5 Areas Where Progressive Christian Culture Completely Loses Me

5 Areas Where Progressive Christian Culture Completely Loses Me December 29, 2014

completelylosesme

I’m obviously known as a “Progressive Christian.” While I am not a fan of labels, I don’t mind having this one assigned to me because it’s a big tent and there’s room for me here. However, that doesn’t mean that I’m always on board with what other progressive thinkers are saying or affirming– there are many times where I find myself pushing back and saying, “you guys just lost me on that one.”

While Progressive Christianity is so broad that it is both impossible and unfair to make a blanket statement or sweeping critique, lately I’ve been thinking about 5 areas where I find myself internally distanced from some of what I see in Progressive Christianity. Since I’ve never held back from critiquing Evangelicalism, it seems only fair that I also be open about some elements of Progressive Christianity, both in thought and praxis, where I’m just not on board:

5. Policing the Progressive Christian borders

As I write in my forthcoming book, Christian Outsiders, once we begin to draw our identity from a Christian label instead of Christ himself, we quickly find ourselves in a destructive cycle of needing to police the borders of that label– correcting, chastising, and expelling those who cross outside of the lines the label has drawn. While fundamentalists and Evangelicals do this, progressives do it too– and I find it exhausting to deal with. Progressives do this mainly via the Progressive Twitter Police– folks who are probably well meaning, but have failed to realize they’ve just crossed over into a different kind of fundamentalism.

There are just far too many progressives ready to rebuke you for not being progressive enough. One time I recommended a book by an Evangelical author and was told that I “just lost the right to call myself a Progressive,” I was soundly scolded another time for suggesting that a central aspect of being a Christian is to “go out and make more disciples” (crazy idea, huh?), and thought folks would burn my house down when I suggested we shouldn’t be rooting for Mark Driscoll’s destruction.

Folks come to Progressive Christianity so they can question and wrestle in a safe place, which means that honest dialogue, even disagreement, is welcomed. Current culture however, has a toxic level of policing the progressive borders– and this is completely losing me.

4. Neglecting the truth that choosing to follow Jesus results in a changed life.

I get that words like “repent” can be trigger words reminding folks of their days in fundamentalism, but it must not be ignored that following Jesus means we live differently. Like it or not, following Jesus by definition means there are some things we’ll start doing and means there are some things we’ll stop doing (sin). Following Jesus is not some relative concept where everyone can just make up their own standards– Jesus is a real person with real teachings, and he tells his followers to obey those teachings (I get it, another trigger word).

While I feel it’s often ignored in parts of Progressive Christian culture, I don’t know how to ignore it myself: the invitation of Jesus is to repent from our sins and follow him into a new way of living. That’s always been the invitation– one that Christians in the New Testament even thought was an urgent invitation. As much as I love being a progressive, anything that leaves out the truth that we’re invited to follow Jesus and change our behavior as a result, will completely lose me.

3. Mishandling scripture to avoid traditional interpretations of it.

While scripture is not the 4th member of the Godhead as fundamentalists tend to make it, it is the Church’s “nonnegotiable partner” as Peter Enns calls it. The Holy Scriptures are foundational to Christianity, and are one of the key vehicles through which God speaks to his people.

While I arrive at many “progressive” theological stances, I am of the firm belief that whatever progressive stance we arrive at, we must arrive there through legitimate exegetical understandings of scripture. Far too often in progressive circles I find some problematic ways of dealing with scripture in order to arrive at a progressive position– something I think is unfortunate since I believe it’s possible to arrive there by way of exegesis and hermeneutical principles.

Often these situations play out with emotional arguments instead of arguments from the text, and even if the answer is correct, the process is what loses me. Trying to arrive at theological positions outside of solid exegesis also causes for there to be some pretty bizarre interpretations of passages (often by the same folks who police the boundaries, which is interesting.) Unfortunately, the Bible isn’t a choose your own adventure book where everyone can just make up their own meaning about passages and have it all be equally true. If one is going to put forward an alternate understanding of a passage– especially if such an understanding is in disagreement with historic interpretations– one must put forward legitimate exegetical and theological reasons why their understanding is the better one.

Whenever a theological case is made apart from solid exegesis, you’ve lost me.

2. Rejecting the concept of original sin or sin nature.

While I wouldn’t necessarily say this one is a widely held progressive position, I’ve seen it enough times that it’s become an issue on my radar. I recently followed a thread in a Progressive Christian Facebook group that covered this subject, and found myself unable to identify with the positions some folks were taking. One commenter went as far as saying, “we weren’t born with original sin, we were born with original blessing.”

There may be some legitimate theological discussions to be had around the theology of original sin, but I have a hard time taking seriously any argument that rejects the idea we have a natural tendency towards choosing sin. Or, maybe I’m just wrong on this issue and a really horrible person on top of it– because here’s what I know: I gravitate towards sinning. I always have. I always do. Reality is that I find myself in a daily battle to do what is right– a battle that is with a disposition deep inside me.

I don’t know a lot of things in life but I do know that I sin, and that this desire to pursue sin is something embedded deep within me. Any denial of this sin nature or original sin completely loses me, because it argues for a position that I experientially know does not jive with real life.

1. Removing any element of substitutionary atonement/the need to be saved.

 I’ve been outspoken in my disagreement with the penal substitution metaphor for understanding the cross– this is not the historic/classic understanding of the atonement, and I think it sends us some dangerous messages about God. However, sometimes I see the opposite extreme happen in Progressive Christian circles to the point the atonement becomes relatively powerless, because it doesn’t seem to save us from anything.

While I see multiple ways of understanding Christ’s work on the cross expressed in scripture, the one thing I see clearly is that somehow, someway, Christ served as our substitute in order to ransom us (in fact, he claimed such).

Any theological label or category that does away with the core of the atonement is one that will have lost me, because out of all my years I know this one thing to be true: Benjamin L. Corey needs to be saved. He has a sin nature, he is without hope if left to himself, and he needs someone to save and redeem him from from the chronic mess he finds himself in. For me, the substitutionary element of the atonement is what gives me hope that I am being saved from this nature, and that I ultimately will be saved from it permanently at the resurrection.

I think there are plenty of battles to be fought over understanding the atonement, but to reduce it by removing the substitutionary element or the real, salvific result of that transaction, is something I simply can’t connect with. A reduced atonement doesn’t fix my problem: Benjamin L. Corey needs a savior.

I’m dedicated to following Jesus, and if that means I’ll be called a “Progressive Christian” I am quite content with that. However, my loyalty is to Jesus– and Jesus alone– which means I’m not willing to be constrained by any tribal boundaries and don’t have a problem pointing out areas of disconnect with some in my own tribe. In those cases, I’m content to say, “I love you guys, but you’ve lost me on that one.”

What about you? Are you content to be a progressive Christian who is also content in admitting that you’re still not a clean fit in all areas?

 ——————————–

* Disclaimers:

– These are personal disagreements with some people or areas of progressive thought. They do not represent all progressives since there’s no concise theological definition that all progressives agree on.

– I’m still quite happy to be considered a progressive… I just strongly disagree with some of the theology that comes out of this big tent.

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  • Ignatz

    Nicely done, sir. People are often under the impression the “Progressive” or “liberal” Christian means a lack of seriousness, and sometimes the progressives themselves give that impression.

  • “In necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas”

  • Billy Seeser John Maddox

    Short and to the point, as to my beliefs.

  • Some conservative Christians say that “progressive Christian” is just an alternative spelling for “atheist”.

    So don’t go by labels. You are on the progressive channel at Patheos. But that’s merely a classification for the convenience of users. It doesn’t dictate who you are.

    So just go on being the type of person that you think you ought to be. And ignore the attempts to label you.

  • Ron McPherson

    Great points Ben.

  • Aimee

    What about the progressive Christian stance that there is no hell. I can’t get behind that belief…

  • Not entirely sure I’d call that a progressive stance since it dates back to the early days of Christianity. I’ve done a series on it that you might like to check out, as I don’t believe the idea of eternal, conscious torment is the biblical position on hell.

  • I very much agree with you. I get weary of all the bashing of evangelicals that seems to go on by Progressive Christians. It’s easy to bash and not so easy to build bridges. I think honest critique and dialogue are useful, but some of what I’ve seen in the progressive camp is a demonization of people who think differently.

    What you say about sin makes sense. I was in one group that had me thinking that my early learning about sin was abusive, and I’m not so sure of that because in someways it saved my sanity as it gave me language for some odd things. Christianity’s whole practice around sin seems very sane and wise.

    Thank you for your honest, thoughtful posts. Peace of the Lord be with you always.

  • Th

    Ben, you’re not a progressive. But that’s just me. Not that labels matter in the grand scheme of things… only in the local scheme. You’re a religious conservative because you adhere to, and make your house within, conservative theological traditions and conceptions… only now you don’t see the Bible as inerrant or infallible. That + progressive politics does not make you a religious progressive. Progressives do not recommend books by Lee Strobel and get their doctorate from Fuller. You are a conservative Christian. And your conservative identity should be OK with you. Somewhere along the way, we all have to be comfortable with who and what we are.

    And since you are a conservative Christian, as a friend says often, “you and I can’t go to the same church.” Your conservative Evangelical way of being Christian would (and does) cannabalize real progressive Christianity before it even has a chance to get off the ground, and without even knowing it is doing so.

    Again, this only matters in the local scheme of things, not in the Grander scheme, where G-d and God’s Love for all that is, is all that matters.

    Blessings.

  • bz

    Jesus was more progressive than zealots and more conservative than the pharasees. If one strives to follow Christ and is disowned by all parties, I think that means they’re on the right path.

  • willhouk

    I have to agree with you. This all seems very conservative to me. Which is fine, but it’s a bit misleading to call yourself “formerly fundie.”

  • Thomas Tonsky

    If all of God’s judgment for sin fell upon Jesus at the cross and Jesus said “it is finished” Then God has no more judgment left for sin because He used it all up on Jesus.

  • Willow Bird Baking

    Ooh, I completely disagree. Maybe you’ve been around different “fundies” than I have, but this is far from still fundie.

    And well, I think that’s the point. These labels are inadequate and relative. He may seem conservative to you but would undoubtedly seem progressive to most mainstream evangelicals right now. I think that’s the purpose of writing this blog post: to consent to identification with a label, point out some issues where he may differ with some who hold that label, and ultimately note that labels and their boundaries produce problems, and therefore it’s important to seek one’s identity in Christ alone and not in those labels.

  • MIke

    Hey Ben, I really love your posts even though it’s getting me in lot of trouble in the conservative/evangelical/charismatic tribe. I had a question about #2. You might not be able to comment on it here but maybe you could direct me. Do we have a sin nature after “conversion”? Some in our tribe our now teaching that we no longer have a sin nature only a sin habit. I think it matters because when we “fall into temptation” we don’t identify it as the “white dog/black dog” struggle but rather we recognize that sinful behavior is part of our past that we now longer identify with. Is it just semantics?

  • All fine, but why is this called “Progressive Christian” and not just “Christian?”

  • I think it’s semantics unless one wants to just discuss it on a geeky theological level. If I have a “sin nature” or a “sin habit” they both functionally get me to the same place, so calling it by either name is irrelevant to the actual predicament.

  • What? What does this even mean???

  • MIke

    Thanks, Ben.

  • Th

    “seek one’s identity in Christ alone and not in those labels.”

    The problem with the blanket ecumenicism you describe is that we mean very different things by “in Christ alone.” My “in Christ alone” journey does not involve an identity, for starters. And it especially doesn’t involve original sin and substitutionary atonement. Those teachings separate me from Christ.

    To try to mash Ben’s conservative theology into a progressive space does a disservice both to him and to actual progressives. Original sin and substitutionary atonement (especially in the traditional way Ben affirms them) has no place in any progressive Christianity distinct enough from conservatism that it would need the moniker “progressive.”

    Beyond the labels, what is really at issue is that I don’t want that spiritually abusive nonsense taught to our children. I don’t want our children growing up, so perennially in doubt of their own worth, that they design and sell t-shirts saying “I don’t have my shit together.” I would actually seek to protect them from encountering that theology, not send them to be taught it in my Sunday School, because that theology is extremely damaging on every conceivable level of human and spiritual development.

    Progressive Churches, to my Heart, should minimally offer a public space of spiritual safety FROM the Christianity of original sin and substitutionary atonement. Even if progressive churches did nothing further, offering such an unequivocally safe public space would go a long way towards preventing spiritual violence and helping people heal from the abusive legacy of OS and SA.

  • mespe

    Ben, I know that I have sometimes railed against the things that you have posted as thought pieces. I love this. It speaks to my heart and absolutely nails what has bugged me with the whole line of “You Can’t be a Christian If” sort of stuff. If I really believed that sort of thing, there are a lot of Pentacostal and Fundamental Evangelical Congregations in Northeast Texas where I could find a home.

  • Ned Chaney

    I would question whether somebody who believes that there’s no sin nature, and thus no need for substitutionary atonement, is a Christian at all. Those are both pretty central Christian doctrines.

  • Th

    edited & updated

  • i think it means there is no competition between tribes anymore. am i doing what seems to be most important to Christ? If I am ‘in Christ’ I have the holy spirit to lead, guide & direct me. I don’t need anyone to teach me. It’s all comming from w/in. To me that works out to be a living sensitive conscience. It’s the only way for me to practice a practical way to love my neighbor & my enemy. The holy spirit gives me inner resources to do this as well as material resources to share.

  • i am interested about what you believe. what is hell anyway?

  • i’m so glad ben found a place to post. Wherever he goes I want to read what he writes b/c of his fearlessness. I’m going thru a lot of changes. My ideal channel isn’t either evangelical or progressive. It would be the holy spirit Jesus freek channel if there was one!

  • RonnyTX

    Aimee:
    What about the progressive Christian stance that there is no hell. I can’t get behind that belief…

    Ronny to Aimee:
    Aimee,that’s not a progressive Christian stance,that’s just Bible teaching.
    :-) But I can well understand it,if you believe in a Jesus Christ created hell of eternal torment. For I believed in the same,till I was 55 years old. Taught to believe that by some people,in the fundamentalist local church,that I grew up in. So,some people taught me to believe,without question,in that hell;but God never taught me to believe in it.

    Just some things to think about. But in Genesis,God never told Adam that the wages of sin was an eternity in hell. No,God told Adam,that the wages of sin was death. And when Adam sinned,we all died. But as one scripture puts it,all died in Adam;but all are made alive,in Jesus Christ. :-)

  • Greg Crofford

    Ronny, a better way to express this is not that the Bible teaches there is no Hell. Rather, we need to ask: What is the nature of the Hell that the Bible teaches? And when you study that question, you will quickly discover that Hell is a place where sinners are consumed, i.e. destroyed. For more information, check out: http://www.rethinkinghell.com or Google “Edward Fudge” or “Greg Crofford dark side of destiny.”

  • Kyle McComb

    Eh, he’s more progressive than 90% of the Christians I know. Then again, I live in a conservative farm town, so that might be it. Of course there will always be Christians out there more progressive than him, but I think Ben’s decidedly on the progressive side of things. (Again, just my perception.)

  • Agreed. Formerly Fundie.

  • Brandon Roberts

    Actually agree with you one hundred percent here

  • Lana

    I agree with you that Jesus demands changed lives, and one thing I appreciate about my fundie upbringing is the acknowledgement that we should not just blend into the world. We took it to extreme, and it was wrong. But I do fear progressives have gone the other extreme. But as far as salvation, I don’t think I agree that we are born sinners but we are born broken in the sense that we are not attached to God and as we drift along in life, it seems to get farther and farther away. I need salvation in the sense that I need God to restore me to his side. I don’t know that I full agree with you that I need special blood in order to be healed, but I certainly need God’s mercy and healing, and if the cross is a symbol for this, then I welcome the cross.

    One other area where progressives lose me is when they suggest that we should not even share Christ with others. I haven’t full worked this out in my mind yet since living overseas and seeing evangelism taken to the extreme. But if Jesus heals broken hearts, then I should want to share too right?

  • KT

    Christianity, like most things, is a spectrum. Not all Christians are totally progressive or extremely fundamentalist. Many, I’d even say most, are somewhere in the middle. And that’s okay.

    Further, @joshmagda:disqus, it is never okay to tell someone what they are or aren’t. People are allowed to see themselves however they want to see themselves. Labels should be defined by the people who choose that label, not people defined by labels and those who feel ownership over the label.

    That said, @benjaminlcorey:disqus, I was confused on your 5th point. Do you hold to substitutionary atonement but not some of the conclusions people draw from it? Or do you not hold to the substitutionary theory of atonement, but still find atonement crucial?

  • Nicholas Kr.

    The blog author does, apparently think that Bible is inerrant, as long as it’s interpreted “by way of solid exegesis and hermeneutical principles”. Of course, his opponents, against whom he rails in 3), seem to be of the same mindset, they only have far loosier (and probably more dishonest) standards of what constitutes a solid exegesis.

  • Nicholas Kr.

    Is there a difference between “conservative” and “fundie”, though?

  • nabil89

    I have been reading his posts for over a year now, this guy is not fundie. When he speaks of obeying Christ, he has in mind loving you enemy…and when he seeks to interpret scripture, so far he has been interpreting it with grace and love. Read his other posts and then judge this one.
    Ben, I think you are very brave to stand your ground in going against the general evangelical flow, but to also be ready to speak about things which you are not at ease with on the other side

  • Carol

    Western Christianity is the only Tradition among “People of the Book”–Eastern Christians, Jews, Islamists–where orthodoxy (right belief) is more important than orthopraxis (right behavior).

    I am uncompromisingly Trinitarian; but one of my favorite quotes comes from a 16th century Unitarian clergyman:

    We need not think alike to love alike.
    ~Francis David, Unitarian clergyman (1510-1579)

  • Matthew

    Good point Ned. My sister-in-law was raised in a German Lutheran state church environment and recently asked my wife what sin is. The current pastor of the same church says that believing in the atonement that was made via Christ´s death is not even necessary. I have a difficult time understanding how a person raised in a Christian church can have no idea what sin is or — for that matter — how a pastor in such a Christian church can deny the atonement.

    I suppose it has to do with the fact that this church never talks about sin or the necessity of the cross (at least not when I have attended services). The church does use a trinitarian liturgy, but the preaching is almost entirely social justice oriented. Not very balanced in my opinion and certainly not salvific. The funny thing is … the German Lutheran hymns everyone in the services sings are filled with atonement theology.

    Strange really ….

  • Th

    Yes. Ben is the former, not the latter.

  • Th

    “People are allowed to see themselves however they want to see themselves.”

    You and Deridda and Rhonda Byrne are accurate in that regard and can call yourselves whatever you’d like. Out of the postmodernist echo chamber, where all we are is our egos and their associated language games, words actually do matter a little for human interaction, especially in a space like Progressive Christianity that is still defining itself, and thus still in a position to exclude/include.

    I don’t want people going to Sunday School and being told that God has a problem with their existence, and the way that God deals with this problem is by killing himself. Because we are already so inundated with this at least in American culture, I don’t want this to be an acceptable option for any “Progressive” Christianity that I would seek to be a part of or seek to build as a movement. That label affects more than just Ben, it affects a whole bunch of other people who would seek to dwell under that tent. It affects public witness, it affects worship and liturgy, it affects religious education, it affects our understanding of what Life and God and our journey here is all about, and how we express that journey in religious forms. In short, it affects everything about our common Life together.

    There’s a reason that my local Eastern Orthodox Church doesn’t worship in the same space as the local Neopagan group week by week: it’s because their traditions are different and require space to bloom and grow, in this, the World of 10,000 things. I’ve already said, at an Ultimate level, labels have no real Reality and all that matters is God.

    One of the ways that God expresses that Unity, here and now, is through Diversity. It should be OK to be a conservative Christian, if that’s what you are. Go deeply to the Heart of what is real and true to you and I will do the same. We will arrive at the One Heart together in due course, because of God’s radical omnibenevolence. But we will not be pulling up in the same parking lot to go to church week by week in the meantime.

  • Ignatz

    If by fundamentalist, you mean one who adheres to literal inerrancy, absolutely. There are conservative Catholics, but very few who are literal inerrantists, since that’s a fairly new thing.

  • Ignatz

    Original sin is largely from Augustine in the 5th Century. The Eastern Orthodox don’t believe in the western concept of original sin. And much of our understanding of substitutionary atonement comes from Anselm of Canterbury in the 11th century.

    Some of the presumptions we bring with us when reading Scripture are so deeply ingrained that we don’t even realize that they are there.

  • Then he’s a pacifist Fundie, but still a Fundie. Take a jaunt through Shipshewana, Indiana or Kidron, Ohio (places where the world is most Anabaptist) and tell if you can still maintain the fiction that pacifism equals progressivism.

  • Mike

    “God has a problem with their existence, and the way that God deals with this problem is by killing himself”

    Curious what your progressive counterpoint would be to this? It seems you have taken “unprogressive” doctrine and summarized it with this statement (which I think most “unprogressive” people would disagree with). What statement would you make from your side to correct it?

  • Stephen Valder

    Ben, like you. Whenever I doubt my need for Jesus, my heart answers ‘where else would I turn’. I too need a savior

  • Th

    I don’t think that sentence IS an inaccurate description of unprogressive theology. So whatever counterpoint progressives might provide would be with that sentence firmly in place.

    I’m going to be gone for a few hours and will check in later. I actually don’t want to troll Ben so that needs to be kept in mind. I’ve just been reading him occasionally since our universalism discussion and it seemed “time” to make this comment. Apparently, other people thought so too, but that isn’t why I made it.

  • Mike

    I guess what I mean is, what one word summary sentence would you offer to show God’s relationship to people that opposes the first statement or clarifies it to your own stance? Apologies if I seemed confrontational, upon re-reading my comment it seemed so. I really am genuinely curious how you as a progressive would sum up your view on that relationship after reading how you summed up those in the other camp. If you have a better place to ask this, that is fine, but please let me know? Or let me know if you are not interested in a replying at all ;)

    Edit: Just adding that since that viewpoint is so well-known and you are against it being taught culturally, I would like to know the message that you think should be taught in its stead other than how wrong that view is.

  • John Carothers

    About that atonement thing…..Derek Flood wrote this….”You
    have broken the law because it is impossible to keep it, and so you must have
    broken it. And because you cannot keep this impossible to keep law you will be
    charged with death because “the penalty for sin is death” and those
    are just the rules. God must have blood because the law requires it; there must
    be a penalty paid. The only payment that would have been enough is sacrificing
    someone who was the “perfect law-keeper”, someone who could live a
    perfect life without sin. So God decided to kill his own Son on the cross to
    appease his legal need for blood. Now that Jesus has been sacrificed God is
    no longer mad at us for not doing what we can’t do anyway, so we can now
    come and live with him forever – as long as we are grateful to him for his
    “mercy” to us.”…..

    Wasn’t the original atonement belief in the church Christus Victor, not the idea that Jesus took a bulet for us?

  • Trey Pearson

    That’s quite the passive aggressive response. Lol. It’s ok for him to be what you decide he is, because his progressive views aren’t the same as yours and you are afraid how it will challenge your children, even though he would be rejected by the vast majority with that label?

  • Jonathan Davis

    Ben,

    Great thoughts, and fodder for good dialogue. I would add one that goes along with things you’ve already mentioned…

    6. Often ignoring Christ’s/scripture’s call to evangelize for fear of coming across like fundamentalists.

    I once got fired from a progressive church for suggesting in a blog post on my personal webpage that we progressives should have as high a view of evangelism as we often do of baptism, because the two are inherently related. This of course would mean that we are called to share the gospel (the whole gospel of course) with the world. Often the good news in progressive circles is purely social and political, while in fundamentalist circles it’s purely spiritual. The truth for me is in finding balance.

  • I wish I knew, Will.

  • Th

    I’m not afraid of children being challenged. Part of, perhaps the primary responsibility of an adult, is to protect children from harm. I seek to protect children from spiritual harm. They are my employers.

    The same way Ben experiences his daughter as an original blessing and not an original sin and now speaks against racism because she is a blessing. The same way he went through hell and back to get her here, as part of his family, without needing to kill or otherwise punish someone in her stead in order for her to be a part of his family. The same way he would protect her now, from a psychopath that wanted to kill and/or torture her for the “crime” of being born, and demanded some kind of blood sacrifice in order to stop him from doing that. If Ben does all of this for his one Earthly daughter, can you begin to imagine what God does for all of us, and what God thinks of all of us?

    Straight jackets were invented for a reason. The Cosmic version of the above is called DoomGod, and he has to go. Now.

  • Jon Altman

    I’m a United Methodist considered “wildly liberal” by my Annual Conference, but who is actually moderate. On the hot button issue that divides us (LGBT inclusion) many solid efforts at exegesis and theological reflection at dismissed out of hand by those who “have the votes.”

  • I love that you’re willing to challenge the Progressive community on these issues. What you’re missing however is the fact that we’ve already (all of us in Christianity, even fundies) made decisions about what to choose to believe in the bible and what to ignore. The Progressive movement is a borderless attempt to figure out what that belief system should and can look like absent the doctrinal requirements of the past. We’re all simply asking ourselves if “being saved” or having “original sin” really means what we’ve been told to believe.

  • Th

    I can’t do it in one word, but I can do it in two, and it’s the same two-word phrase Ben rejected in point number 2 of his essay:

    Original Blessing.

    :-)

  • 4thegloryofgod

    Thanks for your honesty and clarity brother. I too need a savior, desperately.

  • Mike

    ;p Meant one sentence! But I do like the two word response as well. I got to this site from a FB link, haven’t had the conversations many others here seem to have had..

  • So, you’ve labeled me a “conservative evangelical” even though I’ve been blacklisted and shunned by evangelicals, say that even though progressivism is still defining itself there is no room for me, and that even though we are both Christians you’d never worship beside me… And I’M the fundamentalist? I think you’re confused.

  • Laura Friesenborg

    Do “progressive Christianity” and “conservative Christianity” have a different ontologies and epistemologies? Between the two perspectives, is there more divisiveness or common ground? How important is it that our identities seem to be considered incomplete as just “Christians?”

  • averagejoe

    And so we see the policing borders tendency in action…

  • Neither what Americans call ‘conservatism’ nor ‘fundamentalism’ has much to do with ‘conservative Christianity’, let alone basic Christian orthodoxy. Both are essentially modern movements. The former built on the oldschool liberalism of the American founding fathers, the second one an early 20th century reactionary antithesis to liberalism, emphasizing not at all the core of historical Christianity but some areas in which they disagreed with liberal theology of that time. ‘Innerancy’ in the modern meaning is not so old, and just as the infallibility of the pope it arose as a reactionary reaction to the the way modernism eroded the trustworthiness of the bible by stating it in a very exagerrated and way too narrow way.

  • Policing the borders, are we?

  • Just freeing the discussion from some errors that only make sense to late 21st century Americans but that don’t even have meaning in the bigger historical and transcultural picture.

  • Herm

    Just who and what is Ben?

    Conservative: -noun- Some conservatives seek to preserve things as they are, emphasizing stability and continuity, while others, called reactionaries, oppose modernism and seek a return to “the way things were”.

    Progressive: -adjective- happening or developing gradually or in stages; proceeding step by step.

    Liberal: -adjective- open to new behavior or opinions and willing to discard traditional value.

    Just who and what is Ben connected with?

    Relationship: -noun- the way in which two or more concepts, objects, or people are connected, or the state of being connected.

    Just who and what is God?

    Just who and what is God connected with?

    How large would the book be that encapsulated the entire essence of Ben to date?

    How large would the book be that encapsulated the entire essence of God to date?

    How large would be the book that encapsulated the entire relationship between God and Ben?

    Would that book remain unchanged for the entire eternity of their relationship?

    This is the “Good News” for all we have to define is exactly how we each must be defined in God’s heart and mind relative to Luke 10:25-37 and Matthew 7:12. There’s even better news, Jesus gave us a Counselor 24/7 to assist our efforts if that relationship with enemy, self, neighbor, and God is what we choose. We must choose, not for the reward but for the eternal growing and ever changing relationship … or not.

    How perfectly can we define our imperfect parents who we could not have known for more than a 120 year lifespan? Why would we insist on defining perfectly our perfect Father in Heaven who we might believe knows no beginning and knows no end, except ours?

    Is an eternal relationship only available to the literate and brilliant hearts and minds who perfectly answer all the questions above? How long might that take? How much has to be answered to begin a relationship with God?

  • tempspace

    Ben, I’m so sorry you have to deal with intolerant people who think they know everything about everything. You probably thought you were escaping these types of people like this when you moved away from being fundie. Just the sinful nature of people it seems…

  • Ron McPherson

    A “religious progressive” is altogether different than a “progressive Christian.”

  • Jim Spanogle

    Ben, thank you for being honest and straightforward,especially in the midst of getting “hit” from both sides.
    As others have pointed out, labels are not adequate- they hide as much as disclose. Like many others I don’t fit neatly into the liberal/conservative (or fundi/progressive, etc) labels. But it is important to keep up the discussion and work toward at least some understanding even, and perhaps especially, when agreement is not possible. We need to be able to express our own views AND listen to the views of others. Listening to other voices, including those who disagree with me, keeps me honest and growing.
    Thanks, Ben, for being one of those voices- both when I agree and not.

  • Jonathan Drown

    Maybe I’m slightly confused, but what makes a “fundamentalist?” The fact that I may vote conservative? The fact that I believe God’s Word is the ultimate authority? And why is it wrong to believe that the principles of God are to be held above all things, that we may abhor evil and hold fast to what is good? And Ben, if these major theological issues are present in “progressive Christianity”, then why would you want to be labeled as such?

    Listen, I believe in helping the poor, loving the lost, and ending discrimination, but I also believe in personal responsibility, justice for wrongdoings, and ultimate authority of God through His Word. (The first chapter of John clearly shows How God’s Word is equal and infallible to God Himself, as He is the Word). So what is all this “Progressive Christianity” about?

  • I think “Progressive Christian” is a term that is floating around a lot right now and there is a very broad understanding of the term. There are those who have moved away from Conservative Evangelicalism and have become more progressive but still hold to some fundamentally Evangelical beliefs (which “appears” to be where Ben currently stands). But there is actually a movement called “Progressive Christianity” and it draws adherents from the liberal mainline crowd. If you want to read more about it, you can go to http://progressivechristianity.org/ . The basic “beliefs” are found in the pic below. So when the term “Progressive Christianity” is used, it probably should be discerned if one is speaking of this particular movement, or those who fall in line with a more progressive way of understanding Evangelicalism.

  • Yale St.Clair

    I agree, Ben is not a progressive. I know because I have been in the same position as he is now. I tried holding on to the old and thinking about the new. I then kept moving toward the new. Ben may or may not do that but that’s ok. I would worship beside Ben but not at a church that espouses most of what Ben believes. I don’t believe in the Adam and Eve myth, therefore I don’t believe in the idea of original sin from it. If Jesus died for all of us then he died to save us whether we “accept him” or not. I refuse to believe that God would send a bunch of people who live in cultures hostile to Christianity to hell just because they never had the chance to “accept” Christ.

  • Bill

    This is interesting but I too am in the no mans land of sorts. Being from a very fundie background and shifting more liberal I still have many core beliefs that would be considered Evangelical (salvation, etc). My belief on hell seems to be somewhere between annhilationism and universalism. I dont fit into conservatism anymore but my belief in some absolute truth makes me more conservative than many progressive Christians. I would say I am to the left of Benjamin Corey but still way to the right of people like Marcus Borg. Progressive Evangelical might be what I am (though I question many beliefs of Evangelicalism). Ben, thanks for posting this. I loved your book and think you are needed in this community.

  • Agni Ashwin

    In vino veritas.

  • Mark Moore

    I’m more impressed with the older Christ as Victor idea of atonement than a substitutionary legal contract type of approach. It’s not about me, it’s about Jesus – that’s what fills me with hope.

  • karlkroger

    Corey,
    I’m a huge fan of you and your work. I think your words and witness are life giving to those escaping the chains of fundamentalism and they help keep some of us progressives grounded.

    I can “Amen!” pretty much all five of your points.
    Here’s just a couple of additional thoughts if I may:

    1) Let’s hang onto our doctrine of sin (and always articulate it in holistic ways) but also remember that God did create us out of love and bless us before there was sin.
    2) Atonement and salvation are absolutely critical. I just don’t know that we can ever redeem substitution from PSA. And ransom seems to give too much credit and power to the White Witch/Devil. Christus Victor is helpful, but I’m not completely satisfied with it alone. At the end of the day, I believe salvation and reconciliation are made possibly through the mystery of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

    P.S. I think you’d make an awesome Anabaptist Methodist:)
    Blessings.

  • Yes, I affirm Christus Victor. As I said in the piece, I find penal substitution very problematic. I also like much of ransom theory. However, no matter what metaphor we use, Christ still did something on our behalf that we could not accomplish for ourselves, and that’s what I mean by substitution.

  • As I commented above, I believe in Christus Victor with hints of ransom theory (since Jesus described it as paying a ransom). Either way, Jesus still did something on our behalf that we couldn’t do for ourselves, and this gained our freedom– this is what I refer to when I speak of substitution.

  • Hi Lana- I don’t believe we need special blood to be healed, or that we’re born unattached to God. I just believe (a) we have a natural tendency to chose sin and (b) in some strange way, Christ ransomed us through the cross.

  • Th

    It seems I may need to reemphasize “not that it matters in the Grander scheme.” When I look at you I see the image of God, the light of God in human flesh. I also see someone who, for now, would not be served by attending/pastoring the same local church week by week as people who are interested in developing truly progressive alternatives to 1-5. Your vision of the Christian faith at the local, Lived level, is incompatible with theirs. In the temporal scheme of things, there is such a thing as energies canceling each other out.

    “Never worshipping beside you” is a tall ad hominem that would not apply to me. Democrats and Republicans are united by their shared American identify and sit/work beside each other on numerous occasions. There are any number of contexts and occasions that I would worship with you. What Democrats and Republicans do NOT do, is go into each other’s steering committees week by week and shape the future of the opposing party. Your vision of Christianity is opposed to mine. In order to be the best Progressives and Conservatives that we can be, we need space to pursue our disparate visions.

    In a healthy Republic, we are served by legitimate differences that cannot be reconciled in the space of a single political party, even though we are all working for the good of the Republic and we are all animated by a Love of the Republic. I recognize I’m being optimistic about the political process and describing it in its ideal, not gridlocked, form. But still, it’s a model that works better for me, then one of trying to collapse all of our legitimate and enduring differences into a single political party, and then trying to govern from there. However ineffective the political process is now, it would be even more ineffective in a one-party system.

    I’m for an effective Church. Which is why I Love you enough, and I Love myself enough, to attend a different local church than you. All God’s Peace and Blessings on your spiritual journey, brother.

    – Josh

  • jlosinski .

    LOTS of trigger words in this post (former Independent Holiness- then Reformed-zealot here). I’ve discovered that groups of people (denominations/movements) use many of the same words but with wildly different meanings. How does Mr. Corey define “sin”- more accurately- how does he think the bible defines sin? As many of us know, “sin” becomes nearly every “thought, word, and deed” apart from the apparent power of God to redeem us. Same with “total depravity/original sin”. These doctrines are not mutually exclusive. Am I wrong for wanting to believe that every person has the ability to do good, and generally tries to do so? For too long I’ve sat under teaching that espoused the wickedness of man and his total inability to act like a decent human being apart from regeneration by the holy spirit.
    Throw in some “dying to self” and vague intepretations of what it means to be in “friendship with the world” and it’s no wonder so many former fundies (and former christians) have problems with self-image and the concept of a loving god.

  • jlosinski .

    ^”Blessings”-
    Lol, soo much passive aggressiveness..

  • Th

    In the case of a single short sentence, Original Blessing teaches the following:

    We are born from an Infinite Love, we journey with an Infinite Love, and we return to an Infinite Love- all of us.

  • Th

    Maybe you’re just being cyncial. I can bless Ben without agreeing with him and while working towards a different vision of Christianity in the temporal scheme of things. I want Goodness for him as I want Goodness for myself. That’s what it means to be Created in G-d’s image. See Genesis 1.

    Blessings.

    -Josh

  • Paul Schlitz Jr.

    Good good article. I agree that Progressive Christians are sometimes softer than I wish on Scripture. The flip side is the selective literalism of the fundies. I think all five points could be directed at the Christian right. For instance if you embrace original sin then why would you be in favor of deregulation or laissez faire economics as Harvie Conn pointed out. Also if there is a need for everyone to be saved then no infidel should ever be put in any armed forces anywhere. I wished when Jerry Falwell had asked Tony Campolo if he believed in a literal Hell Campolo would have told him that is enough of a reason never to kill anybody

  • HoneybadgerIsMySpiritGuide

    Ben, what you say makes a great deal of sense to me and I too often find myself at odds with some of the statements/positions of some of the “progressive Christians” with whom I’m most often in conversation. Here’s the thing: the more I study the Bible, the more I trust in God and ask the Spirit to open my heart and mind to what I read there–even when, especially when I find it troubling–the more theologically “conservative” I become, and the more “socially liberal” it makes me. And it all comes from prayerful and deeply thoughtful study of scripture. I appreciate your wrestling with the atonement and would love to discuss that with you sometime (I believe it’s a much longer discussion than is appropriate for these comments). Thank you for this clearly articulated post. Keep doing what you’re doing. You’re not alone. Blessings and light.

  • Bill

    That is a tough one. Since I was brought up to believe soul winning was the all in all and now I am turned off by point of sale Christianity so I am very conflicted about Evangelism. If we give up hell and believe all will be saved, what do they need to be saved from? Some Fundagelical evanglists seem like the worst kind of used car salesman. Yet in my heart I know the Great Commission is true. It is just not fire insurance and a magic prayer. Relationship and authenticity will yield more results.

  • Th

    “Do “progressive Christianity” and “conservative Christianity” have a different ontologies and epistemologies?”

    Absolutely. That’s a major reason why we need different spaces. In a university psychology department, there are professors that respect one another but are not going to work out of each other’s labs, because they are operating from different philosophical/metaphysical backdrops, and are employing different methodology as a result of that difference…even if they’re both looking at the same World the other “side” looks at, and even if they’re both psychologists. My former graduate advisor’s best friend is someone who does not not share her cognitive information-processing understanding of the mind, but rather, a social constructivist understanding. They don’t sponsor the same kinds of dissertations nor publish in the same journals (most of the time) and their efficacy as researchers is the better for it.

    Original Sin/Original Blessing forms of the Christian faith are similarly served by clear exclusion/inclusion criteria, just as a robust academic discipline is served by a space that honors and facilitates epistemic difference. A robust Church would do the same thing.

  • Bill

    I believe Christ died for our sins. Never been sure I believed in original sin even when I was a fundie, I always thought we did enough sinning to damn ourselves. My problem with original sin is I cannot believe children go to hell. That and Calvinism are two things that even as a fundie would make my blood boil. Anyway, Jesus died for all our sins. I am not sure all wont eventually become saved (I dabble in universalism a bit) but without what Jesus did on the cross, we would all be dead in the water (or maybe the fire). Ben, I think I more liberal than you but we share a lot of similar idealogy.

  • Bill

    I am also OK with being agnostic about some things. Not that I am an agnostic, I am not. I firmly believe in God, Jesus, the Ressurection (and I cringe with some progressives say its metaphorical. I am however agnostic about many things. Who is in and who is out is one of them. I know my faith is strong enough to believe I am not going to hell whether there is one or not, Some stuff its OK to not know. Once Biblical literalism fell apart for me, I was able to accept that and my faith has strengthened.

  • Th

    Jesus was not more conservative than the tradition of the Pharisees (his own tradition). He dismissed the ritually-oriented mitzvah when it was necessary for him to make a point about God’s radical largess. Conservatives and progressives within Judaism, up to the present day, are divided over the negotiability of halacha, or Jewish law. It is the principal article of their diversification into 3 major denominations. When it came to his own tradition, Jesus was a religious progressive, no doubt about it.

    Once again, we cannot just steamroll over legitimate difference and collapse into a mythical ecumenical middle out of laziness, fear, or both – a “middle” that, by the way, looks curiously like conservative Evangelicalism.

  • Th

    I don’t have a sinful nature. I have a Good human nature that was made from Goodness, for Goodness, and orients towards the Good. Imperfection and fallibility are part of my humanity, and they contribute to my basic Goodness, my dynamism, my Creativity, and my ability to grow and change. Sin can sometimes obscure that Nature, but never fully eclipse it. Even sin is an unskillful movement towards what I think, at the time, to be Good.

    If God wanted Perfection She would not have Created a World. She had Perfection, and instead She chose us. I’m tired of people profaning me, our World, and G-d, because they want to be invulnerable and immortal. Creation is not about either of those things. Creation is about having a Good time with God, and learning how to Love… in other words, Creation is about enjoying our divinity and growing more fully into it. As my Mom says, “Perfection (including the satisfaction of our legitimate longing for immortality and invulnerability) happens when we hit Heaven.” Creation is not Heaven. Creation is not Transcendent. It is Immanent, comprised of a blessed and Sacred impurity/community, capable of further growth and development.

    To that communal end, the end of being transformed from glory to glory, by Christ in us, the hope of glory, Christ is the Great Physician, not a cosmic psychopath in need of a straightjacket. You can have DoomGod, if he’s what you really want (which he isn’t). Me, I’m too intrigued with God to dick around with the peanut gallery. As much as I enjoy dicking around in other contexts.

  • tempspace

    You’re not alone Bill. That’s why the “Age of Accountability” was invented to line up with the theology that they created without making God seem like a monster.

  • Kevin Jackson

    Hey Ben,
    One of my core beliefs politically has always been if a proposed bill is hated by the Democratic base AND the Republican base, it’s probably a pretty good bill. I’d say you’re definitely in the “pretty good bill” category.

  • Jonathan Davis

    Some great thoughts, Bill. I agree that the “used care salesman approach is wrong. I guess a good question might be, what would progressive evangelism meeting both spiritual and social need look like? One of Ben’s five issues includes the idea of sin. Even if one doesn’t believe in hell, perhaps we all need saving from our own sin. If there is no sin, and no consequence for sin either temporally or eternally, some night argue that the gospel itself loses significance. Just thinking out loud. Thanks for the dialogue!

  • tempspace

    This is the most direct I’ve ever been online and I don’t like it…but here goes.

    Some people may be profaning you because of ignorance or because they are frightened, but I can tell you if these people are from the Internet, it seems likely to me that they’re reacting to a perceived arrogance and tone of superiority you convey in your writing. I have a very strong suspicion that isn’t actually the case in real life because I can also see a good, kind and loving heart in you, but you need to know the way you come off online feels like sandpaper to the skin. It has nothing to do with your beliefs, but the way you treat other people and their beliefs when they differ from yours.

    I absolutely refuse to get into an Internet sparring match where you ask me to explain myself and then I go find things you’ve said to copy and paste and give examples, because it’s not worth the time and will just create frustration everywhere.

    So please, just consider and/or pray over what I said. What’s the worst that could happen?

  • Th

    Original sin profanes me as it profanes you. In my judgment, firm belief in original sin comes from ignorance and fear, not Love, which is the Christian standard for orthopraxy. Your offense to my simply stating a belief in the profanity of the doctrine of original sin and substitutionary atonement, to the point where you are now twisting that honest statement into some perceived character defect or holier-than-thou stylistic deficiency, shows even more clearly the need for space between conservatives and progressives. The contours of my Christian faith are an offense to you, and the contours of Ben’s and probably yours are an offense to me. You yourself are not an offense to me, but your worldview is… and vice versa.

    I am comfortable both with the basic Goodness of my character and in my ability to communicate effectively through the written word. Part of that Sacred comfort includes the humility of declaring original sin and substitutionary atonement to be profane and spiritually abusive, as well as seeking to protect the innocent from those teachings before they take root, thus distorting and obscuring the basic Goodness I celebrate here.

    Blessings.

    Josh

  • Ron McPherson

    Josh,

    Do you believe one’s “basic Goodness” precludes the need for a Savior?

  • Th

    What do you mean by “Savior”? What are we being saved from?

  • Ron McPherson

    A Savior Who secures for me eternal life such that I do not perish.

  • Th

    What do you mean by “secures for me,” “eternal Life,” and “perishing.”

  • Ron McPherson

    That eternal life (communion with God thru eternity without end) is only possible thru Christ Jesus, the alternative of which is death (perishing)

  • Th

    As a Universalist, I don’t think there is an Ultimate possibility apart from God. As a unitarian I do not think Jesus is the only way into that Ultimate Perfection. That certain Perfection is secured by God’s Nature, as the greatest and most primordial power in and out of existence.

    So naturally, I don’t think we need a Savior to secure for us what is already ours, and has always been ours. Christ is the outgrowth/extension of God’s Nature in Space-Time. Christ works with us towards the fulfillment of God’s ultimate purposes, but as I said, I think that Christ is a lot bigger than Jesus.

  • Ron McPherson

    I’m unclear what you mean by “Christ is a lot bigger than Jesus.” At any rate, I wanted to get a sense of where you were coming from, so thanks much for the discussion. We differ greatly on our view of Jesus but I would have no trouble ‘breaking bread’ with you my friend.

    Peace

  • gjewett

    Ben, I like all your conclusions, in this article at least. Here’s a verse I think would resonate with you: “Deliver him from going down to the pit. I have found a ransom.” Job 33:24

  • Lana

    I’ll have to study the scriptures to see what it says about the cross. I’m still thinking. As far as unattached, I’d say yes and no. Yes God is always with us and we can never get out of his presence. But yes, there is a distance that we all experience. The moment we are born we are oriented by a world where we don’t directly see God, and that to me is a detached aspect although God is certainly always there and this is not a moral defect. It’s just part of planet earth. Thanks for the good thoughts.

  • gjewett

    Ben, I like your conclusions, at least in this article. Here’s a verse I think will resonate with you: “He is merciful to him and says, “Deliver him from going down into the pit. I have found a ransom.” Job 33:24

  • Th

    Christ is the Cosmic Christ, mentioned in John chapter 1, Colossians, and a few other places in the Bible, and experienced in our midst as the Living Presence of God, and by mystics as our Center (through him all things were made… in him all things hold together). Jesus is a breakthrough into space-time (or incarnation) of Christ and is a sacrament of God, not only for Christians, but for the Whole World.

    But Christ’s Creating/reconciling/transforming action and presence has been going on since the dawn of time, and will continue as long as space remains. This saving/creating action can be experienced in non-Christian contexts, and in Creation itself. Which is why I say, Christ is bigger than Christianity. Christ is God, and the light in all things… including us.

    More can be said about “saving.” The metaphysics above are mostly at the transcendent pole of God’s nature. The Bible has very little to say about the transcendent, and as such the Christian story takes on even greater meaning when it comes into a conversation with Pagan traditions, such as NeoPlatonism in Greece, Taoism in China, and Celtic spirituality in Europe. All Pagan traditions are traditions of Original Blessing, and they all teach basic Goodness/the ability to do what is right… as does our parent tradition, Judaism. Original sin is alien to Judaism, and Jesus was a Jew. Original Blessing is what God’s Creation primordially is; original sin comes largely from Augustine’s neurosis, and it serves the fear and domination-based purposes of empire very well (not so much the purposes of God’s Realm of Love-Justice).

    I am actually a Christian, though, because of God’s Immanence, or the downward mobility of God that is the Bible’s focus (thy will be done on earth as in Heaven). Jesus for me is the way that the Spirit ran an extension cord from the Abrahamic outlet to the rest of Her House. I am here because of Jesus and the prophetic tradition of which he is an expression.

    At a more personal level, the way that Jesus most typically “saves” me, is from my own cowardice. The presence of Jesus kicks my ass when I start acting like a coward. I have experienced that presence as a white-hot compassionate energy that never stops and never gives up. As Marcus Borg says, “there is an edginess to Jesus.” That has definitely been my experience.

    At the political level progressives frequently examine, Jesus is a Savior when he serves as a participatory symbol of God’s Kingdom of Love-Justice. Borg and others have helpfully reminded us that “Savior and Lord” are first century code-words for Caesar. I can fully embrace that understanding of “savior” as well.

    In a final sense of being saved, I affirm the gestalt of the moral influence view of the at-one-ment. Jesus and the Jesus Tradition return me to my own Good nature and help me to Live from it, rather than from the separate self sense, or ego/small self, which, if Lived out of, is the source of most sins. This return to Goodness, to God, to the Spirit and all Its fruit, simultaneously destroys the hold of sin on our Lives, so there is a metaphysical dimension there as well… and this return to Goodness generates eternal Life in the Johannine sense. Jesus and the Jesus Tradition display the nature of God within Space-Time, as as source of return or teshuvah/repentance to our deeper Nature. This can especially be seen in the Christian traditions that make beneficial ecumenical contact and eventual integration with a Pagan tradition. Their Christianity builds on the Goodness that is already here rather than running roughshod over it, the way original sin does. The Celtic Church, the ancient Chinese Church, the Native American Church, and the Black Church (especially before the influx of the egocentric “prosperity” gospel) are great examples of the Original Blessing emphasis that is Christianity’s authentic teaching.

    The fact that there is More to Christ than Jesus and More to God than what our religion teaches, makes Christianity more relevant and more intriguing, and ultimately more salvific to me, than if that were not the case.

    I have no problems breaking bread with you or anyone. The Eucharist is actually the refutation of the provincial way of understanding Ultimate reality. When it comes penultimate or provincial reality, e.g., to the Sunday School curriculum, the worship service, sermons, evangelism and outreach, public witness, etc. you and I are better served by different churches. As I mentioned at the outset, when I stated my opinion that Ben was not a progressive, this is of secondary importance. But it IS still of SOME importance, so that we can flourish, and go to the depths of what we experience as Real in the here and now. The food bank, the Eucharist, and the act of Living decently and well in communion with the Spirit, are still there, regardless of our progressive or conservative identities. These things are our greater identity.

    The Eucharist returns us to that Grander scheme of things that is ultimately more important than provinciality. As one Roman Catholic author wrote, as Christians it is our “one act of common fidelity.”

    Grace and Peace.

  • Th

    updated

  • Bill

    This posting has reminded me that it is possible to go to far too the progressive and forget why we have faith to begin with. One we have no more absolutes or faith could crumble. I think Ben may be at a good place on the spectrum as one I have gone to the point of questioning the heart of Christianity the lines blur and it gets a little scary

  • Th

    “and it gets a little scary”

    That’s the first indication that your ego may be bumping up against something Realer than it.

    My ego is terrified of dissolution, but I (italics) am not afraid of crumbling. Mainly, it’s because I Love what I’m crumbling into. And that Something, no matter what form it takes, is always the Beloved.

    I don’t need to be saved from God anymore than I need to be saved from air. God and air are primal and inseparable to what I am, God, even more so than my own breath. Since this is the case, as the Internet saying goes:

    I’m not here to be saved. I’m here to be spent.

    That attentional shift, changes everything.

  • David S

    Wow, Josh. You don’t sound like a Christian at all, progressive or otherwise. You’re a pagan. I’m not so sure that it’s Ben who isn’t being honest about who he is.

  • Th

    Your opinion on my identity as a Christian has been noted in the ship’s dock, and will be consulted when I care- which is never.

  • David S

    “Christ is a lot bigger than Jesus.” This statement is so nonsensical that it’s not even false (and if you’re at all into philosophy, then you’ll also know that I’m not saying it’s true either).

  • David S

    Oh, it’s not merely opinion. You can’t claim to be of a given religion when you summarily deny its most central beliefs and tenets. You denying the teachings of the New Testament about Jesus and yet claiming to be a Christian is like a polytheistic Hindu claiming to be a Muslim. It’s a contradiction in terms.

  • David S

    I know you deny my understanding of the New Testament. You also deny the entire 2000+ year history of how Christians have understood Jesus and the New Testament. But your concept of God is nothing but a narcissistic mirror image of yourself (which explains why your comments are so riddled with ridiculous “me” talk). And you sure seem to care about it a lot for someone who says it doesn’t matter in the “Ultimate sense.” You are no more a Christian than I am an atheist.

  • Th

    You are most certainly right that I am full of myself. So are you, and so is everything!

    I understand the charge of narcissism. Every so often I take the standard instrument to measure. I am actually a little disconcerted with my recent score of “6” out of a possible “25.” That indicates that my ego is a little too small. (For reference, the average American’s is 15, which is definitely too high). So there are some steps I’m taking to encourage my ego to be a little larger. It’s a healthier World all the way around when our egos are of appropriate size to our circumstance.

    So maybe you’re right on all accounts, save one: the unending Love of God for all that is.

    Now, make me care!

  • David S

    Wow. Maybe people need to stop going to church and just gather around to worship you on Sundays, since you’re soooooo good and all. Personally, in my experience, selfishness has never brought about anything good–the opposite, actually. By the way, aside from claiming to be the Son of God who came to save people from their sins, Jesus also spent a lot of time preaching repentance to those who thought themselves to be righteous and not in need of redemption. But since you clearly don’t have any need of that, then I guess you really aren’t a Christian, but something else entirely.

  • David S

    And I know you care. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t be responding the way you do.

  • Th

    I care about you. If I didn’t care about you, I wouldn’t be a Christian. Love for Christian people is the only reason I’m here.

    But nothing I can say in this environment is going to mean anything, because you’re lashing out at me in fear now. What is your present emotional state? Is there that little micro-pulsation of fear in the center of your chest, or is it full-blown by now? Whatever its size, the fear is there.

    And he’s our friend. We’re aLive because of him. “Thank you, fear. I Love you.”

    But at a deeper level, David, you have nothing to fear from me, and especially nothing to fear from God. God is the place that fear goes to die.

  • David S

    Anyways, I’m done with this for now. It’s way too late at night to be doing this. God cares about justice and love, which is why he judges sins and sent a Savior to forgive us of our sins. I hope you can be reconciled to him, because no one is righteous on his or her own. Only with Jesus Christ.

  • Th

    It wasn’t too late 10 minutes ago when you were at it full force. The fear has just mounted to an uncomfortable level at this point. I am never going to be reconciled to God in the way you understand. N-E-V-E-R.

    Now, feel that pulse of fear as you read those words, and as you imagine me sitting here typing them out. Your mind very briefly and humanely contemplates my eternal destiny, and all those who think like me, before it suppresses the discontinuity between that destiny and a God of Love under the faith-blanket of so-called orthodoxy once more.

    David, where does that fear come from?

    And even more importantly:

    Are you bored with it yet?

    ;-)

  • David S

    So, switching to ad hominem now? Meh. Don’t you worry, sunshine. I’m not afraid of God, because Jesus Christ is alive and has covered over my sins with his sacrifice of love. There’s no one I trust more. And you? I think you definitely have no shortage of self confidence, misplaced though it may be; but that just makes me feel kinda sorry for you. I think you’re actually afraid…afraid to be honest with yourself that you are not a Christian anymore, but that you’ve gone off into something else entirely. Why hold on to the label when it clearly doesn’t mean anything to you anymore? Is it like your binky or something? My point–and I say this as a PhD candidate working in the field of early Christianity–you are a Unitarian or a Pagan. It’s okay to admit it. Really, it is.

  • Matthew

    Author asks:

    Are you content to be a progressive Christian who is also content in admitting that you’re still not a clean fit in all areas?

    I´m certainly not a clean fit in all progressive areas, yet I´m also not a clean fit in many fundamentalist areas. I guess that´s why I have pretty much given up on labels. I find myself caught in the middle.

  • David S

    Now I am done for real this time. Feel free to add some more drivel to this post if you like–anything to serve as balm over your obviously bruised (but growing) ego. Nobody likes to get called out for spouting nonsense. I get that. But facts are facts, kid. You is what you is and you ain’t what you ain’t.

  • Th

    I actually had a Good-Hearted laugh at “bruised (but growing) ego”. :-D The parenthetical is particularly appropriate expressing the sardonic.

    Ah, sarcasm. I Love that about our Good human nature. We are so intoxicated with God, Being, and one another, that the very thought of being on the outside of any those Realities, causes us to buckle up in all of the most unusual (and enticingly comedic) ways.

    You know, such a thing doesn’t happen in Heaven. There’s no irony in Heaven, you see. Satchiananda, yes. Irony and cucumber sandwiches and parentheticals, no. For that, you have to have a Creation.

    But one thing I DO know about Heaven, is this:

    I Love you, and I won’t enter Heaven without you.

  • Ben, this is just to let you know that my latest blogpost from last night called ’10 old traditional and/or biblical
    Christian ideas that are sometimes mistakingly seen as ‘progressive”
    was essentially a much longer version of my comment on one of the comments here, and inspired by both your post and some of the comments on it, https://bramboniusinenglish.wordpress.com/2014/12/30/10-old-traditional-andor-biblical-christian-ideas-that-are-sometimes-mistakenly-seen-as-progressive/

  • Realist1234

    Personally I would uphold the penal substitutional view of Jesus’ death on the cross given my understanding of scripture, but I think the full truth is that Jesus acted as Christus Victor as well. In other words, both views are lacking if solely used to explain His death, but taken together they give the full picture (or as full as we’ll ever understand it this side of heaven).

  • I believe we are all born with a sin nature (mainly because that is what I have experienced) but I don’t believe kids go to hell (well, I don’t believe in the traditional hell, as you probably know).

    Also, the reason why I prefer Christus Victor is because (a) it is the original or “classic” way of viewing the cross and because (b) it makes room for elements of the other metaphors that still have some worth and merit to them.

    I think what’s important to remember is that they are all metaphors attempting to describe a mysterious event that we’ll never completely understand. All I know is that somehow, some way, using whatever metaphor you want to, Christ defeated death and gained my freedom through the cross. I don’t think any of the metaphors are hills worth dying on.

  • Sure thing. I’ll have to do a post on the ransom theory (from St. Gregory). While there are some really strange aspects of it, what I like about it is that it is the metaphor Christ himself uses (“to give my life as a ransom for many”) and that it makes the devil, not God the Father, the one who demands payment. Instead of the penal substitution metaphor where God demands a blood sacrifice, a ransom is always paid to the one who has taken others captive- the devil. So, in this metaphor, the cross isn’t about satisfying God’s wrath as it is about giving a payment to the devil to secure the release of hostages. Basically, it flips the script and makes God not the angry, violent dad but the one who rescues and gives all he has to accomplish that.

  • You’re definitely correct. However, as I tried to convey in the piece, I believe we all have a sin nature because of experience– I believe we have a tendency to gravitate towards sin because that’s what I do, and what I see others do. I’m totally open for how we can describe that in theological terms, but what loses me is when we pretend that this tendency to sin, or sin itself, doesn’t exist.

  • ChuckQueen101

    While most progressives reject any notion of substitutionary atonement theory, I’m certainly in no position to say one is not a progressive if one holds to the idea. Progressives come in all shapes and sizes. However, I have a real problem with your “substitution/need to be saved” equation as if salvation must be connected to some idea of substitution. How does substitutionary theory save/liberate/deliver/heal me from the power of sin (greed, pride, the need to control, etc)? Substitution is presented as the solution to the penalty (not power) of sin by those who advocate it, which makes God seem awfully petty. Why does God need a human sacrifice to forgive sin? Those of us most critical of it would argue that God forgives because God is a forgiving God, not because God needs a payment or ransom or because God’s honor/justice needs to satisfied or wrath appeased. Paul’s most detailed elaboration on the saving, transforming nature of Jesus’ death in Romans 6-8 does not relate to substitution at all; there it is all about participation – dying with Christ to sin to walk in the newness of the Spirit. This is not a “reduced atonement” – it is a better atonement. In substitutionary theory God is the “powerless” one because God is subject to some kind of cosmic justice whereby he has to offer Jesus as a sacrifice. The God of substitutionary atonement is not a powerful God, but a small god who must resort to violence to satisfy cosmic justice.

  • ChuckQueen101

    What did Jesus do on the cross that we couldn’t do for ourselves?

  • ChuckQueen101

    Once again, what is this strange way Christ ransomed us?

  • Realist1234

    Jesus was holy and perfect. You and me are not. Therefore our deaths could never atone for man’s sin, but His could.

  • ChuckQueen101

    On the “original sin” issue I would agree that we all gravitate toward sin/egocenteredness but we do that because we are human, not because we have a “sin nature.” We have a human nature, and each human nature is unique, with the potential for good and for evil. Basic to our evolving humanity is the “separate self” which often can become very ego centered. The more we become aware of, tuned in to, and willing to trust and surrender to the Divine (the living Christ, the Holy Spirit, use whatever name you are comfortable with) within the more we are able to overcome our ego-centeredness as Love (yes, with a capital “L”) lives in us and through us.

  • ChuckQueen101

    You assume Jesus was “perfect” – I don’t. Jesus is for me the quintessential human being who unites the divine and the human beautifully, but I don’t view Jesus as perfect. On one occasion in the Synoptics Jesus denied that he was “good.” He said that the only truly good one is God (and he wasn’t talking about himself). No one needs to die to “atone” for sin. God forgives because God is a forgiving God. God doesn’t need to be bought off, appeased, placated, propitiated, etc (the God of Jesus is much better than the deities that required human/animal sacrifice; Jesus by-passed the temple all together). The only thing Jesus did with the temple sacrifices is run them out. Jesus’ death becomes salvific for the early Christians after his death and it is interpreted with a variety of images. For Paul participation is the dominant one – dying with Christ to sin and walking in the power of the Spirit, not substitution.

  • Noah

    You probably should have stopped after he mentioned that he considered humans to be divine. The guy is either off his rocker, or faking it. Which is still the former.

  • Destroyed the works/power of the devil, defeated death. 1 John 3:8

  • Noah

    If you think humans are divine, I’m not sure how you can expect people to think you’re Christian. Though, it sure seems like you’ve fooled people into thinking that you actually think you are.

  • Noah

    For what it’s worth, I’d label/include you in the conservative circle. Just as much as I’d say I’m liberal and/or conservative. Believing that we’re sinful and need Christ is about as conservative as it gets. A lot of the progressive stuff, I’d argue, is stuff that should be considered conservative.

    Also, if you saw some of Josh’s further comments….yikes.

  • Matthew

    A good place to start might be “Generous Justice” by Tim Keller. He often tries to find a balanced third way. I greatly respect him for that even though many in progressive circles will write him off because he is part of the Gospel Coalition, Calvinistic, and seen in YouTube videos with John Piper. Hopefully you can read what he wrote (if you are so inclined) and take away the good while tossing out the bad.

  • Alan Christensen

    Gee, you’d think so. Of course there are other varieties of Christian who come up with a different description of what it means to follow Jesus, so a more specific label (progressive) is useful. Unfortunately, the label too often becomes a weapon against other tribes or those within your tribe you think are insufficiently pure. One thing I appreciate about the above definition is “willingness to question”! I think this should always be accompanied by a willingness to tolerate questioning from others within your own tradition!

  • Michael Hardin

    My issues also, in a nutshell. Someone sent me your book as a Christmas gift, so I will be reading it this new year. Blessings.

  • Realist1234

    I disagree. When Jesus replied to the rich man, he did not say ‘I am not good’ which is what you imply. He was correcting the man who clearly just viewed Jesus as a man and nothing more. Elsewhere, Jesus referred to himself as the ‘good shepard’ etc. You also dont seem to believe that Jesus is God. I wont go into all the scriptural passages that show this, but suffice to say the Bible is clear on the matter. Regarding his sacrifice, the Old Testament looked forward to a lamb that would take away the sins of the world and Jesus was that pure, sinless lamb.

  • Herm

    “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets. Matthew 7:12

    “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. Matthew 5:43-45

    Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.” Luke 10:25-28

    Everyone who commits sin is guilty of lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he was revealed to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him sins; no one who sins has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Everyone who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. Everyone who commits sin is a child of the devil; for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The Son of God was revealed for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. Those who have been born of God do not sin, because God’s seed abides in them; they cannot sin, because they have been born of God. The children of God and the children of the devil are revealed in this way: all who do not do what is right are not from God, nor are those who do not love their brothers and sisters. 1 John 3:4-10

    And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. John 14:16

    “I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. John 14:25-27

    “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. John 15:26

    Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because they do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned. John 16:7-11

  • ChuckQueen101

    How do any of the texts you quoted above relate to Jesus doing something on the cross that we can’t do for ourselves (I am assuming here reliance upon the Divine Spirit within)?

  • ChuckQueen101

    But that’s not substitution. And of course, that’s viewing death and resurrection as one piece more in line with the Christ as Victor narrative. Why did Jesus have to die in our place as a substitute? What does that do for us that we cannot do for ourselves living in reliance upon the indwelling Spirit?

  • ChuckQueen101

    If the Bible was “clear” on the matter we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

  • If that’s not substitution, fine by me- call it whatever we want. We were the ones captive to the curse of death and he is the one who defeated it on our behalf, so I’m fine with however one wants to describe that. In the Chrstus Victor narrative he reconciled all things and with the ransom narrative he paid a ransom to gain our freedom– if my word of substitution is a poor choice, fill in the blank with whatever word you think fits better. I affirm both narratives and have long been on the record of rejecting “penal” substitution and affirming Christus Victor.

  • Jonathan Davis

    Sounds like a great read. I’ll have to check that one out. I definitely think we can all learn from each other, even when differing on certain convictional issues.

  • ChuckQueen101

    The problem is that when you use the word “substitution” you bring with it all the baggage of substitutionary atonement theory, which for many evangelicals is not theory at all, but the heart of the gospel. Along with that baggage is the basic idea of God demanding a violent sacrifice to atone for sin. The “ransom” imagery feeds into this. It is much better to speak of “redemption” in terms of liberation from our sins/false attachments/addictions, etc without requiring some ransom price which assumes payment/that God had to be paid off. The language we use here is very important because of the way substitutionary atonement language has been understood and contributes to the notion of a violent God who requires a violent sacrifice.

  • I get that it has baggage, so I regret the word choice in that regard. However, I’d encourage you to read up on the ransom theory, because it’s not God who demands payment but Satan. The cross under that narrative takes a God who refuses to use violence to free people and instead becomes the victim of violence.

  • ChuckQueen101

    The ransom theory is conceived both ways. In one version it is payment to God; the other version it is payment to Satan. Either way, someone has to be paid off and a violent sacrifice is required. Why? I am comfortable with saying that it is simply an image, not to be taken in a literal way. However, many Christians interpret the images quite literally – hence, the problem with the images. Most Christians who use “ransom” imagery are thinking in terms of a required payment. I think it is important to separate the Christus Victor narrative (the nonviolent atonement narrative) from the ransom narrative (which seems to require a violent sacrifice).

  • yhoshua

    I’m not one for labels, but to call oneself “Christian” does require you to believe within certain parameters. Your beliefs, as you’ve described them here are simply not compatible with the trachings of Jesus, the apostles or 2,000 years of orthodoxy. You could call yourself a New Ager, a universalist (which you labeled yourself in another comment) and maybe even a Buddhist, but not a Christian. The idea that man is divine and not in need of a savior is about as contradictory to the Gospel message as possible. You simply can’t call yourself a disciple of Jesus while simultaneously refuting all that He taught.

  • I haven’t heard a ransom theory where God was paid the ransom. I’m talking about the ransom theory from St. Gregory which is based on a nonviolent God who refused to use violence.

  • ChuckQueen101

    In the substitutionary theory I was immersed in (my first two degrees were from very conservative schools) ransom imagery was employed as payment. Think of how many contemporary Christian songs use this imagery and it is primarily conceived by evangelicals as necessary payment to God. How many evangelicals are familiar with the theory argued by St. Gregory? That’s why the language and imagery we employ when we talk about the saving efficacy of Jesus’ death is so important. I suggest finding better imagery if you want to talk about a nonviolent atonement or else you will continue to be misunderstood. Because what you are saying now is NOT what you said in the post. The imagery and the language matters.

  • Well, Jesus used the word “ransom” so I’m not afraid to use it in that regard… but I’m surprised that folks would view a ransom as being paid to God. Ransoms, by nature, are not paid to the family who have had someone kidnapped, but to the kidnappers. Also, I’ve been so historically outspoken on God being nonviolent in his nature that I’m surprised anyone who has read me for any length of time would misunderstand me. But, I can see how it’s happening and appreciate the dialogue.

  • ChuckQueen101

    In contemporary substitution doctrine we are all under the penalty of sin. In order for the sin to be remitted/forgiven a payment must be made to God who requires justice. God is just, so God can’t just forgive sin. Someone must take the sinner’s place as a substitute and bear the penalty. In that sense, Jesus’ death is a payment, a “ransom” that sets us free from the penalty of sin.

    The word translated “ransom” in Mark and Matthew, “For the Son of Man . . . to give his life as a ransom for many” could just as easily be translated as liberation or redemption. In the LXX this word group/image was often employed to refer to liberation/deliverance/redemption without any notion of an actual ransom paid. In the context of that saying in the Gospels the point is made that Jesus’ self-giving for the good of others has liberating, redeeming power. In the context it is liberation from the need to be great, first, in control, exercise authority over others, etc. But when contemporary evangelical Christians use that image they are talking about something very different.

  • Herm

    Chuck,

    You reacted very rapidly so I am going to proceed as though you know scripture.

    You did assume partially correctly as this story plays out human kind (we/us) chose 10-12 thousand years ago to take control. From that time forward each record of God stepping in to present us with laws of relationship, that must be followed or else we die, we have gone back to take control ignoring what was offered. Prior to 12 thousand years ago, anthropologically we know, we populated the Earth fully on every continent in a form of management dependent upon hunting and foraging with no record of. This balanced our population by providing the resources we needed and we only propagated according to the available (graced) supply. There are no records of huge tribes getting together to have wars, relatively small skirmishes yes, wars no. We all lived off the land as it was.

    When we took control, childish adaptation for self-centered gain separate from the values of the Family of God, we found we could grow our own crops and raise our own animals in the “Fertile Crescent”. It looked so much better than having to live off of what we were given by the Family. There is one catch, if we rely on the farmer and rancher we have controlled and abundant crops but our economy says we have to exchange something of equal value to share in the harvest. No pay no eat … or clothe … or shelter. The “wild” provisions were overrun with controlled fields for planting and crazing. The word hording became the name of the game in order to make certain the farmer and rancher got paid. Warehousing and storehouses needed management and then we needed managers to govern from whence came sovereign kingdoms to control the dole. We had to raise armies to protect “our” food from “them”. 12 thousand years ago we worked a maximum of four to five hours a day to survive and the remainder of each day was to relate to one another. Today, in the USA, we work an average of 14 hours a day (employment, cooking, repairing, healthcare, traveling, shopping, schooling, …) and have far less social. When the tribes were small living off the land everyone was provided for without hording, police, armies, and without any big governments as we know them today, especially governing by oligarchy.

    Tithing was introduce by God in an attempt to redirect the food. Clothing and shelter back to those in need but we have adapted that to fund huge cathedrals to flatter ourselves with our connection to our gods. There is much more rampant starvation per capita today since the resources graced by God have been horded as well as obesity. We have over populated the Earth because the food is there but we starve the poor because they can’t pay.

    Jesus did something for us we could not do for ourselves. He broke the cycle by demonstrating just how much we don’t recognize God and God’s love for us. We took control and removed Him as a zealot threatening our way of life. He seeded the Truth in Matthew 7:12 and gave us who ask, seek and knock a Counselor (an Advocate for God and each of us in our heart and mind, a direct relational tie) to feel and think back to giving God the control only He knows how to exact in love for all.

    Sorry, this can only be a synopsis but I hope and pray that you can find in your heart and mind according to the Spirit of Truth what Jesus actually did for us on the cross. He showed beyond a shadow of a doubt we cannot manage for ourselves for we would even murder our creator God. He gave us a Way to accept and live by the management of the Him as Lord under the authority of our Father as children of God. We are no more than children who know not what they do without the Spirit of Truth in our hearts and in our minds. This was true when we were carnal children dependent upon the love of our parents to provide and it is even more divinely true that we are dependent upon the love of our Father. It is now available to become actual child students of Jesus the Rabbi and to trust our Father to provide.

    When they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness. Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. Acts 4:31-35

    You asked in a way that I sense you’re seeking a different perspective than what you have yet been presented with to date and I think it’s worth the risk to open this door. Happy New Year!

  • Al Cruise

    “I think there are plenty of battles to be fought over understanding the atonement.” That traditional understanding of atonement by western Christianity has only been really adopted since the 16th century [Martin Luther] . For several centuries after Christ, the message was limited to small groups. What about the millions of people born before Christ, born in areas of the world where information about Christ wasn’t available for centuries? The traditional view is exclusionary to millions of souls.

  • Th

    I see we’ve run into a large patch of denial below, over my repudiation of original sin and my celebration of the divinity of Creation and humanity. A) I’m very sorry that you are not aware of options in Christian thought, historical and otherwise, that affirm Original Blessing; more for me and others to do, and B) I especially like the one where I’m a “Buddhist!” :-) There’s a story there but I think it’s for another time. It’s enough to say, that my entire spirituality revolves around what in Buddhist terms, is the repudiation of its central metaphysical teaching of “no Soul.”

    Anyways. Who knows. In due course, once we’re passed the “2,000 years of so-called orthodoxy” defense, we may even find ourselves, together, veering into an ominous cloud of Mystery.

    And then, the real fun can begin.

  • ChuckQueen101

    What you are talking about above Jesus revealed through the way he lived: confronting the status quo, challenging the religious and political establishment, modeling death to ego, etc. The powers that be killed him for it and God vindicated his life and message by raising him up. So here the saving efficacy is more in his life, than his death. Jesus gave his life for the good of others and for the cause of God even unto death, but the real liberating power is in his life, not his death. I suspect that the biblical writers referenced Jesus’ death as a way to sum up his self-giving life (as in the Christ hymn in Phil. 2). I find liberating power in Jesus’ self-giving that resulted in death, not in the death as a sin-offering to God.

  • DC Rambler

    Yikes ! I felt a blast from my past.. Having been a Catholic kid, the whole ” original sin ” concept haunts me to this day ! What a horrible thing to teach children..” You are bad..You were born that way..And that man had to die because of you..”
    How does an 8 year old kid process that ?

  • Very well thought out, thanks for sharing! I kind of I disagree with you on point #2, although we are probably are just looking at the same coin from two different sides. I connect more with the first creation story of original blessing than the second which focuses on original sin, but both stories have their place. For sure we have a tendency to sin, but I believe that God created us to live a blessed life in his image. I feel like concentrating on original sin rather than original blessing puts the emphasis on what WE want do with our lives as opposed to what God wants us to do with our lives. I don’t reject the concept, but it isn’t where I place my focus.

  • Th

    There are Christian options other than original sin. For starters, as Elie Wiesel has written, “Original sin is alien to Judaism.” Now, since Jesus was a Jew, how could he have taught original sin?!

    For Christmas I received a book by J. Phillip Newell called the “Rebirthing of God.” Newell was the abbot of Iona abbey, an ecumenical outpost for Celtic Christianity and Original Blessing in the contemporary World.

    For anyone that’s interested in exploring this alternate (and IMO authentic) teaching of Christianity, I haven’t read the book yet but would be delighted to read it with anyone on this blog, especially those from the “you’re not a Christian, Josh” camp.

    Not that I care about that word or my identity, as according to the doctors my identity has until the age of 50 at the upper end, to continue to establish itself here… and I’m 31… but I am genuinely interested in talking about Original Blessing with as many folks as I can while I’m still here with you precious people. Make Good use of the extra time you have, that so many others are not going to have. Don’t waste your precious human existence on original sin. We’ve had too much of it, already. Fall in Love with Being and with the G-d that brings Light and Life to everything He touches.

    Send me an email at childofmana@gmail.com, and we can read the book chapter by chapter together.

    – Josh

  • I don’t think we disagree. In “Act 1” of God’s story he created us in his image and likeness, and we have infinite worth to him. In “Act 2” however, sin entered the world– and however we want to describe it– we all do it. Acknowledging reality (that we all sin) to me doesn’t negate the fact that we are all divine image bearers and have infinite worth and value to God.

  • Should we just teach them that sin doesn’t exist, and that every choice we make is good and right?

  • Herm

    Yes, yes, yes! But without Him accepting the cross we would have no idea, even as His disciples, why we must pick up the cross to be enrolled as His student after hating our carnal traditions of rule (Luke 14:26,27). Without knowing that we have no ultimate power over life or death but that our Father does we would continue to follow the old hierarchy of providing for ourselves, top down. Jesus taught that He who can provide and service does especially as the Christ in the most royal of lineage, bottom up.

    My question to you would be do you believe the Vatican or any denominational synod today would recognize God serving (did come close with Mother Mary Teresa but didn’t crown her queen in charge)?

    My question to me is do I always recognize God serving? I do in my heart and mind and since accepting the salvation from mankind’s rule to trust in His teaching me as a child I’ve been able to witness first hand fruits harvested from me seeded by Him. I do, too often, shine on God’s subtle service from others. Ben is a shining example of providing a service for God so that all of us can question and answer as child students in a study group. There are many more examples in my life that I did not see until way too long after the fact.

    I am so happy you didn’t say, where’d you get that anthropology hypothesis junk. You give me the impression that you have a very real working relationship with God. I’m wondering now if you’re not pursuing the same question I am asking God for help with. How can I share with those of hearts and minds asking, seeking and knocking who are not literate and not from my graced level of resource availability?

    God is real and available as we would understand from the model of our most constructive and productive carnal family support system we could ever imagine. Jesus as our Brother and benevolent Lord began His rule, the veil was rent, when He died on the cross. The Holy of Holies was no longer the only place where the high priest went to share our sacrificial gestures with God. The entire model of the temple structure pointed to the sacrifice of the Lamb and with whom the sacrifice ended. The Holy Spirit became available to each and every one of our hearts and minds bonded in love with God definitely upon Pentecost.

    I can’t speak for you but the difference in my attitude toward all others changed dramatically when I bonded continually with God and has continued to grow as I mature. I really know now love and its power to unite and bind eternally and from that I find joy and peace simultaneously. I know and am growing in bold passion, forgiveness, compassion, empathy, tolerance and so many more relational emotions and thoughts than I did as a carnal child/adult trying to do it all right on my own and failing. Yes, the Good News is that Jesus is alive, teaching and ruling right now. The Good News most often dismissed in our churches today is that the Holy Spirit didn’t stop being available with the first apostles and is just as effective today as then … and could be even more so if we would faithfully allow Him to work through us.

    What we must repent from is believing we could be any more effective or greater than infant children in the Family of God. Childish ignorance does not excuse us from the responsibility for our choices but is divinely forgivable. We first have to relinquish our destructive efforts to control for ourselves separate from God, like our immature runaway children do, before we can accept our place in the Family headed by our Father in Heaven.

    Chuck, that’s my off the cuff quickie response to, “What you are talking about above.” Thank you for asking! Love you!!!

  • Look at the emu laughing at the penguin for not being able to fly. You don’t like it much when people call your labels into question, but you’re fine doing it to Mr. Corey I see.

    Progressive, conservative, or orthodox, it seems as though hypocrisy is the Christian constant.

  • If “original blessing” means we’re all created in the image and likeness of God, then I certainly affirm that. It sounds like you are arguing for is that we don’t sin– something that would be outside of any form of Christianity I’ve ever heard of.

  • “Am I wrong for wanting to believe that every person has the ability to do good, and generally tries to do so?”

    – No, not at all. I didn’t argue for that in this piece, and don’t believe that. I think you’re thinking of “total depravity” a Calvinist doctrine I reject. I’m simply stating that we all sin- all of us.

    “How does Mr. Corey define “sin”- more accurately- how does he think the bible defines sin?”

    – “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” (James 4:17)

  • Me too, I’ve always been Christus Victor. When I say “substitute” I’m saying he did something on our behalf that we couldn’t do for ourselves.

  • Lana

    Great. I’d love to read that post!

  • Four Places Where Progressive Christianity Completely Loses the Irish Atheist.

    1. The unabashed cherry picking. We’ve discussed this before, Ben, but I still pretty much stand by it. While all Christians cherry pick the Bible to some extent, at least I know where I stand with those who espouse inerrancy. The progressive form of apologetics and hermeneutics are often entirely arbitrary, and often fall in line with the values of the apologist. Thereby, when a progressive Christian quotes Scripture and I cite a verse that refutes it, I’m told that I haven’t interpreted the passage correctly, etc. But how I’ve misinterpreted it seems to change with every progressive Christian I ask. It’s maddening to some degree.

    2. The way they treat LGBT people. Whether as tokens to prove how affirming and tolerant they are, or to improve the soiled reputation of the Church to show how they’re ‘Not All Like That.’ But most importantly, acting as though affirming and ‘non-affirming’ Christians are merely two equal sides of an issue and that reconciliation is possible, thereby enabling the continued abuse of the LGBT community. Despite some progress, the progressive Church is hardly a safe space for LGBT people.

    3. The incessant Need to capitalise All Nouns related to God and His Pronouns and Anything to do with Him. Also, words like Grace and Healing and Almighty Word.

    The English language has suffered so much already. Please stop.

    4. “Straight White Christian Man Slightly Changes His Theology During His Mid-Twenties: A Memoir.”

    Our host excluded, of course. But seriously. Why, why, why are there so many of these? I’ve picked a couple up and said ‘Yep, Calvinism sucks, straight white guy. Already knew that. But they keep coming out every year by the truckload!

    Anyway, you can laugh this off, Mr. Corey. I won’t mind. Happy New Year.

  • jlosinski .

    I suppose I’m still sensitive to the so-called “struggle with sin” we allegedly fight each day. I’m still trying to wade through what I’ve been told is “right” by conservative culture and what is actually “right” in relation to my role as a christian.
    Thanks for the clarification :)
    – Joe

  • Saying there’s no such thing as sin doesn’t equate teaching that every choice is good and right. The non-religious manage to teach right and wrong without sin all the time.

  • Sure, but isn’t it semantics at that point? What you call wrong I might call sin?

  • Th

    I haven’t said that at all. I have said that our spiritual journey, and our existence and tenure here, is characterized by Original Blessing rather than original sin. Sin is there, but it’s not the primary focus of our relationship with God the way that is in original sin Christianity.

    We are indeed created in the image of God, an image that God pronounces “very Good” in the Biblical tradition. This “very Goodness” is prior to, and more foundational to our identity, than the challenges, including sin, that we as finite creatures face in the course of our daily Lives. Jewish tradition understands the “fall” of Adam and Eve to be a necessary step in the evolution of our humanity, into a Christoform nature (though they of course don’t use the language of the Christian tradition when describing spiritual development.) There are Christian traditions that do likewise.

    All mature spiritual traditions talk of sin in some sense. But there are Christian traditions, where sin is not the primary concern in our relationship to God. The hallowing of this Life, and the Creation of the Realm of God here and now within our midst, is the focus, in these alternate traditions. Personal sin gets addressed, forgiven, and healed along the way, in this larger procession of the Spirit towards the World Based on Love. I simply think, that the Original Blessing emphasis is the authentic voice of our tradition.

    In all instances, God has got our back. We were Created for blessing and our Lives are meant to be blessings. Life is about being spent, not about being saved. Original Blessing is a return to what we most truly are, and also to what the Holy Spirit intends us to be. Christ empowers us, heals us, and walks with us, more deeply into our Good human nature. The work of Christ does not override that nature; Christ, being the author and originator of that Nature, completes it.

  • Those are all really valid points! Point #4 almost applied to me- thankfully I was in my 30’s.

  • I affirm we were created good, and affirm that Christ returns us to how we were created- “empowering, healing, and walking” with us. That’s all a part of salvation. I’m not sure why we need to do away with the word since it’s used plenty in scripture.

  • It could be. Of course, for me the word ‘sin’ is still resonant of my childhood experiences with old world Catholicism and American Evangelicalism in that people are sinful just by being born. Again, one of the frustrating parts of Christianity in that even the most basic words can have totally different meanings depending on whom you ask.

  • Th

    We don’t need to do away with the word “sin” necessarily, we need to do away with the emphasis on sin and the unBiblical teaching of original sin, or our (nonexistent) fundamental brokeness before God. As I said before, God had perfection and chose us. We need to place sin into this larger context, that context being Original Blessing, or God’s gratuitous Love for all that is, that is the reason for our being here. We have gotten so sidetracked throughout Christian history with sin and our personal existential “predicament,” that we have lost sight of the big picture: that Divine Love affair with all that is. I want us to start from that Love, and end with that Love.

    Our existence is not a predicament. It is a Blessing. Believe me, it’s not just you. I’m saying that creating t-shirts reading “I don’t have my shit together” is not a healthy religious response to the gift of Life. Our differing emphases exemplifies the need for space between progressives, who are mostly committed to Original Blessing, and conservatives, who are mostly committed to original sin.

  • Denver. City name. Proper noun.

    Broncos. Team name. Distinct from actual broncos. Proper noun.

    Goodness, life, world. Not names. Not proper nouns.

    ‘Stylistic choice.’ Meaning, ‘If I capitalise this against all the rules of proper English, it will carry more weight!’

    Is nothing safe from defilement?

  • ….it’s like I’m reading a first year Philoshopy major’s LiveJournal.

  • jlosinski .

    After reading the comments since I posted mine yesterday, it would seem that the issue of “sin” is a hot topic. Future blog post/series?

  • jlosinski .

    I’d like to cultivate a worldview where sin is more than simply “don’t do this or that”, it is too easy for sin to become nothing more than a list of things to aviod. How do we instruct our children in their sinful behavior without discarding their inherent self-worth? As a father of four little ones I’d love to figure that one out.

  • Th

    Sometimes, things don’t have to be complex to be true and Good. Like Original Blessing. Original Blessing is like that line from “Braveheart”:

    I Love you.
    Always have.
    Always will.
    You and no other.

    The Divine simplicity is like that. Jesus spoke of becoming like a child to enter the Realm of God. Indigenous people capitalize Primal spiritual realities like World, Earth, Spirit, etc… which is where I got it from.

    They have been called children too. They have been called the first rung on humanity’s inevitable progression up to the average white male so often, I’ve lost track.

    But I think they know something, and Jesus knew something, and when I’m lucid, I think I know something, that the average white male has forgotten… and that something is Original Blessing.

  • “in some strange way, Christ ransomed us through the cross.”

    This reminds me of Luther’s theology of the Eucharist, for some reason.

  • Ransom Backus

    I find the “progressive Christian” movement or the “emergent church” contraption can be just as dogmatic and ruthless as the fundy evangelicals they rail against. It’s why I just won’t fit into any category and remain feral, feeding from God’s manna in the wilderness.

  • David S

    I’m not sure what you’re driving at with the analogy, Mr. Irish. I’m simply making the point that, while Christians may disagree (sometimes passionately) over various particulars of the faith, there are certain objective doctrinal positions which one must hold in order to be able to identify as a Christian. To fail to do so means that to claim that label as your “identity” is simply a logical contradiction in terms. It is meaningless, just as it would be contradictory to say that an atheist believes in God. I’m not sure what is hypocritical about that at all. Care to enlighten me?

  • David S

    Depravity and sin, the need for atonement, the divinity and humanity of Christ, the Trinity, the bodily resurrection, the return of the Lord, the white throne judgment, etc.–you may not like these things, but that’s completely irrelevant to the discussion of what *Christianity* is. These have always been essentials in Christianity for 2 millennia, regardless of denominational stripe or geographical location of the church. Nobody can divest a given religion of its core beliefs and then pretend that what they are parading about is in any way remotely the same religion. Buddhism is not what it is without the eight-fold path. Hinduism is not Hinduism without syncretistic polytheism. Islam is not what it is without Muhammad or the Koran. For Christianity to be divested of these essential defining beliefs means that, in effect, it becomes a totally different belief system–a different “sacred canopy” to use Peter Berger’s famous term. The belief system becomes something else entirely different. There’s no vindictiveness here. I’m just pointing out that you are being logically inconsistent in your self-identification as a Christian.

  • Whatever point you were making is rather irrelevant to me, since my comment was not directed towards you.

  • David S

    You were referring to my discussion w/ Josh, no? And “the emu,” I take it is supposed to be me. And following the logic of your analogy, since emus can’t fly, are you implying that I’m incorrect for saying that there is a definable thing as “Christianity” in the way that Josh is incorrect for questioning Ben’s labeling himself a “Progressive Christian”? It just sounds as if that was the cut of your jib.

  • Why are you still talking to me? I have no interest in entertaining your self-congratulatory ego boost, nor should my criticisms of progressive Christianity serve as a platform for you to…what, boast about being hacker?

    Take your faux-intellectualism and drivel elsewhere.

  • It wasn’t. I was referring to Josh complaining about being labelled as not a ‘true Christian’ when he had no trouble labelling Mr. Corey as not a ‘true progressive Christian.’ That was the hypocrisy I was referring to. Also, why I responded to him, not you.

    It’s not always about you, especially when you’re not the one I replied to in the first place.

  • David S

    Nice to know. Your comment sounded like a Parthian shot.

  • He’s been here since day one, and he’s not on a hate crusade– he’s not going anywhere.

    I don’t think Christianity needs you to heal it though; if we can get back to the Christianity that Jesus established, as found in scripture, we’ll be just fine- but I guess that’s where we diverge.

  • I have been commenting on this blog for a year and a half. Mr. Corey is a friend of mine. And I’ve had cordial and enriching conversations with many Christian individuals here. My differences of opinion with most of the reader base do not make me a ‘troll.’ Nor does my unwillingness to entertain your self-labelling as a ‘purveyor of wisdom.’

    My ‘hate-crusade,’ as you put it, was originally exactly what Mr. Corey did. Listing criticisms of the progressive Christian movement. Interesting that you label me as a hatemonger and not him. Zip up your trousers, Josh, your prejudices are showing.

    In the meantime, you are a guest here, same as I am. It’s not your place to dictate how and when people are allowed to comment here. That privilege belongs to Mr. Corey alone. Check yours.

  • (Edited as response was to the wrong recipient).

  • For believing in a Christianity that is open to whatever people want to make of it, you certainly are pretty exclusive about it.

  • Still determined to be a victim, I guess.

  • Lecture all you want about ego. I will merely point out that only one of us claims to be a ‘Wisdom teacher’ who refers to himself in the third person.

  • The comment you responded to was intended for another commenter and was immediately edited to reflect such.

  • Well, naturally I’m guilty as charged. Since the Denver Broncos do have the advantage of providing evidence of existence (or Evidence of Existence, as you would probably say).

  • You tell me to leave this blog because I’m a troll and a year and a half ago (when I was much more trollish), Ben extended a hand of friendship.

    You boast about your intellectualism and lecture me about ego, and Ben has invited me to dinner when I’m in town one day.

    You write paragraphs and paragraphs about how enlightened you are, and Ben has listened to me when I lashed out in anger and grief at the scars his tribe left on me and my people.

    You have labelled me and he has encouraged and challenged me.

    You have told me you love me and he has shown it.

  • Ron McPherson

    Josh,

    I realize I’m likely in the minority here but I believe in penal substitution. That’s what I believe the Scriptures teach though there are many smarter and more learned than me who do not. But your reference to a “DoomGod” and your vile illustrations of such do not reflect love to those of us who do. I say this not to be confrontational but rather to reveal what I believe to be a profound disconnect between what you think you are versus what your words convey.

    Peace

  • Richard Worden Wilson

    Whoa, Ben, you made me cry; it was a joy to see you locked in with Jesus. I gotta love it when someone speaks a whole bunch of truth about what happens when you get called to follow and believe in the Christ of scripture in his Spirit.

    My only caveat is regarding the language of “original sin,” which carries a load of theological baggage you might not want to schlep. Being prone to sin is one thing, but “original sin” historically doesn’t necessarily convey the biblical necessity of personal responsibility for consequent sinful actions required for being accounted a sinner. This is a bit of theological hair splitting perhaps, but probably necessary to keep you from being too much of a theological traditionalist/fundy.

    All the best to you and your ministry in the coming year and always.

  • Jeff Preuss

    Oh my stars and garters, did I even read that correctly? Okeedokee, this is Bizarroland now. Happy New Year, Ben!

  • Ron McPherson

    Yes, I think you read that correctly. Syfy channel is currently running it’s annual marathon of the Twilight Zone which is where I step into pretty much every time I read one of Josh’s posts.

  • Richard Worden Wilson

    Ben said: “I’ve always been Christus Victor. When I say “substitute” I’m saying he
    did something on our behalf that we couldn’t do for ourselves.” For Paul there would be nothing to participate in if it weren’t for the death Christ died to sin and the resurrection he acquired for our justification. It was not so much that God required a human sacrifice but that humans demanded it–God’s wrath is against all forms of humans sacrificing others’ needs and lives for their own selfish purposes–that he himself was sacrificed on the alter of humans’ selfishness is the essence of substitution. The substitutionary sacrifice of Christ is a reminder to humanity that he requires mercy but we insist on the sacrifice of others for our own desires, hence the need for someone else to do what is needed for us. Participation in Christ is participation in the substitutionary necessity of sacrifice just as he calls us to take up our crosses and participate in his substitution for us. Yeah, a bit paradoxical perhaps, but God sacrificing his Son/self is as mysterious as it gets, and submitting oneself to the “powerfulness” of humans in that substitution for their sake is as powerful as it gets, showing that the power of life resurrected is greater than that of any other power in existence.

  • Dr. Dee Tee

    Seems that my comment has disappeared. I was not flaming but stating a fact about Christianity. God does not change thus Christianity does not change. if it does then it is not God’s Christianity anymore but some human’s subjective opinion of what they want Christianity to be.

    The idea of a ‘progressive’ Christianity is from evil not God as Satan is deceiving people into thinking they can change the faith God has created and instructed via the Bible.

  • Ron McPherson

    (Awkward pause) ….

    “Alrighty then.” – Ace Ventura

  • BrinKennedy

    I do believe your statement would be categorized as “opinion”, rather than “fact”. Nothing like coming to a Progressive Christian blog and telling people that their faith comes from Satan…

    God doesn’t change, but our attempts at better understanding Him can and do. It doesn’t make it evil – we should always strive to better understand and to learn.

  • mjk

    In my understanding, the term “progressive” emerged, in part, to distinguish itself FROM this description, which appears to be simply a clear articulation of classical liberalism, a position that has been around for quite a bit longer than progressivism.

  • Exactly. The resurrection of Christ is God’s way of vindicating him and demonstrating that the violence we used against him was unjust.

  • Exactly– and that’s the problem we’re now facing. Those who were mainline liberals (the description in the picture) now call themselves progressives, and they’re the ones saying there’s no room for the rest of us. Basically, they just switched names. Personally, I prefer a way to distinguish myself from that brand, because that’s definitely not what I am.

  • Liadan

    Your first mistake is assuming there is “a” progressive Christian culture. There isn’t. We all have different beliefs. There is no *one* Progressive Christian culture. I’m fairly traditional theologically, but you hit most of my exceptions. I do not believe in Original Sin–It’s no where in the Bible. I do believe in the Greek concept of sin–Missing the Mark, being less than one can be. Jesus promised we can do all that he can do and more.

    I also don’t believe in atonement salvation, or at least, not as fundamentalists believe in it.

    So, yes, you probably are Progressive Christian; so am I. But we are not the *same* Progressive Christians. Px are not formed with a cookie cutter.

  • Liadan

    I can agree with John Maddox

  • Liadan

    It shouldn’t be. Christ was Progressive, Liberal, even Socialist. *That* is Christian. But people have forgotten that. We have had our religion hijacked and therefore must define ourselves as to not be mistaken for the others.

  • Liadan

    I am a Progressive Christian from this definition too.

  • Well, I’d gently push back on your first point- any time people group together culture is created, no matter how small. The fact that all progressives do tend to hold differing beliefs actually is part of the culture.

  • Andrew Dowling

    I most disagree with your #2, although for #1 I don’t think one needs to discard atonement thinking but it is important that any atonement language is metaphoric (as opposed to conservative evangelicalism which revolves EVERYTHING around a specific theory of the atonement, which IMO is ridiculous).

    But back to #2, I think this idea that we are born inherently prone towards evil has been a debilitating component of Christianity since poor Pelagius was branded a heretic and Augustine’s thought won out. Humans are not born predominantly good or bad; although more and more research shows our altruistic nature embedded in our evolutionary psychology often wins out over our selfish nature . . those who succeed in the evolutionary scheme of things CAN use force and power to gain benefits, but ultimately that is meaningless without showing generosity and forging social alliances. The caveman who stole everybody’s food and was a general jerk to everyone would likely get killed in the end. The alpha male who forged bonds with the other men and helped their families would be elected tribe leader and see his offspring prosper.

    Bottom line . . do we all “sin” . sure. No-one is perfect. We often fall short of what we could and should be. But it’s not a virus we are born with. Jesus’s messages was ultimately a “works” message (and has nothing to do with heaven or hell). Jesus calls us to do more. And we can always do more.

  • Liadan

    I think the “borders” are fairly fluid. There are those that are ‘Traditional’ theologically and progressive politically. there are those that are Progressive theologically and Conservative politically. Then those that fall up and down the line in the continuum. I even know those that are atheist Christians. I haven’t quite wrapped my head around that yet. But I take people at how they want to identify themselves (usually).

  • Liadan

    Bravo!!

  • Liadan

    I don’t see where Josh denied anything Christian, especially New Testament.

  • Liadan

    It seems he’s denying the understanding of the New Testament from the 11th c. on. Early Christians and early Celtic Christians had different views than Romanized Christians, which have different views than Roman Catholics, Orthodox Christians, and Protestants. Claiming one monolithic understanding of Christian doctrine for two-thousand years is false.

  • Liadan

    We are created in God’s image. Christ promised we could do the same and even more than him. Humans have forgotten how to be divine. Christ reminds us of this and teaches us how to regain it. Christ also said that Love covers a multitude of sins. Josh asserting his purpose is Love is actually fulfilling Christ’s mission. What is anti-Christian about that?

  • Unfortunately, that’s just not historically true. There was much debate for the first 300 years of Christianity, but then folks sat down and hammered out the key aspects of what it means to be Christian (the form of creeds) and those have held the central identity of a Christian for nearly 2,000 years.

  • Noah

    That humans can be divine. I haven’t come across that. Unless it’s just another word for God’s image. In which case everybody is.

  • Liadan

    Christ taught us to Love one another. Take care of one another. How is Josh refuting that?

    All I see is Josh denying the Fear Doctrine and the Man is inherently worthless and evil doctrine. It needs denying.

    People have questions regarding “what is Progressive?” There are also questions on “What is Christian?”

    What is the least you can believe and still be Christian? If Josh disagrees with your theology, why is he no longer Christian? Especially as he espouses Christ’s “Prime Directive”: Love God and Love your Neighbor. Love is the whole of the Law.

    So, according to you, what *must* one believe to still be Christian?

  • Liadan

    So, what are those Doctrines one *must* believe to be Christian?

  • That’s not a phrase I’m terribly familiar with, so forgive me if I’ve misunderstood, but in order for it to be a Parthian shot, wouldn’t Irish have needed to have been talking to you in the first place?

  • Liadan

    Orthodox Christians believe this.

    “I said, “You are gods,

    And all of you are children of the Most High.” (Psalm 82:6)

    “In the Orthodox Church, this concept is neither new nor startling. It even has a name: theosis.
    Theosis is the understanding that human beings can have real union with
    God, and so become like God to such a degree that we participate in the
    divine nature.”http://www.antiochian.org/content/theosis-partaking-divine-nature

    St. Athanasius: “God became man so that men might become gods,”

    In fact, deification is very akin to the Wesleyan understanding of
    holiness or perfection, with the added element of our mystical union
    with God in Christ as both the means and the motive for attaining
    perfection. Fr. David Hester, in his booklet, The Jesus Prayer,
    identifies theosis as “the gradual process by which a person is renewed
    and unified so completely with God that he becomes by grace what God is
    by nature.” Another way of stating it is “sharing in the divine nature
    through grace.”

    St. Maximos the Confessor, as Fr. Hester notes, defined theosis as
    “total participation in Jesus Christ.” Careful to maintain the
    ontological safeguard noted above, St. Maximos further stated, “All that
    God is, except for an identity in being, one becomes when one is
    deified by grace.”

    C. S. Lewis understood this concept and expressed it compellingly in Mere Christianity:

    The command “Be ye perfect” is not idealistic gas. Nor is it a
    command to do the impossible. He is going to make us into creatures that
    can obey that command. He said (in the Bible) that we were “gods” and
    He is going to make good His words. If we let Him—for we can prevent
    Him, if we choose—He will make the feeblest and filthiest of us into a
    god or goddess, dazzling, radiant, immortal creatures, pulsating all
    through with such energy and joy and wisdom and love as we cannot now
    imagine, a bright stainless mirror which reflects back to Him perfectly
    (though, of course, on a smaller scale) His own boundless power and
    delight and goodness. The process will be long and in parts very
    painful; but that is what we are in for. Nothing less. He meant what he
    said. (Macmillan, 1952, p. 174)

    A few excerpts from: http://www.antiochian.org/content/theosis-partaking-divine-nature

  • You implied it in what you said, but if I may I’d like to state it explicitly: all metaphors fall apart at some point. Some are definitely better than others, but none are perfect. And particularly when it comes to theology and unexplainable mysteries, we have to be careful about getting too attached to our metaphors. I’m thinking particularly about metaphors for the Trinity; they can be very helpful, but if you grow too attached to any one of them, you’re moving into one of the old Trinitarian heresies.

    There was a rather humorous video about Saint Patrick that illustrated that point rather nicely. Have you seen it? I think it’s called “Saint Patrick’s bad analogies” or something like that.

  • Definitely. I’ve publicly said it in the past: all are metaphors and neither right nor wrong, just “helpful” or “not so helpful.”

    I have seen the St. Patrick video– posted it here back on St. Patties day.

  • D’aww, I missed it!

  • Jim High

    Well I would have to agree with those who have said you are not a true Progressive Christian, and this one statement in your commentary among many others I could site proves it. — “The Holy Scriptures are foundational to Christianity, and are one of the key vehicles through which God speaks to his people.” — First, you propose a God who speaks to “His” people. Progressive do not think of God in terms of something that speaks and certainly not as a “His.” Second, you give the Bible far more authority than it deserves. Third, Progressive Christians understand that were God a Supernatural Male Being, that God would be the God of all people and everything, not choosing and deciding who to favor. As a Progressive Christian myself, here is what I believe…………. “God is not an object but an idea. The object of God is extinguished in the mind when we realize that All / Everything is God. God is the whole of the Universe in action. God is not a separate thing. God is Everything.”

  • Jeff Preuss

    It was at once bizarre and inappropriate, which is why I’m sure it was deleted. Since it was in response to Ron, he’s probably got the original text in his email, but I doubt he’d want to repost it here to sate your curiosity. :)

  • Understandable. My inner five-year-old will probably throw a tantrum because he doesn’t get to know what he wants to know, but if he acts up too much I’ll put him in time out. :-P

  • Noah

    Uh, I think you’re completely missing 82:

    “God presides in the great assembly; he renders judgment among the “gods”: 2 “How long will you[a] defend the unjust and show partiality to the wicked?[b]
    3 Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. 4 Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.
    5 “The ‘gods’ know nothing, they understand nothing.
    They walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken. 6 “I said, ‘You are “gods”; you are all sons of the Most High.’ 7 But you will die like mere mortals; you will fall like every other ruler.”

    We can enjoy God through characteristics we share – but we will never be equal as God. I prefer not using the term divine.

  • coloradito

    Where in scripture do you find anything that supports the view that Christ was a “socialist”?

  • I have a time-out button in my moderator panel- just used it for the first time in 2015.

  • coloradito

    So, Ben what you are saying is that progressives are (almost) as exclusionary and prejudiced in their views as other fundamentalists? :-)

  • Sounds like what you’re describing is a religion that’s loosely inspired by some parts of Christianity. What’s strange is that Christian means “like Christ” and the stuff you’re describing doesn’t line up with what he taught.

  • There’s no evidence Jesus was, but the early church as described in Acts lived a very similar form- rejecting the concept of personal ownership, redistribution of wealth, etc. Not pure socialism because it was somewhat voluntary, but closer to socialism than capitalism.

  • coloradito

    Thanks for your thoughtful comment, but perhaps Jesus was not radical – rather everyone else were/are deviants.

  • ChuckQueen101

    Interesting to observe in the following conversation, especially the fear, insecurity, hostility, and misunderstanding reflected by several here in response to comments by Josh Magda that apparently those reacting to his comments have no awareness at all of Christian mystical tradition and how it can help transform our lives.

  • coloradito

    Jesus expressed his expectations for us as individual followers and they are much more difficult than simply following “the letter of the law” because his view was that not only do you have to follow the law, but you must also maintain not only the proper motivation, but the proper attitude also throughout. In this, he was *more conservative* than the Pharisees who thought they were keepers/preservers of the law when they had actually watered it down and molded it to what was convenient (e.g. writ of divorce was not God’s perfect law)…

    As far as the dreaded “middle” where everyone throws fruit at you… I think it takes courage and intellectual honesty for Ben to say that progressives are humans like the rest of us and have the same human traits that turned him against conservative Evangelicalism. I mean politics are politics, no?

    And, if your answer to the “politics are bad” conundrum is to just withdraw, then who wins? Perhaps from a historical, cautionary tale we can look at the Quakers in the North who disengaged from politics (over treatment of Indians) and then determined to move to a different region (Virgina and the Carolinas) that had already resolved that issue (generally not to the benefits of the natives), so the moral challenge no longer existed in order to “live by their convictions”.

  • coloradito

    Unless we have God’s view of what love looks like, any “love” will be a wrong-headed love. Consider the Pharisees who thought their role was preserving not only God’s law but their man-made traditions. Right belief must come before right practice.

  • Misunderstanding? He was quite clear, and graphic- especially when he got to the having anal sex with God part. If that’s transformation, I’ll pass.

  • ChuckQueen101

    I was referring to the comments by David and a couple of others in their rejection of his Christianity. I haven’t read all the conversations here, so I don’t know what you are referring to. Your comment comes across as very defensive though.

  • ChuckQueen101

    This is a common theme in Christian mystical tradition made by such contemporaty mystics like Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen, and Richard Rohr. Obviously, you are reacting to what you do not know nor understand.

  • Ron McPherson

    My response to Josh’s comments had nothing to do with “fear, insecurity, hostility, and misunderstanding.” Shock maybe.

  • Ron McPherson

    How can you allege Ben’s comment “comes across as very defensive” when you admit you don’t even know what he is referring to? Josh’s comment that Ben refers to was so mind-numbingly disturbing that it was thankfully deleted.

  • Josh Magda2

    Dear Chuck,

    You don’t have to do this, unless you want to. :-) My outing here has produced more Goodness than I initially hoped for, and I’m moving on (for now) as soon as I finish posting something witty to respond to Ben’s removal of a post of mine that used sexual imagery to talk about God… believe me, I’m SUPER surprised…

    One other guy here is going to be reading “The Rebirthing of God: Christianity’s Struggle for New Beginnings” with me and I would Love to have you too. It’s a short book so it may be too long for Lent, but it would be perfect for the Epiphany season (January).

    I’m putting feelers out on Marcus’s blog so hopefully we can get a group together.

    Childofmana@gmail.com

  • A time-out button? So, sort of like a short-term ban or something?

  • Josh Magda2

    The Bible According to Formerly Fundie:

    Song of Songs

  • Jim High

    Of course it does, Jesus was a Jewish wisdom sage and Rabbi who taught how we are to live together and care for one another. All “one anothers.” The Christ figure in the Bible is a creation of the Gospel writers that did not know Jesus and wrote long after he was dead. The Red Letter Versions of the Bible are not actual transcripts of what Jesus said. In fact, the Jesus Seminar composed of some 250 Christian Religious Scholars says that we can be sure of only about 18% of what Jesus is reported to have said, being actually said by him. Nevertheless, he said much that has application to today’s world, not because he was the son of any God Being, but because he understood Life and God differently from the Jewish Tradition of those days. First he changed God from wrathful and judgmental to a loving and forgiving Father figure. And second, he he say over and over that the Kingdom of Heaven is here now, not later when we die. But even in these ideas as radical as they were for his time, he was limited by his understanding of the world he lived in, so we can’t take is actual words of 2,000 years ago and apply them to our modernly understood existence.

  • Nope, the Jesus Seminar has 74, not Christian at all but some are atheists, of the 200 that were hand picked most have left because the whole thing is less than scholarly. Of the 74 left, over half are “scholars” that are unproven in the field beyond a couple articles. It’s not exactly a legitimate authority on Jesus.

  • yhoshua

    That Jesus was God incarnate, died for our sins, was raised on the 3rd day and is the only way to the Father as He Himself proclaimed. The golden rule is not the definition of a Christian- belief in and obedience to Jesus as your lord and savior is. Josh doubts Jesus is the only way to the Father and negates His death as he believes we’re divine and need no savior. As such he cannot be a Christian any more than he could be a Muslim while rejecting the teachings and claims of Muhammad.

  • Jim High

    Words I’ve heard a hundred times from Evangelicals and Fundamentalist. Maybe I just forced out your true colors.

  • Ron McPherson

    Josh,
    Sexual activity, in and of itself, is not the problem here. Hopefully you can see it’s your graphic illustrations used to demean one’s concept of a God you find distasteful that many find so offensive.

  • Jim High
  • Josh Magda3

    As the Creed says nothing about Jesus’ Life, or what it means to Live as a Christian, and speaks only of Neoplatonic (and hence cosmologically inaccurate) metaphysical suppositions about Jesus’ entries and exits from Terra Firma, and more importantly, because so-called orthodoxy has indeed involved a literal “hammering out,” of all those many Christians who disagreed with its frightened and rather boring projections, I think I’ll pass. In the Jesus Tradition, “by their fruits you shall know them” is the test, and so-called orthodoxy’s history of monumental violence has failed that test miserably and completely.

    As I’ve said elsewhere, I am a representative of the Jesus Tradition. The Jesus Tradition is those aspects, whether “heretical” or so-called orthodox, within the 2,000 year-old Christian story that remain faithful to the Living lineage of Jesus of Nazareth, sharing his priorities, and joyfully Jewish approach to the Life of the Spirit.

    The Jesus Tradition and Christianity overlap only occasionally.

  • Ron McPherson

    So not affirming the conclusions of the Jesus Seminar makes one a fundamentalist?

  • So you’re a manipulative bastard. Sort of like your god.

    Gee, you make Progressive Christianity look just so appealing, oh Wisdom Teacher.

  • Jim High

    No, holding fundamentalist (and I might add ancient) ideas about Religion, God and Jesus makes one a Fundamentalist.

  • That may have been a lifestyle choice among early Christians, but I’m not sure it was a tenant of the faith, necessarily.

  • See, that’s the whole problem. You’re applying contemporary political values to Christianity, which I find to be elitist and off-putting. That’s like saying that anyone who is conservative politically isn’t or can’t be a Christian. I reject that sort of thinking totally.

  • Ron McPherson

    Are you asserting that the conclusions of the Jesus Seminar are infallible and inerrant? If not, then your reference to it should not be articulated as fact. Or would you consider yourself to be a fundamentalist in that regard?

  • I totally agree. It’s just how they chose to live out their faith in that time and in that place.

  • Jim High

    “It is not the questions that harm religion; it is the lack of
    sufficient answers to the questions that makes it hard to understand religious
    beliefs.”

  • Jim High

    I’m asserting that there are more modern ways to look at and understand
    what people read in their Bibles. The Bible used to be the final
    authority on all matters. But those 1,500 years of wrong thinking ended
    with the Enlightenment. Christianity appears to be stuck and afraid to
    let its religious beliefs evolve into something new. But that is what
    humans have always done throughout all of human history. So our job
    today is to break the logjam of thought about God, Jesus, Religion and
    Life Itself and let the new ideas about these things emerge as they
    will.

  • I’m going a bit meta here, but I find it interesting that you’re talking to “Josh Magda2,” who has only a handful of comments, all in this thread and all from the same one-hour time period. Either Josh got banned and decided to say “screw it, he can’t silence me,” or this is a troll who’s using Josh’s name to try to get Josh in trouble. In either case, I don’t anticipate him responding well to rational discourse. That’s before addressing the content of Magda2’s comments.

  • Same guy. Just trying to circumvent the ban.

  • I kinda figured, but since I’m not a mod I decided to hedge my bets :-P

  • Ron McPherson

    The comments are in quotes without attribution to a source. I’m almost afraid to ask this but you’re not quoting yourself again are you?

  • Ron McPherson

    No, the issue with me is not homophobic. I would have deemed an illustration of hetero activity inappropriate in the context of the discussion as well.

  • Jim High

    Is that a problem? How? Everything i say is a later quote of myself. And that applies to everyone. Big deal.

  • Ron McPherson

    Actually, it is a big deal because it projects to others a sense of self importance, authority, and finality that you attach to your own ideas.

  • Jim High

    How about these ideas.

    “I am convinced that the institutional church, at least as we now
    understand it, is dying. That does not bother me. That has happened many
    times before. There is no church in the catacombs today, neither is
    anyone building great cathedrals at the center of every major city. I am
    convinced that Christianity shares in eternity. I am not sure that the
    Christian Church, as we know it today, does.”

    John Shelby Spong

    BTW, I agree with Bishop Spong.

  • ChuckQueen101

    Well, I didn’t see the comment, but I did read several of Josh’s posts here. And what I read are the sort of things that a number of modern day mystics embrace like: Thomas Keeting, Thomas Merton, Bro. David Steindl-Rast, Richard Rohr, etc. And it is pretty obvious that when ideas like the “cosmic Christ” are denigrated that the one doing the dismissing is completely unaware of the mystical tradition and its transformative value.

  • ChuckQueen101

    Granted that some progressives can come across as intolerant and angry as some conservatives. This is why I had a difficult time reading Bishop Spong in his earlier days, even though I agreed with a lot of what he said. He has sense mellowed. That said, however, most progressives are very, very tolerant – for many of us – it’s a “fundamental” aspect to our kind of Christianity. We critique the conservative Christianity many of us left, but most of us are not anywhere near demonstrating the exclusivity and elitism and intolerance that a number of conservatives display. I don’t think i being judgmental here, though one might read that as such.I am surrounded by evangelicals in my neck of the woods and the dogmatism and arrogance of some of our evangelical leaders hardly compares with prophetic critique offered by many progressives.

  • Jeff Preuss

    Yup. It’s like Frank 2.0. Except weird.

  • Damn, he’s persistent. He’s already up to 6. Granted, lower than Frank, but Frank started with four digits.

  • Jeff Preuss

    Did he? Did he?

    For all we know, he could have started at Frank1, and been banned so many thousands of times, he’s HAD to get up into 4 digits.

  • Jeff Preuss

    Josh. Ron is not homophobic. He’s actually tried his darndest to understand those of us who aren’t heterosexual. That he might be a smidge uncomfortable with your unnecessarily-candid depiction of sex acts speaks nothing to his assumed prejudices and more to your lack of a filter.

  • Oh, I know that he started as Frank with no numbers. I’m just being charitable with my guesses after that :-P

  • Jeff Preuss

    Heh. This is an ironic statement: “In the meantime, if you all would just leave me alone…”

    There is no one expressing discomfort with God here.

  • LOL

  • Hey Ben, love your blog! I share many elements of your story, and resonate with the challenges you are experiencing. Here’s my take on the push-back you’re getting from the Progressive Christian side: don’t rely on commenters to your blog to define the reaction of real progressives. I think the anonymity of commenting attracts extremists on both sides. Do what I did…join an Episcopal church. You will find a wide variety of people, from conservative to liberal, and while they all love to articulate their viewpoints, we drop the arguments and worship together at the communion table. You may find, as I did, a community where we are all free to be who we are, where we don’t have to hide anything or pretend to go along with things we don’t agree with. Freedom…what a concept!

  • Jeff Preuss

    And, seriously, normally I’m pretty down with weird. I ain’t normal by any stretch of the imagination, but come on.

  • Jeff Preuss

    Ben, I wish for you the gift of time, or being 3 mods at once. You’re apparently going to need it. (If nothing else, peace and patience in doing what is necessary.)
    God bless you. :)

  • Thanks! I went to an Episcopal church on Christmas Eve and really enjoyed it.

  • Thanks. I’ve sent this one up to the mods higher than me, so they’ll stay on it.

  • Jeff Preuss

    The Episcopal Church is where my parents went after leaving the Southern Baptist Church (after I came out as gay) because, to quote my Mom, they wanted to attend a church “where both my babies are welcome.”

  • Jeff Preuss

    ….higher mods? I didn’t know there was such a thing!

  • Ron McPherson

    Jeff,

    God bless you brother.

  • Jeff Preuss

    Same back at you, Ron. You always positively contribute to discussions on here, and it’s appreciated. You’ve an even keel to what you say, and I’ve lately seen that place you in the crosshairs somehow.

  • Cherubim, perhaps? Can’t imagine it’s escalated to archangels, yet.

  • Jeff Preuss

    Yes! Cherubim! Gold-spray-painted fat babies, executing swift comment justice whilst looking adorable in motivational posters!

  • Oh wait, sorry, meant seraphim – the six-winged terrors from Isaiah 6.

  • Jeff Preuss

    Yes! Seraphim! Gold-spray-painted harpy-esque creatures, executing swift comment justice whilst looking beyond frightening in motivational posters!

  • cap’n! did u get drunk, smoke crack & get into some really bad acid all in one night? the serenity prayer mite help

  • Well, they’re people above me, so I call them higher mods.

  • ur being ironic amirite?

  • reposting this shit is not making u any friends. why are you really doing this? be honest.

  • Jeff Preuss

    My Disqus notifications have been going a little batty. I get notifications that I’ve got replies, then I don’t as things get deleted. It’s almost amusing to watch. Trippy, even. (Coming from a non-drug user, perhaps I don’t know from trippy.)

  • gee your post’s on marcus borg’s blog are not at all like they are here. i didn’t know you were such a fun guy!

  • my goodness josh u are having a breakdown i think. i love you and care about you. i kidded you earlier but seriously i want you to know i’m keeping a good thot for you tonight.

  • that dog won’t hunt!

  • who loves ya baby?

  • yeah but do you love your neighbors or even know them?

  • Well, one arguably positive outcome of all of this, I’ve discovered the “report user” function. Guess that’s the higher authority Ben was talking about?

  • well you can pick your friends and you can pick your nose but you can’t pick your friend’s nose.~robert crumb

  • self congratulatory ego boosting josh magda! THX 4 THAT!

  • coloradito

    Ben, don’t you think the distinction between voluntarily socialism (also known as “charity”) makes the assertion that it was “closer to socialism” a bit of a reach? In a free capitalistic society there can be limited government. Socialism, communism, fascism and marxism are all authoritarian forms of government that must rely on force for preservation. It is really entertaining to find out that Christ was a socialist… I mean it is clear that he was so “laissez faire” in everything else progressives believe in… ;-)

  • traumasurvivor

    Yikes Ben, I have been enjoying some of your writings but this hop on Gnostics as not being Christian is kind of vile. Basically, the Bible historically is errant.. and the “folks” who sat down and “hammered” it out during the council of Nicea were politically oriented. Some of us choose to perhaps maybe see this as wrong but the fact that Marconian Christians were driven underground by Paulist is still a fact. You want to talk about people protecting borders but that is exactly what you are doing. Check yourself before you wreck yourself!

  • traumasurvivor

    They have a difficult time understanding Gnosis and it is a pity that most walk around in a Paulian cloud and miss the message of Jesus.

  • traumasurvivor

    He isn’t Pagan or Unitarian oh thou who thinks he knows it all.. He is obviously Gnostic and you obviously have studied little about the origin of your own dogma! He isn’t spouting “nonsense” and you come across as the egomaniac not Josh…

  • traumasurvivor

    OH and a PhD from Bob Jones or Liberty doesn’t really count there Skippy

  • As a “newbie” to Progressive Christianity I thank you for your honesty. I’m currently wrangling with similar thoughts. My fundamental views are hard sometimes to see as just that and I struggle at times knowing just what is what and what is Christ’s heart in a matter. Thank you!

  • I don’t believe you are being honest. It’s wierd like you are channeling an introjected demented relative or ancestor or something! Where is our sweet joshy boy? We want him back! What have you done w/ him you wicked hostage taking mother sucker!

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    And thus point 5 is illustrated.

  • my notifications are not even being accessible by me on my laptop under my handle’lou77′. i’ve been trying for over 2 weeks to get customer service at disqus to help me. right now i’m using my android tablet under my handle;’charlesburchfield’ and my notifications sometimes get shortsuited to 2 at a time then i can’t scroll down anymore!

  • mind games annoy.

  • Herm

    Depends on the wine and the company.

  • Ymoore

    I don’t know. They certainly felt a responsibility toward one another. That’s why the office of deacons was established. Lying about fulfilling this responsibility resulted in death for Ananias and Sapphira.

  • Carol

    Luther said that “the Mysteries of faith must be apprehended, not comprehended.”
    Faith is intuitive. Intuition is the voice of the non-physical world. Theology is faith seeking understanding. It is
    possible to have a deep trust-faith in God without having any
    theological beliefs ABOUT God. If this were not so then many people who
    are cognitively “developmentally challenged” would not be able to
    receive the gift of faith. Instead their faith often puts those of us
    gifted with an unusual ability to reason analytically to shame in the
    faith department.
    A healthy, balanced faith requires right-brained
    intuitive romantics to “ascend from the heart to the head”; but a
    left-brained rationalist needs to “descend from the head to the heart.”

    The Mysteries of faith are
    like the sun, we cannot gaze directly into them; but they illuminate all else.
    -Orthodox Churches of the East, Apophatic Tradition

    The mysteries of faith are degraded if they are made into an
    object of affirmation and negation, when in reality they should be an
    object of contemplation.

    “My good children, a theologian is
    one who converses with God and not one who studies theology.” – Elder
    Ephraim of Katounakia

  • Realist1234

    I tend to think it is only unclear to those who don’t want to believe it, for whatever reason. But no doubt you’ll think me arrogant to say that.

  • John Skogstoe

    Do you not see a direct contradiction between #4 and #2? In #4 you say following Jesus means we’ll stop doing sin but in #2 you confess to continuing to sin. To me, the difference is what’s in our hearts and no one but God can judge that.

  • AtalantaBethulia

    Re: “As much as I love being a progressive, anything that leaves out the truth that we’re invited to follow Jesus and change our behavior as a result, will completely lose me.”

    Which Progressive Communities do you think do this? Because I’m not sure to whom you are referring. Any examples?

  • Guest

    Not arrogant, just unaware or in denial about what the Bible actually is and what’s in it.

  • DonnaC-NJ

    Ah [breathing a sigh of relief]… glad I’m not the only one. Thanks!

  • ChuckQueen101

    Not arrogant, just unaware or in denial about what is actually in the Bible and the Bible is.

  • ChuckQueen101

    But participation is not substitution. Your redefining of substitution would not fly in evangelical circles. Jesus didn’t die in my place. One could say that on our behalf God in Jesus identifies with suffering humanity, but that’s not substitution in the way that evangelicals use the term. Observe how some of the evangelicals have commented on this post thinking Ben accepts their understanding of atonement, which Ben does not. Substitution is simply a poor way to talk about the saving value of Jesus’ death and it leads to misunderstanding because of what evangelicals mean when they employ it. Anyone who attempts to redefine it will make no dent in a century of Christian fundamentalism and evangelicalism that has given substitution a very definite meaning. My point here is that Ben needs to choose his words more carefully, unless I am misreading his comments and he really does accept the evangelical version of substitution. (See comments I made to Ben below about “participation” and Chistus Victor not being substitution)

  • ChuckQueen101

    See my comments to Richard above. Substitution is a poor, misleading way to talk about Christus Victor and its implications. I would add that what Christ did he couldn’t do for himself. He was empowered by the Spirit/the Divine and that Divine Vision, inspiration, enlightenment, etc, enabled him to give himself radically and sacrificially to God’s cause (the kingdom of God) that led to his death at the hands of the Powers. The powers killed Jesus, not God. That same Spirit/Divine Reality (which we now call the living Christ – this is metaphorical, not literal) is at work in us and through which we “live as Christ.” We participate in Christ’s power, love, etc and we conform to his pattern (death and resurrection) – death to the false self/ego/sin in order to “walk in the Spirit.” There is no legal, judicial transfer of guilt which is at the heart of the evangelical doctrine of substitution. Please drop the word substitution.

  • ChuckQueen101

    yes and no.

  • Completely voluntary it seems. They came to it by way of mutual consensus. Some will point out God’s judgement on the couple for withholding the proceeds of the sale of their property but if we look closely they were judged for lying, not withholding, and Peter even said, “Wasn’t that money in your control to do what you wanted with it? Why did you lie to the Holy Spirit?” That phrase tells me they could have kept their money if they had just been honest about it. Try doing that in a socialist economy.

  • Christine Mitchell

    And this discussion is exactly why I get a big knot of anxiety when I think of going back to church. Everyone has their own interpretation of scripture, whether you admit it or not, and everyone can’t be right. I don’t want to be convinced by anyone about what the bible means, I want to know God, and I think there’s a difference in the two.

    So I leave my public Christianity at God loves me, Jesus saved me, how can I love my neighbor. My private Christianity is being taught by the holy spirit, and what he teaches me isn’t law for you. Love is the only law we need. Do you think the church would be radically different in unity if we all just loved and shut up about what we think the bible means?

  • I love what you wrote, particularly “I leave my public Christianity at God loves me, Jesus saved me, how can I love my neighbor. My private Christianity is being taught by the holy spirit, and what he teaches me isn’t law for you.” Bravo! However, I have to question how much better the Church would be “if we all just loved and shut up about what we think the bible means”. The gospel has elements that cannot be left out; otherwise, we are presenting a different gospel to the world “which is no gospel at all” (Galatians 1:7). The lost need the whole gospel, including the prickly parts. Those within the Church are particularly in need of clear teaching.Of course there are going to be disagreements about exactly what that looks like, but the American Church is engaged in a crucial struggle here. What is at stake is the truth of Scripture. So love, although it is the highest part of the gospel, isn’t all the gospel. We really do have to answer questions about morality, sexuality, holiness and God’s expectations of his people. If we’re ignoring those questions, we’re just taking spiritual Prozac.

  • Great article! I’m sure it’s no surprise to hear praise from me on this particular offering given my leanings, but this really was a nuanced, well-written piece. A pleasure to read.

  • yhoshua

    All of those references you quote communicate that God, by His mercy and sacrifice, is currently in the process of “making all things new”- but they do not insinuate that we currently are “divine” and not in need of salvation.

    Scripture and orthodox Christianity purports that we were created in God’s image, then fell. God came and provided a way to escape our fallen nature, but the process isn’t over until the end of the age. We are not “divine” in the sense of “perfection” or being equal with God. We are utterly dependent upon His grace and completely incapable of saving ourselves.

    So if by “divine” you mean “made in God’s image”, then yes and if by being “gods” you mean “having authority over something” then yes. But scripture makes it clear that many “divine” people will not enter heaven due to the fact that they rejected Christ. Also note that lumps of wood and stone were also called “gods” in scripture, so it’s hardly a term that communicates equivalence to the Great I Am.

  • Thank you so much for this (along with 5 Reasons Why American Evangelicalism Completely Lost Me). I thought I was a lone Yeti being damned as an equal opportunity “ism” avoider in favor of unwavering loyalty to Jesus alone. Some pretty heinous comments on here…worse than many I’ve seen from fundamentalists, and I’ve seen so many in my 20 years of ministry. We got lumped in and labeled as “emergent” and “progressive” when we planted Four Creeks Church. Didn’t mind the label. Some of it was actually deserved, but the exact points you articulated so well here never were our jam and never will be. Please keep it up. I know how lonely it can be to have such a wide (and vocal and at times cruel) readership and next to zero physical friends up close. These two posts have been exceedingly encouraging to me.

  • Don Sbragia

    You’ve just lost the right to call yourself a Progressive Christian. Just kidding. ;-)

  • Realist1234

    Why would you choose to call God ‘She’ when Jesus referred to the Father? Do you know better than Jesus?

  • we?

  • Ron Wilson

    Mr. Corey has (attempted to place me in his penalty box for describing God in vivid, non-patriarchal ways once before, so I don’t know if you’ll get this or not!

    If you do, 3 brief responses.

    1. The personal name for God that Jesus used was “Abba.” in Aramaic, this word can be used for Mothers as well as Fathers. Aramaic also has a dedicated personal word for “Mother,” “Amma.” If you’ve ever heard Aramaic you can hear how closely related Abba & Amma are. Jesus was an oral teacher and played with words all the time, in order to show us God’s expansive, boundary annihilating-Nature- so it’s not unreasonable he did so with “Abba/Amma” during his ministry.

    2. The Bible contains a small selection of versus that describe God as Mother and female, though this selection is dwarfed by the frequency of masculine references. The Bible was written in patriarchal civilizations and sometimes reflects the prejudices of its authors. When as Christians we read the Bible in light of Jesus’ emphasis on compassion, a Divine attribute typically and historically associated with women, we can easily see how God can be Mother too.

    3. Jesus was a mystic. Christian and Jewish mysticism begin with the basic outline of the Biblical stories but don’t stop at the literal level of the Bible’s text. Through dedicated practice within community, or sometimes through years of solitude (like Jesus who spent a lot of time in the desert and wilderness) Christian and Jewish mystics have experienced that God is Mother as well as Father. One excellent written source from the Christian tradition to see this is Julian of Norwhich.

    Though God is our Mother and Father, ultimately, mystics and (many very smart theologians) also say that God, in the final analysis, has no gender.

    Hope this helps, and blessing on your faith journey,

    Josh

  • Glad it encouraged you, Jennifer! Have a great weekend.

  • I’ve referred to God in the feminine, right here on this blog, so either you’re slandering or totally losing track of what sites you comment on.

  • I just wrote this article, I may be a Progressive Christian. http://www.christianfreak.com/2014/12/a-christian-moderate-neither-left-nor-right/ I definitely feel like I don’t fit any mold, just like you said.

  • AntiquityNow

    What the vast majority of Progressive Christians fail to understand about the Acts verse is that it had nothing to do with the Roman government. It was a voluntary description and has clear implications for contemporary association. Mark 12:17 is more apt to this question: Jesus said, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.”

    Confusing God’s work with Caesar’s is a hallmark of modern Progressivism. If anyone dare suggest we can do good works without the secular government, it is tantamount to heresy on the Progressive Left. This is a major fault line in our political system where well-intentioned people are demonized for either advocating for or against secular government action to address social issues the Bible commands us to address.

  • Guest

    LOL! That was a good laugh reading. I am a fool for thinking it was going to have something to do with Christ.

  • rob

    so unitarianism…

  • yes & no? what is yes is a shade of grey, what is no: a different shade of grade?

  • No, not a reach at all. The early church functioned on a small scale very much the way a small government would. The question of voluntary is quite interesting- would one really have the option of joining the church but not holding all their property as community property? Not really. This would be like someone joining a church where everyone wears orange on Sundays, but insisting they’ll wear blue– sure, wearing orange is “voluntary” to some degree, but not if one truly wants to join the group. Or, look at the Simple Way in PA who live like the early church- is one free to show up and join but not hold their property in community? Can’t imagine so. This makes it far closer to a small scale system of government that most American Christians would hate. I can’t imagine many American Christians would have became Christians 2000 years ago, because the expectation would have been that they treat their property as community property, and they would not have been accepted by the group if they refused.

    The problem I have with these discussions (in general) is many Christians dismiss the early church as “voluntary” which isn’t entirely accurate when one studies group dynamics. They often do so to support our system, which may have some good points, but is deeply flawed.

    If Christians would give radically and eradicate poverty as God commanded his people do (and as the early church did) we wouldn’t need government to step in. It’s exhausting to listen to a constant critique from Christians who probably give very little to the poor, but yet have the audacity to criticize the government for doing what they are unwilling to do.

  • Christine Mitchell

    Again this shows how different Christians who love the Lord come to different conclusions about what is needed by the fellowship and by unbelievers, and why love IS all we need. Jesus asked “do you believe?”. Jesus is the gospel (the word made flesh) that doesn’t need interpretation, just faith. Love is the Spirit that needs no interpretation. When we start on doctrine, on what one “must” believe, I can see plainly that the “church” has gone wildly astray.

    Who should the unbeliever believe? The Baptists? The Catholics? The Methodists? The snake handlers? The Presbyterians? Our message is not consistent, but if we did what Jesus said, and loved God and loved one another as we love ourselves, consistently, unbelievers could understand that gospel. They could believe that Jesus changes people. But we are not, by and large, that changed, loving body that is supposed to be a witness to the world.

    You said “The lost need the whole gospel, including the prickly parts”. How do children get saved? How do illiterates get saved? How do mentally challenged get saved? How did the church survive a couple of thousand years where most believers never had a bible, nor could they read one if they did?

    Your thinking is very Western, very educated. And this is brought into the church, adding, I believe, to the gospel. The prickly parts are the job of the Holy Spirit to teach us as he will, if he will. If a Christian wants to study this, and I have, good for them! It has nothing to do with how the church is to present itself to the world, which is brothers and sisters living in love.

    “Ye search the scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life, but you will not come to me” was Jesus condemnation of the learned of his day. I think this still holds true.

  • Never met a single person in my life who thought the description of the church in Acts was a description of the Roman government.

    I’ve also never heard a single progressive call private charity heresy, so both accusations (and the third) are a bit outlandish.

  • Herm

    AntiquityNow,

    You seem so close to blasphemy of the Holy Spirit plus a few more acts of judgment we’ve all been warned against, good thing I’m not qualified to be the Judge. There was nothing even close to “voluntary” amongst “the whole group of those who believed” who were united of one heart and soul. All believers were convicted, coordinated and governed as one community by one bonding Spirit.

    Read “the Acts verse” again:

    For in this city, in fact, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. And now, Lord, look at their threats, and grant to your servants to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” When they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness. Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. Acts 4:27-35

    You speak as if Jesus is not your “contemporary association” as the Lord and yet you simultaneously speak as a certain authority relative to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I testify that there really is a Holy Spirit who does fill and unite all hearts, souls, strengths and minds of those who believe in the will of the Father. The will of the Father is that all He has abundantly graced us as mankind is distributed to each as any has need. The love of our Lord God, merciful neighbor, self, and enemy precludes any desire for coveting and hoarding. It is those who must protect their stash which require law other than love be legislated, administered and enforced by secular government. Those who trust the Father to provide are secure with the benevolent coordinating management of Jesus our Lord and Judge.

    I know this is dynamically so in my life, my heart and my mind. I pray that this may become equally so for you, also. Love you!

  • Barry Chitwood

    I am with you, Benjamin.

  • The Church.

  • Funny that you say that, when Josh himself claimed the title of Unitarian Universalist.

  • You’re talking about two different things: Christianity and the American Church. The American Church, as you mentioned, is political, bitterly divided, often unloving, and distracted. This is the mess that men have made of the religion. Regrettable but inevitable if we’re to have a collective body of believers (which the Bible actually commands: Hebrews 10:25). Christianity, on the other hand, is what Jesus began with his earthly ministry, crucifixion and resurrection. It is more than just the Savior holding out his hands in love — unless you believe that the rest of the New Testament is tripe. Nine of the 10 Commandments are reiterated in the NT, along with many other commands, which all make up the doctrines we are expected to live by. It starts with accepting the love of Jesus, but that isn’t enough to make any meaningful difference in individual lives and the world. That’s why the rest of the Bible was written. Jesus said, “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).

    I’m not saying the Church should be judgmental or harsh; just adhere to Scripture, which the American Church has stopped doing in a big way. There is little discussion these days of sin, the coming judgment, and the need for holiness. These have to be part of the message of the gospel. Your idea of Christians educating themselves on Scripture and coming to maturity without any teaching and guidance from others doesn’t work. That is why the American Church is in such a mess. You’ve got millions of Christians in their own free-floating bubbles, doing their own thing, and most not even knowing what their own holy book has to say about how God expects them to live. It’s no wonder we have so many problems.

    The way America does church these days is entirely new. We have departed from an ancient way by which people matured in mentor-protege relationships. People need everything they can get to overcome their fallen natures: Jesus, the Bible, prayer — and accountability. I’m glad you read the Bible. You should check out what it has to say about all this. Here is one Scripture I can give you off the top. Galatians 6:1: “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.” That’s real Christianity.

  • I see how Dr. Dee Tee’s comments could be seen as high-handed. However, the fact remains that most ideas that have crept into the American Church over the last 50 years have no Scriptural basis and do not stand alone — they are merely a rejection of Christian orthodoxy.

    You wrote, “God doesn’t change, but our attempts at better understanding Him can and do.” Great! But we are largely failing to use the single greatest resource at our disposal — God’s Word. Today’s version of “seeking to understand God better” is usually short on the Bible and long on nebulous, self-styled church fads. Certainly there were problems in the Church that needed to be addressed, but we managed to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

  • Bishop Spong used his ecclesiastical position to publicly deny the Deity of Christ, and he made many other abominable statements that directly contradict Scripture. His teachings don’t belong in any sincere discussion about Christianity.

  • Mr. Corey’s writing doesn’t display contempt; yours does. It’s obvious you’re angry about abuses you have endured or witnessed, and you’re blaming Jesus instead of the people who are responsible — hence your contempt.

  • The Broncos provide tangible, material evidence of their existence. There are many other types of evidence. What we find is usually what we’re looking for.

  • Jennifer Gorman

    I just read both of your articles, the one on evangelicals and the one on progressives, and they are both so very thought provoking. Both sides need to look at themselves clearly in the eyes of outsiders, and in the eyes of Jesus, and see the ways they need to change. I became a new Christian, a Mennonite, in the late 80’s. In 1990 I got married, and Evangelical Christians had a huge marketing thing going everywhere I looked, and I fell for it in every aspect of my life, wanting to be the Proverbs 31 woman, which hurt my marriage more than helped, and ruining my beautiful cherished friendship with my lesbian best friend. On the other side, there were Progressive Christians in my adult sunday school class that were a little too free and questioning of the Bible, not taking it seriously enough, at a time when I needed a strong rock like faith in it most of all. It has taken a good 20 years to come out of that, without losing my faith, without losing any relationship with Jesus, not to use their language. If anything I have now come full circle, at 48, and have come back to myself, and my faith and my determination to follow and love Jesus is stronger than ever. My eyes are more clear. I am reading the Bible with fresh eyes, reading more things from writers on interpretation, and learning more and more all the time. And I am speaking my mind more and more, especially when I feel there is a wrong being done, or a belief that needs to be challenged. My heart is hurting more and more these days for those who are hurting, especially those who want to be welcomed by the church and don’t feel that, and those hurt by war.

  • David William Sheridan

    Jesus was a VERY conservative Jew.

  • Katie Maver

    Hi. Just came upon your blog via facebook. I’m a progressive Christian. I’m a UCC pastor. I’m not sure what you mean by “need to be saved”–if you’re talking from your fundamentalist past about the need to “pray the sinner’s prayer” or something else. I think many of us need to be saved, but I would fall in the ‘something else’ category. Also, I wonder about what you mean by “traditional exegesis.” To whose “hermeneutics” do you subscribe? I take scripture very, very seriously, but I don’t take it very literally. I don’t think we can really say, with any sort of certainty, that Jesus himself had substitutionary atonement in mind when he was hung on the cross. That is one theological understanding of the cross (the one that Paul and the writers of several NT letters ran with), but there are other ways to understand Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection. Does following Jesus change lives? Yes. Repenting, metanoia, matters. Does practicing faith in Christian community change lives? Yes. I agree with you on that score.

  • Katie Maver

    Best answer I can give as to why we call this “Progressive Christian” and not just “Christian” is that we acknowledge that there are many Christians do not question tradition. There are many Christians who do not value human diversity. There are many Christians who are not interested in stewardship of the earth, and who tend to think that the poor deserve their poverty, and therefore are unwilling to assist them. The central tenet for Progressive Christians is not necessarily on substitutionary atonement or personal salvation, as it is for evangelical or fundamentalist Christians. The central tenet in Progressive Christianity tends to be on following Jesus example and living by his teachings. So, Progressive Christians use the term to distinguish their beliefs and practices from those of Christians whose faith concerns are otherwise focused. Hope that helps.

  • Katie Maver

    Obviously, I don’t know you at all, but from reading this, it seems like you are one of the many people who are dissatisfied with conservative evangelical Christianity, but have not yet landed in a new place. I mean, if you REALLY need a label, it seems like the whole “emergent church” thing may be more to your liking.

  • Roger Morris

    It is precisely because of the insipid, woolly nature of “Progressive Christianity” that I slid right past it, without stopping, on my journey from conservative evangelical Christian to skeptic. I figured if you are ashamed of being on the “team”, it’s best just to completely leave the team altogether.

  • Dana Franchitto

    I’m a misanthrope butthe whole “originalsin” narrative taken as history was one of many reasons why I am no longer a “christian”.

  • Benjamin said: “If one is going to put forward an alternate understanding of a passage– especially if such an understanding is in disagreement with historic interpretations– one must put forward legitimate exegetical and theological reasons why their understanding is the better one.”

    The problem is that theism lacks an epistemology; that is, there is no procedure for resolving conflicting claims (unlike science, say, in which conflicts are resolved via experiment). To demonstrate this fact just observe that there are thousands of different Christian sects, none of whom agree on what is “true”. Even Benjamin himself identifies as an “Anabaptist” Christian. If it were as simple as proffering a “proof text” or some such, then no such qualification would be necessary.

    You can see the problem in the sentence I quoted above, which requires that only “legitimate” reasons can be put forward — but this just means you can reject any interpretation different from yours, because it’s “not legitimate”, hence your own preferred interpretation is unfalsifiable.

  • SmoovP

    I agree. In point #3 he says that the Bible isn’t the 4th member of the Godhead, but goes on to say everything has to be rooted in scripture.

    It looks like he simply disagrees with the Biblical interpretation of Evangelical Fundamentalism, but not the platform it’s built on.

  • SmoovP

    For me, I believe that the Great Commission is fulfilled in how we live our lives. Honest and open about what we believe, but not to the point that we beat people into submission or force our beliefs on anyone else.

    It’s the principle of promotion by attraction rather than the hard sell.

  • SmoovP

    He didn’t call you a fundamentalist. He labeled you a conservative Christian. Those are two very different things.

    You may not be a fundamentalist anymore, but you haven’t completed the journey to progressive yet, either.

    The problem with making labels and definitions about what we are and are not, is that we have to defend them once we do. And once we start defending our definition, we are in opposition and conflict.

    If you want to label me it would be something like “That guy who was raised as a fundamentalist Baptist, was baptized as a Lutheran and now attends the Episcopal church but is probably a Quaker at heart and does his best to follow the teachings of Jesus but has reservations about the Divinity of Christ, doesn’t believe in Sola scriptura and believes that the Kingdom of Heaven is open to people of all faiths”.

    That’s a pretty big mouthful, so I just call myself Christian.

  • BrinKennedy

    I’m fairly new to this side of Christianity (so to speak), but so far, I haven’t seen that many throwing out the Bible in their search of a better understanding, of a more meaningful relationship with God.

    Rather, I feel like Progressive Christians are more likely to look at the Bible with open minds and hearts (this is generally speaking, of course). We can’t throw out the Bible, but we can’t forget that it has been translated and edited countless times. And understanding the original languages is a skill that most of us lack, prompting discussion and debate regarding key words.

    There’s throwing the baby out with the bathwater (which again, I don’t really see anyone in particular doing), but there’s also claiming the baby is illegitimate. I don’t expect every single person to agree with every single belief that someone else holds, but I wish there were more respect for each other. I am currently reevaluating what exactly my faith entails, and it kills me to come to a place where I should feel welcome, just to find someone saying my faith (and that of others) is satanic, rather that what it is – an earnest desire to better understand the One who made me, the One who sustains me.

  • the church?

  • kimc

    There weren’t any democracies in Jesus’ time. In a democracy, the government is by, for, and of the People: that means when the government gives charity it IS us giving charity. It is simply the way we have chosen to do it: communally. I think Jesus would like the idea.

  • kimc

    Ben — Where in scripture does it talk about original sin? (a question, not a challenge.)

  • Katie Maver

    I’m a progressive, and I don’t feel like I’m particularly exclusionary or prejudiced. I went to seminary with some excessively smug progressives, but most are very welcoming people. Returning smugness for smugness does not move the ball down the field, does it?

  • Katie Maver

    Who broke the law on a regular basis.

  • Katie Maver

    Talk about labeling! Your definition of “Christian,” David, differs from Josh’s. He reads the same Bible as you do, but, reading that same Bible, he understands God’s activity in the world in a different way than you do. Maybe, rather than labeling, you could ask Josh questions, like, “How did you reach those conclusions?” Maybe you could learn something from Josh’s definition

  • Katie Maver

    David, I think the central belief and tenets of Christianity is to love God and love one another, so, really, what’s your beef? I am assuming you are an evangelical or conservative Christian of some sort. If I am not right about that, I would be interested in hearing what you think the central beliefs and tenets are. Not every faithful Christian agrees with the conservative Christian/evangelical perspective on the faith. Progressive Christians pay a lot more attention to historical-critical methods of biblical interpretation, which do not necessarily lead to evangelical conclusions about who Jesus was. So, no, I summarily deny your tendency to think you have a greater claim to Christianity’s “central beliefs and tenets” than Josh or I do. Christianity is a very old faith, with many, many expressions, the greatest of which is that we love God and love one another. That’s the yardstick by which we need to be measuring our faith.

  • bluebayou3

    Ben, your blog is refreshing…and I do find myself in the same tough spot, sometimes. I no longer automatically consider evangelicals to be Christians, even though I used to think of myself as one. Evangelicalism has become corrupted with money love, and Ayn Rand’s “objectivism”. Some, like John Hagee, have begun (predictably) to brazenly deny the full Messiahship of Christ. I can’t stand the horrible Israel worship, the blood lust and love of weapons and violence. There was a shoot-out in a church last week!!! God’s house of prayer!!! (By the way…you’re an Anabaptist? Anabaptist congregations still exist? I know a Gordon-Conwell graduate, and I used to live in Beverly Farms, Mass…small world. There’s a Gordon-Conwell here where I live now.)

  • Katie Maver

    I’m a Christian. I follow Jesus’ example and instruction, as best as I can, however imperfectly. That’s what Jesus asked us to do. I try to love people. Frankly, on this thread I see a ton of very unloving, vindictive statements about who is “in” and who is “out”. Lots of noisy gongs and banging cymbals here. Lots of raging, angry, unreflective theologizing, but not much living by the Spirit. I think Josh is exactly on point when he talks about David’s fear. That fear is bringing up all kinds of nastiness on this thread. Wonder what Jesus would think.

  • Katie Maver

    Josh, I completely agree with you. It is my goal as a pastor to offer that safe space.

  • Katie Maver

    What makes you think progressive exegesis is dishonest? I work pretty hard at exegeting scripture each week, and I’m a progressive. I kind of wonder what your understanding of exegesis is.

  • yhoshua

    I don’t see how it is either “vindictive” or unChrist-like to point out a goat who thinks they’re a sheep. Jesus did so on several occasions and there are multiple warnings and instruction for the church to do so in the NT. Nothing I said was mean-spirited, just factual. As far as I can tell, the only person who has been less than pleasant is Josh himself. Don’t confuse biblical love for politically correct “tolerance”- the former states the truth even when uncomfortable while the latter ignores truth in favor of comfort.

  • Quek

    I like how much a progressive christian can hate. Above all I enjoy that the most. The seething hatred they have for the right. The absolute righteousness of the hate is just perfect. The focus they have on berating and insulting all other Christians and continuously making them the focus of their religion. Its fantastic. Please. Feel free to go back and read years of “progressive Christian” literature and see how often they talk about their superiority over others. Please, feel free to prove me wrong.

  • It is, for sure. The issue I see, is that the emergent label somehow over time got absorbed by the broader progressive label. I’d like to see emergent reemerge (that was ironic) as it’s own distinct label.

  • Well, it all depends on one’s understanding of it. My main contention is simply that we all sin, and obviously have a propensity towards sin, however one chooses to describe it. However, I’d probably cite Romans 5:12 as a decent starting point:

    “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death
    through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all
    sinned”

    or, Romans 3:23:

    “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.”

  • Katie Maver

    First of all, your goat comment is completely out of context, as, in Jesus’ view (Matthew 25:31-46), a “goat” is someone who does nothing in the face of injustice. Ironically, Progressive Christians do value social justice work as a basic tenet of faith. Using the sheep and goats argument as a basis for who does or does not “deserve” the moniker ‘Christian” would mean that a whole lot of Progressives are not “goats,” but, indeed, “sheep.” However, the last time I checked the scriptures, this isn’t about “deserving”. It’s about following. It’s about loving. I think we can agree on that. Anyway, maybe you could leave the name-calling to Jesus. He actually has the credentials to tell the difference between a sheep and a goat. MIght be a good spiritual exercise for you to start looking at your own motives and reasons for needing to classify a human being as a “goat.” Doing so is hardly complimentary. At the very least, your name-calling is intolerant and divisive. I don’t see a lot of God’s Spirit in many of these comments. I do see a lot of attachment to Law.

  • Katie Maver

    The Churches are definitely in flux right now. When I was in seminary years ago, there was much talk about the paradigm shift. I think that shift is still very much in process, which means, for awhile, many evangelicals who have become uncomfortable with parts of evangelical theology will be in a sort of Babylonian exile. You may not have an institutional/theological “address” for yourself right now, but you certainly have the freedom to enjoy the challenges and delights of uncovering the path of faith God has for you. I smiled when I read you recommended some of Lee Strobel’s books. Lee grew up just a few blocks from me, and I had the pleasure of knowing him and Mark Mittelberg while they were at Willow Creek. Delightful guys.

  • yhoshua

    My use of sheep and goats has nothing to do with name calling nor was it meant to be insultung in any way. Being called a sheep is hardly any more flattering, lol. It is a valid biblical metaphor however, which is why I used it. You can just as easily use wheat and tares if you prefer.

    You’re right that it’s not about who “deserves” the term of Christian though as it’s not a title given or honor bestowed, it’s a term used of those who claim Jesus as the Messiah and follow him as such. As Josh does *not* believe Jesus is the Messiah, but merely respects him as a historical figure and teacher, he is by definition not a Christian. Muslims respect Jesus as a historical figure as well, but deny His deity and His death and sacrifice- essentially what Josh believes. Are Muslims Christians too? Many other religions claim Jesus as a figure in their beliefs as well, but they all deny His deity, death and sacrifice. They do not believe in Jesus as the Messiah foretold by the Jewish prophets. Are they all Christians too?

    You see, there are real definitions of terms and they can’t just be rewritten, revised or redefined willy-nilly. I have no ill feelings toward Josh, I was simply pointing out that what he believes is not the Gospel- he believes in a different Jesus and a different theology than the one presented in scripture.

  • Ed Eleazer

    Why does it matter what we Christians can and cannot accept about each other? That discussion yields nothing more than temporal foolishness. In the end, it will be only how each of us reacted to the call given to us individually that will matter. The rest is mere tribalism, a sad commentary on the fact that humans don’t feel safe unless they are in homogeneous groups.

  • Katie Maver

    And what you have just written is what makes you an evangelical Christian. And what I wrote is what makes me a Progressive Christian. But I am still very much a Christian. We read the same Bible, but we see a very different Gospel. I, and millions of other Christians, simply have a different understanding of Scripture than evangelicals have. It is an understanding that you reject for yourself. But Christianity covers a lot of waterfront. Evangelicals don’t own Christianity. Evangelicals simply occupy a part of the beach, just as others live on other parts of the beach. God is ‘way bigger than either of us, and I honestly think God laughs at some of these crazy theological goose chases we send ourselves on in the name of doctrinal purity. Jesus pretty much came to do away with doctrinal purity and to just get us to love God and to love one another. <–this is the progressive Christian in me coming out!

  • Danny

    Not seeing anything that is progressive here as much as traditional evangelicalism.

  • Katie Maver

    I did respond to this, but the response seems to be to lost in the Internet ether, so I’ll have another go at it. Your response indicates that you are an evangelical Christian. I am a progressive Christian. The Jesus I follow is definitely the one presented in scripture. We both read the Bible, and we come to different conclusions as to what it says about what the Gospel is. I am a Christian. Along with millions of other Christians, I do not subscribe to the evangelical interpretation of terms as the “real definition” of Christianity. The Christian faith covers a lot of waterfront. Evangelicals do not occupy all of the waterfront. They occupy only a part of the beach, just as Progressives, Mainline Liberals, Orthodox, Coptic, etc, occupy other parts of the beach. I think God laughs at these complicated, doctrinal, how-many-angels-dance-on-the-head-of-a-pin arguments. They detract from the fact that this really is a faith about love of God and neighbor, not a bunch of intellectual acid tests about who is in or out of God’s realm. And that last sentence, it is true, is spoken like a Progressive Christian. It is who I am. This argument of “some have the right interpretation and some don’t” goes all the way back to Jesus. The Samaritans had it wrong, according to the Jews of Jesus day. The Gentiles had it wrong according to the Jewish Christians of Paul’s day. And in each case, Scripture suggests the doctrinal arguments miss the point. It really is about love of God and love of one’s neighbor. Not about any ecclesiastically prescribed ideas of who is saved and who isn’t.

  • Helm Thomas

    Me too. Though not as a pastor, just as a facilitator of a small Christian circle.

    All my Love- J

  • rrhersh

    Just look at the categories Patheos uses for the blogs. Christendom is divided into four categories: Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Evangelical, or Progressive (or five categories, depending on how you feel about Mormonism). This is peculiar in many ways. Even before the Reformation, Catholic and Orthodox weren’t all there was out there, but being Anglocentric is understandable.

    But where would, for example, a conservative Missouri-Synod (to say nothing of Wisconsin Synod) Lutheran fall in this? Certainly not Evangelical, and certainly not Progressive. The taxonomy simply doesn’t take this possibility into account.

    I am a cradle Lutheran, but ELCA (via LCA). I am comfortable with the Progressive label, but in many ways have more theologically in common with a Missouri Lutheran than a Progressive coming from an Evangelical background. The language and thought processes of Lutheranism are the water I swim in: Augsburg Confession, Grace and Law, Two Kingdoms, etc. Even as I come to different conclusions than do my Missouri brethren, we speak the same language

    It looks to me like the confusion or disagreement in this conversation is the result of poorly considered taxonomy. By background I am something different from a Progressive of Evangelical background. This is neither a good thing nor a bad thing. But when we attach the same label to both groups and find ourselves talking past each other, wackiness can ensue.

  • yhoshua

    Except that Coptic Christians, Orthodox Christians, Liberal Christians and even Catholic Christians *all* believe that Jesus was God incarnate who came and died for our sins in order to redeem mankind and they *all* agree that Jesus is the only way to the Father- just as Jesus claimed. Yes, there are many “streams” of Christianity and they differ in doctrine and practice, but they can all be called “Christian” because they hold the central tenet of who Jesus said He was and why He came.

    You’re comparing the fairly minor doctrinal differences within Christian denominations to the major theological differences between Christianity and Progressive Christianity. The former is like variation within a species, the latter is an entirely different species.

    But “Progressive Christianity” is a known and defined term- I’m not saying that you (or Josh) can’t use it. But Progressive Christianity is not historical Christianity- it is something else entirely. It shares some philosophy with historical Christianity, but it is completely different in its theology. So you can interpret, edit or ignore as much of scripture as you want, but my issue with Josh was him using the term “Christian”, not “Progressive Christian” as his beliefs in no way line up with historical, orthodox Christianity- whether it be Catholic, Coptic, Orthodox, Evangelical or other.

    “I think God laughs at these complicated, doctrinal, how-many-angels-dance-on-the-head-of-a-pin arguments. They detract from the fact that this really is a faith about love of God and neighbor, not a bunch of intellectual acid tests about who is in or out of God’s realm.”

    This is, and has always been, a faith in Jesus as the Messiah. This is not a trivial doctrinal issue, but the core of the religion. Without Jesus as God who died for us and the only way to the Father, there is no Christianity.

  • “e can’t throw out the Bible, but we can’t forget that it has been translated and edited countless times. And understanding the original languages is a skill that most of us lack, prompting discussion and debate regarding key words.” True. This all boils down to two main points: 1) If God is loving and all-powerful (and he is), he has and will bring his word intact into the hands of his people. As a corollary to this, he will lead each person who is willing and prayerful to the right church and expose him/her to the right teaching. Most of us need a bit of help with interpretation (that is what pastoral ministry is all about), but some people will learn Greek, Hebrew, hermeneutics for themselves. 2) No one is going to find the truth unless they are seeking it above all else — at the cost of all comfort and pleasure, if necessary. Most people are unwilling to do this and so seek to support their own preferences with self-styled interpretations of scripture.

  • Katie Maver

    Liberal Christians (mainline, progressive, protestant, catholic, or what-have-you) don’t necessarily buy into substitutionary atonement, and they certainly don’t think that “Jesus is the only way to the Father.” Again: You don’t have any copyright on who can and can’t claim to be Christian. I know it would be so much easier for evangelicals if they had that copyright, and could just shut down us upstarts, but, sorry. The orthodox Christians (and I speak of “orthodox” with a small “o”–not necessarily the Orthodox denominations) who lived before the Enlightenment had a terrible habit of burning those who held alternative views at the stake, so, please don’t be too proud of the shining record of Christian orthodoxy to protect and preserve your particular version of the faith. If you examined the history of Christianity a bit more closely, you’d find that that record is not as pristine as it may seem. Anyway, those of us who embrace post-Enlightenment methods of Biblical Interpretation are still Christians. We have a more poetic and literary understanding of the Bible. We don’t read it as any sort of unbiased, unblemished history book. We see it as a collection of accounts of faith that take in the broad swath of the human struggle to come to terms with the infinite. We do this in the context of the stories of Ancient Hebrews, the exiled and returned Jews, and the stories of Jesus and his earliest followers. We take into account literary, philosophical, archaeological, cultural and sociological shifts that have transpired since the time of Jesus. If you want to understand Progressive Christianity (I[m sure that if you are engaging with Progressives on this site, that you DO want to understand us, don’t you?), I recommend you read Marcus Borg’s book, “Convictions.” If we’re going to be good neighbors on the waterfront of Christianity, maybe you could learn something about us rather than just disparaging our practice of Christianity. I am very familiar with Evangelicalism, as I went to an Evangelical College and attended Evangelical churches for many years. I even wrote features for the Christian Research Journal for a time.

    On another point, I disagree with your suggestion that the issue of Samaritans was some minor theological difference among Palestinian Jews of the first century, If that’s what you think, you are incorrect This was a HUGE deal back then. The Samaritans were anathema to the Jews who worshipped in Jerusalem because the Samaritan worship practice at Mr. Gerazim was completely and utterly “un-Jewish.” Yes, even though both groups had the same Mosaic heritage, worshipping at the wrong mountain made the Samaritans second-class citizens in the view of the Jews. And if you think for an instant that circumcision of adult Gentiles was any less a huge deal, you would also be wrong. The entire identity of the early church shifted when Paul determined that Levitical codes no longer applied to Christians. It was a total and utter sea-change in the way early Christianity was lived out.

  • Katie Maver

    I appreciate the struggle with labels. I am not so sure that the problem is poorly considered taxonomy. I think it has more to do with whether a taxonomy that is different from one’s own should still be considered a legitimate expression of Christianity.

  • Terri Knoll

    thanks for the tip. I will read Tim. I’m in that middle road too but more on the heretical side because I don’t support Israel. Toss that in with progressiveness and ya may have well just started worshiping the devil. :)

  • Terri Knoll

    I’m with you there. I was raised very conservative evangelical and was exactly that. beating people over the head with the Bible that I really didn’t actually read. what a horrible thing to do to a child. I love Jesus so much I want EVERYONE to know him, but I want them to come to him because HE called them, and they fall in love that way, not because I damned them to hell.

  • yhoshua

    “Again: You don’t have any copyright on who can and can’t claim to be Christian. I know it would be so much easier for evangelicals if they had that copyright, and could just shut down us upstarts, but, sorry.”

    No I don’t- only historically accurate definitions, orthodoxy and tradition. You’re more than welcome to begin or join any “upstart” religion or cult you please. The only issue I take with yours is the terminology confusion it brings with it. If I call myself an atheist I shouldn’t have to clarify if I’m the kind that believes in god or not. If I call myself a Muslim I shouldn’t have to clarify if I’m the kind that believes Mohammed was the last prophet or not. So I’m of the opinion that if if I call myself a Christian, I shouldn’t have to clarify if I’m the kind that believes Jesus is the Messiah or not. But that’s just me- I recognize it’s just an opinion as well as my right to hold it.

    ” … so, please don’t be too proud of the shining record of Christian orthodoxy to protect and preserve your particular version of the faith. If you examined the history of Christianity a bit more closely, you’d find that that record is not as pristine as it may seem.”

    I’m well aware of the many atrocities committed by those professing to be Christians throughout history. I’m also aware of the many atrocities committed against those professing to be Christians throughout history. People do terrible things to each other and look to some exalted end to justify the means, whether it be politics or religion or some other platform. This reality only further confirms the orthodox Christian belief that man is fallen and in need of the Messiah though. My faith is not in the goodness of orthodox Christianity, but in the salvation that can only come through Jesus the Christ.

    “If we’re going to be good neighbors on the waterfront of Christianity, maybe you could learn something about us rather than just disparaging our practice of Christianity.”

    I’m familiar with Universalism, Gnosticism, New Age, Humanism and “therapeutic moralistic deism” as well as the social justice biblical values and historical-critical method which Progressive Christianity seems to focus on, so I’m not sure what more I would need to know.

    “On another point, I disagree with your suggestion that the issue of Samaritans was some minor theological difference…”

    I never made any such suggestion nor even mentioned this subject so I’ll bid you farewell. Enjoy your waterfront property.

  • Terri Knoll

    omg I love you lol

  • Carl Oscar Isaacson

    While I agree with BLC on several of the points, particularly the “policing” issue – I wonder about the “substitutionary atonement.” I don’t think it was part of early Christianity – certainly not the way it became in the medieval period. Yes Paul uses language that has been interpreted to fit, but the ideas of Gustaf Aulén do not invoke the kind of theory of atonement that evangelicalism requires. Aulén has done more for my understanding of death and resurrection than all the Thomistic or evangelical talk of paying a debt I owe.

  • coloradito

    Thanks for clarifying. All this time I thought the early Christians were moved by the Holy Spirit to share their possessions and put their life on the line by identifying with Christ when visiting imprisoned Christians. Instead it is refreshing to know that it was not true charity after all but simple peer pressure and “group dynamics”…

  • Katie Maver

    Well, actually it’s not my waterfront. It’s God’s. I just occupy a space here. Wishing you a more welcoming, tolerant heart. Have a great new year.

  • UnabashedlyChristian1

    Romans 13 New International Version (NIV)

    Submission to Governing Authorities

    1Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They
    are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.

    6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 7 Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

    Love Fulfills the Law

    8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

  • UnabashedlyChristian1

    You just hit the nail on the head!

  • Nancy Le

    Yes, I’m worried about some I know who are messing with #2. If I didn’t know the depth of my sin nature, I wouldn’t know the extreme peace of Christ that conquered it . . . for me.

  • BrinKennedy

    I can only assume that you’ve been around Progressive Christians far longer than I have so far (like I said, new around here lol), so it’s safe to assume that you’ve seen those who do tend to try to make Scripture fit their own views or do without when they can’t – but that can be said for most denominations, I would think.

    The most important thing (IMO) is that we as individuals continue to pursue a better relationship with God, and maybe even with our fellow Christians, even if we don’t agree with how they pursue Him. I can’t really speak to how Progressive Christians as a whole or individually present themselves, but when someone comes in and tells a group of people (that includes myself, I think) that their faith is not godly, but Satanic, I must firmly disagree and point out that it’s not that person’s place to judge another’s relationship to God. Especially when they claim their opinion to be fact. I don’t think God Himself lurks the comment sections under the handle Dr. Dee Tee, after all ;)

    But I’ll go back to being a mostly-silent observer now :) still trying to figure myself out here.

  • Realist1234

    Is your name Ron or Josh?! Mine is Peter, btw. Ill respond as follows-
    1. The personal word for mother in Aramaic is Imma, and I think its a stretch (and unwarranted) to assert that Abba, the child-like word for ‘daddy’ which Jesus used to address God the Father would have been confused with the female equivalent. Although Aramaic, Abba has crept into Hebrew, even though it generally would never have been used of God in Old Testament times due to its very personal nature. Though today it is often used between a Jewish son and his father as an intimate term of relationship – i recently watched a documentary about orthodox Jews in London and one scene recorded a telephone conversation between a young man and his father, and I heard ‘Abba’ being used a number of times.
    2. I agree that the Bible sometimes describes God in terms of female attributes, but that does not mean we should then call God ‘Mother’, as again I would ask why you would choose to ignore Jesus’ own personal term when talking to or about His Father. No doubt there was male prejudice then (as there continues to be now), but that is insufficient an argument for ignoring Jesus’ own words.
    3.Was Jesus a mystic? If anything, Jesus came to reveal God, rather than to contemplate the ‘hidden’ truth (the meaning of mysticism). There will always be a certain mystery about God, which none of us will fully understand this side of heaven (and even then the knowledge of God will keep us busy for eternity!) but Im uneasy about trying to find ‘hidden’ meanings when Jesus (and the apostles) have made many things very clear. I agree that strictly speaking God is spirit and therefore neither male nor female, or both male and female depending on how you look at it, but He has chosen to reveal Himself in a particular way (including becoming a man in the person of Jesus, who will remain a man for all eternity), and Im quite content to accept that.
    Regards Peter

  • Ray Linn

    I choose to be “progressive” which is why I turned to Unitarian Universalism.

  • Wearing a label doesn’t suit us. I have been evangelical, near-fundie, and a missionary to Pakistan for 8 years. Progressive, liberal, Calvinist? I once asked a seminary prof why he would want to be a 5 point Calvinist. He did not have good enough answer for me. Jesus forms us. Scripture helps us. Fellowship encourages us. Witness sharpens us.

  • AntiquityNow

    The fact that you would even entertain the issue Jesus raised in Matthew 12:32, Mark 3:29, and Luke 12:10 because of this particular dispute is truly mind-boggling. That you would tempt a brother, or anyone else, to even think of such a thing is unconscionable. I will no longer discuss this issue with you. I only pray that you take a different approach the next time there is disagreement. The quote from Romans is apt, your opening statement is way out of line.

  • AntiquityNow

    The Roman government of the time is analogous to the Federal government of today, which is noticeably absent from the passage from Acts. That was my point.

    And it is true that if anyone suggests achieving good works without the secular government will find their name tarnished and their motives demonized by today’s modern Progressives.

  • AntiquityNow

    I have always loved this passage from Romans.

  • Herm

    You wrote: “It was a voluntary description and has clear implications for contemporary association.”

    Why would you think that “a brother” who loves you would not point out an observation that you might be walking off a cliff? If not I who?

    What sort of approach is more appropriate should you actually be saying that being filled by the Holy Spirit led to a voluntary rather than once they believed they had no choice but follow the governing of the Holy Spirit? I can easily be wrong but I sincerely believe coming from an actual believer it could be speaking sacrilegiously about the Holy Spirit as a volunteer contemporary association. Ignore me if you will but please understand what love is.

    The following demonstrates to me just how involuntary a governing relationship with the Holy Spirit is:

    But a man named Ananias, with the consent of his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property; with his wife’s knowledge, he kept back some of the proceeds, and brought only a part and laid it at the apostles’ feet. “Ananias,” Peter asked, “why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, were not the proceeds at your disposal? How is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You did not lie to us but to God!” Now when Ananias heard these words, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard of it. The young men came and wrapped up his body, then carried him out and buried him. After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you and your husband sold the land for such and such a price.” And she said, “Yes, that was the price.” Then Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test? Look, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” Immediately she fell down at his feet and died. When the young men came in they found her dead, so they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. And great fear seized the whole church and all who heard of these things. Acts 5:1-11

    Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” Matthew 19:21

    “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5:43-48

    Love you!

  • coloradito

    Katie, there is enough prejudice on both sides – as elaborated by Ben in his preceding post about what he can’t agree on with Progressives. I genuinely feel bad that Ben believes he is somewhere in the rational middle, when in reality he is more like a referee in a heavyweight boxing match that just poked both boxers in the eyes… good luck with that. I’m sure it was meant in a non-political, non-confrontational, semi-socialist with a dash of redistribution of wealth, but still conservative kind of way.

  • coloradito

    The government is broke. Please explain how giving money that only exists digitally somehow becomes “charity”. When and where does that happen? Please draw me a picture because I am stupid…

  • kimc

    The government isn’t broke. If it were broke, we wouldn’t be spending millions every minute fighting wars in countries we have no business even being in. The government is just shoveling its money into the coffers of the war contractors.

  • you seem to be angry at something more than what meets the eye in what you just posted here. impacted trauma from past encounters w/ppl who dissapointed and harmed your soul perhaps? anyway what remains bottled up festers and leaks as it is doing here. would you like to share your story? i’m listening.

  • This one made me laugh (in a good way). I totally get the “poked both of them in the eyes”. That’s kind of what I wanted to do- we need to have a discussion about labels, and it took both sides getting poked for folks to begin to see how damaging labeling can be.

  • Quek

    I’m a non-believer. I just find it interesting how the “Christian Left” attacks what they call the “Christian Right” for not properly worshiping. They do so with such a righteousness and so vehemently with such anger, I find it very amusing. Very christian indeed.

  • Rullbert Boll

    Beg to differ on 1 and 2. In order to avoid a lengthy technical theological discussion, I simply refer to Peter Abelard and the Greek Orthodoxes, and claim that a Progressive position should also include those positions.

  • coloradito

    Ben asserts that it was “group dynamic” that was the pressure… I still find no reason to believe there was any compulsion. Even a Calvinist would not assert such things happening against free will. It was the Holy Spirit. If you truly believe so strongly, please sell everything you have and give it to your church, but Christ respected personal property and accepted hospitality without a sense of entitlement. That is the other side of the coin. Look at the impact socialism has on the receiver (especially unregenerated individuals). You are replacing God with Government. Does the Bible say “government will supply all your needs”?

  • Octoberfurst

    That’s an interesting point of view. So why is it that “very conservative” Jesus kept clashing with the “very conservative” Pharisees? Jesus seem more like a liberal to me.

  • Occupy Christianity

    Thanks so much for sharing this. Often I’ve had to straddle the line between communities that might be deemed “Evangelical” and “Progressive” because, while I hold to many Progressive interpretations of Jesus and His message, I’ve found that many Progressive communities have a rather milquetoast theology that I find unsatisfying. I know that’s a broad brush and only reflects my own experience, but there it is. Your mileage may vary.

  • interesting but not what christ would have wanted i think. in fact i sometimes think that jesus actually made that deal in the dessert w/ satan to bow down and worship him. I think the manafestation of ‘church’ as it now appears is more like an institution where satan has ruled for a long long time.

  • yuh it is kinda like watching a roman circus! so you get off on that?

  • zb

    Sorry for the name change. Most Christians believe Jesus died because of sin but was the only sinless one. most Christians agree that sin is transgression of Gods law. Therefore Jesus thought God’s law was so important that instead of turning a blind eye he decided to die to uphold it. He also preached about having righteousness greater than Pharisees who were renown for their righteousness. Holding the law in that high regard is pretty darn conservative. On the other hand Daniel 2 tells us that the kingdom of heaven (Christ’s kingdom) is the ULTIMATE anti-establishment movement. In the gospels that’s pretty self apparent. Therefore Christ is both radically liberal and staunchly conservative. Which doesn’t make a drop of sense. But he’s Jesus so that’s kind of how he rolls. @coloradito:disqus @jasdye:disqus @joshmagda:disqus

  • i am finding that the trauma from spiritual abuse takes a long time to get over and the processing is painful. I can’t get well in an infected community. That’s why I left off going to church. Grief from loss has it’s season. That season is shortened only if I am honest. Ppl are relatively honest here on this blog I think.

  • Quek

    I find it hilarious. But then I can laugh at myself as well. I laugh harder at those who can’t laugh at themselves. They don’t seem to question their own motives, only the motives of others. That is pretty funny when you consider that.

  • it’s like looking for love in all the wrong places i think. where do you find love?

  • JP

    arguing about the nature of sin (reminds me of a great Tom Lehrer lyric) seems like a waste of time. it’s an issue so arcane as to strew stumbling blocks all around Christian/non-Christian interactions. Most agree that “sin” happens whether we feel born inclined to sin or that we’re born moral tabuae rasae. Practically speaking I’d think a Calvinistic view might let me off some hooks (sin’s, “just who I am”), but I never hear Calvinists say that. So whether we’re hard-wired to sin and/or all have our own individual Adamesque “Fall”, seems not to rise to the level of something to divide about. Fascinating, doubtless, for those who love the arcane philosophical dimensions of it all…..but there is too much common ground to scatter losing sleep over it. It sounds to unbelievers and church-leavers like echoes from the ivory tower.

  • JP

    what about just knowing the depth of my sinfulness? I’m neutral re: the “nature” arguments—–but still see the wreckage sin works, within and without. I see it mostly within…..and “flee for refuge”, as the old liturgy has it. God bless! (glad you have that peace too—-wonderful if liberals and fundies spent more time sharing that!).

  • JP

    Bunches of Christians reject the notion of original sin. Must be bigger reasons, eh?

  • JP

    your trajectory is a common one that i find intriguing. I know so many who stick with conservative churches “kicking against the pricks” (if you will)…..and then just bolt from the whole Christian endeavor. Ever regret leaving? I’m just wondering if the uncertainties ever get resolved. All the best.

  • JP

    Christian community seems to be at risk for many of us. Some of us find it on blogs like this and never share a pew. I worry that it’s all so clean and abstract. We share ideas. Or views. We too easily feed our own pride at our cleverness (and that of those clever enough to see ours!). But community must mean mopping someone’s floor or holding some old man’s hand —–even if he is a fundamentalist—-“in that final hour”. can we have “community” only online? I appreciated your comment—–we’d probably never “grace” the same Christian gatherings. So I do enjoy this online “community”. (turn the dial a mile to the right to find mine!). But I’d love an hour or two with you.

  • Herm

    Coloradito, your questions are clearly sincere as well as are your statements, thank you. The Bible says pretty clearly, in my heart and mind, that God supplies ALL my needs and not any government of Man (Matthew 6:24-34). In my experience I have lived well and cannot honestly say I’ve earned anything by my pitiful all out efforts compared to the abundance I have been graced to be responsible for in my name (ownership). I can share stories of many people I know and have known with much less than me and have worked much harder and much smarter than I. Without the resources graced to be available first none of us have anything to work with, beginning with carnal birth in the spiritual image of God.

    If we do not repent from thinking we’re any more than children being provided for by God, right now, we cannot be children in the family of God (Luke 18:16-17 and John 1:12-13).

    I have worked for many hours now trying to form a way to begin this for you pose great queries and therefore the greatest opportunities to share my heart and mind. Normally (not always) my comments are totally in the Spirit but I’m being asked by you and others why I would be so bold as to question another of my brother’s relationship with the Holy Spirit. To explain my relationship I cannot answer from the Spirit’s perspective though I am getting some pointers from Him, I’m not being left orphaned.

    I love your use of the word “unregenerated” as it seems to be a good place to begin. In prison ministries I was trained to understand that you can’t help to rehabilitate a person who has never been habilitated. The word unregenerated is a past tense form of unregenerate which says the person was generated then was generated again and then an erase-erase was performed and is now no longer regenerated (back to generated?). From this, in regards to the Spirit, I get a moving picture of someone born in the flesh, dying to the flesh to be born in the Spirit, the Spirit being degenerated (backslider?) and somehow we find this person back in the flesh. Just how do I know for sure in my heart and mind I am or was ever born in the spirit? How do I know which spirit I gave my heart and mind to live in?

    Ben pointing out the possibility that Acts 4 and 5 were government inspired by “group dynamic” speaks to the dynamic of the spirit leading and uniting riot fever. This was exposed in the Bible by the crowd yelling to demand as one heart and soul the crucifixion of Jesus and the liberation of Barabbas. There is, also, the dynamic of spiritually satisfying our nurtured allegiance to our family and nation of our carnal generation which is another spirit of unity which is spoken to in Luke 14:26, 27. The Spirit spoken of in Acts 4:27 – 5:11, of which the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, is demonstrably shown by His fruits in their governance. I can only testify that by that biblical demonstration I know and recognize the difference in the spirit of my carnal flesh generated upon birth and the Spirit inspiring and counseling in my heart and mind after I died to the flesh and was generated (born and not regenerated) into the Family of God as a child through baptism by the Holy Spirit. Biblically I see equal fruits, though all of us are different, in the contrasts of results in Simon to Peter and Saul to Paul.

    Christ Jesus was connected heart and mind to the Father by the same Spirit upon physically coming out of the water at His baptism at age 30, never to be disconnected except for three days of death knowing nothing. At Pentecost everyone filled by the Holy Spirit was spouting the same message all uniquely but each in the language of those who listened. The Holy Spirit is available to connect each of our hearts and minds as the amicable Advocate directly ties us in the bond of love to the hearts and minds of our Father in Heaven and our Brother Christ Jesus. For me to say from my heart and mind that the work of the Holy Spirit in Acts 4 and 5 was only “a voluntary description and has clear implications for contemporary association” I would be committing blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. I cannot judge what is in the heart and mind of AntiquityNow but because I love both I must be bold enough to highlight the possibilities I see.

    I have only one master and that is my Father and only one Lord administrating my services for our Father and that is my Lord Jesus the Anointed. I know them bonded in love by the Holy Spirit in my heart and mind.

    You write, “Look at the impact socialism has on the receiver.” Which socialism might you be talking about? Surely not on how Social Security or Medicare have impacted the recipients or their otherwise supporting families. How about the impact socialism has on Canada, Great Britain, all the Scandinavian Countries and Japan?

    I do participate in the democracy/republic/oligarchy that is economically sustained and administered socialistically and capitalistically. I do so because I love and not because I or mine need to prosper beyond the opportunities God has already graced us all in spite of our stubbornness to ignore how much we rely on Them. I do feel spiritually inspired to work every day to support my family, neighbors and my enemies that they too might recognize the bounty that God has made available for us all and offers eternally.

    I do not feel like anything in my name is more than a yoke of responsibility gifted to me that I might know better what my Father in Heaven has to do for all that is in His name as well as my Brother Jesus. I own nothing that cannot be taken from me today and God has already very clearly demonstrated that in my life when I ignorantly and vainly said at 39, “I got it all now, you can use me as you will.” By the time I was 50 I had nothing. By 51 I, who had nothing to barter, accepted the Holy Spirit permanently in my heart and mind. I thanked God for allowing me to grieve the loss of relationship as painfully deep as I could not have possibly survived as a child subject to the authority of my carnal family. That was when I knew that my greatest sin was believing that I could do or have anything totally separate from God and believing I was any more valuable to Them than as a child. None of us are separate from God though too many of us are satisfied to be only an image and do not seek or accept the offered relationship as infant children in the Family of God. As one of Jesus’ actively enrolled students I learn better every day how to bring this Gospel to those loved souls who are choosing only image out of ignorance.

    My projected logic, by the influence of the Spirit today, tells me that every one of mankind needs respectable chores to reciprocally share support with each other. To be able to share each other’s full potential with one another those of us who can by God’s grace must invest in mankind from birth to death that each who would accept be guaranteed more than sufficient shelter, food, clothing, healthcare and an honest ever continuing education and only then would we grow constructively productive as the single body of human kind in the image of God. It is only those “unregenerated individuals” with no hope to be sufficiently healthy, educated, fed, and sheltered who by their fruits seem not to constructively produce as are such within the influence of communist state authority who insist on conformity to the state’s defined norms.

    The pure capitalistic profit motive state authorities seek to inspire competition to pay lowest dollar for maximized output with minimal to none regulation by the government (Luke 16:13). Never has such a spirit inspired the full potential sharing amongst all its people. That was not the example set by our Lord Jesus. Jesus gleaned to eat, sleep, clothe and shelter and ALL was provided for three years for Him to service according to his Father’s will as King of the Jews.

    We Christians should know we are not administrating the health of our nation very well when people can’t afford healthy food, clothing and shelter because they don’t have the money when the supply is plentiful. The saddest realization I had in the late ‘60s was that we were out producing ourselves as a nation in all the essentials to a healthy life and could not give away our excess because sovereign governments were committing genocide by starvation. I, also, have come to realize we were even then still denying those essentials to our own who were too poor to pay for them. The supply is here provided by God. The supplies were here before we were generated. The supply is hoarded by the demand for profit from those most in need.

    This is off the cuff as best as I can respond to you. I do not doubt your sincerity and am pleased that you would question me. I hope that this helps you as much as in pondering it has helped me. Love you, thank you! Herm

  • Herm

    Do we really believe infants and toddlers sin when they make the most horrendous and adorable mistakes? Sin to me is when I deny my reciprocal relationship with any of God or Man. I am free to be simply a child of God when I honor all relationships bonded together in love. Does that make any sense?

  • Point me to one place where I blame Jesus SPECIFICALLY rather than his followers, the institution that bears his name, or the theology that inspires abuse.

    Until then, sit down, cut the slander, and do t expect me to soften my words so you can feel better about yourself.

  • Roger Morris

    I am in process. Taking the red pill and realizing the strong psychological, existential, social and cultural influences and drives behind religious belief, and confronting the possibility that perhaps it is all a human construction is both frightening and liberating – like standing on a precipice with icy wind howling around you. But in many ways, it is a lower energy state for me and I feel more at peace.

  • Katie Maver

    Joao, what a kind thing to say. In the midst of so much uncertainty about faith, one thing holds true: Love one another. Blessings.

  • You’re quite intelligent enough to use suggestion and implication instead of direct statements. Anyway, there’s no denying that you’re angry. You don’t hurt my feelings. In a way you probably can’t understand, I have a duty to defend truth. Call it “patriarchal lies” or whatever makes you feel more secure in your beliefs (See? I can be condescending too).

  • So what you’re saying is that you made a statement about me, and you cannot back it up in any way, shape, or form.

    In other words, you lied.

    Keep defending that ‘truth.’ Your original charge of contempt now applies, but you can hardly argue that it isn’t deserved.

  • perhaps we are born to be codependent and addicts. maybe that is more understand-able & makes ‘sin’ accessible as a concept in the ways it’s been ruining health & human relationships since the beginning. And why does it? Is it b/c it’s a kind of default mode that takes effect at birth and is exacerbated by being nurtured by other addicts in the home & institutions of our nations and states?

  • i think i would like to hear your story of how this is working in your life. to be honest what you say here is too general to be of much help (to me at least). i need more ‘handles’ in order to grasp it.

  • Janice Brantner

    I’m so tired of the word “sin”, which just means we are imperfect, flawed, we make mistakes. And yes, we are born that way. But instead of constantly using that word maybe we could use some others words which do not carry so much shame.

  • Dana Franchitto

    other reasons, as well, yes.

  • Nancy Le

    hmmmm, yes, maybe I still am not taking enough personal responsibility lol, also, to your point, I think, without the wreckage within, there sure would be a lot less without!! God bless you too! (good point, thank you!)

  • DC Rambler

    When I do bad, I feel bad..When I do good, I feel good.. That’s my religion … Abe Lincoln

  • Herm

    Thank you Charles, you flatter me. This is working very well in my life as I have never felt so free, joyful and at peace than I have since I became a child of God. Now, in the sunset of my life on this Earth my overflowing passion is to anonymously share how to become both a disciple of Jesus and a child of God. That is my story and I’m sticking to it, possibly for an eternity.

    From my carnal parents and raising my own children (mankind being in the image to learn from of God; Father (parent), Son (child) and Spirit, male and female – Genesis 1:26-28) I have an example/image of what it takes to be a child and how humbled I was to be responsible as a parent. When I or my children did the will of our parents we could not be considered “sinning” even when out of inherent ignorance or lack of physical/mental control we made horrendous and/or adorable destructive mistakes. As long as my parents and I were bonded in love with one another I could not sin. To grow I had to struggle to learn from my mistakes which my parent’s provided a reasonably safe environment for me to err. They stepped back at times to let me try seemingly on my own and stepped in when I needed guidance to survive.

    As a child I never did earn or could have earned anything. I was provided everything to begin with and was taught to support myself and others as I matured on Earth. All resources we have on Earth and throughout the entire universe was provided us long before we existed. We didn’t earn anything contrary to many who are taught to believe they should be able to do anything without parental support and provisioning.

    As a child of God, adopted through baptism of the Holy Spirit permanently in counsel within my heart and mind, I simply cannot sin because my heart is just not in it, so to speak, because I know love. The Holy Spirit tells me the truth as I am mature enough to apply it and always in first doing so I struggle ineptly to apply it constructively. One truth I know for certain is that we cannot grow alone and need all our siblings of God’s support that we all together might learn to apply the truth in the environment that our Father graciously provides for us.

    I am frustrated to see so many of my loved siblings being taught or teaching that we are fallen and we are born with a sinful nature. What did we fall from and what should we individually be accused of so harshly and so vaguely as sin when we all begin, without choice, as little children dependent upon our carnal families to teach us? Mankind portrayed, as Eve and Adam, are said to have separated from God when they struck out on their own, by their own volition, but God never deserted mankind.

    If my child ran away from home because (s)he illogically, immaturely and lacking healthy judgment just had to take responsibility for his/herself I didn’t stigmatize that child as any less loved and labeled a “sinner”. My child was lost, hopefully only temporarily. I proactively searched while hurting deeply for our loss. My Father does no less.

    I can go on and on using human analogies to describe my Family of God. I will, for this moment, testify that everyone who reads this, because they are asking, seeking and knocking, either has or can have the same relationship with God as I have as a child of God. This is all clearly biblical and I would be happy to share what upon reflection has taught this relationship all along even when in my studies I was blind.

    Today, I will share the mechanics, as I know them, which led to this truly divine relationship of reciprocal faith in the bond of love.

    I was a rebellious child. I didn’t make it easy for my parents. By high school age I could debate the Bible from any side and be touted as the winner. At age 17 I was staring out of a large window from a Sunday school class at my community. I actually saw the hand of God working to provide sufficient balance from the top of the mountain, through the fields of crops, through the many subdivisions, through the creeks and right down to the church I was participating in at that moment. From that point on I could recognize God working in my life. I then wrongly thought that I was being called to learn and share the truth so I committed my higher education to the ministry.

    Much happened in between but I’m jumping ahead to when I was 50 and had lost all I thought I had earned; church, family and job. I thanked God for allowing and teaching me to feel the depth of grief that I could not have survived as a child of my parents. There had up to that time been a few things I did in private that I considered sinful so that when “alone” I shut out God from my heart and mind (did it alone, all alone). At that time I talked to God and invited the Holy Spirit to be fully reciprocal and influential in my heart and mind all the time with no closing my heart and mind at any time. I found that what I had been so ashamed of was not the sin but that separating, even momentarily, from God’s loving influence is sin.

    There is something else around that time that significantly increased my trust in God. I ask how I can be sure that this is your Spirit influencing my heart and mind. The answer was so simple and so certain I still have no clue why it seems to be omitted from the Bible. A clue is in the example Jesus gave us to know how to pray; address. I addressed my Father in Heaven. I asked in the name of Christ Jesus that the Spirit in my heart and mind be only the Spirit of God. amen

    I even have a given baptized name in the family of God. How cool is that? I am a child of God right now!

    Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:25-27

    Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” John 8:31-32

    “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets. Matthew 7:12

    I am a disciple of Jesus my Rabbi and I know the truth of the law and am led at all times in my heart and mind according to the law.

    Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.” Luke 10:25-28

    As a child of God I have a family inheritance.

    As a child inseparable from the Spirit of God sin is not what I can do but as a child of God who doesn’t even know yet where my Father’s office is I do make mistakes that are not sin. God is love and as long as all I do is in love I cannot sin

    Is there enough handles to grasp it? If not, and you are not yet certain I’m a complete wacko, then I would be glad to carry through with you sharing the biblical references in full context that support my relationship with God. This would be a reciprocal relationship. I can grow knowing your relationship, also. The key here is just whom we’re addressing.

    Neither of us is more important than any other who also began as a carnal image of the spirit of God.

    Love you!

  • yes i agree. the word ‘sin’ is loaded w/meaning but is opaque to me. maybe its what happeNed when trauma entered my life when i was raped at age 9. Every day after that I have been living in exile from innocence. Then there is an accumulation of p.t.s.d symptoms that establish a pattern of repeating abuses and addictions. If sin is described as inescapable I would also add that it’s inevitable.

  • ‘i know whats right but am disconnected from the resource that can help me overcome patterns that ruin every relationship to man and god. who can rescue me from this living hell? only god can.’ I’m paraphrasing something Paul said in Romans I think.

  • Herm

    Charles, I’m not able to connect the paraphrase you offered. In trying to find anything similar according to Paul I did run across these in Romans:

    But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you. Romans 8:9-11

    For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him. Romans 8:14-17

    Could you, maybe, rephrase what you are alluding to?

  • Now you’re just proving my point.

  • yes you are right in the area of romans just after paul’s lament that he was powerless and needed a rescuer. i have been encouraged by romans 7&8&12 for many years.

  • David S

    Try McMaster.

  • David S

    Sorry, Liadan, but to deny that there was such thing as “orthodoxy” is just, well, historically inaccurate. It emerged very early within the development of the church, evidenced by the formation of a canonical New Testament, early creedal statements, liturgy, and commonly accepted patterns of worship. To take the differences between Celts and Romans and extrapolate from that that there was no shared or established orthodoxy is flat wrong.

  • David S

    Not necessarily. His comment was making reference to a conversation involving myself and another person.

  • David S

    Katie, I’m a Ph.D. student at a tier-1 research university in Canada where the New Perspective on Paul was practically invented, and am a member of the Society of Biblical Literature. So, I’m definitely aware of historical-critical method as I use this myself. However, this was not some invention by “progressives,” and actually I tend to find that evangelicals often pay closer attention to the historical situation of the text than progressives who often like to focus on cultural or ideological forms of interpretation. My concern is this idea that Christianity has no actual theological content–that, as you say, it all just boils down to love. Being nice is all that matters. But the truth is that, while Jesus did certainly talk about love for God and humanity as a summary of the law, he was not saying that theology doesn’t matter. From what we can tell from the historical sources, by all appearances, there was such a thing as orthodoxy, and it did emerge very early in the life of the church to a normative status. That’s not to say there wasn’t some variety, or that there wasn’t counter-orthodoxy (or some prefer the term heresy). Those things existed. But it certainly wasn’t a free-for-all since orthodoxy maintained normative status for the majority of early Christian communities and counter-orthodoxy remained on the margins, and eventually died out (of course, there were a number of these groups that also shared most of the same beliefs as the orthodox, but who for other reasons did not survive). Christians believed in the bodily resurrection. They believed in the divinity and humanity of Christ (however that worked). They believed in trinitarian monotheism. They believed in the holiness of God, the unholiness of human sin, the need for reconciliation to God through atonement, and that this is why Christ died. They believed in the return of Christ, the resurrection of the just and judgment of the damned. They, by-in-large, agreed on what the canonical scriptures were and in an apostolic tradition (later known as the regula fidei). That said, in regards to Christianity, these things were agreed upon largely by the end of the first-century, and laid the foundation for the orthodoxy of the eastern and western traditions. There *is* a theological content to this thing called Christianity, just like there is a theological content to other religious traditions. Merely parading around and saying you are a loving person doesn’t make one a Christian. Also, a person cannot claim to be a Christian when they deny all of its content. It’s just illogical to do so. One doesn’t have to be an evangelical to see that, just a rational person.

  • Herm

    For we know that the law is spiritual; but I am of the flesh, sold into slavery under sin. I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with my mind I am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh I am a slave to the law of sin. Romans 7:14-25

    For too long I read Paul, David, Isaiah and Moses as Gospel when now I realize they had, in faith and knowledge in the Lord God, each dropped their façade to share where they were at in their maturing relationship with God. Every patriarch, disciple, prophet, and ghost writer in the Bible we read from today was still making mistakes and those not having the Holy Spirit residing fulltime in their heart and mind were occasionally sinning separated from God.

    King David murdered in an adulterous passion while still writing the most divine and insightful psalms of maybe all time. Moses couldn’t help himself and just had to go strike that rock to bring water separate from God just before he might have been able to set his foot on the Promised Land. I am not in any way to be considered as one of those select but I once in fear, inside Folsom prison, separate only a moment from God, evoked the demand, within a group, at an inmate speaking in multiple voices, “evil spirits be gone!”

    Paul along with Luke were the most educated, secularly and spiritually, of any of the writers in the Bible (Moses was equivalent considering his much earlier time of schooling).

    Paul writes very often alluding to Adam and Eve and the whole of Genesis as a literal reality even in a direct relationship with the Counselor of God. After all he could not fathom that Moses did not write Genesis with firsthand knowledge, or even sufficient imagination abilities, but could only document stories with divine help in his heart and mind that had been passed down for generations before him. Today we know from archeological digs and anthropological studies there was a separation from God’s provisioning by hunting and foraging to man sustained provisioning of farming and ranching from the Fertile Crescent 12 thousand years ago.

    “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:26-27

    This is the turmoil Paul was going through and writes of in Romans 7:14-25 but the book and research of Luke had not been compiled and published.

    Divine guidance through the Holy Spirit can only be shared by what the beholder is capable of relating to. I testify this is so in my life and has been so with a constant learning growth for over 50 years now. I did not accept the Holy Spirit fulltime until 20 years ago. I was not able to fully relate to and share the joy and peace that has grown from 20 years ago until the last couple years. Paul may have known this joy and peace just prior to his beheading.

    I have no problem today knowing God and accepting acceptably sincere science of mankind as reality. I have a much greater education in spiritual, physical and social sciences than any of the scribes of the Bible. I can, as an example, visualize and measure the effects of the laws of physics regulating an electron revolving around a neutron/ proton nucleus. I can so much better visualize the law of the flesh as separate from the law of God’s Spirit. We can know today how and why God’s taught spiritual law is sufficient to work constructively with the laws of the flesh. That is what Jesus gave us by entering our Holy of Holies in Heaven as our High Priest according to the order of Melchizedek. He saved us from the law of the flesh by giving us the opportunity to choose to allow our hearts and minds to unite as the Holy of Holies on Earth where the Holy Spirit resides. The Earth no longer has to belong to the rule of the devil by our flesh. Physically our Universe has always been within the kingdom of God, not ever outside. Spiritually we can accept our Lord God as the only Lord ruling over us through the Holy Spirit. This I know in my life that none of the biblical scribes could have possibly known or fathomed.

    Mankind as a single body in the image of the single body of God has matured to where all of us are closer to accepting the reality of Christ Jesus as our ruling Lord today than were any documented in the Bible. Ask, seek and knock can be applied metaphorically and literally more realistically understandable than before the Earth was known to be revolving around the sun.

    “I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. John 14:25-27

    The Holy Spirit is very real, more so even than we are, and very much alive to be available to each of us who sincerely seek truth. The Holy Spirit was not just available to those in the Bible. The Holy Spirit is available to unite all of us today with Jesus and our Father not just to the scribes, priests, teachers of the law, and Pharisees within the Vatican or any other organized religious synod. From the Holy Spirit in our hearts and minds is only where we will find the peace Paul had not in Romans 7:14-25. The Gospel can only be taught really to each of us directly from our Rabbi relative to what we know today. The Bible is the pointer but our living Jesus is the Word the Gospel. amen

  • wow! you sure are articulate buddy! apparently you have been equipt to do some spiritual warfare. ever read about corrie ten boom? also, for some reason, i feel like recomending a book and a movie: ‘cold comfort farm’

  • Your point? Please do show me how showing my distaste for Christians like you who claim to defend the truth and lie in the same breath is tangible evidence for how I’m angry at Jesus instead of Christians.

  • Herm

    I am but a child and really susceptible to over enjoy the joy of flattery from a loved and loving sibling such as you. Thank you so very much! Love you!

  • naw it’s not flattery it’s honesty. flattery inflates & honesty points to being your right size I think!

  • Hi Ben. It is occasionally refreshing to see a progressive questioning popular “party lines,” because I too also have some questions and do not see eye to eye with the general consensus. Actually, on your points 3-5 (aka your first three points on this blog), you and I are in complete agreement on! I do, however, question your last two points (points 2 and 1) about atonement and original sin. Ultimately, this is okay. I know I don’t have everything all figured out…

    I am in a Celtic Christian Tradition (herein referred to CCT), so we do ponder over the issue of “original sin.” Now, I would not go as far to say we are “original blessing” though I do know some in a CCT that would — I think they mainly get that from Matthew Fox — I generally think that when we are born (or, conceived) we are morally neutral, neither good nor evil, much like Adam and Eve were in the garden. It wasn’t until they chose to partake of the forbidden fruit that they “fell.” Even then, I am of the opinion that that fall was a good thing, in the end. It got us out of the garden to tackle life by the horns, so to speak.

    Then, there is the question of atonement and ultimately salvation. A lot of people in a CCT propose Universal Salvation, in which case, I am of no exception. Even so, I do present universalism as possible only because of the sacrifice of Christ, but in more ways than one. How so? I admit, we are all sinners and that we all have been *blinded,* and we choose to *imitate* those that came before us. Blinded and imitate become important words for me here. This is how I escape the notion of “original sin” while maintaining universalism. It is also here where I like to interject that famous line Jesus said about the “blind leading the blind” and falling into a roadside ditch somewhere. Once we are able to look at Christ and see the example he set forth for us (addresses our blindness) and we IMITATE his perfection (read love, compassion, etc, etc) by our free will, hence, we don’t have to sin; then we will live righteous, saved lives and we become victors of death. Eventually, everyone will get to this point. Some already have in this life. What happens after death if one does not “see” properly, I have faith that God will deal with that in whatever way is consistent with God’s character.

    Ben, you may agree to what I’m saying here, or you may disagree. However it works out, I am just glad to be one of your subscribers. I do feel blessed every time I read one of your articles. AND I feel that I can share some of these thoughts with you without being insulted. I welcome open dialogue and will agree to disagree if necessary. Thank you so much!

  • That is an interesting point. “Sin” has become such a loaded word these days. It brings upon us not only guilt (what we do is bad) but shame (who we are is bad). I think it is really important to know that God loved us so much that God gave the life of the Son in our behalf. While we were yet “sinners” no less. That should attest to the fact that each one of us is unique, lovable–that we all have “redemptive” qualities about us. Every one of us. All of us are made in the image of God. That fact alone should say something about who we are in the grand scheme of things. Thanks for sharing that thought Janice.

  • Charles, I am so sorry that happened to you. That is a real rough life. I pray that you may find joy and peace. Meanwhile, I am here for you. If you need a friend, someone who will listen without any kind of bias, please don’t hesitate to look for me.

  • Yes Charles. That is from Romans 7.21-25. I quote this from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV):

    “So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

  • Ben, using that verse in 5.12 and reading further down (verse 18), where it talks about how Adam’s disobedience led all to sin so Christ’s obedience leads all to salvation, wouldn’t you say that Universal Salvation follows from that?

  • Hmmm. Good point. Let me try to take a crack at it…

    Consider contemporary American History. At the end of WWII, President Truman released two H Bombs on Japan. One on Hiroshima and the other at Nagasaki. The world has seen for the first time the nasty reaction caused when hydrogen atoms are fused and torn asunder. The USA is the only nation in the world up to this time to use nuclear weapons against another sovereignty. History scholars agree to all that no less. But here is where it gets real tricky.

    WHY did President Truman authorize such a horrendous release of energy to be employed? Some say it was to end the war quickly — which it did. Others say that President Truman was wanting to show the Russians that they should not be too arrogant when gobbling up Europe — because if you corner us, we can do this to you! Still, another history professor says that we really needed to see if this could actually be done and what the effects would be after doing so — you know, in the interest of science and all.

    Most do not agree. It is also possible that all these answers may be correct, to one degree or another. Either way, they are all “legitimate” because this scholar and that scholar used what I will call now, an “educated assumption,” that is, they used what evidence they have that is quantifiable with everyone else and came up with a possible solution, even though that solution is a variable in of itself, because ultimately, we do not know. There is not enough data.

    Given the circumstances of Scripture, it is not written in a point by point basis, like a PowerPoint presentation. Instead, it is a whole library filled with different genres. Some are letters, some are historical stories, some are poetry and some are apocalyptic. It is not like an encyclopedia, where if one has a question they look at the entry, though a lot of people think of Sacred Scripture in that way.

    To answer your question, it is possible to have a “legitimate” method and still come up with various conclusions.

  • ‘sin’= patterns of addiction, the long term cosequences of trauma, growing up in a dysfuntional family and hqving poor role models, symptoms of p.t.s.d. family history of bipolar disorder etc. ?

  • All I had to do was show my belief in Christ and use the word “truth” and you were ready to fight. You might ask yourself why you are angry with a person who is simply defending his beliefs. Isn’t that what you are doing?

  • thanks anam your offer is most welcome!

  • That could be. I think there is a simpler way. I would consider anything as “sinful” if it is not consistent with unconditional love. When Christ says “Be ye therefore perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5.48) he was talking about “love thy enemy.” In the verses right before the one quoted ^^ Christ describes God in terms of giving rain and sunshine to the righteous and wicked alike. He also asks that if one loves his brother but not his enemy, how is that different from the rest of the world?

    Matthew 7.12 says “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” We call that the golden rule. If we want to be treated with dignity and respect, then we need to start treating others that way. As a wise saying goes, “If you want friends, be a friend.”

    It is true that we have habits and we grew up with an attitude that we need to be looking out for numero uno. Unfortunately, it is society trying to make us look at the world as “us against them.” I think Christ was showing us a different way of looking at things. Christ asks, why not “us and them?”

    The parable of the “Good Samaritan” comes to mind here. Who was the neighbor to that poor soul left for dead and was quickly becoming food for carrion crows? Was it the priest? The Levite? Or, was it the Samaritan? Who are our Samaritans today? Hopefully, it is each one of us.

  • I know what you mean. Often times, I wonder exactly where on the fence I sit. I love the inclusion and the compassion taught by the progressives, but I also like the empowerment and responsibility taught by the evangelicals. I often times see myself taking the “middle of the road” approach. Glad I’m not the only one.

  • Okay. It’s time for you to cut the bullshit.

    You initiated contact with me, remember? You told me I was contemptuous. Then you lied. You said I was clearly angry at Jesus. Then when challenged to provide evidence as to such, you waffled. Proven to be a slanderer who makes accusations without evidence, you now try to spin me as the offending party. You are not a victim here, Abbott.

    Yes. I’m angry. Because I don’t like being lied about.

    Guess what, Abbott? I’m not angry at Jesus. I don’t believe in him. I am angry when Christians such as yourself invalidate my experiences with Christianity and my opposition to its abuses by falsely claiming my anger is wrongfully directed at your deity. This is a lie, and it is a derailing tactic. I see it all the time. And I refuse to tolerate it.

    You did not just ‘show your belief in Christ.’ You slandered me from the first comment with your claim that I’m angry at Jesus, not Christians. You continue to lie about it and spin your aggressions towards me to cover up for the lack of a sliver of evidence to back up your claims.

    Yes, that angers me. Yes, Abbott, you earned it. So until you actually CAN provide my requested evidence, you can wallow in your superiority and victimisation complex all you want, while I continue to call out your brothers in Christ on their abusive tendancies.

  • Well if it’s true that by using the same reasoning process, you can reach different conclusions, then what’s the point? In that case, religious beliefs would be completely fungible. What does identifying as a certain kind of theist buy you? Does Yahweh really care whether you were raised as a Catholic, or a Anabaptist?

  • I would say, no. It would not matter if one was Anabaptist or a Catholic. Dare I say, it wouldn’t matter if one were Hindu or Buddhist. See. I’m not fundamentalist…

  • I guess the point is, is to find the right tradition for you. What determines that depends on where you are at this moment and which tradition speaks to you on an intimate level, and take you to somewhere beyond you at the same time.

  • yes i thot ‘sin’ was something i could/should do something about myself. dunno where i got that idea.

  • Janice Brantner

    Yes, sometimes what we do is bad, but always what we do is imperfect. And who we are is never bad although it is certainly imperfect.

  • Somebody very perceptive once told me that we are all actors in a play. Sometimes, we may forget that we are actors (or actresses, as the case may be) but that our roles are to play imperfect humans. If what this person told me is true, then I have to admit, I play the role of imperfection perfectly!

  • i think in alcoholic families and systems the roles are defined and quite ridgid

  • My statement was that you were contemptuous, which is a matter of perception, just as was my observation that you were angry with Jesus (taken fairly from your noticeable fierceness in jumping on comments from conservative Christians). These things are not empirical and hence cannot be proven or disproven. All your talk about evidence is ludicrous. You just like to argue.

  • And I love that definition of sin! It is kind of like an archer. Sometimes, we hit the target right on, but a lot of times we don’t. This gives mind to what my grandmother always said to me when I start feeling discouraged. “Practice makes perfect.” The only way to “get” something is to continually practice it. A person who has never spoken before cannot sing a #1 hit on the first try. The Greek word for “sin” also means that. “Missing the target, or mark.” Thank you for your insight!

  • Your huffing doesn’t change the fact that you engaged me and slung the first insults. Enjoy the warmth of your self-righteousness. I’m done being a platform for your victim complex.

  • I’m far from righteous. Just forgiven.

  • liturgy

    Here’s my discussion about and addition to this list http://liturgy.co.nz/5-ways-to-improve-progressive-christianity

  • Eve Pilcher

    HI Benjamin. I resonate with pretty much every thing uve written. Been on a long journey with all this. Have you come across Ken Wilbers Integral theory and Paul Smiths Integral Christianity,? Really helpful stuff. Uk a bit devoid of anything genuinly progressive,my community ranges from evangelicals who can tolerate me to a total original Christian mystic artist, agnostics and Bhuddists. Taken me a long time to be comfortable in my own knowing and accepting that some of it will just have to be taken on faith, ouch! Thanks for your thoughts.

  • Hmmm… What is Progressive Christianity?
    Progressive Christianity is an approach to the Christian faith that is influenced by post-liberalism and postmodernism and: proclaims Jesus of Nazareth as Christ, Savior, and Lord; emphasizes the Way and teachings of Jesus, not merely His person;

    Emphasizes God’s immanence not merely God’s transcendence; leans toward panentheism rather than supernatural theism;

    Emphasizes salvation here and now instead of primarily in heaven later; emphasizes being saved for robust, abundant/eternal life over being saved from hell;

    Emphasizes the social/communal aspects of salvation instead of merely the personal; stresses social justice as integral to Christian discipleship;

    Takes the Bible seriously but not necessarily literally, embracing a more interpretive, metaphorical understanding;

    Emphasizes orthopraxy instead of orthodoxy (right actions over right beliefs); embraces reason as well as paradox and mystery — instead of blind allegiance to rigid doctrines and dogmas;

    Does not consider homosexuality to be sinful; and does not claim that Christianity is the only valid or viable way to connect to God. (is non-exclusive).

    -Roger Wolsey, Kissing Fish: Christianity for People Who Don’t Like Christianity
    http://www.progressivechristianitybook.com/

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    Additional Information: Though the terms Progressive Christianity and Liberal Christianity are often used synonymously, the two movements are distinct, despite sharing many similarities.

    Notable initiatives within the movement for progressive Christianity include The Center for Progressive Christianity (TCPC) in Cambridge, MA, The Beatitudes Society, the campaigning organization CrossLeft, the technology working group Social Redemption.

    Wikipedia: Progressive Christianity
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Progressive_Christianity

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  • BrotherRog

    Benjamin, while many progressive Christians (rightly IMO) reject the substitutionary theory of the atonement and tend to instead favor either the christus victor or the moral influence theory, that doesn’t mean that we discount the reality of sin or the need to awaken to who we really are. See: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogerwolsey/2014/03/a-progressive-christian-view-of-sin-sinners/

    Roger Wolsey, author, Kissing Fish: christianity for people who don’t like chirstianity

  • BrotherRog

    And I disagree with you that progressive Christians “mishandle” scripture. Does this sound like “mishandling” it to you? See: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogerwolsey/2014/01/16-ways-progressive-christians-interpret-the-bible/

    Roger Wolsey

  • Hi Roger- I’m actually Christus Victor also, have long rejected penal substitution. I did a followup interview after this piece came out last year, over at Progressive Christianity to clear up a few questions about the article. You can find that interview here: http://progressivechristianity.org/resources/ben-corey-discuss-the-wide-spectrum-of-progressive-christianity/