RefOC Conference: Liberalism in the Church

Before you listen…

My second presentation at the Reformation OC Conference occurred on Saturday morning as an “early breakout” session.  It was a bit too early for our facility manager because we got into our building a half hour late, and I needed to truncate the message — so it is a little helter skelter.

My main objective was to identify the markers of churches and denominations that begin their slide into what I call, “liberalism.”  I take this word to mean, the gradual encroachment of false beliefs, practices, and people who /which  promote compromise  regarding the: doctrine, history, mission, message, tradition, and purity of the church and her gospel!  Several points are delineated in the presentation (ie. Confessional “tampering,” the leading of the “spirit,” the inclusiveness of “love,” the abandonment of ordination standards, “cronyism” in presbyteries,  the corrupting influence of “publishers,” etc.  There are  more.

Much of this presentation is the result of my personal observations of the PCUSA while I attended one of their seminaries in Southern California:  San Francisco Theological Seminary.  I want to admit right here that I actually enjoyed my time at this school.  Apart from the fact that I appreciate the academic environment, I also enjoyed contending for a more ‘conservative’ approach to understanding and applying the scriptures.  I enjoyed several of the professors there whom I greatly respect and consider friends.  I even enjoyed some of the OTHER professors whom I regard as DANGEROUS to the church because they let me defend my perspective (and angst!)   I also greatly enjoyed meeting many classmates — among them were a majority of students from foreign countries.

However, while there from 2000 to 2003, I concluded then that what I was taught in class, in published literature, in expressed agenda, was that the PCUSA would not survive as an historic Christian Church.  Even though they claim to champion the Reformers, and especially the Institutes of John Calvin, they have long ago rejected the doctrines he mined from the Scriptures and have found him important only as a progenitor of a tradition which they hold hostage for “their kind of reforming.”

But their kind of reforming is usually devoid of the verbiage of  scripture and the historic confessions of the church.  Today’s modern liberal employs a “new speak” that is amorphous, nuanced,  and neutered.  What kind of fruit will that environment yield?

I began my presentation by reading a very popular “Letter to the Editor” found on the Presbyterian Layman website.  I termed the writer a “prophet” because he correctly predicted that a “conservative” would repeat his words (which I did entirely) to the faithful.  This letter, as the author  suggests, is what  we conservative folk believe highlights  the agenda of the PCUSA (And yet, at the same time, using phrases and affirmations to which I completely agree; but with a different context!  Interesting.)

The session concluded with questions.  The first question should have been anticipated, “How do we prevent this slide into liberalism?”

My first response was to note that Jesus spoke to the Pharisees and Sadducees  in the language of parable — but they knew he was referring to them!  My point is to suggest might want to avoid the technical terminology (which really does promote precision… however…) because most congregations may glaze over and regard the ‘academic debate’ (and it usually begins in this arena!) as inconsequential bickering and below the dignity of Christian charity.

I would also add that we must properly teach our churches their creeds and confessions!  Becoming familiar with these documents and their catechisms is important for communicating our shared historic convictions (and again, will train us to be wary of NEW confessions that open the door to modern agendas  — I know that the ancient creeds and confession  had their own place and context; but please note that they are   highly footnoted with scripture references!  Compare that agenda with the modern ones!)  It is our practice at Communion Presbyterian Church to recite a portion of our historic creeds, confessions, and catechisms every Sunday in order to communicate that we are ONE church over time and connected to a faith, that was once and for all delivered to the saints.

My last point would be to simply become familiar with church history.  Modern movements have been among us before and we do well to note their telos.

Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoy listening.

God bless,


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: