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The term "liberalism" has meant many things over the centuries, but since the New Deal, it has been identified with the belief that government is able, and morally required, to improve the economic and social well-being of Americans, particularly those who are disadvantaged. The New Deal itself was transitory, but liberal programs have included Social Security, Medicare, and a range of labor, civil rights, and environmental legislation.

At its height after the Johnson victory in the election of 1964, it was possible to speak of a liberal Republican, although the term was much different from the Liberal Republicans after the Civil War. However, the failure of the Great Society programs to deliver many of their promises and the disillusionment in the power of government that followed the Vietnam War led to a gradual loss of influence for liberals, and the concurrent rise of the Conservative Movement.

In the 20th century, the term has fallen so far out of favor that the expression "liberal Republican" is an oxymoron and those who might be expected to identify with liberalism have opted for the earlier word "progressive."

Theological liberalism

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Theological liberalism, a form of religious thought that establishes religious inquiry on the basis of a norm other than the authority of tradition. It was an important influence in Protestantism from about the mid-17th century through the 1920s.

The defining trait of this liberalism is a will to be liberated from the coercion of external controls and a consequent concern with inner motivation. Although some earlier indications of the liberal temper of mind existed, it became overtly evident during the Renaissance, when curiosity about natural man and appreciation for the human spirit developed, and during the Reformation.

The modern historical period of theological liberalism began, however, with the 17th-century French philosopher and mathematician René Descartes. This first phase, called Rationalism or the Enlightenment, lasted until about the mid-18th century. In designating the thinking self as the primary substance from which the existence of other realities was to be deduced (except that of God), Descartes initiated a mode of thinking that remained in force through the 19th century and laid the ground for the presuppositions of this modern consciousness: (1) confidence in human reason, (2) primacy of the person, (3) immanence of God, and (4) meliorism (the belief that human nature is improvable and is improving). The many persons influencing religious thought in this period included the philosophers Benedict de Spinoza (Dutch), Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz and Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (both German), and John Locke and Samuel Clarke (both English), and the English writers and philosophers known as the Cambridge Platonists and the Deists.

The second stage of theological liberalism, Romanticism, lasted from the late 18th century to the end of the 19th. Marked by the discovery of the uniqueness of the individual and the consequent significance of individual experience as a distinctive source of infinite meaning, this premium upon personality and upon individual creativity exceeded every other value. The American and French revolutions provided the symbol of this spirit of independence and dramatically exemplified it in political action.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Immanuel Kant were the architects of Romantic liberalism. In theology, the German Friedrich Schleiermacher, called the father of modern Protestant theology, was outstanding. Unlike Kant, who saw in moral will the clue to man’s higher nature, Schleiermacher seized upon the feeling of absolute dependence as being simultaneously that which “signifies God for us” and that which is distinctive in the religious response. Thus, self-consciousness in this deep religious sense becomes God-consciousness. According to Schleiermacher, the Christian is brought to this deeper vein of self-consciousness through the man Jesus, in whom the God-consciousness had been perfected. The nurture of God-consciousness in relation to Jesus Christ, Schleiermacher believed, led to the creation of the church as a fellowship of believers.

The German Albrecht Ritschl dominated liberal Protestant theology after Schleiermacher, and two other German theologians, Wilhelm Herrmann and Adolf von Harnack, were Ritschl’s most prominent followers. In the United States, Horace Bushnell was the most significant liberal theologian. Another important liberal was Walter Rauschenbusch, leader of the Social Gospel movement.

The third period of theological liberalism, Modernism, from the mid-19th century through the 1920s, was marked by the discovery of the significance of historical time and an emphasis upon the notion of progress. The decisive events stimulating these interests were the Industrial Revolution and the publication of Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species (1859). A determined course emerged among Modernists to bring religious thought into accord with modern knowledge and to solve issues raised by modern culture. The study of Christian doctrine was transformed into the psychological study of religious experience and into the sociological study of religious institutions and customs and the philosophical inquiry into religious knowledge and values. Among important figures during this period were Thomas Huxley and Herbert Spencer in England, William James, John Dewey, Shailer Mathews, and Harry Emerson Fosdick in the United States, and Ernst Troeltsch in Germany.

After the 1920s many theologically liberal ideas were challenged by Neo-orthodoxy, a theological movement in Europe and the United States that used the traditional language of Protestant orthodoxy and advocated a return to biblical faith centred in Christ, although it accepted modern critical methods of biblical interpretation.


In the book, Losurdo characterises the dominant narrative regarding liberalism as hagiography, representing a gradual process of the expansion of liberty to all people. Rather, Losurdo investigates not only "the conceptual developments, but also and primarily the political and social relations it found expression in" which made itself known through various contradictions. [1] Not only is the process contradictory, but it is also marked by episodes where a group that is given rights can have those rights taken away. One such example is when black Americans lost many of their newfound rights as the end of the Reconstruction Era gave way to the rise of Jim Crow laws.

According to Losurdo, liberalism lent itself to the foundation of Herrenvolk democracy, where one ethnic group had rights over other disenfranchised and exploited groups. Losurdo finds the early United States, a racial state with a clear difference in the rights afforded between whites and even free blacks, to have been one such master-race democracy. [2] Additionally, influential liberal conservative Edmund Burke is credited with penning "the first organic theory of revolution as a Jewish conspiracy", an antisemitic conspiracy theory that was essential in fueling the genocidal aspects of Nazi ideology. [3]

According to Losurdo, the white supremacy that was typical of liberal thinkers of the time had a formative influence on fascism while also taking the dehumanization of those it considered inferior to extremes. For instance, Losurdo observes that the one-drop rule found in the American South was more stringent than the Nuremberg Laws (citizenship is not given if found 3⁄4 Jewish) implemented by Nazi Germany. [4]

Liberalism: A Counter-History has received a number of positive reviews from critics. Peter Clarke wrote in the Financial Times that Liberalism: A Counter-History is "a brilliant exercise in unmasking liberal pretensions, surveying over three centuries with magisterial command of the sources." [5] Essayist Pankaj Mishra wrote in The Guardian that Liberalism: A Counter-History "stimulatingly uncovers the contradictions of an ideology that is much too self-righteously invoked." [6]

Liberalism: A Counter-History was also well-received by Stefano G. Azzarà in Historical Materialism, [7] Geoff Mann in Antipode [8] and Iain McKay in Capital & Class. [9]

A Liberal History

Liberalism became the dominant ideology of the West when it was adopted by Britain and the United States. But its roots lie elsewhere.

Long considered the dominant ideology of the West, liberalism is in crisis. Its principles are in retreat around the world. Populism, authoritarianism and nationalism are on the rise. The Economist recently sounded the alarm: ‘Liberalism made the modern world, but the modern world is turning against it.’ The Economist’s index categorises the United States as a ‘flawed democracy’.

It is not just that liberalism is under attack from its traditional enemies. Voters in the West have begun to doubt that the system works for them. Some say that liberal elites have become complacent. ‘Liberalism’s central problem’, says the Economist, is that it has ‘lost sight of its essential values’. Another problem, however, is rarely discussed: What does ‘liberalism’ actually stand for?

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The Liberal Democrat History Group promotes the discussion and research of topics relating to the histories of the British Liberal Democrats and its predecessor parties, the Liberal Party and the SDP, and of liberalism more broadly.

We publish the Journal of Liberal History and a range of books – the latest of which is British Liberal Leaders – and shorter booklets – the latest of which is Liberal History: A concise history of the Liberal Party, SDP and Liberal Democrats – organise regular speaker meetings, maintain a Liberal history website and provide assistance with research.

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A Short History of Conservatives and Liberals

By Steve Straub
Published April 6, 2015 at 7:16pm

Humans originally existed as members of small bands of nomadic hunters/gatherers. They lived on deer in the mountains during the summer and would go to the coast and live on fish and lobster in the winter.

The two most important events in all of history were the invention of beer and the invention of the wheel. The wheel was invented to get man to the beer. These were the foundation of modern civilization and together were the catalyst for the splitting of humanity into two distinct subgroups:

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1. Liberals and
2. Conservatives.

Once beer was discovered, it required grain and that was the beginning of agriculture. Neither the glass bottle nor aluminum can were invented yet, so while our early humans were sitting around waiting for them to be invented, they just stayed close to the brewery. That’s how villages were formed.

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Some men spent their days tracking and killing animals to B-B-Q at night while they were drinking beer. This was the beginning of what is known as the Conservative movement.

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Other men who were weaker and less skilled at hunting learned to live off the conservatives by showing up for the nightly B-B-Q’s and doing the sewing, fetching, and hair dressing. This was the beginning of the Liberal movement.

Some noteworthy liberal achievements include the domestication of cats, the invention of group therapy, group hugs, and the concept of Democratic voting to decide how to divide the meat and beer that conservatives provided.

Over the years conservatives came to be symbolized by the largest, most powerful land animal on earth, the elephant. Liberals are symbolized by the jackass.

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Modern liberals like imported beer (with lime added), but most prefer white wine or imported bottled water. They eat raw fish but like their beef well done. Sushi, tofu, and French food are standard liberal fare.

Another interesting evolutionary side note: most of their women have higher testosterone levels than their men. Most social workers, personal injury attorneys, journalists, dreamers in Hollywood and group therapists are liberals. Liberals invented the designated hitter rule because it wasn’t fair to make the pitcher also bat.

Conservatives drink domestic beer. They eat red meat and still provide for their women. Conservatives are big-game hunters, rodeo cowboys, lumberjacks, construction workers, firemen, medical doctors, police officers, corporate executives, athletes, Marines, and generally anyone who works productively. Conservatives who own companies hire other conservatives who want to work for a living.

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Liberals produce little or nothing. They like to govern the producers and decide what to do with the production. Liberals believe Europeans are more enlightened than Americans. That is why most of the liberals remained in Europe when conservatives were coming to America. They crept in after the Wild West was tamed and created a business of trying to get more for nothing.

Here ends today’s lesson in world history: It should be noted that a Liberal may have a momentary urge to angrily respond to the above before forwarding it. A Conservative will simply laugh and be so convinced of the absolute truth of this history that it will be forwarded immediately to other true believers and to more liberals just to piss them off.

Liberalism and democracy

The early liberals, then, worked to free individuals from two forms of social constraint—religious conformity and aristocratic privilege—that had been maintained and enforced through the powers of government. The aim of the early liberals was thus to limit the power of government over the individual while holding it accountable to the governed. As Locke and others argued, this required a system of government based on majority rule—that is, one in which government executes the expressed will of a majority of the electorate. The chief institutional device for attaining this goal was the periodic election of legislators by popular vote and of a chief executive by popular vote or the vote of a legislative assembly.

But in answering the crucial question of who is to be the electorate, classical liberalism fell victim to ambivalence, torn between the great emancipating tendencies generated by the revolutions with which it was associated and middle-class fears that a wide or universal franchise would undermine private property. Benjamin Franklin spoke for the Whig liberalism of the Founding Fathers of the United States when he stated:

As to those who have no landed property in a county, the allowing them to vote for legislators is an impropriety. They are transient inhabitants, and not so connected with the welfare of the state, which they may quit when they please, as to qualify them properly for such privilege.

John Adams, in his Defense of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America (1787), was more explicit. If the majority were to control all branches of government, he declared, “debts would be abolished first taxes laid heavy on the rich, and not at all on others and at last a downright equal division of everything be demanded and voted.” French statesmen such as François Guizot and Adophe Thiers expressed similar sentiments well into the 19th century.

Most 18th- and 19th-century liberal politicians thus feared popular sovereignty. For a long time, consequently, they limited suffrage to property owners. In Britain even the important Reform Bill of 1867 did not completely abolish property qualifications for the right to vote. In France, despite the ideal of universal male suffrage proclaimed in 1789 and reaffirmed in the Revolutions of 1830, there were no more than 200,000 qualified voters in a population of about 30,000,000 during the reign of Louis-Philippe, the “citizen king” who had been installed by the ascendant bourgeoisie in 1830. In the United States, the brave language of the Declaration of Independence notwithstanding, it was not until 1860 that universal male suffrage prevailed—for whites. In most of Europe, universal male suffrage remained a remote ideal until late in the 19th century. Racial and sexual prejudice also served to limit the franchise—and, in the case of slavery in the United States, to deprive large numbers of people of virtually any hope of freedom. Efforts to extend the vote to women met with little success until the early years of the 20th century (see woman suffrage). Indeed, Switzerland, which is sometimes called the world’s oldest continuous democracy, did not grant full voting rights to women until 1971.

Despite the misgivings of men of the propertied classes, a slow but steady expansion of the franchise prevailed throughout Europe in the 19th century—an expansion driven in large part by the liberal insistence that “all men are created equal.” But liberals also had to reconcile the principle of majority rule with the requirement that the power of the majority be limited. The problem was to accomplish this in a manner consistent with democratic principles. If hereditary elites were discredited, how could the power of the majority be checked without giving disproportionate power to property owners or to some other “natural” elite?


18th and 19th century Edit

The origins of American liberalism are in the political ideals of the Age of Enlightenment. [8] The Constitution of the United States of 1787 established the first modern republic, with sovereignty in the people (not in a monarch) and no hereditary ruling aristocracy. However, the Constitution limited liberty, in particular by accepting slavery. The Founding Fathers recognized the contradiction, but they believed they needed a nation unified enough to survive in the world. [9]

During the late 18th and 19th centuries, the United States extended liberty to ever broader classes of people. The states abolished many restrictions on voting for white males during the early 19th century. The Constitution was amended in 1865 to abolish slavery and in 1870 to extend the vote to black men. [10]

Progressive Era Edit

As the United States economy began shifting to manufacturing and services during the 19th century, liberals started to consider corruption and concentrations of economic power (called trusts at the time) as threats to liberty. [11] [12] During the Progressive Era of the early 20th century, laws were passed restricting monopolies and regulating railroad rates. [13] [14]

According to James Reichley, the term liberalism took on its current meaning in the United States during the 1920s. In the 19th century and the early 20th century, the term had usually described classical liberalism, which emphasizes limited government, religious freedom, and support for the free market. The term progressivism, meanwhile, had been used to describe individuals like Theodore Roosevelt, who favored a limited amount of government activism. During the 1920s, the term progressive became associated with politicians such as Robert M. La Follette, who called for government ownership of railroads and utilities in his 1924 third-party presidential bid. Progressivism thus gained an association with radicalism that advocates of more moderate reforms sought to avoid. The term was also unattractive to certain groups because of its longstanding association with the Republican Party and the Social Gospel movement. In the late 1920s and 1930s, political figures such as Franklin D. Roosevelt increasingly adopted the term liberal to describe an individual who favored some government activism, but was opposed to more radical reforms. [15]

20th century Edit

New Deal Edit

In the 1930s, liberalism came to describe a pragmatic ideology that called for a moderate amount of government regulation of the economy, progressive taxation, and increased exercise of federal government power in relation to the states. It also came to signify support for organized labor and a degree of hostility, or at least suspicion, of big business. Liberalism did retain some aspects of the term's usage prior to the 1930s, including support for civil liberties and secularism. These positions were contrasted with those to their political left, who favored greater changes, and with conservatives, who opposed these changes. [16]

President Franklin D. Roosevelt came to office in 1933, amid the economic calamity of the Great Depression, offering the nation a New Deal intended to alleviate economic want and unemployment, provide greater opportunities and restore prosperity. The presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933–1945), the longest in the United States history, was marked by an increased role for the federal government in addressing the nation's economic and other problems. [17] Work relief programs provided jobs, ambitious projects such as the Tennessee Valley Authority promoted economic development and a social-security system laid the groundwork for the nation's modern welfare system. The Great Depression dragged on through the 1930s despite the New Deal programs, which were met with mixed success in solving the nation's economic problems. [18] Economic progress for minorities was hindered by discrimination, about which the Roosevelt administration did less than subsequent administrations, but more than had been done before. [ opinion ] The New Deal provided direct relief for minorities in the 1930s through the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), Public Works Administration (PWA), the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and other agencies and during World War II executive orders and the Fair Employment Practices Commission opened millions of new jobs to minorities and forbade discrimination in companies with government contracts. The 1.5 million black veterans in 1945 were fully entitled to generous veteran benefits from the GI Bill on the same basis as everyone else. [19]

The New Deal consisted of three types of programs designed to produce "Relief, Recovery and Reform". [20] Relief was the immediate effort to help the one-third of the population that was hardest hit by the depression. Roosevelt expanded Herbert Hoover's Emergency Relief and Construction program (ERCA) and added the CCC, the PWA and the WPA, the latter replacing in 1935 the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA). Also in 1935, the Social Security Act and unemployment insurance programs were added. The Social Security Act provided retirement and disability income for Americans unable to work or unable to find jobs. [21] Separate programs were set up for relief in rural areas such as the Resettlement Administration and Farm Security Administration. Recovery programs sought to restore the economy to pre-depression levels. It involved deficit spending, dropping the gold standard, efforts to re-inflate farm prices that were too low and efforts to increase foreign trade. New Deal efforts to help the United States recuperate were in part through a much expanded Hoover program, the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC). [22]

Reform was based on the assumption that the depression was caused by the inherent market instability and that government intervention was necessary to rationalize and stabilize the economy and to balance the interests of farmers, business and labor. Reform measures included the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA), regulation of Wall Street by the Securities Exchange Act (SEA), the Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA) for farm programs, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) insurance for bank deposits enacted through the Glass–Steagall Act of 1933 and the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), also known as the Wagner Act, dealing with labor-management relations. Despite some New Dealers's urgings, there was no major antitrust program. Roosevelt opposed socialism (in the sense of state ownership of the means of production) and only one major program, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), involved government ownership of the means of production. [23]

World War II Edit

Roosevelt was president through most of World War II and, anticipating the post-war period, strongly supported proposals to create a United Nations organization as a means of encouraging mutual cooperation to solve problems on the international stage. His commitment to internationalist ideals was in the tradition of Woodrow Wilson, architect of the failed League of Nations. [24] His support led to the eventual establishment of the United Nations, with the proviso that the United States would have a veto power. [25] [26]

Cold War Edit

American liberalism in the Cold War-era was the immediate heir to Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal and the slightly more distant heir to the progressives of the early 20th century. [27] Sol Stern wrote that "Cold War liberalism deserves credit for the greatest American achievement since World War II—winning the Cold War". [28]

The essential tenets of Cold War liberalism can be found in Roosevelt's Four Freedoms (1941). Of these, freedom of speech and of religion were classic liberal freedoms as was freedom from fear (freedom from tyrannical government), but freedom from want was another matter. Roosevelt proposed a notion of freedom that went beyond government non-interference in private lives. [ original research? ] Freedom from want could justify positive government action to meet economic needs, an idea more associated with the concepts of Abraham Lincoln's Republican Party, Henry Clay's Whig Party and Alexander Hamilton's economic principles of government intervention and subsidy than the more radical socialism and social democracy of European thinkers, or with prior versions of classical liberalism as represented by Thomas Jefferson's Democratic-Republican Party and Andrew Jackson's Democratic Party. [ citation needed ]

In the 1950s and 1960s, both major American political parties included liberal and conservative factions. The Democratic Party had on one hand Northern and Western liberals and on the other generally conservative Southern whites. [ original research? ] Difficult to classify were the Northern urban Democratic political machines. The urban machines had supported New Deal economic policies, but they slowly came apart over racial issues. Some historians have divided the Republican Party into liberal Wall Street and conservative Main Street factions while others have noted that the Republican Party's conservatives came from landlocked states (Robert Taft Jr. of Ohio and Barry Goldwater of Arizona) and the liberals tended to come from California (Earl Warren and Pete McCloskey), New York (Nelson Rockefeller) and other coastal states. [ citation needed ]

Opposing both Communism and conservatism, Cold War liberalism resembled earlier liberalisms in its views on many social issues and personal liberty, but its economic views were not those of free-market Jeffersonian liberalism nor those of European social democrats. They never endorsed state socialism, but they did call for spending on education, science and infrastructure, notably the expansion of NASA and the construction of the Interstate Highway System. Their progressive ideas continued the legacy of Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin D. Roosevelt. Most prominent and constant among the positions of Cold War liberalism included the following: [ citation needed ]

  • Support for a domestic economy built on a balance of power between labor (in the form of organized unions) and management (with a tendency to be more interested in large corporations than in small business).
  • A foreign policy focused on containing Communism based in the Soviet Union and China. Liberals opposed isolationism, détente and rollback.
  • The continuation of New Deal social welfare programs, especially Social Security).
  • An embrace of Keynesian economics with deficit spending in times of recession. They supported high spending on the military, a policy known as military Keynesianism.

At first, liberals generally did not see Franklin D. Roosevelt's successor Harry S. Truman as one of their own, viewing him as a Democratic Party hack. However, liberal politicians and liberal organizations such as the Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) sided with Truman in opposing Communism both at home and abroad, sometimes at the sacrifice of civil liberties. [29] For example, Hubert Humphrey put before the Senate in 1950 a bill to establish detention centers where those declared subversive by the President could be held without trial, but it did not pass.

Liberals were united in their opposition to McCarthyism. [30] [ vague ]

Decline of Southern liberals Edit

Southern liberals were an essential part of the New Deal coalition as without them Roosevelt lacked majorities in Congress. Typical leaders were Lyndon B. Johnson in Texas, Jim Folsom and John Sparkman in Alabama, Claude Pepper in Florida, Earl Long in Louisiana, Luther H. Hodges in North Carolina and Estes Kefauver in Tennessee. They promoted subsidies for small farmers and supported the nascent labor union movement. An essential condition for this North–South coalition was for Northern liberals to ignore Southern racism. After 1945, Northern liberals, led especially by young Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota, increasingly made civil rights a central issue. They convinced Truman to join them in 1948. The conservative Southern Democrats, best known as the Dixiecrats, took control of the state parties there and ran Strom Thurmond for president in 1948. Thurmond carried only the Deep South, but that threat was enough to guarantee the national Democratic Party in 1952 and 1956 would not make civil rights a major issue. In 1956, 101 of the 128 Southern Representatives and Senators signed the Southern Manifesto denouncing forced desegregation in 1956. [31] The labor movement in the South was divided and lost its political influence. Southern liberals were in a quandary as most of them kept quiet or moderated their liberalism whilst others switched sides and the minority remnant continued on the liberal path. One by one, the last group was defeated. According to historian Numan V. Bartley, "the very word 'liberal' gradually disappeared from the southern political lexicon, except as a term of opprobrium". [32]

Liberal consensus Edit

By 1950, the liberal ideology was so intellectually dominant that the literary critic Lionel Trilling wrote that "liberalism is not only the dominant but even the sole intellectual tradition, [. ] there are no conservative or reactionary ideas in circulation". [33]

For almost two decades, Cold War liberalism remained the dominant paradigm in American politics, peaking with the landslide victory of Lyndon B. Johnson over Barry Goldwater in the 1964 presidential election. [ citation needed ]

The postwar liberal consensus included acceptance of a modest welfare state and anti-communism domestic and foreign policies. [34] [35] Some of its elements were shared with embedded liberalism, [36] that aimed to combine benefits of free markets with some interventionist domestic policies.

Civil rights laws Edit

Cold War liberalism emerged at a time when most African-Americans were politically and economically disenfranchised. Beginning with To Secure These Rights, an official report issued by the Truman White House in 1947, self-proclaimed liberals increasingly embraced the civil rights movement. In 1948, President Truman desegregated the armed forces and the Democrats inserted a strong civil-rights plank in the party platform even though delegates from the Deep South walked out and nominated a third-party ticket, the Dixiecrats, headed by Strom Thurmond. Truman abolished discrimination in the armed forces, leading to the integration of military units in the early 1950s. However, no civil rights legislation was passed until a weak bill in 1957. [37]

During the 1960s, relations between white liberals and the civil rights movement became increasingly strained as civil-rights leaders accused liberal politicians of temporizing and procrastinating, although they realized they needed the support of liberal Northern Democrats and Republicans for the votes to pass any legislation over Southern obstructionism. Many white liberals believed the grassroots movement for civil rights would only anger many Southern whites and make it even more difficult to pass civil rights laws through Congress. In response to that concern, civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. agreed to tone down the March on Washington in 1963. President John F. Kennedy finally endorsed the March on Washington and proposed what would become the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but he could not get it passed during his lifetime. Lyndon B. Johnson had been a New Deal Democrat in the 1930s and by the 1950s had decided that the Democratic Party had to break from its segregationist past and endorse racial liberalism as well as economic liberalism. [38] Johnson rode the enormous wave of sympathy for the assassinated predecessor. With help from conservative Republicans led by Everett Dirksen, the Southern filibuster was broken. Johnson enacted a mass of Great Society legislation, headed by the powerful Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed segregation, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 which reversed state efforts to stop blacks from voting and facilitated their mobilization as millions of new liberal Democratic voters. [39] The result was an immediate end to segregation in most public places (except schools) and an end to restrictions on black voting. [40] Unexpectedly, passage was quickly followed by a wave of black riots in the inner cities which made for the "long hot summers" in every major city from 1964 through 1970. The riots alienated much of the white working-class that had been the base of the labor-union element in the civil-rights coalition. [41]

The civil-rights movement itself was becoming fractured. On March 8, 1964, Malcolm X stated he was going to organize a black-nationalist organization that would try to "heighten the political consciousness" of African-Americans. [42] By 1966, a Black Power movement had emerged. Black Power advocates accused white liberals of trying to control the civil-rights agenda. Proponents of Black Power wanted African-Americans to follow an "ethnic model" for obtaining power, not unlike that of Democratic political machines in large cities. [ citation needed ] This put them on a collision course with urban machine politicians and on its edges the Black Power movement contained racial separatists who wanted to give up on integration altogether—a program that could not be endorsed by American liberals of any race. [ citation needed ] The mere existence of such individuals (who always got more media attention than their actual numbers might have warranted) contributed to "white backlash" against liberals and civil rights activists. [43]

Clashes with the New Left on Vietnam Edit

While the civil rights movement isolated liberals from the white working class and Southern Democrats, the Vietnam War threw another wedge into the liberal ranks, dividing pro-war "hawks" such as Senator Henry M. Jackson from "doves" such as Senator and 1972 presidential candidate George McGovern. As the war became the leading political issue of the day, agreement on domestic matters was not enough to hold the liberal consensus together. [44] Vietnam was part of the strategy of containment of Soviet Communism which began in earnest in 1947 to counter the Soviet threat. In the 1960 presidential campaign, Kennedy was more "hawkish" on Southeast Asia than Richard Nixon. Although the war expanded from 16,000 Americans in Vietnam under Kennedy to 500,000 under Johnson, there was much continuity of their policies, until Nixon arrived in 1969. The deep division between liberals and the New Left, especially on foreign policy, troubled the Democratic Party for decades. [45]

A large portion of the growing opposition to the war came from younger activists, with a strong base on elite university campuses. They had become alienated from the establishment and formed the New Left. After Johnson did poorly in the 1968 primaries and decided to focus on peacemaking and not run for reelection, tensions rapidly escalated inside the Democratic Party. Assassinations struck down the two top liberals, Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy. Vice President Hubert Humphrey, by now a cautious moderate who meekly followed Lyndon Johnson in domestic and foreign policy, was the last man standing at the disastrously violent 1968 Democratic National Convention. Much of the party's right-wing, from the South and ethnic white districts in the North, veered off to vote for Alabama Governor George Wallace. The result was a narrow victory for Republican Richard Nixon in a three-way race. Although touted as a conservative, President Nixon, with a Democratic Congress, enacted many liberal policies, including the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency, normalizing relations with Communist China, and starting the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks to reduce the availability of ballistic missiles. [46]

Liberals vehemently disliked Nixon and he reciprocated in kind with an enemies list. Yet as president, Nixon took many policy positions that can only be described as liberal. Before Nixon was elected, the liberal wing of his own party favored politicians such as Nelson Rockefeller and William Scranton. In 1968 Nixon won the nomination by an appeal to a "silent majority" of conservatives, disgusted and frightened by soaring crime rates and widespread race riots. [47] Using executive orders, he single-handedly created the main environmental agency (the Environmental Protection Agency), something that was achieved without a vote in Congress. He expanded funding for liberal favorites like the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. [48] One of his top advisers was liberal Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who said that "Nixon mostly opted for liberal policies, merely clothing them [. ] in conservative rhetoric". [49] In addition to support for such liberal causes as the arts and the environment, he supported liberalization of laws against recreational drugs. To the astonishment of conservatives, he imposed wage and price controls to counteract inflation. Noam Chomsky, who often attacks liberalism from the left, has called Nixon "in many respects the last liberal president". [50] Historians increasingly emphasize the liberalism of his administration's policies while not attributing them to Nixon personally. [51]

The 1965–1974 period was a major liberal activist era in congress, with the Democratic-led congress during the presidency of Richard Nixon continuing to produce liberal domestic policies. They organized themselves internally to round up votes, track legislation, mobilize interests, and produce bills without direct assistance from the White House. A wide range of progressive measures were carried out, such as increases in social security (a 20% benefit increase and linkage to automatic cost-of-living increases in 1972), public welfare (with expansion of unemployment compensation, food stamps and supplemental security income additions to social security), workplace rules (with the passage of the Occupational Safety and Health Act in 1970), urban aid (with the addition of mass transit subsidies to highway construction enactments), environmentalism (with the passage of the National Environmental Protection Act of 1969 and the Clean Air Act of 1970), aid to education (including Title IX in 1972), civil rights (with the extension of the Voting Rights Act in 1970) [52] and nutrition (with the establishment of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children in 1972). [53]

The political dominance of the liberal consensus even into the Nixon years can best be seen in policies by, for example, the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency and also in Nixon's failed proposal to replace the welfare system with a guaranteed annual income by way of a negative income tax. Affirmative action in its most quota-oriented form was a Nixon administration policy. Even the Nixon War on Drugs allocated two-thirds of its funds for treatment, a far higher ratio than was to be the case under any subsequent President, Republican or Democrat. Additionally, Nixon's normalization of diplomatic relations with Communist China and his policy of détente with the Soviet Union were likely more popular with liberals than with his conservative base. Nixon also successfully supported a cost-of-living adjustment for Social Security recipients.

An opposing view was offered by Cass R. Sunstein in The Second Bill of Rights. [54] He argues that through his Supreme Court appointments, Nixon effectively ended a decades-long expansion under United States law of economic rights along the lines of those put forward in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948 by the United Nations General Assembly.

Since the 1970s Edit

During the Nixon years and through the 1970s, the liberal consensus began to come apart. The alliance with white Southern Democrats had been lost in the Civil Rights era. While the steady enfranchisement of African Americans expanded the electorate to include many new voters sympathetic to liberal views, it was not quite enough to make up for the loss of some Southern Democrats. Organized labor, long a bulwark of the liberal consensus, was past the peak of its power in the United States and many unions had remained in favor of the Vietnam War even as liberal politicians increasingly turned against it. Within the Democratic Party leadership, there was a turn toward moderation on racial themes after the defeat of liberal George McGovern in 1972. [55]

Meanwhile, in the Republican ranks, a new wing of the party emerged. The anti-establishment conservatives who had been aroused by Barry Goldwater in 1964 challenged the more liberal leadership in 1976 and took control of the party under Ronald Reagan in 1980. Liberal Republicans faded away even in their Northeastern strongholds. [56] Reagan successfully lowered marginal tax rates, most notably for those at the top of the income distribution while his Social Security reforms raised taxes on the middle and bottom of the income distribution, leaving their total tax burden unchanged. [57] [58]

More centrist groups, like the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), supported Bill Clinton and challenged liberals for control of the Democratic Party. [59] Clinton portrayed himself as a centrist New Democrat. Thus, he distanced himself from New Deal Democrats. With help from the Southern-dominated DLC, Clinton claimed the center of national politics. [60] Clinton worked with conservatives and against strong liberal opposition to end some of the main welfare programs and to implement NAFTA, linking the economies of the United States, Canada and Mexico. [ relevant? ] Clinton pushed to extend liberal ideals in the areas of health care (where he failed) and environmental protection (where he had more success). On the whole, he came under fierce attack from the left and from many liberals who charged that he betrayed the New Deal traditions of activist government, especially regarding welfare and his collaboration with business. [61]

On January 1, 2013, President Barack Obama succeeded in raising taxes on the rich while keeping them steady on the middle class. On January 21, 2013, Obama delivered his second inaugural address that championed numerous liberal causes. [62]

Early liberalism Edit

The United States was the first country to be founded on the liberal ideas of John Locke and other philosophers of the Enlightenment, with no monarchy and no hereditary aristocracy, and while individual states had established religions, the federal government was kept from establishing religion by the First Amendment. The United States Bill of Rights guarantees every citizen the freedoms advocated by the liberal philosophers, namely equality under the law, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, the right to gather in peaceful assembly, the right to petition the government for redress of grievances and the right to bear arms, among other freedoms and rights. In this sense, virtually all Americans are liberals. [63]

However, both before and after the country was founded legal questions concerning the scope of these rights and freedoms arose. In the Dred Scott decision of 1856–1857, the Supreme Court ruled that these rights only applied to white men and that blacks had no rights whatsoever that any white man was obliged to respect. Several constitutional amendments after the Dred Scott decision extended the guarantees of the Bill of Rights to larger classes of citizens, to all citizens in 1868, then specifically to blacks in 1870, to women in 1919 and to people unable to afford a poll tax in 1964. [64]

Classical liberalism Edit

In the United States, classical liberalism, also called laissez-faire liberalism, [65] is the belief that a free-market economy is the most productive and government interference favors a few and hurts the many—or as Henry David Thoreau stated, "that government is best which governs least". Classical liberalism is a philosophy of individualism and self-responsibility with little concern for groups or sub-communities. Classical liberals in the United States believe that if the economy is left to the natural forces of supply and demand, free of government intervention, the result is the most abundant satisfaction of human wants. Modern classical liberals oppose the concepts of social democracy and the welfare state. [66]

Modern liberalism Edit

In 1883, Lester Frank Ward (1841–1913) published Dynamic Sociology: Or Applied Social Science, as Based Upon Statical Sociology and the Less Complex Sciences and laid out the basic tenets of modern American liberalism while at the same time attacking the laissez-faire policies advocated by Herbert Spencer and William Graham Sumner. [67] Ward was a passionate advocate for a sociology that would intelligently and scientifically direct the development of society. [68]

Another influential thinker in the Progressive Era was Herbert Croly (1869–1930). He effectively combined classical liberal theory with progressive philosophy and founded the periodical The New Republic to present his ideas. Croly presented the case for a mixed economy, increased spending on education and the creation of a society based on the "brotherhood of mankind". In 1909, Croly published The Promise of American Life in which he proposed raising the general standard of living by means of economic planning, though he opposed aggressive unionization. [69] In The Techniques of Democracy (1915), Croly argued against both dogmatic individualism and dogmatic socialism. As editor of The New Republic, he had the forum to reach the intellectual community. [70]

According to Paul Starr, sociologist at Princeton University:

Liberalism wagers that a state [. ] can be strong but constrained—strong because constrained. [. ] Rights to education and other requirements for human development and security aim to advance the opportunity and personal dignity of minorities and to promote a creative and productive society. To guarantee those rights, liberals have supported a wider social and economic role for the state, counterbalanced by more robust guarantees of civil liberties and a wider social system of checks and balances anchored in an independent press and pluralistic society.

The Roots of Liberalism

Now that we have a basic introduction down, lets look at the roots of liberalism and conservatism.

To understand the roots of liberalism is to understand conservatism, so let’s look at the roots of liberalism in the west.

We can generally say liberalism is an ideology that begins with Greeks like Plato (if not earlier) in spirit, continues in the Roman Republic, then continues with early figures like Machiavelli and Buchanan, and then starts in earnest in the Age of Enlightenment with figures like Locke as a pushback against the traditional order of Churches, Barons, and Kings.

Liberalism was the political ideology upon which the modern West was founded, and it was the ideology at the heart of England’s revolution, the French Revolution, and… the American Revolution.

Aside from liberty and equality, liberalism also champions the liberal ideologies of republicanism, reason, separation of powers, popular sovereignty, law and fairness, free speech, free trade, freedom of religion, and other general ideologies that favor human rights and the liberties and well-being of individuals and groups.

Thus it should be no surprise, the terms liberal and conservative and their related properties are at the core of the namesake of the Major U.S. political parties, the Democrats and Republicans (which party takes which stance changes per issue and per era, but their namesakes imply their original preferred type of government) and the fundamental principles that create what we call left-wing and right-wing (where left describes err’ing toward liberty and equality and right describes err’ing toward authority, order, and restraint).

When the forces are in balance, we get enlightened eras and good feelings, when they are out of balance globally we get far-right Fascists and far-left Communists and Civil or World War. So, fun terms, but also vital to understand to prevent WWIII.

TIP: It can be said that the classical types are the first types to arise and then the social types follow. This is true as far as them being articulated clearly in modern times or embraced by modern governments, however each type has roots that arguably stretch back to the start of recorded history, and it can be argued (as it is by Jefferson) that the types are simply an advent of naturally occurring aspects of the human condition manifesting as views on economics, politics, and the social structure. The ideologies are all responses to each other, but if you are looking for a starting point for modern political ideology (ignoring Aristotle – Livy – Machiavelli – Buchanan) the Age of Enlightenment is a good place to start.


Liberalism is a term that is much used and little understood. It is used in the political, religious, social, and intellectual arenas, often without definition. In a practical sense many individuals of a conservative bent would identify a Liberal as anyone more open-minded than they are. In fact, religious Liberalism involved a commitment to a central set of theological and religious propositions. These propositions, when worked out gave birth, in fact, to a new religion which retained orthodox terminology but radically redefined those terms to give them new meaning. For example, nineteenth century Scottish Old Testament scholar and theologian, W. Robertson Smith when told that he had been accused of denying the divinity of Christ, Smith responded by asking, “How can they accuse me of that? I’ve never denied the divinity of any man, let alone Jesus.”

Liberalism as a theological system did not arise in a vacuum, nor was its aim to destroy historic Christianity. Liberalism can only be understood in the historical and philosophical context out of which it arose. In a very real sense Liberalism as a system was trying to salvage something of Christianity from the ashes of the fire of the Enlightenment . B.B. Warfield observed of Liberalism near the turn of the century that it was Rationalism. But a Rationalism that was not the direct result of unbelief. Rather, it sprang from men who would hold to their Christian convictions in the face of a rising onslaught of unbelief which they perceive they were powerless to withstand. It was a movement arising from within the church and characterized by an effort to retain the essence of Christianity by surrendering the accretions and features that were no longer considered defensible in the modern world. 1 The rising tide of unbelief that confronted the founders of Liberalism was the Enlightenment .

The Roots of Liberalism

The Effects of the Enlightenment: (The Age of Reason The Aufklrung)

The Enlightenment was an intellectual movement during the eighteenth century which elevated human reason to near divine status and ascribed to it the ability to discern truth of all types without appeal to supernatural divine revelation. The movement has been termed as The Modern Paganism 2

The Enlightenment gave birth to much that we still see today as part of the modern mind. These features include:

1. The beginning of scientific history

2. Any truth must justify itself before the bar of reason

3. Nature is the primary source of answers to the fundamental questions of human existence

4. Freedom is necessary to advance progress and human welfare

5. Literary and historical criticism are necessary to determine the legitimacy of our historical legacy

6. The need for critical philosophy

7. Ethics as separate and independent from the authority of religion and theology.

8. A suspicion of and hostility to all truth claiming to be grounded in some kind of authority other than reason, e.g. tradition or divine revelation

9. Raising to the value of science as the avenue by which man can find truth.

10. Toleration as the highest value in matters of religion

11. A self-conscious continuation and expansion of the humanism first developed during the Renaissance 3

Philosophically during the Enlightenment man saw it as possible for him to reason his way to God. In a real sense this was the modern tower of Babel with all the hubris that implies.

During this age there arose a group of scholars who have come to be known as the Neologians (or Innovators). It was they who pioneered the work in biblical criticism, attacking the doctrine of biblical inspiration as it had been precisely articulated during the late Reformation period. The Neologians specifically assaulted traditional Protestant doctrines generally and Lutheran doctrines specifically. They attacked the supernaturalism of historic Christianity in general and such doctrines as the trinity, the deity of Christ, the atonement, the virgin birth, the resurrection, Chalcedonian Christology and the existence of Satan.

On another front this age saw the rise of Deism, which asserted while that God was indeed the creator, He had created a clockwork image universe which operated by natural law. God himself would not interfere with his creation, hence miracles became impossible because they would violate the inviolable laws of nature. Works appeared such as Christianity as Old as Time , arguing that Christianity merely republished the revelation of God which was available to man in nature. God himself was transcendent , separated, above and uninvolved in creation.

Immanuel Kant

Immanuel Kant marks the watershed between the Enlightenment and the Romantic period which followed. In a very real sense Kant is the last of the Enlightenment philosophers. But as an enlightenment philosopher his Critique of Pure Reason destroyed the hubris of the Enlightenment program of seeking all knowledge through the use of reason. Kant so revolutionized the way modern humanity thinks that philosophers still refer to “Kant’s Copernican Revolution.” As Copernicus changed the way scientists thought about the solar system, Kant revolutionized the way that modern man understands reality. Before Kant, philosophical epistemology had generally been divided into two camps, the idealists who saw ultimate reality in the mind (ratioalists) and the empiricists who said ultimate reality in the physical universe. Enlightenment philosophers debated the status of human knowledge empiricists arguing on the one hand that all knowledge came into the brain from the outside, with rationalists contending that knowledge arose out of the mind itself.

Kant asserted that neither side of the debate was right. Instead human knowledge arose from the interplay of incoming sensory data (absorbed through the five senses) and innate categories built into the human mind which processed that data and in turn made it “knowledge.” He further held that reality was to be divided into two realms, the phenomenal (the created order in which we live and which is open for us to experience) and the noumnenal (spiritual, metaphysical reality). According to Kant’s theory of knowledge the human mind is divided into categories. These included Quantity (unity, plurality, totality) , Quality (Reality, limitation, negation) , Relation (Inherence and subsistence, causality and dependence, community) , Modality (possibility-impossibility, existence-non-existence, necessity-contingency). These are the only categories possessed by the mind and thus the only categories by which to interpret data. Significantly, in Kant’s system there were no categories by which to receive data from the spiritual (noumenal) world. In this way, humanity is like the blind man. He has no organ to receive the light which surrounds him. He believes that light exists and things are there to be seen, but he has no faculty by which to perceive it. Since he is blind to noumenal reality of all types, man cannot know “the thing in itself.” All that can be known is things as they are experienced.

The Enlightenment Philosophers attempt to know God as he is in himself by reasoning up to Him. was, according to Kant, a vain attempt doomed from the outset. God inhabited the noumenal realm and thus could not be experienced by man. Kant did not entertain the possibility that God could break into the realm of history (the phenomenal realm) and reveal himself.

But Kant was not an atheist. He postulated the existence of God, but denied the possibility of any cognitive knowledge of him. It was man’s conscience that testified of God’s existence, and He was to be known through the realm of morality. Kant published another work Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone which set forth his conception that religion was to be reduced to the sphere of morality. For Kant this meant living by the categorical imperative -which he summarized in two maxims:

“Act only on that maxim whereby thou canst at the same time will that it should become a universal law.”

“Act as if the maxim of thy action were to become by thy will a universal law of nature.”

In other words, every action of humanity should be regulated in such a way that it would be morally profitable for humanity if were elevated to the status of law. In one sense this can be seen as a secularization of the Golden Rule.

Kant as a philosopher made no claims to being a Christian. Throughout his adult life was never known to utter the name of Jesus Christ, nor would he enter a Christian Church. When called upon to attend academic functions at the chapel of the University of Koenigsberg where he taught, he would march in his academic robes to the door of the chapel, then slip out of line and go home rather than enter the church.

Hegel: the philosopher of the nineteenth century

G.F.W. Hegel, a contemporary of Schleiermacher gave the dominant shape to idealistic philosophy during the nineteenth century. A philosopher of history and religion Hegel proposed that all of reality is the outworking of Spirit/Mind (Geist) . History is the objectification of Spirit, i.e . Spirit/Mind is working itself out in the historical process and as such history carries its own meaning. From this it follows that there is a continual upward progress in history. History is undergoing a continual cultural and rational (although not biological) evolution, being pushed and pulled forcing culture upward toward its final form by means of the dialectic . Hegel saw historical evolution in terms of a pendulum swing between opposites (thesis-antithesis) which resolved themselves (synthesis) in a position that was higher than either of the opposites. The synthesis then became a new thesis in the upward pull of the historical process.

Whereas philosophy had traditionally been occupied with the concept of BEING Hegel substituted the process of BECOMING. Because all of history was seen as the process of the objectification of Spirit , and human beings were a part of the historical process, all human knowledge was said to be Absolute Spirit thinking through human minds.

An example of how Hegel saw this dialectic working itself out can be seen in his philosophy of history. The original thesis was the Despotism of the ancient period. The antithesis to Despotism was seen as the democracy of ancient Greece. The higher synthesis of these opposing forces was understood as Aristocracy. Aristocracy in turn became the new thesis which was opposed by Monarchy.

Hegel cast his long shadow over the entire 19th century giving it an optimistic cast which dogmatically asserted the progress in history and the perfectibility of humanity. Barth comments , “. . .it was precisely when it (the nineteenth century) was utterly ruled and completely ruled by Hegel that the new age best understood itself, and it was then at all events that it best knew what it wanted.” 4 According to Barth, Hegel held sway until the catastrophe of 1914, World War I. His philosophy of history gave the structure adopted by the emerging schools of biblical criticism, as well as the mental cast to the entire century.

Hegel’s philosophy is the philosophy of self-confidence. 5 The optimistic slogan that characterized the late nineteenth century Liberalism, “Every day in every way we are getting better and better,” reflects that optimism.

Schleiermacher: Father of Liberal Theology


Friederich Daniel Ernst Schleiermacher, the Father of Modern (Liberal) Theology and arguably the greatest theologian to live between the time of Calvin and Barth, was born into the intellectual ferment of the enlightenment and Kant’s criticism of its program. The son of a Reformed chaplain in the Prussian army, Shleiermacher was educated in the Pietism of the Moravians. From their fervent piety with its emphasis on the life in community and commitment to traditional Lutheran doctrine he received his early religious experiences. While studying with the Moravians he first read the Neologians ’ critique of historic Protestant orthodoxy. He was so impressed by their arguments that he left the Moravians and enrolled at Halle, a center of Neologian teaching. The young Friederich accepted the Neologians’ criticism of Lutheran orthodoxy, but rejected their rationalistic and moralistic substitute. About this time Schleiermacher was drawn into the Romantic movement which arose in reaction to the sterile critical and analytical rationalism of the eighteenth century. Romanticism stressed the intuitive and synthetic nature of human reason insisting that truth was to be gained by grasping the whole rather than by an abstract analysis of the parts.

Schleiermacher’s theological program proceeded under three premises (1) The validity of the Enlightenment criticism of dogmatic Protestant Orthodoxy, (2) Romantic Idealistic philosophy gives a better soil in which to ground the Christian faith than the shallow moralistic rationalism of the Enlightenment, (3) Christian theology can be interpreted in terms of romantic idealism and thus allow mankind to be both Christian and modern while being intellectually honest.

In viewing the Neologians’ critique of orthodoxy as correct and in light of Kant’s perceived destruction of the possibility of a rational knowledge of God, Schleiermacher influenced by Romanticism, found a new seat for religion and theology, one that could not be touched by enlightenment criticism--the Gefuhl (the feeling). This feeling is not to be understood as mere emotion. It is the deep inner sense of man that he exists in a relationship of absolute dependence upon God. It is his “god-consciousness” This is the center of religion and piety.

3. The piety which forms the basis of all ecclesiastical communions is, considered purely in itself, neither a knowing or a Doing, but a modification of feeling, or of immediate self-consciousness

4. The common element in all howsoever diverse expressions of piety, by which these are conjointly distinguished from all other feelings, or, in other words, the self-identical essence of piety, is this: the consciousness of being absolutely dependent, or, which is the same thing, of being in relation with God.

In taking this route, Schleiermacher turned the traditional theological method on its head. Rather than starting with any objective revelation, religion was seen at its core as subjective. Experience was seen as giving rise to doctrine rather than doctrine to experience. Theological statements no longer were perceived as describing objective reality, but rather as reflecting the way that the feeling of absolute dependence is related to God. It is this experience which is seen as the final authority in religion rather than the objective revelation of an inerrant Scripture. He says “Christian doctrines are accounts of the Christian religious affections set forth in speech..”

Despite having the potential for God-consciousness, humans are by their nature in a state of “god-forgetfulness” from which they are unable to save themselves. Redemption is found through the experience of Christ through the corporate life of the church. Redemption is "mystical, “centered in the personal communion of the believer with the fully god-conscious man Jesus Christ.

For Scheleiermacher, Jesus Christ was unique. Not that he was the God-man of historic orthodoxy, but rather in that he demonstrated in his life a perfect and uninterrupted God-consciousness,. He displayed the “veritable existence of God in him.” This was the redemption which Jesus accomplished. and brought to mankind. In this understanding the cross is not in a sacrificial atonement, but rather it is an example of Jesus’ willingness to enter into ‘sympathy with misery.’ Redemption was then the inner transformation of the individual from the state of God-forgetfulness to the state of God-consciousness. To put it another way, redemption is that state in which god-consciousness predominates over all else in life. Thus his theology was utterly Christocentric in that it was concerned with the example of Jesus as the perfectly god-conscious one.

Ritschl: Theological Agnosticism

The second major stream in classic Liberalism (which synonomous with Liberalism in its later form) was established by Albrect Ritschl. Whereas Schleiermacher was mystic, seeing the center of religion in the feeling, Ritschl was more closely tied to Kant and saw religion in terms of morality and personal effort in establishing the Kingdom of God (a moral ethical Kingdom). According to Ritschl,

Christianity is the monotheistic, completely spiritual and ethical religion., which, on the basis of the life of its Founder as redeeming and establishing the kingdom of God, consists in the freedom of the children of God, includes the impulse to conduct form the motive of live, the intention of which is the moral organization of mankind, and the filial relation to God as well as in the kingdom of God lays the foundation of blessedness. (Justification and Reconciliation , III., ET 1900, 13)

Religious truth in the Ritschlian conception became different in kind from all other knowledge it involved moral-ethical judgments which were subjectively determined by the individual. The system surrendered rational knowledge of God and things divine. In its place it substituted, as the essence of Christianity, a subjectively verified personal theism, a devotion to the Man Jesus Christ as the revealer of God and His kingdom, and a subjection to His moral-ethical principles.

Employing the epistemology of Kant (as modified by Lotze) as a foundation, Ritschlianism sought to separate religion and theology from philosophy and metaphysics, founding religion strictly upon phenomenological experience. Kant had asserted that the only knowledge available to mankind was that of experience, the phenomenological. With this proposition the Ritschlians agreed. "Theology without metaphysics" became the watchword of the entire school. 6 Following in the Kantian tradition, the Ritschlians asserted that human knowledge was strictly limited to the world of the phenomena, a world which included the realm of verifiable history and the realm of personal experience. Knowledge of God as He was in Himself, His essence and attributes fell outside the possibility of human experience, so , no positive assertions concerning His nature could be made . This was how Ritschlianism represented a "theological agnosticism." 7 Ritschl himself asserted (with Kant) that man could not know things "in themselves" but only on their phenomenological relations. 8 Since man had no categories by which to perceive God in the world, knowledge of Him fell outside the realm of the "theoretic" (scientific/empirical). Since Ritschlianism was strictly empirical, the value of historical study was elevated as a means by which one could discover God's revelation in history: the person of Jesus Christ. 9

Revelation of God and certainty in religion for the Ritschlians took place when one was confronted with the historic person of Jesus Christ 10 . The truth communicated in this revelation was not "theoretic" (scientific) but "religious." Such a distinction divorced faith from reason. According to the Ritschlians the two realms had to be kept entirely separate. 11 Religious truth was no longer to be found in objective, verifiable propositions but in the realm of the subjective experience, in " value judgments ". These " value judgments " were of a different nature than scientific knowledge. They gave no definite objective propositional knowledge, rather they set forth their subjective value for the individual. 12 For example, the existence of God could not be rationally demonstrated. But since man needed Him, that was proof that He existed. 13 However, nothing could be inferred concerning His nature, attributes, or His relationship to the world. 14 The God of the Christian might be Jesus Christ, " . . or he may believe in one or another kind of God. His God may not be Christian at all. It may be Jewish, as Jesus' God was. It may be neo-Platonic. It may be Stoic or Hindu. It may be Deistic." 15 One could not communicate objective truth about God from his revelation in Jesus Christ the most one could say was that in Jesus Christ one received the impression that God was present and active before him. 16 Thus, religious knowledge (in the objective sense) became the common shared experience of God . 17

The whole enterprise was one of religious positivism. It began with the data of experience, the experience which the individual had with the historic Christ. That experience included the freedom and deliverance He imparted to the individual by virtue of His life and teachings. This deliverance could not be denied since it was within the realm of the individual's experience. But the enterprise also ended there. Although it professed to meet Christ in the pages of Scripture, it denied any knowledge of His preexistence, His atoning death, or second coming. Although Jesus was afforded the title "Son of God" and had divinity ascribed to Him, these were but titles of honor, communicating no ontological reality. Such knowledge was beyond the realm of experience. 18

Ritschl believes Christ to be God because in Him he is conscious of a power lifting him above himself, into a new world of peace and strength. Why this should be he cannot tell, nor can he give an answer to the man who asks him for an explanation of the fact of his experience. Enough that he point to Christ as the one through whom he has received deliverance, leaving it to the other to make the test, try the experiment for himself. 19

Since knowledge in the system was limited to phenomena, Ritschlianism was adamantly anti-mystic. It denied the soul any direct access to God . 20 From the perspective of Ritschlianism the aim of mysticism was,

. . . ontologically unsound in that it involves getting back of phenomena to the noumenal. That one may assume a noumenon back of phenomena is of course true but that one can hold valid communion with it--that one can press back beyond phenomena and come into direct touch with it is a delusion. 21

God was seen as personal yet unknowable in any real sense. Knowledge of God was mediated through the person of Jesus Christ as He appeared in history. 22 Looking back of Christ to God was a vain proposition. Communion with Him involved, not mystic rapture, but moral effort on behalf of His kingdom.

To commune with God is to enter into his purpose as revealed in Christ--to make them our own and to fulfill them increasingly and to gain the inspiration and the power which come from knowing that they are God's will. . . . Genuine communion with God to the Christian is the conscious and glad fulfilling of God's purposes. 23

Comparative Religions/History of Religions School


Another development which took place within the context of Liberalism was the birth of the study of comparative religions. Two factors underlie this new discipline which proved to be another threat to the distinctiveness of Christianity. The first was Romanticism. Romantic philosophy led to a curiosity about and appreciation for other peoples’ religions as authentic ways of expressing the human experience. The second factor was the increase of knowledge which came as a result of the colonization of the world by the Western European powers. Vast amounts of new knowledge about the world and competing cultures and their native religions became available. The burgeoning science of archaeology opened the past and now allowed for the Bible to be studied against its cultural milieu in a way that had not heretofore been possible.

These two factors combined to form a new area of scientific study, comparative religions. All religions were seen in their most basic form to lead to one truth (God) and to promote a common ethic of love for one’s neighbor. In Germany, comparative religions took the form of the History of Religions school which studied the religions of the nations surrounding Israel and concluded that Israelite religion had taken elements of the surrounding pagan beliefs and placed these within a structure of monotheism. For example, Israel’s tradition of creation and the flood were said to have been borrowed from the Babylonian Genesis and the epic of Gilgamesh.

The History of Religions school was hostile to Ritschlianism for Ritschl’s lack of sensitivity to the historical background of both Christianity and Judaism. It held that Biblical faith in both its Old and New Testament expressions was not distinct and a result of supernatural revelation, but represented humanity’s evolving conceptions about God and religion.

Adolf von Harnack

Harnack represents the apex of Liberal theology. He was the greatest historian of Christianity of the generation and his work has set a standard for scholarship for the succeeding century. His History of Dogma has been the definitive work on the subject since its publication. Harnack operated totally within the framework of Liberalism, seeing the pristine purity of the gospel as having been corrupted even within the New Testament era, transforming Christianity from the religion of Jesus to the religion about Jesus. Further corruption took place in the succeeding centuries as Christianity moved out of its Jewish background and confronted the Hellenistic world. Controversies over the trinity and the two natures of the incarnate Christ hopelessly confused the Gospel message in Hellenistic philosophy. He argued that the task of the theologian was to get back to the kernel of the gospel by stripping away the husks of Hellenism to find what was real and permanent.

Specifically, the Gospel was seen as having nothing to do with the Person of the Son. It dealt with the Father only. 24 In this understanding, Jesus' preaching demanded "no other belief in his person and no other attachments to it than is contained in the keeping of his commandments." 25 Any doctrine of the Person of Christ was totally foreign to His ideas. Such doctrine lay not in the teachings of Christ Himself, but in the modifications introduced by His followers, especially Paul.

Harnack held that it was through the work of Paul that the man Jesus Christ was first seen to have more than human stature. It was he who was seen to have introduced modifications to Christianity by which the simple gospel of Jesus was ultimately replaced by adherence to doctrines relating to the Person of Christ. Moreover, Paul was seen as having been the one who first invested the death and resurrection of Christ with redemptive significance.

If redemption is to be traced to Christ's person and work, everything would seem to depend on a right understanding of this person together with what he accomplished. The formation of a correct theory of and about Christ threatens to assume the position of chief importance, and to pervert the majesty and simplicity of the Gospel . 26

In his brief but important work, What is Christianity? , Harnack distilled the essence of Christianity as, The Fatherhood of God, The Brotherhood of Man and the infinite value of the human soul. The kingdom he contended was an internal affair of the heart.

Social Gospel

The Social Gospel was the Liberal Protestant attempt to apply biblical principles to the problems associated with emerging urbanization . Key is that it saw the Kingdom as a social/political entity

Late nineteenth century America underwent profound sociological upheaval. The industrial revolution had thrust the problems of urban society upon a nation that had heretofore been primarily rural. As the problems of dynamic sociological revolution manifested themselves in the slums and work houses, the individualistic gospel of revivalism had little to say to the problems that faced the urban dwellers every day. Walter Rauschenbusch spent eleven years in the “Hell’s Kitchen” area of New York city ministering among the German speaking immigrants. Here he saw poverty, injustice and oppression. This led him to rethink the implications of the gospel and articulate A Theology of the Social Gospel. His premise was that

The social gospel is the old message of salvation, but enlarged and intensified. The individualistic gospel has taught us to see the sinfulness of every human heart and has inspired us with faith in the willingness and power of God tot save every soul that comes to him, But it has not given us an adequate understanding of the sinfulness of the social order and its share in the sins of all individuals within it. It has not evoked faith in the will and power of God to redeem the permanent institutions of human society from their inherited guilt of oppression and extortion. Both our sense of sin and out faith in salvation have fallen short of the realities under its teaching. The social gospel seeks to bring men under repentance for their collective sins and to create a more sensitive and more modern conscience. It calls for the faith of the old prophets who believed in the salvation of nations. 27

While Rauschenbusch was relatively conservative in his theological outlook, those who took up his mantle saw the message the gospel and the task of the church as working to end human suffering and establish social justice.

Major Theological Propositions of Liberalism

God is the loving immanent Father in constant communion with his creation and working within it rather than upon it to bring it to the perfection for which it is destined. God is the loving father who corrects his children but is not retributive in His punishment. “. . . The idea of an immanent God, which is the God of evolution, is infinitely grander than the occasional wonder-worker who is the God of an old theology.” 28 Such a position breached the traditional barrier between the natural and the supernatural. “Miracle is only the religious name for an event. Every event, even the most natural and common, is a miracle if it lends itself to a controlingly religious interpretation. To me all is miracle” 29

No longer was man seen as radically sinful and in need of redemption. Rather he is in some sense in communion with God.. There was no infinite qualitative distinction between God and man. God was even to be known in measure and by analogy through study of the human personality. Emphasis was placed upon human freedom and ability to do all that God required, and eternity was interpreted as immortality of the spirit rather than the resurrection of the body.


Liberal Protestantism rediscovered the humanity of Christ, a truth that had been in practice ignored in previous generations. But, Liberalism went beyond a rediscovery of Christ’s humanity to a denial of his ontological deity. Instead of the incarnate God-man, Jesus Christ became the perfect man who has attained divine status because of his perfect piety (god-consciousness). Jesus is the supreme example of God indwelling man. There is no qualitative distinction between Jesus and the rest of humanity. The distinction is quantitative He is more full of God that other humans.

Religious authority:

Whereas previous generations had seen the Bible as the ultimate practical authority for the Christian, Liberalism made authority wholly subjective based on individual spiritual experience. Ultimate authority was not to be found in any external source, Bible, Church, or tradition, but on the individual’s reason, conscience and intuition. The Bible became the record of man’s evolving religious conceptions. The New Testament was normative only in the teachings of Jesus. The rest of the New Testament falls victim to changing the focus of the gospel from the religion of Jesus to a religion about Jesus.


Man is confronted with salvation in the person of Jesus. By following his teachings and the example of his life one enters into communion with him.

The Kingdom:

This is a moral kingdom with God ruling in the hearts of humans. The kingdom is also manifested in society by the establishment of justice and righteousness in the political sphere. It will be finally established as God works through man in the historical process.

The guiding principles of were distilled by Harnack in his What is Christianity? These were:

1. Universal Fatherhood of God

2. Universal Brotherhood of Man

3. Infinite value of the individual human soul

Additionally, Jesus Christ served as the Supreme example, the man who was perfectly God-conscious at all times, in whom God was perfectly immanent. HE lived his life by a "higher righteousness" governed by the law of love, independent of religious worship & technical observance. He lived out in his life the perfect example of which we may all become.


The term modernism was first used of a movement within Roman Catholicism and pointed to a mentality that was similar to Liberal Protestantism. However, in the United States the term came to be applied to the radical edge of liberal theology (beginning c.1910) . Whereas earlier liberalism was a kind of pathetic salvage movement trying to save the essence of Christianity from the ashes of the Enlightenment, Modernism posed a direct challenge to evangelical Protestantism and fostered a full scale response in the form of Fundamentalism. In the early decades of the twentieth century, the American religious scene was wracked with the Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy. Progressively effected were Congregationalism, Episcopalianism Northern Presbyterian, Methodist and Baptist bodies so that by about 1930 many of these bodies were seen to have been “taken over.” This pitted those defenders of historic Christianity against the rising tide of a new “theology” that rejected the normative status of the Bible and even of Jesus Christ . In this Modernism signaled a step beyond Liberalism.

As a movement Modernism embraced the Enlightenment, an optimistic view of history based on the radical immanentism of God which saw the Holy Spirit as operative within both nature and culture perfecting them. This concept marked a direct dependence on Hegel’s philosophy history. The division between secular culture and the sacred were seen as invalid because the Holy Spirit was seen as operative in both realms making “the kingdoms of this world become the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Modernism emphasized autonomous human reason focusing on humanity’s freedom and self determination and it gave a religious authorization to modern efforts of man to improve his lot by relying on his own inherent goodness. The radical power of sin and evil were minimized to the level of inconvenience. Truth was seen in the latest findings of science rather than in any supernatural revelation or in any historic person. In this Modernism represented a step beyond Liberalism.

In the U.S. Modernism as a movement found its impetus from Shailer Matthews and the Chicago School (University of Chicago). Matthews used a sociohistorical approach to religion arguing that religion is functional in that it helps people to make sense of the environment in which they find themselves and that theology is “transcendantlaized politics” arising out of the church’s interaction with its particular culture. This meant that Christianity had to be “modernized” in every age in order to remain a live option for each new generation.. As a movement Modernism went into decline in the 1930s under the attacks of Neo-Orthodoxy but key ideas found revival during the radicalism of the 1960s.


Immanentism: loss of personality of God: radical immanentanism that became panentheism denied miracles

Christianity had historically asserted the doctrine of God’s omnipresence, i.e. that he was present everywhere in the created order while remaining separate form it. The new stress on divine immanence in the world did not represent a return to the classical doctrine of omnipresence. Omnipresence as it had been traditionally understood emphasized the distinction between God and the world, whereas immanence implied an "intimate relationship, that the universe and God are in some sense truly one." 30 Thus, a thoroughgoing doctrine of immanence led to a denial of the supernatural as traditionally understood. There were not two realms, a natural and a supernatural, but one. Nor were there miracles in the sense of God breaking into the natural order for God was not perceived as being “out there” to break in rather, all was miraculous for God was in all.

Lack of a doctrine of sin:

Coupled with this loss of divine transcendence there was an accompanying elevation of the position of man. No longer was he viewed as depraved and separated from God. Rather there was a blending of the distinction between God and man, a blending which emphasized not human sinfulness but human perfectibility. It was a view of man which Machen called "essentially pagan ." 31

The catch phrase of liberalism: “Every day in Every way we are getting better and better.” gives clear evidence that the doctrine of man propounded by Liberalism was a return to the Pelagianism of the fourth century. Sin was treated as a minor peccadillo rather than a radical evil which necessitated the incarnation and atonement.

Lack of need for conversion/moralistic salvation: redemption as mystical communion with Christ in the community of the church or in establishing the kingdom of God on earth

Lack of an authoritative Bible: The rise of Biblical criticism

The rise of Biblical criticism in the mid to late nineteenth century represented a wholesale attack on the Sola Scruiptura foundation of the Protestant faith and the theology of the post-Reformation period which had articulated a precisely defined doctrine of inerrancy. In some of these explanations the doctrine of inspiration and inerrancy was extended even to the vowel pointing of the Hebrew text. The biblical critics blasted such doctrines. The rise of textual criticism shook the confidence of many as to the accurate transmission and preservation of the text. Literary (Higher) higher criticism applied to the Bible the methods of literary analysis used in secular documents. However the critics looked at the books of the Bible itself and concluded from their anti-supernaturalistic presuppositions for example that Moses did not write the Pentateuch. In the New Testament, the work of Strauss, Baur and others purported to demonstrate that much of the New Testament was to be dated from the second century, rather than arising from the hands of the apostles writing as Jesus’ authorized representatives. This all served to undermine the unique character and authority of the Bible both in the scholarly as well as in the worshipping community. No longer was it possible to proclaim “Thus saith the Lord.” This destroyed the possibility of the rational certainty of the faith.

Loss of uniqueness of Christ: The quest of the historical (merely human) Jesus

The identity and status of Jesus during the nineteenth century underwent continual revision. David F. Strauss first attacked the supernatural in the NT as mere myth. This launched the 19th century quest of the historical Jesus which has been described as Liberalism “looking back through nineteen centuries of Catholic darkness [and seeing] only the reflection of a Liberal Protestant face . . . at the bottom of a deep well.”

The Jesus of Liberalism, bore little resemblance to the Church's historic understanding of Jesus Christ as having both human and divine natures joined organically in one person. This was largely due to the radical empiricism that the Liberal school applied to the area of religious truth. This empiricism eliminated all but phenomenological data from any truth claim. As this method was applied to Christological doctrine a great reduction transpired. Rather than affirm the historic formulations, a "form of the dynamic Monarchianism of Paul of Samosota [was] revived by Harnack and his followers." 32

Any metaphysical speculation about the two natures of Christ was seen as nonsense. A history of Christological doctrine could not rid one "of the impression that the whole fabric of ecclesiastical Christology [was] a thing absolutely outside the concrete personality of Jesus Christ." 33 The starting place had to be the historical Christ, the "person" Jesus. 34 Any assertion that Jesus was not limited by His cultural milieu and environment as any other individual was limited by his own cultural peculiarities, would be to assert that He was a "specter". 35 In their eyes, to be a human implied a complete human body, soul and human personality. 36 That Jesus was fully human but only human became the sine qua non upon which the Ritschlian understanding of Christ was built. This man Jesus was the One who was to be found in the pages of the gospels.

Jesus became the great example. He was the founder of a religion who embodied in His own life what He taught concerning God. 37 In contrast to the majority of mankind, who came to a knowledge of God through some sort of crisis experience, this God-knowledge was in Jesus from the beginning, flowing naturally from Him "as though it could not do otherwise, like a spring from the depths of the earth, clear and unchecked in its flow." 38 The means by which Jesus achieved this God-consciousness and His resulting mission to spread the kingdom of God among mankind was beyond human comprehension it was "his secret, and no psychology will ever fathom it." 39

"Knowledge of God" . . . marks the sphere of Divine Sonship. It is in this knowledge that he came to know the sacred Being who rules the heaven and earth as Father, as his Father. The consciousness which he possessed of being the Son of God is, therefore, nothing but the practical consequence of knowing God as the Father and as his Father. Rightly understood, the name of Son means nothing but the knowledge of God. 40

In Jesus' own understanding, His God-knowledge was unique. He knew God "in a way in which no one ever knew Him before." 41 It was this unique God-knowledge which constituted Him the Son of God. It was also from this knowledge that his vocation flowed. Jesus knew that it was "his vocation to communicate this knowledge of God to others by word and by deed--and with it the knowledge that men are God's children." 42

Whether we shall call Christ divine depends on what we mean by God. If God is substance then Christ is not divine for there is no evidence of divine substance in him. If God is purpose then this does make Christ divine for there is nothing higher than his purpose. Christ's divinity is a conclusion not a presupposition. Yet it is not immaterial whether we call him divine or not. Such an interpretation has importance as showing our conception of God. It does not hurt Christ to not be called divine. If we recognize his supremacy that is enough. But if we do not call him divine it is because we have another and unchristian idea of God. We seek in God something not found in Christ. We get God elsewhere than from Christ. This procedure is due to the unfortunate fact that our theology is not christianized. 43

Activity is society centered ignoring personal spirituality

As Liberalism developed in America it took on a decidedly activist cast. The social Gospel sought to right social injustice, but at the expense of a recognition of personal sin and emphasis upon personal piety. The church was the Public Church but it ignored the personal aspects of the gospel and faith. This led to a natural blending of the message of the church with the agenda of secularly dominated political systems, making the agendas often indistinguishable.


J. Gresham Machen denied that Liberalism was Christianity. Whereas Christianity was rooted in supernaturalism, Liberalism was rooted in naturalism. Liberalism as a religious system, was "the chief modern rival of Christianity" which was at every point opposed to historic Christianity. 44

“A God without wrath,
led men without sin,
into a kingdom without judgment
through the ministrations of
a Christ without a cross.”


C. Brown, Philosophy and the Christian Faith .

A. von Harnack, What is Christianity ?

J. Dillenberger & C. Welch, Protestant Christianity Interpreted Through Its Development .

K. Cauthen, The Impact of American Religious Liberalism .

L. Averill, American Theology in the Liberal Tradition .

W. R. Hutchinson, The Modernist Impulse in American Protestantism .

D. E. Miller The Case for Liberal Christianity .

1 B. B. Warfield, "The Latest Phase of Historical Rationalism," Studies in Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1981), p. 591.

2 Peter Gay, The Enlightenment: An Interpretation , The Rise of Modern Paganism , (New York: W.W. Norton, 1977).

3 Bernard Ramm, After Fundamentalism, (New York: Harper & Row, 1983) 4-5.

4 Karl Barth, Protestant Theology in the Nineteenth Century , (Valley Forge:Judson Press), 386.

6 James Orr, The Ritschlian Theology and The Evangelical Faith (New York: Thomas Whittaker, n.d.), p. 57.

7 A.B. Bruce noted that this agnosticism was not absolute, but a severe restriction of the knowledge of God attainable to man. ( AJT 1:1-2.) Cf. Hutchison, The Modernist Impulse in American Protestantism (New York: Oxford, 1976), pp. 122-132.

8 Albrecht Ritschl, The Christian Doctrine of Justification and Reconciliation , [eds.] H. R. Mackintosh and A. B. Macaulay (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1900), pp. 18-20

9 It is not without significance that both Harnack and McGiffert were primarily historians, who undertook to clear away the accretions of Greek metaphysical speculations from Christianity in order to discover the pristine gospel taught by Christ apart from philosophical considerations.

10 McGiffert, Christianity as History and Faith , pp. 172-178. By the "historic" person of Christ was understood the record of the life and teachings as presented in the pages of Scripture. The record of Scripture was seen as only historical, it was not divinely inspired and authoritative (see McGiffert, Apostolic Age, pp. 15-35 116-121). Furthermore, the strict empiricism of the Ritschlians led them to deny the reality of miracles. Historical criticism became a matter of indifference since faith in Christ did not rest on any particular facet of Christ's life and teaching, but rather the "total impression of His person." Therefore criticism could not affect the fact that the individual had experienced Christ. (William Adams Brown, Essence of Christianity, p. 261.)

11 Ritschl, Doctrine of Justification , p. 207.

12 Ritschl, Doctrine of Justification , pp. 207, 225.

13 J. H. W. Stuckenberg, "The Theology of Albrecht Ritschl," AJT 2 (1899):276.

14 Bruce, "Theological Agnosticism," p. 4.

15 A. C. McGiffert, Christianity As History and Faith (New York: Scribner's, 1934), p. 145.

16 William Adams Brown, The Essence of Christianity (New York: Scribner's, 1902), p. 257.

17 Orr, Expository Essays , p. 8.

18 Adolf Harnack, What is Christianity ? (New York: Putnam, 1902), p. 131.

19 W. A. Brown, Essence of Christianity , pp. 260- 261.

20 Orr, Expository Essays , p. 63.

21 McGiffert, Christianity as History and Faith , p. 176.

22 The restriction of religious knowledge to the Person of Jesus Christ was arbitrary. No attempt was made to show how or why Jesus had received a special knowledge of God. Rather it was an a priori assumption. (Sutckenberg, "The Theology of Ritschl," pp. 276-277.)

23 McGiffert, Christianity as History and Faith , pp. 177-178.

25 Ibid., p. 129. Cf. McGiffert, p. 120. "But again when we assert our faith in the Lordship of Jesus, we declare that his moral standards and principles are the highest known to us, and we believe that they are the moral standards and principles of God himself. . . This was Jesus' ethical message to the world: 'Ye are all brethren,' 'Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.'"

26 Harnack, p. 186. (Italics original.)

27 Walter Rauchenbusch, A Theology for the Social Gospel (New York, 1917) 5.

28 Henry Drummond, Ascent of Man (New York, 1894), 334.

29 F. Schleiermacher, On Religion , 88.

30 Ibid. p. 202. This insistence on the unity of God and creation led to a panentheism which at times became out and out pantheism. (Bernard Ramm, "The Fortunes of Theology from Schleiermacher to Barth," Tensions in Contemporary Theology , Eds. Stanley N. Gundry and Alan F. Johnson [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1976], p. 19

31 Machen, Christianity and Liberalism , p. 65.

32 Charles A. Briggs, The Fundamental Christian Faith , (New York: Scribner's, 1913), p. 267.

33 Adolf von Harnack, What is Christianity? (London: Williams and Norgate, 1904), p. 234.

34 A. C. McGiffert, Christianity as History and Faith (New York: Scribner's, 1934), p. 107.

35 Harnack, What is Christianity?, p. 12.

39 Ibid. p. 132. McGiffert asserted of Jesus' kingdom mission: "The secret of Christ's permanent hold upon the world is largely this, that he saw visions loftier, more compelling and more enduring than those seen by other men before or since. . . . Jesus brought the vision of a divine Father who careth even for the meanest." (p. 235.)

40 Harnack, p. 131. (Italics original.)

42 Ibid. Cf. McGiffert, pp. 118, 306-307.

44 J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1977 reprint), p. 2.

Liberal (adj.)

mid-14c., "generous," also "nobly born, noble, free" from late 14c. as "selfless, magnanimous, admirable" from early 15c. in a bad sense, "extravagant, unrestrained," from Old French liberal "befitting free people noble, generous willing, zealous" (12c.), and directly from Latin liberalis "noble, gracious, munificent, generous," literally "of freedom, pertaining to or befitting a free person," from liber "free, unrestricted, unimpeded unbridled, unchecked, licentious."

This is conjectured to be from PIE *leudh-ero- , which probably originally meant "belonging to the people," though the precise semantic development is obscure but compare frank (adj.). This was a suffixed form of the base *leudh- (2) "people" (source also of Old Church Slavonic ljudu , Lithuanian liaudis , Old English leod , German Leute "nation, people" Old High German liut "person, people").

Liberal was used 16c.-17c. as a term of reproach with the meaning "free from restraint in speech or action." The Enlightenment revived it in a positive sense "free from prejudice, tolerant, not bigoted or narrow," which emerged 1776-88. In 19c. often theological rather than political, opposed to orthodox , used of Unitarians, Universalists, etc. For educational use, see liberal arts.

Purely in reference to political opinion, "tending in favor of freedom and democracy," it dates from c. 1801, from French libéral . In English the label at first was applied by opponents (often in the French form and with suggestions of foreign lawlessness) to the party more favorable to individual political freedoms. But also (especially in U.S. politics) tending to mean "favorable to government action to effect social change," which seems at times to draw more from the religious sense of "free from prejudice in favor of traditional opinions and established institutions" (and thus open to new ideas and plans of reform), which dates from 1823.

1820, "member of the progressive and reformist political party of Great Britain, an anti-Whig," from liberal (adj.). General meaning "person of liberal political principles or tendencies" (without reference to party) is by 1832 in reference to persons of a political ideology not conservative or fascist but short of socialism, from c. 1920. Also used from early 20c. of ministers from less-dogmatic Christian churches.

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