Monday, June 14, 2010

Label #4: CONSERVATIVE

In lieu of Video Monday I'll try to get more caught up on my "labels" series. This morning I want to wear the badge of conservative. The antithesis to this label is commonly considered the "liberal" label but more explanation is needed when using these labels in a theological sense. I'm not using these labels to describe political affiliation or bent (though I happen to be pretty conservative in my political views as well). By very simple definition a liberal is one who is open-minded. In Biblical scholarship this represents itself in a view toward the Bible that value reason over revelation and ethics over doctrine. For example liberal scholars would reject the historicity and divine origins of Matthew's gospel but would search for the ethical implications or lessons in what the Jesus character says. They would embrace the "golden rule" while rejecting the belief that Jesus of Nazareth was historical and is the living Son of God. Classic liberals are men such as Friedrich Schleiermacher and Immanuel Kant. Their ancestors are people like Brian McLaren and Bart Ehrman. Schools of though such as the "Emergent Church", social gospel, liberation theology, the Jesus Seminar, and Biblical feminism have grown out of classical liberalism .

Of course not all non-conservatives are classic liberals. It is popular today to include the category of "moderate evangelical". Moderates typically affirm the inerrancy of the original autographs but not the copies which they believe contain errors. They are more open-minded that "conservative evangelicals" and account more for cultural adaptation.

That brings me back to conservatism. I believe the Bible to be as the Baptist Confession of Faith (1689) says, "The authority of the Holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed, depends not on the testimony of any man or church, but wholly upon God its Author (Who is Truth itself). Therefore it is to be received because it is the Word of God." This is non-negotiable. It is historical. It is authoritative. It is God-breathed (in the original autographs who content and meaning have been preserved in its copies). Thus it is not subject to shifts in the culture or in popular perspectives. I also believe the Bible to be understandable where God has unveiled the mysteries of His revelation (Isaiah 55:11; John 14:26; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; Hebrews 4:12). For these reasons I am a conservative.

This is not to say I am necessarily a fundamentalist. I am not overly dogmatic on all secondary issues or tertiary issues and allow for reason and rationalism to play a role in interpretation and application. I'm certainly not unconcerned about the ethics of Scripture, just not at the expense of doctrine (and doctrine is not subordinate to ethics). I am a conservative pastor who is leading my flock to be conservative thinkers as it concerns Biblical interpretation. So for example, if the text teaches that men are to be the leaders of their home and to fill the leadership offices of the church (which it does) then regardless of cultural influences we should submit to and trust the authority of God's Word.

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