- Gustav Mahler
Derelict Methodist Church, Walsall, England. Source: geograph.org.uk.
The old formula goes, “If a dog bites a man, that’s not news. If a man bites a dog, that’s news!”
So when one of my Facebook friends posted an article about another theologian of the Very Large Church Body Which Shall Remain Nameless denying the virgin birth of Christ, that was hardly surprising. What purposes do mainline churches serve nowadays, if not to be platforms for the proclamation of heresy?
Which led me to a question I’d never thought about before. What purpose, exactly, does a liberal church serve today? What is its mission?
Traditionally, the business of the church has been to follow the two great commandments, as taught by Christ (Matthew 22): “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and soul, and mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” So the church has understood its business to be a) worship and evangelism, and b) service to those in need.
But for a liberal, those bases are already covered. For liberals, God’s love is unconditional and given equally to all, so there’s no need (besides, it's sometimes offensive) to proclaim the gospel. Worship as an aesthetic experience may be a function of the church, but honestly, who wants to get up on a Sunday morning when God’s happy with you whatever you do?
And as for service to the poor, well, the last election certainly made it clear that liberals don’t think any assistance is worth a thing unless it goes through government. When conservatives argue for private charity, we’re condemned as uncaring.
So why should liberal churches exist at all? Just to provide sources of income for spiritually-minded intellectuals?
The bottom line for liberals, it seems to me, is “Look to Europe.” You see how the churches are dying over there? It’s coming here, and sooner than you think.