Evangelicals & Liberalism

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.”

              It should come as no major surprise the Evangelical Church is witnessing those who claim to posit an orthodox Evangelical identity have announced their support for the presidency of Joseph Biden for President of the United States.

              Liberalism has been a constant and persistent foil in Christendom for the Church’s entire existence since Pentecost. We should only expect the intensity of the drift leftward to arc faster and with more adherents.  One need only to read a passage such as

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; [4] And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables (2 Timothy 4:3-4)

              Then we have these foreboding words from the Apostle Paul when he writes under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit the following eschatological warning in his Epistle to his young protégé Timothy:

This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.

For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,

Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,

Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;

Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.

I love the illustration many polished communicators use to illustrate the folly of false identification. Just because someone you place an object in a garage does not make that object a car. Similarly, just because someone dresses in Evangelical garb does not make them an Evangelical. The Liberals were a vexing issue in the day of the late, great John Gresham Machen in the early 20th century.

Machen led a conservative revolt against modernist theology at Princeton and formed Westminster Theological Seminary as a more orthodox alternative. Machen fought the good fight in the 1920s. The Evangelical living in the 2020s is faced with the same quandary. My fellow Evangelicals, what will it be: Fight or flight?

 I pledge to join the annals of Evangelicals, who refused to shrink from the battle. There comes a time for peace and compromise. This is not this time. Whatever this time of history is, it is not the time for peace and compromise! Now is the time for the Church to put on her big-boy pants and be counted as unapologetic proclaimers of the Gospel. A Gospel with no need for modifier or adjective, just the pure unadulterated Gospel. A proclamation with no look to this world and its ills but only with an eye to eternity.

To use the phrase of my brother in arms, Ed Rodriguez Jr, the Liberals “embrace the social gospel.” I believe it is essential to ensure we are working with the same understanding of key terms. So, let’s make sure we can at least agree on what the following words mean:

  1. Evangelical
  2. Theological Liberalism aka Protestant Liberalism
  3. Social Gospel
  4. Gospel

First, let us look at the word Evangelical. I prefer the schema advanced by David Bebbington to govern my worldview:

Evangelical’s most widely accepted definitionis probably the one put forward by historian David Bebbington in 1989. It’s called the “Bebbington quadrilateral” because it identifies Evangelicals as Christians who share four main qualities:

  • Biblicism: a high regard for the Bible
  • Crucicentrism: a focus on Jesus’s crucifixion and its saving effects
  • Conversionism: a belief that humans need to be converted
  • Activism: the belief that faith should influence one’s public life

Next, will be the word Theological Liberalism, sometimes known as Protestant Liberalism.

Theological Liberalism is a theological movement rooted in the early 19th century German Enlightenment, notably in the philosophy of Immanuel Kant and the religious views of Friedrich Schleiermacher. 

  • Liberalism tends to emphasize ethics over doctrine and experience over Scriptural authority.
  • It also emphasizes the authority of individual reason and experience
  • It has often been relativistic, pluralistic, and non-doctrinal

Now, let us take a brief look at the Social Gospel concept that is gaining so much traction in the Evangelical Church. I share the following from GotQuestions.org

You can access the entire article at https://www.gotquestions.org/social-gospel.html

The phrase “social gospel” is usually used to describe a Protestant Christian intellectual movement that came to prominence in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Those who adhered to a social gospel sought to apply Christian ethics to social problems such as poverty, slums, poor nutrition and education, alcoholism, crime, and war. These things were emphasized while the doctrines of sin, salvation, heaven and hell, and the future kingdom of God were downplayed. 

For a Christian perspective on the idea of a social gospel, we need to look to Jesus, who lived in one of history’s most corrupt societies. Jesus never issued any call for political change, not even by peaceful means. He did not come to earth to be a political or social reformer. The Gospel Jesus preached did not have to do with social reform or social justice or political change. Rather than attempt to change governments and institutions, which are made up of people, Jesus came to change people’s hearts and point them to God’s kingdom. He preached the saving power of the Gospel and the transforming work of the Holy Spirit.

Last, we look at the Biblical definition of The Gospel. I state and state so emphatically the Gospel is a word that does not necessitate a qualifier or adjective. It is a word that is sufficient in isolation. In fact, anytime a descriptor is inserted before it, then the Gospel is no longer the Gospel.  We are not concerned with “A” Gospel; we are only to be concerned with “The” Gospel. It is not one Gospel completing with many other contenders for the throne.

The Wycliffe Bible Encyclopedia summarizes the Gospel message this way:

The central truth of the Gospel is that God has provided a way of salvation for men through the gift of His Son to the world. Jesus Christ suffered as a sacrifice for sin, overcame death, and now offers a share in His triumph to all who will accept it. The Gospel is good news because it is a gift of God, not something that must be earned by penance or by self-improvement.

As one committed to both the essential tenets of Evangelicalism and the Gospel, I rely on the Bible as the sole instrument to bind my conscience. I shudder to imagine what reading of the Holy Scriptures would ever bring anyone to conclude it would ever be legally, morally, ethically, or biblically permissible for any human, let alone an Evangelical, to sanction, condone or tolerate the murder of anyone created in the imago Dei of God.

Yet, the toleration of abortion is precisely what we see taking place within the broader Evangelical community. The tolerance of abortion is moral insanity garbed in theological jargon. The Biden Evangelicals state the following:

As pro-life evangelicals, we disagree with Vice President Biden and the Democratic platform on the issue of abortion. But we believe, the statement continues, that a biblically shaped commitment to the sanctity of human life compels us to a consistent ethic of life that affirms the sanctity of human life from beginning to end

That, my friend, is purely illogical and irrational thinking coming from some of the highest circles in the professing Evangelical community. This ideology comes is promulgated by John Huffman, board chair emeritus of Christianity Today; Richard Foster, best-selling author of Celebration of Discipline; Jerushah Duford, Billy Graham’s granddaughter; Brenda Salter McNeil, author, speaker, and long-time I VCF leader; John Perkins, founder of the Christian Community Development Association.

I grant I am not familiar with any of these names. Still, there are many names I will never become aware of that are significantly influencing and impacting significant segments of the Evangelical community. Ignorance is not bliss, so Evangelicals must be on guard anywhere and everywhere.

Concerning the logic of being pro-life but capitulating on the subject of abortion is, to say so succinctly, IDIOTIC. How in the world do you claim to be pro-life yet surrender on the first principle? As one attempts to think linearly, what must come first if one is to posit, with Biblical fidelity, that life is sacred from the beginning to the end. The Bible is explicit: life begins at the very moment of conception, so if one is genuinely pro-life, then life must be safeguarded beginning at conception. Otherwise, how can one indeed be pro-life?

If one were to posit with Biblical fidelity that life is sacred from beginning to end, then one would never cede ground on the matter of abortion. Surrendering real estate on the question of the moral permissible of abortion is a bridge too far. Topics like birth control and family planning are sexual ethics areas that there is room for dialogue, debate, and even disagreement in the Evangelical community.

Yet, abortion has been and will continue to be a deal-breaker for Evangelicals seeking to be true to the heartbeat and pulse of God and His revelation: the Bible. I even go as far as to advocate, there are NO exceptions, even in the case of rape, incest, and even in the mother’s health. Yet, I readily acknowledge there is not unanimous agreement on these exceptions.

Whenever the question of who is the first priority to be safeguarded in the abortion controversy, I think it is the one who is most vulnerable. The person most susceptible player in a pregnancy is the child. The child is the singular passive player. The mother and father both took an active role in the procreation of the child. The child has no one to advocate on its behalf, but I am confident if that child could advocate on its behalf, it would choose life 100 times out of 100, all day, every day, and twice on Sundays.

Principles like poverty, lack of health care, racism, and climate change are real issues that any society must confront with Biblical wisdom and compassion for their neighbors. That much we can heartily agree with those who comprise this faction of Biden pro-lifers.

Evangelicals only ask that every life created in the imago Dei of God be allowed to experience its opportunity for human flourishing. The opportunity for human flourishing is not a right granted by any human constitution. This right is ingrained within the human DNA. So much so the Founders were able to fashion the precise theological based words when they said exquisitely

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

Evangelicals agree with every jot and tittle of the eloquent words from the Declaration of Independence. We do not seek to demand anything more, and we do not seek to accept anything less.

Life begins at conception from the human perspective. When the female egg becomes fertilized by the male sperm, the embryo has full personhood worthy of dignity, protection, and celebration. Yes, Evangelicals are passionate and will defend life from the beginning to the very end by natural death. We do not cede one inch on the abortion question. We cannot afford to do so as lives literally hang in the balance.

I stand with every Evangelical who understands the question of abortion as a first-level issue that must be defended and a hill on which we are willing to plant the flag and never cease to fight until we transpire or Jesus Christ returns.

Let me know if you agree with my stance or the stance of the Biden pro-lifers. Remember, it is my thesis; we are not talking about two strands of Christianity. We are talking about Christianity and Liberalism.

I would love to hear your perspective. Until then, keep your hands to the plow and seek to serve for an Audience of One.

1 Comment
  1. Awesome Ricky and extremely well stated! I’ve never been able to wrap my brain around those claiming to be Christians, yet willing to compromise on abortion. The abortion issue in and of itself is MORE than enough to justify our position. Nonetheless I would like to add those compromising on abortion are almost always also compromising the biblical definition of marriage and family (also a key tenet of Biden’s party).

    Like

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