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In that language, Father Guinan detects a straddling of the issue. The catechism is clearly not the place to argue theological discussions, so whoever wrote it decided, as it were, to have it both ways. We are Adam, and we are Eve. They are paradigms, figurative equivalents, of human conduct in the face of temptation, not lessons in biology or history.

The Bible is teaching religion, not science or literalistic history. Lori Biography of Archbishop William E. Prev Next. Recent Posts In death penalty discussion, U. Because I've been a Christian that long? Or because I became one as an adult, which presumably suggests that, like him, I'm a "born-again Christian" who went through a "conversion experience," and am thus more serious and committed than many nominal Christians? Or because I remember how many years it's been--which suggests that my conversion continues to be an important event for me?

I was filled with the power of the Holy Ghost. I'm at a loss for words. What can I say in response to this testimony? After all, I'm an Episcopalian.

Is "Sola Scriptura" reasonable?

Most of us don't talk that way, especially not to total strangers. When the man gets off the train a few moments later, we exchange a friendly good-bye. The doors close, and the train moves on. Yet the brief conversation haunts me for hours. I'm at once perturbed and impressed by the man's zealotry. Evangelical Christians, fundamentalist and otherwise, can walk up to strangers on the subway, tell them they're Christians, and testify about how they found Jesus. There's something wonderful about that. And we Episcopalians are probably the worst of all: Some of us are self-conscious about discussing God even in church.

A century ago sex was seen as a private matter that simply shouldn't be discussed in public; today our secular society teaches us to view religion in the same way, and most of us unquestioningly oblige. What is a Christian? How to decide who is or isn't one--and who does the deciding? I probably wasn't more than seven or eight when I first noticed that the word could mean very different things, depending on who was using it.

Many of my Protestant relatives in South Carolina routinely distinguished between "Christians"--meaning themselves--and "Catholics. Among fundamentalist and many evangelical Protestants today, such an exclusionary posture toward outsiders is not only alive and well but is a matter of essential doctrine.

Fundamentalists, by definition, view only themselves and other fundamentalists as true Christians; conservative evangelicals generally view only themselves, other conservative evangelicals, and fundamentalists as true Christians. When we speak of American Christians, of course, we may divide them into Protestants and Catholics. Eastern Orthodox Christians account for only 1 percent or so of the total. But today there is a more meaningful way of dividing American Christians into two categories.

The mainstream media often refer to one of these categories as the Religious Right or the Christian Right and call people in this category conservative Christians; people who fall into the other category are frequently dubbed liberal Christians. The terms conservative Christian and liberal Christian can be useful, but I will try to avoid using them here because they suggest political rather than theological orientation.

Generally speaking, to be sure, the political implications are accurate: Conservative Christians tend to be politically conservative, and liberal Christians tend to be politically liberal. But there are exceptions; and, in any event, it needs to be underscored that what distinguishes the members of these two groups of Christians is not politics but their essential understanding of the nature of God, the role of the church, and the meaning of human life.

It is not an overstatement, indeed, to say that these two groups, despite the fact that they both claim the name of Christianity, have fundamentally divergent conceptions of the universe. What, then, to call these two categories? Most Americans employ fundamentalist as a general label for conservative Christians--which is why I've used fundamentalism in this book's subtitle--but in its strict sense the term is too narrow for my purposes. Phrases like traditional Christian and modern Christian are, to an extent, legitimate, for conservative Christians tend to champion tradition and to reject much of the modern science and biblical scholarship that liberal Christians embrace; yet, as shall become clear, it is extremely misleading to suggest that the kind of theology to which conservative Christians subscribe is truly more traditional, in the deepest sense, than that of liberal Christians.

Likewise, labels like biblical Christian and Bible-believing Christian, which many conservative Christians attach to themselves, wrongly suggest that there is something unbiblical about the faith of liberal Christians. We might speak of "exclusionists" and "inclusionists," because conservative Christians, unlike liberal Christians, tend to define the word Christian in such a way as to exclude others--including, in most cases, a large number of their fellow conservative Christians. But it seems to me that the difference between conservative and liberal Christianity may be most succinctly summed up by the difference between two key scriptural concepts: law and love.

Simply stated, conservative Christianity focuses primarily on law, doctrine, and authority; liberal Christianity focuses on love, spiritual experience, and what Baptists call the priesthood of the believer. If conservative Christians emphasize the Great Commission--the resurrected Christ's injunction, at the end of the Gospel according to Matthew, to "go to all nations and make them my disciples"--liberal Christians place more emphasis on the Great Commandment, which in Luke's Gospel reads as follows: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.

Am I suggesting that conservative Christians are without love or that liberal Christians are lawless? I merely make this distinction: Conservative Christianity understands a Christian to be someone who subscribes to a specific set of theological propositions about God and the afterlife, and who professes to believe that by subscribing to those propositions, accepting Jesus Christ as savior, and except in the case of the most extreme separatist fundamentalists evangelizing, he or she evades God's wrath and wins salvation for Roman Catholics, good works also count ; liberal Christianity, meanwhile, tends to identify Christianity with the experience of God's abundant love and with the commandment to love God and one's neighbor.

If, for conservative Christians, outreach generally means zealous proselytizing of the "unsaved," for liberal Christians it tends to mean social programs directed at those in need.

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In these pages, accordingly, I'll refer to these two broad categories of Christianity as legalistic and nonlegalistic. Further, I'll use the terms Church of Law and Church of Love to describe the two different ecclesial ideals toward which the Christians in these respective categories strive--remembering always, of course, that every church and every human soul has within it a degree of legalism and a capacity for love.

This book will focus primarily on Protestant legalism and nonlegalism; some of the things I say will apply as well to the parallel split within Catholicism, while others do not. Though there are broad sympathies between legalistic Protestants and Catholics, and between nonlegalistic Protestants and Catholics, the strongly divergent doctrinal emphases of Protestantism and Catholicism make it difficult to generalize about "legalistic Christianity," say, as opposed to legalistic Protestantism or Catholicism.

Among the differences between legalistic and nonlegalistic Protestants are these:. Some legalistic Protestants are fundamentalists, whose emphasis is on keeping themselves apart from the evil mainstream culture and thus pure; others might more accurately be described as conservative evangelicals, whose emphasis is on bringing the word of Jesus to the "unsaved," or as charismatics, who seek to model their worship on early Christians' miraculous experiences with healing, prophecy.

Members of all these groups believe in a wrathful God who rewards "true believers" with an eternity in heaven and condemns all others to an eternity in hell. More legalistic Protestants belong to the Southern Baptist Convention the nation's largest Protestant group than to any other denomination; many others belong to such Pentecostal bodies as the Assemblies of God and the Church of God, which place special emphasis on charismatic manifestations; still others belong to congregations, Baptist or otherwise, that are independent often fiercely so of any established denomination and that, in both worship and doctrine, may strike a unique balance among fundamentalist, evangelical, and charismatic features.

Many mainline church members are also legalists, though the percentage varies widely: The United Church of Christ contains far fewer legalists, for example, than does the United Methodist Church. As noted, so-called traditionalist Catholics, who in earlier generations would never have been grouped either by themselves or by others with Protestant fundamentalists, fall into the legalistic category; so do most Mormons, Seventh-day Adventists, and Jehovah's Witnesses. Though many in this category would not consider many others in it to be genuine Christians at all, they share a propensity for narrow theological views and reactionary social and cultural values, and consequently they tend to function as practical allies in the so-called culture war against "secular humanism.

Fundamentalist, evangelical, and charismatic Christianity cannot easily be discussed and understood without reference to the distinctive characteristics of American culture. Yes, these forms of legalistic Christianity claim adherents on every continent; but it is in America that they have taken root most firmly and borne the most fruit. They barely exist in Western Europe; their success elsewhere owes everything to American missionary work among the poor and undereducated. In their suspicion of the intellect and their categorical assertion that the Bible contains all truth, these kinds of Christianity reflect the American distrust of mind described by Richard Hofstadter in his book Anti-Intellectualism in American Life, indeed, they can be understood as ways of avoiding the obligation to think--and, especially, to think for one-self.

Why did this kind of religion develop in America, of all places?

A lot of people have misconceptions about the Catholic Church.

Well, first of all, America is the place to which the Puritans came, and their fixation on stark antitheses God and Satan, saints and sinners , their conviction that you're damned unless you believe exactly the right doctrine, and their tendency to equate immorality with sex all helped lay the foundations for today's legalistic Christianity. So did the pragmatism and materialism of the pioneers, whose respect for "honest work" and suspicion of professors, philosophers, and others who don't produce anything "real" spelled success for faiths that involved quantifiable sacrifice, little or no abstract reflection, and a concrete payoff in the form of a tangible heaven.

Those pioneers' individualistic sentiments, moreover, made them distrust ecclesiastical elites and accept the right of every person to interpret the Bible according to his or her own lights; this emphasis on scripture was also fed by the notion of America as a new Eden, which, as the religious historian George M. Marsden has noted,"readily translated into Biblical primitivism," the idea that "the Bible alone should be one's guide. Nonlegalistic Protestants figure far less often in the mainstream media than do legalists.

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Indeed, they sometimes seem virtually invisible. They worship a God of love, and they envision the church, at its best, as a Church of Love. They tend to belong to mainline Protestant churches or to relatively small bodies such as the Quakers and Unitarians. Some are Catholics: some are even Baptists or Seventh-day Adventists. If the public face of conservative Christians today is that of Pat Robertson and his Christian Coalition, liberal Christians as yet have no public face to speak of.

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Recently, liberal Christians have formed such national groups as the Interfaith Alliance and Call to Renewal, but so far they have failed to receive even a fraction of the media attention routinely accorded to the Christian Coalition. Few Americans even know they exist. Nonlegalistic Christianity has its problems.

Those who worship a God of love can sometimes appear to reduce the majesty and mystery of the divine to something pat and shallow.

The Catholic Answer: Readers Respond to “The Fundamentalist Temptation”

While legalists obsess over the presence of evil in the world, nonlegalists can seem naive, even blinkered, about it. How to explain the existence of evil, after all, if God is totally good? If God does love all his children unconditionally, then why do so many people live out their lives fee]ing worthless, lonely, and unloved?