The Christian Liberalism of Maurice Wiles

Wiles, Maurice, Reason to Believe (SCM, 1999)


Here is Maurice Wiles’ summary of his 'minimalist' creed:

  1. The belief that Jesus Christ is the focal point of God's dealing with the world, which found formal expression in the doctrine of the incarnation, implies in the first place that the figure of Jesus should be of central significance in determining the content of our beliefs about God, our understanding of how lives are meant to be lived, and the manner in which human lives can be transformed through faith in God.
  2. That same belief also carries a more general implication; it symbolises the intimacy of God's involvement with the world.  If God has been seen as incarnate in a  human life, then the primary way to the knowledge of God and the basic form of any relationship with God must come not by turning our backs on the world but by penetrating more deeply into its fundamental reality.  It also carries with it important ethical implications of a positive nature about the value of the physical world.
  3. The story of Jesus' death plays a crucial role in the impact that the figure of Jesus Christ has on our beliefs.  It implies that unlimited self-giving love is at the heart of the nature of God; and that neither wickedness nor suffering can ever take us outside the range of God's presence.  And in this aspect of the story too there are important ethical implications about the attitude to others which Christians are called to adopt.
  4. The story of Christ's resurrection (which as we have already seen, is really a part of the single story of death-and-resurrection) symbolises the conviction that wickedness, suffering and death do not have the final word about human life. The resurrection story implies that (death as the end) is not true of Jesus Christ or of human life more generally.

This might be described as the ultra liberal position in the Christian spectrum:

  1. How do you initially react to it?
  2. Is it fair?
  3. Is it enough?

KC xi/11