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The Oldest Liberal Theology Trick in the Book

Mar 13, 2018

Theological liberalism is the fake news version of Christianity. It uses God words but strips them of their biblical content. Thus they deny all the key doctrines of the faith or radically reinterpret them. They reject the miraculous and the supernatural, they reject the uniqueness of Christ, his virgin birth, his deity and his resurrection, they reject the reality of sin, the wrath of God and judgment to come, etc.

Instead they push a schmaltzy and mushy “let’s love everyone and learn to just get along” version of Christianity. As was said in the 19th century about the religious scene in America’s northeast, especially about the Unitarians congregated in and around Boston, this liberal theology comprised three elements: ‘the fatherhood of God, the brotherhood of man, and the neighbourhood of Boston’.

Biblical Christians have been battling this plague in the church for quite some time now. As one classic example of this, back in 1923, J. Gresham Machen wrote his brilliant volume, Christianity and Liberalism. It is still worth reading today, and you can see one of my write-ups about it here: billmuehlenberg.com/2017/07/15/theological-liberalism-progressive-christianity/

Much can be said about the dangers and delusions of theological liberalism. One of the biggest tricks in their playbook is to try to separate the ethics of Jesus from the teachings of Jesus. We find this happening all the time. It is a sure sign that you are dealing with theological liberals when you come across this.

They are quite happy to run with the ethics of Jesus. So they readily latch on to things like “turn the other cheek” and “love one another”. These sorts of passages nicely dovetail into their political liberalism as well. Thus if they are pushing things like pacifism, they can happily claim that these texts are the essence of the message of Jesus.

But they want nothing to do with all of his hardcore teachings, since they do NOT fit into their liberal agenda. Passages like “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,” and “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again,” and “You are of your father the devil” just do not cut it for the liberals.

Needless to say, all this is to do grave injustice to the Bible and to the Christian faith. It is a great way to trash the Bible and disembowel Christianity, but it is certainly not how we uphold Scripture and the heart and soul of biblical Christianity.

Anyone who has championed biblical orthodoxy would have encountered the theological liberals and had to deal with them. I have had my fair share of confrontations with these folks over the years. Let me spell all this out in a bit more detail.

Consider something that even liberals might at least half-heartedly endorse: the Ten Commandments. When we look at them even just a little bit closely, we see how teaching and theology are also part of the ethical injunctions found there. Theology and ethics are intertwined and cannot be separated.

That is, basic biblical truths about God, his monotheistic and exclusive nature, frame and inform the commandments. And the order of the commandments is crucial here. The first four talk about our obligations to God, and then the last six deal with our obligations to one another.

That is always how it must be. We cannot love and do right to our neighbour until we first love God and obey him. So when a liberal talks a lot about love, he must follow the biblical order, or he will merely be tossing up nice, lofty but vacuous ideals.

The latter commandments flow out of, and are based upon, the former. We are fully unable to love anyone as we should, and getting right with God first is how we must proceed. The Ten Commandments are based on that particular order: we must first love God, by his chosen methods, not our own, and then we can begin to love others.

And that is just what we find in the New Testament as well. That is what the gospel is all about. It is only when we agree with God about our sinful condition, turn from our sins and cast our trust in the work of Christ that we can be reborn and for the first time in our lives really be able to truly love both God and others.

Indeed, Jesus fully summarised and affirmed that. Recall what he said when he was asked about the greatest commandment. As we find in Mark 12:28-31:

One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

The first commandment is taken from Deuteronomy 6:5. Of interest, the Ten Commandments were just discussed in Deut. 5, so to love God means to obey him and keep his covenant conditions. We cannot speak about loving God apart from obeying his commandments.

And the second commandment is taken from Leviticus 19:18, another book full of laws. So a desire to separate love from law is just as unhelpful and unbiblical as is the effort to separate the ethics of Jesus from the teachings and commands of Jesus.

To push for a sentimental sort of love divorced from biblical truth is just a dead-end proposition. We can only love as God intends us to love when we are in a right relationship with God. And that includes obeying his commands. Biblical love and biblical obedience are a package deal.

So the theological liberal can talk all he likes about love and the brotherhood of man. But he will never get close to what God really expects of us. It will just be a sentimental and sickly-sweet emotivism and an attempt to be ‘nice’ to people. Biblical love is much sturdier and much more robust than that.

Since I early on mentioned Machen, let me quote just one portion of his important volume:

When the gospel account of Jesus is considered closely, it is found to involve the Messianic consciousness throughout. Even those parts of the Gospels which have been regarded as most purely ethical are found to be based altogether upon Jesus’ lofty claims. The Sermon on the Mount is a striking example. It is the fashion now to place the Sermon on the Mount in contrast with the rest of the New Testament. “We will have nothing to do with theology,” men say in effect, “we will have nothing to do with miracles, with atonement, or with heaven or with hell. For us the Golden Rule is a sufficient guide of life; in the simple principles of the Sermon on the Mount we discover a solution of all the problems of society.” It is indeed rather strange that men can speak in this way. Certainly it is rather derogatory to Jesus to assert that never except in one brief part of His recorded words did He say anything that is worth while. But even in the Sermon on the Mount there is far more than some men suppose. Men say that it contains no theology; in reality it contains theology of the most stupendous kind. In particular, it contains the loftiest possible presentation of Jesus’ own Person….

In sum, our rebellious and sinful nature will just not allow us to properly love. That is why Christ came. But to ignore his work at Calvary and continue to champion some sentimental hopes for peace on earth and goodwill to men just will not work.

The teachings of Jesus and his ethical injunctions stand or fall together. That is where the theological liberal goes so badly wrong. And that is just one reason why all true Christians must give a very wide berth to any forms of theological liberalism.

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6 Responses to The Oldest Liberal Theology Trick in the Book

  • Bill,

    Liberal Christians believe that “gender identity” harms no one. However, they have forgotten to love their non-verbal neighbours who can’t verbalise their gender. The Australian and Victorian Human Rights Commission has no definition of male and female which means any person can self-identify with a gender based on self-determination. However, “gender identity” theory discriminates against people who aren’t able to verbalise their gender such as an unconscious or incoherent patient, newborn, demented patient etc. This means there is no law in Australia to protect any non-verbal person to their most basic human right of their biological sex which has been based on the binary genders of male and female that can be measured and tested all over the world and over the centuries.

    Medical doctors and registered nurses have accurately recorded a patient’s biological sex of either male or female in patient’s records as objective truth. There is no “other” sex or zz chromosomes. The idea that people can choose a “gender identity” is subjective information as people can change their mind. The idea that biological sex isn’t based on the binary genders of male and female leads to the falsification of legal documents and inappropriate care and treatment. The theories of “gender identity” are really based on masculinity, femininity and neither masculinity/femininity, but this subjective idea doesn’t create people’s biological sex as male or female. Medical doctors and registered nurses will be charged with perjury in court for falsifying any legal document if biological sex isn’t the truth, and there is no professional indemnity insurance available anywhere in Australia for Healthcare professionals to falsify any legal document and or provide inappropriate care and treatment such as removing a healthy sexual organ, breast tissue and hormone therapy based on sexuality and gender theories. The practice of removing healthy sexual organs, breast tissue and hormone therapy doesn’t change a person’s biological sex as women have had a hysterectomy, mastectomy and hormone therapy and there is no scientific evidence that these procedures have changed a female into a “male,” nor does this treatment change their xx chromosomes into xy chromosomes. There are people who believe their gender is different to their biological sex, but their idea is really no different to the people in the middle east who have removed people’s healthy body parts including a head based on their religious belief system, and this is really no different to the woman in Singapore who got her friend to cut off her healthy arm so she could claim a disability pension because she thought she was disabled.

    The Victorian Human Rights Commission claim that “gender identity” is protect in law, but this law doesn’t protect any person who is unable to verbalise their gender. All Australians should be extremely concerned that there is no law in Australia which defines both a male and female because everyone is at risk of dehumanisation if they become unconscious/ non-verbal and unable to verbalise their gender. There is no law in Australia which recognises the complementary sexual union between a male and female which can naturally procreate, nurture and raise new-life with both a male and female role model. Unfortunately, dehumanisation leads to unwanted neonates being treated as bodily waste products and euthanised terminally ill patients are treated as a blob.

    Liberal Christians believe no one is harmed by legal abortion, legal euthanasia, nor a legal same-sex marriage. A legal abortion mimics a spontaneous abortion and legal euthanasia mimics the natural death of a terminally ill patient. Also, a legal same-sex marriage mimics a “one flesh” union between a husband and wife, but this isn’t the same behavioural practice. Jesus and John the Baptist made it extremely clear that an adulterous marriage isn’t the same as a “one flesh” union between a husband and wife. Governments all over the world and throughout the centuries have regulated (controlled) harmful behavioural practices such as abortion, adultery, sodomy, prostitution, fornication, gambling, alcohol, smoking etc. However, The Australian Federal Parliament has never defined nor regulated a “one flesh” union between one man and one woman because this has been defined by the Bible and regulated by the Christian Church. I regularly ask people this question, “Why did the NSW parliament in 1857 forced all Christian ministers and priests to accurately register all genuine church marriages on a public marriage registry? The Christian/Catholic Churches had kept their own records of births, marriages, deaths, baptisms and confirmations. Does the amended Marriage Act and no fault divorce laws both legalised adulterous marriages, sexually immoral marriages and “Harlot marriages?” Why would genuine Christians celebrate an adulterous marriage like a “one flesh” union?

  • Charles Haddon Spurgeon “…they do not like the Bible because it does not like them; it will not let them be content in their sin …”

  • What astounds me is how many of these claimed Christians say that there are multiple ways to Heaven, i.e. through the various religions, in complete contradiction of Jesus’ words. All very “New Age” and humanist of course.

    Joh 14:6 Jesus said to him, I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father but by Me.
    (MKJV)

    How can anyone possibly say they believe in Jesus when they straight out contradict what he says.

    E.g.
    www.christianpost.com/news/belief-jesus-is-only-way-to-heaven-is-insanity-megachurch-pastor-michael-a-walrond-jr-says-221123/?utm_source=newsletter

    I am very sure that any person who says that what Jesus said is untrue is clearly demonstrating unbelief and it is Jesus’ and the Father’s Words we are judged by.

    My only exception to this, that it is only through Christianity that people can be saved, is how God intends to treat the Jews with grace. We know the prophecies are that God will be faithful to the Jews and His promises to them for his own name’s sake plus there is the prophecy of the Gentiles leading the Jews back to God and the uniting of Zion and her sons but we also know that only a remnant of Jews will be saved. There are also various scriptures such as Daniel 9:26-27, Mat 25 and Rev 11:2 which appear to indicate that between a third and a half of those claiming to be Christian will also not make it.

  • Progressive Catechism Just 107 Questions With No Answers—often it’s easy to forget that The Babylon Bee is a satire site.

  • Sometimes I am criticized for taking the Bible too literally. I believe and love the Truth so much I would never dare to think of myself as taking the Bible too literally. Rather I sometimes wonder if I don’t take it literally enough. As for those church leaders of today who view the Bible in a more liberal sense, they in effect have multiple versions of the truth, which not only contradict the Word of the Bible but often contradict each other but they are so blind they don’t even notice it. What really concerns me is that the followers of such leaders can be easily lead astray. All it takes to avoid being mislead is to study the Bible with the help of the Holy Spirit and prayer.

  • You’ve got to be so spiritually discerning in these challenging times for first world Christians.

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