Talking with Liberals Talking with Liberals
–Fostering Helpful Evangelistic Conversations–
Paul J. Bucknell


Background | What do you say? | Love for God | Running on Empty | An Open Mind?
This is the first of a five part series.

A Brief Background of Liberals

I grew up in a liberal church. The New England Congregational Church was flourishing in the 1950s but had quickly gone from okay to bad when I was there in the 1960s. It was a little like going into a hospital room when someone is dying. Something was seriously wrong but nobody dared talk about it. Life went on seemingly as usual. Or perhaps I should say, death proceeded to take over and slowly devastate what was left living. Although this is one experience that I share below, I have seen the same thing again and again happen.  
Liberals are normally polite sounding. There is no reason to think that a liberal will be hostile in his words. The problem liberals have is their approach to thinking. Maybe a little history is appropriate.
Starting in the 1800s, knowledge started to rapidly increase. A great oozing confidence in man’s ability arose. Before that time, man was humbled by his ignorance. It is not that people in that time knew much more than a hundred years before them, but they felt they did. More importantly, it was at this time that he was able to drop his superstition toward various objects. The sun, the blood system and material objects were being better understood.
Compared to our knowledge today, they knew hardly anything. Children know more today than doctors back then. We surely would ridicule their confidence.  And yet for them, this knowledge was very significant. Up until that time, people held a special reverence for certain natural objects like a special rock or clump of trees and the powerful spirits that they believed were semi-attached to those items.
At first, the number of people who began to drop their superstitions was very small, but as time went on, more and more people came to strip God out of the world. They came to understand that the world they thought existed was quite different from what they had believed. This allowed some erudite minds to dream up other explanations for the world’s existence.  
They were able to look at the world from a totally different perspective. Because of the printing press, knowledge began to flow more quickly and ideas were distributed from continent to continent. The American public educational system which originally started off as a means to train people to understand the Bible so that they could be good citizens was slowly corrupted by a group heavily influenced by Dewey.
This new perspective came to be known as a spirit of criticism. All sorts of literature, habits and religions were examined from this ‘new’ faith. In essence, this new faith embraced a human development of the religions including God Himself.
Click here for more on understanding higher and lower criticism.

This critical perspective also entered the realm of Christianity. Pastors and seminary professors turned from being believers to forceful critics.

Certain theories about the origin of God’s Word by Julius Welhausen (Documentary Hypothesis) and others enabled an increasing number of people to read the scriptures as a critic rather than a believer. They now believed the Word of God was just the word of man and began dissecting it to see how it originated and what its real meaning was. They thought they knew what they were doing. In fact, they were disabling their own faith and destroying themselves and many others.

They no longer believed in the supernatural and so their treatment of God’s Word naturally excluded any acceptance of the miraculous nature of the teachings of God’s Word including creation and God Himself. That is right; they came up with theories on how the concept of God evolved. Simply put, the theory of evolution of our bodies enabled a group of scholars to examine the social and religious understandings in a similar way. They believed they naturally evolved among mankind.

Fundamentalism (based on the fundamentals of the faith) reacted against this movement in the early 1900s by stressing the trustworthiness of God’s Word. Most people have heard of the debates between creationists and evolutionists. We do not need to elaborate here. This was only one area of debate. Other areas included what the fundamentals taught: the virgin birth, deity of Christ, existence of miracles and physical resurrection of Christ.

The most important thing to remember, though, is that they both had their own approach to God’s Word. They were largely trying to justify their approach and put down the other.  

Liberalism took a big jump here because it sounded more progressive and scientific. In fact, it had nothing to do with science because nothing can be proved. It is all theory. Many of their original assumptions were later found wrong, including their claim that Moses could not have written the Torah because there was no writing back in his time.

Liberalism has gradually dissolved over the past decades because of other more favored approaches to God’s Word, but many of the assumptions are still the same and therefore, very relevant for us today. Mainline denominations have been infected with this liberalism and have been dying out ever since people’s faith in God and His Word disappeared. No faith, no life.


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What is a liberal?

One reader asked, "You stated on your web site that you grew up in a liberal church. What does this mean exactly? People consider our congregation liberal because of some of our practices; for example, we allow women to pray in public or give a public meditation, we don't believe a'capella music is a biblical mandate."


A liberal church, in the context of which I speak, is generally understood as one which has left the major doctrines of the Christian church. At some point they tend to modify their creeds to conform to their ideas. They have such a liberal view of the scripture and therefore no longer accept the dictates of the scripture upon their thoughts or lifestyle. The liberal church by their definition no longer belongs to the community of God's people, though they would dispute that. From my experience, however, there are usually a few of God's people attending the church.



Background | What do you say? | Love for God | Running on Empty | An Open Mind
This is the first of a five part series, "Talking with Liberals."

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Biblical Foundations for Freedom

Paul J. Bucknell

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