The Deception of Autonomy in Liberal Theology

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The theological left makes its reputation by tearing down traditional theology, the traditional view of Scripture, traditional morality, etc. Liberal theologians make their academic reputations through novelty, and the more vigorously they speak against traditional Christianity, the more “modern” they are considered to be. No matter how academically rigorous, a conservative theologian is not going to get the recognition of prestigious universities (such as Yale or Harvard) or mainstream media.

What is it for which such theologians are the social heroes that they are portrayed to be?

Take your mind back to the earliest stories in the Bible, in particular to the temptation of Adam. There was find Satan making this offer to Eve, if she would be eat the forbidden fruit: “God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5). The temptation of Satan to which Even (and then Adam) capitulated was this offer of autonomy. No longer would their spiritual world center on God and His word, but instead they would determine for themselves their standards of good and evil.

Remember, also, the words of Paul: “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools” (Romans 1:18-22). Paul is describing the lie hidden in Satan’s temptation. Though Adam and Even did eat the forbidden fruit, they did not receive the autonomy that they had been promised. Rather, they found that they were still conscious of God and His Law and their accountability to Him. What had changed is that they were now sinners, and hated that knowledge. Their posterity, which is all of mankind (Jesus excluded), would find this same thorn in our consciences. And, apart from regeneration, it is our nature to hate that knowledge and to suppress it from our awareness.

This is where the liberal theologian comes in. He talks about a god, and maybe a Jesus, something which is recognized by even the hardened unbeliever. But the liberal god has no bible, no Law, no righteousness, no Hell, but only touchy-feely concern for our self-esteem. The natural, fallen man can handle that god. He can get on that theological train because it keeps his conscience quiet, and leaves him with what Satan promised, the ability to decide for himself how to live, how to determine truth, and to be satisfied with a life without God. Or so he imagines.

The problem is that the offer of the liberal theologian is just as much a deception as it was from the mouth of the serpent in the Garden of Eden. And, just as was discovered by Adam and Eve, that deception gives no reward of autonomy, but rather only the judgment of death: “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).



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