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Saturday, October 13, 2007

Conservative vs Liberal

I generally view conservative not so much as what one believes, but how one approaches Scripture. First, one must believe it is inerrant and then that it is authoritative for faith and practice. Let me give you two examples of how I look at this.

I know some Baptists who believe in women preachers/pastors. Now I'm speaking from experience, so this doesn't apply across the board. Of those I've known personally (not speaking of anyone I've run across on the internet), they held women pastors based on cultural, progressive and even feminist ideas, without particular regard to what the Bible might have to say on the matter. On the other hand, I've known Pentecostals who believe in women preachers/pastors, and approach it in a completely different way. They based what they believed on what they think the Bible teaches and of which they think it gives examples.

Now, totally apart from what might be right or wrong on this matter, I would call those who hold the first approach "liberal", and those who hold the second approach "conservative". That's just an example of how I see it. Many people see "conservative" and "liberal" in regard to what they themselves believe -- and I guess perhaps we can't help approach it that way to some extent.

7 comments:

Brother Anon said...

This looks interesting. Frankly, I love watching Joyce Meyer on TV, and have read her book, Battlefield Of The Mind, which is an incredibly good book! That said, I would find it almost impossible to be 'pastored' by a female, but it's more a 'male thing', for me, than a scripturally based objection. I see no reason, scripturally, for a woman to be forbidden from evangelizing, as a "preacher", but, scripturally, I have some issues when it comes to a woman having authority over a man; it seems to muddy examples set forth in scripture. Women surely lead as many people to the Lord as men, so, in the sense of evangelizing, I see no reason, scripturally, to forbid them that function. I'll comment more later.

Jim1927 said...

Labels have changed over the years. I evolved from fundamentalist to conservative and even liberal by times, and yet my theology has remained the same throughout.

Through the 40's and 50's and even into the early 60's, liberal described one who denied the deity of Christ, and rejected the plenary, verbal inspiration of scripture. We fought against these things and we were labelled fundamentalists.

Fundamentalism came to include dispensationalism and related eschatological viewpoints. I then became a conservative.

I pastored in an association that included some liberals and then I was labelled a liberal by association. I never changed a thing.

Some found a way to change their theology without denying the fundamentals. They adopted the "wording" of Karl Barth and were labelled neo-orthodox.

Need I say that I dislike labels and find them somewhat disfunctional. It seems that we must jump the same hurdles over and over just to reach first base. So, the Christian experience advances very slowly and frustratingly in parallels and we somewhat stagnate along the way.

It all hinges on interpretation, not on Biblical interpretation, but the interpretation of labels. This intrigues liberals, befuddles evangelicals, divides fundamentalists. Where does that leave the truth, the gospel of Christ, and Christian growth?

Just some thoughts from an old man who wonders what has happened to the church of old.

Cheers,

Jim

Anonymous said...

Pentecostals believing in women preacheres because of women's lib/ politically correct stance; and Pentecostals believing in women preahers becaue of a supposed Biblical stance---ARE BOTH WRONG. It doesn't matter whether you embrace one or the other, neither can be classified as a truth or even as a half-truth, you will not find justification for women preachers in the Bible.
It is obvious that "brother anon" is a "liberal" because his comment displays that he has an Arminian belief in "leading people to the Lord" and allowing men and women that credit. Hoyt D. F. Sparks

R. L. Vaughn said...

Hoyt, I agree with your comment, and we could even change it to this and it will still be true: "Baptists believing in women preachers because of women's lib/ politically correct stance; and Baptists believing in women preachers because of a supposed Biblical stance---ARE BOTH WRONG."

But my original point, which I'm not sure any of you three agree with, is that a person is not conservative because they are right (or agree with me) or liberal because they are wrong (or disagree with me). In my opinion, conservative is approaching the Bible as authoritative and believing what it says, at least as far as God gives us understanding. To me, liberal is approaching the Bible as opinion and choosing to accept or reject that opinion based on notions outside the Bible.

Bro. Anon said...

Leading people to the Lord: I understand all big-word theology ("Arminian") with which this site is replete. (No offense, just an observation.)

Labels are dangerous, even those of 'conservative' and 'liberal'. These terms mean something different to one than to another. I use the terms, conservative and liberal, but use them conservatively...though another might say I that, in fact, I use them liberally; and to him I may. The terms are dependent on what their user means by them, and the meaning can change from one deacon to another in the same church.

r.l vaugh says, "In my opinion, conservative is approaching the Bible as authoritative and believing what it says, at least as far as God gives us understanding. To me, liberal is approaching the Bible as opinion and choosing to accept or reject that opinion based on notions outside the Bible." The use of "To me" and "in my opinion" proves my point, to some extent. r.l. vaughn prefaces HIS definition with the disclaimer "To me" and "In my opinion".

The "conservative" (conservative in MY opinion) would say, as Mr. Sparks has, that "It is obvious that "brother anon" is a "liberal" because his comment displays that he has an Arminian belief in "leading people to the Lord" and allowing men and women that credit." Now, none of you know what "I" mean by conservative, thus, the use of the word, by me, is moot.

By "leading people to the Lord" I was not intending to say that WE get credit for the salvation of others. I was simply saying, albeit loosely, that through women, as much as men, the Holy Spirit saves those who believe.

"For it pleased God, through the foolishness that was preached, to save those who believed." I don't read that this "foolishness" has been reserved just for men.

What about the hat-thing with women? We explain that away. Women teach our teen-aged boys in our churches; we say nothing. "Better not to marry...", we don't preach that. On, and on, and on.

Gentlemen, we don't know enough to know what "conservative" or "liberal" means.

Jim 1927 said it far better than my poor efforts could: " Where does that leave the truth, the gospel of Christ, and Christian growth?" We read, and read, and read, but the satisfaction from it all..."big-word theology"...remains elusive.

If I "err", I pray it be on the side of Truth...be I, to you, conservative, or liberal.

God bless

bro. anon said...

In my first sentence above I intended to say, "...I understand all THE big-word theology...." There is a lot about a lot that I do not understand, including in the areas of "big-word theology". I pray to know less and less, that I may know Him more.

R. L. Vaughn said...

Brother Anon:

1. No offense taken on your observation that this site is replete with "big-word theology". It would be nice if most of these big words could be thrown out and we could get back to basics. But on the other hand, I don't see that happening any time soon. I think definitions are important. So if "big-folks" are going to throw around those "big-words" (and they are), IMO, it behooves us little folks to try to find out what they mean when they do.

That is part of the reason; the other is that I am an "information junkie".

2. I think labels can be dangerous, but not that they are (inherently) dangerous. For example, when we pick up a bottle of medicine, a label is a good thing -- unless it is mislabeled, which is a dangerous thing. I assume that is probably what you are getting at.

Awhile back on Baptist name-tags, I wrote, “It seems that you and the one to whom you are speaking must have the same concept of the meaning of the names in order for them to be accurate and descriptive.” I probably could have added that we must at least know how the names are being used differently even if we don’t agree on the terms.

It would be nice in both religion and politics if we could ignore the denominators "conservative" and "liberal". But they do exist and people do use them. I think honest people have a concept in mind when they use the terms. In light of that, again IMO, it behooves us to try to understand what people mean when they use the terms. I hope my post gives some enlightenment on what lies behind my thinking on the matter. I think where it gets dangerous is the deliberate attempts to mislabel -- the device of using "conservative" or "liberal" as a bugaboo to scare Christians away from one another or voters from a particular candidate.

But your and Jim's observation is well-taken. Conservative and liberal have different meanings in different contexts and from different perspectives.