A Question I Was Asked:

"Am I a Liberal Christian?"

The Actual Question:

You and most evangelical Christians put a firm marker between what you call "liberal Christians," or "liberal Christianity," and evangelical or "Bible-believing" Christianity. I have read your comments with interest and respect but how would you rate where I stand? I believe that there are probably other ways to God rather than through Christ and I believe that the Holy Spirit can work across religious divides. Yes, I believe that Christ was divine but I wonder about others too. Ever read about Confucius? Might he not have been another 'Christ' of another age and another time?

Does all of this make me a Liberal Christian? I suspect that it does - and some southern baptists would already have me in Hell - but I would appreciate your input.

UK Apologetics Reply:

Okay, in the first place I will tackle the question of Confucius, then work backwards from there.

There is no doubt that Confucius, living in the China of around 500BC, was a most amazing man. He clearly believed in One Almighty God, and taught high standards of personal behaviour including a high regard for the needs of others. It is Confucius who is first believed to have expressed the principle, "Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself" which does seem somewhat Christ-like in scope. He obviously taught a belief in an afterlife in Heaven and held a very strong family-based ethic of life. Moreover, Confucius gathered (whether by design or accident), a group of disciples around himself later in his life. The great problem which we now have is that there is not a single document in existence which we can say was personally authored by Confucius. We have the books of Li, but this is a later attempt to sum up his moral, philosophical and religious teachings and it is just impossible to know how much might have got added to this later on. For example, the Li teaches the need to sacrifice to ancestors and also teaches reverence for lower gods beneath the great God (both unbiblical concepts), yet did that part originate in Confucius, or in paganism? To be frank, we just don't know! I am told that the Chinese ancient books do a pretty good job of summing up the ethics and beliefs of Confucius, but the later Confucianism was broader, with other things getting tagged on.

There is no doubt that the influence of this man, almost entirely a good influence, turned Chinese society upside down. But Confucius never claimed divinity for himself. He is alleged to have said, 'The sage does not worry about men not knowing him, he worries about knowing men.'

Confucius was not divine but he could possibly have been used to some extent by God. We should never run away with the idea that God only raised up His true servants within the lineage of Israel. The godly men of Israel are especially important because of the lineage which would lead to the birth of Christ and also because Israel were to be a model nation among the Gentiles, but not a single word in the Holy Bible suggests that God has never raised up certain true servants in other countries at various times of His choosing. So it is possible - though very far from certain - that Confucius could have been a true servant of God placed among the Chinese.

But regarding the credentials of the Christ, Paul is very clear:

1Timothy 2:5: For God is one, and there is one Mediator of God and of men, the Man Christ Jesus,
6. who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.

There is no reason to doubt the words of Paul the Apostle: Christ alone is the Saviour of Mankind. One might spend many hours considering the lives of those who came to be worshiped as 'divine,' and one will find dreadful inconsistencies and contradictions - that is not so with the Lord Jesus Christ.

But now we need to get back to the broader question which is being asked:

We reject liberal Christianity because it is compromised, yes, and very sadly so. Our questioner may believe that Christ was divine, but the greater part of liberal Christianity has never accepted this at all, Jesus is reduced to being a great moral teacher, and His sacrifice is reduced to being, "an example of the self-sacrifice which ultimately makes people happiest and sets the best example" (as one liberal wrote). So His sacrifice is only seen as being romantically and poetically necessary, yet the true Christian, living and walking with the risen Christ, knows that Christ's work upon the cross was ontologically necessary for his salvation, and not only for his, but for the redemption of all believers. So we really must understand that a massive gulf separates liberal Christianity from true Christianity.

So there is only One Christ, and salvation is only found in Him - compromise is impossible here. But can the Holy Spirit work across religious divides? That is a much harder question to answer, however, for certain, God may - and indeed does - call out people from different cultures, and even from different religions; He will call them, He will draw them with His Spirit, and eventually, we believe, they will come to know the true Lord Jesus, therefore, that would mean that the Holy Spirit could indeed work across religious divides; however, the Holy Spirit will only glorify Christ - never false gods. Consult John 16:7-14.

Without question God will call people from every corner of the world, so that is bound to include every culture. There is no doubt here that some of the missionaries made great mistakes, even though sincere; they often moved forward on the assumption that you must make people dress and behave like westerners before you can bring them to Christ. I don't know where they got that rather silly idea from but there you go. But I have to say that there are very serious problems with any disciple of Christ feeling that there were 'probably other Christs' - Christ pointed out to Peter that his acceptance that Christ was "the Son of the Living God" was granted to Him by God alone (see Matthew 16:15-17), God does not grant us knowledge which points to a multiplicity of Christs, but only to the One.

I'm afraid that the evidence of your question is that you are clearly - at the present moment - a liberal Christian, but this might be because you are only just coming to the Faith and you have initially been exposed to some liberal influences. My advice would be to launch into some serious Bible study and familiarize yourself with some of the great Christian writers, people like Richard Baxter, C.S. Lewis and Martyn Lloyd-Jones.
Robin A. Brace. November 25th 2009.