What is Progressive Christianity? – their own definitions
As we continue in this series to look at progressive Christianity, I want to look at some of their own statements about what they believe. As we go further with the series I will start to delve into each of these and bring a biblical response. For now, let’s look at one of the most basic texts that we rely on in Christianity. It relates to the fact the Jesus claims for himself a very unique and specific role which is that he alone is the way to the father and then no one can no Salvation outside of him.
Read John 14:5-7
5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really know me, you will know[b] my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
As we look at Progressive Christianity we have to realize that it comes in many forms and then as we look at any individual, or group of individuals churches, or even whole denominations, we’re looking at a spectrum of involvement in Progressive Christianity .
- In most cases we are dealing with people who take their spiritual life seriously. Most of them would claim to love Jesus deeply. Furthermore, they take living out what they see as love as a high priority.
- Some of the proponents of PC have treated me with incredible love and kindness. This is in no means an attack on people but a humble attempt to correct error which is swallowing people and whole communities of faith.
- Some are just starting out on this road and may not even recognize the fact that they are on this Progressive Christianity journey.
- Some might not like the label and might even dispute that they are part of Progressive Christianity.
- Others are further along the spectrum
- while yet others are fully immersed in Progressive Christianity
- Then at the end of the spectrum we have those who are radically immersed and readily call themselves progressive Christians, and are strong advocates for this alternate view of life and scripture.
- So we are dealing with a spectrum.
- Across the world we work with pastors of many denominations as we help them plant multiple new churches through evangelism, discipleship and pastoral training. More and more we are finding that most of them are somewhere on the spectrum due to the influence of bibles school professors, TV evangelist, Utube teachers and popular progressive authors. Much of our training is aimed at building a biblical worldview into their lives and helping them understand the authority of the Scriptures. People who actually study the bible and a complete unit are less likely to be swallowed by this teaching.
This is important as we look at what progressives say about themselves and we must realize that not everyone holds onto all of these points
- However, most who have become involved in this sort of teaching will eventually probably adopt most or all of these tenants given enough time and exposure to the teachers of progressive Christianity.
Eight basic Tenants of Progressive Christianity
On the website progressivechristianity.org we find the eight tenants explain as follows:
Updated in 2020:
By calling ourselves progressive Christians, we mean we are Christians who…
- Believe that following the path of the teacher Jesus can lead to healing and wholeness, a mystical connection to “God,” as well as an awareness and experience of not only the Sacred, but the Oneness and Unity of all life;
- New Age mysticism
- Truth about reality and Jesus can lead you there
- Affirm that the teachings of Jesus provide but one of many ways to experience “God,” the Sacredness, Oneness and Unity of life, and that we can draw from diverse sources of wisdom, including Earth, in our spiritual journey;
- Denies blood atonement and substitutionary atonement
- Reduces the cross – makes it unnecessary
- Makes God weak and powerless
- Question: then why did Jesus die? Their answer: He angered the political elite and was murdered, but not for my sins
- Occultic power of Earth
- Seek and create community that is inclusive of ALL people, including but not limited to:
- Conventional Christians and questioning skeptics,
- Believers and agnostics,
- Those of all races, cultures, and nationalities
- Those of all sexual orientations and all gender identities,
- Those of all classes and abilities,
- Those historically marginalized,
- All creatures and plant life;
- Know that the way we behave towards one another and Earth is the fullest expression of what we believe, therefore we vow to walk as Jesus might have walked in this world with radical compassion, inclusion, and bravery to confront and positively change the injustices we experience as well as those we see others experiencing;
- Find grace in the search for understanding and believe there is more value in questioning with an open mind and open heart, than in absolutes or dogma;
- Work toward peace and justice among all people and all life on Earth;
- Light and darkness?
- Jesus was divisive: look at what he called people: vipers, etc…
- Look at what Jude called false teachers:
- Protect and restore the integrity of our Earth and all of Creation;
- Commit to a path of life-long learning, compassion, and selfless love on this journey toward a personally authentic and meaningful faith.
- Answers are for the immature
Good things: Compassion, love, for the underdog
How to spot a progressive church
Alisa Childers, says people can’t easily spot it as progressive Christianity is sneaky. However, it is important to do so that you can be prepared to identify progressive ideas in case they exist in your own church. While Progressives still like to use a lot of the same words we do, like inspired, well-meaning Christians like you and me are easily sucked into the progressive abyss. It’s a combination of agnostic beliefs with all the warm fuzzies of Christian-ish traditions, and far too many naive Christians are falling prey to it. Essentially, it is uber-liberal Christianity. By progressive, we don’t mean politically progressive, though the two views often go hand-in-hand. Progressive Christianity doesn’t necessarily view the Bible as God’s Word and bases their theology on 1) personal conscience or experience and 2) cultural norms.
You have almost certainly encountered the ideas and teaching of Progressive Christianity if you have read anything by Rob Bell, Richard Rohr, Rachel Held Evans or even Rachael Hollis.
As we look to sign we can spot we need to remember the importance of knowing and understanding the truth as revealed in scripture. If not, you will have no reference point, no source of objective truth. Remember, what they teach sounds so good, so logical and so appealing. It feels attractive but it denies God’s answer to the world we live in.
I am referring a lot to Childers here and often quoting her:
- There is a lowered view of the BibleOne of the main differences between Progressive Christianity and Historic Christianity is its view of the Bible. Historically, Christians have viewed the Bible as the Word of God and authoritative for our lives. Progressive Christianity generally abandons these terms, emphasizing personal belief over biblical mandate.Comments you might hear:
- The Bible is a human book…
- I disagree with the Apostle Paul on that issue…
- The Bible condones immorality, so we are obligated to reject what it says in certain places…
- The Bible “contains” the word of God…
2. Feelings are emphasized over facts
Comments you might hear:
- That Bible verse doesn’t resonate with me….
- I thought homosexuality was a sin until I met and befriended some gay people….
- I just can’t believe Jesus would send good people to hell….
- Essential Christian doctrines are open for re-interpretation
Comments you might hear:
- The resurrection of Jesus doesn’t have to be factual to speak truth….
- The church’s historic position on sexuality is archaic and needs to be updated within a modern framework…
- The idea of a literal hell is offensive to non-Christians and needs to be re-interpreted…
4. Historic terms are re-defined
There are some Progressive Christians who say they affirm doctrines like biblical inspiration, inerrancy, and authority, but they have to do linguistic gymnastics to make those words mean what they want them to mean.
Another word that tends to get a Progressive make-over is the word “love.”
- When plucked out of its biblical context, it becomes a catch-all term for everything non-confrontative, pleasant, and affirming.Comments you might hear:
- God wouldn’t punish sinners—He is love….
- Sure, the Bible is authoritative—but we’ve misunderstood it for the first 2,000 years of church history…
- It’s not our job to talk to anyone about sin—it’s our job to just love them….
5. The heart of the Gospel message shifts from sin and redemption to social justice
Comments you might hear:
- Sin doesn’t separate us from God—we are made in His image and He called us good….
- God didn’t actually require a sacrifice for our sins—the first Christians picked up on the pagan practice of animal sacrifice and told the Jesus story in similar terms….
- We don’t really need to preach the gospel—we just need to show love by bringing justice to the oppressed and provision to the needy…
Identifying the signs is not always obvious—sometimes they are subtle and mixed with a lot of truth. Progressive Christianity can be persuasive and enticing, but carried out to its logical end, it is an assault on the foundational framework of Christianity, leaving it disarmed of its saving power.
We shouldn’t be surprised to find some of these ideas infiltrating our churches. Jesus warned us, “Watch out for false prophets” who “come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves” (Matthew 7:15). So if you spot any of these 5 danger signs in your place of worship, it might be time to pray about finding fellowship in a more Biblically faithful church community.