Know Your Bible

VOL. 15                                                                                               November 12, 2017                                                                                                              NO. 33



Almost daily we hear the words ‘conservative’ and ‘liberal’ kicked around in the news media. They are using the terms in a political context. Yet we often hear the words in a religious context when we hear reference to ‘conservative churches/brethren’ and ‘liberal churches/brethren’.

Strictly from a religious perspective, are you conservative or liberal? Some would respond, “What does it matter?”. Let’s see if we can determine whether we are conservative or liberal and see whether or not it matters. Obviously to answer the question of whether you are conservative or liberal religiously, we have to have understanding of what the words mean. If we can define one, we will pretty well have the definition for the other.

What makes a person conservative is their beliefs and principles are in things that are original. In fact, the word ‘principle’ refers to something that comes first. So, to change the principle of a thing is to change it into something different. Is this not essentially what Paul is saying in Galatians 1:6-9: “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, 7 which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.” The gospel which Paul and others had originally taught the Galatians were the principles they did not need to turn away from because to do so would “pervert the gospel of Christ”. Without the principle/the gospel, the thing is lost.

The principles we must be willing to always live by are the things which we find at the beginning. Whether that beginning is in Genesis when God created all things in six days, made man in His image, instituted the home and marriage to be between a man and a woman, and defined sin and what it’s consequences are. Or whether that beginning is in Acts 2 in the establishment of the church, it’s work, it’s organization, and it’s worship.

However, these are the very things that liberals are challenging. Why? Because they do not hold to these principles. Despite the reputation and trustworthiness of these principles, liberals want something new; they want “a different gospel”. This accounts for those who are trying to reach a compromise between man’s theory of evolution and Genesis’ account of creation, their justifying divorce for nearly any and every cause, acceptance of homosexuality, the changing of the roles of men and women in the home and in society, and being hesitant to speak forthrightly against sin in any specific terms. Not to mention accepting those into fellowship who were never baptized for the remission of sins, changing the spiritual work of the church into a social endeavor that tends to the physical needs of mankind, having women in the role of pulpit preaching and serving as elders, and allowing the church to financially see to the physical needs of the community.

So, at this point, I ask: Do we understand enough what a conservative and liberal is, in the context of religion, to find which one we are? If so, do we not see what difference it makes? John defines conservative and liberal. In 2 John 9 a conservative is one “who abides in the doctrine of Christ” and as a result “has both the Father and the Son”. A liberal, on the other hand, is one who “transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ” and that results in the fact that he “does not have God”.

Let our knowledge and trust be in the things that have originated with God; the principles set forth in His word. Let us not be persuaded to turn unto “a different gospel”. That’s the difference in conservative and liberal in religion.

—E.R. Hall, Jr.

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* When God thinks of the church of Christ, He thinks of saved individuals (Acts 20:28). When men think of the Church of Christ they think of parties, either a broad conglomeration of alliances such as the “one cup Church of Christ," "liberal Church of Christ," "conservative Church of Christ," etc. or one of those parties individually.

* When God thinks of the church of Christ, He thinks of a number of individuals unknown to men (2 Tim. 2:19). When men think of the Church of Christ, they think of a loose association of local churches whose numbers can be approximated, for example 1,260,838 in the United States according to Mac Lynn’s 1994 directory. Perhaps they will focus more on the numbers given for a more narrow association of churches (“non institutional," "one cup," "no class", etc.).

* When God thinks of the church of Christ, He sees an indivisible body composed of individuals with different levels of spiritual growth (1 Cor. 1:13; 2 Peter 3:18, Rev. 2,3). When men think of the Church of Christ, they think of a group of local churches that has divided through the years over issues such as instrumental music, premillennialism and institutionalism. They say that the “ ext thing that will divide the church" (the conservative alliance, or collection of churches) will be the marriage, divorce and remarriage issue.

* When God thinks of the church of Christ, He thinks of those growing in Him with obedient hearts in spite of imperfections (John 17:6). When men think of the Church of Christ, they think of those who conform to unwritten creeds composed of doctrines that “leaders" have declared to be essential.

* When God thinks of leaders in the church of Christ, He thinks of spiritually poverty stricken servants, who are "last" in the minds of men and yet whose quiet examples transform others (Matt. 5:3,16;19:30; 20:25-28). When men think of leaders in the Church of Christ, they think of editors of papers, leaders in colleges or well known preachers who hold many gospel meetings.

* When God thinks of the Savior of the Church, He thinks only of His Son, Jesus Christ. When men think of the Church of Christ, they think of an alliance of local churches that David Lipscomb "saved" from the Missionary Society, Foy E. Wallace “saved" from premillennialism and other leading editors have "saved" from other dangers.

* When God thinks of where to find the church of Christ, He thinks of the hearts of men (1 Samuel 16:7). When men think of where to find the Church of Christ, they think of church directories.

* When God thinks of the church of Christ, He thinks of those who have responded to the spiritual attraction for those who are of good ground - the gospel of Jesus Christ (Romans 1:16; 1 Cor. 2:2). When men think of the Church of Christ, they think of an alliance or movement that itself is the primary attraction to those who are of good ground.

* When God thinks of the church of Christ, He thinks of a glorious body of saved individuals who are allowing themselves to be transformed into the image of His Son, in spite of the wrangling and political maneuvering of men (Eph. 5:25,26; 2 Cor. 3:18). When men think of the Church of Christ, they either think of a religious movement that has fragmented itself into dozens of warring factions, each claiming to “ ave" the truth on dozens of difficult issues, or they think of one of the factions. 

What do you think of when you think of the church of Christ?

—Gardner Hall

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