Book Reviews,  Christianity

The Death-Inducing , Soul-Killing Message of Liberalism

Rod Dreher’s 2001 review of The Close is a must-read. He captures as well as anybody the deadness and irrelevancy of theological liberalism. The author of The Close is Chloe Breyer (daughter of Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer), and in the book she chronicles her life as a liberal seminary student slouching towards parish ministry. Dreher’s critique is sharp and well-earned. Breyer seems genuinely unquestioning of her own assumptions about life and the things she believes (or disbelieves). In a telling moment in the book, Breyer is stunned that a group of prison inmates were not buying the Protestant liberalism she was selling. Dreher is particularly good here:

Smart cookies, those crooks, who intuitively grasp the worthlessness of Breyer’s baptized sophistries to their broken lives. Their critique is utterly lost on this earnest young woman, who does not know, or perhaps simply does not have the courage or conviction to say to these men, that Jesus is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”…

The only consolation any of us might take from the education of Chloe Breyer is that her kind of Christianity is committing slow suicide—except that it is taking who knows how many souls down with it…

Though Breyer misses the point, her experience with the prisoners reveals where liberal Christianity ultimately ends up: not only impotent and ignored, but also in its irrelevance handing people over to false gospels and false gods. The poor, for whom Christ suffered and died, cannot afford the fashionable falsehoods proclaimed by the world’s Chloe Breyers. That’s why the poor want little or nothing to do with that counterfeit faith…

This is what it comes down to: the eternal life of individual souls, their fate in this life …, and the survival of the Christian Faith. Liberal Christianity, from both a theological and sociological point of view, is death. Those inmates were grasping for Jesus, but all Breyer had to offer them was the Jesus Seminar.

Read the rest here.


  • Dan Phillips

    Thank you. You are right, it is absolutely brilliant, and brilliantly-written. Were there a way to contact him, I’d commend Machen’s Christianity and Liberalism. If he hasn’t already read it, I’d think he’d say over and over, “Exactly! And this was written, when?”

    However at the same time, while reading I have this continuing sense of sadness. He is the willing slave and advocate of an oppressive, Gospel-hating, Scripture-twisting sect, criticizing another for hating the Gospel and twisting the Scriptures. His criticisms of Breyer are dead on-target. Would that he would see the truth about Rome, and flee it for Jesus and His Gospel. Such is my prayer for him.

    • yankeegospelgirl

      Whoa now hang on… I mean yes, the modern Catholic church has gone completely to the dogs, but there are still conservative Catholics out there. 🙂 Do I agree with Catholicism? No. Can’t really imagine any circumstances under which I’d become a Catholic. But do I think Catholics can be brothers in Christ with the capacity to do good for the Church? Absolutely!

      • Dan Phillips

        Note my wording: “He is the willing slave and advocate of an oppressive, Gospel-hating, Scripture-twisting sect.”

        I don’t profess to know his heart. But he voluntarily joined Rome, and Rome demands total compliance, BOASTS of that demand, in fact; and that is what Rome is. If he is a blood-bought, grace-alone-faith-alone saved brother, he is casting his vote for an institution devoted to opposing that Gospel, and he must repent and leave it immediately.

        To do otherwise would make no more sense than a Christian family man weekly going to a publicly-known brothel and giving a good deal of money to the proprietors, but not personally engaging in whoredom. I suppose it can be done — but why? and to what conceivable whitewashing defense?

        • yankeegospelgirl

          Hmmmmm… well, I don’t think I’m going to go that far, but I’m a Protestant, and I think the Catholics have a lot of things wrong that Protestants have right. I would certainly do my best to dissuade anyone from becoming Catholic. It’s pretty ridiculous to go around pretending the pope is infallible… to the point where even if he issues something idiotic on a topic like economics, every Catholic has to accept it!

  • Don Johnson

    This review by Dreher was from 2001.

    I wish the reviewer was less smug and triumphalistic in his tone, he is showing the mirror image that he sees in Chloe and the irony of this makes it an all around tragedy.

    It is easy to see Breyer as narcissistic and not seeing it, most young people are, does Dreher see himself like this, not a chance, so the irony is complete. Some let their doubts consume there and end up with mush for their faith and others flip to the other extreme and end up with a rock for a heart. How is calling her a “nitwit” helping reveal Jesus to the dying world?

    Jesus came for the Breyers of the world as well as the Drehers.

  • Don Johnson

    Speculating? C’mon, feel the love of “nitwit”.

    Sometimes razor sharp is not what is called for.
    Yes, perhaps for pompous Pharisees, but for lost youth?

    • Dan Phillips

      She forfeited the “I’m just a kid” excuse card when she arrogated the leadership office of “priest” to herself.

      Which is worse: nitwit or whitewashed tomb? Either seems to apply; to refuse to call a pig a pig is not particularly loving to the pig. To be too dainty to call a nitwit a nitwit does little for the nitwit, and nothing for its victims, it seems to me.

      And it’s all really irrelevant, silly deflection from the dead-on critical barrage of liberalism which that post delivers, which was Denny’s point. I hope you’ve gotten it out of your system, so that conversation can turn to weightier matters.

  • Paul

    Honestly, I’ve never understood the point of a liberal theology. It just doesn’t make sense. While my own is certainly more liberal than some, it’s also a lot more conservative than folks like Ms. Breyer. If you de-fang Christianity, you might as well go ahead and be a Buddhist. The eightfold path is certainly not that far off of what Jesus preached on the Sermon on the Mount, especially when understood properly in its eastern context. It misses out on grace, but then again, if Christ’s resurrection isn’t real, and if that resurrection doesn’t represent exactly everything that The Bible says it does, then we don’t have grace either. And without grace, what’s the point?

Comment here. Please use FIRST and LAST name.