The Theological Left Is Rising

This will come as no surprise to readers of this blog, but it’s time to be bullish about the future of progressive Christianity (aka, Incarnational Christians). According to a new survey conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute and the Brookings Institution, the proportion of religious conservatives in the United States is shrinking with each successive generation, and close to 20 percent of Americans today are religious progressives.

In American, conservative theology is waning, progressive theology is waxing.

Here’s what it currently looks like:

[Read more...]

Does Progressive Christianity Need Warfare to Thrive?

Richard Beck has concluded his lengthy series in which he responded to my challenge to articulate a progressive vision for theology. In an epilogue, he sums up his argument:

  1. “God is love” is the foundation of progressive Christian theology.
  2. That means that God is weak in the world, acting out of love rather than power.
  3. The weakness of God initiates a warfare relationship between a weak, loving God and those who strive for power in the world.

That last point, I think, is the biggest jump. Beck relies on Greg Boyd’s argument in God at War to show that a weak, loving God is necessarily swept into warfare with other spiritual beings. That’s not an argument that I think Boyd (or Beck) successfully makes. It doesn’t necessarily follow that if God takes a posture of weakness in the world, God is therefore at war. Even in weakness, it seems totally possible that God is the most powerful being in existence and that God’s mere presence vanquishes all comers.

But Beck is right to say remind us that Jesus repeatedly talked about the satan, and that Jesus himself vanquished evil (in the form of demons) on several occasions. To ignore this aspect of Jesus’ ministry is to denude Jesus of one of the most important aspects of his ministry, leading Beck to diagnose the problem with progressive Christianity:

Dislocated from Jesus progressives had no robustly biblical ways to unpack their central confession that “God is love.” Unplugged from Jesus progressives defaulted to liberal humanism. Not a bad move, but the confession “God is love” was thinned and hollowed out to become an insipid vision of liberal tolerance rather than a robust conflict against the forces of dehumanization in the world and in our own hearts.

So then, the question is: With whom is God at war?

[Read more...]

Am I a “Liberal Christian” (According to Roger Olson)?

Roger Olson

Roger Olson recently posted a piece on why he’s not a “liberal Christian.” He said that he came to this conclusion after reading a bunch of liberal/progressive Christian blogs. Roger’s a great blogger, but one of his failings is that he never provides hyperlinks. This post is no exception. He doesn’t name the blogs or tell us who is a liberal blogger, in his opinion, and who is just getting over their fundamentalism (like he is).

Probably some readers think I’m hanging out on the far left, but you only need to read the comments to find a bunch of liberals who think I’m a raving conservative (on some issues). That’s why I’ve fought repeatedly to be listed among both the progressive Christian bloggers and the evangelical bloggers here at Patheos.

(Excursus: It bugs me that in the Patheos channel listings, “Evangelical” is its own category, but “Progressive Christian” is the name of the other channel. Why not “Evangelical Christian” or “Progressive.” This isn’t just a grammatical plea for parallel construction — I think it says something.

A lot of us know that neither “progressive” nor “liberal” is quite right. That’s why I waged a campaign to be called “Incarnational Christians.” Let the conservatives have “evangelical,” but let’s use a similarly theological signifier for ourselves.)

Since Roger doesn’t tell us who is who in his list, I’m left to guess about myself. I was never a fundamentalist, and I was only vaguely evangelical — anyone who attended Fuller Seminary when I was a student will tell you that my relationship with evangelicalism was an uneasy one. So I’m left to go through Roger’s rubric to see if I am, indeed, a “liberal.” Here’s his list, and my responses:

[Read more...]

Progressive Talk about God: Lots of Throat Clearing

So, my Challenge to Progressive Theo-Bloggers has been well received, prompting many responses from across the blogosphere. You can see the Storify stream where I’ve been curating all of the posts, poems, and even tweets that have come in.

There have been some objections, and I’ve got some observations. First, the objections.

Firstly, I wrote,

Write something substantive about God. Not about Jesus, not about the Bible, but about God.

That prompted responses like this:

Maybe Benjamin is right and I misunderstand revelation, but I actually think there are lots of things to say about God without talking about Jesus. Jews seem to be able to do it.

That’s not to say that your vision of God shouldn’t be christocentric. I think it should. But as a Christian, you should also be able to articulate aspects of your doctrine of God without referencing Jesus of Nazareth.

To that thread, a comment by Brad was echoed in a tweet by John:

Dear John, you’re a theologian! That’s who you are to say things about God. Please note, I did not ask you to write a comprehensive theology of God. I asked you to write something substantive about God. If you can’t say anything substantive about God — whether it be to me, or to the person sitting next to you on a plane — then I just don’t see how you believe anything at all.

[Read more...]


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X