10 Commandments of Progressive Christianity

J. Gresham Machen, in his classic book, Christianity & Liberalism, writes:

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.

Michael Kruger, President of Reformed Theological Seminary @ Charlotte, has winsomely, and thoughtfully, explored the foundational differences between what is called “Progressive Christianity”, as opposed to historic expression of the Faith.

In a blog post, more recently published as a book, Kruger examines the 10 core tenets of progressive (or contemporary liberal) Christianity offered by Richard Rohr, which was based on a book by Philip Gulley.

  1. Jesus is a model for living more than an object of worship.
  2. Affirming people’s potential is more important than reminding them of their brokenness.
  3. The work of reconciliation should be valued over making judgments.
  4. Gracious behavior is more important than right belief.
  5. Inviting questions is more valuable than supplying answers.
  6. Encouraging the personal search is more important than group uniformity.
  7. Meeting actual needs is more important than maintaining institutions.
  8. Peacemaking is more important than power.
  9. We should care more about love and less about sex.
  10. Life in this world is more important than the afterlife (eternity is God’s work anyway).

Like the liberal understanding of Christianity in Machen’s day, “Progressive Christianity” is not simply represent a different denominational perspective, nor is it just a variant version of the faith, it seems an entirely different religion altogether.

Suggested Resources:

Christianity & Liberalism and Hermeneutical Presuppositions by Vern Poythress

Christianity & Liberalism Audio Book (7 Parts)

Race in America: Some Thoughts About the Existence of Systemic Racism

Though it should not be, the issue of Racial Reconciliation is complex. It should not be simply because all people are created in the image of God, and therefore are worthy of dignity. This fundamental reality puts all of us, regardless of race, on the same common ground. However, we live in a world broken by sin, and the effects of sin have seriously complicated even those things that should be simple.

Racial Reconciliation is further complicated by, among other things, the politicalization of racism, different definitions of what racism is and isn’t (i.e. is it an attitude? actions? or an inherent characteristic of one born into a majority culture?), and different experiences. Our experiences significantly shape our perceptions.

One of the most crucial questions in our discussions about racism in the United States is whether or not it is systemic; and if it is systemic, in what ways, and to what degrees? Even these seeming basic questions can be, and are, too often more complicated than we would think they should be. Some answer the question of whether or not racism is systemic with an easy “of course it is!”. Some are denying that there is any systemic problem.  (I have seen a video with Conservative pundit, Ben Shapiro, even trying to “debunk” the idea of systemic racism.)  And others are asking how “systemic” is being defined or measured.

To those sincerely inquiring if there is such a thing as systemic racism, my answer would be an unequivocated: “Yes. There is.” Although it may be easy to overlook, if it is not effecting you or me.

Consider what Al Mohler, president of Southern Seminary, expressed on a recent episode of his podcast, The Briefing:

In its simplest understanding, the biblical conception of sin begins with sin as an offense to God, a breaking of God’s law, a transgression on the part of a human sinner. Human sinners together, as we form societies, neighborhoods, villages, institutions, congresses, legislatures, etc, we also bring that sinfulness into the making of laws, into the establishment of policies.

What Mohler shows is the viral nature of our sin. What we may think is merely personal sin, or what we might theologically call “private sin”, is still sin, and sin is infectious; our sin effects others. At times our sin gets ratified and embedded into our civil codes. Sometimes this is quite obvious, such as clear segregation laws; other times it can be more subtle, or even almost invisible – to those it does not effect.

I found the video above, by Phil Vischer, of Veggie Tales fame, to be insightful, and both winsomely and compellingly presented.  He lays out facts – facts of history and contemporary facts – that contribute to systemic or structural racism and racial disparity. Some of these may be unintended consequences of what some may have thought to be good ideas. Some of these may be lingering effects of past racially discriminatory policies that we assumed had been eradicated. Some cannot be explained by anything other than the sin of racism.

My hope in posting this video, as many have done in other mediums, is to encourage those who are sincere in their question of whether systemic or structural racism really exists to see that it absolutely does.  My prayer is that seeing will lead to understanding, and that understanding will lead to a new sensitivity, and that this new sensitivity will lead to new perception, and that this new perception will lead to a new way of thinking, and that this new thinking with a new perception, will lead to wise and godly actions.  This is a foundational issue. Where someone comes down on the question of whether there is systemic racism in our culture will determine much, if not everything, about ones ability to engage in healthy dialogue and to effect healthy change.

Race & Racism from a White Guy’s Perspective

A few days ago I posted the video of an interview done with Bryan Stevenson, of Just Mercy fame, and Timothy Keller, discussing grace, race, and justice. As a follow up, I thought I’d post this message by Keller.

In this video Tim Keller tackles the tough subjects of Race and systemic racism.  While these terms can be loaded, I hope you will take the time to listen to the perspective that Keller lays out.

Grace, Justice, and Mercy

Last night, my wife, daughter, and I watched the film, Just Mercy. It was powerful.

With the popularity of the film, currently among the Top 10 viewed on Netflix, this video offers an opportunity to go a little deeper with the main character of the movie, Bryan Stevenson.  This video is of an interview with Stephenson and Tim Keller, discussing issues of race, justice, mercy, and grace. (This interview was filmed 4 years before the release of the movie.)

Biblical Foundations of Justice

Paul, the Apostle, wrote to the Church in Corinth:

The weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ… (2 Corinthians 10.5)

Taking our thoughts “captive” simply means to be aware of what we are thinking, and exercising control over our thoughts by subordinating them to what God says; it is forming our opinions and convictions upon Scripture above any other sources of information. Even over our own experiences.

To the Romans Paul wrote similarly:

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12.2)

Again, Paul is asserting the importance of thinking biblically.

As a culture, we are thinking and talking politically and sociologically about justice, but not theologically or Biblically.  Perhaps this is what we ought to expect of the culture. But it is also true of the American Church. It is true of the Church, largely, because we are not, and we have not been, talking about the issues in our churches.  Consequently, church members, Christians who are inundated with the socio-politcal perspective from the daily news and common rhetoric don’t have a biblcial framework through which to filter, and talk about, these issues.

This panel discussion, from The Gospel Coalition 2015 Conference, consisting of panelists Tim Keller, Voddie Baucham, Thabiti Anyabwile, John Piper, and Miguel Núñez, is five years old, but it is compellingly applicable to our current cultural discussion.

Biblical Justice

Justice is a felt need in our world today. Justice is also a hot and controversial subject. But what is justice, exactly, and who gets to define it? In this video, the folks from Bible Project explore the biblical theme of Justice and discover how it’s deeply rooted in the story-line of the Bible that leads to Jesus.

Additionally, the folks from Bible Project elaborate on this subject, with another short video and succinct explanations with graphics, in this link: Biblical Justice.