Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
July 24, 1958
NUMBER 12, PAGE 4-5b

The Liberal Trend


In the Gospel Guardian this week we carry several articles in which brethren are warning against the new -liberalism" which is making such rapid strides among the churches. We call particular attention to the first in a series of articles by Brother Robert Atkinson, "Pragmatism, Progressive Education, The Social Gospel, Current Trends." Our problems within the church are all part and parcel of a widespread sociological pattern — the general drift toward a "pragmatic" and "earth-centered" philosophy of living.

Traditionally, the gospel of Christ has centered on "other-worldliness" — heaven — seeking to wean our affections away from this earth, and center them on the life to come. But the modern trend reverses this. It encourages Christians to think less and less about heaven, and more and more about building up good things for themselves and for others in this life. It puts the emphasis HERE rather than THERE. Witness the number of brethren who are giving their estates to colleges, benevolent institutions, various kinds of schools and earthly ventures rather than to the preaching of the gospel and the saving of souls.

Our current problems over orphan homes, recreation centers, church hospitals, church kitchens, church sports activities, "big" promotions, and the emphasis on social improvement all reflect this trend.

One interesting feature of it is that some who espouse the new liberalism are most vociferous in insisting that the Bible is inspired. Verbal inspiration is avowed and warmly defended ... but such a loose, liberal and "worldly" interpretation is put on the words of inspiration that the very meaning of "inspiration" is beclouded and obscured. For example, one of the brethren who has been most vocal among us in his insistence on "verbal inspiration" has shown his wild and loose application of Bible truth by (1) condoning and defending the modern dance (2) condoning and defending the "Herald of Truth" type of congregational cooperation, (3) taking his family to the public swimming pools, (4) defending "social drinking" of alcoholic beverages, (5) arguing that benevolent societies such as those operating various orphan homes among us are permissible and right.

On the one hand is a strict insistence on "verbal inspiration"; on the other is an incredibly loose and liberal application of that truth — a loose application on moral issues as well as on doctrinal issues. The two go together. Why should they not? If brethren are going to stretch, and twist, and bend Bible teaching to try to justify other institutions to carry out God's mission to the church, why should we be surprised to see them relaxing their views on marriage and divorce, on social drinking, dancing, and moral questions in general? Trying to involve the church in sociological ventures (recreation centers, hospitals, psychiatric clinics, youth camps, rehabilitation centers, parochial schools, charitable institutions of various kinds) is but one facet of the "liberalism" we are now experiencing. We will see even more, and wilder, relaxations of Bible teaching as the juggernaut begins to roll. Its course is downhill. Many will be destroyed by it; but others will be alarmed and terrified as the monster gains momentum, and will "get off the band-wagon" in time to be saved.

Meanwhile, let us all remember that there are all shades and kinds of "modernism." Some modernists deny the divinity of Christ, yet, incredibly enough, insist on the inspiration of the Bible; others deny the infallibility of the Scripture, yet insist on the divinity of Christ. But all of them, so far as we know, seek to emphasize the present "social ethics" (the social gospel) aspect of Christianity. They give great importance to schools, camps, youth organizations and all the agencies for improving and ameliorating the conditions of this present world.

We see this liberalism daily developing among the Lord's people. As one example, consider the "parochial schools" which are now being promoted in many cities. Objective and unbiased educators are almost unanimous in their judgment that on the elementary and high school the "parochial school" (a school segregated on the basis of religion rather than race) is a bad thing for the child. It isolates him from the society in which he must live; it develops in the child an ignorance of the world about him, makes him unduly susceptible in maturity to influences which he should have encountered and conquered (and did not) in childhood. The schooling offered in these institutions is almost invariably of inferior quality, and sends the child out to compete with others poorly prepared and ill equipped.

Yet these schools are springing up "among us" in ever growing numbers. Well intentioned, but poorly informed, brethren are wildly enthusiastic in their support and promotion of such ventures. We believe the results are bound to be deeply disappointing.

Do not be deceived into thinking that the only "liberal" is a man who denies the virgin birth and contends that "Isaiah" was in reality a composite of three or four men. Far more dangerous and insidious (so far as the Church of Christ is concerned) is the liberal who insists on verbal inspiration - - - - and then proceeds to emasculate Bible teaching by his loose, wild, and liberal applications of that truth.

-F. Y. T.