October 25, 2014

Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: Liberal Christianity will not survive for a long time

Address at the opening session of the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches, Geneva, 13 February 2008. Source: Europaica

I would like to draw your attention to the danger of liberal Christianity. The liberalization of moral standards, initiated by some Protestant and Anglican communities several decades ago and developing with ever-increasing speed, has now brought us to a situation where we can no longer preach one and the same code of moral conduct. We can no longer speak about Christian morality, because moral standards promoted by ‘traditional’ and ‘liberal’ Christians are markedly different, and the abyss between these two wings of contemporary Christianity is rapidly growing.

We are being told by some allegedly Christian leaders, who still bear the titles of Reverends and Most Reverends, that marriage between a woman and a man is no longer the only option for creating a Christian family, that there are other patterns, and that the church must be ‘inclusive’ enough to recognize alternative lifestyles and give them official and solemn blessing. We are being told that human life is no longer an unquestionable value, that it can be summarily aborted in the womb, or that one may have the right to interrupt it voluntarily, and that Christian ‘traditionalists’ should reconsider their standpoints in order to be in tune with modern developments. We are being told that abortion is acceptable, contraception is agreeable, and euthanasia is better still, and that the church must accommodate all these ‘values’ in the name of human rights.

What, then, is left of Christianity? In the confusing and disoriented world in which we live, where is the prophetic voice of Christians? What can we offer, or can we offer anything at all to the secular world, apart from what the secular world will offer to itself as a value system on which society should be built? Do we have our own value system which we should preach, or should we simply applaud every novelty in public morality which becomes fashionable in the secular society?

I would also like to draw your attention to the danger of a ‘politically correct’ Christianity, of a Christianity which not only so easily and readily surrenders itself to secular moral standards, but also participates in promoting value systems alien to Christian tradition.

We are facing a paradoxical situation. British secular politicians who share Christian convictions are concerned about the rising Christianophobia in the UK and initiate a debate on this issue in Parliament, calling for recognition of the country’s Christian identity. At the same time the primate of the Church of England calls for ‘a constructive accommodation with some aspects of Muslim law.’

I am sure I will be told that Christianity must become more tolerant and all-inclusive, that we Christians should no longer insist on our religion as being the only true faith, that we should learn how to adopt other value systems and standards. My question, however, is: when are we going to stop making Christianity politically correct and all-inclusive; why do we insist on accommodating every possible alternative to the centuries-old Christian tradition? Where is the limit, or is there no limit at all?

Many Christians worldwide look to Christian leaders in the hope that they will defend Christianity against the challenges that it faces. It is not our task to defend Sharia law, or to commend alternative lifestyles or to promote secular values. Our holy mission is to preach what Christ preached, to teach what the apostles taught and to propagate what the holy Fathers propagated. It is this witness which people are expecting of us.

I am convinced that liberal Christianity will not survive for a long time. A politically correct Christianity will die. We see already how liberal Christianity is falling apart and how the introduction of new moral norms leads to division, discord and confusion in some Christian communities. This process will continue, while traditional Christians, I believe, will consolidate their forces in order to protect the faith and moral teaching which the Lord gave, the Apostles preached and the Fathers preserved.

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