About a week ago, my brother, who was so afraid of offending me, bless his heart, asked me, “Alice, are you a liberal Christian?” My brother is 10 years younger than me and is currently a college student.
I was kind of caught off guard, but without really thinking about it, I chuckled and responded, “Probably. Why do you ask?”
He responded something like, “I just notice that you don’t think like and believe the same things that conservative Christians do.” Part of what he was probably referring to are my views on Christian dating, drinking alcohol, and women in ministry.
After thinking about it a little, I responded, “No, actually. I don’t believe I am a liberal Christian.”
Let me explain why, but it’s going to be in a roundabout way. Like it always is. Hahaha, which never ever bothers RJ. Right, honey? ;)
There is one freshman in particular who I’ve had lots of fun driving to and from Bible study with each week. Even though we have at most five minutes each way to chat by ourselves, it’s always filled with good stuff.
After Bible study one day in October, she asked me out of nowhere, “What do you think of sororities?” “What do you mean?” I responded. “Well, I’m not judging or anything but I was just always told at church that sororities were bad and drinking alcohol was bad and to avoid both” I smiled to myself. I’ve been there before. And then in the remaining 3 minutes of our car ride, I proceeded to tell her why I thought drinking alcohol was okay. Jesus made wine, it doesn’t say it’s bad in the Bible, it only says too much is bad, freedom in Christ, etc. etc. I think I gave a really crappy and hasty answer that evening, haha.
After she left the car, I thought to myself, “Crap, she probably thinks that I hold a loose interpretation of the Bible and that I think it’s okay to do anything because Jesus’ grace covers everything and that I am making excuses to defend my choice to drink alcohol. And now she probably thinks all Nav staff incorrectly handles Scripture and wants to leave our group.” Which she didn’t. Because she didn’t think these things about me. Hahaha.
A couple weeks pass, and I find myself on a grassy lawn during our regional conference’s free time with six of the freshmen girls that came to conference with us, including the student friend who asked about sororities and drinking just a couple weeks earlier.
“Hey Freshman Girl A, I’ve been thinking a lot about our conversation about my views on drinking and sororities from two weeks ago, and I think I gave you a really bad answer. Can we continue our conversation?”
Freshman Girl A: “Sure!”
Freshman Girl B: “I want to hear this!”
Freshman Girl C, as she pulls her headphones out of her ears: “Ooh, me too!”
Suddenly, I have the rapt attention of six freshmen ladies, whose eyes are all on me, eager to know what I have to say about these hot topic issues.
Taking a deep breath, I began, “If you grew up in the church, each of you have probably been told many times what is good, what is bad, what you can do, and what you can’t do. A lot of these things are good as guidelines, but they may be communicated as hard and fast rules. The problem is that many times, rules are communicated that are more derived from Christian culture than Scripture. At some point in your lives, and probably while you are in college, each of you are going to have to take the things that have been told to you and search the Scriptures for yourselves to figure out what you truly believe God has to say about these issues.”
Essentially, each person, at some point in their lives, has to determine for themselves what is Christian culture and what is from God. And from what I’ve seen from my own study of the Bible, there are far more hard and fast “do’s and don’t’s” that are informed by Christian culture, that are traditions of man, than there are actual hard and fast rules informed by the Word of God.
And that really irritates me.
I wonder if this is what Paul felt like as he wrote to the Galatians, of whom some kept adding additional rules and do’s and don’t’s to salvation, leading them away from the grace of God. He even went so far as to wish castration (AKA go all Lorena Bobbett) upon these perverters of the gospel of grace, that’s how fired up he was about it! And maybe that’s how fired up we should be about it too.
Because this is the issue. All of a sudden, we are telling people, “The death and resurrection of the Son of God isn’t enough to save you. You play a part too, and the good things and bad things you do count for you or against you in the kingdom of God.” In a lame and feeble attempt, we are trying to put some facade of control over our eternal fate back in our own hands because it is too uncomfortable to be at the mercy of God.
But let’s get this straight. Salvation, apart from us choosing to believe and receive, is NEVER in our hands, because if it is, we would all be so. freaking. screwed. And in the Bible, if anyone leads another young believer away from grace by adding to salvation, that, my friends, is a very serious offense.
Anyways, this is why I don’t believe I am a liberal Christian. When I think of the term “liberal Christian,” I think of one who takes certain liberties in their interpretation and application of Scripture in their lives. “I will mold Scripture to be what I want it to be for me, and if it doesn’t align, I’ll just leave it out or ignore it.”
While I may not believe in the same “extra” things as more conservative Christians do, I hardly consider my beliefs to be liberal because:
1. I believe in the ultimate authority of the Scriptures.
2. I believe that Scripture checks itself out. Two verses contradict? Well, what is the overall context of the passages in the Bible? And what do other passages of Scripture have to say about this topic? Scripture interprets Scripture.
3. I have searched the Scriptures in depth and have not found many of the things Christian culture tells us we should or shouldn’t do in it. I see some principles, but I don’t see many “Thou shalt” or “Thou shalt not”‘s.
4. I desire as a believer of God to follow how He would want me to live, and this is according to His Word, the Bible, and not how someone else tells me to if it doesn’t check out in the Bible.
I am not a liberal Christian. However, I do believe that I am a liberated Christian, and I believe that comes from searching the Scriptures, the only true and unwavering authority in our lives. Which is funny, because I think many people are hesitant to read the Bible because they believe it’ll just give them endless lists of what they can and cannot do anymore.
But it really is quite the contrary. I have found that the deeper I look in God’s word and abide by it, the more I find freedom. Jesus says in John 8:31-32, “If you hold to my teaching then you are truly my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free!”
I encourage each of you to search the Scriptures deeply for yourselves, in order to test those things you’ve been told about walking with God all your life, and to ultimately walk in freedom. Galatians 5:1 says, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened by a yoke of slavery.”
Let us throw off any extra baggage or Christian culture ideas that are not truly scripturally based, and walk in the freedom of God’s truth.
Let us be liberated Christians.