Thoughts on “Being Conservative”

by The Ecclesiologist

Over at First Things, Larry Huizenga has a thoughtful post reflecting on the decline of liberal churches and the growth of conservative churches.  Huizenga seeks to define “conservatives” over and against “liberals.  He notes that often “‘conservative’ churches make demands on members in terms of belief and practice, whereas ‘liberal’ churches nowadays often provide members with little more than a question mark.” But there is more to conservatives than simply doctrinal statements, Huizenga also sees worship as an important category.  He notes,

“… churches conservative in doctrine are often liberal in liturgy while churches liberal in doctrine are often conservative in liturgy. ‘Conservative’ congregations have forms of worship so far removed from traditional Christian liturgy that those forms would be either unrecognizable by prior generations of Christians or reckoned as pagan.”

Huizenga’s conclusion is that liberalism, whether in doctrine or worship, will result in unfaithfulness no matter what the numbers say.  A church may grow, but it will quickly decline.  He quotes William Inge, “If you marry the spirit of your own generation, you will be a widow in the next.”

So how do we move forward?

Huizenga argues we should attend to both doctrine and liturgy, “so that our faith becomes neither an acrid intellectual system nor an empty form but rather an all-encompassing culture embracing the whole person, body, mind, soul, and spirit, in a community of love.”  He concludes, “Traditional doctrine and liturgy work together to give people a transcendent sense of home in a robust culture, the Church.”

While writing as encouragement to Roman Catholics, his article should serve as a wise warning to Protestants on both ends of the liberal and conservative divide.

The article can be read here.