I had the privilege of writing a 5-part series about progressive Christianity for Impact 360. I wanted to link them all in one place, so here are the links with excerpts:
Post #1: How We Got Here: A History of Progressive Christianity
There is a growing movement in the church that seeks to re-interpret the Bible, re-assess historic doctrines, and re-define core tenets of the faith. All the while, this movement identifies itself as “Christian,” claims to follow Jesus, and boasts a high view of Scripture. But as we’ll see in this series, they are leading many unsuspecting Christians astray, and confusing the body of Christ about what the Bible is, what Jesus accomplished on the cross, and what the good news of the gospel proclaims.
But we shouldn’t be surprised by any of this. From as early as the New Testament was being written, heresies and false doctrines began finding their way into the church. After all, Jesus was the one who told us this would happen. “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves,” Jesus warned. Jesus not only predicted that Christians would be tempted by these false doctrines but pointed out that these teachings would be peddled by people who claim to be Christians. They would look like sheep, walk like sheep, and talk like sheep. But they would not be sheep—they would be predators looking to feast on the sheep. CONTINUE READING
Post #2: What are the Cultural Signs of Progressive Christianity?
Have you ever picked up a popular book at your local Christian bookstore, only to be confused when you read statements like, “The Bible is primarily a human book”? Or perhaps you’ve listened to a prominent Christian speaker only to be stopped in your tracks by their ambiguity regarding biblical sexuality and same-sex relationships. Maybe you’ve read a blog post written by a Christian pastor who portrayed the doctrine of substitutionary atonement as immoral and abusive. Maybe you’ve come across a tweet that claimed we need to “decolonize” our interpretations of Scripture. These are common ideas promoted within progressive Christianity.
Progressive Christianity can be a bit difficult to spot because typically speaking, progressive Christians aren’t united around an official creed or set of beliefs. In fact, progressive Christianity emphasizes action over belief; what you do over who you place your faith in. They use much of the same vocabulary as historic Christians, practice many of the same sacraments—like baptism and communion—and may even sing hymns and recite ancient creeds and liturgies. However, for progressive Christians, these words, phrases, sacraments, and traditions take on a whole new meaning. This is why it can be confusing and frustrating to identify their ideas in popular books, blogs, podcasts, and sermons. However, there are some very concrete beliefs and assumptions that undergird this growing movement, even if they aren’t recorded in an official creed. Moreover, there are certain warning signs to look for that can be cultural or theological in nature. In this post, we’ll look at the cultural signs. CONTINUE READING
Post #3: How to Recognize Progressive Christianity Through the Theology
Theology matters because beliefs are connected with behavior. In addition to this fact, one’s theology also reveals the true source of authority serving as the ultimate foundation. Am I going to be faithful to Scripture or conform to what is culturally comfortable? A recent example of this is the book, Untamed, by Glennon Doyle, which is #1 on Amazon’s “Christian self-help” category and currently #1 on the New York Times best-seller list. It is written from a loosely Christian perspective, utilizes Scripture, and speaks about God, faith, Christianity, and morality. It also teaches that you can find God within yourself, promotes moral relativism, teaches that sexuality and gender are fluid, and blames the Bible for creating a culture that oppresses women.
My hunch is that the average Christian might read that first paragraph with a bit of surprise and shock. How can someone who is accepted within a “Christian” paradigm believe and teach these things? The answer to that question can be found by understanding progressive Christianity. Progressives are not just a group of Christians who are changing their minds on social issues and politics. According to their most prominent thought leaders, authors, and speakers, they often deny core essential doctrines of the faith, which leads them to preach an entirely different gospel. As I have researched their books, blogs, and podcasts, I have discovered some theological signs to look for when trying to identify this movement. CONTINUE READING
Post #4: Original Sin or Original Blessing?
Recently, Michael Gungor of the Liturgists Podcast tweeted, “Heaven is not a place where you are made perfect after you die. Heaven is the realization that you’re already perfect as you are now.” With over 63 thousand followers on twitter, many of whom are current and former evangelical Christians, it’s not a stretch to say this idea has become mainstreamed. But there seems to be a major disconnect between this sentiment and the evil and suffering we see all around us every day.
For example, at the time I’m writing this article, the news cycle is inundated with images surrounding racism, rioting, looting, arson and brutality. We see humans enacting evil against other humans every time we turn on the news or check our twitter feeds. We can look around us and rightly recognize that there is something wrong with the world—something wrong with us.
In the wake of the civil unrest in our nation right now, it’s important to acknowledge an ancient core belief of Christianity—the doctrine of Original Sin. Original Sin teaches that because of Adam’s rebellion against God in the garden of Eden, every human is born with sinful desires. As our first parents, Adam and Eve have passed that sin nature on to us. CONTINUE READING
Post #5: How to Reach our Progressive Friends
Several years ago, I went through an intense time of doubt after my faith was rocked in a class led by a pastor who admitted he was an agnostic, and who would later identify himself as a “progressive Christian.” At the time, I had never heard of progressive Christianity. Our class was just a dozen or so sincere Christians who wanted to think deeper about our faith. But as the class progressed, my discomfort with what was being taught grew deeper. Historic doctrines were picked apart and discarded while biblical teachings were discredited. New doctrines and beliefs were put in their place. I watched with sadness as many of my classmates became beguiled by this new kind of Christianity.
These were smart and earnest people. They invested countless hours each week reading, studying, and preparing for the next class discussion. They were deeply persuaded that the church had gotten Christianity wrong and that it needed to be re-framed for a modern context. Many of them began to share the reasons they were changing their minds about key defining factors of Christianity.
One classmate expressed that despite the fervent prayers of his family and church community, his wife’s chronic and painful physical ailments had never improved. Another classmate shared that he had visited a Buddhist temple in Thailand and observed the sincerity of the monks’ prayers as they lie prostrate. He expressed that he could not believe that God would reject their worship. Still another articulated that he had grown up in a hyper-legalistic sect of Christianity that vilified other denominations and taught that everyone except for their small circle was going to hell. Another explained that she abandoned her beliefs after reading difficult passages in Scripture that challenged her view of God’s character. Others abandoned their prior beliefs because they had come to disagree with the sexual ethics taught in the Bible. Since then, I’ve met people who embraced progressive Christianity after witnessing hypocrisy, surviving abuse, or being taught caricatured versions of core doctrines in their given church settings. CONTINUE READING
To learn more about progressive Christianity, purchase Alisa's book, Another Gospel? A Lifelong Christian Seeks Truth in Response to Progressive Christianity:
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