The Elements of Liberalism

by Matt Slick

In the context of Christianity, liberalism is the moving away from traditional, historical interpretation of Scripture into "new" interpretations that are more consistent with secular views.  Liberalism occurs in different forms and intensities.  Some liberals deny that Jesus even existed or say that the Bible is a good book full of moral teachings or that Adam and Eve were metaphors, etc.  On the other hand, there are liberals who hold to the essentials of the Christian faith but depart from its literalness in historic understanding in areas such as male only elders--the topic under examination in this section.  So, since liberalism is a constant threat to Christian teaching, wouldn't it make sense to examine some of the elements of liberalism?

Following is a list of basic principles and examples that reveal some aspects of liberalism.  Of course, not all liberals hold to all the points; but as you read through them, you should see that it comes down to one thing--not believing the Bible for what it says.

  1. Denial of inspiration, inerrancy, and/or authority of the Bible
    1. Saying that the Bible has errors, is "written by man," is only a guide, or is not absolutely true.
  2. Denying historic accuracy of the Bible
    1. Denying that Adam, Eve, Moses, Jesus, etc., were real people.
    2. Denying that the Exodus happened.
    3. Denying that there was an actual Garden of Eden, etc.
  3. Denial of particular parts of the Bible as being authentic
    1. Denying that Moses wrote Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy.
    2. Denying Paul's letter's as authentic.
    3. Denying that the Gospels are accurate, etc.
  4. Denial a basic Christian doctrine
    1. Trinity, deity of Christ, resurrection, etc.
    2. Salvation by grace.
    3. Denying that Jesus is the only way to salvation, the doctrine of hell, etc.
  5. Denial of historic understanding of Scripture and substituting new ones
    1. Redefining salvation as self-deliverance from oppression.
    2. Saying that Jesus' didn't literally rise from the dead and that it is a metaphor for success over trials.
    3. "Husband of one wife" is not taken literally.  It is a phrase applied to wives, too.
    4. Homosexuality is not a sin; it is an alternative lifestyle.
  6. Affirming experience over Scripture
    1. A person's feelings supersede biblical revelation.
    2. "Feeling" that Jesus isn't the only way to God.
    3. As long as you are sincere, God will let you go to heaven.
  7. Using outside sources to interpret scripture
    1. Use of psychology manuals, self-help books, science books, etc. and subjecting the Bible to their teaching.
  8. Saying the Bible is outdated, patriarchal
    1. This is an attempt to invalidate scripture by dismissing it as ancient and, therefore, not true.
    2. It also negates the inspiration of Scripture because it implies the patriarchal structure is due to cultural influence and not scriptural revelation.
  9. Imposing secular ideals upon Scripture
    1. Women ordination.
    2. Pro homosexuality.
    3. Denying moral absolutes.
    4. Upholding evolution as how mankind arrived on earth.
    5. Defending "abortion rights" from scripture.
  10. Gender Neutral wording in reference to God, people, mankind, etc.
    1. Referring to God as Mother God or Father-Mother God.
    2. Referring to various references of male leaders as people.

As you read through the list, did you think of any church groups or denominations that fit in any of the categories?  Maybe you have some friends who are liberal or, maybe you are yourself in some areas.

Is liberalism dangerous?

Yes, liberalism is dangerous because it leads to a denial of biblical truth.  But denial of biblical truth usually means that things contrary to Scripture are often affirmed.  Consider this quote:

"If we look at the denominations that approved women's ordination from 1956-1976, we find that several of them, such as the United Methodist church and the United Presbyterian Church (now called the Presbyterian Church-USA), have large contingents pressing for (a) the endorsement of homosexual conduct as morally valid and (b) the approval of homosexual ordination."1

In the article Denominations, women ordination, and other errors, we see that women's ordination is often accompanied by other errors, namely, supporting abortion, affirming homosexuality, and a denial of the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture.  It is rare that heresies are singular.  They come in clusters.

Since Jesus claimed to be God in flesh (John 8:24) and said that no one comes to the Father but through him (John 14:6), then we must make a decision.  Either what Jesus said is true or it is false.  Either Jesus was crazy or he was telling us something so profound that we better listen carefully.  Which is it?  If you hold to biblical authority and inspiration, you will believe what Christ said.  If you hold to liberalism, why should you?

Since Jesus rose from the dead, walked on water, raised others from the dead, performed miracles, healed people, etc., he has demonstrated his right to speak authoritatively.  Therefore, we must consider his words carefully.  When he warned people about eternal damnation, are we to consider his words as metaphor or absolute truth?  Did he really rise from the dead, or is that just an illustration about how we can have victory over our problems?

Either what the Bible tells us in its totality is true or it is to be dismissed as the fable.  I don't know about you, but I consider eternity too long of a time to be wrong, and I cannot dismiss the words of Christ as being fabrications.  I trust in the absolute inspiration, inerrancy, infallibility, and authority of the Bible.

Liberalism leads away from biblical fidelity and compromises Scriptural truth.  It only needs the door to be open a crack in order to push its way through.  The only guarantee against the liberal influence on the church is to set our minds and eyes upon the word of God, study it diligently, and believe what it says.

  • 1. Grudem, Wayne, Evangelical Feminism: A New Path to Liberalism? Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2006, p. 28.

 

 

 

 
 
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