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Christian Vs Progressive Christian


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I am not clear how the following are supposed to be particular to progressive Christianity. I am not suggesting that they have to be, but given that they are prefaced with "By calling ourselves progressive, we mean that..." it looks that way. Maybe it's just me, but it seems to make more sense to recognize the significance of the points. For example, these points appear to be intended to demonstrate why affiliates consider themselves Christians. That is, to clearly articulate that this is what affiliates share with each other and with non-affiliated individuals and groups who identify as Christian:

  • who have found an approach to God through the life and teachings of Jesus.
  • who understand the sharing of bread and wine in Jesus' name to be a representation of an ancient vision of God's feast for all peoples.
  • who form ourselves into communities dedicated to equipping one another for the work we feel called to do: striving for peace and justice among all people, protecting and restoring the integrity of all God's creation, and bringing hope to those Jesus called the least of his sisters and brothers.
  • who recognize that being followers of Jesus is costly, and entails selfless love, conscientious resistance to evil, and renunciation of privilege.

The next two may also be shared by many other non-progressive individuals and groups that identify as Christian. I can see that they might be opposed to some forms of self-righteousness and judgmentalism as expressed by some individuals or groups that identify as Christian, but I don't know if they seem too out of step with many (mainstream) denominations?

  • who know that the way we behave toward one another and toward other people is the fullest expression of what we believe.
  • who find more grace in the search for meaning than in absolute certainty, in the questions than in the answers.

Which leaves what would seem to be the most distinctive points in differentiating progressive Christianity.

  • who recognize the faithfulness of other people who have other names for the way to God's realm, and acknowledge that their ways are true for them, as our ways are true for us.
  • who invite all people to participate in our community and worship life without insisting that they become like us in order to be acceptable.

I was considering this while looking at the TCPC site to get an idea of just what they feel are the basic dispositions or beliefs were being used to differentiate a Christian from a non-Christian. What do you think? Do those Points - 1, 3, 7, 8 - reflect an orientation to life and spirituality that could be considered necessary and sufficient to consider oneself a "Christian"? Obviously some groups would say "no", and I am not suggesting a new set of "creeds" for progressive Christians. I am wondering about the issue of "reclaiming" religious heritage and what kind of stake TCPC thinks it and its affiliates and friends have.

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I was considering this while looking at the TCPC site to get an idea of just what they feel are the basic dispositions or beliefs were being used to differentiate a Christian from a non-Christian. What do you think? Do those Points - 1, 3, 7, 8 - reflect an orientation to life and spirituality that could be considered necessary and sufficient to consider oneself a "Christian"? Obviously some groups would say "no", and I am not suggesting a new set of "creeds" for progressive Christians. I am wondering about the issue of "reclaiming" religious heritage and what kind of stake TCPC thinks it and its affiliates and friends have.

 

Your effort has been well thought out. But, I do not think the 8 Points are entirely an effort to define Christian from non-Christian. Rather, they are a statement of "This is who we are, and this is what we believe (mean)." TCPC openly explores shared values with other religious traditions.

 

The "reclaiming" issue, as far as I understand it, has something to to with the connections of Christiantity to its most ancient (pre-Christian) roots. But I could be very wrong on this.

Edited by minsocal
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Your effort has been well thought out. But, I do not think the 8 Points are entirely an effort to define Christian from non-Christian. Rather, they are a statement of "This is who we are, and this is what we believe (mean)." TCPC openly explores shared values with other religious traditions.

 

The "reclaiming" issue, as far as I understand it, has something to to with the connections of Christiantity to its most ancient (pre-Christian) roots. But I could be very wrong on this.

 

I agree that this seems to be what they intended from material on the rest of the site, but by prefacing each Point with "By calling ourselves progressive, we mean that..." it reads as if they are intending something else (i.e. distinguishing progressive from non-progressive). I am not trying to be pedantic about the phrasing or attempting to point to some perceived flaw. I had been wondering about the underlying premise of what (meaningful) Christianity would be for the TCPC and looking at the 8 Points it occured to me, "Hey, you could divide them up in the following way..."

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I agree that this seems to be what they intended from material on the rest of the site, but by prefacing each Point with "By calling ourselves progressive, we mean that..." it reads as if they are intending something else (i.e. distinguishing progressive from non-progressive). I am not trying to be pedantic about the phrasing or attempting to point to some perceived flaw. I had been wondering about the underlying premise of what (meaningful) Christianity would be for the TCPC and looking at the 8 Points it occured to me, "Hey, you could divide them up in the following way..."

 

I do appreciate the effort to note the common ground points and place them first. Finding common ground is always better than placing the accent only on differences. I went back to the 8 Points study guide to find the opening comments " ... an inviting expression of a particular approach to the practice of Christianity ... and result in a thoughtful discussion on the basic themes throughout the Progressive Christian network and beyond." The message board version omits this preamble (ooops?). I think your groupings are exactly that, a thoughtful discussion.

 

:)

Edited by minsocal
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I believe all the points are expressing some difference from evangelical, traditional, and orthodox Christianity. Except possibly, the one about it being costly to follow Jesus (although many denominations would focus more on persecution and less on selfless love...)

 

I don't believe my Evangelical Christian friend would agree that she has found AN approach to God through through the life and teachings of Jesus. She would say the Bible is a continuous story, completely inspired by God, whose culmination is that through the life and death of Jesus we can be saved from our sins. She believes there is no other way for God to forgive our sins.

 

The language about the ancient feast would differentiate us, since it specifically doesn't mention the blood and body sacrifice that makes our salvation possible, and it includes ALL people.

 

Many Christian communities get together mainly for the purpose of corporate worship, not to equip each other for the work they feel called to do.

 

Evangelical Christians typically believe our faith in the absolute truth of the Bible and in the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus the Christ is the fullest expression of what we believe.

 

Doubt is for many Evangelical Christians seen as a testing by Satan, or it is a sign of weakness.

 

If progressives recognize multiple truths, multiple ways to God, Evangelicals consider them non-Christian and heretical. My Evangelical friend hopes I will change my mind about this, because she'd like to hang out with me in heaven!

 

I think many Evangelical Christians would point to places in the Bible where sinners and heretics were recommended to be expelled from the early Church. However, they would say they welcome sinners if they are trying to cast off the yoke of sin.

 

I honestly believe that all the points show a connection to traditional Christianity but each of them also has differentiation as well. But maybe, that is just how I read them, and as you can see I am entering into the discussion with my own biases and experiences. Progressive Christian ideas are alive and well in my "mainline" Methodist church. We just haven't affiliated (yet).

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I believe all the points are expressing some difference from evangelical, traditional, and orthodox Christianity. Except possibly, the one about it being costly to follow Jesus (although many denominations would focus more on persecution and less on selfless love...)

 

I honestly believe that all the points show a connection to traditional Christianity but each of them also has differentiation as well.

 

Perhaps. Maybe it is just a matter of emphasis. It isn't particularly important, it was just something that caught my eye when wondering how progressive Christianity compares to forms that don't describe themselves as progressive. Perhaps it is because I am often surprised at what I find when I look around. For example, this was written by a Catholic priest, Fr. Thomas Keating, in his book Open Heart, Open Mind...

 

  1. The fundamental goodness of human nature, like the mystery of the Trinity, Grace, and the Incarnation, is an essential element of Christian faith. This basic core of goodness is capable of unlimited development; indeed, of becoming transformed into Christ and deified.

  2. Our basic core of goodness is our true Self. Its center of gravity is God. The acceptance of our basic goodness is a quantum leap in the spiritual journey.

  3. God and our true Self are not separate. Though we are not God, God and our true Self are the same thing.

  4. The term original sin is a way of describing the human condition, which is the universal experience of coming to full reflective self consciousness without the certitude of personal union with God. This gives rise to our intimate sense of incompletion, dividedness, isolation, and guilt.

  5. Original sin is not the result of personal wrongdoing on our part. Still, it causes a pervasive feeling of alienation from God, from other people and from the true Self. The cultural consequences of these alienations are instilled in us from earliest childhood and passed on from one generation to the next. The urgent need to escape from the profound insecurity of this situation gives rise, when unchecked, to insatiable desires for pleasure, possession, and power. On the social level, it gives rise to violence, war, and institutional injustice.

  6. The particular consequences of original sin include all the self serving habits that have been woven into our personality from the time we were conceived; all the emotional damage that has come from our early environment and upbringing; all the harm that other people have done to us knowingly or unknowingly at an age when we could not defend ourselves; and the methods we acquired--many of them now unconscious--to ward off the pain of unbearable situations.

  7. This constellation of prerational reactions is the foundation of the false self. The false self develops in opposition to the true Self. Its center of gravity is itself.

  8. Grace is the presence and action of Christ at every moment of our lives. The sacraments are ritual actions in which Christ is present in a special manner, confirming and sustaining the major commitments of our Christian life.

I am not suggesting this is the same as progressive Christianity, but it is not what I would normally expect to hear from someone in the Roman Catholic tradition. Keating goes on for a total of 42 points of reflection on "Guidelines for Christian Life, Growth and Transformation", including...

 

9. In Baptism, the false self is ritually put to death, the new self is born, and the victory over sin won by Jesus through his death and resurrection is placed at our disposal. Not our uniqueness as persons, but our sense of separation from God and from others is destroyed in the death dealing and life-giving waters of Baptism.

 

10. The Eucharist is the celebration of life: the coming together of all the material elements of the cosmos, their emergence to consciousness in human persons and the transformation of human consciousness into Divine consciousness. It is the manifestation of the Divine in and through the Christian community We receive the Eucharist in order to become the Eucharist.

 

13. Our basic core of goodness is dynamic and tends to grow of itself. This growth is hindered by the illusions and emotional hang-ups of the false self, by the negative influences coming from our cultural conditioning, and by personal sin.

 

15. God is not some remote, inaccessible, and implacable being who demands instant perfection from His creatures and of whose love we must make ourselves worthy. He is not a tyrant to be obeyed out of terror, nor a policeman who is ever on the watch, nor a harsh judge ever ready to apply the verdict of guilty. We should relate to Him less and less in terms of reward and punishment and more and more on the basis of the gratuity--or the play of divine love.

 

16. Divine love is compassionate, tender luminous, totally self-giving, seeking no reward, unifying everything.

 

17. The experience of being loved by God enables us to accept our false self as it is, and then to let go of it and journey to our true Self. The inward journey to our true Self is the way to divine love.

 

18. The growing awareness of our true Self, along with the deep sense of spiritual peace and joy which flow from this experience, balances the psychic pain of the disintegrating and dying of the false self. As the motivating power of the false self diminishes, our true Self builds the new self with the motivating force of divine love.

 

19. The building of our new self is bound to be marked by innumerable mistakes and sometimes by sin. Such failures, however serious, are insignificant compared to the inviolable goodness of our true Self. We should ask God's pardon, seek forgiveness from those we may have offended, and then act with renewed confidence and energy as if nothing had happened.

 

20. Prolonged, pervasive, or paralyzing guilt feelings come from the false self. True guilt in response to personal sin or social injustice does not lead to discouragement but to amendment of life. It is a call to conversion.

 

21. Progress in the spiritual journey is manifested by the unconditional acceptance of other people, beginning with those with whom we live.

 

24. Spiritual friendship involving genuine self-disclosure is an essential ingredient for happiness both in marriage and in the celibate lifestyle. The experience of intimacy with another or several persons expands and deepens our capacity to relate to God and to everyone else. Under the influence of Divine Love the sexual energy is gradually transformed into universal compassion.

 

28. The goal of genuine spiritual practice is not the rejection of the good things of the body, mind, or spirit, but the right use of them. No aspect of human nature or period of human life is to be rejected but integrated into each successive level of unfolding self-consciousness. In this way, the partial goodness proper to each stage of human development is preserved and only its limitations are left behind. The way to become divine is thus to become fully human.

 

29. The practice of a spiritual discipline is essential at the beginning of the spiritual journey as a means of developing the foundations of the contemplative dimension of life: dedication and devotion to God and service to others. Our daily practice should include a time for contemplative prayer and a program for letting go of the false self.

 

32. The Beatitude of poverty of spirit springs from the increasing awareness of our true Self. It is a nonpossessive attitude toward everything and a sense of unity with everything at the same time. The interior freedom to have much or to have little, and the simplifying of one's life-style are signs of the presence of poverty of spirit.

 

36. Humility is an attitude of honesty with God, oneself, and all reality. It enables us to be at peace in the presence of our powerlessness and to rest in the forgetfulness of self.

 

37. Hope springs from the continuing experience of God's compassion and help. Patience is hope in action. It waits for the saving help of God without giving up, giving in, or going away, and for any length of time.

 

38. The disintegrating and dying of our false self is our participation in the passion and death of Jesus. The building of our new self, based on the transforming power of divine love, is our participation in his risen life.

 

42. What Jesus proposed to his disciples as the Way is his own example: the forgiveness of everything and everyone and the service of others in their needs. "Love one another as I have loved you."

 

Note: There is nothing necessarily "objectionable" or "deficient" about the points I omitted, I simply wanted to trim the list down for brevity's sake and hit some highlights.

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That was a good, motivational post. It is not surprising to me that there are people within many Christian denominations that would identify with progressive ideas. Many of my friends who have more progressive ideas about religion attend churches with more traditional ideas because the youth program is good for their kids or it is closer to home. If I had grown up with a Roman Catholic background and was a writer I would probably be writing my own viewpoint, hoping to convince those I church with that God is more that what can be contained in the Bible.

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Perhaps. Maybe it is just a matter of emphasis. It isn't particularly important, it was just something that caught my eye when wondering how progressive Christianity compares to forms that don't describe themselves as progressive. Perhaps it is because I am often surprised at what I find when I look around. For example, this was written by a Catholic priest, Fr. Thomas Keating, in his book Open Heart, Open Mind...

 

Thanks for sharing that list! I really enjoyed reading through it :)

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Thanks for sharing that list! I really enjoyed reading through it :)

 

You are very welcome.

 

I recently found the following interesting perspective on how different people are drawn to a (progressive) Christianity. It was written about UUs, but I think it works (that is, offers some interesting observations) even if those association/congregational references are omitted:

 

Excerpted from "Who are the UU Christians?" by the Rev. Dr. Thomas D. Wintle

 

Classical UU Christians

 

Finding the dogmatism of rigid orthodoxy to be unacceptable, and the emptiness of pure secularism (or “
trendy liberalism
“) to be unsatisfying, these UUs affirm the liberal Christianity of classical Unitarianism and classical Universalism.

 

Theirs is a low-keyed Christianity that focuses on the human life and ethical teachings of Jesus. They see doctrines such as the Trinity and the Atonement as unnecessary, perhaps prefer to speak of “
christenings
” rather than “
baptisms
,” and view communion as a quiet memorial of the life of Jesus. The Bible, interpreted with reason and modern scholarship, provides the myths and symbols and stories that enable them to speak of God and to instill moral values.

 

Believing that theirs is “
the religion of Jesus, not the religion about Jesus
,” the see they Galilean as a great teacher and the exemplar of a life of love to God and love to humankind. In the words of one layperson: “
Jesus is the leader you don’t adore, but can’t ignore.

 

To be a Christian, they might say, is “
to follow Jesus
.”

 

 

Catholic Christians

 

Catholic, or Ecumenical, Christians are attracted to a broad and inclusive Christianity that transcends old denominational differences and seeks out the best from all of Christian history. They are informed by both Protestant dissent and Catholic tradition. With Ignatius of Antioch, they believe “
where Christ is, there is the universal church
.”

 

Theologically, the affirm the unity of God who is revealed in the Christ-event, in the person of Jesus Christ and in the believing reception of the Church. Liturgically, they are nourished by the sacraments, the psalms, the proclamation of the gospel (and are now rediscovering the value of the lectionary), and the great prayers and hymns and anthems of the Church. They are interested in personal disciplines of prayer and spiritual growth.

 

Believing that our Unitarian Universalism provides a theological freedom afforded in few other churches, they participate in ecumenical dialogue, feel the brokenness of Christ’s Church, and affirm the common discipleship shared by all Christians.

 

To be a Christian, they might say, is “
to be part of the Body of Christ
.”

 

Liberation Christians

 

Finding in Christianity a radical call for the liberation of the oppressed, these Unitarian Universalist Christians emphasize the prophetic and ethical demands of the Gospel.

 

Christ was “
the one for others
,” and the Church is the community of discipleship called to help heal the brokenness of the world. Whether the issue is urban ministry or international ministry, poverty or human liberation, the Spirit is present to ensure, empower, embarrass, and challenge; to demand a world better than it is now envisioned by the Crucified Christ.

 

To be a Christian, they might say, is “
to do the work of Christ
.“

 

I don't doubt that there are Christians in Unitarian-Universalism (and elsewhere) that would agree with the phrase: "Jesus is the leader you don’t adore, but can’t ignore," but it just seems to me too reactionary (to other forms of Christology in other churches) and not vulnerable enough. In any case, Rev. Wintle continues:

 

The Classical UU Christians have a kind of “
unitarianism of the Father
,” seeing the divine as a transcendent Creator. God is real, but somewhat distant.

 

The Catholic Christians have a kind of “
unitarianism of the Son
,” believing God is known in Christ and his Church.

 

The Liberation Christians have a kind of “
unitarianism of the Spirit
,” seeing God in the empowering work of the Holy Spirit which is found not only, not even primarily, in the Church, but in the world — urging, pulling, and dragging us to the redeemed life.

 

I would offer that, from my own perspective, seeing God as distant in transcendence rather than incomprehensible in transcendence is for me a stumbling block that I feel Jesus was trying to change by the way he talked about and prayed to God (as "Abba"). Again, I am not going to dismiss other people's views and replace them with my own. I just feel that the ineffable transcendence and the Creative immanence of the divine are equally important. I suppose then I would prefer to combine the three aspects mentioned rather than to practice/live them separately. I would also humbly suggest (as I have elsewhere) that imagination is a necessary component of Biblical exgesis along with decent scholarship.

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Again, thanks for sharing! :)

 

I would offer that, from my own perspective, seeing God as distant in transcendence rather than incomprehensible in transcendence is for me a stumbling block that I feel Jesus was trying to change by the way he talked about and prayed to God (as "Abba"). Again, I am not going to dismiss other people's views and replace them with my own. I just feel that the ineffable transcendence and the Creative immanence of the divine are equally important. I suppose then I would prefer to combine the three aspects mentioned rather than to practice/live them separately. I would also humbly suggest (as I have elsewhere) that imagination is a necessary component of Biblical exgesis along with decent scholarship.

 

That is exactly what I was thinking as I read the post.

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