Fundagelicals are absolutely apoplectic about progressive churches. Nasty progressives are teaching such un-Christian things like how we should love our neighbors; the Bible must be interpreted in context; and worse, Leviticus isn’t a guide book on morality.
I’ve noticed an increase in the number of articles published on how to spot, with the intention to avoid, progressive churches. I mean they look like regular churches, and you might accidentally get sucked into one, unbeknownst to you, and start actually loving people.
One website said that the best way to spot a progressive church is their “low view of scripture.” To be fair, I’ll quote directly from their article. “One of the main differences between Progressive Christianity and Historic Christianity is its view of the Bible. Historically, Christians have viewed the Bible as the Word of God and authoritative for our lives. Progressive Christianity generally abandons these terms, emphasizing personal belief over the biblical mandate.”
Let’s look at this statement closely. The author claims that there is progressive Christianity and Historic Christianity. This is one of the common tricks used by Fundagelicals to get you to believe that their view of Christianity stretches all the way back to Jesus. Historic Christianity is a Christianity of change. Doctrines and teachings have changed and evolved over the two millennia of Christian existence. The view of the Bible, what it is, how it came to be, how to interpret it and even what writings belong in it has been up for debate since the founding of the Church. it is still up for debate. There has never been a unified Churchwide view on the Bible. To claim that there is a “Historic” view of the Bible and to attempt to paint your own particular brand of Fundamentalism (Born in the 19th century) as the Historic view is either ignorant or a bold lie.
Let’s look at the next claim, “Historically, Christians have viewed the Bible as the Word of God and authoritative for our lives.” Historically, if we start with the early Christians, many of which were Messianic Jews, they came from a tradition of debating scripture and reinterpreting it to address current situations. Scripture was seen as having guiding principles that needed to be debated and analyzed to make it relevant. The protestant Reformation focused on scripture as the authority as opposed to tradition. This view is “Historical” if you mean it happened at some point in history. It doesn’t mean that it is what Jesus taught or believed.
The early Christians up until the Middle Ages added books to the Bible that they felt were helpful. Some books stayed, and some fell out of favor. For example, the Council of Trent of 1546 reaffirmed the addition of the book of Revelation to the Bible. Indeed books were added and subtracted as they were considered inspired and the community accepted them. This is far different from the Bible is the Word of God. (Which Bible by the way the sixty-six book version, the seventy-three book version, or the seventy-nine book version? Ask a Fundagelical, and they will claim that only the 66 books of the Protestant Bible are the word of God. ) progressives believe the Bible is inspired but that Jesus is the Word of God. Jesus is the ultimate revelation of God, God’s message, and how to live as a human being. Jesus corrected many of the teachings throughout the Old Testament. If the Old Testament is the inspired Word of God, then why did Jesus need to correct it? As for the authority the Bible has over our lives, a quick read of Paul’s letters will show that Paul made suggestions for the early church that modern day Christians have taken and weaponized as commands. Even the New Testament confirms that how to live as a Christian was decided by the community rather than the letter of the law. (See the Jerusalem Council in Acts)
Finally, the article says, “Progressive Christianity generally abandons these terms, emphasizing personal belief over the biblical mandate.” Progressives believe in Biblical inspiration and that the Bible presents the teachings of Jesus which are the Words of God. These terms have not been abandoned they have just been restored to their historical means after Fundamentalist redefined them in the 19th century. Personal belief is indeed important, but the community still comes together under the guidance of the Holy Spirit to align with Christ rather than a misinterpreted Biblical mandate. It should be well noted that Fundamentalist and Evangelicals have changed some of their outdated mandates (Think teachings on miscegenation.) Most progressives I know would agree with John Wesley and the Wesleyan quadrilateral for determining doctrine: scripture, tradition, reason, and experience.
Fundagelicals tend to demand that the Bible be the only authority because they have learned how to manipulate and weaponized verses to control followers and ostracize dissenters. Their demand for the false “Historical” authority status of the Bible is simply an attempt to maintain power.
Fundagelicals want you to be afraid of progressive churches because progressives want you to think for yourself. St Anselm motto of “fides quaerens intellectum (Faith seeking understanding) is probably the best statement of what progressives are trying to do. Anselm believed that faith was a volitional state that drives us to act as God wills because of love. Understanding is an attempt to find deeper truths about God through reason. In essence, an active love of God seeking a deeper knowledge of God. Progressives don’t have a low view of scripture; in fact, we take scripture too seriously to take it literally and out of context.