In a New York Times Op-Ed, Douthat reflects on the recent theological changes within the Episcopal Church and on Christian Liberalism in general. Douthat writes pointedly and even prophetically throughout the article. However, two points in particular stick out to me.
1. The erosion of doctrine contributes to the erosion of the Church.
Douthat writes, “…liberal Christianity has simply collapsed. Practically every denomination — Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian — that has tried to adapt itself to contemporary liberal values has seen an Episcopal-style plunge in church attendance. Within the Catholic Church, too, the most progressive-minded religious orders have often failed to generate the vocations necessary to sustain themselves.” We must all hear this bit of historical, statistical fact and take heed. The move of liberal churches away from historic doctrines of Christianity in the name of progress and relevance simply fails. The erosion of doctrine is the erosion of the church. A church without a foundation, without the foundation will not stand.
2. Doctrinal affirmation must undergird church reform.
Douthat points out, “…the leaders of the Episcopal Church and similar bodies often don’t seem to be offering anything you can’t already get from a purely secular liberalism. Which suggests that perhaps they should pause, amid their frantic renovations, and consider not just what they would change about historic Christianity, but what they would defend and offer uncompromisingly to the world” (emphasis mine). Modern, theological liberals and would-be critics of historic Christianity have too often been characterized by their denials rather than their affirmations. Deconstruction is easy. Construction and subsequent legacy is difficult. True reformation of the Church cannot grow out of criticism alone.
Douthat then concludes that without such historic, theological considerations and moorings “their fate is nearly certain: they will change, and change, and die.”
“Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” Jude 1:3