When Good Theology Is Thrown Out With the Conservative Bathwater

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39I’ve had the privilege to teach in a number of settings over the past couple of months that have highlighted the relationship between theology and politics. As a result, I’ve seen the growing inclination in the culture to reject the truth about the Christian message simply because people don’t like the associated political conservatism. Let me give you two examples.

Atheists Often React Negatively to Religious Conservatism

I’ve often remarked that the atheists we work with on our Berkeley Mission are far more likely to despise political conservatism than Christianity. We invite well-known and vocal atheists to engage our Christian groups in Berkeley and present the case against Christianity. These presentations often become a platform for those who resist social and political conservatism. The vast majority of our invited speakers are socially “liberal” and hate the fact that Christians continue to vote as a united group, opposing their liberal views related to sexuality, abortion and same-sex marriage. At some point in their presentations, the atheists will move from evidence against the historicity of Jesus (for example) to complaints about Jesus followers. They tell us stories about how they have been mistreated by conservative Christians who have “judged” them or shunned them as an unworthy minority class. In the minds of these atheists, Christianity is the root of conservatism and judgment.  It simply cannot be allowed; it simply cannot be true. Their effort to discredit Christianity is as much an effort to disqualify conservatism as it is an effort to uncover the “truth” related to the life of Jesus.

Believers Can Also React Negatively to Religious Conservatism

But Atheists aren’t the only people who base their view of God on their reaction to social or political conservatism. Many followers of Jesus are also willing to throw good theology out with the conservative bathwater. I often get the opportunity to teach groups of Christians who live in areas that are dominated by Mormons. In some states, Christians are vastly outnumbered and, in many cases, mistreated by the religious majority. Many of these Christians grow up as a shunned minority and, as a result, they come to resent the Mormon majority. As one young lady told me, she was eager to identify herself as anything other than Mormon. She rejected everything she thought Mormonism represented, including its social and political conservatism. I find that many of the self-identified Christians I train in these regions are politically and theologically liberal. They hold these liberal views more as a reaction to the conservative majority they have come to dislike, than as a result of their own pursuit of what might be true.

These believers have great difficulty embracing traditional, conservative theological views related to the nature of objective truth, the exclusivity of salvation through faith in Jesus and existence of objective moral truth claims. In an effort to distance themselves from the religious majority who has mistreated them, they seek to hold views and values that are different simply for the sake of being different. They want nothing to do with the values embraced by the majority. They have become more and more theologically liberal in an effort to be less and less like their conservative “oppressors”.

I Don’t Want To Be A Negative Religious Conservative

I am convinced that, as Christians, we hold the truth. We possess the objective truth about the existence and nature of God and the truth about what God values and what He loathes. As a Christian, I think that there is something worth conserving about the values represented in an ancient text given to us by an eternal God. But looking back at my own selfish and impatient nature, I can’t help but wonder how often I have been seen as the oppressive conservative who shunned those who disagreed with me. I also can’t help but wonder how many people have come into contact with my fallen, selfish nature and thrown good theology out with my conservative bathwater. I refuse to compromise the truth, but I am ever more careful about the way I deliver it.

J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, a Christian Case Maker, and the author of Cold-Case Christianity

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