A few weeks ago, I quoted the last of the great Princeton Theologians J. Gresham Machen (1881-1937), "that there is no such thing as liberal Christianity. There is Christianity and then there is liberalism." It appears from at least one response (for which I am certainly grateful) that I should have been a little more careful in defining my terms. Unfortunately, space constraints do not always allow me to say everything I wish to say or define everything that may need defining. But this is an important point, so let me revisit the issue in this article.
Mr. Wade, in his gracious letter to the editor, points out correctly that when Machen gave that warning he was referring to a debate between conservative interpretations of Scripture verses a more liberal interpretation that came as a result of what we refer to as a higher critical view of the Bible. He is right and that is exactly what I was referring to when I made my quote and subsequent observation.
There is in our day a brand of Christianity which in fact is not Christianity at all. It is a brand of Christianity that wants to accept Jesus as simply another good moral, ethical teacher. To that rubbish I have to respond with the words of C.S. Lewis, "Jesus told people that their sins were forgiven. This makes sense only if He really was the God whose laws are broken and whose love is wounded in every sin... I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to," (Martindale and Root, Editors, "The Quotable Lewis," Tyndale House Publishers, Wheaton, IL 1989 p. 340).
That said, there are a growing number within the ranks of Christendom today who reason poorly, use very faulty standards in their scholastic approach particularly when it comes to the Bible, who argue circuitously (i.e., "Since we have not seen a miracle in our day, miracles never happen"), and who in fact seek to denude the gospel message of its very essence, namely that Jesus Christ was in fact God in the flesh, that he lived as we lived yet never sinned, that he died as a vicarious atonement for all who will place their trust in him, and that he rose bodily from the dead (bodily, not merely a spiritual resurrection as some want to claim), that he now lives making intercession for all those who will put their trust in him, and he is coming to earth again. Liberal Christians believe none of that, and base their disbelief on their own conjecture rather than solid facts and in the process settle for a sage Jesus rather than a real Savior Jesus.
This disconnect then transfers over to life in that it allows us to hold positions that are contrary to Scripture but think we can justify it because we’ve already determined what we like and dislike about the Bible and we cut and paste its claims into our lives only as it suits our needs. For example, right about now some of my readers are saying, "Didn’t Jesus tell us not to judge one another?"
Do I believe there is a standard of truth? Absolutely. Am I willing to take a stand for what I believe? You’d better believe it. Do I hold animosity toward those who disagree? Unfortunately if I did I would be betraying myself what I am trying to defend. The Bible (which I believe to be the infallible and inerrant word of God) tells me clearly, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you," (Matthew 5:44).
I realize that I write some hard things, but those who know me know that I am not a harsh, judgmental person. My job is to give you truth; I realize that only God can judge a person, so I don’t see that as my role. I never want to win an argument at the expense of a relationship. If disagreement results in rejection, please understand that is your heart, not mine.
Dr. John Pearrell is pastor of Gateway Community Church in Covington. He can be heard on the radio on WMVV 90.7 (FM) at 8:30 p.m. Thursday nights.