16 November 13
The Place of Scripture in Evangelical, Liberal, and Neo-Orthodox Thought
As part of the Christian faith during 18th century revivals, three practices evolved forming their own interpretation on the place and authority of Scripture in Christian faith. The first of these were the Liberals who "viewed themselves as the saviors of a defunct out of date Christianity," they wanted to connect with people and bring them into the faith, not scare them with a set of rules (Bingham 149). Their founder, Friedrich Schleiermacher an 18th century pastor, felt that the Scripture and other doctrines of the faith were not of the utmost importance in the Christian practice and were not needed in daily life (150). Instead of focusing on the holiness of The Trinity, Liberal's placed more emphasis on doctrines of sin and grace, and the emotional aspect of the faith (Kerr 213). Jesus was viewed as a historical figure that the church can learn from spiritually, and the Bible as a source of knowledge on Christian history (Bingham 152, 153). In this theological movement being a Christian is considered "nothing but feeling and experience," the hard facts taught in the Bible didn't matter so much as the believers feel that they are saved by the faith and are destined for Heaven (Lane 238).
Following is the Evangelical theology which evolved from the Pietism and Revivalist movement and as their way of including people in the faith without the firmness of older practices (Olson 33). Charles Finney, a leader in Evangelism, emphasized the need and ability to evangelize the world while also maintaining the power of free will, thereby preaching to, but not trying to control the mind of the masses (Lane 253, 254). Evangelist's believe in the supreme authority of the Bible, and maintain the concept that because the Bible was written by man through God's instruction the Bible is both fully man's and God's (256). Furthermore, because the words written by man come directly from God, the Bible is God's holy word and everything it contains is true (257). The Evangelicals believed that "the Bible is the supreme authority for faith and practice" and it is Christ who redeemed us through the cross (Bingham 162). The Bible is the core of Evangelical theism; anything the Bible states is held true and presented in the sermons and actions of the church.
Lastly is the Neo-Orthodox movement which held that "Christ, not the Bible, is the proper object of religious faith" (Kantzer 18). This means that while the Bible is used in the church it is not the center of the faith. The Neo-Orthodox view on faith is that it "is a step into the unknown, made on the basis of that which is already known. Faith is neither totally rational nor totally irrational" (Lane 270). This means that while Faith is a huge step to take in choosing to follow God, it should not and is not done blindly or without guidance. Following then, is the concept that knowing all of Christian history or knowledge of the Bible, like the Liberals, does not equal faith, understanding and practice of the contents of Holy Scripture is faith (270). Those of the Neo-Orthodox faith believe that "the Bible is the word of God only in the sense that it witnesses to the past event of God speaking and that God again speaks through it today" (275). Because God speaks throughout the Bible, making it the living word, it should be viewed as a whole that spreads the message of Jesus Christ (Kantzer 19). The Neo-Orthodox movement sought to enforce the Bible as the eternal word of God and His alone, unlike Evangelism, only as our source of guidance for our walk in faith and a manual of sorts to seek Him and reach Heaven.
As each different theological movement evolved and became a functioning form of Christian practice there followed positive and negative attributes for each denomination. The Liberalist did well to become a part of society and distance themselves from...
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