Sound Teaching

This is the teaching site of the West Side church of Christ in Fort Worth, TX. Unless otherwise indicated, all materials were written and prepared by Stan Cox

Index by Subject

Liberal & Conservative

Image2016 is an election year. Though the national election will not take place until November, the political season is well underway. This is especially true with regard to the office of President. When you turn on the TV, you are inundated with political punditry, and the words liberal and conservative are bandied about with regularity.

The term liberal is defined by Webster as, “not opposed to new ideas or ways of behaving that are not traditional or widely accepted.” In the context of political discourse, a liberal believes “that government should be active in supporting social and political change .”

The term conservative is defined by Webster as, “not liking or accepting changes or new ideas.” In the context of political discourse, a conservative believes “in the value of established and traditional practices in politics and society.”

Our concern in this article is not politics, but how the concepts of liberalism and conservatism impact our religious thinking.

A religious liberal is not opposed to new ideas and practices in regard to his faith. He is willing to consider and possibly embrace new doctrines, innovations in worship, and changes in the way man interacts with and responds both to God and His creation.

A religious conservative is opposed to innovation. He believes that the old ways are the best ways. In fact, he believes that the old ways are the only acceptable ways to interact with and respond to God and His creation.

The two concepts are diametrically opposed. They can’t both be right. (Though the concept of absolute right and wrong is in itself something that is denied by many who are liberal in their thinking). The reasons why we can and do affirm that one of the two concepts is religiously invalid are both logical and scriptural.

First, logically the two can’t both be right. Just as the equation 2+2=4 is right, but 2+2=5 is not, it is not tenable to claim that religious change is acceptable, but religious change is unacceptable. Either it is, or it is not — this is only logical.

Second, scripture clearly invalidates one of the two concepts. Put simply, it invalidates the concept of liberalism as it pertains to the way man interacts with and responds to God and His creation.

Again and again, the Bible reveals God’s condemnation of those who innovated with regard to their religious expression. Nadab and Abihu used a different kind of fire to burn incense before God. God killed them for it (cf. Leviticus 10:1-2). The Samaritans established a different place for worshiping God. Jesus revealed that such worship was unacceptable to His Father (John 4:19-22). The Pharisees established their own rules to follow religiously. Jesus said their worship was vain (Matthew 15:1-9).

Understand that the concept of liberalism is a valid one in many areas. Men are both fallible (old ways of doing things can be wrong or ineffectual) and smart (new and better ways of doing things are continually discovered). The fact that this article is being written on a laptop computer, and perhaps being read on a smartphone is an indication of just how beneficial change can be. I suppose it is plausibly valid to be a liberal politically, at least in so far as such a willingness to accept new ways of doing things does not put one in opposition to God’s way of doing things.

However, there is no place for a liberal attitude, (in the sense defined in this article), in matters of faith. This is so because of one very important truth. God’s ways are perfect!

The Hebrew writer affirmed, “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son” (Hebrews 1:1-2a). This latter day revelation is referred to by James as the “perfect law of liberty” (cf. James 1:25). It is the “faith once for all delivered” (Jude 3), to be defended and protected. It contains all a person needs to be “thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:17).

Simply put, it is presumptuous for man to embrace a religious concept or practice that does not originate from God. God revealed His will to man 2,000 years ago. Religiously, new ideas have no place. They come from man, not God!