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Understanding Belief Systems
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Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. - 2 Tim. 3:5
Christian Liberal Protestant makes up the greatest grouping in both Colorado and in American religion. This is also reflected in our denominational makeup and even in our Congress1. Christian liberals are in control of our nation, both religiously and politically. While there are a wide range of variations in liberal belief systems, there are unique elements which are true of all Christian liberals.
To be a liberal, by popular definition, is to see oneself as progressive, rather than as static. Regardless of the arena, conservatives tend to see liberals as pragmatic without any base values while liberals tend to portray conservatives as rejecting change of any sort. Both of these characterizations can be pejorative. The Christian who seeks to “witness” to a liberal on these terms may not be following in the pattern of Christ’s own witness to liberals.
To properly understand the Christian liberal we must understand his first principles. We do know that the term Christian Liberal is self contradicting if one respects the true definition of a liberal and the true definition of a Christian. The Christian liberal is trying to balance two first principles, (an impossibility.) Definitions of liberals are wide and varied but are most always equated with humanism. A liberal embraces humanism as his first principle2.
According to Wikipedia: Humanism is a philosophical and ethical stance that emphasizes the value and agency of human beings, individually and collectively, and generally prefers critical thinking and evidence (rationalism, empiricism) over established doctrine or faith (fideism). The meaning of the term humanism has fluctuated, according to the successive intellectual movements which have identified with it. Generally, however, humanism refers to a perspective that affirms some notion of a “human nature” (sometimes contrasted with antihumanism).
Let’s shorten the discussion. In essential terms, liberal humanist believes in the goodness of man because he believes in inevitable progress. He believes education and rational thought are our basic tools for overcoming poverty, despair, class warfare, and so forth. Keep in mind, the more educated he is, the more closely he will fit the above description.
When we return to first principles, this doctrine of inevitable human progress is essentially what Satan taught regarding himself (Isaiah 14:14.) Inevitable progress is an echo of Satan’s favorite theme: We can all ascend. We can all become little gods. The Bible, and the whole course of human history, has taught that it is not in man to guide his steps (Jeremiah. 10:23) and that this assumption simply is not true.
One cannot be a humanistic liberal and a Christian at the same time because the Christian begins with a different first principle. He believes in a personal God who created the universe, who claims absolute authority over it. When man rejected this authority and fell into sin, this same God provided the only solution through His Son, Jesus Christ. No amount of self reformation can remedy man’s need for a new life in Christ.
The liberal who calls himself a Christian is, in fact, a secular Christian. He embraces many of the moral and social values of Christianity, but he denies its first principle, and therefore, its fundamentals. It is likely that such a man will give lip service to believing in God (one he does not define), but he will most certainly reject the inspiration of scriptures. He will give credence to Christ, but will most certainly deny the biblical expression of His deity, and His substitutionary work
The liberal Christian tends to devalue the Bible believing Christian as living in a hermetically sealed, less than compassionate world which does not reach out to those in need. It is important for believers to make the Bible’s position clear regarding what we call the social gospel. For our purposes, we will use Micah 6:8:
“He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”
We are to (1.) do justly, (2.) to love mercy, and (3.) to walk humbly with our God. The Christian liberal would agree with the first two, but as a humanist, he believes that man is innately good and only needs to progress through education, opportunity, and the removal of those things which hinder him. He has no obligation to God.
The believer teaches that we are to do justly and love mercy because it is right and loving, but we must also introduce men to God, who is the only solution for our dilemma. Christian compassion is holistic, addressing both physical and spiritual need.
Both groups believe in justice and mercy, for entirely different ends. The humanist fails to see that when we do not include what God says about justice and mercy we begin a process of redefining justice and mercy in secular humanist terms. Justice becomes a campaign for social justice that inevitably descends into class warfare just as we are seeing on the American political scene. Mercy becomes enablement and toleration toward sin. In the liberal world, we must help without being “judgmental.” We may not confront the causes of our dilemma (HIV, for example.) Showing mercy without addressing a man’s spiritual needs may be required at times, but it is not as merciful as meeting his spiritual needs as well.
a. The God who created the universe and maintains it is our absolute authority. He is our first principle. (Genesis 1, Isaiah 45, Philippians 2:10).
b. The human race has enslaved itself to sin and cannot remedy itself. (Romans 3:23).
c. He cannot commend himself to God and his efforts at being or doing good, will not commend him (Romans 3:10).
d. God loves the world and has sent His own son to redeem men from sin (John 3:16-18, 35).
d. God’s plan and purpose for history is being worked out progressively in and through His Son, without whom there is no hope for mankind or for our own souls.