Roger Olson's post from February 7, in which he explains why he is not a liberal, and in which he offers up his personal definition of theological liberalism, has been generating a lot of buzz today. Tony Jones has taken the plunge by laying out his beliefs along-side Olson's six-point test, and is encouraging others to do the same.
I attempt to score myself on the "Olson Scale of Theological Liberalism" below. :
Question 1: Do I think the universe is open to God's "special activity" (i.e., "miracles")?
Answer: Yes. No qualifiers on this one.
Verdict: Not liberal.
Running Score: 0 out of 1
Question 2: Do I begin theologically with the notion of "special revelation"? (By this, I think he means do I think there is some sense of a theological norm that has a divine origin, rather than one in human experience and culture)
Answer: Yes. However, this one is a little more complicated. I believe in divine revelation, but think it occurs within human experiences and communities. Always has, always will. See one John Wesley and his quadrilateral.
Verdict: My guess is that the notion of divine revelation being all mixed up with human experience is what makes Olson squirm on this point, so I'll take a "liberal" mark on this one. (Does this make all non-evangelicals "liberals"?)
Running Score: 1 out of 2
Question 3: Is my Christology truly incarnational? (In other words, do I think Jesus existed as "the Word" prior to being on earth? That he is categorically different from other "great souls"?)
Verdict: Not Liberal
Score: Liberal 1 out of 3
Question 4: Do I think God is the "author" of scripture? (Olson rejects the notion that scripture is merely a "wisdom-filled source of religious illumination" but does not require a belief in "divine dictation." He says this issue largely comes down to whether one believes that the Bible is unique when compared to other writings, etc.)
Answer: I do think the Bible is a source of illumination that reflects our "ancestors' experiences of God" (who doesn't?). I also reject the notion of divine dictation. I also think the Bible is unique compared, say, to the collected teachings of the Buddha – though, again, I believe it is a product of the divine working within human experience and human community.
Verdict: I honestly don't know how Olson would react to this. I think he would find that I lean toward the "liberal" approach, but not whole-heartedly. Score a very wishy-washy half point.
Score: 1.5 out of 4
Question 5: Do I think "salvation" is forgiveness, reconciliation, and sanctification or is it only the realization of human potential?
Answer: I don't think "salvation" is only the realization of human potential. I think it is a lot of things, many of which have to do with the social, environmental, and political situation in our world. I also think, in part, it is forgiveness, reconciliation, and sanctification.
Verdict: Again, I don't quite know how Olson would look at this. I'm going to go with a half point again. I think he would prefer that I have a stronger emphasis on atonement for personal sin, though my perspective isn't too far askew.
Score: 2 out of 5
Question 6: Do I believe in a "real" return of Jesus Christ to bring about a new world of righteousness?
[Interesting note: In Olson's world, inclusivists and universalists are presumably not theologically liberal because they believe in a "real" new world of righteousness - he requires a sense of Jesus' return, but his test doesn't require agreement with the traditional notions of hell/judgment]
Answer: Yep. I can't say that all of the stories and parables about the "day of Christ" are 100% "literal," but I do think my eschatology is strong enough to pass muster with Olson. I line up with Wright, and I think he is probably comfortable with that.
Verdict: Not liberal.
Final Score: 2 out of 6
Under Olson's six-point test, it can be said that I have been influenced by theological liberalism, but that I haven't drunk the Kool-Aid. Its probably a fair assessment.
How do you think you would score?