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?