4 Things Progressive Christians Get Wrong

4 Things Progressive Christians Get Wrong April 10, 2024

Progressive Christianity

Nothing encourages a person more than telling them what they are doing wrong. I have written for years on the problems in evangelicalism. It is only fair to apply the same critique to progressive Christianity.

There is no doubt that there are many things people get wrong about progressive Christianity. Perhaps chief among them is that progressive Christianity is a belief system that runs antithetical to conservative Christianity, specifically, evangelicalism. As I argue in UNenlightenment, progressive Christianity is a milieu – a place. A place where deconstructing Christians can have a safe environment to explore, experiment, and gather wisdom from those who went before them. Like a young adult who has learned under the tutelage of their parents, they must eventually leave the nest and go out into the world. At some point, they become parents too and must pass down to their children what they learned from their parents and their experiences in the world.

Additionally, progressive Christianity should not be viewed as “liberalism” or equated to “liberal progressives”. These are political designations that oftentimes fail to distinguish themselves from one another – primarily because the same word is being used. As should be the case progressive Christianity consists of a wide range of thinkers. From the ultra-liberal to conservative. Progressive in the Christian sense is in reference to moving forward and being intentional about the intellectual and spiritual path one is on. It’s about taking one step at a time in order to evaluate ideas that have been passed down and reconstruct new ideas that move you into a greater truth. If individuals are not moving toward truth, they are not progressing, they are simply trading one idea for another. This undermines the deconstruction and reconstruction process.


1. Time to Leave the Nest

Progressive Christianity provides a place of refuge for those without a home. However, one trap that many fall into, and is not that different from what some in evangelicalism have fallen into, is complacency. Those who have become complacent, are content existing in a stagnant state. Whether from religious exhaustion or because they lack religious direction, many stay in the comfortable familiarity, they have become accustomed to.

However, individuals should at some point go back out into the world and share with others what they learned while within the progressive Christian environment. To share the hope and encouragement that they received from their time in progressive Christianity. This is the only way substantive change can occur. By staying isolated and not spreading oneself into the lives of others we inevitably abandon the call of the Christian life. But if we truly care about ourselves and being on mission as a representative of Jesus Christ before the world, then we must eventually go back out.

2. The Need for Reconstruction

Although writing has increased regarding reconstruction, there are still too many individuals who deconstruct without reconstructing. Deconstruction has no meaning apart from reconstruction – it simply serves as a justification for people to abandon their faith. It is also a type of intellectual laziness.

No doubt that deconstruction is difficult and can take a toll intellectually and spiritually. It may even be necessary to break or separate oneself from religion altogether in order to deal with psychological trauma. But it must always occur with the intention of moving forward. It takes courage to move forward and requires a superhero type of bravery to take the leap of faith into reconstruction. But we are all the better for doing so.

It may be the case that progressive Christianity has not fostered this part of the process well. It may also be that progressives have not mentored newcomers. But progressives have been creating new ways for those deconstructing to do so in conjunction with wise Christians. (If this is you and you are in need of resources please reach out to me, I would love to share whatever resources I have.)


3. Progressive Christianity is NOT Antithetical to Evangelicalism

The belief that progressive Christianity runs antithetical to evangelicalism is not only incorrect but also has unintended logical consequences. First, it assumes that any beliefs that may be reconstructed by the progressive must fall in opposition to evangelicalism. Since not all evangelical beliefs are necessarily wrong, those beliefs will result in something that is not true. And truth, not systems, ideologies, or other movements should be our guide.

This also leads to a second problem. That is, it assumes that evangelicalism gets everything wrong. This would be an erroneous conclusion based on fallacious thinking. It may be that evangelicalism gets many things wrong but it is not logical to conclude it gets everything wrong. This is not only faulty thinking but a type of intellectual arrogance that is also a predominant critique progressives have lodged against evangelicals. Let us not fall into the same trap. If anything, deconstruction should result in the understanding that, at the very least, we should approach knowledge with wisdom and the only way to do that is to exercise intellectual humility.


4. Evangelicals are NOT the enemy

Even though evangelicals may think progressive Christians are the enemy, it would be a mistake to characterize them as the enemy of progressives. It is an easy trap to fall into – one I have stumbled into many times. We should take no pride or enjoyment in the failures of evangelicals. We should see them as we see our former selves – in need of clarity and truth. There is no way progressives can build bridges if once they are built, they turn around and burn them down.

In addition, by building bridges, progressives are ensuring (to the best of our ability) that progressive Christianity becomes more relevant and is seen as an alternative to that which is anti-evangelical – even if ultimately, that is what it is.

Building bridges is also exercising tolerance which is a virtue progressives pride themselves on. Being intolerant towards people who oppose progressive thinking is the same type of echo chamber evangelicals have been accused of participating in for years. Ultimately, a progressive needs to be the bigger person and exercise emotional maturity by practicing what they preach even when doing so is uncomfortable.

To be clear what I am not suggesting is to reintegrate oneself into another traumatic environment (or the one you came from). Instead, there are plenty of church communities out there that are progressive or a part of a mainline denomination that will allow you to grow in a way that is healthy and God-honoring.


Progressive Christianity should not Foster Atheism

This is a tricky subject to handle because for whatever reason people don’t use the word atheism the same. There are some who use the term pejoratively. That is, they are using it as a way for them to express contempt or disapproval toward Christianity or the Church. People do this as a provocative measure meant to invoke a response from the entity that caused them trauma.

Those people are not who this statement is directed toward.

Instead, atheism here is in reference to people who have completely given up faith in God and the possibility of any future belief. There are a lot of people who confuse agnosticism with atheism. As strange as this may sound, you can NOT believe in God and still not be an atheist. There is a place in agnosticism for those who may one day return to belief in God they just currently don’t believe in him – but remain open. The difference between atheism and agnosticism is openness. Atheism is reserved for complete disbelief in a higher power.

It is altogether possible that through a deconstruction process, a person becomes atheistic – in the agnostic sense, for a time. Perhaps they were not mentored or they may not have deconstructed or reconstructed properly and as a result, they no longer believe in God. These people are also not who this is directed towards.

Instead, there are those, for whatever reason, who declare they are atheists while at the same time continuing to be a progressive Christian or at least identify with that label. It’s not clear why they do this, whether it is to steer people away from Christianity or if they are confused with who they are. But, there should be no room for true atheism in progressive Christianity. It is not useful for the atheist or the person who comes with a need to deconstruct.


I love the progressive Christian community. I want to see it grow in positive ways so that real change can be made in the world. Every day in the news we can see how progressive Christianity has begun to reshape how non-Christians view Jesus. We should remain focused and help bring the healing and hope of Jesus to a hurting world. If we don’t, then why are we here?

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