Richard Beck’s Progressive Vision

Richard Beck’s Progressive Vision June 27, 2013

Richard Beck

Richard Beck is one of my favorite theologians of the moment. Maybe it’s just because I agree with most everything he says.

He teaches at a college that’s affiliated with the Churches of Christ. That’s not a progressive group — most of those churches still don’t use instruments in worship. I’m saying, it’s not easy for a Church of Christ theologian to publicly acknowledge that he’s “progressive.”

Nevertheless, Richard has taken up my longstanding challenge for progressive Christian theologians to say something substantive about God, about Jesus, about theology, and about what we believe.

If you follow Richard, you know that he is the KING od series. So, he’s in the midst of a double-digit series, spelling out his thoughts. He’s made the very unlikely pairing of two books to lead him through this: Greg Boyd’s God at War, and John Caputo’s The Weakness of God (I confess to only having read the latter).

Here are some highlights of Richard’s posts so far. For instance, from the opening post:

And yet, it’s no surprise to say that progressive Christians really shy away from this sort of thing. A militant Christianity is what drove many progressive Christians away from conservative Christianity. Consequently, progressive Christians often tend to be too hipster, liberal, ironic or cynical to take any of this “warfare” stuff seriously.

And that, I think, may be a part of the problem. It’s hard to build excitement for your vision of progressive Christianity when the vibe is ironic, cynical, intellectualized or coolly detached. It’s hard to build excitement for your vision of progressive Christianity when you are being paradoxical, post-modern, or deconstructive. It’s hard to build excitement for your vision of progressive Christianity when it often reduces to liberal humanism, existentialism, functional atheism or simply voting for Democrats.

Basically, I think progressive Christianity struggles because it often fails to give people a real, honest-to-God, bible-thumping fight. More precisely, progressive Christianity has a lot of fight in it, but it has often struggled to articulate that fight in robustly biblical ways. (Let alone the major problem of progressive Christians being too reactionary, focusing much of their fight against conservative Christians.)

Yes, Richard! That’s right!

Richard ventures deep into the territory of spiritual warfare. This is an area that Greg Boyd hold dear, but both Richard and I are skeptical. (I’ve repeatedly asked Greg to have a public conversation with me about this — actually, I’ve given him a chance to convince me that angels and demons exist. We haven’t yet been able to set it up. Richard’s posts, however, did provoke a tweet from Greg in which he stated that he just doesn’t get why some people don’t believe in spiritual beings. Richard responded.)

In part 6 of the series, Richard argues that progressives can get what they need from Caputo, without the intellectually dubious belief in demons posited by Boyd:

In short, progressive Christians can get the warfare theology they want by simply making explicit their views regarding the weakness of God. This is the connection between God at War and The Weakness of God. As Boyd argues, a warfare theology assumes a plurality of forces in the world in combat with each other. A weak view of God assumes this plurality, that in the world there are a variety of forces often working at cross-purposes. Among these forces is the “weak force of God,” the force of love. And insofar as love abides and “rules” then the Kingdom of God is instantiated. Christ is made “King” and “Lord.”

You can find all of the posts on Richard’s blog. Here’s currently on Part 8. I’ll respond after he’s completed the series.

What do you think of Richard’s posts so far?


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