NCW 12, September-October 1994
Q. What exactly is "liberal" Christianity? Are you [NCCG] in any way liberal?
This is one of those misleading words like "cult" which can be used simply as a term of insult by "conservatives" against those who do not sustain their literalistic interpretation of the Bible. However, academically "liberal" Christianity (and particularly Protestantism) is essentially an anti-dogmatic and humanitarian reconstruction of the Christian faith. It is sometimes used to describe a belief in secular humanism.
To us as New Covenant Christians, "liberals" are those who reject the supernatural and try to explain the Bible in humanistic or near-humanistic terms. There are many shades of liberalism, from that which maintains that there is no God (humanism) to that which maintains that there probably is but does not supernaturally interact with His Creation. Liberals reject prophecy, miracles, and the like. They reject the Virgin Birth and physical resurrection, usually referring to these as mere religious "symbols". They would deny that Jesus saves from sin and would regard Him more as a good moral teacher. They very often have sympathy with Marxist views.
New Covenant Christians are not liberals in this sense. We accept the Bible as it stands and confidently affirm the Apostles' Creed. Therefore we are able to join in with millions of Christians across the centuries in declaring:
(The Apostles' Creed, Alternative Service Book, Church of England, 1980)
- 1. I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. [Eph.4:6; 1 Cor.8:6; Ps.86:10; 145;3; Rev.1:8; Heb.11:3; Gen.1:1-3; Neh.9:6; Ac.17:24-26]
- 2. I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord. [2 Pet.1:16-18; Jn.10:30,36-38; Col.1:15,17-19; 2:3,9; 1 Cor.8:6]
- 3. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. [Mt.1:18-25; Lk.2:8-11]
- 4. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. [Lk.23:13-25,32-34,44-46; 1 Cor.15:3-4; Isa.53:4-8]
- 5. He descended to the dead. [Mt.12:38-40; Ac.2:22-28; 1 Pet.3:18-19]
- 6. On the third day He rose again. [Mt.27:62-66; 28:1-9; Lk.24:44-47; Rom.1:2-4; 1 Cor.15:12-14,19-20]
- 7. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. [Jn.20:17; Lk.24:49-51; Heb.1:1-3; 9:24; 10:12-13; 12:2]
- 8. He will come again to judge the living and the dead. [Ac.1:10-11; Mt.24:27,36; 25:31-34,41,46; Jn.14:1.3; 1 Thes.4:15-18; 2 Pet.3:10-13]
- 9. I believe in the Holy Spirit [Jn.16:7-15; Ac.1:8-9; 1 Cor.6:19-20; Gal.5:22-23,25; Eph.4:30-32], the Universal Church [Eph.1:22-23; Gal.3:26-28; Eph.2:18-22; 1 Cor.12:13-14,27], the communion of saints [Ac.2:42-47; 1 Cor.10:16-17; 1 Jn.1:5-7; Gal.6:2,10], the forgiveness of sins [Mt.26:26-28; 1 Jn.4:9-10; Rom.5:6-10; 1 Jn.1:9; 2:1-2], the resurrection of the body [Jn.6:39-40,44; 5:28-29; 1 Cor.15:23,42-44,50-54; Phil.3:20-21], and the life everlasting [Jn.11:25; 3:14-16; 1 Jn.5:11-13; Jn.10:10; 1 Pet.1:3-5; Rev.21:1,3-4]. Amen.
Anyone who denies any of these truths may be said to be a "liberal". As a summary of the whole Apostles' Creed, we recommend that you read 1 Timothy 3:16, Philippians 2:5-11 and John 14:6.
True Christianity is the faith based on a relationship with God as a person (not as a "force" or "principle" as the New Age teaches). It involves a personal commitment to Jesus Christ. Christianity begins with God's initiative -- He steps in to make men and women right with Himself. Christians believe that, as perfect God and perfect man, Jesus Christ is the link to bring God and people together.
On this basis it is very doubtful that a "liberal Christian" is a Christian at all, save in name.
On the other hand, what is a "conservative" Christian? A "conservative" is one who "conserves" or "preserves" the Gospel taught in the Bible. In that respect, New Covenant Christians may be said to be "conservative". On the other hand, the term "conservative" has also been attached to various militant -- even fanatical -- groups known for their intolerance of those who do not agree with them, and with these New Covenant Christians would not wish to be associated, and would therefore repudiate the "conservative" label. Since neither "conservative" or "liberal" are Biblical terms but derive from politics, New Covenant Christians prefer not to use them at all.
We must always be careful with labels because they often contain more than the original word means. Today's liberals may be tomorrow's conservatives, as the Protestants found out when they broke away from the Catholic Church. There is even a group called liberal evangelicals whose aims are to state old truths in terms felt to be more consonant with modern thought. In some respects New Covenant Christians are sympathetic with this point-of-view for we believe that the fundamental truths of the Gospel can be stated in many ways, and not just in the language of first century Palestine. Yet we are not strictly speaking "evangelicals" either, even though we subscribe to a doctrine that is in many respects "evangelical".
I do not know what label history will eventually put on us (we have discussed such words as "orthodox" and "evangelical" in other publications). I hope that in our love for all people we may be said to be "liberal"; but as far as Biblical doctrine is concerned I think it would be fair to regard us as "conservative", though those using the same name would probably regard us as "liberal" and "unorthodox" in our belief about the scriptural canon, for example. We are "New Covenant Christian". I can think of no better label.
Also read this article.
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