So one thing that might have zero interest for some of you, but great interest for others, is the question of whether the faith we're describing here is (theologically, not socially) "liberal." Again, for some of you this will be neither here nor there, so feel free to read your other favorite blog now.
But, for those of us in the church biz, this comes up every now and again. And I actually spoke to this this last Sunday when I preached on that ever-hot-button topic of homosexuality from a churchgoing point of view. (Should you be interested, all of our sermons are available online at www.bostonvineyard.org.) I pitched the conversation as best happening in a centered-set perspective. And I mentioned how, to folks who come to questions of faith from a particularly-conservative point of view, talking about centered-set will just seem like code for "liberal."
But then I pitched that this was a false perspective. Centered-set, it seems to me, is neither conservative nor liberal. Both of those are bounded-set categories. And when we consider what theological liberalism is, we'll see that this take on centered-set is far from that. Theological liberalism kicked into high gear in the late 1800s as a response to the Enlightenment. Was faith in Jesus invalid now that the scientific method disallowed miracles or any reference to the supernatural? One response was fundamentalism. This, crudely-stated, pitched that the most-scientific thing on earth was the Bible, which was distilled "truth." Forget all that supernatural stuff--the ticket to respectability is a resolute focus on the Bible.The other response was theological liberalism. Yes, sure, let's dismiss the miracles and the supernatural. But surely Jesus is our best picture ever of a good citizen! And so liberalism--again, crudely-stated--focused on Jesus' social ethic as the relevant aspect of faith. Descendants of this perspective are the Unitarian Church and most mainline denominations. In our area, the UCC would be a great picture of a theologically liberal church. In many Unitarian settings, for instance, talking about Jesus at all would be seen as offensive. In some, talking about God would be offensive.
My feeling is that the take on faith we talk about here has zero to do with liberalism. The whole point of this take on faith is that this God is very interactive, that that's central. It's that we have a center of our set which, if we orient our lives around moving ever-closer to this center, will give us living and active feedback and change our lives--Jesus. This really has nothing to do with theological liberalism. It's quite possible it has very little to do with theological conservatism as well. Again, you could make a case that both are bounded-set and this is just a different framework entirely.
What's your take on this? Do you on occasion feel the need to defend yourself against charges of "liberalism" from your theologically conservative friends? Does this never come up for you?