"Liberated Christians" on the Bible

On the Liberated Christians ("LC") website, we have some selections criticizing "Bibleianity," seemingly to be defined as an obsessive focus on the Bible by "fundamentalists" (whatever those are, since there's no clear definition given other than, "they don't agree with us that the Bible promotes free sex, etc."). We find little to suggest that the LC has any reckoning of Biblical scholarship.

Let us see what grade they deserve on that account.

A short one, to start, gives one the LC definitions of "love" Biblically speaking. I'd like to ask which "love" first; it seems doubtful that they even know that there are four Biblical words that encompass the concept. Much of what they describe would fit with agape (link 1 below), i.e., "Love is wanting the best for the other person."

Close, it is really better defined as wanting what is best for the whole, that is, all people, which of course, in many cases, means what is also best for a particular person. "Love is not possessing but liberating." Liberating from what, we wonder? Not moral compunction, it seems. "Love is enthusiastically giving maximum emotional, spiritual and physical enjoyment to the other person." Ah, Enjoyment. To think that we should have read it all this time, "For God so wanted the world to enjoy itself..." That leaves us wondering why God sent His Son and not a Ferris Wheel.

It is rightly said, love is not sex. True -- the word for that in the Koine Greek would be eros. And then it is said:

For CHRISTIANS loving intimacy is the social, emotional, spiritual and physical/sexual sharing of oneself in a giving way which follows the biblical call to regard others as better than oneself, i.e. following the law of love--God, neighbor, self. Too often Christians are so much into the legalism of religion that they forget Christ's teaching of love as paramount. This legalism is often based on guilt and shame about sex and not on the Scriptures.

Hmm, isn't that convenient! By luck "love" just happens to include their preferred way of living. The bad news: There's no sign (see again link 1 below) that agape love EVER included such a thing specifically. It does mean, "treat others as THEY WANT to be treated" -- but if your neighbor's wife wants a hop in the sack with you, does this mean, give it to her? To paraphrase the atheist Dan Barker, "Yes, and it also means you should whip a sadomasochist if he asks you to." In other words, no -- that doesn't wash.

Despite what LC thinks, nothing in agape means "intimacy." In fact, this would be quite contrary to the ancient dichotomy between public and private selves. Malina and Neyrey put it thusly: "In collectivist cultures, individuals are enculturated not to express what they personally think but to say what their conversation partner or audience needs or wants to hear from their in-group." -- Portraits of Paul, 214.

If anything, this was a system designed to AVOID intimacy, especially with those outside one's family group. That sure doesn't leave much for LC's dreams of "intimacy" and "letting others [sic] see into me by being totally open and honest about feelings."

Much less does it accommodate the free sex view LC offers, and which is further discussed in an article on "Bibleianity." We are assured that "many theologians say" that so-called sexual repression "ignores the koine Greek and the culture to whom it was addressed," but we are not given a quote or a reference from any "theologian," much less any linguistic scholar or scholar of the Biblical social sciences (like Malina and Neyrey) to support this. (The only reference is to John Shelby Spong, who knows little to nothing about any such subject and has never been in any peer-reviewed publication.)

We are also assured that such repression is "CONTRARY TO THE EXPLICIT TEACHING OF CHRIST" -- with allusion made again to LC's abuses of the Sermon on the Mount (and claims that Jesus himself violated the Law), which we covered in another entry (link 2 below).

After this, LC offers some "samples" of "Past False Christian Teachings" which they think, presumably, demonstrate that well, so I guess that the exegetes who say our hobbies are immoral MUST be wrong this time too! What we end up with though are examples that are either grossly in error or else sound like atheists on a naturalist spiel:

  • It was believed in Jesus's time that those afflicted with many ills were demon possessed. In one case they made a man crazy, another dumb; another blind and dumb; and in Mt 17:14-21; Mark 9:14-29 and Lk 9: 37-43 an epileptic child. We now are starting to find for example, homosexuality is no more a sin than epileptics demon possession!

    Whatever THAT means. No one said that the possession was a sin, either; and never mind actually engaging the biological issue of homosexuality directly (we won't either, though). In the meantime, if LC claims to believe in God, and thinks Jesus is divine, what are they saying here? Do they deny that demon possession occurred? What is the point exactly and how is it consistent with their professed Christianity?

  • Then we have an old saw: "Galileo Moving And Round Earth Heresy" (see link 3 below). If anything, the Church was more like LC is behaving now: starting with a preference, then force-fitting the Bible into it.
  • Then there's the usual on slavery. In fact, those who supported it from the Bible were once again more like LC than anything else, ripping passages from their social and historical context to make a case (see link 4 below).
  • There's also an extended list of "Catholic Fairy Tales" outside our purview.
  • Then, with ominous reverb added, it is asked, "Should We Bring Back Traditional Biblical Family Values" with the specter of concubine behavior and polygamy, ill treatment of women, Deut. 22, and Midianite girls (see links 5 through 8 below).

    You'll find informed answers at the links, but it's once again LC being the decontextualizers. It is not sufficient to say, "You were wrong here; so you must be on our topic, too" -- it needs to be argued from contextual data, and it needs to be supported by direct evidence and "guilt by association" is not a valid answer.

    There follows a rather insulting analysis of why people need the "crutch" of Bibleianity. One may as well ask why we need a "crutch" of state statutes and administrative codes. Beyond this statements like, "People have always wanted a rule book to follow to make things easy" is rather naive, given that the vast majority of people who have existed have been illiterate. LC needs to decide whether objective morality actually exists or not; vague appeals to the "law of love" are no substitute for serious contextual study. LC rightly points out that the Bible's culture was not the same as ours; but to say that this means the moral teachings it offers are thereby fully defunct, is not a valid way of doing exegesis.

    LC's "guilt by association," without addressing specific problems related to their activities, continues to be the best they can do. A section on "Translation Problems" just may as well come out and call translators incompetent, and later comments outright say they are biased:

    Since most of the NIV translators came from a traditional conservative background, the majority view resulted in a traditional vs. more historically accurate English translation. To varying degrees this is also true of other English translations which reflect more a conservative agenda than a search for God's truth.

    One would expect LC to come up with qualified, equitable scholars, to support their point of view; but don't hold your breath. Statements such as that Aramaic is a "very vague language" (!) are insulting to scholars like Maurice Casey who have devoted their lives to the subject. We are assured that "serious biblical scholars are revealing false traditional biblical teachings," but the examples are manifestly poor, such as the attempt to rob Ex. 22:21 of its clear support for the personhood of the fetus (see link 9 below). In the end, as one familiar with serious contextual study, I find LC's admonitions to not just "slap open a Strong's Concordance" rather hypocritical.

    In a section that follows, LC provides a minor list of the usual Biblical "errors" and makes note of errors in transcription. Why they do this is a mystery, but they seem to be attempting to cover their bases: We believe the Bible supports or at least does not condemn our views; but just in case, maybe free love was left out due to transcription error!

    Since all the citations are "old hat" and answered on this site (like the old "rabbits chewing the cud" deal -- see link 10 below), there's no need to address them in detail. It is enough to point out LC's poor scholarship, as in saying that the LXX is a "flawed translation" (that is patently false; the quality is variable -- see link 11 below), and that they think Gleason Archer is the last word in responding scholarship!

    Some of LC's attempts to "answer" Archer deserve notice. It has always been a staple of inerrancy doctrine that "only the original manuscripts of Scripture as preserved from all error; it does not guarantee absolute trustworthiness of all copies." LC calls this "a convenient rationalization" because it "can't be disproved because there is no way of checking the original manuscripts - none exists."

    That's of little notice, since there is no way of checking the originals for the vast majority of ancient works; that is why we have textual criticism. Not that it matters, since whatever the copy says, it needs to be evaluated in terms of what it says one way or the other. As for why copies can't be kept error free, LC needs to look at link 12 below. Then we are treated to yet another commentary, on "The Lost Books of the Bible," which includes such statements as:

  • It took almost 200 years to decide on the biblical canon, with many great authorities debating what should be included. For a more detailed and less simplified account of how it worked, see link 13 below.
  • Rejected gospels include Peter's Gospel, which was once held as highly as those of Matthew and Mark, and more highly than those of Luke and John, but was rejected because it differs too much from the others that were chosen. That's just plain false. As Jenkins reports in Hidden Gospels, the so-called "Gospel of Peter" has been regarded as derived from the canonical gospels since it was discovered in the 1880s; it does not appear in history until 200 AD, and the only person who holds views close to what LC describes about it is Crossan, who actually holds something like this for a "cross gospel" that he thinks GoP used. Despite LC, GoP was never "held as highly" as the canonical Gospels.
  • The Gospel of Thomas was rejected since Thomas says that he who understands Christ's words will be saved, rather than those that believe as the other Gospel's and Paul's Epistles. The GoT was rejected because it is a late, Gnostic document, that has no chance of being from the words of the real Jesus (see link 14 below).
  • Mark 16:9-20 used to be a hallmark of Christian teaching but is now known to be a fake, added by some unknown in a later century. This includes a major quotation from Jesus himself. The early writers of the church themselves knew Mark 16:9-20 was not genuine (see link 15 below). This was not part of some canonical conspiracy.
  • The story of the first council of Nice, where Arius was commanded by the Bishop of Alexandria to quit his beliefs or be declared a heretic, and his writings ordered destroyed, is an example of many things that happened. The Council of Nicaea, actually, is used by LC as an example of "intolerance" -- as if the completely contrary views of the Arians and the Orthodox could both be right or open to possibility! What LC's message amounts to is toleration of anything at all, including outright error.

    LC closes with a couple of "former fundamentalist" testimonies, and now we have a pertinent question. If LC is correct, how is it that serious scholars familiar with the context of the Bible, and also NOT fundamentalists, fail to support their views on things like "polyamory"?

    - JPH


    1. agape
    2. LC and the law
    3. Galileo
    4. slavery
    5. polygamy
    6. and inferior treatment of women
    7. of Deut. 22
    8. the Midianite girls
    9. abortion
    10. rabbits chewing the cud
    11. the LXX
    12. inerrancy and copies
    13. the NT canon
    14. Gospel of Thomas
    15. end of Mark