Today there are more options for spiritual enlightenment than ever before. One that I continue to hear about is Progressive Christianity.
In my efforts to better understand this movement, I’ve discovered a major flaw — I can’t find a clear definition of it. Without a doctrinal statement, it’s difficult to understand how one can choose to be a Progressive Christian.
While claiming the title “Christian,” Progressive Christianity represents a broad range of views, from those who claim to believe in the authoritative Word of God to those who are looking for spiritual enlightenment in the form of a curate-your-own-beliefs kind of faith. The common thread among Progressive Christians is not politics, although there tends to be some commonality with some political views.
Progressive, by definition, is favoring or advocating progress, change, improvement or reform, as opposed to wishing to maintain things as they are. This begs the question, what exactly is Progressive Christianity improving?
Some people say that Progressive Christianity is the expression of how Christians should adapt or conform to our culture regarding popular social issues. I’m concerned that it may be influencing many unsuspecting Christians to adopt a false view of what it means to be a follower of Christ.
Does Christianity need to adapt to today’s culture?
The hubris to think that Christianity needs to progress or adjust is a classic example of the dangers of pride. To say that we know more than God the Father, Christ the Son and the Holy Spirit should raise a red flag to those who are following any revised form of Christianity.
Far too many Christians try to straddle the fence in today’s world. We dismiss clear biblical teaching in favor of what culture pressures us to believe, or we attempt to strike some sort of compromise. As tempting as it is for otherwise biblically faithful Christians to seek a middle ground with our modern culture’s hot-button issues, such a notion is inconsistent with Scripture. We cannot dismiss passages that we deem as incompatible with today’s world.
If the Bible is true, we either accept the entire Bible, or we accept none of it. We’re called to follow the parts that are easy and the parts that are difficult, the parts that are popular and the parts that the world hates. When we make ourselves the authority of which parts of the Bible to disregard or which parts we are to follow, we elevate ourselves above God.
Is Progressive Christianity a false Gospel?
Since Progressive Christianity encompasses a broad spectrum of beliefs and views, it’s misleading to label the whole thing as “biblical” or “unbiblical.” The bottom line is, that any claim or belief we consider should be measured against the Word of God, and whatever doesn’t line up with Scripture should be rejected. In James 1:5, God promised wisdom to all who seek it. As with all uncertain issues, we should ask Him for wisdom to discern truth from error.
The Pharisees in Jesus’ time were adding to the perfect system God created by redefining what rest meant on the Sabbath or how to justify not using their money to take care of their parents. They tried to improve what God wanted by reinterpreting the law that He set forth for us. It seems that Progressive Christians are trying to do the same thing.
Growing up in the South and being expected to go to church, I thought I was a Christian. It wasn’t until I was 42 years old that I truly embraced Jesus in a personal way and was saved. Prior to that, I misused the Bible to justify my worldview, instead of using the Bible to guide my worldview.
Before that time, I used Scripture out of context to harass and antagonize Christians based on how I felt or to justify my actions or political positions not based on the truth of the Word. As I’ve matured in my faith and developed a better understanding of the Bible, I’ve had to repent many times as memories flooded back of cruel things I said and people who were led astray by me. Most of all, I repented of my idolatry in choosing the world over Jesus.
Before you end up on the wrong road leading others to destruction, you need to ask the following questions: Does your theology make you feel better about your sin? Do you have to justify your worldview with the Bible by drawing the conclusion and searching for your answer instead of asking the question and searching for the answer in the Bible?
If you answer yes, then ask yourself why God needs improving.
No path leads to true happiness and everlasting life except for Jesus alone (John 14:6), which is at times going to be narrower than we might like (Matthew 7:13) but more fulfilling than we could ever imagine (Psalms 16:11). In Him, we have more than anything we could ever hope for or need. Why leave the boundaries of our faith in order to curate what we need? Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. Where else would we go?
In the absence of clarity, pray for wisdom and discernment.
Author Randal Rauser recently tweeted that people don’t understand what Progressive Christianity is. I replied, asking him to define it since I was genuinely trying to understand it. Despite his habit of responding to many other tweets, he has remained unusually silent. Furthermore, in his most recent book, he attempts to define Progressive Christianity but instead defends fellow Progressive Christians, but still doesn’t clarify the core beliefs of Progressive Christianity.
What I’m gleaning so far is that Progressive Christianity is a version of Christianity that markets itself as moralism over salvation and downplays our fallenness and need for a Savior. On the surface, it looks a lot like the Christian worldview, but in reality, it’s stripping away the Good News message and replacing it with modern-day justification that isn’t really Christianity at all.
About Peter Demos
Peter Demos is the president and CEO of Demos’ Brands and Demos Family Kitchen and a successful restaurateur, having founded multiple Demos restaurant locations and other entities, including PDK Southern Kitchen and Pantry restaurants across middle Tennessee. Demos returned to the hospitality industry after earning his law degree and is a highly requested speaker on the topics of leading with courage and purpose. Demos is a business thinker who applies his knowledge to the most important pursuit of life: God. Demos brings his biblical perspective and insight gained from his own struggles to guide others to truth and authenticity in a broken world. To learn more, visit PeterDemos.org.