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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 is the fourth in a five-part series that presents Biblical responses to each one of the five signs.  This post will examine the fourth sign of “progressive Christianity” which is the position to refine historical Christian terms. Ms. Childers describes this fourth sign as:

There are some progressive Christians who say they affirm doctrines like Biblical inspiration, inerrancy and authority, but they have to do linguistic gymnastics to make those words mean what they want them to mean. I remember asking a pastor, “Do you believe the Bible is divinely inspired?” He answered confidently, “Yes, of course!”

However, I mistakenly assumed that when using the word inspired, we both meant the same thing. He clarified months later what he meant—that the Bible is inspired in the same way and on the same level as many other Christian books, songs and sermons. This, of course, is not how Christians have historically understood the doctrine of divine inspiration.

Another word that tends to get a progressive makeover is love. When plucked out of its Biblical context, it becomes a catch-all term for everything pleasant, affirming and non-confrontative.

The Apostle Paul defined Scripture to be divinely-inspired per 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 2 Peter 1:20–21 (ESV), the Apostle Peter also described the nature of divine inspiration of Scripture:

20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

As explained in the Part 3 of this series, God does not change.  Scripture is God’s words. Scripture does not change.  Therefore, to redefine historical Christian terminology like divine inspiration to put it on par with “human inspiration” is to move out of orthodox Christianity and into pagan territory.  It is heresy.

The Biblical concept of “love” does not mean complete tolerance or passive acceptance.  One basic attribute of God is that He is love per 1 John 4:8 (ESV):

8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

Yet, even though God is love, He is disciplines those who are His per Hebrews 12:6, 10-11 (ESV):

6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” … 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

It is very apparent that God’s love is not complete tolerance or passive acceptance of disobedience.  To redefine biblical “love” is to distort what the Bible teaches about love and replaces God with man.   

She list three exemplary comments you might hear in a church going “progressive.The first exemplary comment is “God wouldn’t punish sinners—He is love.”  Well, please refer to my above discussion on discipline.  Further, many times God made it clear to Israel that obedience results in blessings and disobedience leads to punishment.  One great example is Deuteronomy 11:26–28 (ESV):

26 “See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: 27 the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you today, 28 and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn aside from the way that I am commanding you today, to go after other gods that you have not known.

God punishes sinners for disobedience and that is what Scripture teaches.  To teach anything different is to dismiss the authority of Scripture.

The second exemplary comment indicative of a church moving toward “progressive Christianity” is “Sure, the Bible is authoritative—but we’ve misunderstood it for the first 2,000 years of church history.”  By using grammatical-historical hermeneutics, the historical Christian church has always tried to gain an understanding of what the original author intended to convey to his original audience.  The following articles from the Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics (1982) help define the proper hermeneutical approach:

Article XIII

WE AFFIRM  that awareness of the literary categories, formal and stylistic, of the various parts of Scripture is essential for proper exegesis, and hence we value genre criticism as one of the many disciplines of biblical study.

Article XV

WE AFFIRM  the necessity of interpreting the Bible according to its literal, or normal, sense. The literal sense is the grammatical-historical sense, that is, the meaning which the writer expressed. Interpretation according to the literal sense will take account of all figures of speech and literary forms found in the text.

Article XVIII

WE AFFIRM  that the Bible’s own interpretation of itself is always correct, never deviating from, but rather elucidating, the single meaning of the inspired text. The single meaning of a prophet’s words includes, but is not restricted to, the understanding of those words by the prophet and necessarily involves the intention of God evidenced in the fulfillment of those words.

This second comment by “progressive Christians” ought to read “I want to the Bible to mean what I want it to mean and those before me were wrong.”  Why should anyone believe their argument.  If we really misunderstood the Bible for 2000 years, why should anyone think “progressive Christians,” who essentially dismiss the Bible, correctly understand the Bible.  The position of “progressive Christianity” makes no sense.

The third exemplary comment you might hear in a church trending “progressive” is “It’s not our job to talk to anyone about sin—it’s our job to just love them.”  Wow!.  If this comment were true, then the Apostle Paul had it all wrong when he called out sin in the Corinthian church per 1 Corinthians 5:1–8 (ESV):

1 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. 2 And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. 3 For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. 4 When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, 5 you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord. 6 Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 7 Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8 Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

Of course, the truth is Paul had it right and Christians should call out sin of those who call themselves Christians.  James 5:19–20 (ESV) teaches calling out sin:

19 My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, 20 let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

This “progressive Christianity” comment reveals the fact that the biblical concept of “sin” is not in their dictionary.

I hope I provided at least one useful Biblical response to the fourth sign of “progressive Christianity” and its corresponding exemplary comments. 

Thanks for taking the time to read this.  If you have any comments, questions, or concerns, please feel free to use the “Comments” feature or e-mail me at steve@stevebelsheim.com.

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