This week’s journal question dealt with being a conservative or theological liberal. This is the rough draft of my answer, below, but first, as I was writing this paper, I thought that I might put it out there for public comment, via Twitter. A few answered. Christian posted on it.
While I am no longer a fundamentalist, I still consider myself a theological and biblical conservative. I believe that all things rest on the Scriptures. If Scripture doesn’t allow or proscribe the theological precept, then it must be abandoned post haste, and in such a way as to stamp out any lingering hope that it may have resurgence in the minds of the congregational spectators. Admittedly, Scripture doesn’t answer every current crisis in the world, but I do not believe that it should. Instead, it speaks to the relationship between God and His Creation, so that we may continue to find Him. If there is a theological issue, however, such as women in ministry, Scripture and not the dominant culture, must reign. To our understanding of Scripture, I believe we should add scholarship, both higher and lower criticism, and the theological reflection of the last two millennia. I find it enlightening to my own notion of objectivity to find those more conservative than me, however, calling me a theological liberal. My spiritual community, however, is much more of a mix than I, although I get this only by sense and hearing others speak, as I am still new to my community.
The foundational focus of my conservative theology is 2nd Timothy 3.16-17, wherein I affirm that all Scripture given by God is God-breathed and is to be used for the purposes of the Church. I am not an inerrantist in the way that Chicago’s Statement has laid it out, although I do believe that God was much more than a muse for the original authors, redactors and the Deuteronomist. I believe that the supernatural diction of the Scriptures cannot easily be explained or encapsulated into my words any better than to agree with the author of 2nd Timothy and his use of θεόπνευστος, a word he seemed to invent to fit his own meaning. It is this reason, then, that I have issues with those who so casually disregard the Scriptures or who subscribe to modern notions of how we received the Canon. I’ve only heard glimmers of this, and cannot attest to it as a standard belief in my community. I find that such a belief counters God’s spirit working through Tradition to assemble the Canon, whether or not that Canon includes ever inspired book or just the useful books I will not comment. For me, I use a more complete canon when I can, but even if I were limited to the Protestant canon, I must recognize that this was the way in which God has chosen to reveal His word to us.
My reaction, unfortunately, is generally not very veiled, whether they are liberal or conservative. While I try to be as muted as possible, both overly generous liberal notions and reactionary fundamentalists notions tend to irk me to the point wherein I can no longer keep my thoughts to myself. In regards to reading the Text in either conservative or a liberal mindset, it is difficult for me to be completely objective here. My goal in reading the text is to dig beyond the words on the paper and discover what they might have actually meant to the original audience, and in doing so decipher what they may mean for us today. I cannot see myself as reading the text in a liberal manner as my purpose is always to try to find what the text mean then, and to give the contexts their proper due. Where this does become liberal, however, is when the doctrine is changed, such as when one applies context to women in ministry, women cutting their hair, or the Virgin Birth and other supernatural punctures into reality.