Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
July 22, 1971

What Is A Liberal

B. G. Echols

"The liberal is one who advocates the modification of laws and institutions in accordance with changing conditions." (He is) "characterized by or inclining toward opinions or policies favoring progress or reform, as in politics or religion." The dictionary further defines "liberal" as, "Not literal or strict: a liberal interpretation of the law" (The Reader's Digest Great Encyclopedic Dictionary).

The term "liberal" may be applied to many fields including religion. Thus one may be liberal in politics or in social affairs without necessarily being liberal in religion. Today some brethren are confusing their categories and implying that to be a liberal in one area is to be liberal in all.

What if a man has "sideburns down to his lower jaw," does this indicate he is a religious liberal? Has God given a law on sideburns that he has liberally interpreted? Has the time come that religious conservatism is equated with white shirts and crew cuts? What Scripture precludes a preacher having long sideburns or even a beard? There may be strong prejudices against these that would make them inexpedient, but is there a Scripture against them?

It is easy to get a man discredited in the eyes of many by associating him with an unpopular social cause which is not unscriptural. So what, if a man performs a marriage between a white and black student? What Scripture is violated? This may not be a popular practice, but is it unscriptural? What moral principle of God is "liberalized" by inter-racial marriage.

Religious liberalism is wrong because we have a perfect law from God. To change anything that is perfect is to mar its perfection. Therefore, liberalizing God's law, regardless. of how progressive such changes appear, is transgressing God's law (II John 9).

A "conservative" stance in regards to God's perfect law does not preclude a liberal view toward political or social policies when no law of God is violated. This is true simply because neither the political system nor the social system is perfect. There are many practices in both areas that need modifying. If not, why the two party system?

Brethren, I fear we are, perhaps unconsciously, equating Christianity with middle-class American prejudices. There are changes that can take place in styles of dress and though that do not violate God's law. Immodesty and immorality are wrong, but we must not assume that every person who wears large glasses or has sideburns is therefore immoral or unable to be conservative religiously.

I do not advocate social gospelism, hippyism or any other practice contrary to God's law. I am a religious conservative, but I hate to see the conservative cause hurt by broad condemnations which cannot be sustained by God's Word. Brethren, let us not be distracted into discussing immaterial matters as the length of sideburns, or broadcasting apocryphal stories on the origin of the peace symbol. Instead, let us diligently spend more time preaching Christ and His church.

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