The Question of Liberalism

 Let me first start out by laying down some groundwork by defining the terms; “liberal” or “liberalism” and “conservative” or “conservatism.”  According to my Webster’s New World Dictionary the term “liberal” especially as it has to do with the Church of Christ, in number 4, which refers to “not being restricted to the literal meaning; not strict; ‘a liberal interpretation of the Bible.” And number 7, which refers to someone who “favors reform or progress, as in religion, education, etc.”

And I know that usually when we think of the term “liberal” we like to think about the definition found in number 1, which refers to one who is “a freeman; not restricted;” and number 2, “one who gives freely; generous;” and also number 3, meaning “large or plentiful; ample; abundant; a liberal reward.” These are the three terms that give us that warm and fuzzy feeling when we think about ‘em. And someone will say “okay, and so what’s wrong with that?” To which I would say nothing at all is wrong with it. But stop and consider the latter terms numbers 4 and 7, and you can see the problem, especially as it has to do with the Church and God’s people. In politics it means that someone is to be tolerant of everything, or as it is stated, “we must be tolerant of people who are different than we are,” meaning that we must overlook their sins and way of life.

For example, as it has to do with homosexuality, we are told that we are to be “liberal” and not only to tolerate their behavior, but to accept it as being “an alternative life style.” And in that respect, as being “liberal” we ought to not be so strict as to the defining of the term marriage. So “liberalism” says, “if marriage is defined as one man and one woman, why can it not also include one man and one man or one woman and one woman?”

Or, “liberalism” says that we ought to understand why there are people out the world who want to kill innocent people. They say that we need to understand…WHY…they hate us so much. You know they’re talking about the ones that we call “terrorist.” This form of “liberalism” tells us that we need to understand why we; as Americans, are so hated by a terrorist. And even as the statement comes out of the mouth of those who espouse such a viewpoint, most of us readily understand that they are “terrorist,” and that “terrorist’s” kill people.

But that’s not what I’d like to focus on at this time, let's move on now. I only use these as examples of what is viewed as being “liberal” or “liberalism” as it is used in the world of politics. Now let us take a look at it from the viewpoint of the Church of the Living God.

In the Church, the Primitive Baptists have, as far I know, always had what can only be called “liberals” among them. The scriptures inform us in Jude 1:4, “For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.” But in recent years there has been a rise of such who because of a decline in church membership have sought to “fix” the problem, and try to improve on what our Lord Jesus Christ has establish as His Church. Put simply, they want to “change” things in order to fix the problem.

It was not too long ago that someone told me that we of the “old line didn’t have anything for the young folks.” And that we were falling behind the times, and that we would soon dry up on the vine and wither away.” This person was what is called the “Progressives.” And they had the idea that the church needed to be “modernized” and brought up to date in order to bring in more young people into the church folds. They thought that the church needed to have Sunday schools, musical instruments, and to send out missionaries to foreign lands to try to stop the decline. But tell me are the Progressives any better off today then they were back then? In reading some of their papers and articles they admit that they aren’t any better off. In fact I read one article that suggested that they needed to get back to the basics; that they needed to get back to their foundation.

And it saddens me that the “liberals” among us don’t seem to understand this principle and are trying to once again “fix” the problem and to make the church more “acceptable” to the world. In fact did you know that in an article from a Southern Baptist paper called the “SWORD OF TRUTH,” dated May 21st, 2004, says that were no baptisms in 2003. And that “The Southern Baptist Convention reported a record membership of 16,315,050, up from .41 percent over 2002, and grew to 43,024 churches, an increase of 249 new congregations, according to statistics released in the SBC Statistical Summery…Although’ they say that ‘there was growth overall, LifeWay President Jimmy Draper said the statistics were cause for concern. The incremental growth reflects a denomination that’s lost its focus.” And the article goes on to say the number of baptisms have decreased for the fourth year in a row.

What, how can this be? Way back in the early 1800’s we were told that the adding of things to “fix” the church was going to save more souls, and cause the church to grow, and that all that was needed was to go forward in the “great commission” to march out and “go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” And it was said then, as was said by the Progressives, and even to this day, that we of the “old line” are gonna dry up and wither and die on the vine.

Let me add something that I have observed just down the street from the little church that I pastor. When I became pastor here at the Dixie Primitive Baptist Church there were two “Dixie Churches” that used the name “Baptist” as a part of identifying who they are: One an “old line” Baptist Church, and the other a Southern Baptist Church. But I noticed that the other church dropped the name “Baptist” and opted for the title “Dixie Pioneer Church.” But why did they do such a thing? So I dropped by and met with their pastor and I asked him why they did such a thing, and do you know what his answer was? He told me that the Southern Baptist Convention wanted to move forward into a more “contemporary” style, in order to draw in more people. He said that they were still a part of the SBC, but they wanted to draw in more people from other denominations like Catholics, Pentecostals, etc. And that maybe, he said, if they removed the word “Baptist” that that would remove a hindrance to such persons. But does it really help? I think not.

When I was a young man, mind you, not that I'm saying that I’m old, but when I first came in among the Primitive Baptist someone told me something that I will never forget, they said, “Thomas when you got out and visit other churches, don’t try to preach about duty.” Now exactly what does that mean? He went on to tell me that it’s best to only preach about the eternal blessings of God, so that you’ll not offend anybody. And me bein’ a young man I thought to myself, “Well I don’t want to cause any trouble, so I won’t try to preach any duty to anyone.”

And today as I look back at that statement there are two points that I wonder about. Either he didn’t understand duty, or that he thought that I didn’t understand it. That brother has since passed away and went to be with the Lord, so I’ll not be able to ask him what he meant. But I’m sure of one thing, for most of my life, especially among the Primitive Baptist, I didn’t hear too much about our duty to God, or to one another. That’s not to say that the subject never came up, it not too often.

At one point I was livin’ in Alabama, and was sittin’ in the Church and listenin’ to a sermon, and was thinkin’ to myself, “Yes I do believe in election and predestination, but give me somethin’ that I can live with now. I need to know how to live here today.” And that’s what duty is all about. As the apostle Paul told Brother Timothy, in 1 Tim 3:15, “that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” WE need to be taught our duty to God, and to one another, about how to live here in this world. How we are to behave ourselves and receive the blessings of God…here in time. Beloved that’s what “duty” is all about.

Anyway I know that it’s just as hard to bring in converts today as it was way back in the days gone past. But adding things to the Church in order to “fix” it is not the answer. As it was with Moses, so it is today, God instructed him and us here today to “look that thou make them after their pattern, which was showed thee in the mount” (Ex. 25:40). We are not at liberty to “fix” anything in the way of improvements! We are to follow after the pattern of the Church that Jesus Christ Himself has set up and established here in the world. I recall the admonition of the Apostle John in Revelation 22:18 and 19,  “For” he said, “I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” I don’t know about you, but I want my “part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.”

As I see it there has been a root problem that has arisen and troubled God’s people in the kingdom today. And it’s that old serpent the devil, has brought in those who espouse the doctrine of “Calvinism.” I know what you may be thinking, “Well, there are only two basic forms of doctrine in the Christian world today, “Calvinism” and “Arminianism.”  (LINK) And over the years everything that we read about; and especially about the Primitive Baptist tell us that we are strongly Calvinistic in our doctrines. And that’s what I mean when I say that it’s the problem. A lot of folks have allowed the world to shape us into their mold. I met a man, who after he talked to me for a while remarked, “hey, I think that you are a Calvinist.” And I told him that I have been accused of being a Calvinist, but that I wasn’t.

I would like to say here and now that there were many of the tenets of John Calvin that were true and are embraced by the Old Line Church, but Calvin was not the one who discovered them. They are doctrines that are found in the inspired word of God. And the true Church of God has always preached these truths, and they ought to be preached today. But to believe and to preach the truth does not mean that you have become a Calvinist. I say, if the world wishes to call me a Calvinist, then so be it, but that does not follow that I become one.

Going on now to the term “liberal” as it has to do with the Church Kingdom of Heaven and as it has to do with the definition as it is found in numbers 4 and 7, “not being restricted to the literal meaning; not strict; ‘a liberal interpretation of the Bible,” and “favors reform or progress, as in religion, education, etc.” In order to really understand the impact of the problem we must understand what the scriptures tell us, as the true Church of Christ, they say that we are to “hold fast” in our doctrine and practice, “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (see 1 Thes. 5:21, also 2 Tim 1:13; Heb 3:6; Heb 4:14; Heb 10:23; Rev 2:25; Rev 3:3). Just as Moses was admonished by God that he was to be careful in the building of the tabernacle to “look that thou make them after their pattern, which was showed thee in the mount” (Ex. 25:40). But there have been “certain men” who have “crept in unawares,” (See Jude 1:4) not just in our time today, over the centuries who have come in among God’s people who have been “of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.” And as in the keeping of the term “liberal” have sought to attempt to improve and modernize the old Church. Why? They do it because of the small numbers as compared to the religions of the world. They do it in order to bring in more people, to make it more palatable to the majority of people of the world. Let me say here too, that this “liberalism” is nothing new; no it has already been tried over and over again in the past. And each time that it is tried it fails and causes turmoil and division within the Church.

The root of the problem has come and revealed itself as being “Calvinism,” and the teaching of the doctrine of “Perseverance,” as opposed the true scriptural doctrine of “Preservation.” Some folks may be wondering, “Well, what’s the difference?” And put as simply as possible “Perseverance” means that God’s people will “persevere” which means that they will continue in their own “effort, course of action, etc. in spite of difficulty, and opposition.” You see this is the main tenet of “Calvinism” dear brother and sisters. And it flies in the face of the doctrine of “Preservation” as has been taught by Baptist of the Old Line since her founding by Jesus Christ. Okay, you may ask, “so what’s the difference?” Well, “preservation” means that we are “preserved” in Christ! That He and He alone keeps us from “harm, damage, danger, evil, etc.; to protect us” and has saved us by His own sovereign mighty hand. While “perseverance” has to do with the works of man, Calvinism says that if someone does not persevere then that is evidence that he was never a child of God in the first place. But persevere in what? Why in good works of course! And this doctrine brings us to another problem, which is in direct conflict with the truth. If a child of God must “persevere,” than it is up to the preacher to preach the gospel, because it is also said that every child of God will hear and he will believe the gospel. This puts the power and glory in the hands of a mere man, and away from God. And God says that He will not give His glory “to another” (Is. 42:8).

You see dear brothers and sisters “liberalism” is an attempt to remove the “ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set” (Prov. 22:28). This is also the “broad way” that Jesus told us about in Matthew 7:13 and 14, “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” And the “broad way” leads us “to destruction.” Not the destruction of an eternal hell, but a destruction of our peace and the loss of the “candlestick” (Rev 2:5). 

How well do the scriptures speak of these persons in Jer. 6:16, “Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein.” And in Is. 4:1, “And in that day seven women shall take hold of one man, saying, We will eat our own bread, and wear our own apparel: only let us be called by thy name, to take away our reproach.” They have left off even caring about the doctrines of Christ, and have created a gospel that is after their own heart.

And in closing let me add here that we as the TRUE CHURCH OF CHRIST, the OLD LINE PRIMITIVE BAPTIST, should not put undue praise on the flesh, that is to say the preacher. I don’t mean that we are to not show proper respect that is due them, but we are not to allow that respect to cloud our God given judgment to place any man up on a pedestal. I recall another place where “Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat upon his throne, and made an oration unto them. And the people gave a shout, saying, It is the voice of a god, and not of a man. And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost” (Acts 12:21-24). I suppose what I’m trying to say here is that we can’t go by anyone’s name and renown, but on the fact of whether or not he is preaching the whole counsel of God.

I hope that I have not caused anyone reading this article to be miss-informed. And I hope that maybe with God’s help I have shown a little light on this that has come in and so upset our people. If I’m in error or have misrepresented the facts please tell where and I will endeavor to correct it. But this is the way that I understand it. And I feel that it is the responsibility of God’s ministers to be “watchman” set upon the wall, that when they “see the sword come, and blow the trumpet,” and warn the people that the enemy has come and is at the gate (see Ezek 33:1-7).

May God bless you and keep you in the way of truth.

Elder Thomas McDonald