One might wonder, with all of the books on this subject, if there really needs to be another. After all, Goebel Music's book, Behold the Pattern, furnished excellent insights into the fact that liberals reject the Scriptures as they relate to preaching, which lies at the very core of spreading the Gospel message. Dave Miller's Piloting the Strait has also covered subject by subject what is being practiced by many churches today, as compared to the Scriptures. David Hester's Among the Scholars exposes the shallowness of the argumentation used to justify liberalism.
But Frank Chesser approaches the subject differently from all of these, as well as others we have not mentioned. The title is totally appropriate; he has laid bare and exposed the very soul of liberal philosophy. While at times dealing in specifics (which are needed to take the discussion out of the abstract), he nevertheless focuses on the motivations that characterize liberals.
The first chapter, "Liberalism Does Not Tremble," begins this task, and it is further developed throughout the book. The reader will find a thoughtful, penetrating analysis of liberalism intermingled with the Scriptures, as reflected by these few words:
Liberalism is man's refusing to "cease from his own doings, not from his stubborn way" (Judg. 2:19). It is man's doing that which is "right in his own eyes" (Judg. 21:25). It is man's moving in harmony with a pattern that he has "devised in his own heart" (1 Kings 12:33). Liberalism is man's feigning reverence for God and His Word while paying homage at the shrine of self-will (13).Most chapters also contain a variety of serious matters to consider including questions or statements that would serve as discussion topics, such as: 1) "Can a man be viewed apart from his words?" and 2) "An assault on the Word of God is an assault on God" (12).
The next three sections all deal with "Liberalism and the Past"; they examine certain events in the Old Testament for the purpose of seeing the attitudes, as well as the actions, expressed there which displeased God. The things which Jeroboam did in 1 Kings 12:25-33 are particularly relevant (do liberals ever preach this text?). (The first nine chapters are brief, being only six pages apiece. The last eleven on average contain more than double that amount of material.)
"Liberalism and Grace" takes a Biblical and realistic look at the subject of grace (as opposed to the way the subject has become perverted by so many). One of the provocative statements here (for some) is: "God cannot manifest grace by saving those who refuse or neglect to submit to His will" (34).
"Liberalism and the Cross" (chapter 6) stresses the importance of the Lord's sacrifice and how it relates to the church and to New Testament doctrine. Another statement which might provoke discussion is this one: "There is not a trace of the blood of Christ on any doctrine or action extraneous to the New Testament" (42). In case the reader does not understand this principle, brother Chesser goes on to provide specific examples of what he means: "There is no blood on the mechanical instrument" (42).
One begins to see how liberals pervert every major doctrine of the New Testament, as the author continues to spotlight these in "Liberalism and Love." Near the end of this seventh chapter he states the problem succinctly:
Sin must have a law to transgress because that is what sin is (1 John 3:4) and love must have a law to obey because that is what love does (1 John 5:3) (49).How often do liberals link love with obedience? The Bible does (John 14:15). Obedience (for them) is tied to commandment-keeping, which they mistake for legalism. Perhaps they should tell us which laws of God Jesus violated because, if He kept them all, would not that make the Lord a legalist? Or is He not rather the loving Son?
Chesser next deals with the nature of Biblical faith, about which many seem to be confused today--both in and out of the church. The reader will want to consider carefully the material presented prior to this conclusion: "Therefore biblical faith is based foursquare on 'God said'" (53). Chapter nine "Liberalism and Law," follows the one on faith.
Although it has been done before, brother Chesser sets forth abundant evidence that gospel and doctrine refer to the same body of teaching in the New Testament. This section is not only relevant to the Ketcher-side-Garrett heresy of old but also to several modern applications and variations of it. Some have stated that various parts of the New Testament should be devalued because other parts are more pertinent to us. The author asks:
Of what value is the knowledge of the good news of the work of Christ culminating in His death, burial, and resurrection as set forth in the four accounts of the gospel apart from the knowledge of the good news of GodŐs plan enabling man to benefit from His redemptive work as revealed in Acts? (67).Chapter eleven, "Liberalism Is Progressive," deals with a variety of matters. Considerable space is devoted to the subject of baptism. The reader might be interested in all of the material which leads to this pronouncement: "Billy Graham has spent the whole of his life in rebellion to the counsel of God" (77).
Chesser also quotes from the pre-Ph. D. Rubel Shelly, who was apparently educated beyond his ability. In the July, 1972 issue of the Spiritual Sword, Shelly accurately wrote: "The spirit of ecumenism is an utter repudiation of scriptural authority" (78). Shelly now enjoys utterly repudiating Scriptural authority; he can work with Billy Graham in an ecumenical "crusade." The point is that the same attitude that despises one Scripture can lead to a repudiation of all Scriptures.
(As a side point, Shelly, in essence, is no different from Bishop Spong, who openly rejects the Scriptures and any teaching in it he despises. He does not agree with what the Bible teaches on fornication and homosexuality; so he advocates these doctrines openly. Shelly knows that the Bible teaches that only those who have been baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of sins [Acts 2:38] are Christians, but he rejects that so he can have a broader "fellowship." He knows that mechanical instruments of music are unauthorized, but he has rejected the Bible in favor of what is popular. Liberals reject what they dislike and embrace what they agree with; they have no respect for God whatsoever.)
Chapter twelve, "Liberalism and Preaching," also makes some sharp points. A few of them which elders (who employ preachers) might keep in mind are: "There is no such thing as a strong church and a weak pulpit" (83) and "Peter quoted more Scriptures in one sermon on Pentecost than many preachers quote in a month of preaching" (85).
The next 45 pages are devoted to Liberalism and Missionaries, Youth Ministers, and Christian Schools. There is no way to adequately review this material; brethren simply need to read it and think about it. It is as informative as it is frightening. One of the worst problems that exists today in the church is that brethren (especially elders) are not informed (whether willfully or by neglect).
"Liberalism and Marriage" covers the one area that has been discussed with frequency during the last 25 years. Amidst excellent material the author poses this question: "How can one conscientiously press for the acceptance of the obvious import of Mark 16:16 while refusing to acknowledge the same with regard to Matthew 19:9?" (142).
Another current topic for many is "Liberalism and the Role of Women." Brother Chesser thoughtfully works his way through this subject, as he does the others, concluding: "Liberalism erodes femininity" (172).
Chapter 18, "Liberalism and Pride," touches upon the very heart of the problem. "Liberalism is the conduit through which pride flows" (176). "Liberalism and Its Fruit" (chapter 19) is something that many have ignored, but the fruit of any doctrine or philosophy is important to examine. This section of the book is rich in facts, principles, examples, and Scriptures. The final few pages, "Liberalism and Exclusiveness," invert the charge that is usually made of conservatives. Who really excludes and isolates others?
The book contains 205 pages; if members of the church had a required reading list, this book would be on it. It costs only $9.00 and is available from Valid Publications, Inc. (940) 323-9797 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
*Send comments or questions concerning this article to Gary Summers. Please refer to this article as: "RECOMMENDED READING: THE SPIRIT OF LIBERALISM (04/28/02)."