Liberal Theology in the Churches: Part 5 :: By Ron Ferguson

This talk continues from Part 4. This is the last one in this series.

We live in troubled times when the very foundations of our faith are being shaken.

So many qualified people have written and spoken on this subject that sometimes it feels like one is climbing on the backs of those who were previously in the fight. Where possible, I am giving references and acknowledgment to the quotes I use, and if I have missed any, pardon me. I have gathered material over the years and don’t know the origin of some sources and/or my own notes on those. That won’t detract from what I have tried to do. I do not speak at or write for an intellectual audience on this subject – I want to pitch my writing to the ordinary Christian. There is a time and a place.


The following quote is taken from the back cover of a book called CAN WE STILL READ THE BIBLE AND BE A CHRISTIAN? by John Dominic Crossan, almost the leading liberal scholar at one stage in the world, and a former Roman Catholic priest.

“The Bible introduces us to a loving Jesus who turns the other cheek, loves his enemies, and shows grace to all, but we also meet a warrior Jesus who leads an army of angels bent on earthly destruction.

Which is the true Messiah? Should we all follow the nonviolent Jesus of the Sermon on the Mount, or the vengeful, sword-wielding Christ of Revelation?

As one of the foremost biblical scholars of our day, John Dominic Crossan reveals that running throughout the entire Bible – from Genesis to Revelation – are two conflicting revelations of God: one offering a radical, holy vision where every need is provided for and love and grace are extended widely; the other working to domesticate this radical vision by emphasizing judgment and punishment and by propping up the status quo.”

Taken from an Internet post by Glenn Peoples, PhD, New Zealand, who opposes liberalism:

[“John Dominic Crossan, the late Robert Funk, John Shelby Spong, or New Zealand’s own Lloyd Geering – all call themselves Christians.

None of them believe that God exists (except in some emotional or mythological manner), and all are adamant that Christianity should change. It should give up belief in a personal creator, in myths about miracles, in nonsense about bodily resurrections from the dead, and so on. Christianity must get with the times and become relevant, and in our day and age, people just can’t believe in such silliness.

One of the goals of liberal theology is to give Christianity a modern acceptability. They want to tell us that people can’t believe in ancient superstitions these days, but they can believe in “God,” if by God we mean the goodness in the world.

People can believe in the resurrection of Jesus, if by “resurrection” we mean the survival of (some of) His moral teachings in the lives of his followers, and so on.

These folks don’t want to abandon Christianity, according to them. Not at all. They want to see Christianity get real, they tell us. They are making the Christian faith credible. Or are they?”]


Re-imagining the Bible – In 2010, MSNBC anchor Melissa Harris-Perry called for “RE-IMAGINING THE BIBLE AS A TOOL OF PROGRESSIVE SOCIAL CHANGE.” Harris-Perry’s “re-imagining” of the Bible has become a favorite liberal tactic, as journalists and politicians have cited it to promote socialism, gay marriage, abortion, and a host of other progressive policies – “all kinds” of “liberal, lefty, progressive values.” [That information comes from Paul Wilson, as does some of the material below. Paul has written very intelligently against liberalism.]

Washington Post “On Faith” contributor Anthony Stevens-Arroyo argued that the Bible was the inspiration for Karl Marx’s motto “From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.” Huffington Post contributor, Kittredge Cherry, claimed Jesus Christ was a homosexual: “Christ lives in every individual of every different shade of sexual orientation and gender identity.” Writer Nynia Chance proclaimed that the Bible supported abortion on the program RH Reality Check: “There are times where the Bible states God commands that one [abortion] takes place.”

THE QUEEN JAMES BIBLE – Ideological leftists are attracted to the idea of a mutable Bible, and some even go ahead and rewrite it according to their desires and politics. A group of anonymous editors created the “Queen James Bible” to challenge traditional Scripture’s teaching on homosexuality. [Their stated purpose was quite clear: “The Queen James Bible resolves any homophobic interpretations of the Bible.” The authors boasted in their editor’s note: “We wanted to make a book filled with the word of God that nobody could use incorrectly to condemn God’s LGBT children, and we succeeded.”]

The quality of their scholarship leaves something to be desired. The editors of the “Queen James Bible” made only eight edits to the Bible (predictably, eight verses dealing with homosexuality) and expressly stated that they “didn’t change anything else to create this edition of the Queen James Bible.” The editors also asserted in their editor’s note: [“Yes, things like Leviticus are horribly outdated,” and claimed that “the Bible is still filled with inequality and even contradiction that we have not addressed.”] This leaves the question of why they bothered “editing” a work that they have little respect for in the first place; after all, they claim that “No Bible is perfect, including this one.”

These socialist liberals who attack the Church and Christians and the Lord are writing to their own condemnation because no one can trample the word of God and be guiltless.

THE GOSPEL OF JESUS’ WIFE – The most extensive media attempt to promote a changeable Bible involved a fragment of papyrus rashly dubbed the “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife.” The fragment, “about the size of a small cell phone,” referenced Jesus using the words “my wife.” In September 2012, print and television media wildly speculated about the fragment’s potential impact on Christianity. It was going to tear Christianity apart.

On Sept. 19, ABC’s Elizabeth Vargas breathlessly publicized the fragment as: [“Real-life ‘Da Vinci Code.’ Christianity’s biggest mysteries about to be solved. The tiny scrap of paper that could prove Jesus had a wife. Why this faded fragment might solve an age-old question.” Her colleague Diane Sawyer cooed that it was an “ancient clue… right out of the ‘Da Vinci Code.'”] All three broadcast networks hyped the fragment relentlessly on both their morning and evening news programs. (Material from Paul Wilson).

What they didn’t say was that many academics were skeptical of the authenticity of the fragment and that it was first translated and popularized by a self-proclaimed expert in “feminist theology” with an interest in promoting extra-Biblical texts. When sources like The Washington Post, The New York Times, and even NBC News Online reported that the Vatican and a Coptic scholar declared the fragment “fake,” no broadcast network covered it. The same fragment of papyrus that was hyped with such excitement when it may have subverted traditional readings of the New Testament disappeared entirely from the networks when it didn’t turn out like they’d hoped. Isn’t that typical of the anti-God media? The socialist media hates Christians.

Daily Beast and Post contributor Lisa Miller, a religious liberal, specifically called it “A LIVING DOCUMENT,” by which she meant that the Bible and its teachings (especially the unpleasant ones) are changeable. CNN’s Piers Morgan expressed this attitude when he rhetorically asked Jeff Foxworthy on his August 22, 2012, show: [“How literally should people take the Bible? And should the Bible be an evolutionary thing, rather like the Constitution was amended a few times?”]

Everything is so devious these days. Nothing can be trusted. In these last days of the Church age, all sorts of delusions and filthy lies abound. “Progressive writers have joined Democratic politicians in citing the Bible to attack straw man arguments supposedly constituting conservative economics.

Even the Bible is used against Christians and Christian values by the Democrats, but are we surprised?” (Source lost).

THE GOSPEL OF MARY – The “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” wasn’t the only instance of journalists placing questionable texts on par with the Bible. Thistlethwaite promoted one of the Gnostic gospels – writings about Jesus rejected by the early Church, which include stories of Jesus killing people. She touted the Gnostic Gospel of Mary as a “long lost Gospel.”

LIES ARE NO BAR – University of North Carolina professor Bart Ehrman, a self-professed non-Church-going agnostic, claimed on the Huffington Post in March 2011: [“Many of the books of the New Testament were written by people who lied about their identity, claiming to be a famous apostle – Peter, Paul or James – knowing full well they were someone else. In modern jargon, that is a lie, and a book written by someone who lies about his identity is a forgery.”]

ABORTION – Erin Gloria Ryan of the liberal site “Jezebel” likes abortion so much that she wrote an article advising women of the ideal age to have one, so it isn’t surprising that she enlisted the Bible to support her enthusiasm. In November 2012, Ryan wrote, [“There are a lot more passages in the Bible that imply (or insist) that the big man upstairs doesn’t consider a zygote to be the same sort of being with the same value as, say, a mailman or a trapeze artist than there are passages that mention abortion, and because “there are zero Bible passages that mention abortion, as in ‘don’t do it,'” then the Bible must be pro-abortion.”]

EVIL LADY GAGA – In her music video “Judas,” pop artist Lady Gaga used Biblical imagery to celebrate the betrayer of Jesus. The lyrics of “Judas” include these lines: [“When he calls to me, I am ready. I’ll wash his feet with my hair if he needs – Forgive him when his tongue lies through his brain – Even after three times, he betrays me.”] Her song inverted two Biblical incidents: Peter’s betrayal of Jesus (Mark 14:66-72) and a woman pouring ointment over Jesus’ feet and washing His feet with her hair (Luke 7:36-50). Lady Gaga substituted Jesus’ betrayer of Jesus as an object of veneration.


GRESHAM MACHEN, THE CHAMPION OF ORTHODOXY, HAS SAID – Even in the early twentieth century, liberals sought to put human experience above the word of Scripture. Liberals tried to argue that their authority was Christ, but it was a Christ apart from Scripture and known only by their personal human experience. In Christianity and Liberalism: The Bible, by J. Gresham Machen, Princeton professor, written Sept 2012, he says this:

[“The modern liberal does not hold fast even to the authority of Jesus. Certainly, he does not accept the words of Jesus as they are recorded in the Gospels, for among the recorded words of Jesus are to be found just those things which are the most abhorrent to the modern liberal church, and in his recorded words, Jesus also points forward to the fuller revelation which was afterward to be given through His apostles. Evidently, therefore, those words of Jesus which are to be regarded as authoritative by modern liberalism must first be selected from the mass of the recorded words by a critical process. The critical process is certainly very difficult, and the suspicion often arises that the critic is retaining as genuine words of the historical Jesus only those words which conform to his own preconceived ideas.”]

Machen concludes,

[“It is no wonder, then, that liberalism is totally different from Christianity, for the foundation is different. Christianity is founded upon the Bible. It bases upon the Bible both its thinking and its life. Liberalism, on the other hand, is founded upon the shifting emotions of sinful men.”]

If the sharp distinction is ever broken down between the Church and the world, then the power of the church is gone. This pressure to compromise with the culture is the most serious threat to the church’s calling, and it comes from within the church. Machen again observes,

[“The really serious attack upon Christianity has not been the attack carried on by fire and sword, by the threat of bonds or death, but it has been the more subtle attack that has been masked by friendly words; it has been not the attack from without but the attack from within. The enemy has done his deadliest work when he has come with words of love and compromise and peace.”]

Author Robert Mills begins his article in “THE PRIORITY OF AUTHORITY: HOLY SCRIPTURE AND HUMAN SEXUALITY” by quoting the common chant of liberals explaining why there has been such division in the church over sexuality: [“We all agree on the authority of Scripture. We just disagree about interpretation.”] Mills then exposes the fallacy of this position, saying, [“It is the first half of their statement, ‘We all agree on the authority of Scripture,’ that is so obviously absurd – for the chasm dividing evangelicals and liberals in their understanding of the authority of Scripture is, if anything, greater than that separating their interpretation of specific passages.”]

THE ENLIGHTENMENT AND LIBERALISM – Classical liberalism has significant ties to The Enlightenment, a period of intense questioning of institutions; focus on individual freedom; and development of the arts, science, and philosophy. Much of the modern church sees The Enlightenment in an entirely negative way as being “a cornerstone for secular humanism” and a too-optimistic view of humankind’s abilities over and above God’s grace and providence. However, The Enlightenment also afforded the church the opportunity to back away from rigidity, harshness, and irrationality and toward the social gospel’s message of reconciling love. The Enlightenment also reintroduced “reason” as an important, indeed necessary, element of faith.

Immanuel Kant wrote (Kant was not an atheist, but certainly he was not a Christian either):

[“Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-imposed immaturity. Immaturity is the inability to use one’s understanding without guidance from another. This immaturity is self-imposed when its cause lies not in lack of understanding, but in lack of resolve and courage to use it without guidance from another.”]

Enlightenment thinkers attacked the church’s doctrine of revelation because they rejected “supernatural revelation.”

Mills (a PCUSA pastor who is currently teaching at Liberty University, Lynchburg, VA) writes, [“Enlightenment philosophy is the source and substance of liberal theology. Rejecting as “unenlightened’ the very possibility of divine revelation, mainline liberals have followed Enlightenment philosophers in degrading the Bible from God’s self-revelation to a mere collection of human reflections on the religious experiences of certain groups of individuals. For such liberals, the Bible is not, nor does it contain, the Word of God. Therefore, it has no more authority than a novel or a magazine article.”]

THE LIBERALS’ TREATMENT OF THE BIBLE – Liberals reject the authority of the biblical text given by the Author, the Holy Spirit. Instead, for liberals, the reader’s meaning, not the original author’s meaning, is authoritative. Whatever insight the reader gleans is authoritative for him/her, regardless of whether it agrees with what the text says or not. The shift is FROM the meaning of the text as a revelation of God given through human authors TO the reader’s meaning of the text, even if that meaning is in direct opposition to the words of the text. The reader’s meaning is now authoritative.

Mills explains the result of this erroneous liberal thinking, [“I once heard an Old Testament professor acknowledge that there is no question that the plain meaning of the Old Testament Hebrew is that homosexual behavior is sinful in God’s eyes. However, he concluded, ‘The Bible is simply wrong at that point.'”] Nov/Dec 2011 Theology Matters p. 1.

LIBERALISM REQUIRES A MORE RELEVANT RELIGION – “From Father God to Mother Earth: The Effect of Deconstructing Christian Faith on Sexuality by Berit Kjos – She says, [“This spiritual movement demands new deities or a rethinking of the old ones. The transformation starts with self, some say, and women can’t re-invent themselves until they shed the old shackles. So the search for a ‘more relevant’ religion requires new visions of God: images that trade holiness for tolerance, the heavenly for the earthly, and the God who is above us for a god who is us.”]

“Truth Creates Boundaries” by Susan Cyre, Executive Director of Presbyterians for Faith, Family and Ministry. Cyre writes [“Objective truth had been trampled on university campuses by relativism promoted under the banner of tolerance, inclusivity and diversity. This problem of relativism, however, does not exist just in liberal academic corridors. It exists in the culture and, most disturbingly, in the church, even among Evangelicals…. Objective truth is the plumb line which divides truth and falsehood, creating a boundary. Without that boundary, everything is believable.”] Mar/Apr 1995 Theology Matters p. 1

WRAPPING ALL THAT UP – Modern liberals regularly dismiss the Bible as repressive and irrelevant to modern thought and attack Christian conservatives for believing “utter rubbish in the Bible.” But the left is very opportunistic. Just as liberals can change their spots when it’s convenient, they become Bible scholars when they believe it can be used as a “tool of progressive social change.”

[“They don’t believe the Bible in the same way Christians do,” Michael Youssef explained to CMI. “They don’t read the Bible sacredly. They read it as something you can use, something you can abuse. So they quote it out of context.”]

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR JOURNALISTS: Paul Wilson (Christian good) gives the following recommendations for journalists and media writers:

(a). Treat the Bible as a Holy Book, Not a Punching Bag: Journalists should stop treating the Bible as an archaic book of outdated customs. Entertainers should stop using Christianity’s holy book as a setup for sex jokes.

(b). Treat Christianity the Same as for Other Religions: Journalists would never target the Koran, the holy book of Islam, for mockery – and would immediately be censored if they did. They should strive to treat the Bible with the same respect that they treat the texts of other faiths.

(c). Context, Context, Context: Journalists should examine the context of each Bible passage before cherry-picking quotes to support their ideological position.


(A). THE CUT-UP SCROLL. Jeremiah 36:1-4 “It came about in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, that this word came to Jeremiah from the LORD saying, ‘Take a scroll and write on it all the words which I have spoken to you concerning Israel, and concerning Judah, and concerning all the nations, from the day I first spoke to you, from the days of Josiah, even to this day.

Perhaps the house of Judah will hear all the calamity which I plan to bring on them, in order that every man will turn from his evil way. Then I will forgive their iniquity and their sin.’ Then Jeremiah called Baruch the son of Neriah, and Baruch wrote at the dictation of Jeremiah all the words of the LORD, which He had spoken to him, on a scroll.

Jeremiah 36:21-25 Then the king sent Jehudi to get the scroll, and he took it out of the chamber of Elishama the scribe, and Jehudi read it to the king as well as to all the officials who stood beside the king. Now the king was sitting in the winter house in the ninth month, with a fire burning in the brazier before him, and it came about, when Jehudi had read three or four columns, the king cut it with a scribe’s knife, and threw it into the fire that was in the brazier, until all the scroll was consumed in the fire that was in the brazier. Yet the king and all his servants who heard all these words were not afraid. Nor did they rend their garments, even though Elnathan and Delaiah and Gemariah entreated the king not to burn the scroll, he would not listen to them.”

Liberals cut away the word of God bit by bit. They burn God’s word on the altar of humanism and expediency and secular acceptance.

They will be held accountable, just like Jehoiakim was.

(B). ADDING AND SUBTRACTING TO THE BIBLE WILL HAVE ITS JUDGMENT. Revelation 22:18-19 “I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God shall add to him the plagues which are written in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book.” Liberals have always added and subtracted. They add the evil concepts of men and humanism and subtract the words they don’t like because they don’t fit their unconverted position.

(C). THE HOLY SPIRIT PROVIDED THE GENEALOGY BACK TO ADAM. Luke 3:23-24 “When He began His ministry, Jesus Himself was about thirty years of age, being supposedly the son of Joseph, the son of Eli, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melchi, the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph,” DOWN TO THE LAST TWO VERSES – Luke 3:37-38 the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch, the son of Jared, the son of Mahalaleel, the son of Cainan, the son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.”

This is Joseph’s line right back to Adam. Previously in another message, we saw Adam was essential in the confirmation of marriage spoken by the Lord Jesus and fundamental in the doctrine of sin and justification delivered by Paul in Romans. Once Adam and Eve are removed, the Bible becomes illogical.

(D). A WARNING ABOUT WHAT WAS TO COME. Acts 20:29-31 “I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock, and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears.”

1 Timothy 6:20 “O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called “knowledge.” 2 Timothy 1:14 “Guard the treasure which has been entrusted to you through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us.” 2 Timothy 4:15 “Be on guard against him yourself, for he vigorously opposed our teaching.” 2 Peter 3:17 “knowing this beforehand, you therefore, beloved, be on your guard lest being carried away by the error of unprincipled men, you fall from your own steadfastness.”

I wish to thank both Paul Wilson and J. Gresham Machen (Theological Matters – Presbyterians for Faith) for the work they have done. I have used copious quotes from their writings. God be blessed forever.