Am I a Liberal?
Today the Town Talk ran an article about the issue of forged documents at Louisiana College which I reported on yesterday: “Documents: Former Louisiana College employee was paid to keep quiet”
One thing in that article which really struck me was the joint statement released by President Joe Aguillard and Chairman of the Board Tommy French:
This concerns a matter from the past that has been addressed years ago,Please consider that the source of this information is a radical Calvinist and any motives they may have for bringing up matters we have moved on from. We recently announced that SACS has reaffirmed the College’s accreditation and we are moving forward as a college to continue to fulfill the mission God has called us to carry out.
There are two things here that struck me. First, they completely ignore the issues of drugs, sex, pornography, and forgery. Those may not be issues they want to talk about but they are serious issues that would not be tolerated in the most secular of colleges and universities so it is striking that these issues are tolerated at a self professing Baptist institution which is owned by the state Southern Baptist Convention. Secondly, they employed a pure ad hominem attack on JD Hall who released the documents on the forgery. Basically, they say don’t read the documents or look at the facts JD is a “radical Calvinist” so you shouldn’t listen to him. Certainly, JD is a strong Calvinist, some clearly claim radical. But, even if that is true it does not change the truth of the documents that have been released. It does however tie into the false narrative that Aguillard, Hankins, and French are trying to establish. For more info on this read my posts from last year: “Louisiana College, The SBC, Calvinism, and Ethics“; “Calvinism is not the Issue at Louisiana College“; “Calvinism is not the Issue at Louisiana College: On Spiritual Abuse“; and “Calvinism is not the Issue at Louisiana College: On Vindictiveness.”
This all reminded me of how when my issues with LC began I was branded a “liberal”. The narrative was that LC was just being criticised by a liberal art professor. I had never been called theologically liberal before coming to LC. One irony is that when I first came to LC some were concerned that I would be hyper conservative because I had written on the History of the Bob Jones University Art Collection. There was some merit to that concern as I had spent eight years attending Independent Fundamental Baptist Chuches. I didn’t always agree with their positions but I deeply appreciated their respect for scripture. In fact, the IFB Church we attended in New York City, Heritage Baptist Church, was one of the healthiest churches we have ever attended and I care deeply about that congregation and their godly pastor. Even at a Fundamentalist church I was never considered theologically liberal.
It is true that one some political issues, such as those dealing with the poor I take a stand different than many “conservative Christians.” But, these positions are not held because of theological liberalism. They are held because I take seriously, and literally, the biblical admonitions to care for the poor and less fortunate.
I’ve been told that a painting made by a former student of mine was illegally reproduced and shown to facutly and staff at LC and was subsequently paraded around the state of Louisiana to discredit me. That is all par for the course with Aguillardian politics. But, it struck me the other daywhen I spoke to JD Hall for the first, and so far only, time. He made the comment about how we have different approaches: He is Calvinist and from what he understood I am liberal. What?! It struck me then how effective the LC rumor machine truly is. Even someone who agrees with my basic take on LC and is putting out information similar to what I am publishing believes I am a “liberal”. I told JD that while I am not a Calvinist (remember that any time you hear that this is all a Calvinist conspiracy against the Collge) I consider myself theologically conservative.
In some ways, I can understand. Aguillard has been whispering it for years. Then people see my position on nudity in art (For a better understanding of my position theologically read my piece “That’s not Art… That’s Nekkid“), they read that I describe myself on the about section of this blog as “uncomfortably evangelical,” they find out I went to art school and got my MFA in the vile New York City (nevermind that I was attending an IFB church at the time and spent most of my life in Southern Baptist churches), and to make it worse I am now working on my PhD at the Graduate Theological Union (GTU) in Berkeley, CA. The GTU is undoubtably liberal for the most part, and the conservative elements are actually Catholic, which is no better for many, but it is also an excellent academic institution and the only place in the country that I can do the type of work on the interesection of conteporary art and religion that I am interested in.
So, I decided to put out there what I believe and let others judge if it is liberal or not. Below is an adaptation of another project I am working on. It is more than a Statement of Faith or a doctrinal statement. I call it a Spiritual Foundations Statement. It goes into not only my final theological conclusions but my methodology, my asumptions, and my concept of a Christian worldview. If you judge this liberal. So be it. But, I do not think it would qualify as such under any traditional theological understanding of liberal. It is only the lies and polemics of those who whisper from the darkness that can claim I am theologically liberal.
Spiritual Foundations Statement
Statement of Methodological Commitment
I believe that truth exists and is knowable. Truth about both the mundane and the profound, the physical and the metaphysical are fixed realities that are able to be apprehended.
I believe that reason is a part of God’s natural revelation and that reason is a universal gift from God to humanity. It is my conviction that what is true is also rational. Therefore, what is decisively rational should be considered to be true and what is not decisively rational should be considered false.
I believe that through the processes of history God has provided an authoritative set of writings we call Scriptures. The Scriptures were providentially brought into being by God and purposed to serve as an authoritative source for teaching on ultimate realities. Scriptures are the only objective authority on ultimate realities.
I believe that our beliefs and teachings should be brought into accordance with the actual teaching of the Biblical text and that our beliefs need not be brought into accordance with any spiritual authority other than scripture.
I believe that our understanding of scripture’s teaching must be produced through sound Biblical exegesis. Sound Biblical exegesis must assume that the Biblical text communicates in the manner of ordinary human verbal communication. As such, the literary character of the text must be considered when seeking toexegete scripture.
Christian Worldview Statement
There are certain base elements which are necessary components of a Christian Worldview. The popular mode in recent years has been to propose an expansive conception of a Christian Worldview. I, however, believe in a modest conception of the Christian Worldview. I profess only those core elements that are truly necessary for Christian faith to be essentials of the Christian worldview.
Belief in the supernatural is an essential element of the Christian Worldview. The Christian perspective is not limited to naturalistic assumptions. In fact, the base Christian assumption is that there is something beyond our naturalistic reality. There is something beyond nature.
There are many ideas about the supernatural. The Christian assumption is not that of an impersonal deity or force or of a capricious deity. The Christian assumption is of a personal deity who is engaged with and cares for His creation.
The personal deity of the Christian faith has communicated with humanity through scripture. This communication is authoritative literature from the Creator to the Creature.
The Christian worldview requires two commitments from the faithful, which are not only religious but profoundly affect the living of one’s life. The first is a holistic love for God. Believers are to love Him with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. In short, we are to love Him in all ways possible with all that we are. Secondly, believers are to have a selfless love for others.
Statement on Thinking Christianly
A Christian worldview addresses very few of the problems faced in life. It does, however, provide the basic framework for tackling both questions about ultimate reality and humanities present reality. To find these answers requires each individual to undertake what C.S. Lewis called Thinking Christianly. One must work from a modest Christian worldview through a process engaging both reason and scripture until reaching conclusions as to the great and mundane questions of life. This process means that Christians of good faith may reach varying conclusions.
Through the methodological commitment, modest Christian worldview, and striving to Think Christianly, I have reached the following doctrinal positions:
The Bible, in the original language, is God’s only inspired and authoritative word. It is without error in all it teaches. The Bible is a completely sufficient guide to full salvation. There is one God who is infinite, eternal, and immutable. God has always and will always have a triune nature. Scripture has revealed that there is one God who exists in three co-equal personages. God is self-existent. He was neither created nor was there anything before Him. He is not a part of the universe; rather, the entirety of the universe was created by Him. All of the Godhead is omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent and sovereign.
The Father is spirit without physical form. His holy righteousness is not lax. In His perfect love, He sent His Son to provide for our salvation.
Jesus Christ is deity, God manifest in the flesh, both wholly man and wholly God. He was born of a virgin, lived a perfect sinless life in perfect submission to Old Testament law, performed miracles, provided atonement through His death on the cross, was bodily resurrected from the dead on the third day, ascended to the right hand of the Father, and will personally return in power and glory.
The Holy Spirit is a personage of the Trinity, co-equal with the Father and the Son in all attributes of the Godhead. The Holy Spirit currently has a personal ministry indwelling those who believe, empowering them in their submission to live for the glory of God.
Man is created in God’s image. However, all are born with a sinful nature. Without spiritual rebirth, humanity is already condemned to punishment and separation from God.
Salvation from our sin is obtained by grace through faith. No good works, no matter how exemplary, will earn salvation. It is a free gift from God to those who are willing to accept it. As a result of true redemption, the redeemed will seek to live a life pleasing to a holy and loving God.
Those who are redeemed are the Church. The Church is not a building nor a denomination but the people who have dedicated their lives to our Lord and Savior. Salvation does not come through the church, but rather those who are already saved through Christ constitute the Church.
There will be a physical resurrection of both the saved and unsaved. Those who are saved will be resurrected to life with God. Those who are unsaved will be resurrected to judgment.
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