Over time, an unfortunate belief has taken place: liberals are not truly Christians and fundamentalists are extreme. These ideas are false and sadly add strain to the relationship between both groups. While there are many ways in which liberals and fundamentalists are confused about each other, here are three things that I think we need to keep in mind when dealing with each group. NOTE: While recognizing that many conservative Christians tend to be more fundamental than not, I also want to be very clear to say that the words “conservative” and “fundamental” have two distinct meanings. Nevertheless, for the purposes of this argument, they will oftentimes be used in conjunction.
- The core value remains following Jesus Christ
While there are some extreme liberals who deny the divinity of Christ and are outside of the realm of Orthodox Christianity, and while there are extreme fundamentalists who are hard-headed and accusatory, for the most part, both groups are simply trying to serve Christ. It is false to say that liberal Christians are entirely self-serving and will renounce the Bible just to fit their own needs and likewise it is unfair to suggest that Conservative Christians are proof-texting 100% of the time.
That being said: 2) Both Groups Have Slightly Different Priorities
One of the biggest priorities for the Liberal Group is fostering places of inclusion, embrace, and service. In fact, I am often amazed at just how much the liberal church is doing to reach out to others… often in ways that the conservative and mainline church seems to be ignoring. Whether it’s protesting for Indigenous Land Rights, promoting good ecological practices, or trying to end discrimination, we have much to thank our liberal brothers and sisters for. Conversely, the Conservative Church tends to place more of a priority on the liberation not of humanity, but of souls. Fundamentalists tend to care about the law, about sin, and about salvation. Nevertheless, to say that they disagree with the concept of grace is erroneous. They believe that grace has first and foremost been magnified through the life and personhood of Jesus Christ who came to abolish the reign of darkness and to establish a new reign in which Christians have an intimate relationship with Him.
3) We Can Learn From Each Other
Liberal churches can learn from more Fundamentalist churches the importance of having a right relationship with Christ. Many liberal churches tend to get caught up in projects for the “here and now” and while it is important to help stop world hunger or alleviate poverty, we must remember the true reasons behind why we are doing what we are doing. The main reason we promote justice and peace should be on behalf of Christ rather than simply to “make the world a better place.” Ultimately, whenever possible, it should be done as a living testimony to non-Christians of who Jesus is and while we may not overtly proselytize, it should make others take notice. At the same time, fundamentalist churches can learn from more liberal Christians the importance of not just preaching Biblical doctrine, but truly being active in carrying it out. Preaching a message on sin and salvation has little weight if we are not showing the world why such a belief is of any value and benefit to them.
Liberal and fundamental churches may have a long way to go before fully accepting one another. Nevertheless by recognizing our unique priorities and remembering that we are both invested in serving Christ, we will be able to work together rather than working apart to help build up Christ’s Kingdom here on earth.