What Is Progressive Christianity?

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What is the Progressive Christian movement? Progressive Christianity is a recent movement in Protestantism which focuses strongly on social justice and environmentalism aspects and often includes a revisionist or non-traditional view of the Scriptures, the church and its body. Since this movement includes a number of different beliefs and views on various topics, it is difficult to label the whole movement decisively as “biblical” or “unbiblical.” Each claim or belief of any movement should be filtered through the Word of God to see whatever it lines up with the Word of God. If a movements teachings, in this case Progressive Christianity, do not line up with the Word of God than those teachings should be tossed aside.

Where did Progressive Christianity get its start? Progressive Christianity got its start about 20 years ago within liberal Christianity. Even though Progressive Christianity had it’s birth in liberal Christianity it is different from liberal Christianity in several respects. To better understand the difference between the two groups we first must understand what liberal Christianity is.

The emergent of Liberal Christianity came about in the 19th century as an outgrowth of the Enlightenment movement. It was distinguished initially by its new approach to the scriptures. Instead of treating scripture as the Word of God that were handed down from heaven, liberal Christians looked at both the Old Testament and the New Testament as literature that was composed by two ancient communities, Jews and early Christians, to reflect their experiences of God. Liberal Christianity teaches that this “experiences” are more stories than actual factual truth, leaving them open for personal interpretation. By using this approach to Scripture, Liberal Christianity has come up with such teachings as heretical Replacement Theology. This theological teaching replaced the Jews as Gods chosen people and placed the modern day church in their place.

Now that we understand where Progressive Christianity came from we can look at some of the characteristics of this movement. Progressive Christians share the same intellectual and openness to Scripture as their liberal cohorts. Instead of accepting the traditional teaching and doctrines of the church as truths that cannot be questioned, they look at tradition and Scripture with “fresh eyes.” This new way of looking at Scriptures has caused many problematic unbiblical teachings within both mainstream Christianity and the Progressive Christian movement. Progressive Christians just as liberal Christians, consider the impact that biblical “stories” have had on our ancestors in faith throughout history, and reflect on how these stories and traditions revealed the “sacred” at work in our lives today. This type of non-traditional look at the Word of God and its Scriptures have lead to a breeding ground of mysticism and extra biblical revelation along with other such types of unscriptural teachings.

Another characteristic of the Progressive Christian movement is a shared passion for bringing more justice to communities or “social justice.” They try to achieve this not through biblical mandates of attainting justice but instead through ecumentalism and universalism. One way of trying to accomplish this is to preach a “social gospel” that is void of any gender references. With this emphasis on gender neutrality some very dangerous teachings have risen up. Like allowing women to be pastors and the neutering Jesus Christ by taking away male references in the bible have become common practice among Progressive Christian theologians. These dangerous teachings have left Progressive Christianity and are now entering conservative mainstream Christianity.

A final characteristic of the Progressive Christian movement is their political activism. Progressive Christians see the two political parties, Democrats and Republicans, along with the mainstream media as committed to perpetuating an unjust and unsustainable social order. Leaders within the movement like Jim Wallis see today’s political system as an crutch and in the way of their progressive agenda of ecumentalism and establishing a new social order in within the “social gospel” rules the pulpit and the dictate of the political agenda.

As one can see the views of the Progressive Christian movement do not line up with biblical teachings. However, discretion must be used in evaluating a particular claim or belief in terms of Scripture. In the whole spectrum of beliefs identified by the term “Progressive Christianity” is too broad to permit an unequivocal conclusion as to whether or not the whole movement can be labeled unbiblical. Some of the Progressive Christian’s agendas and ideals are biblical and worth supporting, while others are not and fly contrary to the Word of God. As with all uncertain issues, the Christian would do well to compare each claim of those in the Progressive Christianity movement with Scripture, asking God for the wisdom to discern truth from error. He has promised wisdom to all who seek it as stated in James 1:5

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