The Banality Of Theological Liberalism

A recent tweet from Union Theological Seminary in New York City indicates that the institution, which once boasted luminaries of the intellectual stature of Reinhold Niebuhr and Paul Tillich, is now encouraging an innovative penitential practice: confessing sins to plants. To quote the tweet, “Today in chapel we confessed to plants. Together, we held our grief, joy, regret, hope, guilt and sorrow in prayer; offering them to the beings who sustain us but whose gift we too often fail to honor. What do you confess to the plants in your life?” Sadly, the seminary does not report how the plants responded to these belated confessions.

This represents something I have pointed out to students many times over the years: Liberal theology may well be rooted in highly sophisticated theories and articulated by extremely intelligent people, but it tends to result in liturgical practices that are at best banal and at worst childish. Talking to plants is a fine candidate for the latter category. Better the robust atheism of a Bertrand Russell or a Christopher Hitchens than the infantile antics of a typical liberal Christian.

Carl Trueman, “Flower Power?” in First Things (Sep 19, 2019)

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  • R. Scott Clark
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    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

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  1. This is the logical result of the whole climate change debacle. People worship the creation instead of the Creator. There is nothing new under the sun.

  2. Wake Forest University Divinity School does something similar. A friend of mine went there. As part of the M.Div program you have to take some type of environmentalism course. In the ecology course he took to fulfill that requirement, the professor was using a lot of language that is typically used only of God. My friend assumed the professor was speaking very metaphorically. By the third week of class, the professor became very clear about the fact that he was saying the earth is divine and that we should worship it. Pantheism. This is a school that self-identifies itself as “Baptist/Christian by tradition.” He was shocked.

  3. Sounds like something from The Onion or The Babylon Bee yet it’s not surprising that it isn’t. UTS jumped the fence yarns ago. Trueman makes a great point about Russell and Hitchens; they’re less intellectually offensive than the plant confessors.

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