“Oh, that church is really conservative,” someone says, “they have changed nothing for decades!”
What is a conservative? What is a liberal?
These days the term “conservative” carries a negative connotation. In politics we hear the phrases “radical conservative,” or “rabid conservative.” The Oxford dictionary defines it this way: “Conservative: 1. Adverse to rapid change, moderate, avoiding extremes 2. Moderate, cautious. 3. Tending to conserve.”
The phrase that caught my eye was the last one: “tending to conserve.” At the same time, my eye fell on the entries in the Oxford Dictionary that preceded “conservative,” namely, “conservation,” and “conservationist.” Being a conservationist has a positive connotation.
Picture someone in Africa, protecting the leopard population, or someone in Brazil seeking to protect the ancient rainforest. These people are “conservationists.” They are “conservatives!”
Spiritually, if you were to call me a conservative because I wanted to keep everything in the church the same as it was fifty years ago, then mark my words, I am no conservative! If by the term you mean a return to Christianity in its original form, restoring its pristine state, then I am proud to be a conservative!
Some will protest at the use of these terms. “I don’t like it when we label people,” they say. I suppose they do so for two reasons: first, some fear that one act, one minor deviation from others might make one a “liberal.”
One man’s conservative might be another man’s liberal. The second reason is that some would like to pretend that in our great fellowship no distinctions exist at all.
Why do they seek to obscure the subject? That’s an excellent question. Do the terms express a reality in the church these days? Are there those who do not want to seek a “thus saith the Lord” for their beliefs and actions? Are there others who still want to speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where it is silent?
You would have to be an ostrich hiding your head in the sand if you said there wasn’t. The brotherhood of which we are a part is pulling itself apart before our very eyes.
We need some terminology to describe what is happening.If you don’t like the terms “liberal” and “conservative,” then find other terminology that will do the job. “Constantinople” and “Copenhagen”? “Crust” and “crumbs?” The fact is that there are issues out there strong enough to break a brave and great fellowship apart.
I want to be conservative in the sense that a conservationist conserves a great wilderness. I want to seek for Christianity in its pristine form as expressed in the New Testament. And I want to see that version of the church reproduced in our day.
“Thus says the Lord: ‘Stand by the roads and look and ask for the ancient paths where the good way is, and walk in it, and find rest for your souls’” (Jeremiah 6:16).
The church as God intended it, and Christ built it; now there is a pristine landscape worth conserving.