Effects of Protestant liberal theology on contemporary Christian culture: theological reflections
This thesis is a theological-ethical study on the impact of Protestant Liberalism on contemporary Christian culture. It attempts to answer the question as to whether Protestant Liberalism has created a variegated Christianity in the same manner that political liberalism has contributed to the relativization of metanarratives of political philosophies. Protestant Liberalism describes the collective ideas within protestant theology that maintain loyalty to Jesus Christ but emphasize the existential value of the Christian religious expression to the welfare of humanity as well as the desire to make the essence of Christianity recognizable in the worldview of modern-scientific system. The central theoretical argument of this thesis is that Protestant Liberalism has utilized key concepts in Classical Liberalism such as natural rights, social contract, individualism, pluralism, secularization, and utilitarian perspective on Ethics to redefine central dogmas in the Christian faith. This has contributed to the reduction of Christianity to the here-and-now to the neglect of the here-after, the reinterpretation of key Christian doctrines to the extent that they have come to mean different things than their initial contexts indicated, the wanton abandonment of some key Christian concepts simply on the basis that the contemporary individual finds them unintelligible and irrelevant, as well as the reduction of the sacred nature of the Bible to the extent that it is viewed as another book of literature. In order to substantiate the central theoretical argument of the thesis, the study probes the definition, origin, and historical manifestations of Protestant Liberalism. Starting as a social philosophy that focused on enhancing the autonomy of the individual in all matters that bear on self-preservation, Protestant Liberalism has been sharpened by historical movements such as the Renaissance, Reformation, and the three-integrated-stages of modernism. Of prime importance are the contributions of Schleiermacher, Ritschl, Herrmann, Harnack, Troeltsch, Rauschenbusch, Schweitzer, and Sölle. Again, the study compares Protestant Liberalism with Classical Liberalism. The comparison indicated some similarities on liberal notions such as natural rights, social contract, individualism, pluralism, secularization, and utilitarian perspective on Ethics. Yet, sharp divergence can be observed from these same liberal notions. An investigation of the tenets of Protestant Liberalism revealed some general teachings including an emphasis on the immanence of God, anthropocentrism, focus on Jesus as an ethical example, evolutionary view of the bible, optimism, salvation, the church as an instrument of social progress, the kingdom of God, religious authority, continuity, modernism, and reduction of Christianity to its unchanging essence. Further, an examination of present-day manifestations of Protestant Liberalism showed that it is present in some Contemporary Theologies such as Pentecostal theology, Servant Theology, Political Theology, Theologies of Liberation and the Jesus Seminar. The study recommends the essence of determining a working balance between the here-and-now and the here-after, between faith and human reason in understanding and interpreting God's self-revelation, and the assurance that new perspectives given to key concepts of Christianity will be true to their antiquary contexts and meanings.
- Theology