Progressive Christianity is a real thing. It’s a movement, or maybe a protest of sorts, a reaction to what some don’t like or find hard to swallow about the Christianity that we grew up with. It’s a call to abandon the idea that the Bible can be rightly interpreted with any convictional confidence. It’s an embracing of the doubts about what is real and true. In fact, according to Roger Wolsley, in his book Kissing Fish: Christianity for People Who Don’t Like Christianity, Progressive Christians take the Bible “seriously, but not literally,” and they “[don’t] claim that Christianity is the only valid or viable way to connect to God (is non-exclusive).” If you’ve followed the strange spiritual evolution of Rob Bell, you’ve noticed that he has begun teaching just that.
ProgressiveChristianity.org outlines the “Eight Points” that it claims Progressive Christians believe. Among the list is this one: “[We] find grace in the search for understanding and believe there is more value in questioning than in absolutes.” As the website tries to help new readers decide if they are actually progressives, it asks the questions: “Do you have religious interests and longings but cannot accept the beliefs and dogmas you associate with Christianity? Are you repelled by claims that Christianity is the ‘only way’?”
Rachel Held Evans is a hero of the movement. In fact, she recently announced that she is walking away from Evangelical Christianity because of the decision of World Vision to not allow employees in gay marriages to work for its organization (this after World Vision announced a day earlier that it had voted to allow these employees to work for its organization). Whew. It’s a whirlwind. Well, Rachel was so disgusted by the response of Evangelicals to the first announcement, that when World Vision bowed “to the financial pressure of Evangelicals” and reversed its decision, she just couldn’t handle it and decided she would no longer be an Evangelical. As if you can be an Evangelical and then decide not to be one.
For a gal who is so keen on the importance of doubt and questioning, she seems pretty sure of herself. Rachel and Sarah Bessey and the growing throng of Progressive Christians make it clear as often as they possibly can that they don’t identify with “church people” anymore. The only thing that they seem sure about is that Evangelicals are wrong about most things. They are sure that their Jesus would handle things differently than ours. They are sure that, even though interpreting the Bible isn’t as clear cut as they were once led to believe (by the Evangelicals, of course), their interpretations of it are much more valid than the “church people” (A.K.A. Pharisees).
Even though Progressive Christians believe the questions are more important that the answers, they sure are quick to provide lots of answers. And, unfortunately, their answers seem to be based more on their own feelings than on what the Bible actually says.
James writes a letter to the churches in which he implores them to ask God for wisdom when they lack it. He says that God gives generously when we ask for this. But, James warns that we should ask and then BELIEVE that God will give us the wisdom we seek. He says that a person who doubts God’s ability to provide the answers we seek is like a wave in the sea, constantly tossed around by the wind. He calls the doubter “double-minded,” unstable in all he does.
Am I saying that we should never doubt or question? No. There are times when our growth demands seeking answers to questions and allaying any doubts that we may have. But, to claim that the doubts and the questions are the real meat of the faith is to claim that being tossed around by every wind that blows is the nature of Christianity. Living out a double-minded faith is really tough to do. No wonder the Progressives no longer want to identify with the church. They are torn between truth of Scripture and their own feelings and fears. Living a double minded faith leads to more doubt, more questions, and fewer answers.
The loud voices in Progressive Christianity, the Rachel Held Evanses of the blogosphere, are trying to lead others into a faith that is unstable at best, and arrogantly lost at worst. Their motives are pure, I think. But, they have missed the mark. The Bible is filled with truth that is knowable. The real question is: do we have the courage to accept the truth and believe it, asking God for a single-minded focus? Or, are we convinced that when we ask for wisdom, we still won’t find answers, that we are doomed to endure the Christian life filled with doubt, with a mind that partly believes the Bible, but also partly believes the world?
It seems Rachel Held Evans has made her choice. What about you?
“The Bible is filled with truth that is knowable. The real question is: do we have the courage to accept the truth and believe it, asking God for a single-minded focus?”
I’m not sure how I came across your blog, but I’m really glad I did! Thank you & may the Lord bless you and your family as you contend for the Truth. 🙂
I’m glad you did, too, Tina! Thanks so much for your comment!
Thank you for revealing the flawed views of this dangerous movement. In this life, I believe we have one thing that is concrete, unchangeable, steadfast: the Scriptures. May God help the younger Christians who are susceptible to such fallacies to know the real Truth that is Jesus Christ as the Scriptures present Him. And may we as Christians warn them and disciple them in God’s beautiful Word.
Thank you, Tony!
Thank you so much for your article! I particularly like what you said about the “loud voices” of progressive Christianity. The world has no shortage of loud voices, all pulling us in a million different directions, and if we are not firmly established, and, like you said, are partly in the Bible, and partly in the world, we will get swept away. Here is a link for another really good article that I think you and your readers will enjoy, it talks about how to sustain our faith through times of questions, and how to not get caught up in the loud voices of the world. It comes from a website filled with uplifting Christian messages that I think you will also really like. http://goo.gl/3vJe50 Thanks again for your article!
Jude, verse 3, says this: “Dear friends, although I have been eager to write to you about our common salvation, I now feel compelled instead to write to encourage you to contend earnestly for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.
To be able to contend earnestly for the faith, one surely has to be able to know what that faith is. On that faith that was “once for all entrusted to the saints” and ultimately to the Jesus that faith rests firmly upon, I for all time entrust my well being both for life on this earth and for eternity.
They can and will question all that they want to. Here, by God’s grace and His grace and strength alone, I stand.
This is so very refreshing. I’ve begun to feel alone at times, wondering when and how people who claim to be Christ followers can then claim that one can’t really know what the Bible means about a particular topic–a topic which actually is addressed numerous times throughout Scripture. Thank you for being bold to publish these words of yours. “their answers seem to be based more on their own feelings than on what the Bible actually says.”…God’s Word never calls us to be led by our feelings. Thank you for writing the truth.
Thank you for this, Allison!
Love this! I’d like to stress one point you made well, that when a Progressive (or anyone) doubts that they can know the answers, they are actually doubting God’s ability to tell us the answers. They diminish Him. The questions is not: Can I know? but: Is God able to communicate with me? Of course He is; but are we willing to listen?
Yes! Thank you, madblog!
And I have two other comments. First, I think you exactly named the real motives behind this thinking–arrogance, hence the motives are NOT pure. When you prefer your feelings to God’s truth, you are making a choice.
Second, the issue of doubt. I think doubt is not an unfortunate thing we sometimes experience but an absolutely necessary part of the path to real personal faith. We must own our convictions and beliefs, prove all things and hold fast what is true. In the process of becoming mature in our faith, we move from childlike imitation to questioning and examining and finally to solid belief which will withstand the winds and waves. But we must choose to move along that path, we must desire the destination to be true faith on God’s terms, and we must be willing to trust in Him who gives wisdom on the way.
The Progressives by their own admission are not willing to experience that maturing process and so remain children in faith, and rebellious ones at that.
I find it imporant to hear and have these discussions even and especially with those that disagree with you. I think we have a lot to learn from each other. So here are some responses…
1. What does any of this have to do with skinny jeans? 🙂
2. I find that “progressive Christians” are trying to live out the gospel truly, where “conservative Christians” cannot swallow the hard truth of the central message of the gospel that Christ came to LOVE ALL PEOPLE and came not to condemn the world but to save it. I understand your point though, loving people that are different from you is really hard to swallow…
3. I take the Bible very seriously… I am in Seminary… if the bible was easy to understand I wouldn’t need to go to Seminary… as for literally… I just got out of Greek class and there are a lot of things that I do not think you would take literally either. scripture comes down to language and context and even when you study the language and context there is a lot left to question and pray about and ask God and the Spirit to guide you in… if it was easy, I wouldn’t be paying money to be in seminary right now…(or should I just come and study whatever you say because it is what you FEEL comfortable with.) Do you really know EXACTLY what all the biblical writers meant when they were writing in a language you do not understand and to a culture you do not know?
ALSO, if questioning God is wrong, how do you come to terms with the book of Job? Job questioned God. Job questioned Gods justice and guess what GOD DID NOT ANSWER HIM. God was silent for a really long time… and when he did speak, he did not say whether or not Job was right or wrong, he CHANGED THE SUBJECT. because God is not about pointing fingers at who is right or wrong. (which is why God condemns Job’s friends later) God brings the subject back to himself. To His power, HIS WISDOM showing that human wisdom is inadequate (aka, mine, Jobs friends, AND yours) I do not have all the answers, and neither do you, and if you claim you do… you are claiming to be like God (that didn’t work out very well for humanity back in Eden)
4. I feel that Rachel Held Evans is just trying to help others with their own questions… help others FIND A FAITH that they feel is TRUE TO THE GOSPEL. Find a faith that doesn’t involve ignoring something difficult because we are scared that we will lose our faith. Ignoring people that are different because we do not feel comfortable with them or AGREE with them. Ignoring hurting people because we think it’s their fault and their lives and they should deal with it themselves. FINDING THAT KIND OF FAITH is the most STABLE thing I can think of!
5. “The bible is filled with truth that is knowable.” Of COURSE IT IS! And I believe “conservative Christians” have been ignoring it… let us look to the prophets and what they say about injustice towards the least in society (that would be for us the poor-not just those on the other side of the world but those down the street that we judge as drunks and single moms that got themselves into it, that would be for us the “queers”- that we ignore or say we are going to love the sinner and hate the sin but really all we do in our actions is show that we hate everything about them, that would be for us the pagans- those that do not agree with us 100% therefore we shun them and tell them that they are not allowed to worship with us….) YES, the Bible is filled with very knowable truth… and I am SO INCREDIBLY SADDENED and TIRED by Christians that are not willing to listen to that truth.
6. I would love if we could accept the single-minded focus that God has given us… “And Jesus answered, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your passion and prayer and muscle and intelligence—and that you love your neighbor as well as you do yourself.’” Luke 10:27
Stumbled on to your blog today through a link from another site. I so appreciate this post. Thanks for your willingness to lovingly speak the truth!
Keep on keeping on, Melissa. God bless you!