by Bill Nugent
I do not mean to disparage liberal Christians in a personal way in this article. I will simply deal with theological differences in a scholarly tone. Liberal theologians have not been bashful about speaking against Bible based conservative theology. This article is simply a thoughtful and hopefully interesting look at the core of liberal theology.
Liberal theologians explicitly deny that the Bible is the verbally inspired word of God. This means that liberals effectively deny that God speaks to man using articulate speech (i.e., words in a human language that human beings can understand). God speaking to human beings in human language is called“propositional revelation.” The Bible is composed of propositional revelation.
God revealing His character to man through nature, for instance in the beauty of a sunrise, is called “general revelation.” God reveals the beauty and awesomeness of His character through the beauty and wonder of nature which He created. Propositional revelation in which God speaks in human language in complete sentences (propositions) and plainly tells us of His character and plan of salvation is much more specific than general revelation and much less open to subjective misinterpretation.
By denying the verbal inspiration of the Bible, liberal theologians cut themselves off from any specific way of knowing God. I don’t mean this to be unkind but it is apparent that this denial of the Bible’s inspiration basically forces liberal theologians to rely almost exclusively on their own subjective opinions when they craft their theological positions. For this reason liberal Christianity appears to be a religion that you make up as you go along. The recent election of an openly homosexual bishop by a liberal denomination is an apt illustration of this.
The word “liberal” means “generous” according to Websters Dictionary. Since liberals reject the divine inspiration of the Bible they by extension also reject God’s commands that are written in the Bible. It is for this reason that they are “generous” in allowing people to do whatever they want and even do things that are forbidden by God’s commands. The broadmindedness characteristic of liberalism is due to the fact that they’ve cast off the narrow constraints of God’s commands. God gave us His commands, however, for our protection and those who cast them off injure themselves and others.
Another major point of liberal theology is the claim that God loves all people and would not send anyone to Hell. No fire and brimstone sermons hail from liberal pulpits. A major question remains for liberal theologians. How do liberals know that God loves all people? This is a point of epistemology (philosophy of knowledge) that liberals must answer yet liberals have no basis from which to answer. God certainly tells us in the pages of the Bible that He loves people but since liberals have rejected the concept of divine inspiration of the Bible they really can’t appeal to the Bible to answer this vital question. (FYI The sacred writings of other world religions don’t teach that God loves people. The Bible is the only holy book that says that God loves people!)
Liberals may try to appeal to the general revelation that God gives us in nature. The brutality of nature with its carnivorous beasts devouring other animals certainly gives an incomplete picture of God’s love. There is knowledge of God to be gained through nature but it is an incomplete knowledge. The facts of nature are too easily distorted by the subjective interpretations of theologians. To the liberals, therefore, God is unknowable and liberals merely hope that God loves them and they merely hope that they won’t end up in Hell.
Conservative Christians conserve the idea that the Bible is the written record of God speaking to humankind. The Bible tells us of God’s love and God’s plan of redemption yet also of God’s wrath against sin. The manuscript evidence (Dead Sea Scrolls, etc.), archaeological confirmation of Bible facts, historical accuracy of the Bible and the supernatural accuracy of Bible prophecies and fulfillment of such prophecies all confirm the fact of the Bible’s divine inspiration.
No other holy book of any other religion even comes close to the Bible’s record of prophecy and fulfillment of prophecy! If the Bible is not inspired by God there really is no viable runner up. If the Bible is not God’s book then humanity is truly unmoored and has no ultimate standard.
The Bible’s doctrine of man (Bible anthropology) reveals man as created in God’s image yet also reveals that man has fallen into sin. God offers all people forgiveness of sins through His Son Jesus who bore in His own body the punishment due us for our sins (First Peter 2:24). Those who reject God’s free and loving offer of forgiveness implicitly reject God and by extension also reject heaven and choose to be separate from God in the afterlife.
“Turn to Me, and be saved, all the ends of the earth;
For I am God and there is no other.” Isaiah 49:22 NAS