One of my favorite classes taken early 1989 at the Adventist University of Central Africa was called “Scientific and Religious Philosophy.” It opened both my mind and my heart towards those who held a different view on so many biblical topics like God, religion and ethics. These people are often called “Conservatives” or “Liberals” depending on their point of view on a given subject.
Oxford defines “conservatism” as a commitment to traditional values and ideas with opposition to change or innovation. In my class, Conservatives were defined as those taking the Bible literally. “Liberalism” is defined by the same dictionary as a willingness to respect or accept behavior or opinions different from one’s own. It is openness to new ideas. In my class, Liberals were those who adapted the Bible to the needs and context of humanity when appropriate.
Both Conservatives and Liberals are divided into two groups: Closed and Open Conservatives and Closed and Open Liberals. Closed Conservatives and Closed Liberals are on the far extremes of either side and often cannot dialogue with each other because of their respective blindness on a given biblical topic. Open Conservatives and Open Liberals on the other hand can have a conversation and reach an agreement on a given topic like the Bible and its authority on the lives of believers in their community.
We already know that the Bible is a lamp to anybody’s feet and a light to anybody’s path (Ps 119:105). We also know that all scripture is given by inspiration from God. We are aware that scripture is profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness so that a woman or man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished to good works (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Can this perfection be found in both Conservatives and Liberals? I think so. Can both of them be thoroughly furnished to good works? Absolutely.
Have you experienced both Conservatives and Liberals in your own local church and community? How do you identify yourself? Conservative or Liberal? If you do not know which side you are on right now, it will be difficult to identify where others fall too. How do you deal with the Spirit of Prophecy activists in church? How do you deal with those who are not praying as you do? What is your relationship with those who do not worship the one true God you worship and serve? Do you understand those who are living contrary to the biblical guidelines within and without your community of faith? If you do accommodate them, you would be qualified as Liberal; if not, you would be qualified as Conservative.
Whether Conservative or Liberal, the mission is the same: connect, commune, commit, and fulfill the commission. Start doing it from your own group and gradually expand it to others because whoever believes in Jesus should not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16). Every word of God is flawless, He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him. Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar (Proverbs 30:5-6).
Jesus’ answer to Pharisees and Scribes brings us to our focus on conservatism and liberalism. When they asked him why his disciples do not walk according to the tradition of elders but eat bread with unwashed hands, Jesus called them hypocrites-honoring Him with their lips but in their heart, they were far from Him (Mark 7:6). This is the core message to our fellow human beings: honor Him both with our lips and heart if we want to be His Open Conservatives and Liberals. So help us God!