Liberalism And The Doctrine of Christ

John H. Gerrard
St. Louis, Mo.

Webster defines Liberalism as: "Liberal principles and theories; specifically, a movement in contemporary Protestantism, emphasizing intellectual liberty and the spiritual and ethical content of Christianity." As suggested in the definition. Liberalism is, in religion today, a trend toward the broadest intellectual liberty, a refusal to be found by restrictions or law. This attitude has been made known both in the writings and the statements of Liberalists.

Writings Of Liberalists

Liberalists have written many things. One, whose writing I have before me, charges those that recognize authentic restrictions or laws, as being legalistic. he writes: "The legalist regards the New Testament as a book containing a certain number (of necessity a large number) of direct commands, binding examples, etc., all of which are equally important and obedience to which is necessary for salvation." (The Heresy of Legalism by James A. Warren, 2. Liberalists have little use for the word of God. They do not care to be bound by its commands and examples but rather to follow their own inclinations. Indeed the spirit of liberalism fosters rebellion against anyone or any thing that would tend to limit one in thought or action. This includes God, for he definitely has limited us in our conduct before him.

God's Wisdom

In the language of the liberalist quoted above, it is evident that he has missed, for some reason or other, one of the great reasons why we need to faithfully observe the commandments and examples of the New Testament. It is not simply a mere matter of God giving some formal commands to be obeyed, but the commands of God deserve our obedience because they are born of God's wisdom and goodness. Who is man, who can remember very little of the past and knows only that portion of the future which God has seen fit to reveal to him, to become so liberal as to question God's commands and examples? Yea, God, who is from everlasting unto everlasting! Jeremiah, the prophet of God, expressed it in these words, when he said in Jer. 10:23: "0 Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps." Is it not far more reasonable to conclude that God, being who he is and what he is, and man being what he is, can and should tell man what he needs to do in order to save his soul? Liberalism would actually reverse the positions of God and man, making man the judge and God the judged. The Bible teaches man about God and tells him how he may prepare himself to enjoy God's presence.

The intellectual liberty that the liberalist yearns for, refuses to recognize the principle set forth in Isaiah 55:8,9: "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." Being subservient to the thoughts and ways of God is not the attitude and characteristic of the liberalists.

God and the Bible

Another example of "intellectual liberty" is from page 5 of the same work by the same writer quoted above. "He (legalist) teaches that two millenia ago, when some eight Christians were moved by the Holy Spirit to write some twenty-seven books bearing witness to the works of God, that they tied God's hands. God is bound by a book! He ceased to be God when his servants wrote the Bible! He unwittingly created a literary monster which dictates even to God what he must do."

First, the charge made in the first sentence is false. I know of no one that teaches such a ridiculous idea. Secondly, does the writer mean to convey the idea that God said something, and at the same time did not mean it? Remember the commands we are to obey, as recorded in the Bible, are the commands of God. Or has the writer forgotten I John 5:2: "By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep HIS commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep HIS commandments: and HIS commandments are not grievous." God dictated the commands but the liberalist has the same commands dictating to God. Such is but pure nonsense.

Statements of the Liberalists

One liberalist made the statement in the presence of this writer, as well as many others, "that he did not know whether Cornelius was saved before or after baptism." Undoubtedly his conclusion, as well as that of fellow liberal thinkers is, that man is not bound by the Lord's command to be baptized for the remission of sins.

In the same gathering just referred to, there were other liberalists that denied the verbal inspiration of the scriptures. Verbal inspiration once established and accepted becomes an obstacle blocking the path of the liberalist. It is to the liberalist's advantage to cast doubt and uncertainty upon the scriptures so as to open up the way for his own thoughts to be on a par or to exceed the scriptures. If we do not have a reliable standard such as the verbally inspired scriptures then of course men's thoughts take the ascendancy.

Another statement uttered by a liberalist was to the effect that he believed one could be saved before baptism. This statement was made in spite of his knowledge of the scripture that declares: "The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ" (I Pet. 3:21). This is a clear example of one who will not be bound by a plain and unanswerable statement of the word of God, but who is determined to decide things according to his own wisdom and in spite of, and contrary to, what God teaches.

Yes, the very spirit and nature of liberalism, as it is functioning in religion today, will not allow its disciples to serve the true and living God.

Truth Magazine I:3, pp. 12-13
December, 1956