What is Progressive Christianity?

Perhaps you have had conversations with people and as you talked about Christianity their beliefs began to appear quite different from what you grew up believing. Topics such as sexuality, gender, authority of Scripture, reality of heaven and hell, etc.

But you had a hard time figuring out where their beliefs were coming from. You were wondering why their faith was so different from the orthodox faith you have held onto for years. In our culture this is going to happen more and more. And the book I am introducing here is a great place to begin to understand what is going on.

I want to strongly encourage you to buy and read the book, “Another Gospel? A Lifelong Christian Seeks Truth in Response to Progressive Christianity” by Alisa Childers.

In the book Alisa does a good job of communicating what progressive Christianity is and why we so urgently need to know about it.

What are the main beliefs of progressive Christianity?

  1. They don’t see the Bible as inspired or authoritative for our life. “Make no mistake, just like historic Christians, progressives find Scripture compelling. The difference is that, rather than viewing it as the authoritative Word from God to people, they see the Bible as an antiquated library of books that we can examine like ancient relics. In their view, the Bible is our spiritual ancestors’ best attempts to understand God in their own cultures, using whatever knowledge they had at the time. Because humans now have a higher and wiser view of God, progressives believe we can now read the Bible the way it is meant to be read-not as the authoritative Word of God, but as our predecessors’ spiritual journal.” p. 155
  2. They don’t believe in the atoning work of Jesus on the cross. “However, with their denial of the atoning work of Jesus on the cross, many progressive Christians take it one step further: Jesus is no longer our Savior but an example of how we can do good works in the world and forgive others. That has become the highest virtue, and all other truth claims are judged by it. Thus the progressive gospel is Jesus + social justice.” p. 105
  3. Hell and judgment have been rejected. “With it’s view of the Old Testament God as petty and spiteful, it’s denial of God’s wrath and hell, and its discomfort with the blood atonement of Jesus, progressive Christianity looks a bit like warmed over Marcionism.” p. 112
  4. They believe in universalism. “…it’s simply the belief that all human beings (and in some cases, even fallen angels) will be saved and spend eternity with God. Some in the progressive Christian paradigm deny the idea that sin separates us from God altogether, rendering any need for a meaningful “salvation” unnecessary.” p. 186

These are not all the progressive beliefs that are mentioned in Alisa’s excellent book. Instead, these are the beliefs that she mentioned that stand out to me. The book also does a wonderful job of carefully explaining how these progressive beliefs are wrong and what the Word of God actually teaches. Again, I would encourage you to buy and read the book.

“As I’ve learned, progressive Christianity is not simply a shift in the Christian view of social issues. It’s not simply permission to embrace the messiness and authenticity in Christian life. It’s not simply a response to doubt, legalism, abuse, or hypocrisy. It’s an entirely different religion-with another Jesus-and another gospel.” p. 76

You Need To Know About Progressive Christianity

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, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. -2 Timothy 4:3-4

If you hear that something is “progressive” you might think that it is a good thing. That is simply not the case when it comes to Progressive Christianity.

Let me share with you a few of my own thoughts about Progressive Christianity before I have you read the excellent article below by Alisa Childers. I believe that we need to be aware that there are a growing number of people, churches, denominations, universities and ministries that identify themselves as Christian but do not hold to what we would consider an orthodox or traditional understanding of the Christian faith.

Maybe you are thinking, “Michael, pipe down, don’t you know you are going to make some people angry?” That’s not my goal but I really am OK with it. I made peace with the fact that I will not make everyone happy a long time ago. We need to remember that the truth is not always warmly received. John the Baptist clearly taught the truth of God’s Word and the result was that he had his head cut off. Just sayin’.

He (elders in the church) must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. -Titus 1:9

I need to state that defining Progressive Christianity is not easy. The reason for that is because it encompasses lots of people who come from very different theological backgrounds. You can check out THIS from Wikipedia.

So what is at stake with this whole discussion? What kind of issues are we talking about? I believe Progressive Christianity gets in wrong in a number of really important areas (same sex attraction, gender, marriage, hell, substitutionary atonement, absolute truth and the trustworthiness of the Bible). These topics, and others, are all currently being redefined and we need to know what we believe and why we believe it.

There is another side to this that I want to briefly mention. We need to be careful about stating our theological position and then shutting down all dialogue. For the person who is wrestling with questions about the Bible we need to be willing to listen and have genuine dialogue. God loves the skeptics and those who are intellectually curious and so should we!

HERE is the link to Alisa Childers article, “5 Signs Your Church Might Be Headed Toward Progressive Christianity.” I strongly encourage you to read it!

I would love to hear your thoughts, ideas and questions! Please leave me a comment!