April 15, 2024

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April 15, 2024

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Biblical Authority Has Been Undermined: Can You Recognize Liberal Or Progressive Theology?

Can you recognize liberal or progressive theology? Do evolution and liberal/progressive theology go hand-in-hand? Well, let me answer this question with an illustration from several decades ago.

In Australia in 1977, the Uniting Church of Australia was formed. This involved the union of three churches: the Congregational Union of Australia, the Methodist Church of Australasia, and the Presbyterian Church of Australia.

I remember my father showing me the wording used to explain the foundation for this union of denominations. And part of that wording stated that the Bible “contains” the Word of God. But does the Bible only “contain” the Word of God?

My father was a teacher, and we were transferred to different towns in the state of Queensland every three years as my father was promoted. As we moved, we encountered a number of pastors who were impacted by liberal theology. My father made sure he studied liberal theology so he could understand what was being believed and taught. He then made sure we had answers to what the liberal theologians were saying about the Bible so we wouldn’t be led astray with doubt that could lead to unbelief in God’s Word. Here’s just some of what he learned to recognize as a common denominator of this liberal theology believed by these pastors: they would reject Genesis as literal history (and accept evolution); they would try to explain away many of the miracles in the Bible; and some even rejected the virgin birth and bodily resurrection of Christ.

I learned to “smell” liberal theology from a million miles away!

As soon as my father and I saw the word “contains” in regard to the Word of God in that uniting statement, we smelled liberal theology. And we were right. The Uniting church by and large (of course, there are always exceptions depending on the leadership) became very liberal quite quickly. There was rampant compromise on Genesis, for instance, which leads to compromise in regard to all sorts of doctrine. I find that if Christians accept Genesis as written, then they usually don’t have problems with the rest of the Bible. But once they compromise Genesis, very often all sorts of problems/compromise show up in regard to aspects of the rest of the Bible and Christian doctrine, etc. It all becomes a slippery slope.

The point I want to make is that the Bible doesn’t just “contain” the Word of God. It actually IS the Word of God. It is God-breathed.

2 Timothy 3:16–17 KJV – “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”

1 Thessalonians 2:13 KJV – “For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.

Psalm 119:160 KJV – “Thy word is true from the beginning: and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth for ever.”

If someone says the Bible “contains” the Word of God, they can then justify claiming that it contains truth but it’s not all truth. That’s what liberals do. They will explain away miracles and claim that, while the biblical accounts teach truth, the events didn’t actually happen as recorded. And of course, they do that in Genesis.

We hear so many church leaders today claiming that Genesis is not literal history but that it contains truth. Some even say Genesis is written in mythological language—that it’s a type of myth that teaches truth. But who determines that “truth?” It’s whatever that person determines it to be.

In 1982, the New Life newspaper in Australia published an item about Josef Ton. He was a Romanian Baptist pastor imprisoned for his faith by the communists. He was quoted saying,

I came to the conclusion that there are two factors which destroyed Christianity in Western Europe. One was the theory of evolution, the other, liberal theology. . . . Liberal theology is just evolution applied to the Bible and our faith.

That should be a warning to all Christians and church leaders who compromise God’s Word in Genesis and accept evolutionary ideas.

Over the years I’ve had many Christians claim it’s not what Genesis says that’s important, but what it means. But how can it mean anything if we don’t take what it says as written? When we drive, do we come to a STOP sign and claim, “I know what it says, but what does it mean?” and then interpret STOP as saying we can go? Sadly, that’s really how many church leaders approach the Bible, particularly in Genesis.

For instance, I have had Christian leaders tell me that the important lesson to learn from Genesis is that God created everything. They then claim that the details don’t matter and Genesis is not meant to be taken literally. I have responded to them like this, “So you believe ‘In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth’?” They have always replied to me, “Yes.” I then ask them how they know this as that’s the first verse of the Bible, so are they telling me to take this verse literally? And if we take that as written, where do we draw the line on how to determine which verses are to be taken literally and which are not? Is verse two to be taken literally and, if not, why not? What about verse three? How do we know anything about Genesis if the words don’t mean what they clearly say in context using the rules of language/genre? (And Genesis is written as historical narrative anyway!)

I was at a conference once where a pastor was telling me that we can’t take the first few chapters of Genesis literally. A man standing nearby said something like, “I’m a new Christian. So could you tell me when we do start believing the words in the Bible?”

Really, those Christians compromising Genesis are acting in accord with liberal theology! I know there are a lot of fairly conservative pastors who compromise Genesis with evolution but maintain a non-liberal approach for the rest of Scripture. They suffer from what I call “intellectual schizophrenia.” In essence, they are saying Genesis contains the Word of God but the rest of the Scriptures are the Word of God.

And therein lies the major problem in much of the church. Biblical authority has been undermined, and many no longer look on the Bible—from the very first verse—as the absolutely authoritative Word of God. Thus, those who preach cannot speak boldly with authority!

Oh, how we need church leaders to have the courage to be bold in preaching the Word of God as it really is—the authoritative Word of God, the absolute authority.

Matthew 7:28–29 KJV – “And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine: For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.”

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