In the present fuss over homosexualism and women bishops the conservative Evangelicals are upset because the liberal Protestants are overturning Scripture and traditional Christian morality. I’m on their side of course, but the conservative Evangelicals have a more fundamental philosophical problem:
The Conservative Evangelical Problem
They were initially founded by a group of people who, in their day, were just as radical in their revisionism as the present day liberals. The revolutionary aims of the Protestant reformation were just as radical (for their time and place) as the present day radicals.
In the sixteenth century the Protestants wanted to get rid of the Pope, sacraments, devotion to Mary, images in church, bishops etc. etc. etc. They were radical revisionists doctrinally, liturgically and morally for they advocated married clergy and justified remarriage after divorce. They were revolutionary revisionists like the church had never seen.
Evangelicals should attempt to put themselves back into the shoes of their forebears and they will see that the radical, revisionist position is actually one they should be comfortable with. The liberals are the true heirs of the Protestant reformation. The Reformers saw themselves as getting rid of the traditions of men and going back to a pure gospel of love and freedom from hierarchical institutions and hide bound traditions of men. To do this they devised totally new theologies and interpretations of Scripture. They interpreted Scripture as it had never been interpreted before.
Furthermore, they were men of their day because they thought the Church had to keep up with the times. They thought that the traditions and interpretations had to be updated. In other words, they believed that they knew more about the world than their forefathers and those who had written and interpreted the Bible before them.
This is the same argument we also hear from present day charismatic protestants. They say, “We don’t need those old hide bound denominational churches with all their dead traditions. We have the Holy Spirit! We don’t need all their rules and regulations. We have the Holy Spirit! We don’t need their man made customs and Biblical interpretations and dogmas and worship of Mary and sacramental systems. We have the Holy Spirit! We will interpret the Bible the way we see fit because we have the Holy Spirit! We have come with the new wine, and it will burst the old wine skins! Jesus says the truth will overturn the traditions of men. Remember how the Holy Spirit told Peter to ‘rise and eat’ the unclean thing? This was radical, but the Spirit led him into totally new territory. You have to be brave enough to go where the Spirit leads!”
Philosophically these are the same arguments and the methods of the feminists and homosexualists: they too want to overturn bigoted human invented traditions and Biblical interpretations, but they want to do so in favor of compassion, justice and love. Furthermore, they too claim to have the Holy Spirit on their side. They are prayerful people. They go to church. They love each other. They tithe. Like their Protestant forebears, they also believe they know more now than all those benighted people who lived before them. They also think they have been given a new revelation. Just like the rest of the Protestants, this leads them to introduce radical new interpretations of the Bible and advocate hitherto unheard of doctrinal and moral positions. Should you demur they cry with the same enthusiasm of the Evangelicals and Charismatics, “But you need to step out in faith! Trust the leading of the Spirit! Don’t be bound by your old traditions and joyless legalism! Don’t you see the joy and the love and the acceptance and the justice that will come from accepting homosexualism and feminism? Can’t you see that the Spirit is leading the Church into a brave new era of love and unity?”
Philosophically the conservative Protestants, the charismatic Protestants and the Liberal Protestants spring from the same radical revisionist roots. They simply come to different conclusions.