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Lee Harmon – What is a Liberal Christian?

What is a Liberal Christian?

by Lee Harmon

I write, in my books and on my blog, as a liberal Christian. But what the heck is a liberal Christian?

Traditional Christians become suspicious of the word “liberal.” Atheists object to the word “Christian.” And the liberal Christian hath not where to lay his head. But the truth is, the title doesn’t mean what either side assumes.

The word “liberal” should not be interpreted in the political sense. It refers, instead, merely to a willingness to dismiss biblical inerrancy. Liberal Christians tend to preach tolerance of other religions, discarding the assumption that the Bible provides the only pathway to the divine. L.C.’s think the Bible is a magnificent literary creation, but not quite the “Word of God.” The Bible is, instead, the story of a nation growing up and learning about God. It is full of various differing opinions and ideas and motives and is a human attempt to comprehend the divine.

So, in reality, traditional Christians should be objecting to the misuse of the word Christian, and atheists should be objecting to the misuse of the word liberal, right? Sigh. We L.C.’s can’t catch a break.

But here’s where I must make a confession. I said “liberal” shouldn’t be interpreted in the political sense, yet it’s sometimes hard for me to understand how a person could be both a Christian and a Republican. That is because of my complete and utter devotion to Christ.

Is your head spinning yet? How did liberal Christians get so screwed up? Let me explain.

A liberal Christian simply views Jesus differently than traditional Christians do. Our pluralism tends to decrease our trust in any particular life-after-death scenario, which results in backing away from any sort of afterlife-oriented religion. To L.C.’s, focusing on heaven or hell is completely missing the point of Jesus.

“Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” We L.C.’s think this prayer of Jesus is begging God to bring his kingdom down to earth; not rescue us up to heaven. We are more fascinated by the Historical Jesus quest, learning about the man who lived and died 2,000 years ago, than we are by the beliefs which evolved after his death. Jesus, we argue, was a passionate defender of a global dream; a dream which he felt certain held God’s approval. As would be normal in his setting, Jesus wrapped his humanitarian dream for the world in religious terms, calling it the Kingdom of God. He was making the claim that it was high time we humans took seriously the words of the prophets about a coming world where God reigned as king, and made it happen. In this dream world, all people would be equal, all people would be fed, all people would be respected.

So how do we make it happen? This is where we come back to the word “liberal,” with a confession that it probably describes L.C.’s more than we admit. There exists a great deal of controversy among Christians about gay rights and the gay lifestyle—it’s sort of the topic of the age—so I’ll use this example just to highlight liberal Christian thinking.

Yes, the Bible at least twice speaks out against homosexuality—in the Holiness Code of Leviticus, and in the letter of Paul to the Romans. But so what? Shouldn’t we be focusing more on Jesus than on a New Testament preacher who couldn’t seem to let go of a hurtful old law? How do we possibly inaugurate the new age Jesus wanted if we don’t continue to grow? Oops, there I go again, infuriating both the Christians and the atheists.

But at least now you know who I really am, in all my opinionated flaws!

Bible scholar and first-century historian Lee Harmon has written books about Revelation and John’s Gospel, and blogs at The Dubious Disciple.

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Genre – Religion / Christianity

Rating – G

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Website http://www.dubiousdisciple.com/

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