On the application of conservative and liberal theologies to political life

Much of the divide between liberals and conservatives flows from liberal and conservative interpretations of scripture.

Liberal theology takes the Bible to be a message from men about God, and so fallible and often confused by culture and the writer’s own psychology.

A conservative interpretation takes the Bible as being a book written by God, through men, this being infallible and avoiding human error.

And so conservative theology leads to a more conservative political ideology as the natural expression of its theology, while liberal political ideology tends to be the outcome of a liberal theology.

In a liberal theology, theology is for the most part a particularly human administration and so humanism is its primary focus. It is mainly a system of ethics.

Conservative theology is about knowing God and trying to live accordingly, while in liberal theology God is largely unknowable.

Thus many people that think themselves to be “conservative” attend churches that are liberal because that church talks about ethics, constantly. They have confused ‘conservative’ with simply being serious about ethics. Social Justice churches tend to be theologically liberal and so are very concerned with social ills. In their thought, social justice is not an the application of scripture to conditions but in most cases, their Gospel. Ethics and social work are the means of salvation.

And so, in a liberal church it matters little what one believes but greatly what one does – arriving as a salvation by good works alone apart from faith. Or at least, a redefinition of faith as the good works themselves. These can be found in any denomination.

In the absence of a clear biblical theology though, those ethics inevitably slide away from a biblical ideal as the measure of what good and evil are. Soon and very soon, evil is a good worth fighting for.

From a conservative theological viewpoint, there is a social life that is a witness to the transformative hope in the Gospel but it is never to be confused with the Gospel itself.

The “real” Gospel is in the end, about salvation, and only salvation. Some find this very limiting but it seems to be a limitation brought by Jesus. Any other thing, even down to love for God and for one’s neighbor is at best a secondary expression of a true and lively faith, but not the primary fact of a Christian life.

Which is to say, the law is not the Gospel – and the Gospel is not the law – but both have a place in the life of the Christian.

Without faith it is impossible please God, and salvation is by faith alone apart from the works of the law – but faith without works, is dead.