In my post of June 7, 2019, entitled “BIBLE CONSUMPTION – A NECESSITY FOR 2019 AND BEYOND”, I referenced three excellent articles in Decision Magazine, one of which was “Five Signs Your Church May be Heading Toward Progressive Christianity” by Alisa Childers (https://decisionmagazine.com/five-signs-your-church-might-be-heading-toward-progressive-christianity/). I ended my post with the challenge:
If you have the opportunity, I suggest you read these articles and formulate your plan of action. In this regard, note that Alisa Childers’ article lists several comments under each sign of a “progressive Christian” church, and I suggest you read them and equip yourself to answer them. To survive in the upcoming times, a Christ-follower will have to be well-grounded in God’s Word.
This is the first of a five-part series that presents brief Biblical responses to each one of the five signs that a church is moving toward progressive Christianity. Today’s post considers the first sign, which is there is a lowered view of the Bible. Ms. Childers’ article describes this sign:
One 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.
For “progressive Christians” to demote the authority of the Bible to beneath that of their personal beliefs is, in essence, to say to God that he or she knows better than God. A shorthand way to say it is, “I’m god, and You [God] are not.” This mindset contradicts the fact that God is the Creator of it all out of nothing per Genesis 1:1 (ESV):
1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
To say that man’s opinion trumps God’s flies in the face of what the prophet Isaiah wrote in Isaiah 55:8–9 (ESV):
8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts; neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
To elevate humankind over God aligns with what was going in Israel as recorded in Judges 17:6 (ESV):
6 In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.
God is the only source of truth, and His Word presents God’s truth. To ignore that reality leads to chaos as the following three exemplary comments show.
The first exemplary comment indicative of a lowered view of the Bible is, “The Bible is a human book.” Men in and of themselves did not merely write the autographs, i.e., original written documents. The sixty-six books of the Protestant Bible are divinely inspired as clearly taught by 2 Timothy 3:16-17:
2 Timothy 3:16–17 (ESV) – 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
In his book A Peculiar Glory, (2016), Crossway, Wheaton, Illinois, at page 69, John Piper presents an excellent description of the inspiration process (italics in the original):
When we confess our belief that “the infallible Word of God [is] verbally inspired by God,” the word “verbally” means that we believe God guided the biblical authors in their selection of the very words that they wrote to communicate his divine meaning. This is not identical with dictation, since the biblical authors are themselves selecting the words, under God’s guidance. … typically the biblical authors write with their own styles and personalities, which are guided by God.
To characterize the Bible as “a human book,” meaning men wrote it without divine inspiration disrespects God and is wrong!
The second exemplary comment indicative of a lowered view of the Bible is, “I disagree with the Apostle Paul on that issue.” This comment brings to mind two kinds of disagreements. One acceptable conflict exists when there is room for dispute over two or more reasonable interpretations of a passage. Theologians frequently engage in this kind of discussion.
But, to “disagree with the Apostle Paul,” which assumes Paul’s position is clear, is an entirely different matter. To disagree “with Paul” disrespects and challenges the authenticity of his calling as an Apostle. The seriousness of his calling is reflected in Galatians 1:1 (ESV):
1 Paul, an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead—
Paul’s calling as an apostle is directly from Jesus Christ and God the Father, and thus, the message Paul wrote is, in reality, God’s message. To “disagree with the Apostle Paul” about what he wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit is to disagree with God, who is the Author of Scripture. To disagree with God reflects an attitude that elevates man over God. The second exemplary comment might as well be changed to read, “I disagree with God on that issue.”
The third exemplary comment indicative of a lowered view of the Bible is, “The Bible condones immorality, so we are obligated to reject what it says in certain places.” To say the Bible condones immorality is wrong! While the Bible may report immorality, nowhere does the Bible condone immorality. God demands holiness as expressed in 1 Peter 1:13–16 (ESV):
13 Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
The underlying premise of this third exemplary comment is false.
To reject what the Bible “says in certain places” is the epitome of arrogance. What a “progressive Christian” really means is that I accept what I like and I reject what I don’t like about what the Bible teaches. To pick and choose what a person rejects is to transfer the authority of Scripture from God to mankind, thereby removing any authority from the Bible. This attitude goes along with what Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 4:3 (ESV):
3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,
In conclusion, by lowering their view of the Bible to be a “human book,” “progressive Christians” can feel comfortable accepting what they like and rejecting what they dislike from biblical teaching. Demoting the Bible from God’s words to a human book is the most expedient way for “progressive Christians” to dethrone God and make themselves their god. It is a practice that will have severe consequences today and in eternity.
I hope this post presented useful Biblical responses to the first sign that a church is moving toward “progressive Christianity’s” lowered view of the Bible and the three exemplary comments indicative of that sign.
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