by Richard Mansel, managing editor
The state of the church is a matter of serious concern as brethren wander from the truth in increasing numbers. If we will stem the flow, we must determine the intentions of those leading them away.
Benjamin Disraeli said, “In a progressive country change is constant; change is inevitable.”/1 If we consider that the “country” under attack is Biblical truth and God’s church, we can see how destructive progressivism can be.
Determining the presuppositions of progressives in the religious world as a whole can produce greater insight into the mindset of progressives in the Lord’s church.
In order for progressives to convert the majority of minds, it will require an intellectual sleight of hand that they are adept at performing. Incrementally, people have accepted progressive doctrines without realizing they have done so.
The progressive movement is decimating certain segments of the Lord’s church. Having largely conceded the older generations, they remain content to own the future through heavy recruitment in youth and young adult circles, which are more often open to novelty and resistance to traditional ideas and methods.
We must be aware that while progressivism sounds more conciliatory than liberalism, they are from the same root.
“Regarding the relation of liberal and progressive, many religious thinkers employ these terms interchangeably. This usage has historical weight, because for many years liberalism was the progressive tradition in theology. The idea of a progressive Christianity was first imagined and developed by theological liberals. However, I believe that ‘progressive’ should be treated as a wider category than ‘liberal’ and that the fundamental divide in Christian theology is between various forms of conservative orthodoxy and progressivism.”/2
Conservatism and liberalism are not compatible. The presuppositions of progressivism are so different from conservatism that they are beyond consensus. J. Gresham Machen concludes that, “despite the traditional use of Christian phraseology modern liberalism not only is a different religion from Christianity but belongs in a totally different class of religions.”/3
The denominational group, the Center for Progressive Christianity offers the following main points to describe their beliefs./4 They hold to the belief that we should “…embrace the search not certainty,” in our approach to Scripture.
First, “they are repelled by exclusivist beliefs. They reject the concept that only their branch of their religion has the entire monopoly on truth.”
Second, they “value the search for truth, even though it can never be fully possessed. They view it as more important and challenging than the acceptance of those fixed beliefs found in the past by others and imbedded in church creeds.”
Third, they are “chaos tolerant: They can handle a degree of disorder, uncertainty, and ambiguity in life and want to be partners in the exciting search for tentative but satisfying answers to the most pressing problems of existence.”
Fourth, they “believe in the Ethic of Reciprocity: that how we treat other people is more important than the specifics of what we believe about God, humanity and the rest of the universe.”
Fifth, they “have the ability to absorb rapid change in their beliefs, as they integrate findings from social and physical sciences.”
The Center for Progressive Christianity offers the following story to explain their mindset.
It involves a Sunday school teacher and a class of 9 or 10 year olds. Even at that age, some were skeptical of the inerrancy of the Bible. They felt that many events recorded in the Bible never happened. Rather than try to convince the children otherwise, the teacher suggested that they read Charlotte’s Web instead. It is an enduring story of a bashful pig named Wilbur who befriended a spider named Charlotte. The class enjoyed the book. After some great discussions, the teacher interjected the thought that pigs and spiders cannot talk. The kids protested: “Well, it’s a story.” The teacher asked whether the story was true. They decided that it was sort of true. And in a way, it was true. So the teacher suggested: All right, well let’s look at the Bible in the same way./5
2/ Gary Dorrien, Cross Currents; Winter2006, Vol. 55 Issue 4, p456-481, 26p.
3/ J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans 1923), 6.