Religious liberalism

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Religious liberalism is a form of religious inquiry which is critical, rationalistic or humanistic in its approach.[1] Attempts to show a link between religious liberal and political liberal adherences have proved inconclusive,[2] and Liberal parties, such as the UK Liberal Democrats, reflect a broader spread of Christian and other faith positions.[3] It is typically characterised by a willingness to challenge sacred texts, to explore dialogue with other religions, and to embrace contemporary trends in secular philosophy.[4] The term began to be established in the first part of the 20th century; in 1936, Edward Scribner Ames wrote in his article 'Liberalism in Religion'[5]"The term "liberalism" seems to be developing a religious usage which gives it growing significance… sharply contrasted with fundamentalism… [which describes] a relatively uncritical attitude."

Religious liberalism has been sharply challenged by confessional thinkers, such as JH Newman, who described it as: "Liberalism in religion is the doctrine that there is no positive truth in religion, but that one creed is as good as another…",[6] and by CS Lewis, who wrote: "All theology of the liberal type involves at some point - and often involves throughout - the claim that the real behavior and purpose and teaching of Christ came very rapidly to be misunderstood and misrepresented by his followers, and has been recovered or exhumed only by modern scholars."[7]

Christianity, Islam and Judaism each have their own distinctive forms of religious liberalism.


  1. ^
  2. ^ The Correspondence between Religious Orientation and Socio-Political Liberalism and Conservatism Richard J. Stellway, Sociological Quarterly Vol 14 No3 1973, pp 430-439
  3. ^ Liberal Democrat Christian Forum 'About'
  4. ^
  5. ^ International Journal of Ethics, Vol. 46, No. 4 (Jul., 1936) (pp. 429-443)
  6. ^ JH Newman 'Biglietto Speech'
  7. ^ "Modern Theology and Biblical Criticism", Christian Reflections, 1981, republished in Fern Seed and Elephants, 1998