Skip to main content

on visiting a liberal church


Earlier this year, because of a family obligation, I attended a service at a mainline denominational church. 

At the front of the church, next to the robed female minister wearing a colorful stole, was a large banner, headed with the words, "Be The Church." Historically, in this denomination the Ten Commandments would have likely been displayed, rather than these ten progressive values (see picture of banner above).

My first thought was, why did they feel the freedom to change and reorient God's commandments? Loving God dropped from #1 to #9. (It appears that even recycling is more important than loving God.) And I'm thinking the word "diversity" on this banner means something different than the biblical view of God's diverse creation. In another point, "forgive often" seems to give us a little more wiggle room than, say, "forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors" (Matt 6:12). As helpful as these values might be for consumer or environmental ethics, they play fast and loose with God's holy, immutable law

The service itself was a mashup of Jesus' sayings, none of which would make anyone uncomfortable. There was no mention of judgment, no need for mercy or grace, no mention of the cross and empty tomb, no explanation of saving faith, or what repentance is, or what the work of Christ accomplished on our behalf. The liturgy was a loose string of Bible verses, all positive, designed to comfort but not convict. It was said that eternal life begins at physical birth. There was one mention of "follow Jesus," with no explanation of what that meant.

My conclusion is that liberal Christianity is not really Christianity at all. Augustine wrote, "If you believe what you like in the gospel and reject what you don't like, it is not the gospel you believe but yourself." This was a point well demonstrated by J. Gresham Machen in his classic work, Christianity and Liberalism (Macmillan, 1923). (This is one of those books that I think every Christian should read.) Machen, one-time professor at Princeton Seminary, and later founder of Westminster Seminary, wrote, 

“The truth is that the life-purpose of Jesus discovered by modern liberalism is not the life purpose of the real Jesus, but merely represents those elements in the teaching of Jesus--isolated and misinterpreted--which happen to agree with the modern program. It is not Jesus, then, who is the real authority, but the modern principle by which the selection within Jesus' recorded teaching has been made. Certain isolated ethical principles of the Sermon on the Mount are accepted, not at all because they are teachings of Jesus, but because they agree with modern ideas.” (J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism)

Machen's conclusion was that liberalism was not a variation of Christianity, like say, Baptists and Presbyterians, who share differing views on baptism or church government. This was more radical -- dethroning the authority of God's revelation, denying our desperate need for salvation, and diminishing the person and work of Jesus as Lord and Savior. In other words, despite the Christian jargon, it's not Christianity at all.  





 

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

bible reading nov 1-2

  Bible reading for weekend Nov 1 -- 2 Nov 1 -- Hosea 7 and Psalms 120-122 Nov 2 -- Hosea 8 and Psalms 123-125 ================   "Were I to write for him my laws by the ten thousands, they would be regarded as a strange thing." (Hosea 8:12) THE RESULTS OF SIN (ch 7-8). Notice the words and metaphors to describe Israel's sinful condition: they are surrounded with, and proud of, their evil (7:1-3); like adulterers in the heat of passion (7:4-5); their anger is like a hot oven (7:6-7); they are like a half-cooked (one side only) cake (7:8); their strength is gone (7:9); they are like silly doves easily trapped (7:11-12); they are undependable like a warped bow (7:16). In spite of all of this they are so proud of themselves! (We might say they have a strong self-esteem.) They have spurned what is good (8:3); they sow to the wind and have no real fruit (8:7); they are a useless vessel (8:8) and a wild donkey wandering alone (8:9); they regard God's law as a strange thing

bible reading dec 3-5

  Bible reading for weekend December 3 -- 5  Dec 3 -- Nahum 1 and Luke 17 Dec 4 -- Nahum 2 and Luke 18 Dec 5 -- Nahum 3 and Luke 19 ================ "The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him. But with an overflowing flood he will make a complete end of the adversaries, and will pursue his enemies into darkness." (Nahum 1:7-8)  TIME'S UP FOR NINEVEH (Nah 1-3). The prophecy of Nahum is God's word to the people of Nineveh, part two. Jonah was part one, chronicling a city-wide repentance of Assyrians in the capital about a hundred years earlier. The closing bookend is Nahum, and the Assyrian empire is big, powerful, and aggressive. Notice the references to chariots (2:3-4, 13; 3:2). The Assyrians were a militarily advanced culture, and cruel in their warfare. Whatever spiritual receptivity they had at the time of Jonah was gone by the time of Nahum. Nahum may not have actually visited Nineveh, for it seems the book was w

bible reading dec 13-14

Bible reading for December 13 -- 14  Dec 13 -- Haggai 2 and John 3 Dec 14 -- Zechariah 1 and John 4 ================ "Be strong, all you people of the land, declares the LORD. Work, for I am with you, declares the LORD of hosts..." (Haggai 2:4) THE LATTER GLORY (Haggai 2). The Jews, having returned from Babylonian exile, must get to work and finish rebuilding the temple. For this reason, the post-exilic period is called the "second temple" period. King Herod would later enlarge and add many embellishments to the site. But the beginnings in Haggai are so modest compared to the temple originally built by Solomon, and the people were discouraged. The Lord asks, "Is it not as nothing in your eyes?" (v 3) He tells them that they are to be strong and to keep working, for he is with them, no matter how humble the project may seem. This principle applies to us, as well (Matt 28:20; Eph 6:10). We should not become disheartened at the smallness of the return on our