Liberalism is servitude to the age

R.R. Reno, fast becoming one of my favorites, writes:

“[A]n observation by G.K. Chesterton: The Church ‘is the only thing that frees a man from the degrading slavery of being a child of his age.’ And elsewhere: ‘We do not want, as the newspapers say, a Church that will move with the world. We want a Church that will move the world.’

“But theological liberalism can’t resist servitude. One of its key tenets is that the modern age reveals something new about the human condition that requires the Church and doctrine to change in fundamental ways.”

R.R. Reno, “While We’re At It”, First Things, August/September 2014, p. 68.

7 thoughts on “Liberalism is servitude to the age

  1. There’s this often unconscious belief that things are getting better in every way, either at the hands of God or at the hands of magic fairy unicorns like the Dialectic. Thus, whatever we think now is just better. This attitude is so ingrained that pointing it out gets you blank stares – if you’re lucky.

    The really odd part: it works both ways. Thus, if one clings to traditional sexual morality, one is ‘turning back the clock’ (was it running fast?) one is an old fuddy-duddy; but if one stands against out of control statism, one is also a fuddy duddy. No acknowledgement that the omnipotent, omnicompetent state conflicts with the idea of complete sexual license. What if the state tells you to keep your pants on? How do we settle that? That moderns don’t even see a conflict shows a remarkable lack of imagination.


    • Good point. The confidence in the omnicompetent state also seems to be a confidence in the omni-benevolent state, which again reflects the belief that things will inevitably get better and better so long as the clock keeps moving clockwise. No need to have standards by which to judge which things are better, in order to make sure things do in fact get better; the clock will take care of all that.


  2. Dear Agellius,
    What if the modern age identifies something ancient about the human condition that requires the Church and doctrine to change in a fundamental way? It is still called theological liberalism. Is it also subject to servitude of the age?

    What did Chesterton say about theological conservatism? An argument can be made that theological conservatism can’t resist servitude also. The key tenet is that the past ages revealed all that there is to be revealed about the human condition. The Church and Her doctrine must remain the same and resistant to change. Conservatism is servitude to the age of its ancestors.

    God bless,


    • Neodecaussade:

      I like the way you think. : )

      The key tenet of conservative theology is that truth is unchanging. This is not being tied to one age, it’s being tied to one truth which is the same in all ages.


      • Dear Agellius,
        What do you make about Conservative theological unchanging truth or conservative theological servitude to a bygone age? The answer to this question will help us all understand what is really conservative and what is unchanging truth.


  3. Neo:

    First, I’d never heard of the Kolbe Center before, but its intent evidently is to promote young earth creationism through speakers, pamphlets, audio downloads, etc. I would not really consider this theology.

    Second, if it is in servitude to an age, what age is it in servitude to? By servitude to an age, what I mean, and what Chesterton evidently meant, was going along with the values that are peculiar to the age and place in which one happens to live, even when they’re at odds with Christian teaching, because one would rather not swim against the tide.

    Not that I agree with young earth creationism, but if anyone is swimming against the tide of our time and culture, surely it’s the Kolbe Center.


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