Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Why I'm not a Liberal Christian

[Below is a recent email to a friend which I am republishing here with slight modifications for privacy.]

You said something like I need to get back to why I first loved Jesus, not be a Christian for intellectual reasons. I have a hard time understanding that. It's like you're telling me, get emotional about Jesus but don't worry if He's real or not, or if Christianity makes sense or not. I first became a Christian for an emotional reason, because I felt a need for Jesus. It's not been until a few years ago that I seriously started investigating my faith and trying to determine how solid the foundation is, and what evidence and reasons I had for being a Christian. So I started challenging my faith by forcing myself to be open-minded and read opposing points of view and listen to criticisms the other side(s) offered. I guess having an open mind started me down the slippery slope in the first place, but it doesn't help that I had emotional issues with unanswered prayers, inexplicable circumstances in my life in which the context of a sovereign God made sense only by way of faith and mystical thinking, and a realization that my own obscurantism served more as a comforting layer of insulation than a protective coating for truth. It's not that I don't want to be a Christian, or that I'm insisting it couldn't possibly be true. It's just that I'm trying to resist what my head is telling me after looking at every piece of evidence I can find and reasoning from that instead of "faith-based" assumptions, thoughts that tell me that Christianity even if true is mostly improbable, and I shouldn't be faulted by God or anyone else for not finding it convincing or feeling obligated for faith without sufficient and convincing evidence (I would consider a personal revelations and/or miracles from God, even if I could not prove them to anyone else, to count as sufficient and convincing evidence also).

This is part of the reason why I do not understand your liberal Christianity, though I like it a lot more than fundamentalism. Simply put, if the Bible contains scientific and historical errors, why trust ANYTHING it has to say? It does not matter if, as you say, the Bible is simply a guide from God for salvation and Christian living, because that is not an acceptable basis for believing in it even as a general guide (you would not treat any other book this way, except perhaps works of fiction or personal opinion pieces, and even then, you would draw upon reasons outside of the text itself for agreement). If the Bible is partially inspired and trustworthy, then which parts? And how do you tell? And if there are no good answers to these questions, then why should the Bible be any more important than any other book, say, for example, some grandmother's cookbook? I simply need more reasons to believe in Jesus Christ and the Bible than emotional ones, and no, I am not simply trying to reduce everything to an intellectual argument or understanding either. The foundation for most of the faith comes from the miracles and revelation given by God and recorded in the Scriptures. This is why the Bible cannot simply be a guide to salvation or for Christian living, because those same passages about salvation and living for God are directly or indirectly tied to miracles and revelation recorded as Scripture for reference by believers and to witness to unbelievers. The Bible must be more than a collection of good ideas or ways to feel better emotionally about wearing the Christian label. And perhaps it is my fundamentalism that makes me think this way, but how else should I (even could I) think about it?

Well, I wanted to say more, but I hope that explains where my difficulties are. Can you answer these please? I'm not looking for debate, or trying to be argumentative. I just need answers, thanks.


[Edited for a typo.]


barney said...

I like your argument for not being a liberal Christian. I even understaned your concerns about the reality of all this and whether or not God is a figment of imagination. Emotions are needed. but that alone cannot be the basis for why we believe what we believe. However, you did hit upon what it takes and two basically and, yes, fundamenal elements. Revelation - Remewmber what Jesus said to Peter, when Peter answered the all important question, whom do ye say that I am. The answer was, Thou art the Christ, The Son of The Living God. (all emphases are mine). Jesus answeered, flesh and blood did not reveal this to you but My Father which is in heaven. Then the other thing is indeed faith - where does faith come from? According to the Apostle Paul it come from the Word of God. A preacher cannot give it to anyone, although it may be through the preaching a person "gets it". Also according to the Bible one must have faith to come to God. If you have not recieved the Revelation and faith to believe you not only will not, you cannot. Only an insane person can believe this stuff we preach about in the Bible. Either that or someone who has been gifted by the Holy Ghost to do so. Try as you might, you wont.

Thy Peace said...

Byron: I too have once walked away from Christ. But I did not find any rest in the world. The only rest I have now is in Our Lord Jesus Christ. I have great faith in Our Lord that He will draw you back in His time.

Byron said...


Good comment and I agree that if Christianity is true it requires the Holy Spirit in order to believe, because a natural man will not accept it on his own.

Thy Peace,

Thanks, and I hope you're right.

Auggybendoggy said...

Hi! My name's Gene. I read you blog post and have some sympathies with it.

I'm wondering if you've read Thomas Talbott's "The Inescapable Love of God". Talbott is an odd one because he argues like a fundamentalist but ends up with a Universalistic outcome.

If you like, visit our forum
we have skeptics, agnlostics and others who realize that Universalism is not so liberal and yet holds to a hope for all mankind.

But if you've not read Talbott's book, def. do - I'll even purchase it for you if your short on the cash.


Byron said...


Thanks a bunch. I have the cash, and I will look for it on Kindle. However, I am rather closed minded when it comes to Universalism (though I like the idea). I have yet to come across a convincing argument for it, but I admit I have not looked that hard.

Auggybendoggy said...

Byron, totally understand. I felt the same way until I read Talbott's book where he illustrates that justice and love and not antithetical. He uses logic (being a professor of philosophy) to draw out that God in the end will triumph and shows biblically how it is plausible.

So far when I've read those who argue against him, I've not been persuaded. From guys like William Craig, I howard Marshall, John Piper and Jerry Walls, Thomas makes the most sense to me.

He's a wonderful read and a great discussion.

The forum is kind of messy because a lot of us untrained (uneducated with a PHD) make poor arguments and are very bad writers. However, we do have some people who like Talbott are able to articulate their ideas far better than some of us.

Here's a link between a discussion between a Calvinist John Piper and Thomas Talbott back in the 80's.