A good friend of mine recently wrote and asked me some questions about my thoughts on Liberalism and Conservatism. Here were his statments and you will find my response below…
Hello UNCLE Matt, (I’m not his uncle)
So how much more liberal is it out there in the Adventist Church? I know, big ambiguous question. I hear anywhere is more liberal than Michigan but that is just hear say. We are currently going to ____ _______ Church – Pastor John A. Lately he has been sort of offending ______, I haven’t been offended because I have been chasing Luke around during services lately, anyway. I guess he used the term “liberals” in his sermon and it wasn’t in a good way. I guess we are really liberal to put it one way. I just feel that if you are not liberal then you cut a lot of people “off” for having a different opinion or belief that is just that, different, maybe not even wrong. I have been thinking a lot about opinions lately. They seem to turn themselves into beliefs. So then who is right. There are about as many opinions about right and wrong as there are about interpretations of the Bible. Maybe you have some light to shed on the idea of opinions verses beliefs. Please don’t think about this as a loaded question or anything. I just don’t get a lot of chances to bounce questions like this off anyone thats all.
Here is my response:
Yeah bro, great question about being liberal. To me the question about being liberal or conservative needs to be clarified more. Are we talking about theology or methodology? If the prior, then it seems that we need to be conservative; if the later, then it seems to me that we need to be open to culture and context (which would translate to some as being liberal).
When we planted 24-SEVEN, we had to stop and ask ourselves, “What is tradition and what is Biblical (because they don’t always go hand in hand [i.e. you can only go up to your knees in the ocean on the Sabbath day]). After much contemplation, prayer and consideration we felt like musical trends, dress codes, preaching styles, settings for worship, behavior in church, etc. where all issues that were largely tainted by tradition. As a result we backed up and created “space” for these things to be impacted by culture.
It seems to me that Jesus was in a posture where He was able to impact the culture from the front back. Whereas now adays it seems that the church is a couple of decades behind the culture. Why should we not be the ones leading the charge as opposed to be accused of being so out of touch. Especially in the realm of good ol’ Adventism it seems that so many are almost an embarrassment to introduce to pre-Christians/unchurched people. Many es-dee-eh’s don’t even know how to communicate to unchurched folk and this seems to be in direct opposition to Jesus modus operandi.
Take a look at the accusations that Jesus spits with vengeance in the face of the Pharisees and ask yourself, “Where do I see the trends of the Pharisaic mentality in society today?” It seems to me, whether liberal or conservative, that the Pharisaic mentality is found in anyone that puts tradition over the Truth (yes Truth with a capitol T) of the Gospel, and/or puts their will over the will of the Father. Many people will never hear the Truth because we are to set on our rules, as though the law is our salvation. Too many of us are so focused on the Law (10 Commandments) and not on Jesus. If I recall correctly, Jesus was never walking around with cardboard signs in His nail scared hands telling weed smokers, porn stars, rock stars, and the like that they were headed to a place called hell. Rather He was out befriending those people, eating meals on the regular with them, sleeping over at their homes and attending their parties. And for the “religious people” of His day that would not be caught dead seen with a prostitute or rock star, He verbally slammed them and flipped their world upside down for making His Father’s house a temple for their own gratification. And I ask you, as I ask myself, where do I stand on the spectrum? Have I distanced myself so far from those that are in the world that God through His Spirit could never reach anyone through me because there is no one there that would be open to being reached? Am I too focused on making sure that people worship on a particular day, that I loose sight of the importance of who they are worshiping?
In an attempt to wrap this passionate email up, I would ask the question, “Was Jesus a liberal or conservative when it comes to tradition?” Obviously He was conservative when it comes to theology, seeing as He is the author of it all! But when it comes to tradition it seems to me that the answer is obvious. He was so liberal that He broke stereotypes and traditions! He talked to Samaritans (which Jews did not do) that were females (which Jew would never do publically) who were prostitutes (which Jews would stone)! In my estimation, it would be well for us to repent, get off our Laodicean back sides and make friends with someone steeped in sin. In so doing, I believe that we may catch a glimpse that we are really no better off than they are (maybe even worse because our own righteousness has become our legal and accepted drug of choice). And then when we see this person inter into a life changing, dynamic relationship with Jesus, we may just follow suit.
Keep the thoughts and questions coming. God is up to something huge and I love being a part of it!