There are Iron-Rod Christians and Liahona Christians. Or so one would think reading Marcus J. Borg's The Heart of Christianity: Rediscovering a Life of Faith (1989). He's a big-time Liahona Christian scholar, previously an active participant in the Jesus Seminar. Of course, he doesn't use those labels for his two kinds of Christians. He even rejects "conservative" and "liberal," instead opting to call the two approaches to Christian practice and doctrine the "earlier paradigm" and the "emerging paradigm." I'll summarize, then disagree.
No surprises. "The earlier paradigm sees Christianity as grounded in divine authority." "The earlier paradigm sees the Bible as a divine product," which comes in a hard form (inerrancy) and a softer form (God prevented serious errors from being incorporated in the Bible). And: "The earlier paradigm interprets the Bible literally." As for the approach to Christian life, the earlier paradigm stresses faith as believing; the centrality of the afterlife; and that the Christian life is about requirements and rewards (or, as Mormons would say, commandments and blessings).
Borg then describes the "emerging paradigm" as seeing the Bible as a historical product; as metaphorical ("It is not very much concerned with the historical factuality of the Bible's stories, but much more with their meanings."); and as sacramental, by which he means it functions as a vehicle for the Spirit to become present to the believer or reader. Christian life, for the emerging paradigm, is about relationship and transformation, and it affirms religious pluralism (Christianity vis-a-vis other major religions). All the quotes are from Chapter One.
Borg spends the rest of the book making a case for the emerging paradigm. In the first chapter, he's trying to carve out some space for it. He argues that "there is no single right way of understanding Christianity and no single right way of being Christian," citing historical differences of opinion such as Arian versus Athanasian, Monophysite versus non-Monophysite, predestination versus non-predestination Christians, infant baptism versus adult baptism Christians, and so forth.
So here are a couple of thought questions. First, is it also true that there is no single right way of understanding Mormonism and no single right way of being Mormon? Second (and here's where I disagree with his terminology), it is liberal religion which is in retreat and conservative evangelical Christianity, what Borg calls the "earlier paradigm," which is resurgent and "emerging" in terms of growth and confidence. What needs to be explained is why liberal religion is dying, not how it is "emerging."