Are Virtually All Western Christians Liberal?

I was reading Craig Carter’s response to Walter Wink where Carter starts out by defining his terms (a prudent thing to do). The result though is interesting:

“First, let me a define the term “liberalism” because this is important. If we have in modernity, traditional, orthodox Christianity (Athanasius, Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, Wesley, Pope Benedict XVI) on the one side and atheistic Materialism (Rousseau, Marx, Freud, Dawkins, Singer) on the other, then theological liberalism is a form of Christianity that tries to mediate between the two without denying the essence of either. Here “liberal” is a noun as in “He is a liberal.” So, when I use the term “liberal theology” or “liberalism” or “liberal Protestantism” I am referring to the attempt by Christians to be modern without ceasing to call themselves Christian.”

This mentality creates a simplistic either/or where one is orthodox or liberal. I think if we say that “liberalism” is an “attempt by Christians to be modern without ceasing to call themselves Christian” then even the most conservative Christians are liberal. It’s interesting that Benedict XVI gets put in the orthodox category while official Catholic doctrine does attempt to harmonize the Bible and evolutionary biology. Now I don’t have a problem with the Catholic church doing that, but it does seem to meet Carter’s definition of liberalism.

We also owe to classical liberalism the language of individual rights, a concept to which many Western Christians appeal whenever they feel that the state is being unfair to them. Maybe Dr. Carter would not use the language of rights to complain if he felt his were infringed – but he would be in a very small minority if that were the case. The other thing that Western Christianity uses to advance agendas (both conservative and liberal) is the ballot box. Again, there’s a functional acceptance of liberal ideas as a means to further Christian objectives. So while Carter may really, really adhere to this understanding of who is a liberal, it would make most conservative Christians liberal. Moreover the word “liberal” would then appear to lose all theological meaning in the West.