This small series continues with the 4th address in Liberal Theology.
OPENING UP SOME ELEMENTS OF LIBERAL THEOLOGY – MY UNDERSTANDING OF SOME COMPONENTS OF LIBERAL THEOLOGY:
In 2015 I had the request to address a group in Boston, England, on Liberal Theology which was starting to gain inroads in the Methodist Church structure of England. That was when I was doing some ministry in England. This was a timely warning to the sincere Christians in the churches, mainly the Methodist church, as it was causing concern among the true believers in the Methodist Circuit. This was not meant to be a complex talk but simple enough for the folk at that time. Those who want a deeper examination with deeper theological arguments will look elsewhere.
I will present some of that material because what was taking hold just 7 years ago is now an avalanche. In 2015, on the internet, there was a longer comment written by a writer called Joel in a blog maintained by Richard Hall, a Methodist minister in Shropshire, who now, in 2022, is the Methodist Superintendent in Shropshire, England. I am taking the 22 points made by this contributor Joel, and explaining each one with reference to Liberal Theology. I did search for this original comment on the blog (October 2022) but could not find it.
I have put the comments of the writer, Joel, in capital letters, and my comments follow. I personally do not know the position of Joel on the issues he puts in note form. Nevertheless, I am examining each one.
I wish to acquaint this group here today with the brief summary points of another and using his thoughts to add a deeper perspective in our examination of Liberal Theology.
The following is from a posting on the blog of Richard Hall, a Methodist Minister in Shropshire, by a writer on that blog called Joel. What Joel wrote is capitalized. My comments are contained in (( )).
- VIEW OF THE BIBLE AS INSPIRED AND NOT INERRANT
((Inspired means breathed into, and in the case of the biblical writers, it means the writers were “breathed into” by the Holy Spirit. Put in layman’s terms, it means the writers wrote under the control of the Holy Spirit, so what they wrote was directly from God. The word “inerrant” means without error, and that means in the original writing (language), not in the translation of the Greek and Hebrew. I will only use literal translations such as the NASB and ESV and the KJV (the revised version is better than the KJV for a number of reasons)).
The Liberal position on these two words is confused with all sorts of opinions expressed. Some hold that God inspired man to write it but it contains errors. In that way, liberals can pick and choose what to believe and what to reject. Liberal Theology, from the start, is a position of denial. No liberal will believe the entire Bible is inspired and inerrant.))
- AN UNDERSTANDING THAT SOME PASSAGES IN THE BIBLE ARE METAPHORICAL OR ‘MYTH BASED’
((If it does not appeal to humanism or to modern thinking, then it is dismissed or explained away by the liberal camp, like the creation account, Eden, the Flood, Jonah, and the miracles of the New Testament. For some liberals, if it cannot be answered by science, then it can’t be proved, so it must be axed. This stance shows that the proponents of that way of thinking do not have faith as the basis of belief, and this verse applies to them – Hebrews 11:6 “Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” Before that verse, Paul speaks of Abel and Enoch, and after it, he cites Noah, Abraham, and Sarah. Liberals dismiss all those names to the “mythology rubbish bin” of the Bible. These men and women belong to the father of lies, the devil.))
- AN EMPHASIS ON THE NEED TO APPLY HUMAN REASON, EXPERIENCE, AND TRADITION IN INTERPRETING THE BIBLE
((These take preference over the Bible. If it does not seem reasonable, then the Bible is in error. This is the greatest denial of faith. Humanism and man’s reasoning dominate all examination these people give to the Bible. I have heard it taught that the plagues of Egypt in Moses’ time were merely strings of natural happenings from recorded incidents they claim. it had nothing to do with miracles from God. Also, the feeding of the 5,000 happened when a boy took out his lunch and all the others followed suit. I think it is so sad that people like Karl Barth and these German higher critics had so much influence because a lot of it remains. Prevailing views on evolution, sexuality, marriage, and human behavior, etc., all take precedence over the Bible. The liberal view is that our experience rides over biblical revelation.))
- APPLICATION OF INSIGHTS FROM THE SOCIAL SCIENCES (WHICH ARE ALSO NOT INERRANT) IS CRUCIAL TO INTERPRETING THE BIBLE, AS THE SOCIAL SCIENCES ARE THEMSELVES GOD’S REVELATION OF TRUTH; THEY COMPLEMENT RATHER THAN COMPETE WITH SCRIPTURE.
((The use of “social science” and philosophy is being said to be necessary in understanding the Bible. That means the Bible takes a lower rank than social sciences, which are then used to interpret the Bible, when in fact, it should always be the other way around. This is so typical of liberalism. It inverts the whole objective of God’s word. That is a doctrine of demons. If humanism says people are generally good, then the Bible is rejected because it says no one is good, and the Bible must be subjected to that notion. Science and psychology are on the top plane. The Bible has to be malleable to infuse itself with understanding of social sciences. That is their position.))
- AN EMPHASIS ON BIBLICAL CRITICISM AND LITERARY ANALYSIS
((This is called “higher criticism,” and sadly, a lot of theological seminaries teach it. Things like John did not write the 4th gospel. Isaiah had two authors. The parables must be understood in terms of physical laws. Revelation is a myth, an allegory, and Genesis is the composition of 4 separate documents, etc. Gnostic gospels are quite relevant, and some of the ideas of the old heresies come to the fore.))
- SCRIPTURE MUST BE VIEWED THROUGH THE LENS OF TIME AND CULTURE.
((There is the belief that the Bible is not a constant but represents the mores and culture and behaviors of the time, and in particular, of the time the biblical books were written. Liberal position à Culture always changes, so the Bible has to be changeable as well. In a culture of the past, homosexuality might have been wrong, but in our culture today, it is fine. When the Bible condemns homosexuality, it applied then, not now [as liberals see it]. This is a whole test of absolute truth. We say the truths of God are absolute, while liberals say they are changing to meet the needs of our time so we need to adapt the Bible’s interpretation of these changes.))
- DOCTRINES, CHURCH AUTHORITY, AND SCRIPTURE CANNOT BE DIVORCED FROM SUBJECTIVE PERSONAL EXPERIENCE.
((This is one of the major beliefs of liberalism where experience interprets the Bible and where it has more authority than the Bible. There are certain denominations where experience overrides some of the clear statements of scripture. If you feel it is good, then it is good, irrespective of the biblical teaching. If you get a high from doing things, then that would be sanctioned by the Bible. These people begin to interpret the Bible according to the experience that makes them feel good. The approach to understanding the Bible is through the Holy Spirit, who leads us into all truth with a sane mind and an honest objectivity. It is the opposite of the emotional subjectivity that is around today.))
- COMMUNITY WHOLENESS IN RELATION TO GOD IS AS IMPORTANT AS A PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP TO GOD THROUGH CHRIST. (‘ SHALOM’ CREATION)
((The recognition and acceptance of the community’s values, whatever they be, is just as important as a relationship with God – this is what some liberals espouse.
This is from a Jewish thought site in regard to shalom ideology – “The webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight is what the Hebrew prophets call shalom. We call it peace, but it means far more than mere peace of mind or a cease-fire between enemies.”
This part of what was said in Number 8 is a concern à “as important as” – because it debases one’s personal relationship with God and makes it equal with a whole lot of human factors and pursuits. Nothing will ever replace one’s personal relationship with God. I doubt very few liberals have been born again, and that is what personal relationship is all about. Nothing is more important than being born from above, for that is the key that places all other factors in the correct perspective.))
- AN UNDERSTANDING THAT THE BIBLE CONTAINS ‘ALL THINGS NECESSARY FOR SALVATION’ BUT NOT NECESSARILY ALL THINGS RELATED TO SALVATION.
((It is a bit difficult to get one’s head around this. Basically, this is poor recognition of salvation but allows for things to be added so the understanding of salvation is greatly enlarged and can accommodate external issues such as inclusiveness for Moslems, works, pick and choose. This liberal view downplays salvation and the ultimate authority of scripture. It is an obscure, pernicious statement.))
- A REFUSAL TO MAKE CREEDS A TEST OF FAITH
((Creeds are, in essence, the statements of Christian belief in doctrine developed by the church in the first few hundred years to combat error – like the Apostles’ Creed and Nicene Creed. Liberals generally can’t accept everything in the creeds like the virgin birth, the divinity of Christ, etc. They hate orthodox doctrine and therefore hate creeds.
Personally, I don’t slavishly follow creeds, as they are only partial truth when we look at the greatness of biblical doctrine. However, they do cover most of the fundamentals of orthodox Christianity. It does amaze me that many liberal lecturers and professors at liberal theological institutions are there distorting the faith of students while some of them don’t hold to the creeds of their own denomination.))
- OPENNESS TO ‘FINDING CHRIST IN THE CULTURE’
((This is very strong in application because the beliefs of culture – other religions, and belief systems, and practices, for liberals, override the Bible. One critical fact that is cemented in orthodox faith is that Jesus is THE WAY and the Truth and the Life. Finding Christ in culture negates the fact that there is ONLY one way to God and one way of salvation. No one can come to the Father except through Christ. It is fallacy to think that Christ can be found in culture and nature and other religions.
To back up what I have just said, I am giving a quote here that is alarming for conservative Christians and reflects the state of our churches, and, in particular, the dismal state of the clergy. This quote comes from CBN News in October 2021:
[“A new survey reveals a shocking statistic about young Christians. More than 60 percent of born-again Christians between the ages of 18 – 39 believe that Jesus, Buddha, and Muhammad are all equal in regard to a path to salvation.
Probe Ministries recently released the results of its “Religious Views & Practices Survey” that showed a “striking decline” in religious beliefs and practices over the last ten years.
The Probe survey shows that even Born-again Christians can have a false view of Jesus Christ, and embrace a pluralistic worldview,” said Probe Ministries President, Kerby Anderson. “Pastors and church leaders just can’t assume any longer that members of their church or Christian organization have a biblical worldview.”] ))
- DOUBT IS NOT INHERENTLY THE ENEMY OF FAITH BUT CAN BE USED BY GOD TO ENGAGE THAT VERY FAITH.
((It is alright to have doubt about things in the Bible because you can accept your own ideas or interpretations and feel at peace about that (liberal view). By this reasoning, then using doubt, you can accept abortion and all other things you want. The liberal mind works that way. It all comes down again to not accepting the absolutes of God.))
- A STRONG COMMITMENT TO SOCIAL JUSTICE
((Another major activity field of liberalism. It means accepting the Aboriginal spiritism and satanic religion and the dreamtime as a genuine way to God (Australia), and canvassing for rights for all forms of sexuality, abortion, feminism, and marriage. It means accepting global warming and other environmental beliefs like belting farmers for polluting the Great Barrier Reef and penalizing farmers because their farm animals supposedly pollute the atmosphere with methane, and all the other looney things these WOKE idiot people go on about. These Green radicals and socialists are destroying the lifestyles of nations.
They are sometimes active in marches, and some are activists. They are sprinkled throughout the churches where they do a subversive work, especially among the young generation. They talk about social justice, but it is usually always flogging world socialism and Marxism, and they use churches as vehicles for this. It is reprehensible. There is a strong emphasis on the poor and underprivileged. A few of the points liberals subscribe to in this area are genuine concerns, and those issues marked out the Wesley ministry in the early days. These days, it is not so much about the issue but the agenda!))
- THE IDEA THAT SELF-REFLECTION IS A NECESSARY COMPONENT OF FAITH
((This is not so much about what God declares about the human race but what a person thinks of himself. His/her own opinion outweighs what God says about you. It has something to do with your own interpretation of the written word, not necessarily what the word says about you. So much of this comes from eastern religions and psychologists. We do well to see what God says about the fallen nature and use that as a starting point to get right with God. All the self-reflection in the world will not move you one step toward God. It is an exercise in frivolity, which seems popular these days from those who conduct seminars and self-esteem seminars. GO TO THE BIBLE!))
- ACCEPTANCE THAT THE BIBLE INCORPORATES AN INTENTIONAL TENSION BETWEEN “UNIVERSAL” AND “EXCLUSIVE” SALVATION
((Certain liberals believe all are saved and dismiss the notion of hell. Exclusive salvation is that of an individual and would include only those born again. Liberalism believes both to be true and claim there is tension in the belief as they appear as opposites. The Bible is absolutely exclusive about salvation. This is what Peter said: Acts 4:12 “and there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved.” There is NO universal salvation in either a person or system. There is no salvation outside of Jesus Christ.))
- THE POSSIBILITY THAT NOT ONLY MAY WE ACQUIRE NEW UNDERSTANDINGS OF GOD’S REVELATION BUT THAT IT IS POSSIBLE THAT GOD IS STILL REVEALING
((This is the way liberals can add more “understanding” and clauses to the Bible to suit them and dismiss ones already there. It totally opens the gate for abortion, feminism, interfaith dialogue, gay marriage, and whatever else you want. You only need to say that God is extending His revelation and His message to the earth. This liberal idea is an evil one, for God has spoken in these last days through Jesus Christ – Hebrews 1:1-2 “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.” There needs to be a great warning about the Montanist “prophets” within some of the charismatic following, who keep trying to add new revelations.))
- HUMANS, WHILE TENDING TOWARD DEPRAVITY, ARE CAPABLE OF RESPONDING TO DIVINE GRACE
((The key word here is “tending.” God says human beings are depraved by original sin. They are reprobate, and no one is good at all. Not one is good. “Responding to divine grace” is what we would say as evangelicals, but I feel the liberal understanding of that is not the way we understand it. God reaches out to us, for not one person left to his own devices would seek God. Statement 17 is so wrong when liberals say, “humans… TENDING towards depravity.” The essence of that belief is that there is good in us, that we are good in God’s sight, but we tend towards depravity. That is from hell! We are “not tending.” We are there, every one of us – Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick. Who can understand it?”))
- AS “IMITATORS” OF CHRIST, WE MUST ENGAGE THE ESSENTIAL UNITY OF FAITH AND WORKS.
((I am not sure how this would be understood in the liberal sense. I know that works, for them, belong to Statement 13. The book of James explores this faith-works area.))
- THAT CHRISTIAN EXISTENTIALISM IS CRITICIZED, BUT EFFECTIVELY PRACTICED BY THE “ORTHODOX” AND FUNDAMENTALISTS, BUT HONESTLY ADMITTED TO BY MANY LIBERALS
((Here is a definition: “Existentialism is a philosophy that emphasizes individual existence, freedom and choice. It is the view that humans define their own meaning in life, and try to make rational decisions despite existing in an irrational universe.” Christians are controlled by the Holy Spirit. Liberals feel they map out their own self-existence. Existentialism has a close cousin in humanism. Christians can use terms like “being led by the Spirit,” whereas liberal thinkers design their own paths in life.))
- REJECTION OF AN OVER-EMPHASIS ON A “PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP WITH CHRIST” THAT FAILS TO PLACE FAITH IN THE CONTEXT OF COMMUNITY ADEQUATELY
((This comes down to authority, and for liberals, the authority of community issues, like point 13, is often more important than a personal relationship with the Lord. That is because most of them have no personal relationship with the Lord. They act in a herd mentality as in one voice. Jesus said to His disciples – and to us in a wider sense – “Follow Me,” and that is personal, one by one. When you remove the link that binds Christians to the Lord (which is a personal link), then your thinking is in the liberal school of theology. It might be identification or adherence to some external form of community agenda. As Christians, we can’t emphasize a personal relationship with Jesus Christ enough.))
- A STRONG EMPHASIS ON “CORPORATE SIN” AS BEING AS EVIL AND DESTRUCTIVE AS PERSONAL SIN
((This is the reason why liberals take up issues such as social ones, environmental ones, issues relating to business and profit and poverty. In some cases, the issues are not wrong because greed rules nations like the USA and Europe, and let us not forget China, but all things must be held in a biblical balance. A lot of true Christians don’t touch those issues because they would say, “We are not of the world,” and that is correct. When Jesus said to a potential follower – Matthew 8:21-22 “Another of the disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father,’ but Jesus said to him, ‘Follow Me, and allow the dead to bury their own dead.'” He was not being callous but was teaching that His followers do not entangle themselves in the affairs of this life.
Just how much “social voice” Christians should have is an area of conflict for many Christians, but not for most liberals because many are driven by agenda, not personal relationship.))
- THAT WHILE MIRACLES HAPPEN, GOD DOES NOT ORDINARILY SUSPEND THE LAWS OF NATURE
((This belief is used to reject the Red Sea crossing [it was a rock slide up river], the Egyptian plagues, the 5 loaves and the 2 fishes, the turning back of Hezekiah’s sundial, etc. Miracles, which demonstrate God’s power, are often explained away or rejected outright as fanciful thinking. Every miracle in the Bible was done in God’s power, directly from the God of Miracles.))
I hope you can see that the thinking of liberals in the churches has a different set of beliefs from born-again Christians. We must always be on our guard as to any new thing that comes along, and that is especially important for those of you who are in church leadership. Orthodox Christianity is biblically based, and that is the sole authority we must ascribe to without any faltering.
Part 5 will follow next.