Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Blight of Liberal Theology Part One




Editorial Introduction
by Major Stephen Court

Welcome to JAC93 – the 93rd issue of Journal of Aggressive Christianity.  What a blessing it promises to those who read and share and apply its lessons.  Savour the testimony, reflect on the teaching, respond to the exhortation.  It could change eternity.

We’re grateful, as always, for the contributors who come this issue from six territories and include some officers (lieutenants, captains, majors, and commissioner) and other soldiers writing on justice and theology and mission and integrity and strategy and covenant and the Bible – all great subjects for study and application.  

Here is JAC93:….
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The Blight of Liberal Theology.  Kean tackles the encroachment of this theology into The Salvation Army, contrasting it with Salvationist theology, and noting the dangers of its widespread adoption in the ranks.

….You can read all of these articles as well as the articles from the first 92 issues right here for free.  We’re hoping that more and more people will encounter the heat and light in these journals. 

To God be the glory.  Much grace.


The Blight of Liberal Theology

I have no doubt that some of my words will meet a degree of discomfort and perhaps reproof from within our organisation, but I am convinced it is important to say them.  Besides that, they burn from a deep conviction and even if I kept quiet I’m inclined to think the stones might cry out.  
The subject I want to address is a theological one, but I want to emphasize that it worries me most because I see its negative influence within The Salvation Army.  I’m speaking of the very liberal theology which has been permitted to slither into the ranks of the army over the last few decades.  It has allowed a succession of compromises to degrade the necessary black and white nature of Christ’s gospel.   

I use the word liberal intentionally without a capital ‘L’ simply because I only want to show how such a theology, by definition alone, has no place within a movement whose focal point is the salvation of souls.   This kind of theology as it stands does not allow for the hard object lines of orthodox doctrine or any conservative interpretation of the Bible and has the strange ability to vilify the militant holiness ideology of our movement.  I will leave its definition here, but I will go on to describe its character and substance.  Again, please understand that I do not wish to single out any particular group, ministry, or method. My aim is to expose a specific theology (the liberal one) because of its direct contrast to Salvationism, that is all.   

I recently read an excerpt from Begbie’s “The Life of General William Booth – Vol. 2” which brought me to a sobering epiphany.  In it Booth clearly marks out the brutal reality that every officer must embrace in order to even qualify as Salvationists:   
Every officer must realise that men are perpetually perishing; that every moment of his life, when he wakes and when he sleeps, some soul somewhere passes into eternity.  He should see that those who reject God’s mercy are driven away in their wickedness – driven down to Hell.  At death probation ends, the day of mercy closes, and there is no hope for evermore. They must perceive that in all this misery men apart from God are totally unable to help themselves, and that they get worse instead of better; that unless deliverance is obtained from outside themselves, they will perish. (p.150) 

I petition every Salvationist, specifically my officer comrades, to truly consider the weight and severity of Booth’s words and ask yourselves honestly, “Is the Army’s theology still carrying this kind of urgency?”  To be honest, I don’t believe it is.  In fact, I hear a very different kind of theology, a much milder, certainly much less frank theology too often being spoken and taught and written within much of the western Salvation Army, surely within my own territory (Australia).  It prefers to soften, or belittle, the seriousness of our call to preach to the lost for their salvation – their eternal rescue from damnation and endless punishment!  It’s at the point now where even the term salvation must be clearly defined simply because liberal theology has been working so intentionally to try to redefine it.  The same has been done to the word holiness.  These two terms that used to describe the bare bones of the Army are now so loosely defined that it’s difficult to know what they mean to us anymore.   
On the surface this liberal theology doesn’t sound too bad, but underneath it holds the power to corrupt the very foundations of our devil-hating movement. You can bet your eyeballs that the corrosive liberal theology of which I am speaking will laud darling little terms like inclusivity and tolerance, distorting the love of God so that it allows for compromise.  The severity of sin and its power to destroy the individual eternally is necessarily diminished, even ignored, because it makes the gospel too offensive and unpalatable to deliver.  The salvation that is offered by this liberal theology is one that doesn’t actually do anything to save the sinner.  It merely allows the liberal Christian to remain in a false sense of spiritual accomplishment because the world has been able to see the gospel “made relevant”, which is much more significant than hearing the truth.   

End Part One of Two

Lieutenant Matt Kean
MELBOURNE 
  




22 comments:

Anonymous said...

Matt Kean is 100% correct - thank God for him and his willingness to speak out.

Anonymous said...

I thought it would be good to do a little parody on what our esteemed Lt Matt Kean wrote.
Using largely his own words:


The Blight of Ultra Fundamentalist Theology having crept into the ranks of The Salvation Army

I have no doubt that some of my words will meet a degree of discomfort and perhaps reproof from within our organisation, but I am convinced it is important to say them. Besides that, they burn from a deep conviction and even if I kept quiet I’m inclined to think the stones might cry out. Not wishing to come over as a self-appointed prophet of doom wanting to be that voice crying out in the wilderness of multi-cultural and world encompassing salvationism in 2015.

The subject I want to address is a theological one, but I want to emphasize that it worries me most because I see its negative influence within The Salvation Army. I’m speaking of the very ultra, black and white Calvinistic fundamentalist theology which has been permitted to slither into the ranks of the army over the last few decades. It has allowed a succession of compromises to degrade the necessary generosity of Christ’s gospel elevating OT Hebrew law exclusiveness over Christ’s NT grace inclusiveness.

part 1

Anonymous said...

Part 2

I use the word ‘fundamentalist’ intentionally without a capital ‘F’ simply because I only want to show how such a theology, by definition and by application alone, has no place within a Wesleyan based missionary movement, with only a ‘knapsack theology’ to get by ( General Frederick Coutts) whose focal point is the pointing of people towards the Christ rather than being the means of their salvation. This kind of remnant fundamentalist theology as it stands does not allow for a more generous interpretation and understanding of the Bible and has the strange ability to vilify the militant “salvation for all “ call in our movement. I will leave its definition here, but I will go on to describe its character and substance. Again, please understand that I do not wish to single out any particular group, ministry, or method. My aim is to expose a specific theology (the fundamentalist one) because of its direct contrast to salvationism, that is all.

I petition every Salvationist, specifically my officer comrades, to truly consider the fact that there is no specific Salvation Army theology perse, except that our doctrines of faith have been adopted lock, stock and barrel by our Founders from his previous church employers, in a totally different socio -spiritual climate. In fact, I hear a very different kind of legalistic theology, a much harsher, certainly much less warm 19th century theology too often being spoken and taught and written within some parts of the western Salvation Army, surely within my own territory (United Kingdom Territory).

It prefers to harden, the seriousness of our call to reach the lost for their salvation – their eternal rescue from damnation and endless punishment based on law keeping! It’s at the point now where even the term salvation must be clearly defined simply because

part 2

Anonymous said...

Part 3

fundamentalist theology has been working so intentionally to try to redefine it. Salvation and holiness and are of course still the par for the Salvation Army as a Christian church movement. Nothing has changed over the past 150 years in this respect except that language and understanding has changed through the past 6 generations or so.

On the surface this fundamentalist and literalist theology doesn’t sound too bad, but as with most kind of ‘ism’s’ underneath it holds the power to corrupt the very foundations of our God-loving and serving movement. You can bet your eyeballs that the corrosive fundamentalist non-Wesleyan theology of which I am speaking will laud darling little terms like eternal security and no grey areas to be taken care off. Nothing new to be discovered and appreciated, distorting the love of God so that it puts him in a small box of its own making.

The salvation that is offered by fundamentalist theology is often one of the predestined variety that doesn’t actually do anything to save a sinner who belongs to the “whosoever”. It merely allows the fundamentalist Christian to remain in a false sense of spiritual accomplishment. There are plenty of those within our ranks for whom 'duty' is is far more defining that 'enjoyment' The world has to be able to see the gospel made relevant and to be enjoyed rather than endured through fundamentalist reasoning. In order for people to understand and belong it has to be made relevant. Christian fundamentalism is something from the past 125 years or so and not biblical perse.

This allows for a solid Wesleyan response based on scripture, tradition, reason and experience. Wesley believed that the living core of the Christian faith was revealed in Scripture, illumined by tradition, vivified in personal experience, and confirmed by reason. Scripture [however] is primary, revealing the Word of God 'so far as it is necessary for our salvation. The Salvation Army has, thank God, always been a broad church founded on such theological teachings and has reflected as such in people, practice and purpose. Long may this remain the case wherever we serve in whatever capacity! We do not exactly have to believe what William Booth believed in order to be a salvationist in 2015!!

Regards

ACTIVE OFFICER
UKTI

Leonard Johnson said...

I read Lt. Kean’s article when it was first published in the JAC website. After reading it once again on the FSAOF blog, I’m still wondering what he is talking about. He writes “This kind of theology as it stands does not allow for the hard object lines of orthodox doctrine or any conservative interpretation of the Bible and has the strange ability to vilify the militant holiness ideology of our movement.” He then says “I will leave its definition here...” and my question is, where is the definition? – I don’t find it. I would appreciate it if someone could tell me where in all of that I have quoted is the definition? Once again, I don’t know to what he is referring.

Johnny said...

I confess. I'm not sure I know what, precisely is being referred to when Matt talks about "Liberal Theology"?

Sounds like a convenient, simple label that seeks to put someone in a box - but who has made and shaped that box?

What makes one an adherant of Liberal Theology, and is it even a thing?

Martin Ketteringham said...

The parody is brilliant!

Anonymous said...

The three comments by 'active officer UKTI' are actually less than clear. He/she says 'I thought it would be good to do a little parody on what our esteemed Lt Matt Kean wrote.'
No, it wouldn't. And it wasn't.
And to be sarcastic is not becoming. Matt Kean has his views, which are shared by a significant number of fellow Christians - they should be respected, not 'parodied'. There will always be an unbridgeable gulf of divided opinion on this subject, and to treat Matt Kean's opinions as trash is awful. And not Christian. In any sense. Ultimately, it's God who will have the final say. Meanwhile, a little more consideration would be in order. Especially by an Officer.

Martin Ketteringham said...

Maybe parody wasn't the word that should have been used. Perhaps substitutionary could have been used. He wasn't making fun of it so much as seeing that it fits both feet. What's good for the goose is good for the gander.

Jeff Carter said...


"Matt Kean has his views, which are shared by a significant number of fellow Christians - they should be respected, not 'parodied'. There will always be an unbridgeable gulf of divided opinion on this subject, and to treat Matt Kean's opinions as trash is awful. And not Christian. In any sense. Ultimately, it's God who will have the final say. Meanwhile, a little more consideration would be in order. Especially by an Officer."

ah. then perhaps Kean (and those who share his views) should refer those officers with other opinions as something other than "a blight."

Anonymous said...

The Lt's article is very true and needs to be shared and acted upon. Our doctrines are not to be interpreted in light of culture (as much as the progressives and liberals would like them to be). Scripture is not changed by or because we now have some officers who hold to a different world view than the Founders. Ourmovement was built upon the Scriptures, grew because God blessed our faithfulness to his Word, and today is either stagnant or dying in those Corps (and countries) where liberals and progressives have invaded our ranks and now control the platforms, speaks volumes. Look where God is blessing the SA with growth and you will see it is where our doctrines and Scripture are upheld. This liberalism has been the death blow to many, one time, great denominations and it is now (and has been for several decades) slowly invading the SA. Thank you Lt. For speaking truth

Soldier. USA East

Anonymous said...

'Fits both feet'? The whole point is that it doesn't. It's refreshingly honest and true. And 'Johnny' and Leonard Johnson's comments that they don't understand it speaks volumes. It is a message of no compromise, just like Jesus taught. It means that we have to turn away from our old life and leave ALL our sins behind us to pursue a new life without the trappings of our previous, sinful existence. Today's 'liberal theology' teaches that we can still live with our sins, that somehow God will accept us the way we are and is happy to keep us that way. And this liberal thinking has pervaded the Salvation Army in a massive way, sadly, to the point where wrong seems right.
And why would the UKTI officer seek to 'substitute' or 'parody' what Matt Kean has written? It seems a cowardly thing to do - surely it would have been more honest to write his/her own article, not denigrate someone else's - imho.

Anonymous said...


The denigration, by 'blighting', 'poo pooing' and accusingly blaming those for all the ills and decline in the SA who hold a different view from the literalistic inerrant fundamentalist one (that never was part of SA history anyway) within our ranks is truly sad and scary indeed.... the devil is having a field day and laughing out loud! The broad brush that is being applied shows the real insecurity of the possibility of a God who operates 'out of the box' of the narrow confines of the human mindset. The law kills but the Spirit sets people free.

We all have our views, there is room for all within our movement, yes, even within the same corps setting - this has always been the case and long may this be so because it makes for a healthy balance and an exciting place to be where different people do not necessarily have to conform to one particular man-made dogma or doctrine, through which lens scripture is read in order to belong to the family of God. The excesses and negative outcomes are all to clear for us to see when cast out people from such spiritual backgrounds need to be nursed back into spiritual health where grace, mercy and a sense of self-worth are the dominant factors.

Always remember, if you think that your theology is definitely the only correct one, there is usually always someone more to the right of you who, in love and with a deep, earnest concern for your soul ;);), will lambast you and tear you to shreds at the same time.


Words: Fred­er­ick W. Fa­ber, Or­a­to­ry Hymns, 1854.

There’s a wideness in God’s mercy,
Like the wideness of the sea;
There’s a kindness in His justice,
Which is more than liberty.

There is welcome for the sinner,
And more graces for the good;
There is mercy with the Saviour;
There is healing in His blood.

There is grace enough for thousands
Of new worlds as great as this;
There is room for fresh creations
In that upper home of bliss.

For the love of God is broader
Than the measure of our mind;
And the heart of the Eternal
Is most wonderfully kind.

It is God: His love looks mighty,
But is mightier than it seems;
Tis our Father: and His fondness
Goes far out beyond our dreams.

But we make His love too narrow
By false limits of our own;
And we magnify His strictness
With a zeal He will not own.


ACTIVE UKTI

Anonymous said...

"What's good for the goose is good for the gander." - Good saying!

If you can not take it, please do not dish it either because own medicine often leaves a bitter after taste.

Regards

Anonymous said...


Matt Kean
4 January · Matt Kean
I've decided it's time to do more preaching and teaching on the subject of Christ's return and God's coming wrath. This has come from much prayer. Pray for me

Good sermon for you to use would be 'Sinners in the hands of an angry God' Jonathan Edwards
This is a typical sermon of the Great Awakening in the mid 18th century, emphasizing the belief that Hell is a real place. Edwards hoped that the imagery and message of his sermon would awaken his audience to the horrific reality that awaited them should they continue without Christ. The underlying point is that God has given humanity a chance to rectify their sins. Edwards says that it is the will of God that keeps wicked men from the depths of Hell. This act of restraint has given humanity a chance to mend their ways and return to Christ.

It could be used this as a ten weeks consecutive series for a Sunday morning meeting - dealing with its ten considerations. The result in your Salvation Army corps fellowship would be an amazing one!

Consider the effect of this statement on your congregation as you preach at them:

"Yea, God is a great deal more angry with great numbers that are now on earth: yea, doubtless, with many that are now in this congregation, who it may be are at ease, than he is with many of those who are now in the flames of hell.

So that it is not because God is unmindful of their wickedness, and does not resent it, that he does not let loose his hand and cut them off. God is not altogether such an one as themselves, though they may imagine him to be so. The wrath of God burns against them, their damnation does not slumber; the pit is prepared, the fire is made ready, the furnace is now hot, ready to receive them; the flames do now rage and glow. The glittering sword is whet, and held over them, and the pit hath opened its mouth under them......

Go well Matt and be a blessing

Martin Ketteringham said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

....By the way if you post, have the courage to put your name to the post.'...... Let me see - Martin Ketteringham - do I know you? Am I likely ever to meet you? I don't think so. Why is it important that I know your name? Is it some sort of ego trip? I'm not even remotely curious to find out who you are, sorry. It make no difference if there are names attached to comments - in fact, seeing a name attached to a comment can sometimes colour one's thinking before one reads it. Happens to me.
(Happy to be) ANONYMOUS.

Martin Ketteringham said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Martin, the comment was mine and I did not post my name as I followed the instructions to post on the blog. I believe the last day or so is the first that I have posted. The laws in Africa really have nothing to do with the growth of our Army there, as they have nothing to do with the demise of the Army in the UK and other locations were we are in retreat and not advancing. As I said earlier (and I Thought I Said it clearly) it has to do with Scripture being held as the inspired word of God and our foundational Doctrines being taught, believed,followed and practiced. It has to do with priorities being straight and an all out effort to win souls. God is blessing the work of the Army Where the Army is true to His Word and true to our foundational Doctrines. By the way Martin, the growth of the Army is not confined to Africa. It's happening wherever the Army has remained faithful and true to its basic beliefs. If you really need my name it is Jack Kerr. Although as I have looked through this blog there are many more posts without names than those that bear names (and I might add that have not found you chastising them for posting anonymously). One last question for you, could you explain to me how the law prohibiting homosexuality in Africa is causing the growth we experience there? I really can't follow the logic in that,

Martin Ketteringham said...

I would like you to know that I withdrew the last comment and requested it not be posted because I felt it was inflammatory on my part. I did not wish to be that way and so I requested the moderator not to post. For whatever reason this request was ignored and it was posted. I apologize for my tone and wish everyone well. Blessings!

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Jack Kerr. You are right - 'God is his own interpreter, and He will make it plain' is a line from one of our songs. He is demonstrating His own interpretation of our liberal theology by causing us to decline, whereas in Africa where His blueprint is being followed, He is growing the Army there.

FORMER SALVATION ARMY OFFICERS FELLOWSHIP said...

Martin, your comments was not deleted simply because the blog was unattended for 5 days-