Unbelief is the root of Liberal Theology

by Mike Ratliff

1 But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. 2 For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, 4 treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these. 6 For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, 7 always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. 2 Timothy 3:1-7 (NASB) 

Observing unbelief in a professing Christian is a terrible thing. Unbelief, which is rooted in spiritual blindness, is deceitful. We must never forget that spiritual blindness is the product of idolatry. These nominal Christians never walk by faith. They make choices based entirely within a flesh-bound value system. This decision making process is part of self-worship. Their value system is based entirely within self-worth, self-focusedness, self-protection, et cetera. If they are religious Christians then their religion will be the same.

This is idolatry. It is worship of self. As a result, God blinds their hearts. They are given over to their idol. Genuine Christianity is of faith. God’s grace accords with His people’s faith thereby washing them clean in their regeneration. Their faith was dead, but now it it is alive. They are new creations. God justifies them by this faith and begins their sanctification. This sanctification is the process of removing them from sin. This process takes time and will result in their spiritual blindness coming under attack. This means that their self-worship must go. They are called to humility and to be God’s servants forever.

In a Christian culture, unfortunately, some people who do not know God become theologians. Some are well educated. Others are self-made. In any case, just because a person goes to divinity school is no guarantee that they are a genuine Christian. Here is an example of a man who was considered one of the greatest theologians of his day until his unbelief led him into Liberal Theology.

Crawford Howell Toy, professor of Old Testament 1869-1879, was born in Norfolk, Virginia in 1836. Toy was named after his uncle, R. B. C. Howell, the second president of the SBC. An impressive student, Toy professed faith in Christ while attending the University of Virginia. He earned his B.A. in 1856.

After graduating, Toy taught at the Albemarle Female Institute until 1859, when he joined the first student class at Southern. Toy brought a keen intellect and a kindled heart to Southern. He passed examinations in Church History, Old Testament, Hebrew, New Testament, Greek, and Systematic Theology in one short year—an impressive achievement. He also organized missions prayer groups. Toy was courting a young missionary named Lottie Moon in this period, and they talked of pursuing missions work together in Japan. When the Civil War broke out, however, Toy joined the Confederate army and fought in several battles. Union forces captured him at Gaithersburg and he taught an Italian language course in the prison camp.

Toy traveled to Germany in 1866 to study theology and Semitic languages. In this period, his relationship with Lottie ended. When he returned from Germany in 1868, he joined the faculty of Furman University as a professor of Greek. In May of 1869, Toy was elected professor of Old Testament interpretation and oriental languages at Southern. Toy developed a progressive theology like that of his liberal German professors. He embraced the methods of higher criticism and sought to harmonize Scripture with Darwinian evolution. Toy’s views came under public scrutiny in 1879 when he published two pieces construing Isaiah’s suffering servant figure as national Israel, not Christ. Later that year, at the Southern Baptist Convention in Atlanta, Toy presented the seminary trustees a defense of his opinions along with his resignation. To his surprise, the trustees accepted the resignation. Toy left Southern, never to return.

In 1880, Toy began teaching at Harvard University, where he was appointed the Hancock Professor of Hebrew and Oriental Languages and the Dexter Lecturer on Biblical Literature. Toy eventually became a Unitarian. His later works rejected nearly every doctrine central to Christianity. Toy retired from Harvard in 1909 and lived in Massachusetts until his death in 1919. – Sources: Billy Grey Hurt, “Crawford Howell Toy: Interpreter of the Old Testament.” Th.D. diss., The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1966.

Did you notice what started Dr. Toy on his slide into Liberal Theology? He developed a “progressive theology” which embraced the methods of higher criticism. These are things “theologians” do in order to be seen as less stringent or strict about their “religion.” This is compromise in order to make the narrow gate which few find wider so that everyone can come in. Of course this requires a “secularization” of doctrine and to do that the Bible must come under attack. Never forget, what Jesus’ message reveals is a very narrow Gospel that does not allow in those who simply want Heaven, but refuse to have Jesus as Lord.

Unbelief is the root of Liberal Theology. Never forget, the attacks we are witnessing in our day on our faith are coming from within the visible Church. Here is an example of their mindset.

I am not at all surprised that Southwestern Seminary faculty members have now been told they must teach that wives are to be submissive to their husbands. I am not surprised because:

In the early 1980’s, while the Southern Baptist controversy was in its early stages, several pastors were invited to meet in Atlanta to try to discuss the differences that divided and threatened to destroy the convention. I was one of those in attendance.

I well remember our dialogue concerning the importance of academic freedom in the educational processes of our seminaries and colleges. I vividly remember what Adrian Rogers, a leader of the takeover movement, said at the meeting. Of Southern Baptist seminary professors, he said they must teach, “whatever they are told to teach. And if we tell them to teach that pickles have souls, then they must teach that pickles have souls!” Those were his exact words. Everybody in the room heard them.

Frankly, I thought he was joking, or at least exaggerating. Subsequent years, however, have proved that he was doing neither. It’s not funny, and it’s no exaggeration. Southern Baptist seminary professors must now teach whatever they are told to teach.

So much for academic freedom. – Gene Garrison

Adrian Rogers was not serious about pickles having souls. He was stating that seminary professors must be bound to teach Biblical doctrine. These seminaries are supported by the churches. Churches support them so they will produce godly theologians, not something else. Here is an excerpt from a fine post by Ken Silva that shows us how we got to this sorry state.

There’s no such thing as a little bit pregnant. Got the message? No such thing as a little bit pregnant—you are, or you’re not. Well, there’s no such thing as a mild form of cancer; it’s cancer. You don’t get rid of it, you don’t deal with it, it gets you. And we have to deal with these things today; if we don’t, they’ll end up getting what’s left of the Church…

The form of godliness, but without the power; without the sound doctrine of Scripture. And what do we have today as the reigning school of [biblical] interpretation in Protestantism in our theological seminaries world-wide? I’ll tell you what it is: Bultmannian exegesis; named after Rudolph Bultmann, “the demythologizing of the Bible.”

And what did Dr. Bultmann teach, for forty-some years? He taught that you couldn’t rely upon any single thing—virtually—in the entire New Testament record; about Jesus Christ. It all had to be “demythologized,” and then the pieces put back together again. What does Paul say; “they will gather to themselves teachers who will tickle their ears, and the Truth of God will be turned into mythology.”

It’s here. The reigning school of American theologians has progressed from bad to worse. We only have to deal with Harry Emerson Fosdick in the 1920s; but then, it accelerated to Edwin Lewis, Nels F.S. Ferre, Reinhold Niebuhr, and on from Niebuhr to Paul Tillich, and crowned in Rudolph Bultmann. Not one single one of those men believed the historic doctrines of the Christian faith; but they were all the leading theologians of America.

[Episcopal] Bishop [John] A.T. Robinson cannot be unfrocked by the Anglican Church despite the fact that he is a living devil when it comes to Christian theology—denying everything and turning the faith of people into darkness. Do you know why they can’t unfrock A.T. Robertson; because [Episcopal leadership] is heretical as he is. Therefore they can’t touch him…

You can see these people in the cults and the occult if you have any degree of discernment at all because they are outside the church. But how do you see the Presbyterian, Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, Episcopalian professor of theology? How do you get him in a place where you can find out his theology is? The moment you question him he reverts to orthodox terminology. And then if you press him for the definition of the terminology, he claims you’re being suspicious, bigoted, and unloving.

So the average layman is defenseless, they’ve got to take what comes from behind the pulpit, and recommended by his church authorities, because the moment he opens his mouth, he’s accused of being divisive in the church, unloving and disturbing the fellowship of the faith. When it is the devil behind the pulpit, not the victim in the pew that’s responsible for it…

British theology was corrupted by German theology; by Friedrich Schleiermacher, Albrecht Ritschl, David Strauss. Finally [it moved] to the United States in Walter Rauschenbusch; and from there to Harry Emerson Fosdick, Nels Ferre, Reinhold Niebuhr, Paul Tillich, Rudolph Bultmann—and the school that’s emerging from them today. Where do you think we got the “God is dead theology” from? From historic Christianity; from Christian seminaries?

You did not. You got it from a good, solid Baptist theological seminary known as Colgate-Rochester in New York, which was absolutely orthodox and which sold out to liberalism. And when it did, they embraced the theology of Paul Tillich and ended up with—God is dead. It was called at the time, “the gospel of Christian atheism.” Did you ever heard such linguistic nonsense in your life? The gospel of Christian atheism, T.J. Alhizer, Emory Universtity.
(The Cult of Liberalism, Walter Martin Religious InfoNet, CD Rom)

Unbelief is the root of many things. It has its roots in human pride. Liberal Theology is Humanism dressed up in Christian clothes. Secular Humanism is not Christianity. The Social Gospel is not The Gospel of Jesus Christ. To those of you reading this who have been intimidated into remaining silent so you won’t be accused of being suspicious, bigoted and unloving, I want to encourage you to become educated about what is really going on. Do not challenge these people out of emotion or outrage or anything else. Instead, go to the Lord in prayer. Learn the truth and become equipped for the battle. Then and only then should you confront error. Never forget that this is a spiritual battle and we do not struggle against flesh and blood. (Ephesians 6:10-20)

Soli Deo Gloria!

5 thoughts on “Unbelief is the root of Liberal Theology

  1. Mike, you said, “So the average layman is defenseless, they’ve got to take what comes from behind the pulpit, and recommended by his church authorities…”
    Maybe that’s why the church in these days appears to be so anemic. The “layman” has been so deceived by false sheperds behind the pulpits, being lulled into a kind of stupor of religiosity. I believe that the epistles written by the apostles to the early believers at that time did not require some great learned scholars to interpret them to the ordinary people but could be read and understood by those ordinary believers. So why do we now need great preacher/teachers whom we seem to venerate or maybe IDOLIZE! Even the Bereans did not accept the great apostle Paul so easily but compared his teaching with scripture. It’s way past the time for believers today to do the same, asking the Spirit of Truth for guidance.


  2. Lately, The attacks from the enemy seem to be coming at the Body of Christ in rapid fire succession. It is hard to decide which flaming arrow to extinguish first! There is everything you mentioned in the article..the flaming arrows of the Social Gospel, Liberal theology ,Cultural Marxism, demands of people like Allberry, downgrades galore, New Age mysticism, etc.. And the enemy lulling Christians to sleep.

    Keep sounding the trumpet, Mike! We are watching with you and praying!

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