A while back, over at Wheat and Tares, I participated in a discussion about whether or not “liberal religions” were “leeches on conservative religions.”
One thing that has also been difficult is to figure out what is even meant by “liberal” and “conservative.”
Does “Conservative” when referring to theology mean “believes every scripture completely literally?” If so, I doubt there is such a thing as a “conservative” when it comes to theology. But there is one thing that seems very consistent when we refer to “Conservative Christians”: we always seem to mean someone that believes in the doctrines of the Christian religion, particularly the unique Divine Sonship of Jesus Christ and the literal resurrection after his crucifixion. Perhaps this is why sometimes “liberal Christian” gets used as a simple (though as we’ll see, incorrect) synonym for a practicing-but-not-believing Christian.
But this just doesn’t seem to be an accurate use of the term either. For example, I was reading Lloyd Averill’s book Religious Right, Religious Wrong: A Critique of the Fundamentalist Phenomenon and I came across this explanation of his own Christian beliefs:
One fundamentalist doctrine that cannot stand the test of original biblical intent is that of the virgin birth of Jesus. The problem with the virgin birth… is not that the religions of the world were filled with accounts of miraculously birthed saviors, or that modern science has no place for human parthenogenesis, both of which are true. The problem is… internal to [the New Testament]: the New Testament itself fails to affirm the virgin birth broadly or give it a central place in its witness to Jesus as the Christ. Consider the following points.
First, the miraculous birth of Jesus is reported unambiguously in only one place in the New Testament. [Goes on to point out that in Matthew the mention of virgin birth in Isaiah is actually a mistranslation of the Septuagint.] Second, Luke’s birth account is ambiguous. …there is no explicit elimination of Joseph from the impregnation nor any mention of embarrassment on his part that his betrothed had become pregnant without his help… Neither Matthew nor Luke makes any later reference to the birth, and Mark and John contain no birth accounts at all. … If Paul knew of it, he obviously thought it unimportant…
So the virgin birth, as a physiological fact, fails – not out of scientific consideration, but out of the wight of biblical evidence… (p. 83-85)
So here we have what many would call a ‘liberal Christian.’ He denies the virgin birth.