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VIRTUAL LIBERALISM:

THE COMING DIVISION BETWEEN
BIBLICAL AND PROGRESSIVE BAPTISTS

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Fundamentalist Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Morning, January 27, 2002


"Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?" (John 3:10).

That question which Jesus asked Nicodemus ran through my mind last Monday night. I had just heard a message by a "progressive" pastor, given at a preachers' meeting. The speaker gave a two-hour talk on the subject of planning to ensure that Baptist parents pass along their "heritage" to their children. The speaker's talk contained much sociology and psychology, but little Bible, and the Scriptures he did give were often pulled out of context and applied in ways that I feel displayed poor hermeneutics. But I will not focus on that in this message. The music which preceded his talk was contemporary and tended to be of the shallow variety that dominates the "purpose-driven" so-called "worship" of the Rick Warren, Bill Hybels variety. But I will not focus on that this morning, although I do not think that snare drums, grey T-shirts, and steel guitars are of much interest to the unchurched young people of the X generation today, do you? Our own church is "purpose-driven" - if you want to use that word. But our purpose is different from theirs. Our purpose is to get you unconverted kids, and there are dozens of you here this morning - you young people, many of you unconverted as yet - are the whole future and hope of this church - but our purpose is not to entertain you with tired old hippie music. Our purpose is to capture your heart for Jesus Christ and get you converted. That's the only thing that will help you young people and set you on the right path for the rest of your lives! But I will not focus on "progressive music" in this message.

Nor will I speak on the fact that we don't need yet another Bible translation to bring a greater Babel-like cacophony of confusion into our churches. We have a number of X generation kids here right now, this morning, who were given a good, old King James Bible just a few weeks ago - and you're all reading it through, several chapters a day - with no trouble at all, though you never read it before you came here just a few weeks ago. No, I will not speak on the "progressive" move to replace the King James Version that I was handed when I first came to church from a non-Christian home as a teenager forty-seven years ago, and which you young people in our church have already learned to love as much as I do. I will not speak on that. You do love the King James Bible, don't you? You can see by the response of these college kids that I am right, and these young people are new converts right out of UCLA, USC, Pasadena City College, Santa Monica City College, and the California State University at Los Angeles. You college kids take the King James Bible to bed and read it at night. You take it right with you into your secular college classrooms. No need for me to speak against the new translations to you young people, is there? And it's the Old Scofield Reference Bible you read - too - isn't it? So I will not speak on that subject in response to the "progressive" preachers and their new translations this morning either.

All of these subjects could have been spoken on by me in this sermon, because I hold strong views on all of them. But I will pass on to more important subjects.

Nor will I speak on how you should dress. You wear suits and ties, and dresses - to church! How do I get you to do that? I never preach on it. You have never even once heard me preach on how to dress in church. I never mention it from the pulpit. Those who bring you to church simply tell you to wear your "Sunday best" to come into the presence of Almighty God in His house of worship on Sunday. And you unchurched X generation young people never rebel. After all, you are not from the older, more rebellious hippie generation. You simply do it. The question is answered that simply, without the pastor saying one word - ever - from the pulpit. It's just understood here, in our church, that we dress up for Sunday services. Since you are not hippies (they are getting pretty old now) but you are X'ers, and X generation young people, who are not rebellious "church kids," think that it's kind of "neat" to put on a tie or dress and come to church. So, there's no need for me to answer the "progressive" preacher I heard the other night on that point either. You kids love dressing up for church, don't you? No need to answer him on that here either!

What, then, will I focus on in the sermon concerning what I heard that "progressive" preacher give on Monday night? I will draw your attention solely to the errors in his theology - particularly to his errors on the great watershed questions of the theology of salvation.

But before I do, let me make one thing very clear - I am not a progressive preacher! I am an old-fashioned, Scofield Bible, landmark on the local church, fundamentalist Baptist preacher - without the slightest apology! No apology needed! None given! I am a fundamentalist Baptist preacher - not a "progressive" new evangelical Bible teacher! Take it or leave it! That's what I am.

And I say to you young people, without any apology - why be lonely? Get saved and come home - to this church!

But let's come to the heart of this sermon. I have some very important theological statements to make this morning - right out of the Bible. They are answers to the twisted and muddy theology of salvation I heard from that "progressive" preacher on Monday night.

I will not give the "progressive" preacher's name, nor even hint at who he was. There are so many like him today that you will be smart enough to spot one like him when you hear him preach. I don't want to draw this into a personal attack on the man in any way. He seems like a nice enough fellow personally. It's just that he's wrong Biblically and theologically, and I will focus my attention in these few minutes on what's wrong with his salvation message - Biblically. I will say, as Jesus said to the leading Bible teacher of Israel in his time,

"Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?"

(John 3:10).

I. First, the "progressive" preacher is wrong on who God is.

He gave a wrong concept of God in his sermon on Monday night. And he repeated that wrong concept of God in the book he gave us, very generously, at the end of his sermon. On page 54 of his book, and in his sermon, this "progressive" preacher said that "a weak spiritual legacy…represents God as a…being to be…feared" (ibid.). He said it is "weak" and wrong for you to believe that God is "absent, adversarial and fearful" (ibid., p. 54). The view that God is absent from your life, and is your adversary and is a fearful God is wrong according to him.

I don't know what Bible he has been reading, but those words and that description of God are exactly right according to my Bible, if you are an unconverted young person.

1. First, the Bible teaches that God is absent from the life of an unconverted person. The Bible says that you are "strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world" (Ephesians 2:12). My unconverted young friend, it is not "weak" or wrong to tell you that God is absent from your life! It is true! You don't know God! No matter how many "decisions" or rededications you have made at some altar, no matter how many "sinner's prayers" you have said, the Bible still says that you have "no hope, and [are] without God in the world."

And it's true, isn't it? God is not a real person to you - is He? And the reason is because you are "without God" in your unconverted state.

2. Second, the preacher said it was "weak" and wrong to think that God is your adversary, or enemy, in common language. According to this "progressive" preacher, God is just a lovable old granddaddy up in the sky. But that is not what the Bible says about God. The Bible says, "Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God…[and] God resisteth the proud" (James 4:4, 6). The Bible says, "The wrath [anger] of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness" (Romans 1:18). The Bible says that you are building up "wrath against the day of wrath [anger] and revelation of the righteous judgment of God" (Romans 2:5). And one more verse: "God is angry with the wicked every day" (Psalm 7:11). And in the New Testament we are told that, "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Hebrews 10:31). "For our God is a consuming fire" (Hebrews 12:29). Jesus told us, "Then shall he say unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire" (Matthew 25:41).

It sounds to me, unconverted young person, that these "progressive" preachers have fed you a pack of lies about God! God is not sweet and soft. Almighty God is fearfully angry with you and will send you to the flames of eternal perdition unless you are soundly converted to Jesus Christ. Don't let some "progressive" preacher lie to you any more. Believe the Bible when it tells you about "Sinners in the hands of an angry God."

3. Third, the "progressive" preacher said it was wrong to be "fearful" of God! Rubbish! It is precisely the fear of God that you need! When you are in an unconverted state, the Bible says of you: "There is no fear of God before their eyes" (Romans 3:18). But when you begin to awaken from the sleep of death, "Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead" (Ephesians 5:14) - when you awaken from the sleep of spiritual death, you will be as afraid of God as Jacob was, "And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the Lord is in this place, and I knew it not. And he was afraid" (Genesis 28:16-17). When the Spirit of God begins to awaken you, you too will suddenly be afraid of God. This is a critical and important change, that happens in all true conversions.

I say to this "progressive" preacher:

"Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?"

(John 3:10).

II. Second, the "progressive" preacher is wrong on the
total depravity of man.

To be sure, this preacher uses the word "depravity" on page 46 of his book, but he defines it wrong. He says that unconverted people are "incurably sick." But the Bible doesn't say you are sick! The Bible says you are dead. The Bible says you are "dead in trespasses and sins" (Ephesians 2:1). The Bible says, "We were dead in sins" (Ephesians 2:5).

There is a difference between a sick man, even an incurably sick man, and a dead man. When my lovely Christian mother, converted late in life, lay in a coma in the hospital from a terrible stroke, she was incurably sick. But I could tell she still knew me. She fumbled with the one hand that still worked and grasped my hand in hers. A few hours before she died, she struggled, with all her strength to gasp out, "Robert, I love you," her very last words - she could still struggle to communicate with me when she was incurably sick. But then she died. As I looked at her in the coffin, she was dead - really dead. Her dead hand could no longer reach for mine. Her dead tongue could no longer slur out, "Robert, I love you." She was dead, stone-cold dead.

And that is the way you are toward God, my unconverted friend. You are "dead" (Ephesians 2:1). You are "dead in sins" (Ephesians 2:5). In this "dead" state that you are in, you cannot reach out to God. You cannot "make a decision" to speak words from your heart to God. You are dead - really dead. That's why the Bible says:

"There is none that seeketh after God" (Romans 3:11).

The "progressive" preacher said that "parents sometimes accept the falsehood…that a child does not need or even want God on a normal basis, but is content with who he is" (pp. 50-51). This is hardly true to the Scriptures. In fact no child (or anyone else) wants God "on a normal basis." Everyone is "content with who he is" on a normal basis. The Bible says, "There is none that seeketh after God" (Romans 3:11). That is a picture of every person in his natural and unconverted state. The Bible says:

"But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us…" (Ephesians 2:4-5).

Apart from the "quickening" of God, no one will seek Him!

III. Third, the "progressive" preacher is wrong in his emphasis
on the atonement.

He says, "(God) sent His Son to show us He knows our frame and is acquainted with our weakness" (p. 86). This is a subordinate purpose, not the main reason for the atonement. The main reason that God sent Jesus is given in Romans five:

"But God commendeth love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him" (Romans 5:8-9).

God sent Jesus to die on the Cross to remove His wrath from those who trust in Christ.

"He that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth [remaineth] on him" (John 3:36).

God sent Jesus to pay the penalty for your sin on the Cross:

"Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief; when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin…"

(Isaiah 53:10).

"Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood…" (Romans 3:24-25).

If we downplay the atoning and propitiatory work of Christ on the Cross, we are not preaching the gospel! The Bible tells us this about the gospel:

"Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures"

(I Corinthians 15:3).

That must be kept central in our presentation of the gospel! I say to the "progressive" preacher:

"Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?"

(John 3:10).

IV. Fourth, the "progressive" preacher is wrong on Biblical conversion.

It seems to me that he doesn't really believe in Biblical conversion in any practical sense, from what I heard him say and what I read in his book.

That probably is behind what he said about evangelism. In the first hour, he told us that 85% of those who "accept Christ" do so between eleven and nineteen. But in the second hour, he told us to focus nearly all our attention on getting seven to eight-year-olds to draw their parents (aged 25 to 45) to church! In other words, he told us not to focus on the age-group where 85% of conversions take place! Instead, we were told how to manipulate older Baby Boomers into attending! The fact that he really doesn't believe in crisis conversion messes up his evangelism, and changes it into mere sociological manipulation.

He says some things that are true, but the emphasis is wrong. He tells us that "Christians can learn much from the Jewish community - in particular, their commitment to passing on a heritage from one generation to the next. They have consistently valued and practiced the art of tradition" (p. 129). That is all true of course.

But although it is true - is it enough? He implies strongly that our duty as Christian parents is to pass on our tradition to you. But that wasn't enough for Paul! He said that he had "profited in the Jews' religion above many my equals in my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers" (Galatians 1:14).

But "tradition" didn't save Paul! He goes on in verses fifteen and sixteen, of Galatians one, to tell us that he needed the Son of God. Paul needed to be radically converted to Christ! Tradition couldn't save him!

Now look at the example of Nicodemus, from John three, where our Scripture reading and text were taken. Nicodemus was "a master of Israel" (John 3:10). The Scofield center note tells us that this literally meant he was "the teacher of Israel." Nicodemus was the leading teacher of the nation of Israel in Christ's time - but he was ignorant of the new birth. He knew nothing of conversion, even though he carefully followed every outward teaching and tradition of his religion. Jesus said, "Ye must be born again" (John 3:7). Nicodemus said, "How can these things be?" (John 3:9). He was totally ignorant of conversion, although he knew everything about tradition. And Jesus said:

"Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?"

(John 3:10).

I can teach you young people all of our Baptist traditions. I can teach you to read the Bible every day. I can teach you the Scriptures. I can teach you our hymns and our theology. I can teach you to love our country and to pray. I can teach you all those traditions - but they won't do one bit of good in keeping you out of Hell - or getting you into Heaven! Why?

"Ye must be born again" (John 3:7).

And that isn't just saying a quick "sinner's prayer" or walking down an aisle. It's a radical conversion you need - where you throw off your trust in yourself, and then throw yourself on the Son of God, and fully trust Him. It's an inward experience, not a mere outward "decision."

The "progressive" preacher I have been quoting would tell you he is not a liberal. But he is as wrong about God as a liberal. He is as wrong about human depravity as a liberal. He is as wrong about Christ's atonement as a liberal. And he is as wrong about conversion as a liberal. I say that he is a "virtual" liberal. The word "virtual" means "in essence or effect." I say that in essence and in effect these "progressives" are liberals. Their doctrines are the doctrines of liberalism - plain and simple. The old-time liberals like Harry Emerson Fosdick or Horace Bushnell, said the same things on these points of theology as this "progressive" preacher. Our forefathers clashed with these liberals.

Dr. J. Gresham Machen said that liberalism and Christianity are really two completely different religions, in his book, Christianity and Liberalism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990 reprint of the 1923 edition). And I say that liberalism and Biblical Christianity cannot remain together long. That has proven true time and again over the years in the liberal/fundamentalist battle.

I believe that the next big split among independent Baptists will be the division between the "progressives," who are virtual liberals, and those who believe all that the Bible teaches. Let's make sure we are on the right side when the split does come, as it surely will.

Young people, let us stand up for what is right. Let us take our stand for the old-time religion. "It will get us all to Heaven, It will get us all to Heaven, It will get us all to Heaven, and it's good enough for me."

That's why we say to you, "Why be lonely?  Come home - to church" next Sunday!  And come fully to Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  Jesus died on the Cross to pay for your sins.  Jesus rose literally and physically from the dead.  He is now in Heaven - at the right hand of God.  Come to Jesus Christ.  Trust Him.  Have your sins washed away by His Blood.  Come to Christ and you will live forever!  "It's the old-time religion, it's the old-time religion, it's the old-time religion, and it's good enough for me!"

(END OF SERMON)


Scripture Read Before the Sermon: John 3:1-10.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mrs. Jeanne Hanson:

"Ye Must Be Born Again" by William T. Sleeper (1819-1904).

You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.rlhymersjr.com. Click on "Sermon Manuscripts."




THE OUTLINE OF

VIRTUAL LIBERALISM:

THE COMING DIVISION BETWEEN
BIBLICAL AND PROGRESSIVE BAPTISTS

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

"Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?" (John 3:10).

I.   The "progressive" preacher is wrong on who God is,
Ephesians 2:12; James 4:4,6; Romans 1:18;
Romans 2:5; Psalm 7:11; Hebrews 10:31;
Hebrews 12:29; Matthew 25:41; Romans 3:18;
Ephesians 5:14; Genesis 28:16-17.

II.  The "progressive" preacher is wrong on the total depravity
of man, Ephesians 2:1, 5; Romans 3:11; Ephesians 2:4-5.

III. The "progressive" preacher is wrong on the atonement,
Romans 5:8-9; John 3:36; Isaiah 53:10; Romans 3:24-25;
I Corinthians 15:3.

IV.  The "progressive" preacher is wrong on conversion, Galatians 1:14; 
John 3:7, 9.