William Barclay has been visiting with me through his “The Daily Study Bible Series” since 1961—that’s fifty-eight years ago. Barclay (1907 - 1978) was a professor at Glasgow University and the author of many Biblical commentaries and books, including a translation of the New Testament, “Barclay New Testament.” My boyhood pastor, J. Kenneth Mart, recommended Barclay to me when I was 17 years old. I ordered Volume 1 of the Gospel of Matthew in the Daily Study Bible Series from Cokesbury while stationed on the Island of Crete, and later collected the entire series. Throughout all the years I have recommended Barclay’s writings to any and all who would take the Bible seriously.
Barclay is visiting with me this morning. Some religious conservatives have labeled him a “liberal evangelical.” I happen to like that term and take it on as my own stance without apology. Some say the label is a contradiction. I do not think so! Thank God, there are liberal conservatives, liberal Christians, liberal Jews, liberal Muslims, and liberal politicians. Without the “liberal” part of that label we “would dry up,” as E. Stanley Jones use to say.
The difference between the “liberal” Christian and the “conservative” Christian is a great difference. The chasm between the two “labels” is deep and wide, and that chasm colors every aspect of life. Let me demonstrate by first quoting a so-called “conservative“ Christian,” and then quoting William Barclay, a “Liberal” Christian.
“We do know that tolerance is a quality in the Christian’s life. Paul says that we are to have an attitude that shows “tolerance for one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2). But we are not to tolerate false teachers and false teaching. We are to “turn away from” false teachers (Romans 16:17-18) and are to recognize those who reject the Biblical Christ as false prophets who have the spirit of antichrist (1 John 4:1-6). We must denounce and withdraw fellowship from those who present false teachings and unscriptural ways (Acts 20:28-31; 2 John 7-11). Barclay, however, tolerated those who must not be tolerated.”
Barclay wrote: “I am a very tolerant person, and the older I get the more tolerant I become…I am not likely to condemn a man’s beliefs. If through them he has found his way to God, then that is his affair. I shall only think him wrong, if he refuses to extend to me the same sympathy that I extend to him. The one attitude that I believe to be wrong is the attitude of the man who believes that he has a monopoly of the truth and that there is no way to God but his way.”
Can you see the difference? Do you see the deep, wide chasm that separates?