Can Christianity and Liberalism Coexist?

In a thoughtful and honest article at Reformation500 Stephen Wolfe suggests that in my work Reformed social ethics has taken a “social egalitarian turn.” Wolfe is responding to my series of articles on Presbyterians and Race at Reformation 21. He specifically highlights this claim that I made:

The real problem was the interpretation of the concept of ‘spirituality’ through the lens of an underrealized eschatology. By stressing that the Gospel does not affect social structures of nation, race, gender and class southern Presbyterians were bound to have a bias towards the status quo, and they were bound to turn to the Old Testament as an alternative source for guidance about the nature of a godly society.

Wolfe agrees that southern racism was unjust. That is not his concern. His concern is that my article touches, if only in passing, on other forms of social hierarchy as well, and he fears that my arguments suggest that I disagree with the classic Christian position on social hierarchy. As he puts it,

The ideas that the Gospel does not significantly affect social structures of nation, gender, and class and that social hierarchy is natural are standard positions in the Christian tradition. Major figures in the Roman Catholic, Anglican, and Calvinist traditions are in agreement on this.

Wolfe offers numerous quotes from leading theologians, including Thomas Aquinas and John Calvin, to prove this point. He seems comfortable endorsing what he himself calls a “‘spiritualized’ gospel.” He concludes with this claim:

Conservative Protestants have bought into the promises and premises of modern liberalism, and they proclaim it with confidence without having acknowledged and dealt with the dominant view in the Christian tradition. This must change.

I am grateful to Wolfe for his engagement of my essays, and I want to take this opportunity to clarify a few points about my views.

Read the rest of this article here, at the Calvinist International.

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About Matthew J. Tuininga

Matthew J. Tuininga is the Assistant Professor of Moral Theology at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Posted on July 22, 2015, in democracy, Equality, Liberalism, Liberty, Rights, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Can Christianity and Liberalism Coexist?.

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