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JosephM

Just What Is Progressive Christianity To You ?

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One of my favorite progressive Christian authors is Marcus Borg. I’ve read almost all of his books and, therefore, find it a bit difficult to speak of what Progressive Christianity means to me without something of Dr. Borg’s influence coming through. What I think Borg does well is to take topics and concepts of traditional Christianity and , through using both historical-criticism and mystical-metaphorical analysis, to put a new spin on the subject at hand to help make it both sensible and meaningful to people today. Therefore, many of his books are intriguingly titled, “Seeing (fill in the topic) Again for the First Time”.

 

For me, being a progressive Christian is embracing the present in which I live while also reaching toward the past and the future. I sometimes feel like the many-armed Hindu goddess Kali. In reaching toward the past, toward the Christian tradition which has been handed down to us, I seek to “test all things” and to “hold to what is good.” Dr. Borg has helped me to reconsider and reinterpret such traditional religious terms as the Bible, God, Jesus, and Christianity in ways that not only often make sense to me, but invite me to know God in a more personal and deeper way today, in the present. And because God is becoming more and more a present reality to me, my relationship with Him challenges me to live in such a manner that, in some small way, influences both the present and the future for good.

 

So that is what Progressive Christianity means to me – considering the past traditional Christian faith for what is worth holding on to, mainly found in Jesus’ teachings; trusting God’s presence and empowerment with me today as my source to be and live; and responding to God’s call, as found in Jesus,into a tomorrow marked by both personal and social compassion.

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FRED PLUMER on

 

 

 

Progressive Christianity is an adapatable art form, not a rigid “explain-all” dogma that over-literalizes and distorts the grand mysteries it seeks to illuminate…

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Progressive Christianity is an adapatable art form, not a rigid “explain-all” dogma that over-literalizes and distorts the grand mysteries it seeks to illuminate…

 

Hello, Joseph,

 

Thanks for posting the Fred Plumer video. I found it very interesting.

 

I don't recall hearing Mr. Plumer describe Progressive Christianity as "an adaptable art form." (I was taking notes as I watched the video, so maybe I missed his mention of this?) I don't find the phrase "adaptable art form" very helpful, to be honest. In my view, this leaves too much wiggle room for those who wish to make the Progressive Christian movement no more than an atheistic social movement or service club.

 

Was it really the intent of the recent re-founders (or modern co-founders?) of the Progressive movement to get rid of anything that can't be explained by classical physics?

 

I find Mr. Plumer's willingness to "examine the best scholarship [and] . . . be willing to make a change" WITHOUT throwing out all experience of relationship with the Divine very honest and refreshing.

 

He notes a particular focus on scholarship in both theology and christology. He also mentions the role of scholarship in science. I concur.

 

He's quite clear in this video that he thinks Jesus spoke of a path, a path which, if followed with "great intention," can help other people know an experience of the Divine as Jesus himself once experienced.

 

This is also my view. It's my view that what Jesus learned is both teachable and learnable. It's not an experience reserved for a select chosen few (whether mystics or ministers). It's a "bottom-up" approach to theology and christology, rather than a "top-down" approach. Jesus' approach deserves to be examined carefully.

 

In my view, if we're not prepared to reexamine Christian theology, Christology, and science in light of the best scholarship available to us, we may just as well pack up our pews and our hymn books and go join an admirable service club like the Lions or the Kiwanas or the Rotary Club.

 

There is still a place for the ineffable mystery of the Divine in the 21st century church. Why do we have to be so darned afraid of this sense of mystery?

 

As quantum weirdness shows us, there's plenty of room for both mystery AND science on the same page. No need to choose. They're both part of our reality.

 

Jen

Edited by canajan, eh?

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Hello, Joseph,

 

Thanks for posting the Fred Plumer video. I found it very interesting.

 

I don't recall hearing Mr. Plumer describe Progressive Christianity as "an adaptable art form." (I was taking notes as I watched the video, so maybe I missed his mention of this?) I don't find the phrase "adaptable art form" very helpful, to be honest. In my view, this leaves too much wiggle room for those who wish to make the Progressive Christian movement no more than an atheistic social movement or service club.

 

Was it really the intent of the recent re-founders (or modern co-founders?) of the Progressive movement to get rid of anything that can't be explained by classical physics?

 

Jen

 

The actual quote was not in the video but can be found HERE in the "about us" tab of our home site.

 

No i don't think it is the intent to "get rid of anything that can't be explained by classical physics?" It seems to me PC wants to encourage us to be open and for change in our thinking as discovery unfolds. Much remains unexplainable at the present and i think Fred's makes a point not to over-literalize and distort the real mystery that the path seeks to illuminate.

 

I like what Mike says in post #6 "Progressive Christianity to me is a path that embraces pluralism and gets away from systematized, exclusive absolutes, and where intellectual honesty is much more likely to be valued. This is, of course, a risky endeavor, because it opens us to uncharted terrain. There is much potential for tenderness, love, and meaning to be creatively discovered. That word, 'creative', is essential. Creativity - in practice, social realization, philosophy, theology, metaphysics, art, etc., - I think can truly develop into a unique hallmark feature of PC, because of PC's inclusiveness. Without that creativity, I think we risk superficiality, again, because of its inclusiveness -- it might become somewhat amorphous and ambiguous, lacking bite. "

 

Joseph

Edited by JosephM

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Hi Joseph,

 

Thanks for your thoughts. I like Mike's post, too. The point about inclusiveness possibly leading to a movement that "lacks bite" is a good one.

 

Best,

Jen

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I think of Progressive Christianity as primarily 2 things:

 

1) Relationship is more important than doctrine. Which is why I must remain in the Church (in my case the US Episcopal Church)

 

2) The metaphorical meaning of things (especially the stories of the Bible) is more important than the literal.

 

From that, while I have problems with the idea of an "God" out there, I find myself more drawn to the idea of God as "Being".

 

Hope to learn more in time.

 

Gary

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For me, PC can be broken down into both religion and politics. I am pretty conservative theologically, but that is why I'm very liberal. The Bible talks about social justice, caring for the poor, etc., and I find the politically left parties have more in common with those teachings (I'm a member of the Green party in the U.S). What is strange to me is that a lot of Christians have chosen to join conservative parties that seem to adapt positions in direct contrast to what the Bible and Jesus teaches.

 

As far as religion goes, if you believe the Bible then you see we have a lot of liberty as Christians. We are no longer under Mosaic law, and we are to be led by the Spirit. So for me, it really comes down to the relationship between God and the individual. I know there are some things that are not right for me to do, but that doesn't me they're not right for someone else. If you believe in God then your path will be directed by God, and it's nobody else's business to interfere or to tell you that you're wrong. It's why I have no list of what a Christian should or should not do. It's a lifelong process, and we're all at different stages trying to figure this thing out.

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Thought the below article and all the other links in it about progressive Christianity would make for some interesting discussion.

 

 

A Progressive's Three Great Loves

 

A Progressive Christian is one who takes seriously the Three Great Loves identified by Jesus (God, Neighbor, Self), and rejects the notion that "two outta three ain't bad."

By Eric Elnes, June 22, 2011

 

http://www.patheos.com/Resources/Additional-Resources/Progressives-Three-Great-Loves-Eric-Elnes-06-22-2011

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Thought the below article and all the other links in it about progressive Christianity would make for some interesting discussion.

Ray,

 

Why don't you start another topic on the three great loves or the 12 affirmations. The 12 affirmations might be more interesting because we have had a lot of discussion recently about whether an atheist can be a Christian.

 

Dutch

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I’m always impressed by Jim Burklo’s insights in his blog “Musings.” His book Open Christianity has been one of my all-time favorites in terms of articulating what PC means to me. Recently he has focused on current events and social issues, but he speaks equally well on creativity, love of nature, mysticism, and many other subjects. Besides being a minister, author, and tcpc affiliate, he teaches a course at USC’s School of Social Work. This week his entry is on “Soulful Citizenship” –from a speech he gave at a California congregational church -

 

http://tcpc.blogs.com/musings/

 

Soulful citizenship is about idealistic realism. It’s idealism about making sure that all vulnerable people are protected. It’s realism about how that can be achieved practically…”

 

It’s clear where Burklo stands politically, yet it’s not a divisive knee jerk reaction--he analyzes both sides in a thoughtful, well-informed and balanced way, attentive to spiritual values and how they relate. At least it seems so to me.

Edited by rivanna

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For me, Progressive Christianity is the received tradition, chastened. PC opens the received tradition to science, the social sciences, philosophy, literature and other religious systems. It acknowledges that Christianity -- indeed, spirituality generally -- is a piece of the whole and is not the exclusive repository of all truth. PC, at its best, is not arrogant and closed, but humble and open.

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This is going to be a painful post - painful in all the right ways, but painfully never the less.

 

I guess, looking backward over my life, I have been a spiritual progressive - living on the edge has become almost second nature. God, in whatever way such an entity might be conceived, has never been confined to the Church - either as four walls or as institution. God has always been dynamic - moving and urging me - a spiritual presence even when circumstances exist where such 'presence' is questioned. He/she/it has always been there - even in the absence - especially in the absence.

 

Jesus knew this presence in absence and it takes some courage to stand in the abyss. Not, I hasten to add, that I am some paragon of courage. Rather, sometimes its a matter of 'crash, or crash through'. I'm in a 'crash through' phase now.

 

The Anglican church I have been attending has been badly led. It is dying both physically and spiritually. I have persisted with attendance more out of some inverted sense of loyalty rather than anything else. I have talked myself into believing God somehow wanted me there. But I sorry God I just cannot play the pretend game any longer - I cannot pretend all your church has to offer me is Sunday School theology. You have led me this far and I know getting dumber is not part of your comic plan.

 

I have been avoiding calling myself anything like a Progressive Christian - I am not sure the term is effectively an oxymoron. Yet, it is plain to see I just don't fit the mould my church asks me to squeeze into. I am aware than many, not all, by most, step around me. It seems that whenever I open my mount I cannot help but be 'progressive'. And being silent is not a habit I have developed.

 

So, I am to move. To where I do not know but I cannot play the pretend game any longer. I cannot pretend that my church has more important things to say than does Professor Brian Cox. Ignoring things like the Higgs boson, the probability of life on Mars and dark matter does not make the elephant disappear. Ignorance may be bliss but it is also embarrassing.

 

Progressive Christianity, as far as I understand the term, designates the spiritual adventurers. They are willing to take the risk - to accept the uncertainty - to feel their way. PC is a way where there is no way - a path than only opens when one begins the journey. It is an acceptance that one does not know but to stand still is spiritual death.

 

So I will leaving those who refuse to move beyond their Sunday School theology. This saddens me. Silently I am screaming inside - it's so simply - just take one step I urge. But nothing is heard inside a vacuum. Resistance is futile as they are locked into their lifestyle and anything that might upset the regime is an unwelcome intrusion.

 

So PC is also something else - a recognition that second best is not good enough - that pandering to the lowest common denominator is not a spiritual path but terminal.

 

I will miss them and I will pray for them but I know their minds have been made up and the night is closing in.

Edited by Wayseer
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Progressive Christianity, as far as I understand the term, designates the spiritual adventurers. They are willing to take the risk - to accept the uncertainty - to feel their way. PC is a way where there is no way - a path than only opens when one begins the journey. It is an acceptance that one does not know but to stand still is spiritual death.

 

So I will leaving those who refuse to move beyond their Sunday School theology. This saddens me. Silently I am screaming inside - it's so simply - just take one step I urge. But nothing is heard inside a vacuum. Resistance is futile as they are locked into their lifestyle and anything that might upset the regime is an unwelcome intrusion.

 

So PC is also something else - a recognition that second best is not good enough - that pandering to the lowest common denominator is not a spiritual path but terminal.

 

Thanks for that heartfelt sharing to the question wayseer.

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Feeling as if I have nothing really to add--------Am just beginning my journey into coming/going 'back" to Christianity, after many years of being a "Jesus Loving Agnostic"............

Reading this Forum Helps Me Feel So Much Less Alone.

 

And Afraid.

 

Thank You.............

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As a person relatively new to Progressive Christianity (PC) -- I never even heard of John Shelby Spong prior to his November, 2011 interview on Minnesota Public Radio -- perhaps I could highlight some personal observations. These are based on occasionally reading the TCPC web pages and having read ALL questions and answers in the Bishop Spong newsletters going back to their beginning (completed October, 2012 and I continuing to read new ones weekly).

 

1) PC throws off the yoke of institutional/ecclesiastical biblical interpretation formulated mostly somewhere by or around the 4th century CE and passed down to today's people as "as holy a message as the Bible itself" just because church leaders back then thought that they had it all figured out.

2) PC relies on not only ancient Bible writings, but also finds favor with rational thinking, scientific/archaeological findings, and an openness to the MYSTERY of God being just as important as knowing "Him" personally.

3) PC embraces religious thinking "outside the box" of stereotypical "churchy" thinking and creeds -- a realization that the Creator is so pervasive in the entire universe, that word-anchored thought and contemplation only starts to capture the essence of God.

4) Jesus comes closest of anyone yet setting foot on Earth to revealing how our God-Creator loves us and that this in turn needs to be reciprocated among the brethren of God's creation.

5) Our existences do not end with our mortal lives, the excitement of the eternal journey to come not revealed because it cannot be put into words we may presently understand,

 

These are the things popping into my mind tonight ---------------Randall W

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This weekend we made a family outing of going to see the recent cinematic interpretation of Victor Hugo's classic Les Miserable.

 

It is very close in content to the original Broadway stage play (in fact, the original actor - Colm Wilkinson - who portrayed Jean Valjean on Broadway, portrays the benevolent Bishop of Digne in the film).

 

Now, one element of the story that Hollywood managed to purge from their various and sundry adaptations over the years (the one starring Gerard Depardieu comes to mind) was the rather harsh criticism of organized religion that was an underlying theme of Hugo's work.

 

This element is very evident in the current motion picture starring Hugh Jackman (Wolverine???).

 

My point in posting all of this within this thread is that to me, the message of Les Miserables - the true way to worship G-d is not to follow a rigid set of rules and dogma (Javert), but rather to simply love your fellow man (Bishop / Valjean) - is what I take away from the Progressive Christianity movement.

 

NORM

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Norm,

 

My wife (Carla) and I went to the movie theater tonight to view Les Miserables. We thought it was a good movie -- historical period, a musical for a change, and showing strong, impassioned human emotion. Most impactful was the final statement, something to the effect of (and I paraphrase from memory) "When you love another person, you see the face of God." From what I have read of Bishop Spong, that theme would seem quite consistent with espousers of Progressive Christianity. How much more of a worthwhile movie than Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ that showed many assumed notions, legendary pass-downs, etc!

 

 

Thanks for sharing!

 

Randall W

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Norm,

 

My wife (Carla) and I went to the movie theater tonight to view Les Miserables. We thought it was a good movie -- historical period, a musical for a change, and showing strong, impassioned human emotion. Most impactful was the final statement, something to the effect of (and I paraphrase from memory) "When you love another person, you see the face of God." From what I have read of Bishop Spong, that theme would seem quite consistent with espousers of Progressive Christianity. How much more of a worthwhile movie than Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ that showed many assumed notions, legendary pass-downs, etc!

 

 

Thanks for sharing!

 

Randall W

 

From The Epilogue:

 

"And remember the truth that once was spoken

To love another person is to see the face of God!"

 

NORM

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To traditional Christians, it's all about believing Jesus rose from the dead and going to heavan. To me, a progressive Christian, it's all about good works. It's about community service and helping the poor and the disadvantaged. It's about how we treat each other - with mutual respect and love. It's all about accepting others as they really are, as they really believe, instead of trying to force ideas into their heads that don't seem to be true to their life experiences. Everyone's life experience is different. What is important to one person isn't necessarily important to another. How ridiculous traditional Christians are to oppress the vast majority of people who believe that truth can be found in many places... not just the Bible.

 

The word secular humanism comes to mind, though I'm not sure I entirely understand what that word means.

Edited by stopman
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(IMO) I guess its about finding my own path and being free to do so. Its about recognizing the differing path of each other and sharing fellowship on the road. Allowing oneself to view the mystery of God without preconditions and being led where the spirit takes one. Its about recognizing the worth of others whether they think the same, hold another faith, walk a differing path, or not, but accepting that the family of God is varied and our concepts are limited. The ability to question things and to come to acceptable conclusions we can own ourselves without the need to adopt an authoritative creed. To be moved by love and not dogma. To hope for all and not an exclusive group of people who adopt one way of thinking. To recognize that we are the church and it has no hierarchy of priests telling us what we must think. Its about seeing the varied paths we walk and still feeling we are one. United by love and seeking the best in each other and learning from each others experience as they do ours. and so much more...

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"Progressive Christianity is an open, intelligent, and collaborative approach to the Christian tradition and the life and teachings of Jesus that creates a pathway into an authentic and relevant religious experience."

 

Quote from ProgressiveChristianity.org

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