An attempt by evangelicals to relate theology to the secular-humanist situation had better be done with eyes wide open.

Many evangelicals are being charged with adopting a new form of liberalism as they think through the ideas of modern secularists. What are we to make of this charge?

First, we must admit that the term “liberal theology” is often used loosely and pejoratively. Loosely, it designates any position theologically to the left of one’s own. A person who denies the reality of God will seem liberal to the one who denies only the deity of Christ. The defender of scriptural infallibility will seem liberal to the person dedicated to biblical inerrancy. Furthermore, like the term fundamentalist, the adjective liberal has taken on a negative connotation for many people, one that signifies a weakness of conviction, a willingness to compromise principle. As a result, most of those we call liberal today are reluctant to accept the designation. We must begin therefore with an attempt at definition.

Religious liberalism was originally a nineteenth-century response to the cultural revolution we call the Enlightenment, a response characterized by a high degree of accommodation. More important than the Reformation in the shaping of the modern mind, the Enlightenment was a revolution in the direction of human autonomy in all areas: politics, philosophy, science, art, music, theology, and so on. It represented a flourishing of man-centered, critical thought, opposed to any received dogma or authoritarian symbols.

Its impact upon Christian thought was devastating and total. Almost every pillar thought to undergird the system of revealed truth came under attack and was seriously undermined. God was no longer seen to be sovereign, man ...

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