The Tradition of Liberal Theology

The Tradition of Liberal Theology

by Michael Langford


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Describes and defends a long-standing tradition that maintains a proper balance between religious faith and human rationality

Many of the early apologists, including Justin Martyr and Origen, presented a defense of the Christian faith that sought to combine the message of the Gospels with respect for the kind of rationality associated with Socrates and his followers. Michael Langford argues that, despite many misunderstandings, the term "liberal theology" can properly be used to describe this tradition.

Langford's Tradition of Liberal Theology begins with a historical and contemporary definition of "liberal theology" and identifies eleven typical characteristics, such as a nonliteralist approach to interpreting Scripture, a rejection of original guilt, and the joint need for faith and works. Langford then gives vignettes of thirteen historical Christian figures who personify the liberal tradition. Finally, he explores some contemporary alternatives to liberal theology — fundamentalism, the Catholic magisterium, Karl Barth's theology — and presents a rational defense of the tradition of liberal theology.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780802869814
Publisher: Eerdmans, William B. Publishing Company
Publication date: 02/03/2014
Pages: 176
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

Michael Langford is professor emeritus of philosophy andbioethics at Memorial University of Newfoundland. Hisprevious books include A Liberal Theology for theTwenty-First Century: A Passion for Reason andUnblind Faith.

Table of Contents

Preface vii

1 The Meaning of the Term "Liberal Theology" 1

2 Eleven Typical Characteristics of the Liberal Tradition in Theology 19

A Introduction 19

1 A Use of the Bible That Is Not Always Literal 21

2 Reason and Revelation in Harmony 24

3 A Nonlegalist Account of Redemption 32

4 The Possibility of Salvation Outside a Narrow Path 34

5 Toleration 37

6 Original Sin, But Not Original Guilt 37

7 Belief in Free Will 41

8 A View of Providence That Respects the Integrity of the Natural Order 44

9 The Joint Need of Faith and Works 50

10 A Minimal Number of Basic Teachings 51

11 A Range of Acceptable Lifestyles 53

B A Liberal Approach to Miracles 59

3 Thirteen Key Figures in the Liberal Christian Tradition 67

A Introduction 67

1 Justin Martyr 68

2 Origen 70

3 Peter Abelard 72

4 Sebastian Castellio 74

5 Elizabeth I 77

6 Richard Hooker 80

7 William Chillingworth 82

8 John Smith 86

9 Jeremy Taylor 89

10 Hannah Barnard 93

11 J. F. D. Maurice 97

12 Joseph Lightfoot 99

13 Frederick Temple 103

B Twentieth-century Themes 106

4 Some Alternatives to Liberal Christian Theology 113

A Introduction 113

B Conservative Forms of Christianity 115

1 Fundamentalism 115

2 Magisterium 118

C Dialectical Theology 125

D Materialism 137

E The Doctrine of the Trinity 148

F Some Typical Issues with Respect to Other Religious Traditions 151

Afterword 159

Index 161

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

Gary Dorrien
-- author of The Making of American Liberal Theology
"The Tradition of Liberal Theology is winsomely written, cogently argued, and focused mainly on the early British tradition. Like Michael Langford's previous books on this subject, it offers a rationalistic perspective and a deeply informed account of where liberal theology came from and why it still matters."

John Polkinghorne
-- author of Belief in God in an Age of Science
"Michael Langford gives a clear and accessible account of liberal theology's quest to strike the appropriate balance between faith and reason in the search for truth. The Tradition of Liberal Theology is a very helpful contribution to current debate about the reasonableness of religious belief, and it deserves a wide readership."

Keith Ward
-- author of Is Religion Dangerous?
"A readable, clear, jargon-free exposition and defense of liberal theology that dispels many misunderstandings and stereotypes. Langford provides a positive and attractive account of what liberal theology is and why it is a compelling interpretation of Christian faith in the modern age. . . . The book is outstanding in its rationality, its clarity, and its charitable tone. Anyone who refers to 'liberal theology,' either for or against it, will find here a reliable guide to what liberal Christian theology is at its best."

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