As the Unity Fellowship Church prepares to celebrate its 25 year anniversary, we thought it prudent to take a look at their doctrine called “liberation theology”. Is it acceptable Christian doctrine? Does it pass the test of right division and right application of scripture?
While the UFC’s founder Carl Bean (pictured, left) did not originate the term nor become the first to use it, he did introduce it into black gay religious thought.
Liberation theology is, in the broader sense, a component of the Christian social justice movement with Marxist overtones. Using scriptures like Matthew 10:34 and Luke 22:35-38, proponents see themselves as literal emissaries of Christ to liberate those they consider poor and oppressed. Teachers pitted orthopraxy (practice) against orthodoxy (doctrine) as the more acceptable way to express Christianity. Thus, liberation theology was adaptable to any group which designated itself “oppressed”. It was in this context that Bishop Carl Bean saw liberation theology as a fitting expression of the Unity Fellowship Church.
Social justice religion has become paired with political religion as a mean of accomplishing the goals of liberation theology proponents. Christian disciplines such as prayer and love are not viewed as effective tools of change, so it became necessary to partner with political entities and incorporate political causes to “liberate” the poor and oppressed.
Bean’s interpretation of liberation theology was that [quote]:
— it is not a male-dominated hierarchy
— it is not oppressive to women
— it is not oppressive to Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, Bisexual,
Intersexual, or Heterosexual people
—God is greater than any religion, denomination or
school of thought
1. Is not a male dominated hierarchy.
Obviously a rejection of the patriarchial system of the scripture and society, Bean’s first point seems to be a further rejection of the men in power would not allow homosexuality an influential place in the church. Use of the word “domination” suggests a authoritarian rule of men, but plays well into the liberation victimology (us vs them) mindset. In this case, oppressed by men. However, Bean did not follow his own guidelines. In its 25 years of operation, the UFC never allowed a woman to advance to its heirarchy of leadership. It wasn’t until more lesbians began starting UFC churches that the demand for representation at the top became more vocal. Consequently, the UFC is set to ordain its first female bishop, Tonya Rawlins of Charlotte this year. 25 years after Bean set the “no male domination” policy.
The wider implication against scripture deals with the Fatherhood of God. God as father ordained the man in his place over the woman. Paul wrote that the woman was “created for the man” (1 Cor 11:8-10). Paul’s teaching (1 Tim 2:13) did not alter the creative order, but added the context of love. He instructed the man to love and respect the woman as Christ loved the church. Thus, the patriarchy is still (order-wise) in place.
2. Is not oppressive to women.
We agree that Jesus liberated and lifted the woman from her status as property and second class citizenship. But it was only a derivative of the true mission of Christ. His priority liberated all people from the bondage of sin. He did not liberate the woman (nor anyone else) through social programs, marches or protests. As a matter of record, Jesus resisted attempts to be a social justice savior i.e. liberating the Jews from Roman domination. He shed his blood as a ransom for sins. Therefore, every woman has freedom in Christ through his shed blood. We question what good it would be for a woman to have equality in society and remain a prisoner of sin? Elevating the temporal over the eternal minimizes the Cross of Christ and indeed his very purpose.
3. Is not sexually oppressive.
Let’s face it, the Bible is both sexually repressive and sexually liberating, but never oppressive. That’s the language of the “liberators” who want all forms of sexual expression validated and celebrated. On one hand, the scriptures tell us to control and repress any desires which would lead to sexual sin.
1 Thessalonian 4:2-4 “The Lord Jesus gave us the right and the power to tell you what to do. 3 God wants you to be holy. You must keep away from sex sins. 4 God wants each of you to use his body in the right way by keeping it holy and by respecting it.” (NLV) So whether one has homosexual or heterosexual or anything in between there is no allowance to act them out. Additionally, Jesus condemned even the desire to commit sexual sin!( Mt 5:28)
On the other hand, the Bible allows unrestrained sexual bliss, but only in the context of monogamous, opposite sex, covenant marriage. Hebrews 13:4 “Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled; but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.” (21st CKJV)
4. God is greater than any religion, denomination or school of thought.
This is true, but stated as substantiation of liberation theology’s rejection of doctrinal authority. God is greater than all these, but God has also given us His written word and will which we are to adhere to. This is an antinominalist spin which allows the “liberators” to simply reject orthodoxy because of God’s alleged personal instruction to them. According to Christian theologian Dr J.I. Packer, antinominianalists elevate following the “spirit” or God above scripture, thereby creating an easy out from moral restrictions:
“What matters is not what the Scripture tells me. I am a spiritual person, filled with the Holy Spirit. I am above the law of the Scripture. I am led by the Spirit, and the Spirit overrules the Scripture. The Spirit can even contradict the Scripture. I am a spiritual Christian, and I am led by the Spirit. I do what the Spirit tells me, and I don’t worry about the Holy Scriptures.”