Liberals, fundamentalists, and Moderates – Part II

Last part dealt more with the liberal, fundamentalist, and moderate positions on issues related to secular things. This one will look at the varieties of Christians and analyze the main differences between the three varieties. It is typical when dialoguing with either a fundamentalist or a liberal that if you take a view that one group holds to, you must be in the specific group. Fundamentalists and liberals are both technically guilty of seeing things in terms of a far right and a far left. As such, moderates are typically cornered into the said group as the liberal or fundamentalist tries to align themselves with them. Typical examples I’m aware of is Rob Bell being labeled a universalist and N.T. Wright being anti-penal substitution (neither of which are true). (Note that even some of these positions aren’t specifically to be relegated to the notion of fundamentalist either which is a very high version of Biblical literalism.)

Our Views on God
Fundamentalists think of God as black and white. They think in terms of what God is and aren’t too big on deeply thinking on a lot of subjects. If God is angry, that’s good enough for them and they take it quite literally.
Moderates see in both apophatic and kataphatic theology and generally a mixture. Jesus, as God, reveals precisely and accurately who God is but apart from Jesus, no one can know. The only ones who know God are those who actually know God.
Liberals are the opposite extreme of fundamentalists on this issue. They see God strictly in terms of apophatic theology (at times) or entirely deny his central characteristics of omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience. Jesus only reveals who God is if we are talking about process theology. Jesus may or may not be God depending on the liberal. There exists no realistic connection between God and man in their thought. God is developed from scratch.

Fundamentalists generally see the atonement as critical to God’s act of forgiveness. God needs punishment before he forgives. They struggle to explain Jesus’s acts of forgiveness before the atonement was made.
Moderates see the atonement as God coming down to unite humanity who had separated itself from God back to himself. To divinize man. God became man to deify us so to speak. Hence, Jesus’s death was necessary to complete this process.
Liberals see the atonement (or what they may call the cross) as an establishment and victory for social justice. The view is strikingly similar to the first century Zealots, actually.

Fundamentalists typically believe that Hell is a construct of God for punishment of men and it is either eternal torment or annihilation.
Moderates see Hell as a construct of humanity (Wis. 1:12-16) and God gives into man’s wishes. They seek to identify problems in numerous theories about Hell and try to ask better questions (such as even whether universalism is a “safer” alternative).
Liberals typically lunge toward universalism failing to see the key problems in that. They, like the fundamentalists, actually get a little bit too cocky in regard to these issues.

Garden of Eden
Fundamentalists see the story as entirely literal and humans now pass down sin to each other.
Moderates see the story as symbolic and literal. Adam now passing down the consequences of his sin to us. The story represents how man stumbled into selfishness and brought consequences upon itself.
Liberals see the story as man embracing their freedom. Man finally taking the knowledge they need to survive. They claim the story is entirely symbolic but their statements about the story indicates strongly otherwise.

Biblical Interpretation
Fundamentalists read the Bible at a face-value level. “Where does it say that?” and “The Bible says…” are two prominent phrases in fundamentalist dialogue. Also, “If you believe the Bible then…” etc.
Moderates read the Bible in light of an unbroken tradition. This is similar to how Jews read it. Oriental Orthodox, Assyrian Church of the East, Catholics, and Eastern Orthodox are the prominent Christianities that read it like this. Moderates typically hold to a set of creeds within their given Church that have been already established through much sophisticated debates and arguments on the subject to be able to be intellectually critiqued to any effective level of intellectualism on the part of either fundamentalists or liberals.
Liberals typically throw away all creeds and try to gather as to whether fundamentalists are the most entirely faithful. Their approach results in making Christianity look more attractive. They interpret through historical-critical methods claiming their approach surpasses everything. They typically make Christianity look entirely different than its most ancient roots.

The Soul
Fundamentalists don’t concentrate on this nearly enough.
Moderates would contend in favor of St. Thomas Aquinas’s understanding of the soul. It is incomplete without the body which is its natural state but nevertheless can exist without it.
Liberals generally try to use neuroscience to refute the existence of the soul.

Creation in Genesis 1
Fundamentalists are either young earth creationists, gap theorists, or day-age creationists. Most don’t accept evolution.
Moderates remain slightly skeptical of evolution but read Genesis 1 in a wide variety of ways. Symbolically and literally generally.
Liberals interpret it entirely symbolically. They accept whatever dominant scientific view (even if eventually, it turns out to be wrong!).

Well, that’s our main theological differences. I think moderates are hard to keep up with at times because they seem to switch sides. Sometimes moderates are accused of being non-Christian and sometimes they’re accused of being fundamentalist. I’ve been accused of being both a liberal and a fundamentalist at times. Because we largely disagree with both the fundamentalist and liberal parties, we show our angst toward both sides as being largely and overtly problematic to the Christian faith but when speaking to a fundamentalist, we’re accused of being dogmatic liberals, when speaking to liberals, we’re accused of being fundamentalists. Categorizing doesn’t really help the dialogue flow as to how Christianity can survive into modernity, instead, breathing in what those who you disagree with say is important. We shouldn’t throw out accusations unless there is evidence to establish these points.


About newenglandsun

A student. Male. Passionate. Easily offended. Child-like wonderer. Growing in faith, messing up daily.
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