Theological Liberalism

Theological Liberalism - Theological Liberalism (ca....

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Theological Liberalism (ca. 1870-1930) Liberalism, in the general sense of the term, describes a movement that desires freedom from tradition; and this tendency has been an ongoing aspect of the American theological scene. Indeed, it could be argued that “freedom from tradition: is one of the things that the various American religious traditions seem to have in common – at least in the main. As a historical movement, in American Christianity, liberalism or “modernism” as it was called at that time, was a late nineteenth and early twentieth century movement seeking to preserve the Christian faith by adjusting traditional Christianity to developments in modern culture. American modernists received inspiration from European sources in the philosophy of Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), as well as the theology of Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834). Closer to home, liberals also found precedent in the theology of Unitarianism, Transcendentalism, and the works of Horace Buschnell. Of these, Buschnell was probably the most influential resource for American modernism. His main works, Christian Nurture (1847), and God in Christ (1849) foreshadowed many of the themes that would characterize later liberalism: 1) the immanence of God 2) priority of Christian experience 3) necessity of doctrinal revision 4) symbolic nature of religious language Following the lead of Schleiermacher and Buschnell, liberals contended that experience and feeling, not creeds, doctrines, or the Bible provided the foundation for vital Christianity. The ultimate authority for one’s faith was the self-evident testimony of the heart of a faithful believer. Liberals insisted that Christianity was a growing and changing life, rather than a set of static doctrines or creeds. The historicity of Christian affirmation was down-played in favor of the immediacy of religious experience. Historical doctrines, creeds, or practices were deemed nothing more than the tentative and historically limited expressions of abiding religious sentiments; these of necessity require periodic reformulation to adjust to the ever-expanding knowledge of humanity. Modernists, thus, deplored the continuing division of the church over
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Theological Liberalism - Theological Liberalism (ca....

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