Saturday, April 14, 2007

A Conversation With a "Liberal"

This coming Thursday, April 19, I will be participating in a public discussion with a liberal theologian, Eleazar Fernandez, at United Theological Seminary. The title for the event is, "Can We Talk? An Evangelical and a Liberal Discuss Jesus Christ" (or something along those lines). I have had a preliminary discussion with Eleazar in which I found him to be not quite as "liberal" as the structure of our topic suggests. While Eleazar has been strongly influenced by liberation theology, and the somewhat related "metaphorical theology" of Sallie MacFague, he promotes to his students what he calls the "passionate core" of Christianity. He calls for a revitalizing of the particularity of Christian language and an authentic, transformative response to Christ within the liberal tradition. Furthermore, Eleazar suggests that he does not fear using the language of exclusivity in regards to Jesus Christ. I'm sure. I sense in his theology, thus far, affinity with postliberal theology (ala George Lindbeck and Stanley Hauerwas). Similarly, while I stand clearly within the evangelical tradition (as some will note, "whatever that means!"), I identify myself more with postconservatism than with traditional conservative evangelical theology. Exploring these horizons could lead to a very interesting dialogue. We both (Eleazar and I) suspect this will not be a debate so much as an intriguing, and hopefully constructive, dialogue. The primary points of difference will likely come down to a nuanced differentiation regarding points of epistemology and hermeneutics (e.g. notions of truth and authority).

I am wondering if any of you have thoughts, suggestions, or predictions regarding this upcoming conversation?


andy tooley said...


great reaction when you found out it was me! (N.B. I go by Clark Kent to hide my identity, "Liam" was just my messing around coupled with the pressing of a few wrong buttons).

Christa and I were in the states the last couple of weeks and I had lunch with JM Yeats. He mentioned your blog. I found your insightful comments on Devine's blog (he's got a great name for a blog, by the way) and am waiting for you to do a bit of blogging on the EC.

How are you?

Shane said...

It's amazing how much hangs on epistemology, huh? I look forward to hearing the two of you dialogue.

See you in class Thursday.


mrclm said...

Welcome to the blogosphere! Just as a warning, you'll want to turn on your comment verification or you'll quickly be inundated with spam comments. This would be the voice of experience speaking :-)

Big Chris
Because I said so blog.

espĂ­ritu paz said...

I looked up some of his publications and here’s the list:

Reimagining the Human: Theological Anthropology in Response to Systemic Evil
Realizing the America of our Hearts: Theological Voices of Asian Americans
Hacia Una Theologia De La Lucha,
“From Babel to Pentecost: Finding a Home in the Belly of the Empire,” in
Semeia: The Bible in Asian America,
A Dream Unfinished: Theological Reflections on America from the Margins
“Theology of Struggle” Dictionary of Third World Theology
“Cross-Cultural Mission to Postcolonial Masters in a Globalized World”
Unfaithing U.S. Colonialism,
“A Filipino Voice: ‘Unfinished Dream’ in the Land of Promise”
Preaching Justice: Ethnic and Cultural Perspective, edited by Christine Smith
“Confronting the White Noise: Mission from the Experience of the Marginalized”
Beyond the White Noise: Mission in a Multicultural World,
Toward a Theology of Struggle

The titles and themes are very familiar to me per a course I took at St. Johns a year ago: Latin American Theology. The interesting thing to note is that we never covered “liberation theology.” Liberation theology seemed only to be the thing that caught the eye of western theology. So, its good that you noted the other kinds of thought that your conversation partner seems to engage in...for instance “metaphorical theology.” It tends to be the sort of theology valued by those from the margins because of illiteracy and such. So as someone already mentioned, it becomes a matter of epistemology.
I’m not sure what you refer to when speaking of Fernandez using exclusive language. But I do know “theology from the margins” is not afraid to make the claim to the preferential option for the poor, siteing “it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” and also parables such as the wedding feast nobody but the poor and the street people came for and “the last shall be first” and so on...
It will be interesting to see if you can maintain a positive white identity if things take a turn in this direction.


Kyle A. Roberts said...


I'm doing well, thanks! Yes, I think I'll try to get something on EC, but probably not very soon.

I'll email you soon.

Kyle A. Roberts said...


Epistemology, indeed. But epistemology as chastened by Christ, in the service of the Gospel, and attentive to the postmodern condition...


Thanks for the warning!


Thanks for the comment and the bibliography! I know that if things do turn in that direction, as constructive as it may be, we'll be on territory much more familiar to my dialogue partner. But as this is a conversation and not a debate, I'll teleologically suspend my anxiety for the greater purpose of truth!

jack said...

I thought you might like to check this link out.

UnSpun-Top Theology Blogs by Amazon