Beautiful Simplicity or Beguiling Sophistication?

But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. – 2 Cor. 11:3, KJV

Navigating the waters of being a “progressive” Christian can be treacherous business.

I put “progressive” in scare quotes because it’s darn near impossible to pin down a definition for that adjective, and there is certainly quite a spectrum of Christian practice that claims the title. As I mentioned in my first new post here at Patheos, I heartily embrace the progressive label in its simplest definition of “not conservative or fundamentalist evangelical.” Yet my way of being a progressive Christian is rooted in an “other” evangelical orthodoxy and a missional impulse. (Perhaps now, given recent transition, I’m embracing these roots more than ever.)

See, I’ve learned that there’s a kind of “progress” that subtly crosses into arrogance. It’s going nowhere good & making damn good time! [Tweet This]

And I’m really not interested in that kind of progress.

I like the verse above in the KJV because that’s how I remember it from my youth, and because it includes that interesting old word beguile. Is this what can happen when things “progress” too much? Is there a beguiling that occurs in the self-important sophistication that sometimes accompanies progressive ideas and movements, such that the beauty of God and gospel slip through our fingers? Is there a simplicity that must be guarded from the serpentine subtlety with which we are tempted to arrogance?

I’m sure that won’t sit well with some folks, and I’m ok with that. It might not have sat well with me at various times, but the idea is landing in my mind and spirit these days. There is simplicity in Christ. A straightforward clarity in the life and person and work of Jesus that somehow keeps us anchored in hope and purpose and meaning, whatever may come. A trajectory that includes both gentle unburdening relief and rest, and strong subversive speech and action – but tethered to one pastoral and prophetic Friend and King who calms our anxiety and assures us that the light is winning.

In other words, one Person who defines what progress is in the first place. 

So, I want to progress in Christ, beguiling snakes be damned.

It’s that simple.

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About Zach Hoag

Zach J. Hoag is a writer and missional minister from notoriously non-religious New England. He blogs here at Patheos and HuffPost Religion. His book, Nothing but the Blood: The Gospel According to Dexter, released in 2012. Most importantly he binge-watches TV dramas and plays in the snow with his family.

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