What are the core beliefs of those who believe in “progressive Christianity?” What does it mean to be progressive?
Progressive Christianity seeks to change the world for the better. Many, but not all, are trying to effectually change the world through social justice programs and ministries and a large part of this is a staunchly aggressive environmentalism mission. Of course, Christians are to be good stewards and when God told Adam to “keep the Garden,” God wanted the planet to be taken care of because he was responsible for his own environment. Progressive Christianity is not as much like traditional Christianity where believers are “to look after orphans and widows in their distress” (James 1:27) and to do what Jesus indicated by His saying that “I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me” (Matt 25:36).
Christians are commanded to also share their “food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter [and] to clothe them” (Isaiah 58:7) but progressive Christianity leans more toward a needs-based collective salvation instead of the biblical concept of personal salvation. There certainly is nothing wrong with helping to keep the environment clean, to change the social justice system in order to better help those who are disenfranchised, but the gospel’s goal is to reveal to people that they are sinners in need of a Savior and to point them to Christ so that they might be saved. A Christian will naturally take better care of their corner of the planet and many Christians emphasize the need to recycle and to fight for social justice but that is a by-product of being a Christian and not their main purpose.
The Center for Progressive Christianity was created in 1995 by an Episcopalian priest, James Rowe Adam in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He wanted the churches to step out into the political arena and into society in order to reach out to
“all people to participate in our community and worship life without insisting that they become like us in order to be acceptable” regardless of their lifestyle or beliefs, sexual orientations and they welcomed agnostics as well as atheists and they wanted to worship life without their having to “become like us.”
I agree that we should reach out to all people but we must tell them that unless they repent they cannot see God. Jesus said that we can only worship God if it is in spirit and in truth (John 4:24).
Those that hold to progressive Christianity do not like to state that there is only one way to God, or that all other beliefs or faiths are in error and they are repulsed by exclusivist claims that only through repentance, confession, and trust in Christ can a person be saved and that there is no other way. That teaching is something you will never hear from them. They say that they have moved beyond the idea of biblical inerrancy. This is where progressive Christianity differs from that of biblical Christianity because Jesus said that “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). Jesus is not one of many ways but the one and only way. Jesus did not say that I am one of many ways…or that I am one of the ways but I am the one and only way and there is no other way to go to the Father than through Him. The belief that there are many paths to God is to believe that there is a plurality of ways to go to Heaven.
Progressive Christianity, by rejecting that the only way to heaven is through Christ and their belief that all other religions cannot be wrong is to essentially believe that all beliefs or faiths are not wrong. The problem with that is that the Islamic faith, the Buddhist belief, and biblical Christianity cannot all be true. Anyone that knows about all the other religions of the world should realize that the law of non-contradiction ensures that they cannot all be true. Either one is true or the others are not. They cannot possibly all be right. For example, the Islamic faith teaches that there is only one God and his name is Allah but the Bible is clear that God is a Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Progressive Christianity believes that the Bible is not inerrant and that the Bible changes with times. Christians believe that the Word of God is perfect (Psalm 19:7) and is not subject to personal interpretation (2 Pet 1:20-21) and does not change…ever (Mal 3:6; Heb 13:8).
What progress did Jesus really emphasize for believers? It was to grow in the grace and knowledge of God (2 Pet 3:18), to live a holy life because God is holy (1 Pet 1:16) and to be sanctified (John 17:19) by the continual renewing of their minds (Rom 12:1-2). If God wants us to be progressive, it is to be progressing to be more like Christ. Christ was without sin (1 John 3:5) and even though we will never be sinless, we should be sinning less as we yield to the Holy Spirit. If you have not yet repented, confessed your sins, and trusted in Christ as Savior, you can never be progressing to be more Christ-like. Your destiny is one that is indescribable (Rev 20:11-15). Just as heaven will be joy beyond description, hell will be just as much beyond description. Both are eternal. You have a choice. To reject Jesus is to make a choice. To trust in Him is the right choice. It will be in a hundred years and it will be for ages without end.
Jack Wellman is a Senior Writer for What Christians Want to Know, whose goal is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to answer questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Blind Chance or Intelligent Design.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on Patheos.