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Liberal Christianity
There is much comment as to what is a Liberal Christian or indeed does such a thing exist. Some say we are not Christian.
I cannot speak for all Liberals, so I hope people will understand that I speak from a person viewpoint.
Much of the criticism that is laid against the liberal school of thought is that the concept is not biblical. The answer, I give to that is that is, being not biblical is the whole point, as liberals describe the bible as a collection of documents from differing recourses, written by man, choreographed to fit some of the Old Testament writings, and not the actual infallible words of God. Conservatives, on the hand, argue strongly that the Bible is the actual inerrant word of God. Liberals and Conservatives are therefore polarised at differing ends of the spectrum that is Christian theology.
Liberals do not argue that the bible is not inspiring but argue it is the fallible words of inspired men writing about their experience of Judeo-Christianity. Liberals may quote the bible but only where it has meaning to the topic being discussed but do not use it as the ultimate authority from which no argument can be placed. Liberals usually recognise that the gospels were written after Jesus’ death and by people who never actually met Jesus. The nearest writer to the time of Jesus was Paul but I also recognise that Paul did not see eye to eye with those of the disciples in Jerusalem who actually met Jesus (Gal 1&2).
Conservatives argue that “2 Timothy 3:16” gives authority to the bible being true. This has led many atheists to recognise the circular argument they receive when talking to conservatives. “How do you know the bible is inerrant?” “Well! Because the bible says it is.” “But how do you know this is so?” ” Well! Because the bible says it is”, and so the argument goes on and on with no further progress.
Liberals see Conservative Christianity has having become a faith about a book and not about the force of inspiration that inspired Jesus and the disciples. This is seen as a mistake, as liberals recognise that Gospels did not exist at the time of Jesus or his disciples, but were steadily written over a two hundred year period after the death of Jesus. The Gospels were not seen as holy scripts by the church until 400yrs later when they were canonised. The earliest gospel of Mark (which is seen as a building block for the synoptic gospels of Matthew and Luke) did not even declare that Jesus arose from the cross. The gospel ended when the tomb was found to be empty and thus leaving a mystery rather than a revelation of fact. The resurrection was added later.
Liberals usually believe in the word of God portrayed in the giving of love and in social initiatives. They recognised that God is said to have spoken through the hearts of mankind long before Matthew, Mark, Luke and John existed and even before Abraham and Isaac and see Christianity at a progressive revelation and not one just stuck in the words written 2000 years ago or more. Jesus is seen as being inspired by God and yet, even he did not follow the OT to the letter, which led to conflict with the religious leaders of the time. Jesus is felt to be not inspired blindly and only by writings of his time but by their practical applications and how they could be interpreted in relation to the love of God. For liberals, one of the main sayings that Jesus is supposed to have said is about loving God and loving your neighbour as yourself.
(Matthew 22:36-40 (Niv)
36"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" 37Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'[a] 38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'[b] 40All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.")

The question this saying brings up for me, is the bible about loving ones neighbour as oneself? Does the bibles law and prophets truly support this notion? Sure, these verses can be found in the OT and the New Testament writings alike but the question I ask does the bible live up to this quote?

(For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, "You shall love your Neighbor as yourself." (Galatians 5:14 RSV), If you really fulfil the royal law, according to the scripture,"You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you do well. (James 2:8 RSV), Deuteronomy 6:5 “And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might” and “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbour as yourself. I am the LORD. (Niv).)

Let us take the sixth commandment “thou shalt not kill”, which seems to me a perfectly good place to build a premise of loving ones neighbour and forgiving one another, but the bible does not leave it there It goes on to say:-
Any person who curseth his mother or father, must be killed. (Leviticus 20:9)
If a man cheats on his wife, or vise versa, both the man and the woman must die. (Leviticus 20:10)
If a man sleeps with his father's wife... both him and his father's wife is to be put to death. (Leviticus 20:11)
If a man sleeps with his wife and her mother they are all to be burnt to death. (Leviticus 20:14)
If a man or woman has sex with an animal, both human and animal must be killed. (Leviticus 20:15-16).
Psychics, wizards, and so on are to be stoned to death. (Leviticus 20:27)
If a priest's daughter is a whore, she is to be burnt at the stake. (Leviticus 21:9)
Anyone who curses or blasphemes God, should be stoned to death by the community. (Leviticus 24:14-16)
The killing of homosexuals is condoned and encouraged in the wonderful laws of Leviticus. (Leviticus 20:13)
If you find out a city worships a different god, destroy the city and kill all of it's inhabitants... even the animals. (Deuteronomy 13:12-15)
Kill anyone with a different religion. (Deuteronomy 17:2-7)
If anyone, even your own family suggests worshipping another God, kill them. (Deuteronomy 13:6-10) and so on.

It is not hard to find such verses in the Bible but the question for me still stands. Does the Bible preach a consistent message from God, that we should love ones neighbour as oneself? If the Bible is the word of God and God is said not to change, then surely, it is a relevant question of which I am personally led to the answer, No!
This does not mean I feel we should throw away all the teachings in the Bible but that we should read with a critical eye on what is important. For me, the question is always, is what I am reading consistent with Jesus’ said commandment. For I believe it is in this commandment that Jesus has expressed the love God has for each of us. God is said to be spirit and I believe that Spirit is love. I am not going to pretend that my life always portrays a picture of love but I feel the ideal of Jesus’ commandment worth the continued seeking, because it there I feel we see the real Jesus. I may not always have all the answers but I ready to admit that rather than just quoting a lot of biblical quotes and leaving people feel like a sinner because they have not understood. I call myself a Christian because I believe, I believe, in that same Spirit that inspired Jesus’ to question and challenge things and to work for that love that he is said to and to work for the same commandment he is said to have saw as important. Liberals in my opinion are not Christians who have gone astray or backsliders but genuine deeply faithful seekers of truth. Fallible we maybe, human definitely, but with God’s love we remain hopeful. We do not say that conservatives are not Christians, even though some say that of us. We just seek the truth in the Spirit of God rather than text alone. As Paul Tillich said, even if they found the actual bones of Jesus, it would not shake his faith in him.
I believe love matters to God more than adherence to any text and as the bible puts it:-
( "The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love." 1 John 4:8. "And we have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him." 1 John 4:16).

Wed Jan 06, 2010 4:27 pm
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