I decided to combine my blog post about the latest ReligionProf Podcast with Matthew Korpman and some existing draft post content I already planned to blog about, for a good reason, I think – one of the links already included was to Korpman’s blog on Patheos, which he hasn’t been keeping up but which hopefully he’ll return to. Our conversation begins with and remains focused on Korpman’s recent book, Saying No To God, but is of interest even if you haven’t read the book and/or you weren’t planning to (even though I think you probably should).
I thought I should combine this post highlighting the podcast with some other things that I had in mind to address on the blog, which are at least somewhat related to the theme that Korpman tackles well in his book, namely whether the Bible encourages us to think (in the stereotypical conservative slogan) “God said it, I believe it, that settles it,” or whether even within a framework that envisages God as speaking in traditional ways, we might sometimes need to say, “God said it, God is testing me to see whether I have the moral insight to not simply believe it and think that settles it, and so let’s say ‘no’ and see what happens.”
Related to this topic, Michael Kruger has tried to claim (on his blog and in a new book), as conservatives are wont to do, that progressive Christianity isn’t in fact Christianity. The reverse case is easier to make, i.e. that conservative Christianity isn’t Christianity, that it is a contradiction in terms. How can one claim that biblicism is biblical, when the Bible is replete with writings that argue with rather than affirm what other biblical authors have said? Ultimately as a liberal Christian I’m inclined to be inclusive in ways that Kruger and others like him are not, and so I wouldn’t really say that conservative Christianity isn’t Christianity, pure and simple. But it most certainly is at odds with its core emphases going back to Jesus himself.
Of related interest, starting with that post from Matthew Korpman on Patheos that I referred to:
Randal Rauser on biblical literalism (but not word for word). See also his very recent post about logical problems with inerrancy.
The Fundamentalist Movement of the early 20th century and the Religious Right that began developing in the 1950s were backward-looking, change resisting appeals to the Reformation. Doctrines that emerged in the 1500s and 1600s hardened into articles of faith, even as the sciences and historical studies that emerged in those centuries were successfully undermining the foundations of many of those beliefs.
So, what is progressive about Progressive Christianity? Its purpose is reform, not revolution. It puts the central message of Jesus (which was focused on reform) at the center of Christianity rather than outdated and discredited dogma. But it also recognizes the change in time period so that the message is updated for conditions of our age – that is what makes it progressive. It’s not that progress is always right, but that adapting to changing times and conditions is necessary for a vital Christianity.
Also relevant: Melissa Florer-Bixler writes:
“In our Christian tradition of proclamation, we often cut carefully around the edges of our scriptures, clipping troubling stories out of their place within the Bible’s narrative arc.”
“Holy Writ is not nearly as straightforward a reading experience as many suppose it to be.”
Rev. Dr. Jeffrey Frantz wrote, “a person can reject the God of theism (atheism) and still believe in God. In this regard, as progressive Christians, we are constantly being invited to open ourselves to new conceptions of God that are more adequate to our modern experience.”
And some humor related to literalism: Space X rocket bounces off firmament