Are you a…..(gasp!)…liberal?

OK, so I’ve been thinking. 

I wouldn’t consider myself a liberal.  Not politically.  And I couldn’t align myself with all of the self-proclaimed liberal positions of Christianity, so I don’t think I’m a liberal Christian either.  However, a few of my thoughts and positions on things have definitely shifted in the past few years.  I tend to still think of myself as a Christian conservative, but it seems like every day I see another reason why I’m probably not that either.  At least not in some of the positions Christian conservatives would define themselves by. 

I really don’t care about labels because Jesus surely didn’t go around claiming to be liberal or conservative… what I do mind is when people slap a label on you, such as “liberal,” in order to discount your point of view without really having to listen to it.  Or even, labels aside, when people refuse to truly consider another theological point of view because then they wouldn’t fit quite so neatly into the package of the ____ Church.  I think Evangelicalism has become such a subculture (especially in the South!) to where we have these concepts of what is okay and what is not okay/weird/liberal despite what Biblical evidence might say. 

Here is my point:  There are several issues within Christianity that the Bible is not crystal clear about.  People on both sides of these issues cite the Bible as evidence and reason for their stance on the issue.  People on both sides love Jesus and seek with honest hearts to follow him in the most biblically accurate way possible. 

Here are a few of those issues:

  • Women in church leadership
  • 7-day creationism
  • free will/sovereignty of God
  • church government structure
  • role of psychology in the spiritual life
  • gifts of the Spirit
  • complementarianism vs. egalitarianism in marriage
  • significance of the Lord’s Supper
  • infant baptism vs. believer’s baptism

   I realize that I’ve left-out many issues and points of conflict within Christianity, but those are the ones that immediately come to my mind.  Some of these issues are rarely debated, and some of them draw intense debate and strict line-drawing for who is “out” and who is “in” our little circle of knowledge.  A handful of these issues are ones that I’ve changed my mind about recently.  In doing so, I’ve noticed a real prejudice among some Evangelicals.  I’ve noticed a tendency to write-off my position because “that’s not what the Bible says” despite the fact that it’s the Bible that actually made me change my mind.  I’ve noticed how easy it is to slap a label of “liberal” upon anyone who might believe differently than the prescribed position, and in doing so, transport them to the camp of “those people who don’t really believe the Bible.”  This lets you off the hook for exploring the possible truth of where I’m coming from.  Because if I’m “one of them,” then you don’t have to listen to what I say since you already know it’s wrong.

Please do not misunderstand me.  I believe very strongly that God has a definite opinion on these issues, and there is a truth to be discovered.  I’m not saying that it doesn’t matter what you believe about these things or that you shouldn’t feel confident about what you see revealed in the Scripture.  I am saying, however, that people on both sides of all of these issues would point to the Bible as their foundation for understanding.  Both feel confident that God is the one guiding them.  Of course they can’t both be right, but how much of that can we really understand in this life? 

What if we showed each other the grace to acknowledge that while you may hold a different opinion on something than me, I realize that my understanding of the Bible could be flawed, you could possibly know something I don’t, your position on ____ does not make you a heretic, and you just might love Jesus as much as I do.  How about we listen to each other.  How about we realize that our blind statements of “because it’s what the Bible says” and “that’s unbiblical” may be a slight overstatement in light of the fact that I’m trusting the authority of the Bible in the same way you are.  What if we were open to listening to different ways of interpretation that might be unfamiliar and scary before deciding that they’re wrong.  What if we saw the person on the other side of our issue as we do ourself…seekers of truth amid diffcult issues…not someone who is in flagrant disregard of what God teaches. 

I’m not a liberal, but I may not believe some of the same things you do.  Let’s listen to each other and search the Scriptures and heart of God together.  I won’t call you a “fundie” if you don’t call me a “liberal.” 

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8 responses to “Are you a…..(gasp!)…liberal?

  1. yes!!! can i hear a “whoop-whoop”!

    seriously, one of my favorite posts.

    jo

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  2. a “fundie”??? hahaha. ok, i guess I’ve been out of this scene long enough to have never heard this term, but it made me laugh out loud! don’t worry, i’ll never call you either one of those words.

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  3. This post feels like it has been spoken truly from my own heart! Thanks for sharing your thoughts…I couldn’t agree with you more. My opinion about a lot of things has changed over the years and has left me “out of the mold”. As Christians, we should never divide over secondary issues and should always feel free to debate and discuss freely based on God’s Word. Unfortunately, labeling seems to be the much easier alternative for most. Especially during sticky presidential election years like this one!

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  4. This statement right here, “I think Evangelicalism has become such a subculture (especially in the South!)”– I couldn’t agree with you more. Having moved around a lot the past few years (south, midwest, west coast), I’ve been able to experience “church” in a completely different way. Church in the south is completely different than anywhere else in the country. I’m not knocking my roots, but I definitely think different about some things now that I’m not in the south anymore.

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  5. I love this post Emily!! Great! I agree with what Erin said too .. which is not surprising since she’s my best friend! 🙂

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  6. Man, I wouldn’t know where to start with my thoughts on this subject. I’ve been in Protestant/Orthodox purgatory long enough that
    sometimes when I’m in an evangelical church, I start to wonder if I’m even a Christian. Well, I suppose a better way of saying that would be, “If this is Christianity, then what am I?” I certainly am out of practice at saying the right things and doing the right things. It makes it easy to see how Protestantism has plenty of its own creeds, traditions, and legalism – even though it’s certainly not ancient or organized. It’s more cultural like you said.

    I sometimes feel like the doctrine of the inerrancy of scripture has gotten absolutely creepy, like some protestants worship the word of God more than God Himself. I mean, what does it matter if God created the world in a literal 7 days or not? What would it change about Him if he created a cell from which the entire world evolved? (just speculating here)

    It’s just interesting, especially from where I sit. I see that there’s a need for more breathing room on issues like that, but I still question how much should be left to “individual interpretation.” Outside the shelter of capital “T” tradition – not just the church fathers, but really looking at issues within the context of the history of the Church – I’m not sure there’s safety in going out on limbs and looking at things in new ways. That might just be a reflection of the spirit of the age, if you will, – adding something new to the Faith rather than learning and seeing our Faith for what it really is. Although even as I’m typing this, I’m thinking, what do I want to know? Scripture? Christianity? Theology? or God Himself?

    Ahhhh, everything has potential to lead us down rabbit holes! (Sorry I always leave the longest comments. I should just email you)

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  7. Ok, I felt slightly dumb because I didn’t know what “complementarianism vs. egalitarianism in marriage” was exactly. I had an idea. I looked it up and talked to my resident theologian–my dad–to find out about it. Asking questions is always great because it gives me a jumping point to think about what I think personally.

    Very interesting stuff to think about! Thanks! 🙂

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  8. Courtney, I agree with you that sometimes Protestants can fall into “biblio-idolatry,” worshipping the Bible more than Jesus himself. But then that’s a post for another day! =) Oh, and I wanted to clarify that I’m not suggesting that we get into all these new-fangled interpretations of things and seeing things in whatever way we want…I’m a huge proponent of a historical hermanuetic based-on the author’s intentions, definitely not an individualistic interpretation. And I do think there is a “right way” that God intends for us to interpret these things, it’s not all subjective as though it doesn’t matter what we believe. But some of these issues are just really hard and I can kinda see both sides of things and why someone would think Scripture supports either way. So within the confines of orthodox (with a little o!) Christianity, I’d just like to see us all show each other a little grace and not be afraid of learning about an interpretation that might be different from what we’ve grown-up with because it sounds weird.

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