Wishing Pastor Mayfield a happy retirement
December 26, 2005
It has come to my attention that Pastor Mayfield is planning on retiring from his ministry position soon and, with his most recent column in this newspaper, it caused me to reflect on the current state of Liberal Christianity.Pastor Mayfield has been a emphatic messenger of the liberal Christian cause, expounding the liberal doctrine with an unwavering faithfulness. Liberal Christianity was founded a couple of centuries past based upon skepticism of the historical accuracy of the biblical stories. This skepticism of the historical facts blossomed into a religion that taught the Bible was a giant metaphor for the human condition; that God is in each one of us if only we would let him out.I’ve always found it odd that a “Faith” could be based upon skepticism; an inherent inconsistency it seems. As I reflected upon this, I’ve noticed two manifestations that I believe point toward the imminent demise of liberal Christianity due to this internal contradiction. First, skepticism breeds skepticism and the foundations upon which the original doctrine of the liberal Christian Church was born is constantly being critically examined. Take for example Gerd Luedeman, a historical-critical bible scholar in the liberal Christian tradition.In a April 2, 2002, Washington Post article Luedemann faults his liberal colleagues for believing as he does but not speaking out. Their re-interpretation of basic Christian dogma for a modern audience, he says, amounts to “worshiping a bloodless metaphor.” He has called “contemptible” liberal attempts to redefine Christian doctrine in metaphorical terms and recently told a Swiss periodical that taking seriously the proclamation of Jesus as Lord of the world means “you would probably have to be a fundamentalist … (or) give up Christianity for the sake of honesty.” The culmination of Luedemann’s argument came with the 1998 publication of his book “The Great Deception: And What Jesus Really Said and Did.” It includes his “Letter to Jesus,” a dramatic farewell in which he sheds his ties to Jesus. I find Luedemann’s analysis of liberal Christianity as accurate and his own “journey” merely the logical conclusion of beginning with skeptical presuppositions.Second, the inconsistency is manifested by the fact that the old mainline liberal Churches are dying at an incredible rate. Large ornate buildings are virtually empty every Sunday except for the elderly, who have attended the same church all their lives. The young and middle aged seem uninspired to worship a “bloodless metaphor.” The evolution and progressiveness of human salvation through the liberal Christian Church seems to have stalled and thus the hope it had tried to instill. Ironically, I was struck that Pastor Mayfield’s retirement may be a metaphor for the contemporary Liberal Christian Church. In any case, here’s wishing Pastor Mayfield many happy metaphors in his retirement.