Will you Respect my Beliefs?

I recently listed the challenges which had faced the nonconformist churches over the years, including the rise of theological liberalism. After the service’s conclusion, a courteous gentleman approached me and introduced himself as a ‘liberal Christian’. He listed the many churches with which he was involved or recognised, so as to assure me of his credentials and then came the killer question: ‘So will you respect my beliefs?’

‘No’, I replied. I explained that I can respect him as a person and I might even respect why he holds his liberalism (for example, I object to Chamberlain’s appeasement of Germany in the 1930s. But when one sees this in the context of the horrors of the First World War, and that generation’s determination to avert any kind of repeat, one has to be a little more sympathetic). I will certainly respect his right to hold to these beliefs and I shall fight for his freedom to express them. I cannot, however, respect any form of Christianity which rejects fundamental truth and makes doubt and unbelief cardinal virtues. While this exchange was taking place, another gentleman passed by, saying ‘I’m a liberal Christian too, is that alright with you?’ Sadly, he walked off before I could give him my answer. I can only imagine that he didn’t care whether I thought it was alright; he just wanted me to know what he stood for. He must have been an important person.

I never found what these two liberals’ liberalism actually entailed. Did it reject the resurrection? Christ’s deity? Hell? Heaven? In truth, I couldn’t be bothered to find out. ‘Liberal Christian’ is for me a meaningless term. Some ‘Christians’ believe so little they aren’t Christians at all; others simply have different views to mine. For example, I think Steve Chalke is liberal for abandoning traditional marriage; at the same time, I was once described as liberal because I encourage women to pray aloud. Anyone whose views are more moderate than one’s own may all too easily be dismissed as ‘liberal’.

I respect persons with whom I disagree and I tolerate their beliefs. Nevertheless, I cannot respect, endorse, approve or accept beliefs and systems contrary to the faith once and for all delivered unto the saints. Some of you will disapprove of this. You will consider me arrogant, bigoted, even. “Here I stand”, said another ‘bigot’, for “I can do no other”.