Exploring Our Matrix
The Blog of Dr. James F. McGrath, Clarence L. Goodwin Chair in New Testament Language and Literature at Butler University, Indianapolis
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The above poster offers one definition of progressive Christianity. Is it yours? What do you think of the eight points listed?
I think “progressive Christians” need to add something to #1 like: “…teachings of Jesus [except for all that stuff about the end of the world and throwing people into the furnace, that's just bs] ……”
Kinda new-agey, by which I mean that #1 and #2 suggest an eclectic approach without any obvious boundaries. It conjures up pictures of Jesus sitting cross-legged forming a mudra with his right hand, if not sitting side-by-side with a Buddha or Brahma figure; or perhaps a nice earth-based service in a coffee shop with sitar music. In practice, of course, who knows what they do or don’t, would or wouldn’t, incorporate into their “spiritual path.”
Of course it’s the case that all religions, including Judaism and Christianity, are syncretic. The difference between “syncretic” and “new agey,” in my mind, is the presence or absence of a collective process for incorporating foreign elements organically. A healthy selectivity limits new grafts to those things that fit with the general shape of the religion, and encourages them to be assimilated in a compatible form rather than adopted wholesale.
New agey types seem limited only by their imagination, and are routinely accused of “converting to paganism while claiming to be Christian,” or variations on that theme, because they don’t bother to reconcile the disparate elements of their “spiritual path” with each other, nor to reconcile their own path with that of their companions. In earlier decades they would be called hippies. “It’s all good, man!”
My own path is unorthodox, so my tolerance for unorthodoxy is high. Nevertheless, my sense of integrity requires me to incorporate new ideas into my Christian walk very carefully. In some cases, it forces me to admit that I have spiritual values that I can’t fully integrate, and to that extent I would freely accept being described as something other than simply Christian–i.e., I compartmentalize those values that I can’t integrate, although that doesn’t stop me from holding them. I don’t invent a new kind of “Christianity” that essentially represents the union of all the traditions I find interesting.
While I think Christ would have been gracious to Taoists, Hindus, Mithraists, and whatever else, I don’t think he would have expanded his definition of what was for him a Jewish movement by inventing a “big tent Judaism” that includes all of those. Nor do I think he would have said, “Judaism (as I preach it) is just one of many ways to explore the sacredness and oneness of life,” and opened dialogues to cross-pollinate with all those other religions. Indeed part of my conception of Christianity involves being respectful of others of all religions and walks, without relinquishing my own convictions–just as I can be respectful of someone whose tribe eats live insects, without feeling compelled to affirm that live insects are “one of many delicious snack foods in the world.”
One cannot seek “peace and justice” with all people as people are too different in their commitments, which are driven by their values.
I do not believe that “Men” can be “selfless”, nor is it necessary to be. Self governance is another matter altogether. “Self interests” is a fact of life, so self awareness is necessary for self governance, as understanding onself is the first step to self governance. Checks and balances are necessary when one has responsibility or power over others.
Because values differ, people will make different decisions and commitments. When values collide, there are “wars”, which is to be expected, unless there is a way to “petition government for a redress of grievances”. There can be no peace until we all agree and I don’t think this is a practical possibility. The best way to handle differences and justice is mutual consent and contract. Otherwise, we undermine both equality and liberty.The rule of law is justice.
Even though you can’t succeed 100%, it’s still worth seeking.
One cannot force cooperation, as cooperation is mutual, not dominance of one party over another. I see some radical groups threaten and intimidate to “get their way”, rather than coming to compromise or even trying to negotiate differences. A good example would be the PLO, Hamas and Hezbollah and the State of Israel. Now, Iran is threatening Israel. I think that we’ve not learned the lesson of how Empires have fallen to those that don’t act civilly…..under mutual consent and contract.
National security issues are secret from “ousiders”, or so it used to be, now it seems that opening up our doors to embrace those that have been understood to be threats is “politcally correct”. Are we to think that just because we disband our boundaries, and disarm, that they other side will? One must not be naive.
Only the last year(s) are covered (mostly dubiously!) in the gospels. Here, Jesus appears to be not married, to have no dependants, not close to his siblings & mother and not working for a living. He did not use his popularity to do constructive things, except being a reluctant (and accidental) alleged healer.
Shall Christians curse fig tree? or create a disturbance when a collection is made in a church?
I do not think many Christians can and want to follow that path.
From an uneducated and rustic Jew? And critical scholars cannot agree which ones are genuine. Many sayings & parables & discourses, supposedly by Jesus, can be demonstrated to be made up by others.
I believe Jesus, and the future pillars of the church of Jerusalem, were concerned about the poor and asked for charity (or even making yourself poor), but being poor themselves, that was rather self-serving.
Progressive Christians can only imagine their way Jesus’ path and teachings, follow what is goody & nice and reject what they do not like.
The problem with point #3 is that it ignores the fact that SIN is not allowed in the church or congregation. Being inclusive doesn’t mean we let people practice their sin and unbelief, we follow what God did and say ‘you have to give up your sin to be a part of this community.’
The God is inclusive in that anyone can enter His kingdom, He just put an important caveat in place–you need to repent of your sins and follow His ways before entering.
Inclusiveness is not a free for all where there are no rules. That just invites anarchy. There has to be rules or the church could not function. You can’t have false teachers teaching believers fo rthen yo would be opeening the door to sin and allowing the fox into the hen house.
The distortion that goes on in today’s world is a warning to believers to be more wary and alert.
Oh and #2 is just heretical. I wouldn’t call that ‘progressive christianity but false teachings and a false belief.
This comment, like others that you have left, suggest that you are not as familiar with the Bible as would be helpful in order to discuss matters such as these. You seem unaware, for instance, of the use of the concept of the Logos in John 1, a concept rooted in Stoic philosophy, not to mention the quotation of poems about Zeus in Acts 17. Or can I assume that you reject these writings as heretical?
Now you are going to the personal attack, how quaint. Did it ever cross you rmind that the ‘stoic philosophy’ & the poems copied form the Bible?
Did it ever cross you rmind that the ‘stoic philosophy’ & the poems copied form the Bible?
i think this is a curious typo-from your other comments you must mean-”from the Bible”, but the typo is probably more true, “form the Bible”. anyhow, it is a curious “Freudian slip” .
So apparently you have never read Acts 17, “Dr.” Tee? Is it really so objectionable to you to make an effort to inform yourself about a topic before criticizing what others have to say about it? Do you realy have so little regard for the Bible?
Clearly a progressive Christian is a Christian with a ‘blog and an iphone!
I’m surprised that no one has said that it is Christians who are customers of a particular insurance company!
I’d say the big problem is “The Sacredness and the Oneness and the Unity of all Life.” Just about every Progressive Christian I’ve ever known says “God.” Also, they (we?) are less interested in “experiencing” God than in “enacting God’s vision of justice for the world.” Peace and justice isn’t #6, it’s #1 or 2.
Yes, I think that most progressive Christians would want to say something about actually following Jesus, and would connect that with concern for justice and place it much higher on the list.
I don’t see anything uniquely Christian about it. How are we supposed to tell it’s Christian?
I think that is a fair criticism, and I wonder whether that is because it is genuinely deficient, or because in defining progressive Christianity, they are assuming certain things and saying that these are the things that distingsh progressives among Christians, while other things might be shared with conservatives and moderates.
If one does not at least find some sort of historic connection or personal resonance with the Christian tradition, or find its metaphors personally meaningful, then I am not sure why one would choose to self-identify as “Christian” as opposed to a religious eclectic. And while recognizing the spiritual benefits of the Christian path is a good thing, plenty of Hindus would say the same thing, from a distance. It seems that unless one is committed in some way to following that path, then again, the label “Christian” will at best fit oddly.
What do you think? Is this most likely a genuine problem with the definition, or a problem with its leaving some things unsaid because they are “merely Christian” while this list is focused on the distinctives of progressive Christians?
well, I read “the path and the teaching of Jesus”.
first Jesus and not ‘Christ’; second I had to follow his teaching and his path as if he were a philosopher or a teacher how many there were in the history. exactly how I could follow the teaching of Buddha, Confucius, Muhammad, Marx, etc etc…
Now I understand very well the meaning of ‘progressive christian’.
Well, I think it is important to point out that this is one group’s definition. I know plenty of people who self-identify as progressive Christians who would not accept it or would supplement it,
i do not believe that, what your saying is that god is the only path he may not even be real
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