Is Christianity an “evolving” faith?
Let me admit from the start that I am not fond of the term “progressive.” Not in politics and certainly not in religion. Does “progressive” mean the same to you as it means to me? I doubt it. I will say, also from the start, that hijacking that term for political and religious use was a shrewd move. It kind of gives the feel that if you aren’t “progressive,” you are kind of a “stick in the mud,” tied to the past, archaic, with no vision or interest in the future.
For the sake of sanity I will avoid discussion of the nature of political “progressives,” but I think it is well worth mentioning that to align oneself as a “progressive” Christian you may be affirming more than you intended. While being progressive in one’s openness to new ideas is admirable and professing to be a Christian is a really good decision, lumping them together as “Progressive Christian” is a radical departure from biblical Christianity. So beware!Though some of their language seems very loving, kind and benign with enough appeal to draw one in, there is a thread running through the philosophy/theology of religious “progressive” thought that undermines the true Christian message.
According to Pastor Fred Plumer, President of ProgressiveChristianity.org, Christianity has a much more inclusive reach to it than what we find expressed in scripture. While much of what he puts forth as “progressive doctrine” thematically has some similarities to basic biblical Christianity, by listening with discerning ears one will detect a bit of a hiss in the voice as Eve did when she heard the words “Did God really say this?”
Wikipedia says “Progressive Christianity is characterized by a (1)willingness to question tradition, (2)acceptance of human diversity, a (3)strong emphasis on social justice and (4)care for the poor and the oppressed, and (5)environmental stewardship of the earth.” But it’s much more than that. On the surface, some of these 5 points have a similarity to what Jesus taught through the gospels. The danger is accepting theologies and philosophies at face value and not digging deeper for the revealing explanation of its terms. Even the theological terms and principles we use as Christians merit scrutiny as we unpack their meanings. In the following doctrinal statements of Progressive Christianity, there is much that demands further interpretation. What is the source of inspiration and authenticity for such doctrines? With what priority and energy do we apply these doctrines? What are the first principles, if any?
According to Progressive Christianity, “By calling ourselves progressive Christians, we mean we are Christians who adhere to these 8 points:”
1. Believe that following the path and teachings of Jesus can lead to an awareness and experience of the Sacred and the Oneness and Unity of all life.
2. Affirm that the teachings of Jesus provide but one of many ways to experience the Sacredness and Oneness of life, and that we can draw from diverse sources of wisdom in our spiritual journey.
3. Seek community that is inclusive of ALL people, including but not limited to:
Conventional Christians and questioning skeptics, Believers and agnostics,Women and men,
those of all sexual orientations and gender identities, those of all classes and abilities.
4. Know that the way we behave towards one another is the fullest expression of what we believe.
5. Find grace in the search for understanding and believe there is more value in questioning than in absolutes.
6. Strive for peace and justice among all people.
7. Strive to protect and restore the integrity of our Earth.
8. Commit to a path of life-long learning, compassion, and selfless love.
This sounds so good and positive, doesn’t it? It’s not terribly original. New Age religious conversation has blended these ideals/thoughts together for centuries. There is a degree of seductiveness and appeal which could draw one towards buying into this “progressive” approach to faith. (I hesitate to call this Christianity) But what sounds good is not always sound. Timothy warns us of deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons (1 Tim. 4:1) and also advised to avoid contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge; Jesus often warned against false prophets; Peter said “there will be false teachers among you who will secretly bring in destructive heresies” (2 Ptr. 2:1).
Plumer has other ideas, especially about Jesus. He believes “rational” people should embrace and be willing to embrace a new type of Christianity, especially in the context of the 21st century. To Plumer, Jesus was fully human who had “divine experiences” and began to teach after these experiences. (No examples of what they were). Jesus was born on earth but his origins are open to question. Jesus taught how to find heaven on earth, and that we should look for the divine in others. All of us have that “godness” in us. He also teaches that there are many Jesus’s in the wide spectrum of Christian belief and we should not tell people which Jesus they ought to believe in.
Why do I go on with an article like this? Because we are sheep. Either Jesus’ sheep or someone else’s. Did you enjoy John Lennon’s classic, Imagine? Pleasant to the ears, idealistic, naïve, and it should have been disturbing to the Christian mind. We must be a discerning people, students of the word, abiding closely to Jesus like a branch to a vine, and connected in community with people who live sound doctrine and will help us resist the seduction of modern day “songs of Sirens” which lead to spiritual death. In today’s world, this all the more elevates the need for the church to be disciple-making. Are you being discipled or discipling someone? This was not one of Jesus’ suggestions. Think About It.