Debate about the decline of liberal internationalism
Liberal Protestantism developed in the 19th century out of a need to adapt Christianity to a modern intellectual context. With the acceptance of‘s theory of, some traditional Christian beliefs, such as parts of the, became difficult to defend. Unable to ground faith exclusively in an appeal toor the person of, liberals, according to theologian and intellectual historian, “sought to anchor that faith in common human experience, and interpret it in ways that made sense within the modern worldview.”Beginning in Germany, liberal theology was influenced by several strands of thought, including the‘s high view of human reason and‘s emphasis onandtolerance.
The sources of religious authority recognized by liberal Protestants differed from conservative Protestants. Traditional Protestants understood theto be uniquely authoritative (); all doctrine, teaching and the church itself derive authority from it.A traditional Protestant could therefore affirm that “what Scripture says, God says.”Liberal Christians rejected the doctrine ofor,which they saw as the idolatry (fetishism) of the Bible.Instead, liberals sought to understand the Bible through modern, such as, that began to be used in the late 1700s to ask if biblical accounts were based on older texts or whether therecorded the actual words of Jesus.The use of these methods of biblical interpretation led liberals to conclude that “none of thewritings can be said to bein the sense in which it has been traditionally held to be so”.This conclusion madesola scripturaan untenable position. In its place, liberals identified theas the “realof the Christian church”.
German theologianwrote that “Like every other real science, New Testament Theology has its goal simply in itself, and is totally indifferent to all dogma and Systematic Theology”. Theologianaffirmed that “the spirit of historical investigation has now taken the place of a traditional doctrine of inspiration”.Episcopal bishopdeclared that the literal interpretation of the Bible is.
The two groups also disagreed on the role of experience in confirming truth claims. Traditional Protestants believed scripture andalways confirmed human experience and reason. For liberal Protestants, there were two ultimate sources of religious authority: the Christian experience of God as revealed in Jesus Christ and universal human experience. In other words, only an appeal to common human reason and experience could confirm the truth claims of Christianity.
In general, liberal Christians are not concerned with the presence of biblical errors or contradictions.Liberals abandoned or reinterpreted traditional doctrines in light of recent knowledge. For example, the traditional doctrine ofwas rejected for being derived from, whose views on the New Testament were believed to have been distorted by his involvement with.was also reinterpreted. Liberals stressed, and his divinity became “an affirmation of Jesus exemplifying qualities which humanity as a whole could hope to emulate”.
Liberal Christians sought to elevate Jesus’as a standard for a world civilization freed fromand traces ofin the.As a result, liberal Christians placed less emphasis on miraculous events associated with the life of Jesus than on his teachings.The debate over whether a belief in miracles was mereor essential to accepting theconstituted a crisis within the 19th-century church, for which theological compromises were sought.Many liberals prefer to read Jesus’ miracles asnarratives for understanding the power of God.Not all theologians with liberal inclinations reject the possibility of miracles, but many reject thethat denial or affirmation entails.
Nineteenth-century liberalism had an optimism about the future in which humanity would continue to achieve greater progress.This optimistic view of history was sometimes interpreted as building thein the world.
The roots of liberal Christianity go back to the 16th century when Christians such asand theattempted to remove what they believed were the superstitious elements from Christianity and “leave only its essential teachings (rational love of God and humanity)”.
theologian(17681834) is often considered the father of liberal Protestantism.In response to‘s disillusionment with Enlightenment, Schleiermacher argued that God could only be experienced through feeling, not reason. In Schleiermacher’s theology, religion is a feeling of absolute dependence on God. Humanity is conscious of its own sin and its need of redemption, which can only be accomplished by Jesus Christ. For Schleiermacher, faith is experienced within a faith community, never in isolation. This meant that theology always reflects a particular religious context, which has opened Schleirmacher to charges of.
(18221889) disagreed with Schleiermacher’s emphasis on feeling. He thought that religious belief should be based on history, specifically the historical events of the New Testament.When studied as history without regard to miraculous events, Ritschl believed the New Testament affirmed Jesus’ divine mission. He rejected doctrines such as theand the.The Christian life for Ritschl was devoted to ethical activity and development, so he understood doctrines to be value judgments rather than assertions of facts.Influenced by the philosophy of, Ritschl viewed “religion as the triumph of the spirit (or moral agent) over humanitys natural origins and environment.”Ritschl’s ideas would be taken up by others, and Ritschlianism would remain an important theological school within German Protestantism until World War I. Prominent followers of Ritschl include,and.
Catholic forms of theological liberalism have existed since the 19th century in England, France and Italy.In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a liberal theological movement developed within theknown as.Like liberal Protestantism, Catholic modernism was an attempt to bring Catholicism in line with the Enlightenment. Modernist theologians approved of radical biblical criticism and were willing to question traditional Christian doctrines, especially Christology. They also emphasized the ethical aspects of Christianity over its theological ones. Important modernist writers includeand.Modernism was condemned asby the leadership of the Catholic Church.