Baptist definitions of Progressive, Liberal and Conservative in 1889


                                                                                                                    Dr. Koot van Wyk


 Baptist definitions of Progressive, Liberal and Conservative in 1889


Baptist Geistweit takes the "eminent Dr. Gunsauius of Chicago" to task with powerful rhetorical questions.

On June 24, 1889, Geistweit pens, "Progressive--Liberal--Conservative""

He describes the theological situation and then he goes into the three classes of preachers:


"Here, then, are three classes of preachers: Progressives, who accept the newer teaching of evolution as principle, but modify its deductions; they maintain an attitude of inquiry; in the language of one of our own strong men, they are constantly going forward, never necessarily settling a point definitely, but only tentatively--still hoping for more light; they are "liberal," friendly to everything that scholars declare to be the latest light. It is but natural that such men should be hesitant, and frequently lack force, because they lack positive convictions. If I have overstated them, I am sorry; I do not think I have."

"Conservatives: not ignorant men, as is sometimes supposed, the supposition being created by such bumptious critics as Dr. Briggs, who said in my hearing that no man who had any respect for his standing would differ with him in his [Briggs' ] conclusions! But the conservative has settled some things; he accepts as his theology practically the common view I have above mentioned as the natural teachings of the New Testament; he does not feel that he could consistently question the authority or the knowledge of Jesus. Whatever else he does he bows before the sayings of Jesus as recorded in the gospels, and accepts them in the face of every teaching to the contrary. He does not belittle Paul; he believes that Paul's teachings are of equal authority with those of Jesus, claiming that they come from the same source. He does not feel that he possesses all the light; that there is much more to stream from the sacred page; but his attitude is reverent, prayerful, always submitting finally to the truth or teaching of the Book that requires no fine line of reasoning to discover; he believes that the great truths of the Bible lie on its surface; that he who wishes can find the light without the aid of any man or men; the book, Spirit--applied, will reach the heart of mankind when nothing else will. He is also keen, alert to the movements of the world, accepts every new truth, or fresh light upon the old truth; but he has moorings; he has a place of anchor. It is evident that this man is decided in his preaching; he has some settled convictions; he believes things, believes them intensely. It may be safely said that he is the evangelist of the church; it is difficult to conceive what the church would do for converts if he should die out of the land.

"The other class: the liberal men, who occupy pulpits of no special denomination; they are the free lances in things theological. They say that they are loyal to Christ, with the modifications of the progressive, yet without the limitations of the progressive in regular harness. In one breath they throw out the Bible, in the next they embrace it; they use it when it suits their purpose, and on the same ground reject it. They are generally men of strong personality and many gifts; their following is often a personal one, the work ceasing when they change pulpits or platforms. They attract many who want some sort of religious service, but who are not willing to accept the yoke of Jesus Christ in wholehearted following; they are not missionary in their spirit; know nothing of what is called "prayer-meeting life." It would do no violence to say that often these institutions provide intellectual food with a sacred flavor, for most men must feed on something besides business food. They ignore the ordinances, make no efforts at conversions, and have little concern about the ordinary affairs at church life. To say they have no influence on the religious life of a community would, perhaps, do them an injustice; to say that they are positive religious forces would greatly overestimate them.

"What is the relation of the conservative to the growing grist of Satan? I will attempt to answer in the next note.“