In my June 7, 2019, post 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 post is the third in a five-part series that presents Biblical responses to each one of the five signs. This post examines the third sign of “progressive Christianity,” which is the position that essential Christian doctrines are open for reinterpretation.
Ms. Childers characterizes this sign as:
Progressive Christians are often open to redefining and reinterpreting the Bible on hot-button moral issues like homosexuality and abortion, and also cardinal doctrines such as the virgin conception and the bodily resurrection of Jesus. In a New York Times interview, Union Theological Seminary President Serene Jones was asked about these doctrines. After redefining (and essentially denying) them, she compared this new way of thinking with the Protestant Reformation. Rather than seeking to return to a more historic and orthodox faith, she recommends that we “envision and build” something new. In progressive Christianity, the only sacred cow is “no sacred cows.”
Incredible! To redefine or deny fundamental orthodox Christian doctrines is to travel from what is Christian into what is pagan. The Protestant Reformation movement journeyed from man-based error to biblical truth. This “progressive Christian” program to “envision and build” something new is to move in the opposite direction from biblical truth to man-based error. “Progressive Christianity” denies the authority of the Bible.
Ms. Childers’ article lists three exemplary comments one might hear in a church trending progressive. The first exemplary comment is “The resurrection of Jesus doesn’t have to be factual to speak truth.” This comment goes along with a part of what Dr. Jones said as set forth in an April 25, 2019, article in Black Christian News Network One entitled “Serene Jones, President of Union Theological Seminary, Says She Doesn’t Believe in the Resurrection, Virgin Birth, Heaven, or Miracles“ (https://blackchristiannews.com/2019/04/serene-jones-president-of-union-theological-seminary-says-she-doesnt-believe-in-the-resurrection-virgin-birth-heaven-or-miracles/):
“When you look in the Gospels, the stories are all over the place. There’s no resurrection story in Mark, just an empty tomb. Those who claim to know whether or not it happened are kidding themselves,” Jones said. “… Crucifixion is not something that God is orchestrating from upstairs. The pervasive idea of an abusive God-father who sends his own kid to the cross so God could forgive people is nuts. For me, the cross is an enactment of our human hatred. But what happens on Easter is the triumph of love in the midst of suffering. Isn’t that reason for hope?”
To argue that the physical, bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ is not a historical fact is to erase the very foundation of Christianity. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:12–19 (ESV):
12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.
Whatever religious system the above first exemplary comment represents, it is not Christianity.
The second exemplary comment made in a church regressing “progressive” is “The church’s historic position on sexuality is archaic and needs to be updated within a modern framework.” Most likely, this comment refers to the LGBTQ movement. More specially, the Biblically correct position is that homosexual practice is sin per Leviticus 18:22 and Romans 1:26-27:
Leviticus 18:22 (ESV) – 22 You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.
Romans 1:26–27 (ESV) – 26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.
Adultery is a sin according to Exodus 20:14 (ESV):
You shall not commit adultery
The Biblical position on gender identification is that one’s gender, which is either male or female, is determined at birth per Genesis 1:27 (ESV):
27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
God does not change per Psalm 102:25–27 (ESV):
25 Of old you laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. 26 They will perish, but you will remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away, 27 but you are the same, and your years have no end.
God’s Word does not change according to Psalm 119:89–90 (ESV) teaches, God’s Word is forever:
89 Forever, O Lord, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens. 90 Your faithfulness endures to all generations; you have established the earth, and it stands fast.
Therefore, a biblically correct interpretation of Scripture does not change with the times or the culture. This second exemplary comment ignores the very nature of God and of His Word.
The third exemplary comment one could hear in a church trending “progressive” is, “The idea of a literal hell is offensive to non-Christians and needs to be reinterpreted.” The Gospel of Jesus Christ is an offense to lost people according to 1 Peter 2:7–8 (ESV):
7 So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” 8 and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.
It is understandable that the idea a literal hell offends people whose eternal destiny is hell unless their spiritual condition changes. Notwithstanding any such “offense,” the fact is the Bible teaches there is a literal hell of eternal torment. Jesus made that fact crystal clear many times, including the below exemplary texts:
John 3:36 (ESV) – 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.
John 8:24 (ESV) – 24 I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.”
John 3:18 (ESV) – 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
Greg Laurie wrote an excellent article entitled “Confronting the Reality of Hell” in the October 2015 issue of Decision Magazine (https://www.billygraham.ca/stories/confronting-the-reality-of-hell/ ). Hell is real and to ignore that reality via a reinterpretation is to ignore the truth
In conclusion, to deny the physical, bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, to erase the sexual morals as set forth by the Bible, and to reject a literal hell is to distort what the Bible teaches. These exemplary comments corrupt or eliminate foundational Christian precepts, so that “progressive Christianity” is mere paganism.
I hope I provided at least one useful Biblical response to the third sign and exemplary comments of a church trending toward “progressive Christianity.”
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