The church I serve as an elder offers a One Year Bible Reading group. While we carry out our reading on an individual basis, we believe Bible intake in community is essential. This coming Sunday, our group will meet for a periodic pot luck dinner after church. During our time together, we share how our Bible reading impacts our lives. The current trajectory of American society makes it all the more critical that a Christ-follower partakes of a steady diet of God’s Word.
Over the past couple of weeks, I read some articles about “progressive Christianity” in the June 2019 issue of Decision Magazine. This issue contains These articles include “The Lie of ‘Progressive Christianity’” by Jerry Pierce (https://decisionmagazine.com/lie-progressive-christianity/ ), “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/), and “When Christianity is ‘Pointless’” by John Stonestreet and G. Shane Morris (https://decisionmagazine.com/when-christianity-is-pointless/).
My key takeaways from these articles are below.
My first takeaway pertains to the diminished view “progressive Christianity” has towards the authority of Scripture to present objective truth. “Progressive Christianity” claims the calling “Christian,” but denies the full authority of Scripture. The theology of “Progressive Christianity” shuns certainty and celebrates mystery for its own sake. The website progressivechristianity.org includes a statement “grace in the search for understanding … believe that there is more value in questioning than absolutes.” Alisa Childers points out that the first sign of a ‘Progressive Christian” church is a lowered view of the Bible by emphasizing personal belief over the Biblical mandate. She points out a second sign in which there is the elevation of feelings over facts wherein people value personal experiences, feelings, and opinions over Biblical objective truth.
My second takeaway concerns the diminishment of the Gospel message. The Stonestreet et al. article refers to the liberals in the day of J. Gresham Machen that “the faith they’re teaching is not Christianity at all. It’s a social reform agenda fueled by feelings, informed by secular thought, and barely draped with religious language.” Looking at the Childers article, her firth sign of a “progressive Christian” church is a shift in the heart of the gospel message from sin and redemption to social justice wherein the idea of a blood covenant is de-emphasized or denied altogether.
My third takeaway focuses on perseverance under persecution. When it comes to a Christ-follower’s opinion on the LGBTQ movement, while a lot of Christians “are trying to hide in the tall grass,” the fact is they will have to make their opinion known. Faithful evangelicals are or will be faced with a choice to either affirm (1) the new sexuality embodied in the LGBTQ movement or (2) the full authority of Scripture and be the anathema in the postmodern culture wearing the label of being oppressive and bigoted. The Pierce article reads, “Amid enormous cultural pressure, Mohler fears faithful Christians may eventually find themselves deemed to be subversive as the early Christians were in Rome. … So Christians are going to have to answer with the full measure of conviction, or they’re just on a slower track than some others to denying the faith.” Childers’ third sign of a “progressive Christian” church is that it opens up essential Christian doctrines for reinterpretation such as, for example, “hot button” issues like homosexuality and abortion.
My fourth takeaway pertains to the self-idolatry present in the “progressive Christian” movement. The Stonestreet et al. article reads, “If your god – however, you define, him, her, it or they – never demands a change, then your god is you.” Self-idolatry is along the lines of Childers’ fourth sign that a “progressive Christian” church maintains historic Christian terms, but redefines them through linguistic gymnastics to mean what they want them to mean.
Over the period I was reading these articles, the Knowable Word blog (http://www.knowableword.com/) referred me to the Gospel Coalition article “Approach Your Bible Desperately” by Matt Smethurst (https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/approach-bible-desperately/). To survive his first-year college roommate, out of desperation, Smethurst had to dive deeply into God’s Word.
In light of the takeaways from the Decision Magazine articles, Matt Smethurst’s call to desperately plunge into the Bible becomes all the more urgent. To survive the onslaught from “progressive Christianity” and other liberal societal pressures, the 21st Century Christ-follower will have to engage God’s Word in a meaningful way.
I suggest that you seriously consider Smethurst’s three diagnostic questions. First, “do I approach the Bible more like it’s a snack or like it’s a feast?” Second, “is it more accurate to say I’m willing to hear from God or that I’m desperate to hear from him?” Third, “am I merely interested in the Scriptures, or am I also internalizing them?” He then suggests a trip through Psalm 119 because “it’s like smelling salts for the soul.” I agree.
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.
If you have any comments, questions, or concerns, please leave a comment or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.