You Keep Using That Word, Part 2: Progressive

I need to preface this with a shoutout to the author whose podcast and book put a name to a dark and nameless dissonance I’d been often frustrated by in my walk with the Lord.

As an atheist who came to know God through the Bible long before stepping into a church congregation, I’d puzzled for years over a disconnect I found between me and some who call themselves Christian. We used the same terms, claimed the same Lord, even referenced a few of the same Scriptures, but what we meant by these things didn’t seem to mesh.

Then I heard Alisa Childers reference Progressive Christianity. Whether by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, instinct, or both, I knew this was the name of the lurking menace I’d encountered.

If you’re looking for an excellent Christmas present or a great Christmastime read for yourself, I HIGHLY recommend Another Gospel? by Alisa Childers. She writes with grace, tact, and candor of how a self-proclaimed “flaky artist type” took a plunge into the deep waters of apologetics and learned that her faith is built on Rock-solid ground.

Buy it. Read it. You won’t be sorry. Now on to today’s program:

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.

Galatians 1:6-8

Progressive. The word just sounds so… dynamic, doesn’t it?

It hints at sophistication; of gaining ground. When attached to a noun, this adjective lends a sense of importance, of forward motion, and of… well, of progress.

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

– Inigo Montoya

But in truth, progress isn’t the significant thing. Making progress in the right direction is of far greater importance.

Four times now, I’ve made excellent progress on a hike – along a route that diverged moderately from the planned path. Once my companion and I forsook the path entirely and struck out on our own.

Such enthusiastic and progressive hiking experiences culminated in a variety of results. One particularly memorable result involved an unintended tour of adjacent mountaintops while keeping one eye on the sun’s position in the sky and the other on our (fortunately) distinctive goal.

We did make it to the goal before sunset, though our appearance must have been alarming. We were immediately offered food and water.

I suppose experiences like these have taught me to be cautious of vague descriptors such as progressive.

So when I first heard of “progressive Christianity,” I initially responded with a mixture of puzzled disbelief and a primal shock of icy horror.

If progressing up the wrong mountainside prompted wide-eyed day hikers to thrust their half-empty water bottles towards me, what is the appropriate response for people progressing towards the wrong eternity?

Though we’re easily lulled into believing our physical, mental, and emotional needs are the most important thing in life, the plight of those meandering comfortably and happily down the broad path to destruction is far more desperate than, say, a starving hiker lost in the backcountry with nothing but the clothes on his body and the seal of the Holy Spirit on his heart.

Progressive Christianity shares very little with actual followers of Jesus the Christ. It is progressively moving towards quite a different goal. A more honest devotee would call it progressive churchianity – or even what it is – secular humanism dressed in a dollar-store Jesus costume complete with Anglo-Saxon features.

Ironically, Christianity as it is understood through the Word of God, the teachings of the Christ, and the early Church is progressive.

It speaks of progressively becoming more like Jesus of Nazareth; of progressively dying to oneself and one’s sin; of daily progress towards the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Of progressive expectations of persecution and suffering laced with the joy of knowing it all has a purpose and an eternal hope.

However, the other thing wears the name of Christianity much like decaf wears the name of coffee. It has little of the flavor and none of the power.

What passes under the title of progressive Christianity has a form of godliness but denies its power. It promises something which resembles peace on earth and good will towards men while assuming a lack of peace and good will among men is the worst part.

Progressive Christianity treats the spiritual equivalent of ebola with a splash of lavender essential oil and a sweet little smile.

And it is making progress in our churches. Just not in the right direction.

15 thoughts on “You Keep Using That Word, Part 2: Progressive

  1. G’day Heather, thanks for sharing.

    I know many people who are part of this movement, and I have always struggled with it. On the surface it can look awesome and sound very freedom like but I think when you said “It promises something which resembles peace on earth and good will towards men while assuming a lack of peace and good will among men is the worst part.” it summed it up for me.

    Lots to take away, I will sit with this for awhile. I went to Alisa’s website and saw the post about why Christians should avoid teachings of Richard Rohr. I think he maybe one of the mascots of progressive Christianity

    Peace to you

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello, Dave! How is life down under with the virus these days?
      Alisa is great. I highly recommend her podcast. I had gone to a church that had a couple of progressive elements and one very progressive pastor (who later got fired), and when I first heard her speak about PC, it hit me as very familiar. We’ve been able to hike together and talk theology a couple of times, and she’s got a great story and ministry. I am actually buying her book for some of the graduating seniors in my older daughter’s class this May. I know the pretty little lies they’ll face out there and her book is very approachable for them.

      Yes, Richard Rohr is kind of a nut, I’m afraid. I’d not heard of him before, but he is definitely in the progressive camp. McLaren, Rob Bell… these two I’d heard before and didn’t like what I heard back then… it wasn’t the Gospel.

      Thanks for stopping by!!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Life has changed dramatically Heather! The state I live in was the worst with covid cases and we were locked down the hardest for 7 months! Because of that we are now at 31 days without any cases. Today I’m back in the office after 8 months, just for one day a week at the moment. Everything is happening way to fast!!! Lol.

        I know many who are P- Christians but because of your post and reading some of that woman’s blog i am able to name stuff better now. Scary stuff

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Wow! That is a long time for a lockdown. And people here in the US are complaining because of masks and bars being closed. Goodness.

        I felt the same way when I first encountered Alisa’s work. I knew there was some wonky, skewed theology in some of the people I knew but I didn’t have names for it. It’s nice to have handles.

        Alisa has a great podcast, too. One of the first ones I listened to was an interview with another guy about his book, “The 10 Commandments of Progressive Christianity.” It’s a good one. However, there are two I HIGHLY recommend where she talks with Gregory Koukl about his book, “Tactics.” They were so good, I went and bought his book. It’s a great method to discuss issues of faith in a hot-headed culture without adding heat to an already-hot topic.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. How are you handling covid, what’s happening there with lockdown if any? Yep here it was heavy, only leave home to work, care for others or study, couldn’t go beyond 5km and couldn’t have anyone at your house-8 months of that!

        Liked by 1 person

      4. In my state, we had a lockdown in March and April, but only for about 6-8 weeks. Grocery stores and medical facilities remained opened, but restaurants, schools, and other shops were closed. Gatherings were supposed to be limited to 10 people and outdoors, but this is America and most people defend their rights above all else, so that didn’t happen in all cases.

        My family didn’t go anywhere but out to get groceries and to go hiking, and we did honor the restrictions. My son was in his first year of college and his dorm shut down, so he came home. All the kids had remote learning until the end of the school year, and we watched church services online. I’m pretty sure my state of Tennessee was very lenient, though. New York City was locked down tight for much longer than that, from what I understand.

        Most things are back to semi-normal now but with everyone wearing (and many protesting) masks, limited numbers of people allowed in buildings, and so on. So far, no new lockdowns are being enforced in my state, but the cases are very high right now. My son got an apartment and moved back near his school, and due to the financial impact, I’m working at my girls’ school so we can afford the tuition. We are in school, but it’s crazy with people going into quarantine all the time and some choosing to do remote. However, I’m thankful to be in person for the most part, even though it comes with some risks. Most of the people I’ve known who’ve had the virus had a mild case, but I do know one man who was in the hospital for something like 12 weeks and nearly died, and a teenage girl who had it but was asymptomatic and later hospitalized for some strange, inflammatory condition caused by the virus weeks after she was infected.

        These are crazy times. I can’t help but think that we who are in Christ need to really act like it now. People need to see joy, peace, and hope that can’t be explained by the circumstances!!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I have enjoyed Alisa’s videos on Youtube, which are the same podcasts, I believe. So glad you are bringing awareness here to the community. 😊😊 It’s so sad to see what Progressive Christianity is doing. I’ve even seen people seek forgiveness from plants 😳.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, that is bizarre. It is very sad! I had some experience in a church with many progressives and a good amount of progressive leaning. It was painful for sure, and it left no small amount of damage to my family.

      Alisa is really great. I’ve had a chance to get to know her some before our year got crazy busy, and she’s the real deal!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. God is good! I wouldn’t relish repeating the experience, but He taught me a lot about the depth of my pride and my own reliance on things other than Him (man’s approval, etc.). Plus it deepens my need to trust Him to bring my son around! ❤ ❤

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Refinement is tough. But like scripture says, we do not like discipline at the time, no kid does. But the result is like silver being refined. 💗💗 I am so glad despite the rough time there was growth as a result. I relate with what you shared. I’ve been thinking about pride and man’s approval.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. So true. It is totally worth it, and I am really thankful God disciplines me as a perfect Father. He knows exactly what I need to be corrected on! 🙂

        Pride is so sneaky and insidious. The older I get, the more I see how deeply rooted it is and how destructive. I am thankful for the process of sanctification, but a part of me longs for that great Day when we will be fully set free from sin! Mine grieves me more and more.

        Liked by 1 person

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