Nothing — 30 March 2016
Dialog with a “Liberal Christian”

Below is a conversation I had with a person who self-identifies as a Christian, but who follows what is commonly labeled “Liberal (or Progressive) Christianity.” This theology looks at salvation as a social/material state, rather than a spiritual transformation. I would never put myself in the position to judge another person’s salvation, but the basic beliefs associated with this type of theology does not represent biblical Christianity, and does not easily lend itself to personal faith in Christ. Essentially what it represents is Marxism wrapped in Christian vocabulary.

This is not meant, in any way, to imply that people holding these beliefs are not sincere, or that they are not Christians. There are those who hybridize these theologically liberal beliefs with personal faith in Christ. That said, there are many others who really do believe that salvation is associated with material circumstances, rather than faith in Christ. Regardless, the theological beliefs themselves, at the very least, de-emphasize what the Bible teaches about salvation, and at worst, dismiss it out of hand.

As it happens, this conversation took place on a social media platform with someone I know and consider a friend. As such, I have taken out, or changed, all identifying information so that only the content of the dialog itself is present.

The genesis of this conversation was the posting of an article that I responded to. You can read the article yourself at http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/162254. Before I get into the conversation, though, I want to make a couple of observations.

First, I want to make it very clear that the purpose and focus in my comments is primarily spiritual, not political. For those who think in political terms first, this may be a little hard to grasp. For sure, the topic of this discussion is political in nature, but my comments are meant to focus on big picture concepts based on a biblical perspective – not to promote a political ideology. I, of course, am interested in politics and do have political views. That said, my interest, even in politics, is based on my interest in expressing a biblical worldview, and any political policies I might lean toward are informed by that, not by any overtly political motivation.

An important thing to keep in mind while reading this is that Liberal Christianity is political first, and spiritual concepts are filtered through a political lens. Evangelical Christianity, on the other hand, is spiritual first, and political concepts are filtered through a spiritual lens.

One last note: I have made a few spelling corrections in Mike’s comments. It seems that he was making some of his responses from a mobile device which is sometimes difficult to control – especially when passionately trying to string thoughts together.

With that explanation, we move now into the conversation. I began the dialog by commenting on the article from the link above.

Freddy Davis
Using this kind of generalization to paint people who are Republicans and/or believe that the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is racist is quite pathetic – especially when you look at the historical bigotry and corruption on the Democrat side (which is not even mentioned). George Wallace was a Democrat. William Fullbright was a Democrat (and mentor of Bill Clinton and Al Gore). Robert Byrd (KKK leader) was a Democrat. It was the Democrats which were the party of slavery, black codes, Jim Crow, and the KKK. And now, they have turned into the party of atheistic socialism, appeasement and chaos in foreign policy, and liars to the American people. Attempting to rewrite history to paint Republicans as racists is so disingenuous. The article takes things done by Democrats and speaks as if it was the Republicans who did them. The matters mentioned in the article also evaluate Republican values through a worldview lens which eliminates any kind of context and distorts the truth. This article is nothing but an untruthful hit piece.

Mike
And how has the republican party gained power in the south. By taking the old democratic party’s appeal to racists. If you cannot see that Nixon’s southern strategy was for that purpose then it is pointless to argue. I was an adult when this happened and can tell you that every good racist, which most at the time, knew exactly what Nixon meant when he, and later Reagan, talked about new federalism and states rights. Not nec(essarily) that either Nixon or Reagan were personally racist, but they, and the republican party were willing to placate southern racism with those messages that southerners knew meant that Republicans would do what they could to stop or slow down the advancement of civil right(s). And do remember that it was the democratic party that was the party of civil rights. As a personal note, I remember the talk among southerners about how Nixon would put blacks back in their place.

Freddy Davis
First, the party of Civil Rights was not the Democrat party. That would have been the Republicans. Check the votes. I grew up in the South and am well aware of much of the racism that existed back in the day. But racism was/is not limited to the South – and it is not limited to the Republican party. The generalization in that article is simply wrong. Along with that, the anti-Christian bigotry expressed in the Democrat party is no less abhorrent than racism. If the Post is going to rag on one party for their sins, they need to equally rag the other for theirs. There were/are pockets of racism everywhere, but what was characteristic of the 50s cannot be generalized to today – and personal anecdotes do not make the case. If you want to claim that the Republicans are racists, where are the corresponding comments about Democrats being liars and anti-Christian bigots? I think both are untrue in a generalized manner, but hounding on one and not the other is simply wrong.

Mike
Of course racism isn’t limited to the south, but that has nothing to do with the point – Republicans took the south by placating racism. As far as the Republican party being the party of civil rights–come on—that was dead by 1876 when the Republicans left the freed blacks to the dubious mercies of the South (and democrats). I’m talking about the civil rights era of the 60s – the Republicans were hardly anywhere to be seen, except in opposition to it.

Freddy Davis
You seem to be totally missing my point. The article is a hit piece with half truths and an attack on only one point of view. The other equally evil point of view is totally ignored. The wrongs of one side in past history does not justify the wrongs on the other side in the present. You would be very hard pressed to find overt racism in today’s Republican party. You may find it in pockets of supporters, but it is, literally, nowhere to be found in the party itself. So, what is the point of the article? Obviously, all the heat and light being generated now has to do with politics, so we speak of these issues based on the political contests of today. But the problems in the country express themselves well beyond politics – and the problem and solution is not nearly as much political as it is spiritual/moral. The very foundation of the policies of the various political parties is based on worldview presuppositions which come from somewhere. As it turns out, the worldview foundation of socialism/progressivism (today’s D party) is Naturalism – which is atheistic. Since Naturalism does not acknowledge an absolute moral standard, it operates based on an ends justify the means philosophy. I, personally, cannot accept that. The rule of law, the priority of the individual, the principle of original intent in interpreting the Constitution, the value of human life, and all the other founding principles of our republic, are all based on biblical values which, while not perfectly followed by fallen human beings, do represent an ideal which is just and right – as opposed to socialist values which do not value those things. Where is the criticism of the support of anarchy (the Occupy Movement, BLM [Black Lives Matter], etc.) by the Democrats, or the willingness to flat out lie (about many issues related to Obamacare, about deals being made with Iran and Russia, and on and on), or the legalized thievery of the Federal Government (redistribution policies), or the many unlawful executive actions of the President, and on and on I could go. The article uses half truths to make generalizations which simply are not true, in order to further one particular political point of view. It is, ultimately, illegitimate.

Mike
You would not find racism in the Republican party? That’s a joke. What party are you referring to, the party that tries to restrict voting rights, etc – That party. The Republican party is every bit as secular as the Democrats, and, I admit, they are–the republicans are just smart enough to distract middle-class American(s) from the fact that since Reagan the middle-class has shrunk under their policies. They are no more committed to your spiritual renewal than a flock of pigeons. It is all talk, they can’t change it anyway, but they will talk about it so people won’t notice that their economic policies favor the rich. The Democratic party is not “socialist” and policies to keep this country from continuing to become controlled by a few, is not socialist. You apparently don’t know the difference between Communism and socialism. Ever heard of “Christian Socialism,” or do (you) just dismiss them out of hand? I know you think you have all righteousness on your side–what (about) the Jesus who said when you help the poor, the prisoners, the outcasts–not the rich who don’t need it–you are dealing with me? What about the Jesus who included the outcast. Why was he born in a miserable stable instead of a palace? You leave all that out. “Socialism” does indeed value human well-being, and does not, by any means, nec(essarily) discount God. Again, you confuse Socialism with Communism. And the Democrats have made deals with Iran and Russia, and of course the Republican controlled congress had nothing to do with that, did they? “Secret deals” is pure Republican propaganda.

Freddy Davis
* The voting rights argument is a farce. It is simply not true that Republicans try to restrict voting rights. Having honest rolls and making sure people who vote have the right to vote in order to keep the voting fair is a legitimate concern. On the other hand, the Ds are doing everything they can to allow people to vote who do not have the right to do so.
* No one ever said anything about secular. I only dealt with the presuppositions underlying the partys’ platforms. You either misread or misunderstood what I wrote.
* Not true about the shrinking middle class. It is socialist policies that cause that (high taxes, high debt, restrictive bureaucratic rules on business, etc.). Socialist policies kill economic expansion – every time.
* I never said anyone was committed to spiritual renewal. I said the problems in the culture are spiritual/moral, and the solutions to the problems will only come from that arena.
* The “favoring the rich” argument is also bogus. What poor person ever created a job? Kill the rich and you kill the economy. Also, free market capitalism is the only system in the history of the world that has fostered increased liberty and has given the poor the means and opportunity to raise their standard of living. Marxist ideas (Socialism/Communism), everywhere in the world they have ever been tried has led to oppression and poverty (except for the few at the top who control the bureaucracy). I do know the difference between Communism and Socialism, and they are both based on the exact same naturalistic foundation.
* Your illustration about Jesus is also not correct. Jesus’ goal for humanity is not material, it is spiritual (that people may come to know God and gain eternal life). Those who do, have their life changed by God. As a result of the life change, believers behave differently toward the poor. Those actions are an expression of a changed life, not the goal of life – and that (Jesus’ approach) was particularly not a political prescription. I would think you would have a better grasp of that concept.
* Putting the word Christian in front of the word Socialist does not make it Christian. Socialism, no matter its form, is designed for elite bureaucrats to legally steal the money of the earners and redistribute it to who they want, for the purposes that suit their goals. That is not a Christian concept. That in no way captures the meaning of Christian charity.

Mike
I cannot control this machine. [Reference to spelling mistakes – that have mostly been corrected] I do love the bit about the “occupy” movement. God forbid the poor should stand up and protest the takeover (of) our country by the obscene 1%. In a way you prove my point. Only people who look like us and behave as we think they should. Please don’t let the poor (who have no real power to be heard except through protest) think they should have a say in the running of our country, certainly not get cranky about it. Pure republicanism.

Freddy Davis
If you think that the people who supported and participated in the Occupy Movement were the 99% …. It was rich leftists and trade union money that supported all of those people creating a filthy mess, causing havoc for ordinary people just trying to go about their lives, and promoting a political agenda that had nothing to do with helping the poor. Even the liberal cities finally had to kick them out because they were causing so much trouble – and no poor people were helped in any way.

Mike
So, I think we should declare a truce. We are not getting anywhere. You are a very fine person, Freddy. You are a likable, sincere, and decent man. I am just sorry you can’t see beyond Republican ideology. But, that is America. And God help us, if Trump gets elected, to stay that way.

Freddy Davis
Again, you miss my entire point. I have no particular interest in Republican ideology. My interest is in the truth of the Christian faith. The presuppositions of Christianity lead to a particular way of viewing reality and of expressing life. While I have a lot of disagreement and disappointment with the way the Republicans conduct a lot of their business, the foundational principles of the party, at the very least, are based on biblical principles – exactly the opposite of what we see in the Ds. Honestly, at this point we don’t know what will happen if Trump gets elected – and it does concern me. But if any of the Democrat candidates get elected, we are in for a really bad time – in foreign affairs, in the economy, in loss of liberty, and the like.

Mike
You have the last word, misguided a(s) it may be. I am a tired old man and I haven’t the energy for butting my head against a stone wall but for short time. Be happy, Freddy, you deserve it you Republican you.

Freddy Davis
What has happened to your walk with Christ? Perhaps I am misguided, but I do have my relationship with God. Sorry you consider your life to be that of a tired old man (though I think we are pretty close to the same age and I don’t think of myself that way). I find my vibrant energy for life in my relationship with Christ. I pray that you can get yours back very soon. Blessings and happiness to you, too.

Mike
There is that arrogant self-righteousness. My faith is in a Jesus who spent his time with the poor and meeting the needs of poor and excluded people. Perhaps, in fact, the shoe is on the other foot, though I am not self-righteous enough to question you.

Freddy Davis
Sorry you took it that way, but again you have either misunderstood what I was saying or have judged me because of my beliefs. I trust it is the former. I thought I explained clearly my thoughts about the ministry of Jesus. Jesus did minister among the poor, though that was only a part of his ministry. He also ministered to the rich, the middle class, and people of all occupations. But his ministry was not focused there, and he certainly didn’t try to accomplish his goals by political means. His focus was spiritual and related to promoting the Kingdom of God. His purpose was not for people to become economically more advantaged, but for them to know God in a personal relationship. If you really do believe the presuppositions of neo-orthodoxy, postmodern theology, or liberation theology (you seem to be coming from that stream of thought), then you have missed entirely what the ministry of Jesus was all about. It is, certainly, not up to me to judge your salvation, and I would never presume to do that. However, everything you have said about faith points to a belief that is focused on a political and economic goal rather than an eternal spiritual one. Your responses are all I have to go by. If I have not perceived correctly, I would be delighted to receive your clarification about Christ’s purpose and the means of salvation.

Mike
Freddy, I apologize for everything I said in my last post, except the shoe on the other foot part. I like you too much to accuse you of self-righteousness. And I know who I believe in and why, and you might want to look at your shoes.

Mike
Respectfully disagree (with your last post). What do you think the kingdom of God is? How do you witness to it without doing what Jesus commands about the poor and oppressed? Your doctrine is very safe and comfortable. (It) requires no effort to witness to the kingdom by standing up for the outcast, etc. Just give them the old pie in the sky by and by, and say nothing to the privileged powers in the world about the needs of the poor. If Jesus had not meant for us to stand up for those with no power and are excluded from economic justice, etc. I guess you have a convenient way of exposing away visiting the sick etc. Please don’t insult (my) intelligence with the claim that Jesus was only concerned about “visiting”. His whole life was about the kingdom and our witness to it by acting on it’s principals, including by exemplifying these principals. And please do not try to did dismiss me by putting me in any “stream” – I come out of a personal faith. There will be many surprises in the next world. Perhaps you are the one who has missed something. Let God be the judge. Now, this (is) truly enough.

Freddy Davis
I will respect your wishes and not give a response. But you have completely mischaracterized what I believe. If you are really interested, you can reread some of the things I already wrote, as you seem not to have understood the concepts I expressed.

Conclusion
It should be surprising to no one that the conversation went as it did. When interacting with a person in a conversation like this, it is very often the case that when faced with the truth of Christian arguments, those who come from a different perspective are not able to deal with them.

Their first reaction is nearly always to distort what you have said, and/or to give counter arguments which do not really address what is being dealt with. In both cases, the proper response is to correct their errors. Many such conversations will go on like this for a while, but at some point these people realize that they really do not have a legitimate argument to counter the biblical point of view. When that realization hits, they generally do something to abruptly end the conversation – as we saw here.

I cannot stress strongly enough how important it is to always speak the truth in love. But also be aware that this admonition refers specifically to your attitude. The directness or indirectness of the response itself will vary depending on the particular situation, but it must always be kept in mind that the argument is not political – it is a spiritual. And the truth you express is a witness for Christ.

© 2016 Freddy Davis

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