In the evangelical church it’s becoming increasingly popular to go ‘liberal,’ and frequently the reason given is that a greater openness and willingness to ‘accept’ people no matter what their lifestyle will ultimately enhance the churches standing in the world, make her more attractive and people will come flocking to it – I think of the present arguments going on around the gay debate (see: Steve Chalke “I’m worried that the noise of the arguments around gay marriage will cloud and confuse the real question for the Church, which is about the nature of inclusion.” See also: Albert Mohler, and Thinking Christian, and The Gay Challenge).
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Liberalism has been tried and tested in the past and has always been found wanting – it was largely responsible for the demise of the historic churches/denominations, and as far as I am aware there has never been a revival in a liberal church without a radical return to the Word.
The church is not called to be popular or the same as the world in which it exists. It is called to be and bring the prophetic voice of the gospel, demonstrating and proclaiming God’s love for fallen humanity while at the same time challenging the world that it is in the wrong with a most holy and righteous God and therefore needs saving – not feeling better about itself.
The problem with the new-evangelical liberal gospel is that there seems to be less and less that we need to be saved from, and ultimately it moves towards the universal salvation of all, no matter what, because we don’t want to and can’t leave anybody out because that wouldn’t be loving wouldn’t it.
With the redefining of what the Bible teaches in regard to homosexuality comes a redefining of the doctrine of sin, and as that is further redefined so also goes the doctrine of salvation, and Jesus becomes nothing more than a very nice and easy going person who just ‘accepts’ one and all no matter what and so it makes his death superfluous.
And there is a problem word ‘accept’. It is common parlance that Jesus accepts everyone. The answer is no he doesn’t. He reaches out to us, even ‘entertains’ us – in other words he was willing to spend time with sinners, eating and drinking with them, sharing with and teaching them, even healing them, much to the disgust of the religious leaders of his day, but that is not the same as acceptance, or inclusion. Jesus challenged peoples thinking and lifestyles and called them to repentance and trust in him, some did, others turned away.
If we are to recover our confidence in the gospel, we need to recover our understanding of how far we have fallen, only then will we realise and need the full power of the Good News of Jesus Christ, resulting in powerful demonstrations of his love, mercy and grace in salvation that produces radical stories of changed lives, where having been forgiven we die to temptation and sin in what ever form it comes, and live in newness of life.