The following report about a significant theological conference is based largely on a comprehensive news story written by Elliott Wright of Religious News Service.
On the last weekend in January, eighteen prominent Protestant, Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox figures met at Hartford Seminary Foundation in Connecticut and hammered out a 1,000-word milestone “Appeal for Theological Affirmation.” The appeal, containing some strong back-to-basics overtones, amounts to a slap in the face at some of what has been going on lately in the name of theology. In effect, it says there is a limit to liberal theology, and this is it.
The audiences to which it is addressed include college professors of religion, church policy-makers, editors, and others who “market the metaphors,” according to Missouri Synod Lutheran pastor Richard John Neuhaus of Brooklyn. Neuhaus and Peter Berger, the noted sociologist of religion (A Noise of Solemn Assemblies), were the catalysts behind the Hartford meeting.
The ecumenical statement identifies and rejects thirteen “superficially attractive” themes that are “false and debilitating” and pervade modern Christianity, endangering the witness and mission of the Church. At the same time, it affirms the resurrection of Christ, the seriousness of sin, the transcendence of God over all of life, and his centrality in salvation. In an interview, however, a participant acknowledged to CHRISTIANITY TODAY that interpretations of such doctrinal affirmations might vary from “very literalistic” to very liberal among the group.
The document is all the more remarkable in light of the diverse backgrounds of the sixteen men and two women who not only framed it but signed it. In addition to Neuhaus and Berger, the group was composed ...1
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