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FIRST-PERSON: The Religious Left & the sufficiency of Scripture

WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)–In the ongoing culture war in American life, the Religious Left is jockeying for a voice in the debate.

This loose-knit cluster of organizations is predominantly composed of mainline Protestants, liberal Jews, reformist Catholics, and progressive Muslims. Their mission is to provide politically active “people of faith” with an alternative to the conservative values of most evangelicals and traditional Catholics.

These folks are not that new to political action. In fact, this coalition has always been around, though it has normally operated outside the purview of many cultural commentators.

Not everything advocated by the Religious Left is patently wrong. For example, they make a strong statement about the need to battle poverty. The merits of a welfare system are debatable, but most evangelicals probably would agree about the obligation we have to address the needs of the poor. Many conservatives are committed to seeking to alleviate the plight of those in poverty while also preaching a gospel that clearly discriminates between the Good News of Christ and American middle-class consumerism.

The Religious Left also is an advocate for racial equality. Again, while many conservatives would differ with the methods of liberals regarding racial justice, most religious conservatives would agree that racism is still a problem in many places in America.

Peace, with a special emphasis on the Middle East, is a key theme with the Religious Left. Conservative believers desire peace as well; we simply disagree with liberals concerning the appropriate process for securing peace.

Still, while the Religious Left may have some noble goals, they suffer from a fundamental problem that prevents them from having the prophetic voice in American culture that they so desperately desire. Simply put, religious liberals deny the sufficiency of Scripture. (A note: at this point I am referring primarily to mainline Protestants, leftist evangelicals, and liberal Catholics, though the principle also applies to Jews and Muslims who devalue their sacred writings).

Most religious conservatives (and some religious progressives) affirm the inerrancy of Scripture, meaning that when the Bible speaks, it speaks truthfully. It only follows that if the Bible is inerrant, then it is sufficient to guide the decisions believers make, be they spiritual, familial, or political.

The Religious Left displays a basic disbelief in the sufficiency of Scripture when it endorses secularism, radical feminism and the homosexual agenda.

Religious liberals often champion “homosexual marriage,” arguing that they “personally” disagree with homosexuality, but that it is wrong to deny homosexuals the benefits of marriage. This is outright rejection of the scriptural model of marriage, which is a lifelong union between one man and one woman.

Theological liberals also rebuff scriptural teachings about the value of human life, supporting the killing of human embryos for stem cell research in direct opposition to biblical instruction about the preciousness of each of God’s creations. Even more troubling is the excuses these same liberals use to defend their support of abortion. Recently, John Kerry, Democratic candidate for president and a liberal Catholic, claimed that he disagrees with abortion “because of his religion,” but would not allow his religion to dictate his politics. Indeed.

That’s ultimately the problem with the Religious Left. Though many of them claim to be more or less orthodox in their beliefs, there is a distinct disconnect between their purported religious beliefs and their actions. Moreover, most of them claim to be defenders of the First Amendment, yet argue for exclusion of religion from the public square — a perverse interpretation of religious liberty that rejects the sufficiency of Scripture to guide every aspect of human existence.

In essence, the Religious Left, in the name of tolerance and pluralism, attempts to disallow the Bible any influence over contemporary culture, proving that, at least in the political arena, they are much more left than they are religious.

    About the Author

  • Nathan Finn

    Nathan A. Finn is professor of faith and culture and executive director of the Institute for Transformational Leadership at North Greenville University. He is also the Recording Secretary of the Southern Baptist Convention.

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