Liberal Protestants come from various denominations, particularly mainline denominations such as Episcopalian, Presbyterian and United Methodist as well as self-identifying liberal churches such as Unitarian Universalist or non-denominational congregations. However, denominations do not define liberal Protestants; it is their underlying perspectives on truth, Jesus, morality and salvation that shape their beliefs.
Perspectives on Truth
Many liberal Protestants believe that the Bible is a piece of literature about God more so than the literal word of God and that it should be read in its historical context with primary focus on the words and life of Jesus. Other liberal Protestants see the Bible as the word of God but approach it more broadly and believe it is open to various interpretations. Prominent liberal theologian and author of “A New Kind of Christianity,” Brian McLaren echoes this perspective on his blog. He argues that God can communicate truth to human beings without the requirements of traditional religious constructs, such as denominations, temples or dogma.
Beliefs About Jesus
Foundational to Protestant Christian belief structure -- liberal or conservative -- is that Jesus is the Son of God who came to earth, modeled an example for humans to follow and sacrificed himself for sin before rising again on the third day. Nevertheless, prominent liberal theologian Marcus Borg, Canon Theologian at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Portland, Oregon, dismisses the physical bodily resurrection of Jesus on earth as inconsequential to the faith. He writes on his website, “Easter is not about believing in a spectacular long ago event, but about participating in what we see in Jesus.”
Attitudes On Morality
Liberal Protestants see the life and teachings of Christ as foundational to morality and ethics. They embrace Jesus’ teaching on caring for the poor, challenge of conventional religious thinking and acceptance of the marginalized in society. This leads a minority to adopt liberation theology, the belief that the church should align itself with the working class to bring about social change, using resistance if necessary. Liberal Protestants are also more likely to be pro-choice and open to gay rights, according to the website Beliefnet.
Beliefs About Salvation
Some liberal Protestants shy away from the concept of original sin and view humanity as fundamentally good with the free will to make good or bad choices. Salvation therefore becomes less about a one-time event or commitment and more about a lifelong pursuit of following Jesus. In his controversial and bestselling book “Love Wins; A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Has Ever Lived,” Rob Bell argues against the perspective that only a select few Christians will receive salvation while the rest of humanity is damned. He writes Jesus’s message is "of love, peace, forgiveness, and joy that our world so desperately needs to hear.”
- Religious Tolerance: Progressive Christianity
- Jesus is a Liberal: Liberal Christians
- Brian McLaren
- BBC -- Religions: Christianity At a Glance
- Marcus J. Borg: The Resurrection of Jesus
- BBC -- Religions: Christianity Liberation Theology
- Love Wins; A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Has Ever Lived; Rob Bell
- Beliefnet: What Liberal Protestants Believe
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