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  • Biblical Studies Journal Volume 1, Number 14

    December 12, 1997

    The Empty Church

    (a book review)

    Gregory Alan Tidwell

      The Great Liberal Death Wish
      Dancing With The Disciples


    Thomas C. Reeves made a major contribution to the study of American religion in his recent book, The Empty Church:  The Suicide of Liberal Christianity.

    Reeves chronicles the correlation of religious liberalism and the loss of members by major Protestant denominations.  Groups historically dominating religion in the United States (Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodists and Lutherans, for example) have grown increasingly divergent in theology and increasingly anemic in attendance.   Back to top

    “The Great Liberal Death Wish”

       Social commentator Malcolm Muggeridge identified a trend he labeled “the great liberal death wish.”  By this he meant the tendency of ideological liberalism to use social structures to undermine the structure of society.

        Reeves certainly identified a similar trend in current religious liberalism.  Telling their congregations “that the consolations and promises of the Bible are not ‘really’ or ‘literally’ true,” theological liberalism “has succeeded in making itself dispensable.”  With no more to offer the faithful than amorphous generalities of sentiment, liberal churches find many members with better investments for their time and effort.
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    Dancing with the Disciples

        Within the Restoration Movement, we should take note.  The Disciples of Christ followed this path of liberal Protestantism with predictable results.  Abandoning a confidence in the inspiration and authority of Scripture, the Disciples lost their justification for existence.  Social activism and vague psycho-babble are a poor substitute for the gospel of Christ.  The Disciples today number less than a third the membership they enjoyed a generation ago, and currently are seeking the oblivion of assimilation through merger with the United Church of Christ denomination.
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     Previously Published in The Gospel Advocate,
    (c) The Gospel Advocate Company, Nashville, Tennessee, USA

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