The problem for the reactionaries is that they think that all those who come up with different answers to the ‘great’ moral questions like homosexuality and sex outside of formal marriage are liberals. In comparison to some of them I suppose even someone as traditional as I am would seem liberal! This reminds me of an article in a Sydney evangelical newsletter about one of the bishop election synods we had here in Adelaide a few years back. The author, a Sydney evangelical here in Adelaide, was explaining to the folks back ‘home’ why the evangelicals in Adelaide vote with the Catholic conservatives at Synod. He said the reason was because the conservative catholics believe in the traditional doctrines of God and Christ, the bodily resurrection, the efficacy of Christ’s death on the cross and the authority of Scripture. But hang on, I believe in all those things, but I’m not one of the catholic conservatives. Ignoring the strange and pragmatic understanding of truth here (the reason he was justifying that temporary alliance was because good evangelicals of the Sydney brand know that Catholicism is popery), it is important to realize that similar traditional theological methods can (and often do) come up with different answers. I suspect the reactionary wing of the church likes to class everyone who disagrees with them as ‘liberals’ because it is so much easier to dismiss your interlocutor if you believe their methodology is flawed. Reactionaries say things like “Liberals (read those who don’t agree with them) don’t believe in the Bible/bodily resurrection/etc.” But the real world of the church is unlike the picture promulgated by either left or right wings of the church.
The problem for the liberals is that thy do theology in reaction to the reactionaries, allowing them to set the agenda. The reactionary misuse of the tradition is no reason to reject it. It is in fact, a better reason to use it properly.
Most people are suspicious of the extremes, and rightly so. The problem is that those of us somewhere more in the middle don’t seem to be able to present an attractive alternative to the extremes. Perhaps being in the middle somewhere is like that, or perhaps we live in a society tending toward extremes. But I also suspect that those of us in the middle have to start to work harder at presenting the believable middle in a dynamic way and make plain the craziness of the extremes. The natural home for most people is that kind of dynamic middle.