by Richard Mansel, managing editor
Progressive practices are eating away at the fabric of the Lord’s church. Employing emotions, rationalization and populism, they fashion a message that is slick and easy on the conscience. This is far removed from Christ’s call to bear our own cross (Mark 8:34-38).
One mantra is, “We don’t judge those who believe differently than we do.” This idea focuses on the person, not the doctrine. If hearts matter more than God’s will, then we will find a way to make the person right, no matter what it takes.
We will be very susceptible to rationalizing and reordering to protect the person’s feelings. While everyone may feel warm and fuzzy, God will not be pleased if we are disobedient to him and teach error (Galatians 1:8-11; John 14:15; Revelation 20:13). Christ’s will is disposable when happiness supersedes holiness.
Jesus did not mean that we should never judge anyone under any circumstances (Matthew 7:1) [We are actually judging their teachings and fruit to be erroneous]. God teaches that we have no right to judge others by a standard that God does not use to judge us (Matthew 7:2). Righteous judging does not eradicate right and wrong./1
Liberal denominational theologian, John Shelby Spong, while extreme, outlines an agenda of victory for progressivism./2 It involves altering the language and meaning of terms within Christianity, the abolition of sin as an antiquated notion, stripping the divinity from God and Jesus and the miraculous from Scripture and eradicating any boundary to salvation and happiness. In short, demolish and reorient all that characterizes Christianity until it is safe, harmless and, ultimately, worthless.
In the Lord’s church, many are accepting a diluted version of this agenda, often without realizing it. They may never approach the level of digression that Spong advocates, but any measure of it does serious damage.
When we hear theological terms uttered by progressives, we cannot blindly agree with their usage. They quite often mean something very different from what conservatives mean.
For example, a conservative in the church uses the term baptism to mean immersion for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16, et al). However, progressives in the church often employ a smarmy form of the word that is elastic enough to allow immersion for any reason, or even sprinkling, if the person desires. Unity, grace and fellowship are three other terms that are undergoing rapid redefinition under progressivism./3
“By calling ourselves progressives, we mean that we are Christians who invite all people to participate in our community and worship life without insisting that they become like us in order to be acceptable. [This includes] believers and agnostics, conventional Christians and questioning skeptics, women and men, those of all sexual orientations and gender identities, those of all races and cultures, those of all classes and abilities, those who hope for a better world and those who have lost hope; without imposing on them the necessity of becoming like us.”/4
We see a measure of this already in the church, as brethren become addicted to numbers and salaries and seek to reshape the fellowship of the saints. They become more like businesses than churches in that the customer decides what the church will be. Church growth becomes, in these cases, wrecking balls to the doctrines and borders of the kingdom.
Jesus is the head of the church. We are children in the family of God (Ephesians 1:22-23; Ephesians 2:19-22). How dare we try to overthrow the kingdom and try to reshape it in our image! We must submit and let him lead. Christ is our model, not the denominational world.