The ‘L’ Word


I haven’t heard this one used for so long that I thought maybe we had grown up and moved on, but then it popped up again in conversation yesterday.

“I was going to go to XYZ Bible College, but a friend told me they were liberal…’


What exactly does that mean?…

Well there is a fairly technical meaning in relation to theology (which I won’t try to unpack here) and then there is the ‘people aren’t as conservative as me on issues of theology I deem important’ meaning.

This was the one in question.

We probably need to be clear that ‘liberal’ really ought not be applied to a Bible College that doesn’t preach a party line, or that allows people to examine the evidence and arrive at their own conclusions. That is not ‘liberal’. That is good learning practice. Nor is it ‘liberal’ to employ lecturers who don’t all hold the same theological convictions on all issues – as if that were even possible…

But clearly ‘liberal’ is still out there and accompanied by its old friend ‘fear’. If you go to a liberal college then chances are you will end up believing that Jospeh Smith died for our sins and then married a re-incarnation of the virgin Mary… Its the slippery slope… Next you’ll be wearing lipstick and going to movies…


During my time leading Forge we mixed with all varieties of denominations and I discovered that those I once labelled ‘liberal’ (yes I was a liberal labeller for a while…) were actually people who took the Bible seriously, but arrived at different conclusions to me. On some issues they were actually more conservative, but then we only use liberal to biff people on our pet issues.

So maybe next time you hear the word ‘liberal’ used against someone ask what’s meant by it. Ask which definition of ‘liberal’ is being employed and ask what role fear plays in the equation.

There is a place for scrutinising theology and there is a liberalism that is destructive to genuine biblical theology, but there is also narrow minded, red necked, fear mongering that only knows one word to pin on those with whom there is either disagreement or concern.

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