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FireDragon76

what is a progressive Christian, really?

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I'm a bit confused by what exactly being a "progressive Christian" really means.

 

I consider myself a progressive Lutheran (I'm a member of the ELCA), but as a Lutheran my faith is both confessional and Christocentric.  While I respect that there is wisdom in many religions, that's not what I see as the core of my faith, which is about God's reconciliation with humanity in the person of Jesus Christ.  So I'm not sure I can agree on all 8 of the points. 

 

Lutherans also emphasize human sin and human depravity, even if we do not have quite the same tone as other evangelicals, it is still an important part of our proclamation and spirituality.   

 

On the other hand, I'm outspoken in my support for inclusion of LGBT persons in the Church, and my religious denomination (ELCA) also expresses a basic level of support for LGBT rights, including non-discrimination in public services.   By many evangelicals standards in the US, that is highly problematic and that would tend to lump me in the "progressive" camp as defined by an organization such as Patheos or Sojourners.

 

My social ethics generally follows in the tradition that came out of Bonhoeffer's writings on "religionless Christianity", for instance Jurgen Moltmann, John A.T. Robinson and Harvey Cox.   We are less interested in spirituality as something separated from secular activities.   In this way it is really a classical Lutheran emphasis understood in a modern context.  Most Evangelical Lutherans in the ELCA understand God as transfiguring the secular.   So, we tend to view things as individual spirituality and mysticism as less important, even perhaps misguided at times, despite modern trends to the contrary in our culture.   We are "religious, but not spiritual", as the Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber likes to joke.   What little exclusively "religious" spirituality we have is communal fellowship centered in our sacraments and rites.

 

 

Edited by FireDragon76
typo

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5 hours ago, FireDragon76 said:

I'm a bit confused by what exactly being a "progressive Christian" really means.

 

I consider myself a progressive Lutheran (I'm a member of the ELCA), but as a Lutheran my faith is both confessional and Christocentric.  While I respect that there is wisdom in many religions, that's not what I see as the core of my faith, which is about God's reconciliation with humanity in the person of Jesus Christ.  So I'm not sure I can agree on all 8 of the points. 

 

Lutherans also emphasize human sin and human depravity, even if we do not have quite the same tone as other evangelicals, it is still an important part of our proclamation and spirituality.   

 

On the other hand, I'm outspoken in my support for inclusion of LGBT persons in the Church, and my religious denomination (ELCA) also expresses a basic level of support for LGBT rights, including non-discrimination in public services.   By many evangelicals standards in the US, that is highly problematic and that would tend to lump me in the "progressive" camp as defined by an organization such as Patheos or Sojourners.

 

My social ethics generally follows in the tradition that came out of Bonhoeffer's writings on "religionless Christianity", for instance Jurgen Moltmann, John A.T. Robinson and Harvey Cox.   We are less interested in spirituality as something separated from secular activities.   In this way it is really a classical Lutheran emphasis understood in a modern context.  Most Evangelical Lutherans in the ELCA understand God as transfiguring the secular.   So, we tend to view things as individual spirituality and mysticism as less important, even perhaps misguided at times, despite modern trends to the contrary in our culture.   We are "religious, but not spiritual", as the Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber likes to joke.   What little exclusively "religious" spirituality we have is communal fellowship centered in our sacraments and rites.

 

 

"Progressive Christianity" is a failed movement.  In the US, the adjective 'progressive' is becoming meaningless as identity politics becomes recognized as an elitist form of manipulation to force thought away from critical thinking and into ideological camps or mutual admiration societies.

The church has been a safe harbor for GBLT persons for centuries.  It is only today that the politics of GBLT have caused this backlash.  I am supportive of GBLT persons in the church largely because the common interpretations of Scripture on this topic are horribly thin and inaccurate.

Homosexuality is a focus because it is an easy target.  What the Protestant Church wants to avoid confronting are:

1) A robust theology of marriage and divorce.  Another case of the seperation from Catholicism throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

2) A comprehensive discussion of sexual behavior and immorality.  The church likes limiting discussions to homosexual immorality because if they took on heterosexual immorality with the same vigor the churches would be empty.

 

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Hi FireDragon76,

Wikipedia sums PC up for me better than I can phrase it:

"Progressive Christianity is characterised by a willingness to question tradition, acceptance of human diversity, a strong emphasis on social justice and care for the poor and the oppressed, and environmental stewardship of the earth. Progressive Christians have a deep belief in the centrality of the instruction to "love one another" (John 15:17) within the teachings of Jesus Christ.[2] This leads to a focus on promoting values such as compassion, justice, mercy, and tolerance, often through political activism. Though prominent, the movement is by no means the only significant movement of progressive thought among Christians.

Progressive Christianity draws on the insights of multiple theological streams including evangelicalism, liberalism, neo-orthodoxy, pragmatism, postmodernism, Progressive Reconstructionism, and liberation theology.[3] Though the terms Progressive Christianity and Liberal Christianity are often used synonymously, the two movements are distinct, despite much overlap."

It's a 'movement' only in so much as a large number of people have found traditional Christianity and interpretation of scripture as lacking, and so they seek to find a truth that makes more sense for them.  There is no specific structure that I am aware of, but rather there are congregations and individuals that may assume the label based on teachings and scholarship that themselves are regarded as 'progressive'.

Personally, I get less hung up on the label and am more interested in the things I have learnt through the various progressive christian scholars and authors I have read (Borg, Erhmann, Spong etc) and even from many others here.

Cheers

Paul

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1 hour ago, Burl said:

"Progressive Christianity" is a failed movement.  In the US, the adjective 'progressive' is becoming meaningless as identity politics becomes recognized as an elitist form of manipulation to force thought away from critical thinking and into ideological camps or mutual admiration societies.

The church has been a safe harbor for GBLT persons for centuries.

I don't know if PC is a failed movement nor do I know how to judge this. If some have been 'freed' from some of the restraints of their former faith expression and rather than 'leave' Christianity have found new ways to think through much of what it has to offer, that is a success. I have no problem with the 8 Points but do find it 'entertaining' when some (the revised Spong site included) define themselves as Atheist Christians or otherwise remove God, (seemingly) without an appreciation of the importance of God for Jesus or what God means.

I am intrigued by the centuries old acceptance of GBLT in Christianity or perhaps 'safe harbor' is not the same as acceptance and support. Was that formalized or simply practiced by some members? In Catholicism, I always found interesting the 'acceptance' of the homosexual person while at the same time the institution being against any expression of an intimate loving homosexual relationship: "Hey you're gay, we accept you, you just can't actually love your partner, and, oh, BTW, we don't approve of gay marriage." Love that kind of acceptance?? Homosexuality had been (and remains?) a focus because it has been considered sin.

7 hours ago, FireDragon76 said:

While I respect that there is wisdom in many religions, that's not what I see as the core of my faith, which is about God's reconciliation with humanity in the person of Jesus Christ.

My faith is best expressed in Christianity but I recognize there is both wisdom and 'reconciliation with the Divine' in other religions and in everyday lives outside of any religion. 

1 hour ago, PaulS said:

It's a 'movement' only in so much as a large number of people have found traditional Christianity and interpretation of scripture as lacking, and so they seek to find a truth that makes more sense for them. 

Good point!

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Our congregation actually has gay people who serve in ministry, and Lutherans tend to be nonjudgmental anyways.   So we are more than merely tolerant.   But at the same time we have alot of older people who are not yet ready to have things like same-sex marriages.   This varies from congregation to congregation, since our polity is congregationalist.  And our own congregation, I think, isn't ready or willing to dive into the more politically charged pro-LGBT movements within our church, such as ReconcilingWorks, and the entanglements that might entail.  I think that's fairly typical of moderately conservative ELCA churches in the US.

I came to accept gay people years ago when I was an Orthodox Christian, a convert from apatheism. Gay people were, at one time, the last people I wanted to meet.  I wanted to stay away from that controversy and the baggage associated with it.   However, I think God has a sense of irony and stuck alot of gay people in my life.    And it is one of the reasons I had to leave that church in the end, because my understanding was at odds with my church, which considered homosexuality sinful and deviant, like a disease, which is something I saw as very damaging to people I had come to know and who had lived with that message. 

 

I was also drifting towards a more Lutheran understanding of salvation, anyways.  Luther was a brilliant theologian and I think he really cuts to the heart of the issue, esp. for anybody that has come from a Christian background steeped in tradition.  Eventually, that whole "sin-management" thing can become horribly oppressive, whereas I think the Christian life should be far more bold. 

Edited by FireDragon76

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All sexual immorality is sinful.  Gay is the hot topic, but homosexuality is barely mentioned in the bible.  Adultery and heterosexual fornication are the big issues, but they are ignored.

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Gay is not merely 'the hot topic' and I agree it is barely mentioned in the bible - rather it is t-h-e big sin for many 'conservative Christians - and obviously much more so than adultery and fornication. I mean these last two seem to be given a complete pass by the Christian Right if it can MAGA :+}

I have no problem saying adultery is sin (understood as self-centeredness) but it is, as most things, never simply black and white. For example, the man or woman whose spouse is sick to the point of never recovering, living in a state of semi or full unconsciousness is a bit easier to forgive than any of our president's dalliances. As for fornication, although the ideal might be sex within marriage, there are committed relationships outside of marriage, there are still homosexual relationships not blessed/recognized by the Catholic Church, there are the occasional senior citizens hooking up in the nursing home (although perhaps that is more a Hollywood flight of fancy), there are older folks living together but not married so they do not adversely impact their meager incomes and there are couples in love who have not yet married. Again, all are different in degree and kind that our president's flings.  

Christianity, in spite of and also because of the Bible, has always been hung up on gay sex.

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Hey, I want to vote Burl and FireDragon for BEST PICTURES on the site!

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10 hours ago, FireDragon76 said:

Lutheran understanding of salvation, anyways.  Luther was a brilliant theologian and I think he really cuts to the heart of the issue, esp. for anybody that has come from a Christian background steeped in tradition.  Eventually, that whole "sin-management" thing can become horribly oppressive, whereas I think the Christian life should be far more bold. 

Perhaps, you can elaborate on Luther and salvation at some point and post in the future - could be of interest especially for those who are not Lutheran.

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10 hours ago, thormas said:

Perhaps, you can elaborate on Luther and salvation at some point and post in the future - could be of interest especially for those who are not Lutheran.

We are alot like other evangelicals in the basics.  But I think the most striking difference is that we believe in real grace for real sinners, and not what Luther called "a pretend grace".   We believe in living the Christian life boldly rather than scrupulously.    And we do not view salvation as an offer or a process of growth but something that is completed and applied to the individual through hearing the Word and receiving the Sacraments.

 

Here's a video from our presiding bishop talking about being a Lutheran.  It's a bit more liberal in tone than my own congregation, and a bit vague on the actual details, but it's a good overview for knowing what Lutherans are about:

 

 

This is one of my favorite Lutheran hymns, we sign it at baptisms.  We are a church very much oriented around communal sacred rites, especially baptism.  That is where we believe we primarily encounter God as human beings.  As the Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber jokes, we are "religious, but not spiritual".

 

Edited by FireDragon76

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12 hours ago, FireDragon76 said:

We are alot like other evangelicals in the basics.  But I think the most striking difference is that we believe in real grace for real sinners, and not what Luther called "a pretend grace".   We believe in living the Christian life boldly rather than scrupulously.    And we do not view salvation as an offer or a process of growth but something that is completed and applied to the individual through hearing the Word and receiving the Sacraments.

I have no idea what 'pretend grace' is but I also wonder how Lutherans understand real grace. I agree it is not a mere process of growth (how we understand that may differ), salvation is always 'there' but, indeed, it must be accepted (or not) - which might cause some to view it as an offer. After all, grave is a gift and a gift is offered to another and if accepted it must be used or taken up - so actually, grace is offered and an offer. Completed I get, applied not so much. One applies wax to a car, a thing - one does not apply something to a human being who is not a thing. Even your words, hearing and receiving are the antithesis of something that is applied and speaks rather to something given and the freedom and willingness of another to hear and to receive what is given, what is offered: Grace, or better, God.

 

Edited by thormas

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15 hours ago, FireDragon76 said:

We are alot like other evangelicals in the basics.  But I think the most striking difference is that we believe in real grace for real sinners, and not what Luther called "a pretend grace".  

 

I think there is an inbuilt tendency into Lutheranism to pick up fights over the doctrine of justification by faith. Deep inside, every theologically educated Lutheran is secretly looking for a pope to fight with. Lutheranism is so defined by Luther's personal conflict against the Catholic Church of his time, that the whole concept of Lutheranism misses a key element of it's spirit if there is not some pope to fight against.

 

On 7/27/2018 at 7:05 AM, FireDragon76 said:

we tend to view things as individual spirituality and mysticism as less important, even perhaps misguided at times, despite modern trends to the contrary in our culture.

 

What is "modern trends" of our culture, is somewhat arguable. If you live in an academic culture and go babbling about how God speaks to you directly, usually you lose your credibility and get labeled gullible or delusional. Rejecting the concept of supernatural as a practical element of ones every day life is culturally kind of a safe bet, especially for intellectuals and academics.

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