The Church and its theology—like many other things—is often put before the dilemma of being conservative or progressive. In spite of repeated attempts to show how false this dilemma is, it manages to keep its power to falsify the truth. The terms vary. Sometimes it is put as conservative versus modern. But the dilemma is the same. We wish to point out that his way of stating the alternatives that face the Church and theology gives us no help at all in analyzing the theological situation.

It is not hard to illustrate how useless the conservative versus progressive approach to the characterization of men and thought is. Take Jeremiah, for instance. This prophet was the man who called the people back to “the old paths” (Jer. 6:16) and who was also the prophet of the “new covenant” (Jer. 31:31). Consider Paul also. The apostle told Timothy to hold fast to that which he had received (1 Tim. 6:20). Yet, no one was more possessed with the vision of the new than was Paul (cf. 2 Cor. 5: 17). One quickly senses how meaningless the opposition between “conservative” and “progressive” becomes when it is used to typify men and their positions. This is especially true when the term “conservative” is meant to describe someone who cleaves to the past and turns away from the future.

Many modern theological movements today manifest strong conservative tendencies. Consider the powerfully conservative attitude that liberal theology has shown in regard to miracles. Liberal theology has held on to the old attitudes regarding myth and world-view, redemption and Christ, and many other positions typical of the nineteenth century. Liberals still consider old positions untouchable. ...

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