It took me less than five seconds to decide whether or not to keep a flyer I found in my mailbox. The 12-pager came from a local Uniting Church, and was full of descriptions about activities it was offering. This is quite typical of the UC, with an emphasis on everything except biblical Christianity.
But just as I was about to toss it into the bin, I finally saw something actually speaking about the faith. It mentioned an exploration of “Progressive Christianity”. Instantly I knew where this church was coming from, and instantly I knew I had an article on my hands.
The pamphlet itself was full of all the courses and activities this church was involved in. On offer were watercolour painting, yoga and relaxation, cake decorating, tai chi, square dancing, etc. The trouble is of course, when the church seeks to compete with the world in offering worldly activities, the world usually does a much better job of this.
These churches seek to be trendy and relevant by downplaying the gospel and offering everything the world does. But in that case, why even bother? Let the world offer worldly stuff. But this is all par for the course with a denomination which has long ago abandoned biblical orthodoxy.
But the tie in to Progressive Christianity shows us exactly where this church is at. Indeed, a case can be made that whenever one finds the adjective ‘progressive’ prefixed to the word ‘Christianity,’ one should flee to the hills. One might almost say the phrase is a clear-cut oxymoron.
This is because those who champion the phrase invariably mean moving beyond historical, biblical Christianity. They see the orthodox Christian faith as old-fashioned, restrictive, intolerant and repressive. They want to move beyond the faith once delivered to the saints to a new, trendy, and – quite plainly – heterodox version of the faith.
Indeed, biblical Christianity becomes unrecognisable in this new faith. One simply has to look at a few of the many websites devoted to this movement to see that it can no longer be called Christian at all. It is all about rejecting historic Christian creeds and promoting a mushy and content-less religion.
The motto of the Progressive Christian Network of Victoria is “Open Hearts, Open Hands, Open Minds”. Of course the trouble with most open minds is that they need to be closed for repairs. Being open-minded in this context usually means being open to any whacko belief and teaching other than biblical Christianity.
Thus the website of this group proudly proclaims that it is into “Investigating alternatives to traditional religious belief and practice and new ways to understand religious faith”. It is suspicious about, even hostile to, any claims to doctrinal or theological certainty.
Indeed, this is a common theme of such progressives. The Progressive Christian Alliance puts it this way: “Faith is not about concrete answers, religious absolutes, creeds, or dogma.” The Center for Progressive Christianity expresses it this way: “We are opposed to any exclusive dogma that limits the search for truth and free inquiry”.
Of course all this flies in the face of the clear teachings of Scripture. Everywhere in the Bible we find an insistence on holding to sound doctrine and correct teaching. The very thing the progressives detest and want to jettison the biblical writers affirm and champion.
A few passages – of many – can be cited here. Jesus stated quite unequivocally, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching” (John 14:23-24). No mushy moralising or content-less religion here. Being a disciple of Christ means both knowing and doing what Jesus taught.
The early church also continuously stressed this. We read of the early disciples that they “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching” (Acts 2:42). Indeed, “Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ” (Acts 5:42).
Paul repeatedly hammers home the vital importance of sound doctrine and solid doctrinal boundaries. How anyone can read Galatians 1:6-9 without realising this is beyond me: “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!”
Right doctrine was absolutely essential for Paul. As he says in 1 Timothy 6:3-5, “If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, he is conceited and understands nothing”. Or as he reminds us in Titus 2:1, “You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine”.
And John makes this very strong warning: “Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him” (2 John 1:9-10).
These and many other related passages are simply ignored or rejected by the progressive. Indeed, there is really nothing new or progressive about this movement. It is really just the old theological liberalism, which in turn is really just the old paganism.
Religious words are used, but they are totally stripped of their biblical content. These folks really do not believe in an inspired and inerrant Scripture. Instead, the Bible is seen as a fallible, human document. And of course the uniqueness of Christ and his work is totally rejected.
The progressives believe that there are all sorts of other ways to God and truth. Other religious traditions are equally valid, and in the end, all mankind will be finally reconciled to God anyway. So this movement has simply undercut the entire rationale for Christ and his coming.
J. Gresham Machen warned back in 1923, “In the sphere of religion, in particular, the present time is a time of conflict; the great redemptive religion which has always been known as Christianity is battling against a totally diverse type of religious belief, which is only the more destructive of the Christian faith because it makes use of traditional Christian terminology. This modern non-redemptive religion is called ‘modernism’ or ‘liberalism’.” Today it is called ‘progressivism’.
He also said in his important volume, Christianity and Liberalism, “[D]espite the liberal use of traditional phraseology modern liberalism is not only a different religion from Christianity but belongs in a totally different class of religions.” Indeed, this describes Progressive Christianity perfectly.
It is not Christianity at all. It has thoroughly gutted biblical Christianity of its most basic and vital teachings. All that is left is an empty shell in which humanistic, pagan and syncretistic concepts are poured in to fill the void. Indeed, it is the very thing Jesus and the early disciples warned against.
In sum, there is nothing progressive about this outfit. Heresy is always as old as the hills, and so we have nothing new here. But as Peter cautioned, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
44 Replies to “Progressive Christianity”
Very sound article Bill.
I noticed years ago that these trendies are more political than even remotely religious. Coming from the “left” side of politics, they have a habit of using terminology which is the opposite of what should be their self description. This occurs right to the extreme Left. The Communists refer to their governments as “Peoples’ Republic”. They are nothing of the sort. Then we have dictatorships calling themselves Democratic Republics. Last we have regressives calling themselves “Progressives”. Liars all!
Frank Bellet, Petrie Qld
Yes this movement really has become an excuse to promote every radical leftist cause out there, baptising it in the name of Christianity. Simply think of any activist cause being promoted by the secular left and you will find it all there in the progressive camp.
Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch
It’s sad to say that in many Christian churches in modern America, there seems to be a watering down of the gospel of Jesus Christ for the other god we have in America called “Mammon.” It’s a well worshiped god in our modern culture that says money is everything and can buy anything, including love. It’s also been said in the modern church in America that “Christianity is 3000 miles wide, but only a half an inch thick,” so be careful where you tread in the modern church, the “Christian” concept within may break at any moment leaving you stranded without any place to go but down.
Once a church corporation has you in, that’s all they do. It is all about your money and nothing more. And your money goes so the church, like the government, can keep on spending, spending, and more spending, but frown when the government does the same thing that the church ought to do with tax dollars. Hypocrisy? Yes, it is. The church that resides in modern American Christianity has lost its way, and it has lost the support of many communities because it no longer meets the physical needs of a community of people. It is only partially concerned with their spirituality, and mostly concerned about its own “members only” social club and glorified entertainment centers whose ushers would throw Jesus out if He did the anger scene that He did in the temple and overturned the money-changers tables in disgust.
Many modern Christians are afraid of stepping out and being counted for Christ in the streets of our nation, because of the fear of being arrested, yet if the Apostles had had that fear of being arrested, and I’m sure many of them did, Christianity would never have made it out of the first century, let alone into our modern world and cultures.
I walk past Scots Uniting Church in the middle of the city (Adelaide), while going to Church. I stopped and couldn’t believe what I was reading. No message of God’s love or anything like that. This is so secular I mean they could have inserted “Tiberius” instead of “Jesus” and could have said the same thing. This is what the advertising read:
(Scots ecofaith ministry)
Bill, I see what you mean by “progressive”; It even admits that it is “This site comes from a progessive Christian perspective,” (spelling mistake included). http://ecofaith.org/general/
Thanks to your articles, I wasn’t all that surprised. I have always thought preaching the Gospel was the most important thing any Church would be doing.
A link from that site http://ecofaith.org/ecofaithcommunity/index.html doesn’t look Christian at all. I mean with things like ‘ what is baptism in “green” “progressive”, faith etc .A six week program includes:
1. the cosmology/evolution story.
2. Life, not humans, is the image of God.
3. Dominion or Servanthood or..?
4. On being kicked out of the garden- revisiting(rejecting) the “Fall”
5. An alternative to Original Sin.
6. So who is Jesus then?
So if they don’t preach about the Resurrection, Loving God and loving our neighbour, then what good are they? That site is an article in itself.
“We are We are opposed to any exclusive dogma that limits the search for truth and free inquiry”.
…except the exclusive dogma that is “opposed to any exclusive dogma that limits the search for truth and free inquiry”. I wonder how they view the words of Jesus “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) Sounds exclusive and limiting to me, but what do I know?
Ugh, same old errors. Do these people know even the most basic logic? I’m convinced that as Christians we need to be much harder on those who would claim to be brothers and sisters in the faith than those in the world. Jesus told us plainly that there will be those who claim to be his but aren’t and by their fruits we will know them.
“watercolour painting, yoga and relaxation, cake decorating, tai chi, square dancing” – Yes indeed, I can recall reading in Acts how so many of the disciples engaged in first century equivalents!!! Pathetic!
Once again, just another article exposing the apostasy of the Uniting Church. It is very sad actually, as I read this I think of hundreds of people out there who think they are doing the work of God but in fact are not. Nice people who would not intentionally hurt anybody but nevertheless, unwitting ministers of Satan. We need to make it our business to pray for these people, that as many as possible will come out of this false institution and repent of their waywardness, remember, those of us readers who know the truth and do our best to practice it each day were once under the same satanic delusion, we have a Godly responsibility to pray for them unceasingly.
Frances McNab takes the cake with this I reckon. St Michaels Uniting in Melbourne city is nothin but a farce and false, very poor advertising for Christianity.
Bill, thanks for highlighting it, hadn’t heard of this latest fad.
It’s institutions like this that make it all the harder when talking to people about Christ – because joe bloggs talks to a ‘progressive’ and hears wishy-washy reassurance and assumes, when presented with the raw Gospel, that the church itself (and by extension, God) is unclear and confused. ARGH.
Edgar – yeah why is that? So many christians are more scared of unbelievers than of God.
Carl, thanks for the example
Mark R, right on.
It was a few weeks ago that I first read that rubbish when going to my Lutheran church in the city. So last week I took my digital camera to take a photo of that advertisement board so I could write word for word what it said so I could share Bill and everyone else here an article was posted. This posting could have not have been better or more appropriate. I looked through one of the links and here is another- http://ecofaith.org/ecofaithcommunity/nov-dec05input.html within that site. I admit, I am not the best at explaining my faith but this is really concerning. Bill or someone can correct me here but some of this is boarding on New Age. I find it very interesting that they haven’t posted on “Who then is Jesus” that goes on to say “What kind of Messiah does this product of evolution, which we call Homo sapiens, need?” To me it comes across don’t acknowledge Christ as their Saviour who “is risen indeed”.
Well, if we are simply the product of impersonal evolution, and here by accident, then there is of course no need for a saviour. Sin only makes sense in a moral universe, and morality only makes sense in a personal universe, but if are here as a result of blind, impersonal forces, then the whole biblical story line is incorrect.
Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch
Carl, they deny the fallen nature of man. How then could they say we need forgiveness or redemption?
from their page: “The Christian story of the Fall has it exactly backwards, exactly wrong, which is good news indeed!”
… i feel sick.
Thanks for writing this post. You wouldn’t believe how many people suppose that we must never question someone’s claim to be a true Christian, especially if the person making the claim is also a member of clergy.
The majority of those who’ve signed atheist Dr Michael Zimmerman’s pro-Evolution Clergy Letter would fall under this condemnation. For example, I recently investigated Rev John A Shuck who was celebrated an Evolution Sunday since Zimmerman first came up with the concept of dedicating a day to preach Darwin from our pulpits. His views, taken from his own blog, bear witness that not only does he reject traditional Christianity, he cannot even be considered a Christian since he rejects the bodily resurrection of Christ [Romans 10:9]. Sad, but true.
I termed him a hireling in the post I wrote, but I wonder if that’s accurate, for that would imply that he has a legitimate flock he’s tending. Too often, congregations [and denominations] have heaped to themselves those that will tell them what they’re itching to hear. So perhaps hireling is inaccurate; maybe he’s simply a goatherder trying to pass himself off as a shepherd and his rabble of goats off as a flock of God.
Rev Tony Breeden
I was reading through that website and what those folks are really doing is earth worship with pantheism in the mix. They seem to loosely sprinkle the name “Jesus” around here and there, but that’s about it. Scary stuff. Makes me think of 2 Peter verses 1 and 2.
I majored in Religion at an American Baptist sponsored university that has grown “progressively” liberal over the years. The professor who taught most of my courses made a statement about evaluating cults and other movements that sound or appear to be Christian. He said to look at their doctrine of sin. This has proven to be most helpful. Of course if a group has no doctrine regarding sin, since they have dismissed it as irrelevant, that says about all one needs to know.
A few months ago I posted this on my blog “Fun With God?” (by the way, thanks for this article)
The Incredible Shrinking Man Meets the Vanishing Point
All the horizontals and verticals of human history, of time itself, converge at one point; the cross on Calvary where Jesus Christ was crucified. It’s the vanishing point for every excuse, every argument and every rational objection to God’s “unreasonable” demands.
“A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come for everything is now ready.’ But they all alike began to make excuses . . .” (Luke 14:16-18)
Marc Jonathan Haney
Alison, that quote seems to be admitting that they are not “Christian”? That’s fairly thinly disguised (or maybe not disguised at all) opposition to the gospel message, as is some of the teaching given on the topics mentioned in an earlier message.
While I agree with the horror expressed in some messages here concerning this movement, I would like to add there is nothing wrong with a church being involved in and offering community classes and other efforts as long as that activity does not contradict the plain teaching of the written Word of God. (I would draw the line at some of the things mentioned above for that reason!) Bill’s article emphasised the problem with the inclusion of these things at the expense of the central message of the gospel and correct teaching. I agree with his negative attitude towards that practice. However, if a church has people in it who are gifted in certain areas and able to contribute to the community in those areas, I see no problem in the church offering those services, as long as they see it as a means to a more important end: making disciples of Christ.
The “progressive Christianity” movement seems to have as its main goal the dismantling of orthodox Christian doctrine. That’s another matter entirely.
Oh – and Marc – the examination of a group’s doctrine of sin is right on – your teacher was a wise man…
Yes, I do not mind churches which offer social activities, as long as they preach the biblical gospel and that is a primary concern of theirs. I do however mind churches which offer lots of social activities but do not preach the biblical gospel – as seems to be the case with the church I mention in my article.
Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch
A friend sent me your article reviewing Progressive Christianity. My experience of progressive Christianity is very different different from yours. I have found progressive Christians to be very keen Bible students, rather more interested in Biblical studies that your average Christian. Although I must admit that they often come up with some very curly questions from their reading of the Bible particularly about the inconsistencies between what they find in the text and what has been preached from the pulpit. As a member of the Progressive Christian Network of Victoria I have attend dozen’s of gatherings and lectures where the central focus has be on both living and understanding the Gospel today and where there has been thoughtful reflection on the Biblical material with the goal of serving God in the contemporary world. As reformation theology struggled to free itself from the deadening effects of medieval Catholic Christianity, many in the progressive movement today seek the same gospel freedom from the lifelessness of fundamentalism and dogmatism. Or to quote an old Baptist hymn, ” God has yet more light to brake forth from his word.”
Simply looking at the various progressive websites reveals what a low view of Scripture these groups have, and a corresponding rejection of orthodox biblical teachings.
Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch
And then will I profess to them, I never knew you….(Mt 7:23)
I sure hope I don’t hear those words on judgement day. The whole thing about Christianity is our personal relationship with Jesus (God). Spending time to learn about him, and to get to know Him personally.
As the verse implies, Jesus must know us, do you know him, personally, or do you just know of Him?
I thought it was rather simple really. Nothing hard here.
But surely there is room for different perspectives on the Christian life? I find it discouraging that some Christians wage war with other Christians simply because they believe their own interpretation of scripture is superior. Why can’t we pursue our preferred approach to scripture and let others pursue theirs? For all we know God may not be fussed either way, or He may well dislike our approach.
Robert Windsor, NSW
But this is not at all about “different perspectives on the Christian life”. It is something far more important – it is about an entirely different gospel being proclaimed. Indeed, judging by your comment, should we take it then that you regard Jesus, Paul and John (see the quotes from them above) as all being intolerant, bigoted and narrow-minded? They are the ones who warned about these very matters. These and many dozens of other similar passages make it absolutely clear that God is very much ‘fussed’ about such matters.
The fact that you obviously are not fussed about the very thing God is fussed about tells us a lot about where you are coming from, and how seriously – or otherwise – you take biblical authority and teaching.
Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch
I would love to invite you to an upcoming meeting of the Progressive Christian Network of Victoria, mentioned in your post. The intention of the invitation would not be to try to “change your mind” – you clearly have a very strong sense of belief and I realise you would find most of what you hear at the meeting maddening or frustrating. But in the midst of the meeting, if you were able to listen to the struggles and concerns of the participants (as attrocious as you found them to be) you might also find something in common with those people. You might see the same search for truth which has led you to your curent position of certainty. And although those people don’t share your certainty you might be able to view them with brotherly compassion, even while you are concerned for, in your eyes, their lack of clarity.
But it is exactly because I already do “view them with brotherly compassion” that I have written this article and others like it. Paul and others wept for those who were heading to a lost eternity through false beliefs, false doctrines, etc. They warned constantly about false teachers and false prophets who were leading people away from the gospel of Christ, not to it. That too is my deep concern. That in part is why this website exists.
And while a visit to your meeting might be interesting, just as a visit to an atheist meeting or an Islamist meeting – or even a nudist colony – might be interesting, the truth is, life is busy, and I already interact on a regular basis with all these groups (even the nudists – no kidding!) both on this website and elsewhere.
Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch
Thanks Bill. I don’t pretend to understand the mind of God. If you think that you do, good luck to you.
As far as the Bible is concerned, I take it with caution. There are too many contradictions and inconsistencies in it to regard every word as coming directly from God. Humans obviously influenced the content, and the choice of books, which explains the incoherent bits. Similarly, when the Bible is at odds with human knowledge, e.g. cosmology, then I believe we need to take those sections as allegorical. I know many Christians think differently, and I have no issue with that. Maybe they are right and I am wrong, or the opposite could be true. But ultimately we all seek salvation, and I think God is intelligent enough to recognise that and forgive us if we misinterpret scripture.
I didn’t understand your reference to Jesus, Paul and John. I couldn’t find the quotes you referred to.
So nice of you to spill the beans fairly early on here. As is so often the case, the first comment is all sweetness and light: Gee, such nice folks. But further comments reveal what is really going on.
First, we now get the snide remarks, showing just how really open you folks are to honest discussion and debate. Spare us the crack about ‘understanding the mind of God’. Despite your scepticism, the truth is we can in fact know the mind of God – that it, exactly as much as God chooses to reveal to us. Why in the world do you think he chose to go through all the bother of revealing himself to us in so many ways, but primarily in his word, and in the person of Christ? It is so that we can know something very real about God, what he is like, his purposes, and his intentions and plans for us.
Your apparent contemptuous disdain of genuine knowledge of God is no different from that of the atheists and the secularists. But the good news is we all can have real knowledge and understanding about God, since he has chosen to reveal himself to us. Sure, this knowledge will never be exhaustive knowledge, but it will always be sufficient knowledge. We can know as much about God and his mind as is necessary for our wellbeing, for getting ourselves back in right relationship with him, and in cooperating with him for his purposes on planet earth.
But just like the other sceptics and unbelievers, you simply sneer at such realities, refusing to believe that God can and does communicate to us, even in our fallen condition, and that he presents us with true truth and reliable information. Just like your atheists buddies, all you are left with is epistemological scepticism and nihilism.
But this unbiblical and un-Christian attitude of yours of course all flows from the next point which you let out of the bag. You admit that you sit in judgment over God’s word, declaring it to be unreliable, untrustworthy, full of mistakes, and in the end just a mere human document. This is just so typical of both secularists and progressives – you both claim that your own finite and fallen knowledge is far superior to God and his self-revelation.
As long as you believe there is no clear word from above, then all we will ever be left with is mere human reasoning. You again betray the fact that you folks have nothing to do with biblical Christianity, but everything to do with the now discredited Enlightenment rationalism, which puts human reason alone as the sole arbiter of all truth.
Sorry mate, but until you humble yourself and get off your pedestal, and put back God where he belongs, none of your objections will be answered and you will forever fulfil the warning of Paul when he spoke of those who are “ever learning, but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim 3:7). As the Bible so clearly proclaims, God always resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Atheists – and progressives – who think they can sit in judgment over God and his word are a prime example of the former, and therefore will always be resisted by a holy and perfect God, who is looking for faith, humility and honest questions, not the clenched fist of unbelief and idolatry.
And the quotes from those three NT figures are all found in my article, which you evidently have not even bothered to read – or at least read carefully.
Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch
The progressives of any Christian Church are influenced by the devil, as it is the devil who wants to extinguish the Word of God.
In your reply to Robert, you devalue “mere human reasoning”. But surely it is mere human reasoning that has elevated the Bible to its status as a holy book. It is human reasoning by which we assure ourselves that our faith is not in vain.
Mary O’Connor, Brisbane
But let me call your bluff here. It was most certainly not unaided human reason which declared the Bible to be a sacred divine text. God himself made that declaration in his self-disclosure to us, and in his own commentary on what his revelation of himself to us is all about. Left to our own devices, we never would have come up with such a unique book, nor managed to convince ourselves it was somehow divinely inspired.
In our fallen and finite world, unaided human reason will usually take us away from God and his self-disclosure, not to it. Without outside help (a transcendent word from God coupled with his Spirit to help us understand it), man left to his own devices is in a rather bad way. Human reason is a gift of God, but is now tarnished through the fall. We need outside help, otherwise we will simply be left floundering in epistemological uncertainty and moral darkness.
Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch
I do not associate myself with this latest ‘fad’ nor do I read its material. Theologically I stick to historical Christianity, (we ignore our past at our peril), I devour church history books. However, I had begun to call myself a progressive Christian, meaning moving forward. Now I will stick to saying “I press on”.
I should have known better than to use a non-Biblical term, at times warning others how dangerous it is to do so.
So I press on, no longer a progressive.
Adrian, Robert & Mary,
What God has shown us we have in common is the fact that we are sinful and in need of him in order for any meaningful solution for here on earth, let alone eternity. So much I have heard of ‘Progressive Christianity’ elevates man above God and avoids the most crucial parts of the gospel, and is therefore of little worth. How do you think it saves souls if it primarily avoids talking about Jesus as our saviour?
Without the correct starting point and recognition of the answer provided through His Son and the revelation of His Word, how do you think there is going to be any worthwhile discourse?
I am so very unsurprised to read that you (Robert) won’t let God’s Word be the authority in your life. It sounds so much like you think sticking to Scripture is less important than avoiding upsetting people with the plain and simple gospel. But I’ve well and truly lost count of how the infinite wisdom in the Bible dances around the ideas of so-called ‘modern’ man to prove that God will not be mocked and it is mankind who looks stupid. ‘Progressive’ Christianity is actually nothing new or advanced at all – it’s just the same old tired rebellion of the human heart trying to challenge the Creator. It’s really no different than Pharaoh or Balaam or King Belshazzar. But “MENE, MENE, TEKEL, PARSIN.” (Dan 5:25, 27) It can only end in deadly failure.
Robert, you mentioned cosmology – I look up into the heavens some nights and see only a small portion of the billion trillions of stars in the universe. I hear from experts telling me of the unbelievably complex microscopic world of DNA. But these are just tiny hints compared to the revelation; God chose to reveal himself through his Word – notice that Jesus quoted from 24 books of the Old Testament in part to establish his authority. So Jesus obviously didn’t think that Scripture had “too many contradictions and inconsistencies in it to regard every word as coming directly from God.” I’m sure the woman caught in adultery was very grateful that Jesus in fact knew it better than all of the smartest teachers of the day who thought themselves guaranteed they had Jesus trapped.
As for Mary’s contention that Scripture is authoritative due only to “human reasoning”, I wonder how that squares with the fact that Jesus quoted Deuteronomy to the devil and the devil respected it. Compare that with how one of his lesser minions was considerably underwhelmed by the disciples and their lack of faith and prayer (Mk 9:14-29) – not much to do with “mere” human reasoning either.
I dare not follow what you all appear to be doing, which is telling the infinite God how to do things. I actually think part of the reason God deliberately revealed Himself using the seemingly innocuous and inert pages of the Bible is as a litmus test to expose those who hearts love darkness so much they can’t let God decide how to run His universe. But I think it smarter to be in awe of the infinite mind of God that he can make fools of men with pages of a book containing words thousands of years old. Men die – like grass, but the Word lives on – indeed it will forever.
So I direct your attention to the words of Jesus to the seven churches in Revelation 2 & 3. (If you’re especially observant, you’ll notice how his words are awash with Old Testament references – something that should give pause to Christians who think that the OT has passed its use-by date) Probably the most common criticism Jesus had of the Churches was of walking away from clear and sound doctrine. It wasn’t sharing ‘concerns’ as a smokescreen for avoidance of the simple message of salvation. Bill is right – the questioning of God when He has spoken about some things with strong certainty can be confidently stated to be a very bad thing. God has chosen to reveal himself to us through His Son. Read all of John 14 – it is soaked in the certainty that Jesus is our only hope to salvation. We’re just repeating what God has said, if you reject that, you are actually rejecting Him. (Lk 10:16) You might also note verse 21.
As anyone who builds a house knows (and Jesus spoke using this very same illustration – Mt 7:24-29) you must get the foundation right first. God is mighty to save us from an eternity in hell – there is nothing more important in this life. No, the precious Gospel must not be watered down with diversionary tai-chi and yoga as if that was the main thing. Some activities are good, some bad, but regardless a Christian church truly representative of Jesus must have as its primary mission the saving of souls.
“For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:36)
I’m sorry, but I don’t understand your reasoning. The New Testament did not exist during Christ’s life on earth, so what do you mean when you say:
God himself made that declaration in his self-disclosure to us, and in his own commentary on what his revelation of himself to us is all about.
If you mean that God revealed himself through scripture, but much of that scripture was only written after Christ left us, surely we must conclude that human reason determined which books to include in the New Testament, and that these books were the Word of God. If you don’t agree with that, in what other way did God disclose his own commentary.
I never said human reason has no place in the Christian life, simply that human reason alone is insufficient. But now your questions are centering on canonisation. This was not, as some contend, just the result of a bunch of people sitting around and deciding which books were to be regarded as canonical. From early on there was a recognisable collection of books which the early believers recognised. And Christians believe that the Holy Spirit helped in this process of recognising genuinely inspired books from non-inspired ones. But that is the stuff of another article to do the topic full justice.
Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch
As a minister who was ordained in a denomination which I know you approve of and now serve as a minister in the UCA I have to say that I found the following comment most offensive, but more to the point my experience informs me that it is completely incorrect. You wrote: ‘This is quite typical of the UC, with an emphasis on everything except biblical Christianity.’ As a minister in the UCA and a person who has attended a number of Progressive Network events I cannot recognise my church or the Progressive Network in your commentary.
Now I am certain that you believe your characterisations are true to what you have experienced; I do not wish to change your mind, but I do want to say that such blanket statements and stereo-types are always, without exception unhelpful. If I may ask you, how would you respond if I said that all evangelicals are intolerant, historically and theologically ignorant people? I am certain that you would object and rightly so since it is a false statement. It is a false statement even though many evangelicals I know haven’t got the foggiest how the Bible came into being, what socio-economic and political pressures and circumstances produced the doctrines evangelicals so lovingly cherish.
In short, my plea to you as sibling in Christ is that we would all do well to tone down the rhetoric and reject the stereo-types which divide one Christian from another.
Shalom and peace to you.
Tony, as a long-standing minister of the Uniting Church until recently, I can strongly state that Bill’s view of the UCA matches reality. For instance, over a fifteen year period three professors and six other lecturers offered “in service” training at district, state and national level within the UCA. They aimed to recruit clergy to the “Faith of the Early Church”. In my opinion, as Education Convenor of this unofficial group of scholars, they would agree with Bill. So would many other UCA ministers and leaders who have felt compelled to form the Assembly of Confessing Congregations:
I was going to offer a reply, but one can always dismiss it since I am not in the UCA. But with the Stan Fishley comment in place, I will defer to him. It sounds like his years of experience with the UCA means we are not dealing with mere stereotypes here, but hard cold facts. But by the sound of it we may just have to agree to disagree here.
Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch
The old adage has never been more relevant.
You MUST believe in Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord and the authority of His Word The Bible
2 Timothy 3:15-16 (New International Version)
15 and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,
I happened upon this article while trying to sort out my response to the objections of a “progressive” friend to the more exclusive (and Biblical) style of Christianity. Her big objection to this Biblical point of view is that a loving God would not condemn to eternal separation from Him, say, entire nations of peace-loving Muslims (give or take a few non-peace-loving ones) who indeed may have a very much uphill battle in the first place to hear the gospel of Christ and in the second place to overcome societal pressures to take action and convert to Christianity. She points out that there are few Christians in some countries and a strong tradition of Islam (just as an example) and that followers of that tradition could be excellent, wonderful people. Would God just let them go to Hell because they had not been lucky enough to be born into a Christian society, or better yet a Christian family? I don’t really know how to answer this objection to Christianity as the one right way to salvation, though I have a gut feeling that objections like these amount to hair-splitting in the face of the Scriptures. All I have been able to say to her is that God knows better than we do what his intentions are. We know He is a loving God from the Scriptures. He must know the hearts of people of all faiths the world over and have a plan that encompasses everyone. Sadly this doesn’t seem to make for a very convincing argument. Bill and other informed readers: Do you have a view on how one addresses these questions from progressive pals?
I have answered in part these sorts of questions in various places, such as these articles:
I hope they may be of some help here.
Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch
I think “Progressive” in this instance means progressing down the old slippery-slope.
I had to leave my MCC church because they have a weekly group to teach “Living the Questions: Progressive Christianity” and the board, without knowing what it was voted to spend $700 on teaching materials on it. Most of the people in the church were Catholic or out of church for like 30 years, so they don’t know enough to recognize heresy and total disrespect to the God of the Trinity and to The BIble. saddddddddddddddddddd
Square dancing – surely this church is on the right course! Seriously, and I cannot remember who this paraphrased quote is from, but whenever the Church tries to imitate the world entertainment for entertainment, the Church does even that badly.
Just glimpsed an ad on the side of my screen before, for Uniting Care Foster children that is targeting “Lesbians, and Same-sex partners” to apply. Why would anyone do that?
A couple of examples from the Uniting Church here in Sydney.
When I visited the “Chapel by the Sea” in Bondi Beach in 2013, I saw on their promotional brochure that “all religions lead to God” which is in effect promoting Universalism.
Soon afterwards, they were closed down, & taken over by the Wayside Chapel of Kings Cross, who do some great work in their community, but a statement of faith was sadly lacking from their website, so I strongly suspect their gospel is a social gospel.