Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The fragility of liberalism. . .

You have already read here of those students who find themselves offended, frightened, and shocked at the encounter in university with ideas with which they may disagree.  Now the news has brought to light more on the offense, fear, and loathing of that with which students disagree -- namely, a few scrawled pro-Trump words on a whiteboard and on a few sidewalks.  Who would have known that a dry erase marker and some sidewalk chalk would become such agents of shock and awe within the setting of universities whose assaults on just about anything traditional have shocked and awed conservatives for a long time!  But that is not my point.

Liberalism has become wimpish - or more accurately, liberalism has revealed its true weakness.  It cannot tolerate disagreement.  It refuses to allow those who dispute its values or challenge its facts.  It is a fragile and frail liberalism that students espouse in their pursuit of a safe environment, protected from the offense of competing ideas, and secure from the violence of those who might dare to believe something different.  It is, I believe, an evolutionary revelation that liberalism is inherently weak, fearful, and fragile.  Liberalism has always been this way but now, in the beginning of its triumph within the cultural and political frameworks of the West, its dark side has been revealed for a world to see -- it indeed it will see it.  Liberalism cannot tolerate anything else.  Though for years its litany of complaint was for a fair hearing in the marketplace of ideas, now it refuses to allow any other voice and threatens anyone who dares to speak otherwise with terms like misogyny, racism, homophobia, etc...  This does not refute anything but seems a tacit admission that liberalism is not strong enough to compete with other ideas, values, or programs.

In contrast to this, Christianity has always found itself open to challenge (both from within and without).  Scripture tells us that iron sharpens iron (Proverbs 27:17).  Indeed this has been the case.  Our most ecumenical and universal creed, the Nicene, was born of challenge to Scripture and to the doctrine of Christ.  It was this challenge that bore the good fruit of language both more precise and more faithful in saying who Christ is and who He is not, reflecting but not superseding the Word of God in arriving at this confession.  This was not late but early.  Already in the Book of Acts such conflict was openly confronted at the Council of Jerusalem and each side was given opportunity to state its case.  What prevailed was not the opinion of men but the judgment of God.  This is exactly what we Christians believe, confess, and teach.  God's Word endures forever and will triumph -- no matter what the appearance of the day or the moment may lead us to think.

That said, liberalism seems poised to allow no such free exchange of ideas.  In contrast with Christian expectation in the eternal endurance of the Word of God and the victory of Christ, to whom the Father has subjected all things, liberalism insists that competing claims cannot be allowed voice and the meeting of competing ideas cannot be tolerated.  I believe therefore that the difference between the Christianity, which has always been forced to sort out truth from the myriad of competing opinions, and liberalism, which heralds tolerance but refuses to grant it, is exactly this -- confidence in the outcome.  Liberalism lives with the rightful fear that its values and its ideas are weak, fragile, and futile.  Man must be kept from hearing choices for surely the option of liberalism will fail, later if not sooner.  Christians believe the opposite.  Wherever the Word of God speaks, the Spirit is at work and the cause of the Gospel will come to its fruition according to God's plan, will, and design.  Nothing can stop it.

Liberalism is, as some have posited, passive-agressive.  Its power lies not in its ideas (which are doomed) but in its ability to play the victim and demand both compensation and refuge from anything that it deems hurtful.  Christianity appears the victim but Christians are so confident in the outcome that we can endure the taunts and assaults of our enemies without fear.  God will prevail.  So St. Paul can say and we learn to echo his words:
[1] Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. [2] Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. [3] Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, [4] and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, [5] and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:1-5 ESV)

Christ IS risen!


Kirk Skeptic said...

Perhaps you ought to read Machesn's /Christianity and Liberalism/, in which he posits liberalism to be a separate religion from Christianity. Machesn was PCUSA bwck int he early 20th C, and was railroaded out of the church for opposing the funding of Pearl S Buck; the PCUSA charged him with heresy in a trial so obviously rigged that even Buck and HL Mencken (!) wrote in his defense.

Of course, Machen was Reformed, so you might be averse to reading his excellent work; just rattle off a few Pieper Nosters and Hail Melanchthons and all will be well with your soul ;-)

Janis Williams said...

Kirk, yes J Gresham Machen is very much worth the read. Liberalism is indeed a false Gospel. However, not all Lutherans in the LCMS live in a ghetto. C.S. Lewis was correct about the reading of old books. Reading books from other denominations/groups, etc. is not dangerous if you are well grounded in Truth.

The fact Machen was defrocked indicates the truth he posited. Just because Pieper was Lutheran doesn't make him wrong (or right, for that matter). Any Lutheran (confessional) worth his salt will agree Melancthon did not end well. People who bristle at Confessional Lutherans being right need to ask themselves: would you rather we confess something that's not?

Thanks for mentioning a book which needs reading!