Stott on the equally legitimate concerns of conservative and liberal Christian theology

Those of us who criticize and condemn liberal theologians for their abandonment of historic Christianity, do not always honour their motivation or give them credit for what they are trying to do. The heart of their concern is not destruction but reconstruction. They know that large numbers of their contemporaries are contemptuously dismissive of Christianity, because they find its beliefs untenable, its formulations archaic and its vocabulary meaningless. This fact causes the best liberals profound pain, and it is this which lies behind their theologizing. They are anxious to restate the Christian faith in terms which are intelligible, meaningful and credible to their secular colleagues and friends. All honour to them in so far as they are genuinely wrestling with the need to discover the modern gospel for the modern world. I wish we conservatives shared this incentive, and were ourselves neither so entrenched in antique cliches, nor so offensively complacent about our failure to communicate. What is sad and reprehensible about liberals is that in discarding the ancient formulations they tend also to discard the truth formulated, and so to throw out the baby with the bathwater.

The contrast I have been drawing between the two main theological groupings in today’s churches seems to me to be one of the greatest tragedies of our time. On the one hand, conservatives are biblical but not contemporary, while on the other liberals and radicals are contemporary but not biblical. Why must we polarize in this naive way, however? Each side has a legitimate concern, the one to conserve God’s revelation, the other to relate meaningfully to real people in the real world. Why can we not combine each other’s concerns? Is it not possible for liberals to learn from conservatives the necessity of conserving the fundamentals of historic, biblical Christianity, and for conservatives to learn from liberals the necessity of relating these radically and relevantly to the real world?

John Stott, Between Two Worlds, p. 143-144


About cteldridge

A beggar trying to tell other beggars were the Bread is.
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