June 13, 2011

Lessons Learned in Europe, Part 4

Over three weeks, I have mentioned three lessons that the continent of Europe taught me during my time there in May:

1. The value of Christian history
2. The sadness of neglecting that history
3. The communion of the saints

Now, today, let me mention a fourth lesson: The menace of liberal theology. What is liberal theology? Simply put, it is man’s attempt to make the teachings of the Bible more palatable to modern tastes. Sometimes that means denying certain biblical ethics as incompatible with our modern understanding of things – sexual norms, gender norms, and so on. Other times, liberal theology means smiling demeaningly at people who actually believe in things like the virgin birth, or the parting of the Red Sea, or the miracles and bodily resurrection of Jesus. ‘Everyone knows these things didn’t literally happen’, they say. ‘For, clearly, they are incompatible with modern science’. Incidentally, they are incompatible with science – that’s why we call them supernatural! But liberal theology, uncomfortable with supernatural events that we cannot explain with modern methods and reason, reject the supernatural events in the Bible as legend; as mere poetic ways of teaching ethical lessons; as little more than religious counterparts to Aesop’s fables.

That is liberal theology. In essence, it is a rejection of the Bible’s truthfulness and reliability as a historic source of information, and as an abiding guide for moral and ethical norms. Now, liberal theologians still quote from the Bible, of course. That’s how they make their living. And it wouldn’t be very economically advantageous, in many of their pulpits, to just admit that they scarcely believe in God at all. So they still dabble in religious and spiritual matters, and throw in a few Bible verses here and there … but with a rationalistic, slithery, unbelieving slant behind everything they say.

Many American churches are overrun with this kind of ‘ministry’, too. But, for more than a century, this kind of infidelity to the word of God has been the overwhelming norm in Europe. And what has been the result? A continent whose every city is laced with wonderful church spires … but whose people account for the smallest population of Bible-believing, gospel-proclaiming Christians of any content on the planet. Even Asia – with its Islamic, Buddhist, and Hindu strongholds and megacities – has a greater percentage of evangelical believers than Europe! That should absolutely astound and alarm us – especially since religious and social trends in Europe seem so often to make their way to the United States within a few decades.

What will become of our country when its churches begin closing at the rate they are in Europe? How difficult and dark might things become? It’s already happening, in increments. But the continent of Europe stands as one gigantic, church-spired warning sign that things can get much, much worse. So let us learn the lesson! Let us hold fast to the word of life. Let us be delighted that the Bible tells us things that can only be true if there is a supernatural God out there somewhere! And let us pray for a great awakening of biblical faith – both here in our land, and across the way in the once great continent of Europe!

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