Critical Christianity

I am hoping sometime soon to turn my attention to writing a book offering a positive vision of progressive/liberal Christianity, which often gets defined negatively over against fundamentalist and conservative varieties. One question is the very name, since I’m not convinced that “progressive Christianity” is the best label, or one that resonates well with people and encapsulates their own vision for themselves and their spiritual lives.

The last time I blogged about this, someone made the interesting suggestion that it could be called “critical Christianity.” For a number of reasons I like that suggestion, although I fear that it would sound like it is something negative, even though it need not be understood that way. “Critical” can mean both criticizing and critiquing, and analyzing carefully. There is something appropriate about including this word in the description of that approach to Christianity that embraces historical and literary criticism of the Bible. Plus, if we start a movement with this title, the liturgy or order of service followed at “Critical Christian Churches” could be called “Critical Mass”!

I wrote something about the approach to knowledge sometimes referred to as “critical realism” in a comment on my blog post “Certainty is a Myth,” and I think that “critical Christianity” could be characterized by that effort to find a middle ground between modernist empiricism and absolutism, and postmodern relativism and confusion (both of which are extremes that most in either category at least try to avoid, but critical realism is nonetheless about finding a place between the two, where one quests for truth while recognizing the limits of one’s own perception and perspective). Here’s what I wrote in that comment:

Humility should not lead to despair any more than the quest for knowledge should lead to dogmatic overconfidence. In between there is a space in which we can both seek to understand as much as we can, while recognizing that we can never know it all and will inevitably be wrong about things. It is like the quest for ethical perfection – it should neither lead us to pretend that we have attained it, nor to abandon the effort because of our inevitable failures and shortcomings.

On a related theme, David Congdon gave a sermon on Thomas, in which he said:

[W]e need more Thomases—not Thomases with a limited imagination for where Jesus is present, but Thomases who will demand proof that a community of faith is truly the living body of Christ. Thomases who will hold communities accountable to the Acts 4 vision of the church. Thomases who will refuse to believe until they see the marks of Jesus in the hands and sides of the people called to be bearers of the gospel.

Vance Morgan wrote the following in a post about being a liberal Christian:

Liberal persons of faith tend not to carry their faith on their sleeves, not because they are ashamed of their faith, but because their faith is not a list of dogmas, a collection of rules, or a checklist of required beliefs. A liberal Christian’s faith is on display in the life that she or he lives, the sort of evidence that is more convincing, but also more difficult to describe easily, than what one might hear on a stump speech or read in a policy platform.

There have been a number of articles in recent weeks about the strong intellectual heritage of progressive/liberal/mainline Christianity, which seemed for a very long time to have waned. Thus Jay Parini wrote for Salon asking what happened to this tradition. Martin Luther King is one famous representative from the past. Some have suggested that the rise of Donald Trump will evoke a resurgence or re-invigoration of this tradition.

Richard Beck has a very interesting series on the tendency towards decreased community among progressive ChristiansScot McKnight blogged about mainline shrinkage.

Adrian Aiker blogged about turning values into narratives.

Roger Olson views progressive Christianity as merely the same as liberal Christianity, and doesn’t like it. See also Michael Kruger’s attempts to perpetuate half truths and stereotypes about liberals, in a blog series that rather ironically starts off by warning that half truths are lies.

There are some other related links below. But what do you think in relation to the question that started this post? Is “Critical Christianity” an appealing title? Is “Progressive Christianity” here to stay? Any other suggestions?

This Progressive Christian Doesn’t Want “Trump Evangelicals” Speaking for Him

Nobody is laughing at the Religious Left in 2017

Christians As Truth Seekers and Agnostics

 

Closer Than You Think (The Trouble With Deconstruction)

Is Quakerism Becoming a Christianity Without Christ?

The Transitory Nature of Beliefs, Part I

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  • Nimblewill

    I tried really hard to become more progressive in my Christianity but many progressives are simply just as judgmental as the evangelicals they are trying to get away from. Their focus has changed but the lack of Christlikeness has remained.

    • I know this certainly can be true, but one of the aims in the approach that I am talking about is not unique to me, and aims to avoid fundamentalist-style dogmatism that differs merely in which end of the spectrum it is arrogant about, and do something very different at a deeper level.

      • Nimblewill

        I would just call this Christianity without labels.

        • I like the idea, in principle. In practice, it doesn’t help clarify things – and writing a book that is about this while simply calling it “Christianity” may not connect the book with the readership most likely to find it useful and engaging! 🙂

          • Nimblewill

            I completely understand. A few years ago I started referring to my self as a “Jesusian.” I would be hard pressed to read a book simply called “Chrisitanity.”

  • James, thanks for this great resource, especially your lucid quote on your view of reality.

  • John MacDonald

    I think of “critique” and “critical” in the sense of the classical Greek usage. The term critique appears mostly as an adjective (kritikos) and a verb (krinein): critical activities include distinguishing, separating, deciding, judging, incriminating-and contending. This is the sense Kant wants when he talks about his “critical” philosophy, and the “Critique of Pure Reason,” etc., that he wrote. Kant specifically uses “critical” and “critique” to distinguish what he is doing from the “dogmatism” of the German philosophy before him, such as that of Christian Wolff. Kant said Hume’s skepticism awakened him from his dogmatic slumbers.

    • John MacDonald

      It is important to distinguish “critique” and “critical” from cynical senses like “criticize,” which is not completely foreign to Kant’s sense, but there is much more involved.

  • james warren

    Inquisitive Christianity?
    Curious Christianity?
    Jesus-based Christianity?
    Historically-based Christianity?
    Deep Christianity?

    • John MacDonald

      Good suggestions! I like the term “Critical” because, from the point of view of Philosophy since Kant, it signifies rigorous investigation that opposes all dogmatism, whether that dogmatism comes from a liberal, conservative, or middle of the road perspective.

    • I like several of these a lot!

  • Robert Charles Anderson

    aha! This is where being really old is an advantage! I remember back in 2002 when many Liberal Presbyterians (PCUSA) in “Covenant Network” found that the term “liberal” had too many negative connotations and the group decided to adopt the term “Progressive”. “Progressive”, I was told by one of the Covenant Network leaders of that day, had a positive connotation of forward looking vision, not stodgy, classic liberalism. Applied then to Feminism, Gay Ordinations and other topics it could break new ground in a positive sounding manner. Progressive = :Liberal. Just sayin’

  • Alonzo

    Congdon forgets that Thomas turned away from his doubt and engaged faith. Doubt is a trait to reject as James the Apostle wrote. From there he started the church in India. I do not read in this article what progressive or critical Christianity stands for.

  • I was thinking about these things back in the 1980s, and ended up selecting ‘postliberal’ as that which I though best described what we today call “progressive” (cf. Theology in Postliberal Perspective – Trinity 1990). I was trying to outline an approach that accepted liberal methodology in terms of a full embrace of scientific critical methods, that upheld a high place of integrity in religious epistemology for living individual and communal spiritual experience, and that is explicitly interfaith in character, but that moved beyond the old liberalism in that it did not see human nature as necessarily good and did not see human history as moving inevitably in a positive direction (these are goals, not givens, IOW). Fortunately or unfortunately, at around the same time the designation ‘Post-Liberal’ theology became widely used to talk about George Lindbeck’s approach to doctrine, which I don’t really think is Post-Liberal (at least not in the sense of incorporating and moving beyond). That is all pretty much under the bridge now, so I would propose once again employing “postliberal religious faith” (even if the Patheos spellchecker doesn’t like it!) to supplement if not replace progressive religious faith. That’s my 2 cents…

    • John MacDonald

      Daniel wrote (with my emphasis):

      in terms of a full embrace of scientific “critical” methods

      So you do like the term “critical?” lol

  • I don’t know if any label really works well. I know why the move to progressive was made, but it has become overly political, even as liberal and conservative are more political than theological. Perhaps we might reach back into the roots of my own tradition, and just be Christians. No labels, just the one word.

    I still like the word ecumenical Christian.

    On the idea of “Critical Christian,” that takes me back to my teaching days. I assigned primary texts and asked for a critical engagement with them. What I got was papers telling me what the student didn’t like about the document. I don’t think they got what I had in mind!

  • Steve Bailey

    What you’re talking about is an approach to Christian thought and life that captures the idea of the midrash and yeshiva approaches of Judaism: an approach to living faith that values examination over set dogma and a fossilized approach based on the primacy of propositional truth. Perhaps there’s a name that can emerge from that milieu. This approach would be closer to the context of Jesus’ life and teaching – an approach that reflects a high view of Scripture that most Evangelicals lack – even though, ironically, they claim to have it. Nothing irks me more than terms like “Bible believing Christian”.

  • Johannes Richter

    Would post-fundamental Christianity be too cheeky? I would prefer postfoundational Christianity for the philosophical movement, but then that might be too obscure to be meaningful.

    • The whole aim is to find something that is not about reacting to something else, but exploring the progressive/liberal/open approach to Christianity as something that has been and continues to be a positive, natural expression of the faith, something that is represented and emerges naturally from the Bible and the writings of other key figures down the centuries.

      • Johannes Richter

        I’m still thinking about this topic. ‘Questioning Christianity’ seems like another candidate, to avoid the technical term ‘critical’ while maintaining the idea of probing with a critical lens. It also has a nice ambiguity with the ‘questioning’ pointing both inwards and outwards.

  • Ian Palmer

    I like the thoughts within your blog. I have appreciated the term progressive Christian because I can use it to convey I am not fundamentalist nor liberal. The term fits a couple folks I know who lost their “absolutist” faith, and slowly worked their way toward a progressive faith. Critical Christian is too negative for me, altho I like the concept. In my writings I have clashed with fundamentalists over deep time and creation-evolution, and discovered they don’t trust science even when explained carefully (I am a scientist). Most recently I blogged on gun control and was written off by a close friend who now sees me as a liberal reprobate, and his emotions couldn’t stand that. IanDexterPalmer.

    • John MacDonald

      The “Critical” approach seeks to strive against “Dogmatism.” As Deleuze and Foucault saw, dogmatism is the birthplace of fascism, both fascism in society, and fascism in one’s own mind. Dogmatism/fascism leads to the repression of others, and even encourages one to will one’s own repression, both in one’s own mind and politically.

      • Gary

        Progressive or liberal, or critical, Christianity ought to simply be called Unorthodox Christianity. It deviates from creeds. It deviates, if you will, from the established dogma, whether in Luther’s deviation from Catholicism 500 years ago, or the modern splits (creating new denominations in Lutheran or Methodist churches) over gay marriage. “Unorthodox” may have the same negative connotation as “critical”, but the fact is that progressives, old and new, want to deviate from the current “Orthodoxy” of the status quo, for whatever reason – good or bad. Although progressives would never accept the label, “Unorthodox”, simply because they will view their unorthodoxy as the new orthodoxy. And view the old orthodoxy they just left as bad. In that respect, the progressives are just as dogmatic as conservatives.

        • John MacDonald

          Hey Gary. Your thoughts seem unpersuasive to me on this issue. Something can be “Unorthodox” and still be thoroughly fascist and dogmatic (David Koresh’s version of The Branch Davidians, for instance). I think Dr. McGrath is looking for a word or phrase that encapsulates an approach with “Ethics as First Philosophy,” and “Ethics as First Religion (Jewish philosopher Emmanuel Levinas and his friend French thinker Jacques Derrida also favored Ethics and Justice over ontology and metaphysics).”

          • And I would add that the adjective doesn’t clarify anything, since everyone’s Christianity is unorthodox to someone! 🙂

          • Gary

            I guess when I speak of orthodox, I am relating to the traditional view originating in the historic sense, orthodox Christianity versus heresies like Gnosticism. But I think the same principle applies today, for anything that deviates from your current, established “state” of religion (the orthodox state). I don’t think “Ethics as First Philosophy” applies at all here. That is implying progressive is ethical, conservative, or orthodox, is therefore not ethical. Maybe I should have used the word “Non-Orthodox”, instead of unorthodox. The term “Orthodox” is well established in its meaning for religion, so the term unorthodox, or non-orthodox, should be clear, as to its meaning, in that context.

          • John MacDonald

            Gary said:

            – “I don’t think “Ethics as First Philosophy” applies at all here. That is implying progressive is ethical, conservative, or orthodox, is therefore not ethical.”

            Where is this either/or thinking coming from lol? How is calling something “ethical” or calling it “trying to approach the ideals of ethics and justice” imply that other points of view are unethical?

            Derrida says Deconstruction is Justice. He means, for instance, that LGBT love calls out in suffering when the traditional understanding of marriage excludes it. Justice comes, Derrida says, when we deconstruct (appropriating Heidegger’s term “Destruktion”) our traditional concept of marriage and rebuild it to include LGBT love. Derrida’s friend Levinas says that it is this suffering in the face of the Other (the ostracized/marginalized /excluded party) that calls us to responsibility. Responding to these widows/orphans/aliens/enemies are the beginning of ethics/justice.

            The question isn’t whether one is liberal/conservative, or middle of the road. Justice only asks that we continually re-examine our principles in the light of what violence they may be producing.

            “Liberal” is not better than “conservative.” You can have a highly respectable “conservative” point of view, just as you can have a highly irresponsible, relative, and intellectually indefensible liberal point of view.

            Conservative/liberal/middle of the road points of view are all equally in danger of becoming thoughtless biases, such as when we see politicians unthinkingly voting along party lines. Ethics/Justice only come when we are continually rethinking and testing our liberal/conservative/middle of the road points of view.

          • Gary

            Ok. How about following Judaism. Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform. Call the liberal side “Reform Christianity”. Reform meaning deviation from Orthodox. It has been “re-formed” from the original. If you are looking for a word for progressive Christianity based upon ethics as first philosophy, you are indeed implying that what you are leaving is indeed unethical. Or “less ethical”. As I said, ethics has nothing to do with it. You are the one that mentioned ethics as part of the process.

          • John MacDonald

            It’s a trivial point to say each system thinks they are “doing it the best way.” Jesus thought he was engaging with the ethical/spiritual ideologies of his day, and so thought he had some helpful answers to the issues found in them. Ethical deconstruction and rebuilding of certain aspects of the Judaism of his days was of prime importance to Jesus. Jesus advocated love of God, neighbor, and enemy. To him Agape was a primary focus, and not just a regurgitation of Hesed.

            Gary said:

            -” As I said, ethics has nothing to do with it.”

            I strongly disagree with that, and I think Dr McGrath would too. The question of Religion always co-posits the question of its stance on ethics. For instance, based on the criteria I outlined of justice being born out of the suffering of widow/orphan/alien/enemy calling us to responsibility, I would say that a religion that includes and supports homosexuals is objectively more praiseworthy than one the stones homosexuals to death. So I would say, Gary, that we are indeed asking the question of ethics when we are asking the question of choosing a religion. It is part of a Critical Inquiry into faith.

          • Gary

            So you do think one is better than the other. Regardless, I say the “reform” part discriminates between original and next iteration, and next iteration, and next iteration, etc.. each iteration means change. The value (ethics) of better or worse change is up to the individual. Impasse time.

          • John MacDonald

            “Reform Christianity” implies some degree of deviation from an original or older ideology, but doesn’t give any suggestion as to what is being left behind, and certainly doesn’t provide a sense of what, in a positive sense, is being argued for. “Reform,” for all intents and purposes, is a meaningless title. It isn’t wrong, but we can certainly do better.

            You seem to be disagreeing for the sake of disagreeing, lol.

          • Gary

            “but doesn’t give any suggestion as to what is being left behind”…
            Now how do you expect to convey that in one word?

          • John MacDonald

            “Critical Christianity:”
            (1) “Critical”in the Kantian sense of critical inquiry, while striving against dogmatism, and the Deleuze/Foucault sense of striving against personal/political fascism that is born out of such dogmatism.
            (2) “Christian (Ethics)” in the Levinas/Derridia sense of deconstruction justice (such as deconstructing the traditional concept of marriage to rebuild it so as to include LGBT) in response to the suffering call of the Other (widow/orphan/alien/enemy).

          • Gary

            Critical Christianity carries no connotation of the type of change. Christian Ethics sets up your version of Christianity as better than anyone else’s.

          • Gary

            Got to leave this argument. Although interesting, I’ve got things to do. Might pick it up again tomorrow.

          • John MacDonald

            We have emerged out of history from cultures that have promoted such things as child sacrifice and cannibalism. War-rape in ancient Greece was considered acceptable. The Romans fed the Christians to the lions. And what seems terrible to one might be glorious to another. For instance, when 9’11 happened there were crowds in the middle east cheering. Moral Relativists say if we put aside our holier than thou attitude, we can see cultures are just different from one another, not that one is better than the other. But this isn’t the end of morality. All people act moral toward their “in-group,” which can range from just themselves, to their families, friends, and for some, the whole of humanity. And the basic principle of moral conduct, the golden rule, is found cross culturally throughout history. And, as Kant pointed out, unlike animals, all humans if they aren’t crazy understand that they are responsible for their actions. Ethical knowledge, though it may backslide at times (e.g., fascism), matures, just like technological knowledge matures. In their great work, “Anti Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia,” Philosopher Gilles Deleuze and psychologist Felix Guattari point out that we are born into a society of neurotics where our sexuality is already limited to us before hand. So, for instance, incest based dating and marrying one’s one sister or father is excluded from the equation before hand. Culture also determines what is permitted. For instance, in ancient Greece, war-rape was considered acceptable as the spoils of war, and sexual expression was shaped by societal norms – E.g. institutionalized same sex pederastry (mentor/boy love) and thiasos (mentor/girl love) in old Greece. The norm of the “Holy Family” of father/mother/children also used to look down on same sex marriages, and even more so on polygamy and polyamory. But moral understanding grows. We now know pederastry and thiasos is wrong because children aren’t mature enough to engage in such activities and make such decisions. Our moral compass becomes more sensitive as our understanding of ethics grows. So, yes, I think my morality is superior to one allowing pederastry and thiasos.

          • John MacDonald

            added “fascism”

          • Gary

            You seem to want to insert the Right Progressive (Right meaning correct) Christian Church! Or Right Progressive, or Right, Much better than you guys – Christian Church! I think UU’s already have everything covered. How can you be better that Universal, Unitarian (although that deviates from the Trinity). But a good majority of their clergy is gay. Can’t be more universal than that!

          • I like the designation “Reform Christianity” precisely because it can indicate “Christianity that relates to its historic tradition in the same way Reform Judaism does.” But it has the pitfall that it sounds almost exactly like “Reformed Christianity” which indicates either Protestantism or Presbyterianism more specifically, and so is liable to simply create confusion.

          • John MacDonald

            I changed “relative” to “relativistic.”

          • John MacDonald

            I’m referring to “political” liberalism and conservatism, not liberal/conservative hermeneutics. Conservative hermeneutics are not a way of being honest with the text.

          • John MacDonald

            Justice as Deconstruction is never finished. Once we respond to one cry, such as LGBT love being excluded by the traditional definition of marriage, it is always possible a new victim will emerge. We have an indefinite responsibility toward the other’s suffering that can never fully be repaid. Once we deconstruct the traditional concept of marriage and rebuild it to include LGBT love, further players arise on the scene. Why, for instance, has society already decided for us that we can’t date or marry our sister or father? Clearly, as anyone who has watched The Jerry Springer Show can attest, incest is going on out there. It even appears in the bible. Because of intoxication, Lot “perceived not” when his firstborn, and the following night his younger daughter, lay with him. (Genesis 19:32-35). And what about sexuality? Why, for instance, are many heterosexual men not even attracted to adult women in their “natural” state with the women’s hairy legs, arm pits, and bushy vaginal areas (have we perhaps been brainwashed to have a “youthful female fettish?” – it would certainly explain the massive cosmetic industry promising to make women youthful and sexy / why is there no such cosmetics industry for men?). Or, why is lesbian behavior such as two “hot babes” kissing erotic, while two gay men kissing is not (perhaps society has a harem mentality?)

          • Gary

            How did this discussion get into “gay” anything, besides one of the obviously deltas from Orthodox to Progressive? I’m not going to be sucked into a discussion of the ethics involved. Just the renaming of progressive to critical to (my favorite as of this moment), reform Christianity. Might as well go with the same mode as Judaism.

          • John MacDonald

            I introduced the issue of the marginalization and abuse of homosexuals, such as by societies and religions that stone them, to point out that First Religion, like First Philosophy, should, at least in part, be Ethical Ideology.

          • Gary

            Just to establish my position on gay marriage, I do support gay marriage. However, I do not support the activism of small groups of an already established religion, under the guise of “Social Justice”, to change that religion against the will of the majority of members. If the majority reject it, change denominations, or live with a secular marriage. Do not use political activist tactics (protests, sit-ins, pickets) to get your way. Simply leave the church you don’t like, and go to another.

          • John MacDonald

            So you think people should never try to improve their church if they perceive a shortcoming? That doesn’t seem like a very vibrant, living church to belong to. lol

          • Gary

            We live in a democracy. Majority rules in church matters. Churches don’t have a Supreme Court to advance “Social Change”, beyond what the majority wants. Tell me something – you think it is appropriate to see sit-in protests at, as an example, Methodist Conferences, when the political activists are in the minority. Civil Disobedience is not appropriate in a church meeting. If you don’t like it, go somewhere else. If you want to discuss a matter, great. But don’t disrupt a church meeting with your political causes. Very obtuse on protestor’s part.

          • John MacDonald

            So you think Martin Luther should have held his peace? lol

          • John MacDonald

            How would you approach the matter if the preacher and the congregation were mostly pro-slavery, or white supremacists?

          • Gary

            Ooh, please. Tired argument. And MLK protested on the street or in businesses. Not in churches. Not the same thing. You are bring in irrelevant arguments. That’s not like you, John.

          • Gary

            When he was in churches, he was in sympathetic churches, not in them to protest.

          • John MacDonald

            I meant Martin Luther, not Martin Luther King. Anyway, I think that the question of religion is also always the question of ethics. When you base your ethical beliefs on your subjective values, points of view, culture, prejudices, opinions, biases, etc, relativism is always there to clamp down it’s powerful jaws. Human history is full of examples of perfectly reasonable people holding “incompossible” points of view. For instance, some considered what happened on 9’11 to be an unholy tragic abomination (one of the worst tragedies in American history), while others considered it a holy blessing worth celebrating. See

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KrM0dAFsZ8k

            Who is right, and how do you know? What gives you the authority to choose? Were things in the past like cannibalism, child sacrifice, and war-rape wrong? Not to the cultures who institutionalized them. Your culture is different, but is it better? How do you know? What gives you the authority to choose?

            What this means is that ethics, if it is to survive relativism, can’t just be about categorizing certain acts as good and others as bad. That is where the postmodern ethics of justice as one’s moral compass becoming more and more sensitive to sensing the suffering of the Other offers an alternative. This will not, for instance, resolve the abortion debate where one side is claiming the mother is just being “inconvenienced” for 9 months, while the other side thinks what is being terminated is in no sense a human being. But I think postmodernism where ethics is first philosophy (hence “post -modern,” whereas “modern” would have metaphysics and ontology as first philosophy) provides a useful phenomenological (descriptive) model for what it is like as we try to adhere to and constantly improve and evolve our ethical systems (the example I gave above was acting in the spirit of justice so as to deconstruct the traditional concept of marriage, thereby being able to rebuild it as one that is inclusive of LGBTQ love).

            When ethics is not first religion, that is, when religion is simply dogma, or an ethical system is very primitive, you get things like women and homosexuals being stoned to death.

          • Gary

            “When ethics is not first religion, that is, when religion is simply dogma, or an ethical system is very primitive, you get things like women and homosexuals being stoned to death.”…
            So, what specific religions would you deem as “primitive, ethically”, that would condone stoning women and homosexuals? And what religions would you deem as “advanced, ethically”, and would never condone stoning women and homosexuals? I think you are dealing with historical issues, not current issues. Unless you are equating being denied buying a wedding cake, to stoning? I think you are exaggerating.

          • Gary

            As far as Martin Luther – I am not a pro or anti advocate of indulgences. Does anyone even care anymore about indulgences? It certainly doesn’t seem to be any more ridiculous an approach to fundraising than a bake sale, a car wash, or buying Girl Scout cookies, to make us, or our thoughts of dead relatives, feel better!

          • John MacDonald

            I would say there are “more ethically responsible” approaches to religion, and “less ethically responsible” approaches to religion. For instance, many Muslims have a responsible, mature approach to Islam. I would say radical Islamic terrorists terrorists do not have an ethically mature, responsible approach to Islam. Or would you say radical Islamic terrorists have an equally responsible approach to their religion as do moderate Muslims? In the same way, conservatives who try to proof-text the bible (with a questionable interpretation of scripture) as a basis for denying marriage to LGBTQ people have an immature approach to religion because the ethical right of LGBTQ people to marry trumps all that nonsense. Or take another example. We no longer proof-text the bible to support and justify slavery (which they used to do), because we know the ethical right of all persons to be free “trumps (I love Euchre analogies, lol)” religious passages that condone or permit slavery. Ethics as first Philosophy and First religion is the way to go!

          • Gary

            “I would say radical Islamic terrorists do not have an ethically mature, responsible approach to Islam….In the same way, conservatives who try to proof-text the bible..”
            Really? In the same way? I think we are dealing with orders of magnitude differences.
            “as a basis for denying marriage to LGBTQ people…”
            You mean, denying marriage in a particular church? Or denying marriage in a secular government office? Or denying a gay couple from buying a wedding cake from a particular individual. Not that the gay couple can’t go to another denomination or city hall for marriage, or go to another bakery for their cake. Not really the same thing. Unless you are equating terrorists to the mean old Methodists, or a particular owner of a bakery? Ridiculous comparison. Those mean old proof reading conservatives must be really terrible people!

          • John MacDonald

            You apparently don’t understand how analogies work as illustrative examples. There is bound to be differences between the two comparative elements, because otherwise we would be saying something like “An apple falling is analogous to an apple falling,” which precisely wouldn’t express any analogy. Marginalizing LGBTQ people because of their identity/gender preference is no different from marginalizing someone because they are black, or because they are a woman. People who do so marginalize others are acting unethically. Homosexuality is not a choice (is heterosexuality a choice?), and so given that love/sexuality is such a fundamental, essential aspect of one’s humanity, denying LGBTQ people the right to marry is abominable.

          • Gary

            We have a different view of what “marginalizing and denying” is. By your definition, apparently Methodists, Catholics, and Mormons are abominable and unethical. I don’t think you mean that, but the conclusion seems to be implied. For analogies, you have a right to get married. You just don’t have a right to marry in my house, unless I invite you.

          • John MacDonald

            Any church that does not support LGBTQ marriage is abominable and unethical. You want an analogy?
            (1) Let’s let LGBTQ people in the church, let’s just not let them get married.
            (2) Let’s let Black people in the church, let’s just not let them get married.
            C’mon Gary, put on your thinking cap, lol.

          • Gary

            Sorry John. No comprende. You seem to ignore “freedom of religion”.

          • John MacDonald

            It’s really quite simple. Denying someone marriage based on sexual preference is no difference than denying someone marriage based on skin color. If there was a passage in the bible that seemed to imply the church shouldn’t let Black people marry, would that be okay? If people belong to a church that denies LGBTQ rights in this way, it is their moral obligation to petition their church to change. As an agnostic secular humanist, my problem isn’t with “freedom of religion.” I believe almost any conceivable church imaginable is fine. Similarly, I disagree with White Supremacists, but I thoroughly defend their right to exist and meet. My problem is with churches receiving tax-exempt status while having morally reprehensible views/practices regarding LGBTQ people that completely fall short of society’s ethical/legal standards. Anyway, those are my thoughts. Time to move on to a fresh topic!

          • John MacDonald

            In other words, if “The Law” can step in and tell the management of a private company that they can’t discriminate against or sexually harass female workers, why shouldn’t “The Law” be able to tell a tax-exempt church that they can’t discriminate against LGBTQ folks? Okay, I’m out of ideas, lol.

          • Gary

            John – I one hundred percent support your right to go with
            “Ethics as first Philosophy and First religion is the way to go!”…

            Where I break from you is I am against political activism attempting to change a particular religion’s “dogma”, if the majority of members want to remain with the dogma. Concerning LGBT marriage, if the Supreme Court said all religions must follow civil laws because of it’s superior ethics (of course, that’s not going to happen), then Catholics, Methodists, Mormons, etc, would be forced to perform gay marriage. Might as well add Feminist Rights, then Catholics would have to ordain women as priests. Since my Universal Unitarians (neighbors) occasionally celebrate Wiccan Rights, all religions then should also include Wiccan liturgy in some of their sermons, to be ethical, and inclusive. Not enough to just be accepting of them. You must change your dogma to include it in your church services? How about requiring all churches perform Wiccan marriage services? The net result would be all religions would look like UU’s. Now, that doesn’t sound very ethical to me. Might as well totally get rid of religion. Although that might be the end goal of some (not all), of the political activist protests against traditional religious dogma.

          • John MacDonald

            I think people should hold their church’s ideologies to the same moral standards they themselves should be held to. Just because some churches don’t uphold LGBTQ rights, that doesn’t mean members shouldn’t recognize this as a problem and lobby for change. Marginalizing LGBTQ people is no different from marginalizing women, or marginalizing Black people. Do you think it’s okay if a church teaches: (1) No LGBTQ marriage, (2) No Blacks allowed, and (3) Women are not allowed to speak in church? Under this vision churches seem no different from White Supremacist groups, and I am curious as to why such organizations should receive tax-exempt status?

          • Gary

            Maybe “Evolving” Christianity might be appropriate. The “delta” change in current/past religion, to something new. But clearly “progressive” changes current church laws, creeds, traditions, to something different from the status quo. Good or bad is your call. But one being ethical, and one not, assigns one being better than the other. I am not so sure that is in itself an ethical position.

          • John MacDonald

            see the response i gave to your other comment

        • John Purssey

          I have found that defining yourself by what you are against is a bad course, and the “un” in unorthodox seems to smack of that.

          • Gary

            Probably not the best choice. But, It would be nice if you suggested an alternative.

          • John Purssey

            Yes, I do think about that from time to time. Labels are so difficult to choose, as they conjure up different images in different audiences. I tend to say just that I am Christian. The Chaplaincy Academy I did my Spiritual Care training with listed me as Evangelical, though I did not offer that. In response I said that if a label was wanted then I could be thought of as Liberal Evangelical. Since then the term Evangelical has been so abused (IMHO) that many associate it with the methodology of fundamentalism and I have found the label kakangelical to be useful for the way it it is presented, as they are often bearers of bad news with a get-out-of-hell-free offer.

            And with whom you want to communicate will have an influence on the term used. They are sometimes like a banner. “Biblical” as an adjective denotes that you belong to a group that has a literal, innerrantist milieu which differentiates itself from other “so-called Christians” by its propositional theology. I live in a New Age area and at my hospital I switch from Spiritual Carer and Chaplain (and other terms) depending on the person to whom I am speaking.

            Liberation Christianity has an appeal, but has been used for a theology that came out of South America, and many in the USA would find a pejorative association with Marxism. And perhaps Progressive Christianity does not see itself as speaking for the poor and oppressed.

            I think “Critical” has too many connotations to communicate an unambifuous impression.

            “Radical” was used a lot in the 70s, but that term seems to have been overused.

            So I don’t have a brilliant suggestion, or even a usable suggestion. But I will sleep on it.

          • Gary

            I have a lot of respect for a Chaplain at a hospital. That’s got to be a tough job.

          • John MacDonald

            John Purssey said

            I think “Critical” has too many connotations to communicate an unambifuous impression.

            Of course, any neologisms require a certain degree of educating the public, but all labels that we are now familiar with were new once.

            I think “critical inquiry” just means “best practice” in textual/theological thinking, in the spirit of an ever increasing “Honesty” about what the texts say and what our theological ratiocinations reveal. I think “critical” is another way of saying “being honest.” Dogmatic inquiry is not honest because it makes up its mind beforehand. “Dogmatic” is the opposite of “critique (in Kant’s sense)” and “honesty.”

            I think Ethics is an ever increasing sense, in belief and action, of responsibility at the call of the Other (widow, orphan, alien, and enemy), which aims at upbuilding the Other, and reducing violence to them, both literal and figurative violence.

            I think the Holy is our sense of the Love the divine has for all creation we experience as we think about and act on an Infinite/Indefinite call to responsibility by the suffering Other, and also the sense of the Divine suffering at the understanding that the Other can never fully be made whole.

            That’s what Critical Christianity means to me.

  • Jeff

    I’m curious why you’d search for a better adjective instead of a better root noun. I recently read a book by a fairly well-known progressive Christian. This writer was completely indifferent to the Resurrection, lukewarm on whether Jesus even lived, and pretty receptive to a non-theistic conception of God. I get that a progressive would insist that it’s not at all a simple question of who gets to define what Christianity entails, but if one barely believes in Jesus’s existence, presumably doesn’t accept him as Christ, so why would they want to attach that appelation to themselves? Of course there’s a spectrum and this one writer doesn’t speak for all progressives, but I don’t find the views that he expressed to be at all unusual.

    • If I had to guess I’d say you’re probably referring to John Shelby Spong, and so my first response would be to encourage you to read other sources who reflect a genuine embrace of mainstream biblical scholarship. That said, I wonder whether you object to the use of Judaism in the case of Reform Judaism, for instance?

      • Jeff

        No, it was a guy named Mike McHargue, who I guess has a well-known podcast.

        I have no opinion on what internal controls Jews should place on their “brand name”. On the subject of Christianity, I side with Lewis’s view, but more than that I don’t see why someone who had a non-theistic conception of God, a skeptical view of the Resurrection, a view of Jesus as a wise but in every other way ordinary human — why would a person with those views want to be identify their beliefs by reference to a moniker that explicitly indicates their identification with Jesus as “Christ”?

        • “Non-theistic” can cover a range of views. If what is meant is a view of God as Being itself rather than one being among others, then that is a widespread view not just today but historically. On the resurrection, anyone who is not skeptical when exploring the matters from our distant standpoint in history has not fully appreciated what is under discussion – what would it take for you to not have any serious doubts about comparable testimony about a purported event in our time, with the possibility of investigation? And would you deny the label “Christian” for the earliest followers of Jesus who clearly did not think of him in Trinitarian terms?

          • Jeff

            I’m not a linguist so I’m winging this a bit, but I would say that words can sometimes carry a range of semantic content but there are still boundaries on that semantic content. So if someone said, “to me, ‘America’ is what I dream of in my mind, a country that is ruled by me as Supreme Leader and all speech that I disapprove of is suppressed”, we would say, no; ‘America’ can perhaps mean a range of things but it can’t mean that.

            So what are the boundaries on “Christian”, according to progressives? What semantic content can this word contain, and what can it not?

          • I think that either disliking Jesus, or liking him while disregarding everything he said, would certainly make it problematic to claim to be Christian. But of course, there are whole segments of modern Christianity that seem to be compromising key teachings of Jesus and yet they are felt by others to be the “most Christian” of all! And so I tend to look for other approaches than essentialist ones, and instead ask why a given individual or group uses a term, and what they mean by it, rather than setting myself up to adjudicate who does or does not have the right to a particular label.

            On my own Christian identity, there are a number of posts from the past here that might be a good place to start, just to not repeat myself too much:
            http://www.patheos.com/blogs/religionprof/2010/03/from-the-archives-why-i-am-a-christian.html
            http://www.patheos.com/blogs/religionprof/2013/04/why-am-i-a-progressive-christian.html
            http://www.patheos.com/blogs/religionprof/2018/03/why-i-am-a-panentheist.html
            http://www.patheos.com/blogs/religionprof/2007/12/repost-of-a-christian-atheist-dialogue.html

          • Jeff

            I might respectfully suggest that in an early chapter of the proposed book, you might articulate a view of Christianity as not necessarily entailing conformity to some specific set of propositional truth claims or assent to certain credal affirmations, but rather occupying a broader conceptual space that is more relational or cultural than it is propositional. Or whatever, I mean, say it in your own words of course.

          • God is an omnipresent, intergalactic, superhuman, superintelligent, extra-3-space “spirit” being.

            If you’re skeptical about Jesus’ resurrection you should be skeptical about Elijah’s ability to raise the dead. If you’re not skeptical about Elijah’s ability to raise the dead, you have absolutely no legitimate reason to be skeptical about Jesus’ resurrection.

            Words on paper – anyone can write anything on paper.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rs-UeCfEyGc

  • Dr_Grabowski

    Neither ideological/political nor religious/theological “progressives” of my acquaintance will define the term, neither can tell me what it means to be progressive.

    In terms of political economy, “progressive” is often seemingly used to mean “collectivist”, often without much concern for whether things will be collectivised voluntarily.

    “Progressive” seems equally hollow and facile as a term to describe certain emphases of liberal Christianity, if Christianity it is. All agree that, for example, Torquemada and Tony Campolo had um, a different approach, yet the Inquisition was progressive in its own way, with “progress” no doubt defined as fewer heretics, at a certain cost.

    So “progressive” just seems almost a useless word, if everyone wants progress, but progress is variously defined. If “Progressives” merely mean that they want progress toward the good, and everyone else does not, why not simply refer to themselves as “Virtuous?”

    C.S. Lewis:

    The important point is not the precise nature of their end,but the fact that they have an end at all…and this end must have real value in their eyes.
    To abstain from calling it ‘good’ and to use instead, such predicates as,‘necessary’ or ‘progressive’ or ‘efficient’ would be a subterfuge. They could be forced to answer the question,
    ‘necessary for what?’, progressing towards what?’,‘effecting what?’; in the last resort they would have to admit that some state of affairs was in their opinion good for its own sake.

    “Progress means getting nearer to the place you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turning, then to go forward does not get you any nearer.
    If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man.”

    • It is, at the very least, no more useless than “conservative,” which often means adhering dogmatically to a modern departure from historic emphases, because they are the tradition that was passed on to you by the generation before or the person who converted you to that viewpoint.

      • Dr_Grabowski

        S i r ~

        Not altogether sure what you mean.by conservatives “adhering dogmatically to a modern departure from historic emphases.”

        If you mean that today’s movement conservatives are for the most part libertarians, that they join Jefferson, Lincoln, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in affirming the Declaration’s real, unalienable human rights, I see this change, if a change it is, as all to the good.

        Here’s Charles Kesler, a protégé of the late Harry Jaffa, to explain:

        “But what more could American conservatism be, other than liberalism’s nemesis? To begin with, it could be profoundly American. The most striking feature of traditionalist conservatism has always been how alienated it is from the roots of its own, that is, the American political tradition…Take Russell Kirk’s The Conservative Mind, for instance, still the best expression of the traditionalist school….Kirk enshrined a few Americans in his conservative pantheon–John Adams and John C. Calhoun, most prominently–but he had little room for George Washington, Thomas Jefferson (whose “a priori concepts” and “French egalitarian theories” Kirk distrusted), James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, or Abraham Lincoln, to name a few. Not that he renounced them, exactly, but he simply did not find in them the conservative disposition that he wished to celebrate, nor the conservative principles that he wished to canonize. In this respect, Kirk implicitly acknowledged distinctions that many of his readers may have missed. For none of these thoughtful American statesmen endorsed the quasi-Burkean love of prescription, inequality, and the Romantic-organic view of society that Kirk himself embraced.

        “Kirk’s conservatism, therefore, was never peculiarly American. It was consciously Anglo-American; more specifically, it took Burke’s useful fiction that the British Constitution had been a product of slow evolutionary growth and adaptation, and applied the nostrum to America, whose Revolution then became a “conservative restoration of colonial prerogatives.” So much for the shot heard ’round the world! Until about 1774, Americans had in fact argued in favor of various conservative adaptations of the British Constitution to colonial conditions; but from 1776 on, they insisted on new, emphatically republican constitutions of their own devising, based on the unalienable or natural rights of man. To quote Kirk’s hero, John Adams, “there is no good government but what is republican,” and the “only valuable part of the British Constitution” had been republican in effect if not in intent. The British political tradition contained valuable principles, then, which were sound not because they were British or traditional but because they were good, i.e., in accordance with human nature. In effect, the colonists exchanged their rights as Englishmen for their rights as Americans, precisely in order to secure their rights as men. They made a Revolution on behalf of human freedom, not “prescriptive freedom.”

        “Kirk never admitted this, because he rejected freedom and equality as abstract principles and he loathed revolution. Like Burke, he spoke occasionally of the real or genuine rights of man–the moral order in which prescription or tradition was a chief part of the law of nature. Unlike his great model, however, Kirk allowed prescription to define virtually all of natural justice: as the “natural” part of natural law receded under his touch, the “law” part–the legal, customary, and conventional realm–grew apace. Hence Kirk’s “traditionalism,” the belief in the abstract principle that all abstract principles are nonsense; that justice is to be discovered at history’s margins, not in nature’s intentions; and that reason, at least moral and political reason, is always properly a child of its times. For traditionalists, revolution with a capital R, based on appeals to nature or to abstract truths like human freedom and equality, is the greatest of political evils. Indeed, Burke’s opposition to the French Revolution was the inspiration for modern conservatism–and according to Kirk, the star by which conservatives should steer in all subsequent political upheavals.

        “But what of the American Revolution, which had boldly proclaimed its “new and more noble course” and its “new order of the ages,” all in the name of certain unalienable and universal human rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”? Kirk denied or downplayed everything revolutionary about it, obscuring its real character. He was right, of course, that the Revolution was about more than abstract natural rights. Protestant Christianity, classical republicanism, and traditional British constitutional arguments all played important parts in the drama, but each of these received a new spin from the Americans’ understanding of natural justice. Kirk was right, too, to insist that the American Revolution was quite different from the French Revolution, but it was not because the former was not revolutionary. The essential difference was that the French had been based on a Rousseauian theory of the rights of man, which robbed the rights of their foundation in an unchanging human nature and quickly abandoned them as a guide to political right in favor of the socialist authority of the general will. Then to make matters worse, this wrong-headed theory had been implemented by intellectuals leading a people with no experience in the habits and practices of self-government. It was a recipe for disaster.”

        “For the truth is that traditionalism, and the type of conservatism based on it, have never been comfortable, really, with the American Revolution. They have tried to make peace with it by treating it as something neither very American nor very revolutionary, but the result has been to miss its entire significance in American politics. Examples abound of contemporary conservatives’ wariness of the “Revolution principles,” as Adams called them, on which the Founders took their stand. In fact, conservative politicians do not have to be self-conscious traditionalists to have absorbed this aversion to the concepts, indeed to the very language, of rights, equality, and justice. How many times, for example, has the Republican Congress ducked the chance to eliminate race and gender-based preferences in federal hiring, contracting, and grant-making? Republicans, including many staunch conservatives, flee the issue partly because they think it untimely, but mostly because they do not care to wage an uphill battle on an issue on which liberals presumptively command the moral high ground. In other words, they concede, without quite admitting it perhaps even to themselves, that equality and justice are liberal causes, to be defined by liberals, defended by liberals, and implemented by liberals.”

        More here:

        http://www.aei.org/publication/whats-wrong-with-conservatism/

        • Martin Luther King was a theological liberal (as well as being one socially and politically), but the main point was that Evangelicalism and fundamentalism are modern phenomena, responses to specific scientific and cultural developments.

          https://meaningness.com/fundamentalism-countercultural-modernism

          http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2018/04/23/is-evangelicalism-a-part-of-modernity/

          • Dr_Grabowski

            S i r ~

            Thanks for writing. The ‘Meaningness’ article you linked to misses the mark by far.

            I can’t speak to the points made there about Islamic fundamentalism, but Christian fundamentalism was and is a defense of the fundamentals, the cardinal doctrines of the Christian Faith.

            ‘Fundamentalism’ by that name may be recent, from the 1920s, but isn’t that only because the phenomenon of an unprecedented, intentional, systematic, widespread departure from the historic Christian Faith suddenly found within heretofore Christian churches, institutions, denominations, that Fundamentalism was, yes, a response to, dated from the same period?

            But the specific content that Fundamentalists defended from attack, the Fundamentals, the cardinal doctrines of the Faith, are as old as Christianity.

            G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy (1908):

            “When the word “orthodoxy” is used here it means the Apostles’ Creed, as understood by everybody calling himself Christian until a very short time ago”

            Your Meaningness article states that

            “Genuine traditions have no defense against modernity. Modernity asks “Why should anyone believe this? Why should anyone do that?” and tradition has no answer.
            (Beyond, perhaps, “we always have.”)”

            Whereas Christianity, even in what became known as Christendom, was not traditional in the sense that it was merely “the way things have always been done around here”, but was (and is) propositional, it involves a set of specific truth claims to be considered and assented to, by every generation, indeed by every person:

            “Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised up on the third day according to the scriptures…”

            “if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins”

            “be ready always to give an answer to every man who asketh you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear”

            This is “anti-rational?”

            https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/10/Descent_of_the_Modernists%2C_E._J._Pace%2C_Christian_Cartoons%2C_1922.jpg

          • The fundamentalists certainly thought that they were simply defending the historic Christian faith. But they in fact made belief in certain things that the Enlightenment era raised questions about into “the cardinal doctrines of the Faith.” This emphasis distorted even as it sought to preserve – as always happens in the dynamics of legitimation, as studied in particular by Berger and Luckmann.

          • Dr_Grabowski

            S i r ~

            Hello again!

            Um, which “certain things” did the fundamentalists, in your view “make” the “cardinal doctrines of the faith” that weren’t already considered such?

            Liberal Protestant Harry Emerson Fosdick, in his definitive sermon, “Shall the Fundamentalists Win?” singles out and breezily dismisses Fundamentalist concerns over liberals’ denial of the Virgin Birth, the infallibility of Scripture as originally given*, and an actual, personal Return of Christ.

            These are not new doctrines!

            *True, when Fosdick turns his guns on the fundamentalists’ view of Scripture he is careful to mention the dictation theory of inspiration, which was no doubt held by some, but a close reading will show that his real objection is not against the belief of some in a heavenly word-for-word dictation, Fosdick’s real objection is to the infallibility of Scripture, the view held by all fundamentalists, that, as my man Francis Schaeffer puts it, “the Bible is without error, not only when it speaks of salvation matters, but also when it speaks of history and the cosmos.” So though Fosdick rejects what he sees as the fundamentalists’ theory of how inspiration worked, he also rejected the historic Christian position on the Bible, the idea that (quoting Fosdick) “everything there—scientific opinions, medical theories, historical judgments, as well as spiritual insight—is infallible.”

          • You seem to think that if something is part of a religious tradition already, then bringing that to central focus in a way that was not the case prior does not change the religion’s shape in significant ways. But one need only think of the Protestant Reformation to see that this is not the case. Doesn’t the new focus on justification by faith change things, even though the words were there in Romans and Galatians all along?

          • Dr_Grabowski

            S i r ~

            I think you are now making a much milder point than before.

            Now you seem to be allowing that the fundamentalists might have indeed been contending for what had always been considered cardinal doctrines of the faith after all.

            But certainly, I grant that the necessity of the Christian Church wrestling with Gnosticism, Arianism, Albigensianism etc etc over the centuries meant that meeting these separate challenges was going to reorient the Church a bit each time, just as our own bodies are different, stronger, after our immune system fights off a bug.

            So in this limited sense you may indeed observe among theological conservatives, Bible believers a “modern departure from historic emphases.”

            But every time in history Christians rose to defend and reassert the deposit of Faith, their speaking and writing was going to sound different, fresh and new, as the corresponding attack was recent and unprecedented.

            When the New Age movement started to be a thing, you then saw Christian books stressing the uniqueness of Christ.

            When the Supreme Court suddenly made it impossible, illegal for US states to ban abortion, you began to see books written to address this, to educate both the flock and the larger world.

            When Muslim terrorism flared up again, Christians took pains to explain the lengthy backstory involved.

            I view this kind of flexibility, maneuverability as being responsive to the needs of the human family. But yes, each time Christians marshal their forces to meet a new challenge, these projects will have a different character than Christian publishing of the past, but isn’t that just because the current needs are now different?

            https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1369155317l/978806.jpg

            https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1388459559i/1510390._UY475_SS475_.jpg

          • You seem to have had trouble grasping my point initially, and now you think I am making a different one (which I am not), while still leaving it ambiguous as to whether you have understood. I think part of the problem is that you assume throughout that all that changes is that an attack occurs on a once-established and clearly defined orthodoxy, which simply needs to produce antibodies to fend off the pernicious infection. I’m guessing that you are unaware, for instance, that the term which was used to define orthodoxy and exclude Arius at the Council of Nicaea – homoousios – had at an earlier council been declared anathema in the interest of excluding Paul of Samosata and his views? The history of Christianity is much more complex than you are allowing, and the process of seeking to defend one’s beliefs also changes them in more significant ways than you appear to acknowledge.

          • Dr_Grabowski

            S i r ~

            Thank you for writing!

            Thanks also for indulging my ignorance and/or inexperience on some points, indeed, I’m sure you far outrank me in scholarship. But I think on the broad principles we can understand each other better.

            And actually I do allow that the “antibodies” working in the Body of Christ, the Church, to fight off these doctrinal “infections” include real, new work in-house to distill and define what it is that is believed, in terms more precise than ever seemed to be needed before.

            So in our running example of the defense of the Bible, we indeed saw new things, like the Lausanne Covenant
            https://www.lausanne.org/content/covenant/lausanne-covenant

            and the Chicago Statement
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicago_Statement_on_Biblical_Inerrancy

            The pro-life movement’s “ecumenism of the trenches” necessitated no changes of historic doctrinal distinctives, but the ongoing reappraisal of just who is ideological friend and who is foe, has nonetheless led to significant changes in policy, perspective. Here’s the conservative PCA for example, saying things Presbyterians are not known for saying:

            “The Presbyterian Church in America commends the Roman Catholic Church for its principled opposition to some of our national sins and believes that it is altogether proper for the members of this church to be co-belligerents with Roman Catholics in these social and political endeavors.”

  • Ivan T. Errible

    Religion is a waste of time.

    • Comments like that are much more clearly a waste of time, and yet that didn’t stop you from making it…

      • Ivan T. Errible

        But my comments have the benefit of not costing you anything in extra taxes, unlike religion.

        • RidgewayGirl

          L E and I have decided you are unwelcome back at Slacktivist. Do not come back or you will be flagged and banned. And L E will use your mouth for a toilet. Don’t make me repeat myself.

          • Chuck Johnson

            Is that the best you can do to prove that religion is not a waste of time?
            You are being both dimwitted and obnoxious.

        • Mr. James Parson

          I am sure my comments are going to get lost, or moderated out of existence, but Ivan brings up a good point.

          Very soon Christianity is going to have to do something it traditionally has not had to do. Prove its worth to an increasing non-Christian audience. Kind of like bank fees and credit card fees.

          Just for the record, I don’t have a Discover card or an American Express card, yet I can live my life and enjoy things.

          ~~~~~~

          I can appreciate the original topic was Progressive vs something else. The thing is, the real axis is religious vs non-religious.

  • Nick G

    “Critical realism” actually has a much more specific meaning than you give it, as a philosophy of science (and particularly social science) associated with the early work of British philosopher Roy Bhaskar and those in various disciplines who took up his ideas, as an alternative to both positivism and constructivism/post-modernism/post-structuralism etc. (Incidentally, I can’t find the term “critical realism” in the comment you reference.) Of course, you can use the term in a less specific sense if you choose, but since googling the term turns up several pages of links exclusively to expositions or criticisms of Bhaskar’s ideas and developments from them, it’s rather an odd choice.

    • What makes you think that I had a different meaning in mind than precisely this approach (as used in relation to fields such as history in particular), that seeks to articulate what some have called a “chastened modernism”?