What is liberal Christian theology?


Clarify Share Report Asked July 01 2013 Mini Anonymous (via GotQuestions)

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Shea S. Michael Houdmann Supporter Got Questions Ministries
In liberal Christian teaching, man's reason is stressed and is treated as the final authority. Liberal theologians seek to reconcile Christianity with secular science and modern thinking. In doing ...

July 01 2013 9 responses Vote Up Share Report

Closeup Jennifer Rothnie Supporter Housewife, Artist, Perpetually Curious
'Liberal Christian Theology' is not a monolithic system of belief. The term can apply to many different movements, ideas, and beliefs related to Christian Biblical interpretation or social activity. [Despite the term 'liberal,' it isn't directly related to liberal politics either.]

One uniting factor in Liberal Christian Theology is that proponents use an often allegorical interpretation of scripture that treats the text not as inerrant or authoritative, but simply as a collection of man's impressions of God throughout time as filtered the through their own cultural customs. Interpretation doesn't generally start with the basis of scripture itself but filters scripture through modern philosophical ideas, popular scientific assumptions, and sometimes social activism.

“Liberal theology is defined by its openness to the verdicts of modern intellectual inquiry, especially the natural and social sciences; its commitment to the authority of individual reason and experience…and its commitment to make Christianity credible and socially relevant to modern people.” (Gary Dorrien, The Making of American Liberal Theology: ImaginingProgressive Religion 1805-1900, p. xxiii.)

From this basis, there can be an extreme range in views.

At one end, Scripture is treated as little more than an allegory or set of spiritual morals. For example, the miracles of Christ would not be viewed as historic accounts of actual events, but rather as stylistic figurative stories meant to show the power of God or present moral lessons. Other core tenets of the Christian faith, such as the virgin birth of Christ, the Ressurection, the reality of a future judgment, and the inerrancy of scripture as originally written are also rejected under this view.

Many liberal theologians fall into this camp. This method of interpretation, since the 20th century, has a lot of crossover with 'the Social Gospel' - the idea that the primary purpose of scripture and the gospel is not to spread the good news of salvation through Christ alone, but to apply Christian morals to current social problems. Since this method of liberal interpretation combined with social activism, generally, has led to the support of popular leftist and progressive causes, liberal Christian theology is often seen by others as primarily liberal in politics as well.

Due to the prevalence of this movement, a countermovement (fundamentalism) was launched in the early 20th century. Fundamentalism rejected the more extreme ideas advocated by liberal Christian theology and stressed the importance of these basics:

- The inerrancy of scripture as originally written
- The literal history of Biblical narratives, such as the life of Christ, creation, and the history of the Israelites
- The virgin birth of Christ
- The Ressurection and second coming of Christ
- The substitutionary atonement of Christ on the cross for our sins

Yet not all Liberal Christian theologians and groups reject the reality of Christ, His miracles, and other tenants of the faith. Rather, they approach scripture from the outside in - filtering it through science, culture, and other factors to arrive at an interpretation. In this way, there is a lot of crossover between modern liberal Christian theologians and modern fundamentalist theologians, as all alike believe it is important to approach scripture within its context, history, and literary style. The main difference is the importance scripture itself is given in this analysis. For a fundamentalist interpreter, scripture would be the starting point, then cross-referencing with other scripture, and then study would continue to see if culture, science, reason, history, or other factors might reasonably affect the interpretation. For the usual liberal interpreter, scripture would take a lesser role and outside factors given precedence if there was conflict. Contemporary culture would also be taken into consideration in trying to make a scripture more relevant to the present.

July 13 2017 2 responses Vote Up Share Report

Mini Edwin Danny Reaid
Liberal Christianity is the movement away from traditional orthodoxy and an attempt to harmonize Biblical teachings with science and humanism in short the secular world. The result is often a denial of essential Biblical Doctrines; Sola Scriptura--Scripture alone (1 Corinthians 4:6); Sola Christus--Christ alone (John 14:6); Sola Gratia--Grace alone (Romans 9:15-16); Sola Fide--Faith alone (Romans 5:1); Soli Deo Gloria--the Glory of God alone (1 Peter 2:24) (Isaiah 43:7). Liberal Christianity does not believe what the Bible says - Final Authority.

The clear objective as seen in our secular world is to make (Man) the “object” not (God). There is a desire to be inclusive “Law of Attraction”. Scripture says, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. (Matthew 7:15). But a person cannot “beware” unless they are first “aware” and history has the tendency to repeat itself unless we are aware. The goal of liberal theology is to make the ‘gospel message’ palatable and sellable to a secular world by placing salvation in the hands of man vice God. However, we should be: “Looking unto Jesus (the author and finisher of [our] faith); who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God”. (Hebrews 12:2, KJV)

Salvation is of God beginning to end, but liberal theology compromises the gospel with a progressive and pragmatic agenda to be inclusive. One of the four basic laws of logic “The Law of Non-Contradiction” states two things cannot both be true within the same time and within the same space for it is either “A” or “Non-A” not both. They often promote parallel views in order to be inclusive, but one must remember that to be truly parallel “then parallels never meet even in eternity”.

It is all about God, “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, [they] are spirit, and [they] are life. But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him. And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father. From that [time] many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. (John 6:63, KJV). So, we see that when Jesus began to teach the (hard truths) of the gospel, “many of his disciples turned away and no longer followed him”. Thiere is an “Absolute Truth” and liberal theology fear and farsake “hard truths” because they are not appealing to a secular society; therefore, they tell them the things their “itchy ears” desire to hear - compromise can be suttlle. Charles Spurgeon, “ A lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth can put it’s boots on”.

January 03 2018 2 responses Vote Up Share Report

Mini James Kraft 74 year old retired pipeline worker
Liberal theology says, their is more than one way to be saved. Jesus said, I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the father but by me. Liberal theology says Jesus is not the only way.

That there are many ways to be saved, and Christianity is only one way. That all religions are the same. Actually, all religions are the same because Christianity is the only one that is not a religion. All religions say you have to do something to be saved. Christianity is believing what Jesus did for us is salvation and a free gift from God.

Religion is man reaching up to God to save himself, and Christianity is God reaching down to man through Jesus for salvation by grace.

Liberal theology teaches we are saved by works instead of grace. That we can save ourselves if we just work hard enough and become righteous in our selves. 

Jesus is the narrow way, because there is no other way. The broad road says there are other ways. All religions believe that Jesus died in vain, and man can save himself by keeping the law and doing good works. The way that seems right to men, but is the way to spiritual death.

John 6:47 Verily, verily I say unto you, he that believeth on me HATH ETERNAL LIFE. 

It is not God's fault that we do not have eternal life. It is our fault because we will not believe what He said. He made it plain and simple, but until we believe it we do not have eternal life. If you have eternal life, it is because you have believed. But men do not want to believe God, they want to merit their own salvation by what they do. 

So men make up other ways of salvation. Liberal theology. Something other than what Jesus said. Jesus said He is the narrow way. But Jesus said many would try to climb up some other way. False religion. If we just obey God he will accept us on our own merit. False religion. Liberal theology.

July 08 2018 1 response Vote Up Share Report

Mini David Sullivan
Liberal theologians, for the most part, do not believe that a loving god would let people suffer. 

John 14:6 (NKJV)

"Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me."

July 18 2017 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

Data Vicki Hale
I think it's hard to pin down an exact definition of "liberal theology" because it is a very broad topic.

Not all "liberal" theologians deny the resurrection or the virgin birth.

"God-breathed" doesn't mean God-dictated. For most "liberal" theologians, it means the text is divinely inspired. God didn't physically *write* the Bible; humans did.

Liberal theologies don't necessarily see source criticism, historical-critical method, etc. As a threat to their own faith. (I attended a liberal, Presbyterian college, was taught the Bible in this way, and I am still a believer. I'm just not a fundamentalist or a literalist.)

Supernatural elements (and even the supernatural "gifts") might not be accepted as uncritically as they are in some churches, but many "liberal" congregations are open to exploring these ideas. New studies by Craig Keener (among others) have pointed to a more open acceptance of the miraculous.

Not everyone accepts the concept of "total depravity." Some have suggested the idea of "sufficient depravity." There is ground for discussion here. 

Not all liberal (or even conservative) churches embrace the Calvinist view. Many Wesleyan churches embrace the Wesleyan Quadrilateral - that the four main components of the Christian faith include scripture, tradition, reason and experience).

An excellent article for understanding liberal theology can be found here as well:


In addition, I would recommend any of the blogs on Patheos Progressive Christian channel, so you can read what a variety "liberal" Christians actually have to say.

An excellent book on the subject of a "liberal" approach to the scripture is The Blue Parakeet, by Scot McKnight. I would also recommend the Episcocrat blog for its critique of inerrancy theory:


July 13 2017 4 responses Vote Up Share Report

Mini dale dorsett
This is my take, religion forms gods out of God in the image of man and are superficial, often void of salvation. After studying many religions I recognized most had some good, but that Christianity is not a religion but the way of life in God. God literally responded to my statement I said in prayer - loud as if in front of me He said, "Religion is man's way of reaching God and Christianity is God's way of reaching man. Opposites! The only problem I have with My people is when they are religious."

In a thorough study of acronyms and synonyms of 'religion' all the Bible but in 2 verses condemned religion - picturing it overall as one of God's worst enemies taking people to hell. "Let your religion not be in vain" and "Pure religion and undefiled---". I felt to look at the Greek English Bible. It said the same translation. BUT I NOTICED the Greek characters were very different. I went to a renouned biblical Greek scholar. He said the proper translation is not 'religion' but 'manner or way of life". The Bible unanimously condemns religion as God defines it in the Bible, His written Word through men.

God wants relationship with Him, not man made religions. Jesus said something that shook me at the time, Matthew 7:21-23 says, 21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’" 

I was shocked until I saw exactly what Jesus said and why. "GOD NEVER KNEW THEM". How are you known of God? Go to church? NO. Practice all the right things and do your best? No, By faith you are saved not of works lest any man boast.”

How can a person be known of God? Jesus told Nicodemus, "You MUST BE born again to enter Heaven.” Nick though it absurd and was puzzled. Jesus said, "You MUST BE BORN OF SPIRIT NOT FLESH." So what does that mean? When a person is truly saved vs. Just a feeling or experience, where God tried to reach you, then you humble yourself and are willing to repent of wrong and desire God save you.(not of works so you can not boast of saving yourself). 

Only the perfect God could come as a perfect second Adam and defeat Satan and free mankind. So when we realize Jesus is Savior and really want Him as Savior and Lord, we humble ourselves and pray. Then God's Holy Spirit, Who was on us convicting us, comes inside of us to DWELL as the paracletos/Helper. He cleans house in our eternal spirit man and recreates/born again our spirit. 

We always have had two minds that of flesh and that of eternal spirit the real us. The two war often - flesh vs born again spirit - until we renew our carnal physical mind to God's Word and the two walk in harmony. 

"Depart I never KNEW YOU" is the clue to why Jesus rejected them. They knew God, His Word, His ways but never submitted to His Lordship and His Salvation/Savior Jesus and had their spirits born again - Heaven ready. The did all by traditions, feelings, and works. Works follow relationship for value not visa versa. In simplicity they may have know God but God did not have His Spirit in them to KNOW THEM.

February 02 2021 3 responses Vote Up Share Report

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