Thursday, September 15, 2011

Christian Liberals, Part 1 of 2

What is a liberal? Oxford defines “liberal” as “willing to respect and accept behavior or opinions that differ from your own.” To go a step further, what is a Christian liberal? A Christian liberal as far as I understand the concept has ejected certain narrow, limiting and literal views espoused by the majority of the church for the last two thousand years. It is my belief that when the church began in Jerusalem and spread throughout the entire civilized world under the authority of Paul, Peter, John and others that there was no such thing as a Christian liberal; at least not one who would long be tolerated within the professing church.

Paul asserted that such a time would come when he told the Ephesian elders, “For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves,” Acts 20:29-30. Was Paul alone in his concern for this rising pandemic that he saw in the church’s future? Hardly.

Peter added, “But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed,” 2nd Peter 2:1-2. The destruction Peter forewarns about is the Greek “apoleia” and can mean, “destruction, ruin, or waste.” These heresies will destroy those who embrace them, or lay them waste.

John writes, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us,” 1st John 2:19. Those who wantonly depart the Christian faith have departed knowingly from Jesus Christ, who is the pillar, center and Savior of the church and the world. John concludes under inspiration of the Holy Spirit that those who turn from the church and depart are not of us. Generally those who depart become bitter opponents of Christianity and, like Paul warned above, are not content to leave well enough alone but desire to lure away as many disciples as possible. Paul seems to intimate that the sole reason men begin to speak perverse things is in an effort to attract and win converts to themselves. As the Holy Spirit only draws attention to the Son of God so too should the Christian be a window or mirror that gives forth the image of Christ our Lord. He is our message; nothing else. False teachers commonly present themselves as a substitute savior. They have a plan, a message of works, a mystical system that affects what Christ’s blood alone can attain: our eternal salvation. The Roman Catholic Church is a mammoth system of works that long ago turned from the faith, drawing away disciples after them.

Paul also informed the Corinthian church, “For first of all when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it. For there must also be factions among you that those who are approved may be recognized among you,” 1st Corinthians 11:18-19. The Greek word for “factions” is “schisma” and means, “to tear, split, or divide an object into parts, implying that the object is now damaged; implying discord and damage to the unity of the original group.” An alternative rendering for “approved” in this passage is “genuine,” derived from the Greek word “dokimos.” Genuine believers become manifest, apparent or recognized by their perseverance to remain true to the doctrine of Jesus Christ. As John stated above, those who went out were not genuine saints; they were not “approved.” These factions are in some small part a weaning process that removes the wheat from the tares.

Jude’s epistle was apparently supposed to be one of comfort regarding our mutual salvation, but he was directed by the Holy Spirit to speak of and expose false teachers that would pervade the church, and in fact by his day had already begun to do so. Jude writes “For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ,” Jude 1:4. Later Jude adds, “These dreamers defile the flesh, reject authority, and speak evil of dignitaries,” verse 8. They would walk according to their own ungodly lusts, causing division, bereft of the Holy Spirit, verses 18-19. Jude tells us that such teachers reject authority because they know no authority higher than themselves. This mentality reeks of the Devil. Their sole purpose is to cause division with the intent that they might lure disciples after them. Every pseudo-Christian movement in the last two hundred years has been centered around a leader or teaching that draws people away from Jesus Christ and focuses their attention elsewhere; namely on the individual/organization set up in His place. Such teachers profess to be christs, 2nd Peter 2:19. They promise freedom and deliver only bondage; again, Rome is an excellent example of this tragic tradeoff between the freedom Jesus gives (John 8:31-32; Matthew 11:28-29) and the bondage of religion.

Finally Jesus endorses His own teachings with unambiguous, narrow language difficult to dismiss. “If you abide in My word, then are you My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free,” John 8:31-32. “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away,” Mark 13:31. Clearly Jesus took the teachings He was expounding about eternity, salvation, and God extremely seriously. Christ claimed to be the truth, John 14:6. When you find Jesus Christ, God the Savior, you have found truth. If you depart from the truth God Himself deemed to give mankind you have nowhere to go but error. Erwin Lutzer stated that error has a huge advantage over truth in that it is much broader and occupies every place that truth does not reside. You can err in a million different ways, but there is only one truth. It is defined by God in the pages of Scripture, given to man for our salvation and comfort so we might know God.

1 comment:

  1. The root word for liberal means literally sharing or giving freely. Conservative originally meant not going to extremes. the concepts are complimentary, not exclusive. Today, those referred to as liberals are often unwilling to consider any other position and those who speak of themselves as conservative are often extremists. The same misuse of the words is found in religious circles as in the political world. Isaiah 32:5 addresses the present situation.

    "The vile person shall be no more called liberal, nor the churl said to be bountiful. For the vile person will speak villany, and his heart will work iniquity, to practice hypocrisy, and to utter error against the LORD, to make empty the soul of the hungry, and he will cause the drink of the thirsty to fail. The instruments also of the churl are evil: he deviseth wicked devices to destroy the poor with lying words, even when the needy speaketh right. But the liberal deviseth liberal things; and by liberal things shall he stand."


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