I ran across this article today. I think the author has some real insight into the way in which theological liberalism takes over denominations. Here is an excerpt from the article:
Theological liberalism is parasitic. It survives and thrives by attaching itself to a healthy orthodox Christian denomination or communion, and subverting its weakest members—namely, those who are insufficiently grounded in scripture, those nursing past hurts and resentments, those who want desperately to be seen as “smart”, and those looking to make a name for themselves by playing the maverick.
The pattern usually plays out as follows:
1. A small group of revisionist activists embrace an unbiblical but culturally popular idea.
2. Orthodox leaders respond by reasserting the Faith.
3. Those styling themselves “moderate” (who often don’t quite grasp the theological issues at stake) emphasize the need for unity and patience. Three of the most common moderate templates are: an appeal to the “Gamaliel model” from Acts 5; an attempt to re-cast the conflict as adiaphora—a dispute over “non-essential” issues; and/or an argument from Jesus’ command not to “judge”.
4. The theological liberals congratulate and fawn over “moderates” for their “open-mindedness”, feeding the moderates’ need to be liked/admired.
5. At some point the secular media (perhaps alerted by the revisionist activists) is attracted to the conflict and various outlets report on the “growing controversy”. The media portrays orthodox leaders as stodgy reactionaries. Theological liberals are showcased as cutting edge enlightened thinkers, courageously challenging the powers-that-be on behalf of the downtrodden. “Moderates” who hold traditional views but counsel “dialog” are featured as the “voices of reason” in the troubled denomination.
6. What had been a tiny group of relatively harmless revisionists now begins to gain steam as members of the denomination uninformed and unprepared for the controversy are exposed to revisionist arguments for the first time via the media alongside gentle calls for moderation, patience and open-mindedness.
7. Well-meaning, conflict-averse orthodox pastors hope to shield their flock by “focusing on mission” and avoiding the topic.
8. Having leveraged the moderates and the press, the tiny group of revisionist activists now has the political clout to influence the direction of the entire denomination. They “put facts on the ground” and initiate legislative action.
9. Many otherwise orthodox leaders do not speak forcefully against these measures because those who have already done so have been successfully characterized as “angry zealots”, “fundementalists” and “rabble rousers.”
At this point it is generally only a matter of time before “facts on the ground” become legislative facts and the denomination begins to crumble. Traditional-minded members quietly leave for other churches. Others hole up in “safe” ghettos hoping to ride out the storm. The vast majority seek desperately to continue on as if nothing has happened. But as traditionalists leave the revisionists gain power and a vicious cycle picks up steam.
4 thoughts on “How Theological Liberalism Takes Over”
I appreciate your steadfast call for orthodoxy in Christ’s church. I’d like to mention an article by Carl Trueman titled “How churches lose the plot.” Part one is at
My thoughts are that Dr. Trueman.
Sorry, I hit the enter button before I finished my thought. My thoughts are that Dr. Trueman’s article(s) really address how a church, or a denomination, changes over time when it fails to exercise discipline in a deliberate, intentional fashion over those who would violate their ordination vows. Unfortunately, we see this very thing occurring in many PCA Presbyteries, and without consequence.
Jim~ Thanks. I have read that article by Dr. Trueman. I went back and reread it and completely agree with him.
I am strongly reminded of Neville Chamberlain during WWII. When the cries for “peace, peace” are stronger than the desire to hold to and defend the truth, we are in trouble.