There is in the Lord’s church a growing number of individuals who are seeking to change the practices that we find in the scriptures to conform to a more denominational perspective. These are departing from the teaching that is found in the Bible regarding salvation, worship, the church, and Christian living. It is good for Christians to be concerned about these things. We should not have any practices that are not authorized by the scriptures (2 John 9). We should seek to do all things according to the authority of God as revealed in His word (Colossians 3:17). We should “speak as the oracles of God” (1 Peter 4:11). It is also the responsibility of the local eldership to “watch” over the flock to ensure that wolves are not coming in to steal the sheep (Acts 20:28-31). I want to go on record as being opposed to liberalism. I am opposed to any inventions of man that are inserted into God’s order of things, whether it be taking away from the plan of salvation or adding to the worship in a way that is unscriptural or teaching false doctrine regarding the place of the church in the scheme of redemption-I am directly 100% vehemently opposed to liberalism!!! There are some, however, who point and cry “liberalism” where there is no liberalism. I am equally opposed to this. In order to help us understand what liberalism is not, I thought I would write a few words about this.
First, liberalism IS NOT singing new songs or singing songs that are not in the book. I have never been to a new congregation in which I did not sing some new songs. Most of these new songs were in a book, however, some were not. In the case where the songs are not in a book, the song leader would put the words on an overhead projector. We did this at the church of Christ for the deaf so that the deaf could look up and see the words and the song leader at the same time. When you don’t have the words in a book, you use the best expedient possible to make sure that everyone gets the words because you can’t teach or admonish WITHOUT words (Ephesians 5:19, Colossians 3:16). Liberalism IS removing the words so that one is humming or making some other kind of noise.
Second, liberalism IS NOT using illustrations to help people understand the message better. If, when we preached, every word had to be scripture, there would be no preaching, it would just be reading the Bible. Jesus used illustrations from every day life to help the disciples understand His teaching. He used the sea, mountains, stones, fish, boats, farming, and the temple itself to illustrate many of the things that he was talking about. He left us an example that we can use illustrations from every day life as well to teach a message. Liberalism IS changing the message that Jesus gave so that we leave out necessary parts of the gospel such as the teaching about hell, baptism, faithfulness, attendance, modesty, the church, or marriage and divorce (1 Peter 4:11).
Third, liberalism IS NOT doing some things similar to the way denominations do things. Just because a denomination is doing something does not of necessity imply that we may not do it. Some people act like if a denomination is doing it, then we simply cannot do it regardless if it is scriptural or not. Denominations have buildings. Denominations have song books. Denominations have pews, baptisteries, pulpits, lights, and sound systems. Are these things wrong merely because the denominations have them? Of course not. Liberalism IS doing things like the denominations for the SOLE PURPOSE of imitating the denominations to be popular (1 Samuel 8:5-7).
It is beautiful that God has given us liberty in Christ to do many different things and make decisions on our own in matters of opinion and still be pleasing to Him. I, for one, am thankful that God has given us latitude in our lives in so many things. However, just because we have freedom does not necessarily mean that we MAY exercise it. In fact, the Bible teaches that if our freedom causes another person to sin, we should not use it (1 Corinthians 8, 9, 10). Having this in mind, I want to pass along some words of wisdom that were given to me by another many years ago. When hiring a school bus driver, you don’t hire a person who takes chances. You want someone who drives safely and stays as far away from danger as possible. In living my life as a Christian, I want to stay as far away from sin as possible. On the other hand, in my zeal to avoid sin, I may not make laws that God has not made and I must respect each person’s Christian liberty.
There are so many problems that exist within the church without having to create new ones. Let’s respect God’s wishes in regard both to what he has authorized and what he left in the area of Christian liberty. As the old restoration saying goes, “In matters of faith, unity; in matters of opinion, liberty; in all things, charity” and as the Bible says, “knowledge puffs up, but love edifies” (1 Corinthians 8:1).