Traditional style, progressive substance

Traditional style, progressive substance May 22, 2015

We blogged about Rachel Held Evans, her point that Millennials can’t stand the church growth efforts to reach them and how the Sacraments are what make the church relevant.  David French observes that what she is really calling for are churches that are “traditionally progressive,” keeping the old forms while changing orthodox teachings on theology and morality so that they conform to to the canons of progressivism.

From David French, If You Want to Destroy Your Church, Follow Liberals’ Advice | National Review Online:

Ms. Evans critiques hashtag campaigns, young-adult groups with names like “Prime” and “Vertical,” and concert-style worship services. She mocks talk of “market share” and “branding,” and in so doing sounds every bit as traditionalist as those who despise the praise choruses of the typical Evangelical megachurch and long for the simple “old-time religion” of their grandparents

But that’s not really her point. Evans believes the church shouldn’t reform its style, but rather its substance – by becoming, in essence, traditionally progressive. In other words, keep the ancient styles, but change the ancient beliefs. In a previous article, for CNN, Evans set forth the litany of Millennial demands:

  • We want an end to the culture wars. We want a truce between science and faith.
  • We want to be known for what we stand for, not what we are against.
  • We want to ask questions that don’t have predetermined answers.
  • We want churches that emphasize an allegiance to the kingdom of God over an allegiance to a single political party or a single nation.
  • We want our LGBT friends to feel truly welcome in our faith communities.
  • We want to be challenged to live lives of holiness, not only when it comes to sex, but also when it comes to living simply, caring for the poor and oppressed, pursuing reconciliation, engaging in creation care and becoming peacemakers.

This isn’t a theological statement. It’s a progressive writer’s wish list. Evans’s fervent belief is that the key to unlocking Millennial spiritual energy is found in the old ways – not its actual beliefs, mind you, but the trappings of the faith. To Evans, the answer is combining high-church traditions with no-church theology, because “the ancient forms of liturgy seem so unpretentious, so unconcerned with being ‘cool,’ and we find that refreshingly authentic.”

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