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Originally published in "The Lord's Coming Herald & Wesleyan Bible Prophecy Advocate," April Edition 2008

How Dispensationalism Leads To Modern Liberal Theology

    Now everybody knows that modern American society is highly polarized. On the political level we use terminology to define positions like ”conservative,” “liberal,” and “moderate.” At an earlier point in our nation’s history--back in the 1920’s--the raging controversy was more clearly centered within the Christian movement. Then, the big deal was the “fundamentalist vs. modernist” debate. Now, it seems, most of the church-world has moved on into what is called a “post-modern” era (whatever that is supposed to mean!).

We would contend that the old religious “fundamentalist vs. modernist,” or liberal theological controversy is still very much alive and well! The issue, we believe, has only change in this respect: the liberals have won the day across the board, and true theological fundamentalism has been reduced to what is now only a very thin minority within the contemporary American culture. These remaining few true biblical fundamentalists are still resisting the inroads of modern liberal theology, and so for them at least, the old theological battle is still raging, ongoing, and continues to be relevant.

    Just because modern liberal theology has clearly won across the broad American church scene today, dear friends, does not mean that its concerns are irrelevant. Nothing about liberal theology is irrelevant to those who are still engaged in the never-ending battle for the propagation of Christian truth! Rather, when the ideologically-hollow modern liberal majority gets serious about its own profession of Christianity, the same defining issues pop up to demand being dealt with all over again. Thus, a case can still be made that the modern liberal church-world of America today is in a backslidden condition and a sad state of religious apostasy.

We are talking to the Wesleyan Holiness movement, many of whom would identify themselves as being conservatives. How does liberal theology relate to us? And is it really true that even a large percentage of us, too, are identifiable as theological "liberals" in a backslidden condition and a sad state of religious apostasy?

The answer to the above question depends on whether or not we wish to revisit the defining philosophical issues that lie at the core of the old modernest/ fundamentalist debate in the first place. The most important of those philosophical issues is the question of the source of our religious authority. Where do we ground ultimate authority in all matters pertaining to our religious expression?

Friends, this is an important question that cannot be simply wished away. Biblical fundamentalism grounds the ultimate source of its religious authority in the objective written Word of God rationally interpreted. "To the law and to the testimony, if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them" (Isa. 8:20). Modern liberal theology, by contrast, grounds the ultimate source of religious authority in human subjectivity, most notably in religious experiences.

We are saying that the dispensational theology that much of the modern Wesleyan Holiness movement has accepted cannot be proven from the Bible! So, is it not, then, the same thing as liberalism? Dispensationalism splits reason from the Christian faith, and grounds itself in the subjectivity of each interpreter. That, too, friends, is exactly what modern liberal theology does!

Related Article Links

Biblical Eschatology And Liberalism: The Defining Issues
Biblical Inerrancy And The Debacle Of A Misguided Fundamentalism

Reinventing Fundamentalism--In The Wesleyan Mode

How Dispensationalism Polarizes Believers