IT MAY BE TIME TO ASK: ARE THESE TERMS
"EVANGELICAL LEFT" AND "EVANGELICAL
LIBERAL" REALLY OXYMORONS?
Oxymoron – we hear the word frequently and use it
occasionally, and we have a fairly good idea as to what it
means . . . but let us take a few seconds to be sure. By
a common dictionary definition it means: A rhetorical
figure of speech in which contradictory terms are
combined. An example might be "thundering silence,"
"genuine imitation," "original copy" or "larger half."
Background. A few years ago we carried on an email
discussion/correspondence with one of our readers who
insisted that he was an Evangelical and a Liberal. As the
exchange of messages continued, it was obvious that
with respect to the term "Evangelical" he was not seeing
it as a theological issue, and with respect to the term
"Liberal," he was at heart simply anti-George Bush.
But we assumed he was a believer . . . and we assumed he
was sincere. But sincerity is really not enough. Some may
recall hearing about the Rose Bowl game of 1929, between
Georgia Tech and University of California, Berkley. The
game is memorable because of what has been described
as "The worst blunder in the history of college football."
Roy Riegels picked up a Georgia Tech fumble and ran 65
yards in the wrong direction. He was completely sincere
as he ran down the field, but he was sincerely wrong.
So it is with those who insist on being "Evangelicals" and
"Liberals." Those terms constitute an oxymoron. They are,
in dictionary words, "contradictory terms."
Ann Coulter, whose acerbic language cuts to the core,
describes the Liberal concept in these words, "Liberals
claim to be terrified that the Religious Right is going
to take over the culture in a country where more than
a million babies are exterminated every year, where
kindergarteners can be expelled from school for any
mention of God, and Islamic fascists are welcomed on
college campuses, while speakers opposed to Islamic
fascism are met with angry protests."
The current efforts toward a resurgence of "Evangelical
Liberals" and the views of the "Evangelical Left" are
being led by two long time Liberals, Jim Wallis and
Tony Campolo, both of whom claim to be Evangelicals.
Their fear is exactly as Ann Coulter expressed it – that
the "Religious Right" is taking over the Republican party.
The "Religious Right" was given prominence in political
issues by Hillary Clinton in her description of a "vast
right wing conspiracy" allied against her husband when
American Christian believers felt that it was wrong –
even a sin – when the president of the United States,
a married man, engaged in adultery through sexual
relationships with a young female employee in his
presidential offices. Tony Campolo was appointed
as Mr. Clinton’s "spiritual adviser" but no apology,
no confession of sin, no expression of regret, was
ever voiced by the president. Instead he lied under
oath concerning those sexual actions.
This is not the Evangelical viewpoint of the way such
matters should be handled, according to Scripture.
The proponents of Evangelical Liberalism have taken
on a new label – "Red Letter Christians." As explained
by Mr. Campolo, "Because being evangelical is usually
synonymous with being Republican in the public
mind ... we came up with a new name, ‘Red Letter
Christians." They are obviously concerned about the
Liberal anchor positions which support homosexuality,
same-sex marriage, and abortion.
They see the primary mission of the church as being
to relieve poverty, feed the homeless, and fight disease.
They claim to base their viewpoints on the words of
Jesus, which are printed in red in some Bibles. This
is not a new approach -- it dates from the turn of the
century, and was the basis for the "Social Gospel"
concept, which in simplest terms holds that it is
better to do good than be good.
In the words of Mr. Wallis, "The goal of the group is
to advance the message that our faith cannot be
reduced to only two hot button issues - abortion
and homosexuality. Fighting poverty, caring for
the environment, advancing peace, promoting
strong families and supporting a consistent ethic
of life are all critical moral and biblical values."
In their rejection of the basic factors of Evangelical
belief, they seem blissfully unaware of the words of
Carl F.H. Henry, the distinguished theologian of the
20th Century, and father of the Evangelical movement.
"The need for a vital evangelicalism is proportionate
to the world need...The cries of suffering humanity
today are many. No evangelicalism which ignores
the totality of man’s condition dares respond in the
name of Christianity... Modern evangelicalism need
not substitute as its primary aim the building of a
‘relatively higher civilization.’ To do that is to fall into
the error of yesterday’s liberalism. Its supreme aim
is the proclamation of redeeming grace to sinful
humanity...The gospel of redemption is the most
pertinent message for our modern weariness...The
battle against evil in all its forms must be pressed
unsparingly...in politics, in economics, in science, in
ethics – everywhere in every field." (From: "The
Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism,"
Carl F.H. Henry, Chapter VIII) There is nothing in
the clear statement of modern evangelical belief
which merits the essence of failure which the
Liberals assign to it.
They deliberately confuse the visible church of whatever
denomination with the Church which Jesus said He was
building. And they ignore the words of II Timothy 3:16-17,
"All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is
profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for
instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may
be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works."
To get back to the question which opened this issue,
the answer is abundantly clear: "Evangelical Liberal"
and "Evangelical Left" are oxymorons – contradictory
terms – and cannot be supported or verified by Scripture.
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, speaking
at a luncheon in his honor last week in New York, made
some effective recommendations, including these, "Relish
the challenge that comes with defending freedom . . . Stop
whining about unfortunate circumstances . . . Read the
Constitution before pontificating about it . . . Reason with
your mind to break free of ideological segregation."
And speaking of good quotes, in a debate with Jim
Wallis at the Value Voter Summit in Washington a few days
ago, Richard Land, President of the Southern Baptist Ethics
& Religious Liberty Commission, had this to say, "If we don’t
have laws saying no human being, even a mother, has a
right to absolute life and death over another human being,
we are not a civilized society, and we will still have abortion."
Fallout from the Anglican homosexual problems
continues, this time with one entire branch of the world-
wide Anglican Communion – the Traditional Anglican
Communion (TAC) – with some 400,000 members,
seeking full corporate sacramental union with the Roman
Catholic Church and is now awaiting response from the
Vatican on their request. Quite a dramatic change after
some 500 years of separation.
And from the Founding Fathers: "If there is a form
of government, then, whose principle and foundation is
virtue, will not every sober man acknowledge it better
calculated to promote the general happiness than any
other form?" – John Adams, 1776
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