The Apostle Paul warns Christian believers in 2 Timothy 3 that dangerous (perilous) times are coming. He was—of course—correct.
We are in a time of tremendous conflict. Christianity is under attack by a counterfeit system of religious belief. It is all the more destructive to genuine Christianity because it uses traditional terminology, intermingled with the pagan elements of a false worldview. It is a non-redemptive religion. It is the false god of liberalism. There is also a danger with too much conservatism as well—that will be discussed in a follow-up article.
It (liberalism) creates a climate that weakens the faith of the Saints.
Liberalism leads to being deceived; when you are deceived, your life says to the world “Satan was right after all.” This leads to being eternally lost, and helping others to be lost as well.
It causes the cannibalism of true Christianity, substituting in it’s place the artificial religion of moral materialism (social justice).
It replaces God with government as the overwhelming force that implements an absolutely just (or equal) society. Thus there is no conflict between church and state.
There are many in the Church who turn a blind eye to the devastations of liberalism, saying that we should just focus on outreach instead. The type of religion that rejoices in traditional pious phrases or shrinks from “controversial” matters will never stand amidst the shocks of life.
Here I introduce a few truisms that will help us in our study of liberalism:
Every person and group will ultimately be liberalized, save for a conscience decision to resist it. We learn this in history, including biblical history.
Liberalism is not self-sustaining. It needs a host to survive.
Like the rainbow, and the word “gay,” liberal used to be a noble word. It originally meant generous, supportive of individual freedom, and limited government. Today, those views have been abandoned as liberalism has become synonymous with leftism. These changes may be regretted, but they cannot be ignored. Liberalism today is flinging long-hallowed traditions and accepted truths ruthlessly to the winds. Every inheritance from the past must be subjected to searching criticism, and reinterpreted through the lens of liberalism.
Under this progressive restlessness, no institution is faced by a stronger hostile presumption than Christianity, for no other institution has based itself more squarely upon the authority of a bygone age (Revelation 12:17).
True Christianity—which Adventism seeks to restore—can be likened to a city or kingdom. And well it might, for Jesus Himself referred to it as the Kingdom of God, and used the analogy of a house numerous times in His parables.
Modern liberalism seeks to make Christianity ‘relevant’ in a modern age by adopting various elements of the world. The previous Ohio Conference president repeatedly used the word “relevance” in his dismantling of the Adventist faith in Ohio. It was code for hostile liberalism.
The liberal theologian is convinced that he must ‘rescue’ Christianity from the objections of culture, while still retaining its essence. After he has abandoned the outer defenses to the enemy, he withdraws into some inner citadel, only to discover that the enemy has pursued him even there. Liberalism is not content with occupying the lower quarters of the Christian kingdom, but soon pushes its way into the center of life, corrupting the church from within. We see this throughout the history of National Israel.
The initial goal is to sell the Gospel at a cheaper price; the end goal is the complete takeover of every Christian distinctive. And there can be no peace without victory; one side or the other must win. The enemy has not been changed into a friend merely because he has been received into the camp (or Church). We learned this all too well in Ohio.
Aside from Christian schools, there is no escape from the soul-killing system of materialism, naturalism, and bureaucratic unchristian regulations of the public school system. A public school system, in theory, can be an enormous benefit to the race if they are held in check by the competition of private schools.
While education is a beneficial achievement, if it becomes monopolistic (even Adventist education) it is the most perfect instrument of tyranny and indoctrination yet devised, next to the television.
If liberal theology is allowed to enter unfettered into the church through our schools and academics, it will rapidly make Adventism one big Main Street where spiritual experimentation will be encouraged, and we will see the ultimate reduction of our beliefs to the proportions of the narrowest and least committed of our members.
Liberalism in the Church is no longer merely an academic matter. It is not confined only to our seminaries or universities. On the contrary, its attack upon the fundamentals of Adventism is being carried out vigorously in Sabbath school lessons, in the pulpit, in Conference and Union leadership, and in the religious press of our flagship journals, in spite of their attempt to maintain the appearance of conformity to the Advent Message.
The solution is not the abandonment of Adventist education, seminaries, sermons and leaders, but rather a more earnest search after truth and a more loyal devotion to it when it is found.
Liberalism and Doctrine
What then, when all traditional Adventist phrases have been swept away, are the real reasons of the liberal revolt against the Adventist fundamentals of the Christian faith? They are these:
Adventism has been found difficult by those who are doing after the manner of the world. This is as it should be, for God has separated the Church far from the world, making it impossible to serve both masters simultaneously. It is one or the other (Rev. 18:4; 1 John 2:15).
What then is the goal of liberalism, what is the purpose of these overlords of double-mindedness? It is to import elements of the world into the Church in order to sell the Everlasting Gospel at a cheaper price.
The loss of an essential ingredient, the agape love of God (Matthew 24:12).
The problem then with Adventism is not that it has been tried and found wanting, the problem is that it has been found difficult and left untried.
What are the Teachings of Liberalism?
Liberalism says that teachings are unimportant; creeds are merely the changing expression of a unitary Christian experience, and since they express an experience, they are all “equally good.” This is one of the ways that modern hostility to doctrine is expressed.
What liberalism doesn’t tell you, is that theological liberalism inevitably leads to loss of faith altogether and then to political or secular liberalism. For instance, last month a major political party in the United States passed a formal public resolution welcoming atheists, humanists, morally deviant, and the religiously unaffiliated to support them as a voting block. This Party has a vested interest in the non-religious, the more of them there are—the more votes they can potentially receive.
But if any one fact is clear on the basis of evidence, it is that the Christian movement (and by extension the Advent Movement) at its inception was not just a way of life in the modern sense, but a way of life founded upon a message. It was based not upon mere feelings, not upon a mere program of social work, but upon an account of facts. In other words it was and is based upon doctrine. The great weapon with which the disciples set out to conquer the world, was not a mere comprehension of eternal principles; it was a historical message, an account of something that had recently happened. It was the message “He is risen!”
And with that glorious event comes the meaning of the event. This same Jesus who redeemed us is coming back to receive us. The narration of the facts is history; the narration of the facts with the meaning of them is doctrine.
The liberal seeks to emancipate himself from dependence upon the meaning, securing for himself a non-doctrinal religion tethered to a Christ of his own creation (Matthew 24:5). He gets to create the meaning for himself. Since reality for each person is an internal construct (different in every person because no two are the same), the idea of one sovereign Creator who defines right and wrong in the Bible becomes untenable. On this basis we must be prepared to accept all other ideas and behaviors as equally correct.
But Jesus was not a mere enunciator of ideas, like the modern liberal preacher; on the contrary He stood at the turning point of the ages, when what had never been was now come to be.
Liberalism doesn’t debate issues. That would be a reasonable thing to do. Instead they seek to affirm a consensus. The consensus is reinforced by in-group flattery which convinces members that they are empathetic and enlightened people, while those outside the consensus are subjected to constant contempt and abuse.
Liberalism believes that Jesus must be clothed with modern cultural garments; throw upon Him the deceptive LED light of modern sentimentality, and all meaning will come to us. It is a worldview that runs on the high-octane fuel of emotions, refueled daily at the altar of political correctness.
The denunciation places the target outside the consensus. Calling someone a “legalist” makes him a Pharisee no matter how much he clings to his identification as a Seventh-day Adventist. It makes him an outsider. In North America, it invokes that comfortable feeling which comes when someone else’s sins are being attacked.
Liberalism And Distinctions
Liberalism obscures distinctions. It seeks to erase the distinction between God and man, between Creator and His creation, between male and female and ultimately according to Isaiah 5:20, the distinction between good and evil.
Equally serious is removing the distinction between Adventist Christianity and the Church of Rome. We dare not obscure the fundamental distinction which divides us from Rome. The gulf is profound. But profound as it is, it seems almost trifling when compared to the abyss which stands between us and many ministers of our own Church. The Roman Church may represent a perversion of Christianity; but pagan liberalism is not Christianity at all. That does not mean that conservatives and liberals must live in personal animosity. It does not invoke lack of sympathy on our part towards those who seek to undermine the Church from within. It invokes our compassionate resistance. They must be withstood.
Many ties may unite us to the enemies of the Church, and we trust that those ties may serve a purpose for our sanctification, and their repentance. But like early Christianity, resurgent as the remnant, Adventism exists to share a Message and true fellowship can only exist between those for whom the message has become a sincere way of life.
As we resist the forces of liberalism, we are brought into conflict with those who seek to rebuild Adventism with toxic building materials. That becomes a type of spiritual war, and in war our attention is called so exclusively to the sins of others that we are sometimes inclined to forget our own sins.
The other day, someone told me that I was being self-centered. I didn’t think so, but after I looked at my life, I realized that they were right. I had been acting self-centered. I was wrong.
It is right to be indignant of attempts to undermine the Church from within. I am. But we must ever live in humility before the cross, asking God to love others through us.
There's no work that I've accomplished, nor my goodness would I plead. Just let the blood of Calvary, speak for me.
We must tell the truth in love, unpopular though it may be. If we are truly Adventist Christians, it makes a difference what we are teaching, and we are to set forth the teachings of truth in contrast with the teachings of the rivals of Christianity. The chief rival of Christianity is liberalism. It is a full-scale alternative to the Everlasting Gospel, leading inevitably to paganism—working feverishly to eliminate God’s divine distinctions.
Liberalism, even when it is not consistently pagan, is paganistic in its impulses. It has a goal of breaking down the distinctions between God and the world, and the sharp personal distinctions between God and man. In liberalism, the sin of man eventually comes to be regarded as part of the life of God, because after all, God is the father of totalities and He wants to join all things together. Thus God is falsely presented as the Father of all men. He is the Creator of all men, as all men are “alive with His life”, but God is only the Father of those who accept the Lord Jesus as their Savior (Romans 9:8, 8:16; John 1:12, 52; Matthew 5:9).
Christianity differs from liberalism in its conception of God. The modern concept of the universal fatherhood of God is not found in the teachings of Jesus in the Bible. The distinctive New Testament teaching about the fatherhood of God applies only to those who have been brought into the household of faith. The door is open wide to all, “a new and living way” which Jesus opened by shedding His blood for humanity (Hebrews 10:20). Only when we accept that gift and are converted through faith, repentance and baptism, do we become the sons of God. In Christ alone is the great gulf between creature and transcendent Creator bridged.
In modern liberalism, as distinctions are broken down, it produces a peculiar satisfaction with human goodness as some sort of intrinsic birthright. This has led to the adoption of many evils like gender fluidity, homosexuality, feminism, pride, and rebellion.
Instead of going to the Bible to see what it actually is teaching, the rigors of such study can be avoided by consigning the matter to experience. Doctrine is downplayed as divisive, and interfaith mystical experience is elevated as the universal solvent that dissolves the differences between religions. Their mantra is “I’m spiritual, but not religious.”
That’s what liberals have always done. They seek the wisdom of the pagans. In its wording, liberal Christianity is Christian, while its spirit is that of the latest paganism of the west. In our own setting, it is a parasite, prospering on the soil of Adventism. And it has a goal. What goal? The goal of liberalism has always been to adopt certain pagan practices into the form of Christianity in order to sell the Christian faith at a cheaper price. If we go down this road we will never hear the word repentance again, and we will lose the core of our unique Adventist mission and message.
Paganism is optimistic with regard to unaided human nature, whereas Christianity is the religion of the broken heart, redemption and overflowing grace. In Christianity sin is faced once for all and then is cast by the grace of God forever into the depths of the sea. The trouble with liberalism, and by extension modern paganism, is that the foundation is rotten. In Christianity, the foundation is Christ, enabling the believer—after sin has been removed by the grace of God—to develop joyfully every faculty that God has given him. One worldview runs on the toxic fuel of pride and the other on the catalyzed ingredients of humility and grace.
As paganism becomes the animating outgrowth of liberalism, it seeks human solutions to mankind’s problems. God is conveniently missing from the utopian vision of universal equality that perpetually hovers over the next horizon like a mirage in the desert. This is what is driving the women’s ordination frenzy in the SDA Church—and close on its heels is homosexual ordination. Make no mistake dear ones, the two impulses share the same spirit—and they have zero theology supporting them.
In the absence of theology, the only religion that remains is the universal one of "doing nice things" or “creating equality.” Take God out of the equation, and all you have left is social justice. Liberalization leads to secularization with the end result that religion becomes one gigantic social justice project. This pattern is evident in the last twenty years of the North American Division. Social justice and equality have assumed high priority—higher even than the Everlasting Gospel. God will allow the door of probation to close on such misplaced priorities.
Through social justice, liberalism seeks to change the gospel into an image they are comfortable with.
The disciples of liberalism have a vague admiration for the character of Jesus (but not his Laws). This has led to the false notion that Christianity is a life, not a doctrine. Such are the teachings of James Wallis and Ron Sider—whom Andrews University and Seminary has invited to headline a conference on social justice and human rights activism.
It has—since the mid-nineteenth century— always been in the interests of the left to reinvent Christianity as variations of social justice, and not much else. This conveniently jettisons any actual theology and belief system, replacing it with their own agenda. And in all such reconstructions, God becomes the leading social justice campaigner, not merely the Friend of sinners, but a friend of Socialism and Communism.
What is Social Justice?
Social justice has evolved to generally mean state redistribution of advantages and resources to disadvantaged groups. Social justice entails a redistribution of resources from those who have unjustly gained them. And by the way, all of those who have resources are assumed to have unjustly gained them, unless they are a member of an aggrieved minority group.
So if you are a White person who has acquired wealth by sacrifice and hard work, that's unjust. If you came from the poorest bowels of Appalachia and worked your way up from the very bottom, it doesn’t matter. Whether your success is just or unjust has nothing to do with how hard you worked to get there. It has everything to do with what group you belong to. If you are white, you are a privileged one. You do not deserve what you have, because social justice looks only at the group you belong to, not at the content of your character or self-sacrificing productive ambition. You can see why social justice warriors have a natural animus towards America—indeed America was a grand experiment that rewarded hard work, ingenuity, and freedom of expression.
The social justice (socialist) kingdom of heaven on earth replaces God with government as the overwhelming force that implements an absolutely just society and enlightens the people regarding their duties and the meaning of their lives. In Communist countries, religion was often dispensed with entirely. In more moderate Socialist systems, it is tolerated only to the extent that it echoes the social justice creed of the ruling culture. Thus, there is no conflict between church and state in radical social justice ideology.
Ironic isn’t it? Adventists who should know better (including individuals who draw a paycheck as religious liberty defenders at the Andrews Seminary) are running headlong into the arms of social justice. In spite of its ultimate alignment between Church and State.
It is only when religion presumes to reach for and live by the Word of God, that it becomes the enemy of the state. Behind liberalism and social justice lies the insane hubris of god as government, of a political system taking on all the characteristics and powers of a religious one, complete with the fanaticism (SJW) and omnipotence (social surveillance).
The religion of government justifies itself through the impossible messianic vision of equality, a state that cannot be achieved, but whose attainment provides an unlimited license for government to intervene in all human affairs. Church members, laying their heads on the icy lap of social justice, convincing themselves that they are safe there, will find themselves frozen to false theology on That Day. God help them wake up, and God help us to not see conservatism as a replacement for humility.
The god of liberalism is an idea and ideas are notoriously fragile things. They fall apart once they make the transition from the ivory tower of the mind to the mud and dross of reality. Liberalism, progressivism and the various names by which the modern left identifies and is identified is the belief that the ideal can and must be made real.
The liberal god rises as an idea and dies again. And rises again. No matter how many times the whole thing ends in blood and bankruptcy, the worshipers return to worship the coming of the god again. But the god of leftism must die (1 Cor. 3:17; 1 Timothy 5:13; Exodus 20:15).
The tyranny of the ideal is the most brutal of all tyrannies for men and women are not ideal; they are real. Its plans are bound to fail and yet it has such a passionate grip on the minds of its believers that it is bound to rise again and again. No matter how often the god of liberalism dies, he will rise again.
The modern liberal is wedded to a thoroughly reactionary worldview in which he worships the institutions he controls and is full of paranoia and suspicion of those he does not. He disdains the common man.
Liberalism and social justice can be summed up as moral materialism. It is a secular religion that claims to add a moral dimension to materialism. Its obsessions are largely economic, from its early class warfare focus to its modern environmentalist exhilaration. Thus the American liberal is now an aging relic. In his place is the resentful radical SJW.
But, the left can't replace family or religion. Its social solutions are alien and artificial. They fix nothing and damage everything. Their appeal is to those who are arrogant and starved for meaning, who want religion without religion and family without family only to discover that these are not enough. They long for something real—they long for a simple yet powerful faith in the Word of God. Let’s help them find it.
I have done my best to expose liberalism in this short article. I’m sure others could do a better job of it than I have. But, now exposed, it’s up to you, my friend, to resist it.
Theological liberalism clings to the belief that we worry too much about little sins, and ought to let them remain, unmolested. True Christianity understands that it is through these little sins that satan gains an interest into our lives, consuming you from the inside.
It’s true. Liberalism is not self-sustaining.
It feeds upon the souls of men.
“Have nothing to do with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.”