scholar and author of the book What’s So Good About The Good News (a book that I have and continue to read), Neal Punt for stumbling by this site and offering the link on his site describing the theological differences between him and Rob Bell author of his latest controversial book Love Wins. As I have said, I have tended to lean to Neal Punt’s, Conditional Universalism or the terminology I like better Evangelical Inclusivism, where all persons will be saved except those who the Bible declares will be finally lost vs. all persons will be finally lost except those who the Bible declares will be saved. Here is the link and again I want to thank Pastor Neal Punt for offering it.
Emergent leader and author of his famous book A Generous Orthodoxy Brian McLaren stands up Rob Bell and takes on the modern-day Pharisees (Mohler) who have declared a heresy war against him. Yes, I do have my problems with theological Liberalism (and I cannot be liberal and proud, sorry Gavin) but I think McLaren does a great job in defending it. Frankly for those who do subscribe to theological liberalism like Anglicans (or Episcopalians as they are called in the United States), the United Church of Canada (which would be the equivalent to some Congregationalist denominations in the U.S.), some Quakers and other mainline denominations I find a lot of compassion there than I do see in some conservative evangelical churches and I can here James Pate saying, “Amen!” Here it goes:
– Perhaps it wasn’t liberalism that killed mainline Protestantism. Perhaps it was institutionalism.
– Perhaps it wasn’t liberalism that killed mainline Protestantism. Perhaps it was an excessive concern among many mainline Protestant leaders to protect their “mainline” status of privilege and power.
– Perhaps it wasn’t liberalism that killed mainline Protestantism. Perhaps it was complicity with nationalism, a complicity that was exposed as faulty in the Twentieth Century by two world wars and Vietnam.
– Perhaps it wasn’t liberalism that killed mainline Protestantism. Perhaps it was liturgical and organizational rigidity.
– Perhaps the fall of mainline Protestantism had more to do with complacency and a lack of visionary leadership than it did with a willingness to question traditional interpretations of Scripture.
– Perhaps mainline Protestantism isn’t dead or even dying: perhaps mainline Protestants have entered a latency period from which a new generation of Christian faith is trying to be born. (And perhaps conservative Protestantism is about to enter that latency period too.)
– Perhaps mainline Protestantism isn’t failing at all, any more than the US Postal Service is failing. (It’s actually doing more work than ever, with proportionately fewer resources than ever.) Perhaps it’s just that the times have changed, and First Class mail isn’t what it used to be, and mainline Protestants think they’re in the stamp-and-envelope business instead of the communication business.
– Perhaps mainline Protestants are in decline primarily because they haven’t been as good marketers as Evangelicals. Perhaps mainliners haven’t “pandered” to customer demands as well as Evangelicals. They haven’t adopted new technologies – first radio, then TV, then the internet – as savvily as Evangelicals have.
– Perhaps mainline decline is related to higher college attendance rates – rates that, by the way, Evangelicals are now catching up to. Perhaps conservative Christianity will fare no better in holding young adults who get a college education than mainline Protestants were. Perhaps the graphs will end up in the same place, with just a 30- or 40-year lag.
– Perhaps mainline Protestants started to decline when they became prophetic – agreeing with Dr. King about the institutional evils of segregation and the Viet Nam war. Perhaps being prophetic, which involves calling people forward to a better future, is inherently more costly and less popular than being conservative, which involves calling people back to a better past.
– Perhaps Evangelicals started to grow when they filled in the same role mainline Protestants used to occupy: the civil religion of the United States.
– Perhaps mainline Protestantism collapsed because of hypocrisy and disconnection from real-life issues, and perhaps Evangelicalism is edging ever-closer to a similar collapse.
– Perhaps mainline Protestantism was the religion of the American countryside and small town, and it declined as rural and small-town populations declined. And perhaps Evangelicalism is the religion of the American suburbs, and its fate will rise and fall with suburban life.
Of course, one can read the entire long but brilliant post here. Enjoy your reading.