Dealing with liberal theology has not been easy. I first bumped into a liberal theologian, if I can call him that, in our first appointment. He had the largest church in town and came, it seemed to me, to this town to illuminate the congregation who he viewed as being unthinking, traditional, and uneducated. His tool of choice, of course, was the pulpit and introducing the words “myth” or “story” to the Biblical narrative. He sowed doubt and cynicism into the minds of his congregation. He slowly emptied out the church taking it from around 700 on a Sunday morning to around 100.
I always thought it strange that a man who relied on the financial giving of his people sowed the seeds of discontent and ultimately his own release from the very office he desired. But I was only in my late 20’s and unsure of my footing in the town of 16 clergies.
One day I was visited by two of the men of his congregation. Our congregation was growing – we weren’t exploding but our little building which could only seat 100 was seeing 100 to 125 each Sunday morning – there was energy in the building and people were talking about their faith and their church in the small town. These men wanted to know what we were doing to grow the congregation – and the conversation ended up being a fascinating one as we talked about what liberal theology really does in sowing seeds of doubt.
One of the things I’ve learned down through the years is that the mission of Satan, the devil, the Father of all lies, Abaddon (Hebrew for the destroyer) is never one of building up but tearing down. Whenever I hear someone claiming to refute faith I listen to what the objective is. Darkness likes division, destroying, delusion. Darkness is loved by those, as the Bible says, whose deeds are evil.
In contrast, the ministry of The Holy Spirit is to bring light and unity. John 3:17 says that Christ came into the world not to condemn the world – isn’t that an interesting thought.
Recently I was pointed to Bishop Spong – a liberal theologian. To be fair to the person who wanted me to watch his videos I decided not to watch just one or two but to view a number of them. I understand what Spong is trying to do, to question the traditional view of Scripture and the Church’s interpretation. But if you listen to him he does it by mocking the view of others with a more moderate or traditional view. He laughs at others and leads others in laughing at – he creates a divisive thesis. Bishop Shelby Spong shows no evidence of shedding light on the subject but like my Listowel friend, seems more intent on distorting the truth to make a point, and you have to wonder if the point he is making is to simply make a name for himself.
So if you’re looking for someone who can share intelligent insights, is able to speak with insight around some of the challenges of faith, and who does it with respect and academic integrity (something Spong doesn’t do) then I recommend Bishop Barron. Barron is a Catholic theologian where Spong is a retired Episcopalian minister so they both come from the same theological framework.
Below is a very good YouTube video of Barron’s on the subject suffering and God’s inattention to humanities need – a common criticism of faith.
Leave a comment if you wish – what do you think of Barron’s position?