Since the early 20th century, American Protestantism has been divided along theological lines. On one side are the Christian conservatives or fundamentalists, who seek to preserve what they perceive to be historic Christian beliefs. On the other side are liberal Christians or modernists, who embrace a more modern, critical approach to their faith. Conservative Christians embrace a number of very specific beliefs related to the Bible, Jesus Christ, salvation and the end times.
One of the defining issues of conservative Christianity is the doctrine of Scripture. Conservative Christians believe the Bible is the sole authority in matters of faith, which is the position of historic Protestantism. Yet, Conservative Christians also believe the Bible is inerrant. Inerrancy is the belief that the Bible is accurate in everything it says, whether in matters of faith, history, science, geography and other non-theological fields.
Conservative Christians hold to the historical Christian view of Jesus Christ. They teach that Jesus was the Son of God, both fully God and fully man and the second person of the Trinity. They believe Jesus worked miracles, was crucified and raised from the dead. Liberal Christians, on the other hand, may reject miraculous aspects of the life of Christ such as the virgin birth or the resurrection.
Conversion is central to conservative Christian beliefs. They believe an individual must make an intentional decision to ask God to forgive their sins and accept Christ as savior in order to avoid eternity in hell. They believe this occurs in an instant. They may refer to this experience as being "born again" or "saved." Liberal Christians may see salvation as social, focusing on combatting poverty, racism and war. Other liberal Christians believe that salvation is for everyone, and that God won't allow anyone to spend eternity in hell.
Conservative Christians aren't entirely united on their views of what will happen at the end of time. A majority hold to a view known as premillennialism. This belief system teaches that Jesus will return again one day and remove or "rapture" believers from the earth. This will be followed by a seven-year tribulation period, during which the antichrist rises to power. At the end of the tribulation Jesus will return, destroy the antichrist and establish a kingdom lasting one thousand years known as the millennium.
Other Christians, called amillennialists, believe the idea of the kingdom of God is figurative rather than literal. Still others believe that the church will continue to advance on earth until it establishes one thousand years of peace, after which Christ will return.
- Modern Reformation: Why Inerrancy Still Matters
- The Voice: The Modern Inerrancy Debate
- Religious Tolerance: The "Jesus Seminar" - Liberal Theologians Investigating the Life of Jesus
- Time: Christians - No One Path to Salvation
- Religious Tolerance: Competing Theories of Eschatology, End Times, and Millennialism
- Patheos Library: Christian Fundamentalism
- Answers in Genesis: he Rise and Fall of Inerrancy in the American Fundamentalist Movement
- The Rejection of Pascal's Wager: Liberal-Modernist Theology
- Grace Online Library: Christianity and Liberalism – Salvation by J. Gresham Machen
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