We should maintain that if an interpretation of any word in any religion leads to disharmony and does not positively further the welfare of the many, then such an interpretation is to be regarded as wrong; that is, against the will of God, or as the working of Satan or Mara.

Buddhadasa Bikkhu, a Thai Buddhist Monk

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Liberal Via Media

Alister McGrath, Christian Theology: An Introduction (p. 103), summarizes theological liberalism this way:
At its best, liberalism may be regarded as a movement committed to the restatement of Christian faith in forms which are acceptable within contemporary culture.  Liberalism has continued to see itself as a mediator between two unacceptable aternatives: the mere restatement of traditional Christian faith (usually described as "traditionalism'" or "fundamentalism" by its liberal critics), and the total rejection of Christianity.  Liberal writers have been passionately committed to the search for a middle road between these two stark alternatives.
The search for a "middle way" is an ancient and honorable theological enterprise that even has its own Latin term, via media.  As I've argued here repeatedly, in our day and age the liberal agenda requires that we engage science—learn from it, dialogue with it, and thereby stake out a viable faith alternative for the 21st century.  My only concern with McGrath's description of liberal theology is that it sounds as if liberalism is defined by what it is against, namely traditionalism and non-theism.  In fact, it is the positive, creative, and faithful search for a contemporary faith in Christ that puts progressive Christianity in the middle between these other ways of searching for faith or non-faith, as the case may be.  In other words, the key concern is to discover a relevant, viable way of living and understanding the faith in the Age of Science, which concern leads us to walk the via media.