How Liberal Theology Works

Among religious organizations that call themselves “Christian” there is great diversity of doctrinal beliefs. Those beliefs are affected less by genuine exegetical meaning of scripture and more by the worldview of the Bible student. This can be observed across the spectrum of a whole religious body though some individual anomalies might occur.

The United Methodist Church is a theologically liberal institution. It reflects the progressive, humanistic trends of society and has a low view of Biblical inspiration. Take, for example, the observations of a retired Methodist minister, James McCormick (United Methodist News online, 2/5/19). His comments below are in italics with my response following.

“In studying the Bible, it is necessary to realize that often God is cited as supporting whatever values are normative at that time in history. Those are ‘timely’ standards – standards valued for a time – but not necessarily ‘timeless’ standards that are applicable for all time and all circumstances.”

Comment: McCormick has this backward. God is the one who sets moral standards; He does not merely look on as a casual observer who rubber stamps the cultural choices of man.

Consider the tossed salad McCormick next serves up:

“The Bible affirms Abraham having sexual relations with Hagar, Sarah’s maid, in order to produce his first son, Ishmael. Only later did Sarah produce Isaac, through whom Jews trace their ancestry. Remember King Solomon’s legendary 1,000 wives and concubines. Today we would call Abraham’s and Solomon’s sexual actions adultery, and not condone such actions … Remember that, in ancient Israel, eating shellfish and wearing clothing of two different fabrics at the same time were called ‘abominations.’ Walking too many paces on the Sabbath was considered sinful. And, it was permissible to make slaves of captured enemies. So much of what was considered sinful or acceptable was simply the norms or standards that were practiced by the majority of the people, but condemned today.”

Comment: This guy should be tried for ministerial malpractice. First, nowhere does Scripture suggest that God approved of Abraham’s relationship with Hagar. The son produced by that union is still bearing rotten fruit today. It was a lame attempt to substitute man’s effort for trust in God. It was adultery then just as it is now.

Second, God condemned Solomon’s marriages as violations of Mosaic law concerning intermarriage and resultant idolatry: “So the Lord became angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned from the Lord God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice, and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods; but he did not keep what the Lord had commanded” (1 Kgs 11:9-13; cf. Neh 13:26). God never condoned Solomon’s polygamy because it was the practice of “the majority of the people.” It was flagrant disobedience and caused God to rip the nation asunder (cf. 1 Kgs 11:29-35).

Next McCormick misidentifies the dietary and clothing regulations of the law as a “norm of society.” Then he mixes in Jewish Sabbath traditions and sprinkles in the favorite buzzword of the day – slavery. What is McCormick trying to do in this mishmash of sin, law and tradition?

“That brings us to a question sharply dividing the Christian community in our time: How are we to think about and act toward the LGBTQ community? We know that the majority of Americans do not oppose homosexual relations, yet others believe that while every person is a child of God, homosexual behavior is a choice and is sinful … A key question for me is: Is that position simply an expression of ancient and current cultural norms, or is that the timeless moral position, sanctioned by God?”

Comment: I’ll give you three guesses which answer McCormick picks.

“What is moral in a timeless sense is whatever is helpful to human beings, and what is immoral is whatever is hurtful to human beings. That is a timeless value … If a person is born with a same-gender orientation, why must they be prohibited from having an intimate relationship with another person, forced into isolation and loneliness, just because many people unfairly oppose that? That fact that some Christians do not approve does not make such a relationship hurtful … We should wrestle with the reality that close, same-sex friendships are applauded; it is only when the sexual component is added that we become concerned. Again, why? Why not have the same moral standards for same-gender relationship as for heterosexual relationships: no promiscuity, no coercion, no insensitivity. Instead, seek commitment, faithfulness, mutual sensitivity, caring and support. Who does that hurt?”

Comment: After reading this, what do you think of McCormick’s view of sin, the law of God and the fixed moral standards that are outlined by God Himself? My answer is, he doesn’t have the foggiest idea of what sin is and that God has unequivocally condemned certain behavior. He subtly redefines sin as merely what is “hurtful” to another human, not what violates God’s law (whether demonstrably hurtful to someone else or not – is drunkenness a sin though no other human being may be harmed by it?).

He dismisses the sexual aspect of human relations as no big deal: If I can be friends with a homosexual, why can’t I have sexual relations with him as well? But it’s a big deal because God says it is a big deal (1 Cor 6:9).

There you have it – a minister/theologian who has no clue about Scripture yet spent a lifetime destroying the concept of scriptural authority and morality among his fellow Methodists. I suppose the best that can be said is that he is now retired.