Auster’s readers ponder why liberalism appears so prevalent in Protestant “evangelical” circles—a curiosity when we note that the evangelical movement arose as a theologically conservative (for Protestants, at least) reaction against mainline Protestantism’s modern slouch toward total apostasy. You may wish to read the short thread of “How Can It Be That Many Evangelical Christians Are Actually Liberals?” I found the anecdote about Lennon’s obnoxious song tragically funny.
One of the posters mentions “Emergent and House Christianity.” I have no idea what those movements are, and I am somewhat content with my ignorance. Who can keep up with the constant lusting after the new in Protestantism? What ever happened to that “old time (meaning a couple centuries ago) religion”? As confused as they are, I’ll say this once again in support of the Baptists. They are untheological, and such anti-intellectualism has saved them time and again from these ridiculous fads. Like the Roman Christians during the theological controversies of the early Church, their lack of philosophical sophistication shields them from heresy. The difference is, of course, that the Baptists close mindedly defend an already tarnished belief system, and their characteristic lack of questioning that keeps them from modern apostasy also inoculates them from the truth—and thus from returning to the Church. In so many ways, our virtues and vices stem from the same sources.
My contribution to the discussion follows what has already been posted. An insistence on sola scriptura inevitably leads to the unintended consequence of Protestants’ relying on contemporary culture and philosophy to flesh out their biblical world view. Such forces provide them with their hermeneutic lense and with the complementary values to the principles that they thereby gather from the scriptures. I suspect that this reason provides the foundation of Protestant culture’s movement toward secularisation and even paganization. When one does not avail himself of the tradition, he often indiscriminately grabs his supplementary necessities from aliens. Jumbling metaphors, such acquisition does not not slowly judge and then digest the spoils taken from the Egyptians—it does not “baptize” pagan culture and absorb it into the life of the Church—but rather it takes in a Trojan horse that brings the enemy within the city gates.
As such, evangelicals have become liberals because the society in which they live is liberal. They breathe liberalism in the air, the ingest it in their food, and they incorporate it into their singing (even literally!). They can turn to no other source than the heathen, having separated themselves from the lifespring of the Church.
A Protestant might object that the early Church did the same. My response would be that the early Christians carefully and consciously selected which elements of Jewish and Greco-Roman culture ought to be embraced by the Christian community. The theological controversies display the playing out of such selection.
Moreover, I would argue that the early Church had definite advantages. For no other pagan civilization has achieved the level of truth and insight of imperial Rome. I do not think that it is an accident of God’s providence that Christianity emerged from its Hebraic seedbed when it did. The law of the prepared people became the gospel unto the nations when such nations were best able to receive the message. Their intellectual culture was shaped by Plato, Aristotle, Thucydides, the Stoics, and Plotinus. Our contemporary culture features Kant, Mill, Marx, Nietzsche, and the unmentionable postmodern twits who do not deserve to be named. As impressive as the second set may be, I think that the former comes closer to the truth. Even with the worst vices and excesses of imperial Rome, few people would question the natural order of the world. Today, the unofficial ideology of the West is that there is no such order; all is a matter of competing or cooperating wills. The Greeks and Romans had enough sense to despise the sophists. In our modern world, we reward sophists by making them our political and cultural overlords. By comparison with our contemporaries, Protagoras would be a sensible man in the academy of today.
Even if you deny divine providence, the spoils of today’s Egyptians appear rotten next to the plunder that our Christian ancestors stole ages ago.