Friday, September 19, 2003


A thoughtful and provocative site from American theologian Kenneth Cauthen. He comments: "The[se] articles set forth the views of a theologian deeply influenced by modern science, historical studies, cultural relativism, ecological concerns, pragmatism, and the like. They represent what I believe to be persuasive and pertinent for a generation about to enter the 21st century. I employ a form of process-relational thought and am deeply rooted in the Christian (and Baptist) traditions. These essays are tentative expressions but reflect five decades of reading, thinking, and teaching. Long ago Harry Emerson Fosdick defined a liberal as one who wanted to be both 'an intelligent modern and a serious Christian.' That is my aim and the guiding philosophy of these essays."

A recent correspondent asked me if I was a liberal. The answer, inconveniently, has to be 'yes' and 'no'. Yes, because the possibility of liberality in religion and politics has been one of the great gifts and developments of the twentieth century. No, because liberality is not sufficient in and of itself; nor is it self-sustaining. Like modernity it has its virtues and its blind-spots. Theology informed by liberalism and modernism can be enormously fruitful. But it can also end up devaluing the uniqueness of the texts, traditions and convictions with which it works.

What is especially important in a climate of growing absolutism is the discovery of resources from within the Christian tradition which can speak positively of, and to, pluralism. I think this is more than possible. As Richard Rohr once said in my presence, "My exclusive commitment to Jesus Christ has shown me that in Christ God is abolishing all human exclusivisms." I think that's just about right. Can other life-stances (including liberalism) develop similar trajectories? That is up to them, and it is also part of the challenge and strain of dialogue -- which, as the WCC reminds us, is rooted in authentic witness to each other of what we have seen and heard.

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