Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Religious Conservatism

From David Steinmetz, Reformers in the Wings, p. 70:

The role of a religious conservative is rarely a popular one, especially when this conservatism is combined with an intolerance of all theological innovation. There is something pinched and one-sided about the mentality that holds that a decisive theological breakthrough has taken place in the past but denies (or is at least distrustful of) the possibility of new and original insights in the present. That the church has been led into truth in the past does not exclude the possibility of the discovery of new truth in the present, even if the new insight is only a deepened participation in the meaning of the old.

The conservative, however, while often unpopular, is nevertheless a necessary fellow. The natural tendency of any parish is toward heresy. Unless the church is willing to lose its treasure without a struggle, there is a need for watchmen to sound the alarm and remind the church that the gospel it is preaching is not the gospel it has preached. It may well be that the church may decide that its new understanding represents a growth in insight rather than a relapse. But it needs to be reminded in any case that it has changed its course, so that it may consult its charts and compass and come to a conscious decision concerning the advisability of its new direction.

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