Vol.VI No.III Pg.6
May 1969

Why Call Them "Liberal"?

Robert F. Turner

"We are hearing a lot these days about "liberalism" in the institutional churches of Christ. But when is a church "liberal," and when can such a term be justified as applied to an entire congregation?

Vehemently and with an air of aggrieved innocence members of these congregations disavow liberalism and deny that they are liberal. How then can any fair person make such a charge? A quotation from William F. Buckley, Jr. pretty well states the case:

"If one sets out to show that a religious sect is corrupt, it does not suffice to point to a member of that sect who has been caught channeling money from the collection plate to his mistress. He is proved corrupt, but not, yet, the movement. Suppose, then, one approaches the delinquent's co-religionists and asks them for an expression of opinion on the behavior of their brother. If they show a marked indifference to it, if they actively defend him, if they continue to countenance or even move him up the ladder of their hierarchy, more and more one is entitled to generalize...that the organization is corrupt" (Up From Liberalism-Page 8).

Our land is filled with sad examples of the very thing Mr. Buckley was talking about. For years now faithful brethren have been pointing out to their friends many of the "far out" examples of social gospel liberalism in many churches of Christ. And over and over again they have been met with the response, "I don't approve of that; I am opposed to that; I think that is wrong". Then, having thus absolved themselves of all guilt in the matter, having purified their souls by a verbal note of protest, these brethren blithely and cheerily go their way, attending the church which does that which they disavow, giving their money to support that which they say is wrong, lending their time and effort and influence to build up that which they tell us they oppose! Under such circumstances we think that any fair minded person is not only 'entitled to generalize' as to the basic liberalism of such a person, but by the logic of the case is compelled to do so. To say the least, one might be excused for entertaining a bit of skepticism as to the avowals and disavowals of the one who protests that he 'doesn't go along' with what is being done".

The above is a condensed portion of an editorial in the Feb. 6, Gospel Guardian, by Fanning Yater Tant. We heartily recommend the complete text.

How do brethren justify support and furtherance of something they say is contrary to their convictions. Some say they "stay" to try and correct the wrongs. If one could do this without being a party to the wrong we would see merit here — or, if we had some evidence they were really trying to make the correction.

But the alternative looms as big as life, and there is little reason to complain if people see it. Such people have very weak convictions, they will compromise the truth, and that is why they are called "liberal.