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I found this letter (shortened ) from a reader of TCPC commenting on a posted article last month on Progressive Christianity and a response by Fred Plumer, president of the TCPC organization that I thought would be of interest to forum readers. Feel free to read and comment on your feelings. We are not looking for a debate in this area but rather an open discussion and your thoughts on the letter and response. Perhaps we can each relate our thoughts / views without anyone being being disrespectful of anothers view. Thanks in advance.

 

If you wish to read the original article that brought such a letter you can find it at www.TCPC.org and the excerpts I have included here.

 

Love Joseph

 

Fred, I'm more perplexed than ever. I found Taussig's book frustrating because he seems oblivious to the fact that he has no stable or coherent god-view/worldview. His own preference seems to be to think of "God" as impersonal spirit or energy, and of Jesus' message that "we are all divine." I'm familiar with this worldview shift from theism to pantheism, but Taussig doesn't seem to be philosophical aware of what he is doing. Why not a shift from theism to panentheism (all in god) or to polytheism (many spirits) or even to emergent naturalism (Brian Swimme: the universe story)? Taussig is offering an alternative to supernatural evangelicalism on the one hand and rationalistic liberalism on the other, but what he offers strikes me as incoherent and contradictory. I guess that's my problem with Progressive Christianity, so called. How many struts need to be pulled out before the entire edifice of Christianity simply collapses, becomes "Christian" in name only? Can a word mean whatever I want it to mean? What Progressive Christians call "Christianity" " I call either Hindu Pantheism or Religious Humanism with a thin veneer of Christian "language" draped over it. I'm OK with Hindu Pantheism and Religious Humanism, and even "Christian Atheism" if each "comes clean" and says what it means, but I perceive a measure of obfuscation in the language of "Progressive Christianity."

 

It does seem to me that eventually "Progressive Christianity" must grapple head-on with the worldview question. If we have learned anything from history it is that the "essential" nature and meaning of Christianity undergoes a series of radical symbolic and conceptual shifts with profound psychological and social consequences when the previously assumed ancient metaphysical and epistemological worldviews of biblical (Jewish) theism and classical (Greek) theism are both abandoned by theologically perplexed individuals (and eventually by the general culture) as untenable and incoherent, and are progressively replaced by other worldviews such as Platonic Realism, Transcendental Idealism, Process Pan-en-theism, Rational Deism, Aesthetic Romanticism and Scientific Naturalism. The worldview question is the deepest crisis of Christianity and the most difficult to honestly address because it fundamentally questions the nature and veracity of our symbols and concepts of God. It also poses difficult questions about the relationship between Christian revelation, Intra-Christian and Inter-faith dialogue, numinous and mystical experience, philosophical traditions, historical criticism, linguistic analysis, literary metaphors, artistic sensibilities, scientific paradigms, psychological temperaments and social agendas. Today we are aware as never before that all these human and cultural dynamics are "in play" when we talk about "God" and in particular "the Christian Classic" - whether "socially imagined" as conservative or liberal, libertarian or communitarian in praxis.

 

One more inquiry: Do we think our way into a new way of living, or do we live our way into a new way of thinking? Is it the unexamined life that is not worth living, or is it the unlived life that is not worth examining? I think these kinds of questions are relevant to our assumed (and probably unconscious theological method), whether theory or praxis leads us to our conclusions.

 

Thanks for your consideration,

 

Rev. R.

 

Dear Reverend R,

 

First, I want to thank you for your excellent, thoughtful and well written letter. I apologize for some of the editorial cuts we had to make for purposes of this publication. I also recognize that I cannot do justice to your questions in this forum but hope that this exchange will stimulate response from you and from others.

 

You are raising many of the very questions and issues that we, as an organization, have been attempting to address for nearly 15 years. And frankly you raise some of the important concerns that the church leadership, theologians and more recently a lot of people who call themselves progressive Christians have been ignoring for at least a few decades. Regarding your confusion about the term progressive Christianity the matter has been complicated, in the last fifteen years, in part because the term "progressive Christianity" has evolved into at least two different meanings that often confuse those who are seeking a clearer understanding of a new way to approach their Christian tradition.

 

Some believe that "progressive Christianity" is first and foremost about social justice. Those who adhere to this perspective have little concern for theological issues and may even hold very Orthodox positions in their personal understandings of theology and Christology. They can even be what I call progressive fundamentalist. These folks believe that they are called as Christians to seek social justice wherever injustice is found. They usually cite scriptural mandates as justification for these positions. The good news is that these perspectives have brought a large group together that include leaders like Peter Laarman, a former liberal Presbyterian minister and community organizer, and Jim Wallace from Sojourners. I assure you, both of these well educated and dedicated men hold very different perspectives on theology and Christology, yet both are comfortable calling themselves "progressive Christians," while they work for common social causes under a large umbrella.

 

On the other hand, The Center for Progressive Christianity (TCPC), since its inception in 1994, has assumed that the massive exodus from our churches across the country has been the result of the theological and Christological constructs that are still being used in our churches that no longer meet a large group of educated people's view of the world or of science. As a result, the church is no longer relevant to their lives or their understanding of reality for that matter. It was, and is, our position that unless these issues are discussed openly and unless we can learn to articulate a Christology and theology that is both compelling and consistent with our understanding of the universe, the Christian church, as we know it, will not survive.

 

Another factor that has contributed to some of the confusion that you address is that TCPC did not start off with a systematic theology or clear set of beliefs about the historical Jesus. We do have a set of what I would refer to as eight characteristics of our understanding of progressive Christianity. However, when it came to theology or Christology we intentionally left, and continue to leave, those topics open to discussion and the opportunity for new understanding. For us, the word progressive is based on an understanding that as we receive new information from scholars from all fields, scientist, and spiritual practitioners, the understanding of our faith can change or "progress" as well. We did not, nor do we intend to have a progressive Christian creed, dogma, or catechism. We believe it is this openness that allows us to be truly progressive.

 

I do not think that this necessarily leads to nothing more than Rorschach test, as you refer to it, although your comments remind me of the comments Schweitzer's made after his search for the historical Jesus. "The quest was like looking into a well and seeing your own reflection at the bottom." Certainly we must accept our natural bias as being part of human nature. I find it humorous how conservative and orthodox Christians, who believe in the literal "written word," can see such different types of Jesus but seldom discuss these differences.

 

It is too bad that there are not more books written about progressive Christianity but that is changing. I am sorry that Del Brown's book, What Does a Progressive Christian Believe has become the definitive gauge for progressive Christianity with so many people. Brown is a good scholar and there is much in his book that is worthy of our attention. However, I have significant differences with several of his conclusions especially his rather traditional ideas of God that he labels progressive and his ideas describing the purpose of the church. James Adams, the founder of TCPC has addressed these issues in an excellent review of the book that is posted on the TCPC site. (http://www.tcpc.org/review/review.cfm?review_id=157)

 

I agree that Hal Taussig's book, "A New Spiritual Home" does not address some of the issues that you raise. It might be helpful to know that this was not Taussig's goal for his book. He was much more concerned about reporting how the progressive movement was working in churches across the country. You may note that in this book he challenged TCPC to do more with spirituality and theology in one of his chapters. What he wanted people to know however was that in spite of the dreary statistics in our main line churches, many churches are growing and attracting new people by declaring themselves as progressive and by offering vital and spiritual worship experiences. He also suggested that part of the attraction was a theology with intellectual integrity.

 

You may not agree that intellectual integrity is enough but I would suggest that a vast majority of people who are looking for a spiritual experience are not so concerned if the theology is biblical theism, neo-platonic theism, scholastic theism, reformed theology, Anabaptist theology, perennial philosophy, process pan-en-theism, humanistic, existential naturalistic and non-realist theology, feminist theology, post-modern narrative theology, weak theology, hermeneutical theology, or Ken Wilber's integral spirituality. What they want to find is something compelling that relates to their lives and offers the possibility of some kind of transformative, spiritual experience. What they are looking for is community and meaning for their lives. I personally believe that the Jesus story can do that but admit that it is not the only story.

 

Let's face it. No theological construct will lead to an intellectual understanding of God (whatever we mean by that word,) no matter how brilliantly it is presented or how tightly it is constructed. Anything we choose to call God can only be experienced and our experiences will be different. A lot of strange religious ideas have come out of someone's attempt to explain another person's experience of the Unexplainable, or the Indescribable. As Maslow once pointed out, it is usually the left brain people who has observed another person who has gone through a transformative peek experience and then as a third party, will write about that very thing that they may never have experienced. According to Maslow this process is the source of scripture.

 

I would posit that all major religions of the world started with an individual having a life transforming spiritual experience. It seems clear to me that most of those experiences had a least one thing in common, a profound experience of the Oneness or Connectedness with all that is. I believe we all have these types of experiences even when we don't realize it. However, for some people who are truly open to it, through reasons that have never been clear, these experiences change their perspective of not only of themselves but of all reality. These things happen often enough that there are mythologies created around them. Some of these people go off into the sunset, while others hang around and teach what they have learned. What is amazing to me is how much of "what they have learned," or experienced, is similar regardless of their culture or time in history.

 

What are they teaching? They are not teaching a theological construct but a path so that others can have the same experience-it is usually described as a connectedness or Oneness of all Creation. Does sound too new age for you or too far out? These experiences have been recorded throughout history as long as human beings have been keeping records through written word or oral traditions. Some called it Nirvana, others Enlightenment, and Jesus called it the Realm or Kingdom of God.

 

Clearly Jesus was one of these people and the one that I personally relate to the most. It seems clear to me that we have allowed the church to interpret Jesus' teachings as commandments and dictates, rather than responses to the question: "And how do I experience the Kingdom or Realm of God that you experienced, Rabbi?" His teachings were not about avoiding suffering in some place after we die, but rather how do we experience life in union with God or how do we experience Sacred Unity or heaven on earth...now. When we begin to see the words of Jesus as a teacher of a way of living, relating and being, a lot of things that never made sense before begin to make sense. Jesus did not have a systematic theology, and he would have been embarrassed, if not insulted, by the Christology that came out of the Forth Century church. But I believe he would have been perfectly comfortable being known as an honored teacher of a way of seeing, hearing and being that could bring about a deep experience of the Holy. I believe part of the revelation that often comes from such an experience is the discovery that we are all in God and that God is in us.

 

The Christian contemplatives have known about this for centuries. St. John of The Cross (1542-91) once wrote: "The soul that is united and transformed in God, breathes God in God with the same divine breathing with which God, while in her, breathes her in himself." Do I have to create or adhere to some theological construct to have this experience? I don't think so. In fact, I believe we risk the chance of limiting these kinds of experiences when try and put them in a theological box or wrap them in concrete, descriptive language.

 

As for the need of a new world view, I believe that this is one place that most progressive Christians have something in common. If we start with an understanding that this world, this universe is one interconnected, interdependent whole, then it becomes clear that anything we do in our thoughts and actions to recognize and function that way...is a step closer to that "God" or Sacred Unity that most people yearn to experience. Jesus understood this existentially and intellectually as well as spiritually.

 

I do think our scientists today are providing a profound "world view" for those on a spiritual quest. (Can we still call it a world view or is "universe view" more accurate today?) As we learn more from quantum physics and Hubble for example, and more about the uncountable solar systems, black holes, multiple dimensions, the human creation of time that is apparently happening all in one moment, as we ponder "dark matter," and the incredible balance that holds this vast universe or multiple universes together, it seems to me that we have a wonderful new world view.

 

Life on this planet is providing numerous examples of the reality of an interconnectedness that we could never have imagined nearly a century ago when my father was born. Today we have the internet, a world economy, an absolutely intra-connected failing ecological system, AIDS, Avian flu and resistant-tuberculosis and other possible debilitating international diseases that all demonstrate that the inhabitants on this earth are in fact interconnected and interdependent. When they suffer, ultimately we suffer. Every action has a reaction. This is no longer just a philosophical or religious viewpoint. This is an observable reality. And yet in most ways, our world, in part because of our religious traditions, continues to function with a tribal mentality that is killing our beautiful planet and her inhabitants. If we need a name for this, I am comfortable with Pan-en-theism. I believe Marcus Borg, one of our honored advisors, has done an excellent job in making a case for Panentheism as a theological foundation for progressive Christianity.

 

I believe the Jesus story, when read through educated, modern eyes, provides a path to experience this connectedness at a very deep, spiritual and even life changing level. I believe that path is first and foremost about "doing" which can lead to a new way of "being" with "eyes to see and ears to hear" reality in a very different way.

 

Of course I know this would not pass the Athanasius litmus test for being a Christian. But I would like to think that we have made some "progress" since 325.

 

Thank you for writing I hope this will begin a long and productive exchange.

 

Warmly, Fred

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Guest wayfarer2k
What they (spiritual seekers) want to find is something compelling that relates to their lives and offers the possibility of some kind of transformative, spiritual experience. What they are looking for is community and meaning for their lives.

 

It seems clear to me that most of those experiences had a least one thing in common, a profound experience of the Oneness or Connectedness with all that is.

 

These comments from Fred's response both rang true with me and piqued my interest also. I suspect that in our post-modern era, many of us are moving away from the old paradigm that Christianity is about the afterlife, about what happens to us when we die. This question has not completely evaporated from our collective consciousness, because we do face our own mortality, but it is becoming more and more secondary as people, especially the younger generation, are searching for a worldview that does offer transformation, spiritual experience, community, and meaning. Our modern culture screams at us that we are little more than consumers, fit only to increase shareholder value or, even within religious circles, to increase power structures and reinforce systems of domination. But we somehow know that this is a lie and so we search for what might be called the Truth - what is our place and value within the universe and creation? We long to feel the Oneness or the Connectedness that Fred writes of, to know that we matter and that things would not be the same if we were not here.

 

At the same time, Jesus himself doesn't fit neatly into this paradigm. No matter how much liberals or progressives want to talk about how "inclusive" Jesus was and how accepting he was of others, there is no getting around certain of his teachings that do speak of outsiders, of those who are "sons of the devil" or snakes or wolves or just not part of the Oneness or Connectedness. In my opinion, it does no good to insist that he was speaking solely of their experience and not of their ontological state. As much as Jesus may have experience the Oneness or Connectedness that we might call God, he also employed teachings, parables, and metaphors that pointed to some type of separation. How deep or lenghty that separation may be, is probably a matter of opinion and warrants some good discussion. But this certainly raises the question in my own mind: Just how "progressive" was Jesus?

 

How "progressive" was early Christianity? To me, it seemed to have one foot firmly rooted in ancient Judaism, another foot rooted into Greek philosophy, and yet still another foot trying to step into the future into God-knows-what. And I suspect that modern Christianity is much the same. It has one foot rooted in traditional, orthodox Christianity, another foot rooted in our materialistic culture, and yet still another foot trying to step into the future.

 

Progressive Christianity, IMO, is immature. It knows what it DOESN'T want to be. But it doesn't yet know what it DOES want to be. As I've stated in the root topic for this forum, Progressive Christianity wants to claim, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that it IS Christian...but it does not want to say what Christianity or being a Christian is. It wants the label because the label is rich with history and cultural significance. But it is not exactly sure what kind of garment it wants to sew that label into. Perhaps it is always this way for those who live during a significant paradigm shift. But I suspect that Progressive Christianity may suffer from the same malady that affects many mainline churches: the lack of a compelling worldview. Many mainline churches want to be so accepting and inclusive of everyone that there is nothing that bonds them together. Because they are so reticent to speak concretely of God and of Jesus, people assume that these churches don't believe in the reality of God and of Jesus. Or God and Jesus become whatever their congregants believe them to be.

 

Understandably, Progressive Christianity wants to have open doors. Such doors can well invite people in. But they can also invite people to leave because there is not much of substance inside. It's my opinion that this needs to change, not in closing doors, but in affirming the reality of God, of Jesus, of transformation, both personal and social, and of meaning and community. But are we inviting people to experience the real God or the God of reality...or are we simply giving them clay and asking them to form their own idols, gods that they would be comfortable with?

 

bill

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Very interesting response Bill.

 

I found your statement.....

 

Progressive Christianity, IMO, is immature. It knows what it DOESN'T want to be. But it doesn't yet know what it DOES want to be. As I've stated in the root topic for this forum, Progressive Christianity wants to claim, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that it IS Christian...but it does not want to say what Christianity or being a Christian is. It wants the label because the label is rich with history and cultural significance. But it is not exactly sure what kind of garment it wants to sew that label into. Perhaps it is always this way for those who live during a significant paradigm shift. But I suspect that Progressive Christianity may suffer from the same malady that affects many mainline churches: the lack of a compelling worldview. Many mainline churches want to be so accepting and inclusive of everyone that there is nothing that bonds them together. Because they are so reticent to speak concretely of God and of Jesus, people assume that these churches don't believe in the reality of God and of Jesus. Or God and Jesus become whatever their congregants believe them to be.

 

most interesting. It seems to me that PC (as far as TCPC's understanding goes) is presently purposely vague in many areas and probably will always be. Because most of what it uses to define itself as Christianity is found in the eight points. Other than that you will find The TCPC's 4th and last item of its mission clearly states "To support those who embrace the search, not certainty." Of course not all who consider themselves Progressive Christians will agree with TCPC. However, it seems to me, TCPC also clearly recognizes Christianity not from what one says they believe or don't believe or their spoken world-view but rather their testimony of their life in action as relates to those eight points.

 

It seems to me, that we as people love dogma and solid answers to bind us together. Yet to go that way to me seems to defeat the purpose of TCPC's mission. To be progressive is to embrace change. Perhaps we will find that truth never changes yet our human understanding of it is in constant refinement as we hopefully continue in a deeper understanding and in a transformative way.

 

Just one mans view to consider,

Love Joseph

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The drift I get is that life itself is ambiguous. Dealing with this fact is a major task. We can adhere to a formula structured by others, or we can search for our own solution. The locus of responsibility is radically different. If each and every human being is unique, only a radical egalitarianism could serve to promote a peaceful and loving exchange of ideas and mutual compassion.

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Because most of what it uses to define itself as Christianity is found in the eight points.

 

Perhaps. But the way in which the 8 Points is written is not "we are Christians because..." but "we are Christians who..." The 8 Points make the assumption apriori that those who hold to the Points are Christians...but then are relunctant to say what makes one a Christian.

 

Christianity, right or wrong, has always had a strong Christology, even though that Christology always seems to be in flux. Progressive Christianity, on the other hand, and again in my opinion, wants Christ without Christology. It wants to be known as Christianity...but doesn't want to say what Christianity is or is not. It wants Christ (or at least his title)...but doesn't want to say what it believes about Christ. Even people such as Borg, Crossan, and even Spong don't make this mistake. They will tell you who they believe Jesus Christ to be and then leave it open for you to agree or disagree with them. Progressive Christianity seems reluctant to go down this path, yes, fearing that it will lead to dogma. But, again, for someone to claim to follow Jesus but then to say that they have no beliefs about Jesus seems rather odd, does it not?

 

However, it seems to me, TCPC also clearly recognizes Christianity not from what one says they believe or don't believe or their spoken world-view but rather their testimony of their life in action as relates to those eight points.

 

And that's fine. I just think it is a mistake to call it Christianity. Yes, call it progressive. Yes, call it religion or enlightenment or a way. But don't usurp the name of Christ and then say that Jesus is irrelevant to one's worldview.

 

PC does a good job of being progressive. And it can tell you what that means. That "leg" functions well. But it doesn't do a good job of telling us what Christianity means or what it means to be Christian. Until it can get that "leg" to function, I suspect it will not truly progress...it will simply walk in a circle.

 

bill

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Progressive Christianity seems reluctant to go down this path, yes, fearing that it will lead to dogma. But, again, for someone to claim to follow Jesus but then to say that they have no beliefs about Jesus seems rather odd, does it not?

 

And that's fine. I just think it is a mistake to call it Christianity. Yes, call it progressive. Yes, call it religion or enlightenment or a way. But don't usurp the name of Christ and then say that Jesus is irrelevant to one's worldview.

 

PC does a good job of being progressive. And it can tell you what that means. That "leg" functions well. But it doesn't do a good job of telling us what Christianity means or what it means to be Christian. Until it can get that "leg" to function, I suspect it will not truly progress...it will simply walk in a circle.

 

bill

 

Bill,

 

Obviously I do not speak for Progressive Christianity. At best, I am only giving one mans view and understanding. PC needs no defence from me and I do not think TCPC says that Jesus is irrelevant as you can see from the eight points. Please do not confuse anything I might have expressed poorly or as my view as if I am the spokeman for PC. TCPC is fulfilling its mission by "creating open and welcoming communities of faith. We are developing strategies for evangelism that do not assume the absolute superiority of Christianity so that we do not contribute to the worlds tragic divisions. " More written info on its mission can be found at www.TCPC.org .

 

In my view, it seems to me what we call ourselves is not as important as what is being done. You mentioned Borg in your last post. By the way, you may not be aware but Borg is a member of the leadership team of TCPC. I do not wish to debate your feelings on the matters you have expressed concerning what we call ourselves or should or that we "usurp the name of Christ" as you are indeed entitled to your own view of PC and as welcome as I to express yourself as relates to the subject in a respectful manner. Please just be careful not to give the appearance of antagonizing, accusing or provoking debate in this particular section of the forum.

 

Love in Christ,

Joseph

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Please just be careful not to give the appearance of antagonizing, accusing or provoking debate in this particular section of the forum.

 

Understood. To the best of my self-knowledge, I am not seeking debate, Joseph. I am merely observing that the question of this thread is "What is Progressive Christianity?" and that I, myself, am or would be very interested in hearing what Progressive Christianity means by Christianity. 'Nuff said on my part.

 

bill

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An interesting discussion. There seem to be two schools of thought, one that sees progressive Christianity as a legitimate expression of the Christian faith and one that does not. I’m ok with that, but I agree more with the former school than with the latter.

 

A few additional comments on the first post: My experience with liberation theology leads me to think that our living changes our thinking more than the other way around. And I see my religion as calling me to act in the pursuit of justice and peace more than holding particular beliefs. Christianity will survive in a variety of forms, and I don’t see the value in relating what we do or believe to whether our number increase or not. I was surprised about the comment that there are not many books on the subject of progressive Christianity. I have two or three shelves of books that I put in that category. I liked the comments about transformation, spiritual experience, community, and meaning, though I don’t think I have ever had what I would call a “spiritual experience.” Also, my experiences as a student of church history lead me to believe that something (movement or group) with the characteristics that I associate with progressive Christianity has been around as long as Christianity has been around. But here I use the term to indicate the emphasis on peace and justice and not any particular theological understanding.

 

And some comments on later posts: I agree that Jesus is also about separation as well as inclusion. We need to oppose racism, sexism, institutional violence, and inequality, and this means we often will be at odds with many people. But I don’t think that Christianity requires a particular level of Christology. I agree that life is indeed ambiguous and the search for truth (the big T) is ongoing and never likely to be completed, just as is the case in the sciences. I find the eight points useful, perhaps more useful and meaningful than the confessions of the denomination (PCUSA) that I have been a lay officer in for most of my adult life.

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Addressing the question raised about Christianity in post #8. From a practical standpoint, Christianity is a collection of people, most connected to some kind of community. Belief may play a role in these connections, but I'm not sure that is the case. And those beliefs vary across a wide spectrum and emphasize a wide variety of concerns. For example, I think of myself as having a "low Christology," one that sees Jesus as teacher and exemplar more than as related to personal sin and salvation. And my idea or his resurrection is in those people who have pursued peace and justice in the name of their convictions. I don't think that covers the whole of the topic, but perhaps that is a start.

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In my view there is a powerful link to Christianity in point 1 of the eight points of PC. It states we have found an approach to God through the life and teachings of Jesus. While our understanding of all the recorded teachings may differ because of individual uniqueness, language, experience and a myriad of other factors, Jesus's basic teaching was to love God with all your heart and to love your neighbor as yourself. This one saying speaks a multitude of things easy to understand and binds us together.

 

To define Christianity by detailed dogma or creed has, in my view, only served to divide Christianity into over 1000 denominations and promote division with some even calling others non-Christian. As progressive Christians in point 2, we mean that we are Christians 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. This to me is crucial to the progressive Christian and promotes unity.

 

Also I find point 6 very powerful that we are Christians who find more grace in the search for meaning than in absolute certainty, in the questions than in the answers. This promotes inclusiveness and respectful sharing rather than prideful exclusion and constant debate rather than discussion.

 

Just one man's take on a couple points of what is Progressive Christianity and what make it Christian and Progressive. However, to me, what you call yourself is secondary to what you are.

Love Joseph

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I was surprised by several things in this exchange – mostly, the fact that a long time minister would be so focused on an intellectually coherent worldview as the deepest crisis of progressive Christianity. Rev R’s letter seems to deny the whole emotional/spiritual side of faith. He also ignores the first and foremost point of PC (as Joseph noted) on finding an approach to God through the life and teachings of Jesus.

I agree with Fred Plumer’s response, “what people want is something that… offers the possibility of some kind of transformative, spiritual experience…. community and meaning for their lives.” As he says, Jesus did not have a systematic theology, nor did he require it of others.

Bill suggests it would be strange if people “claim to follow Jesus but have no beliefs about Jesus” – perhaps, but what connects us is not so much particular assertions but the heart commitment we have in common.

One other surprise-- Plumer referred to Del Brown’s book as a standard definition of PC – haven’t read that one, would have thought Marcus Borg is the closest. There certainly are plenty of books on PC – the latest one that looks interesting to me, Jesus was a Liberal, by Scott McLellan.

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I was surprised by several things in this exchange – mostly, the fact that a long time minister would be so focused on an intellectually coherent worldview as the deepest crisis of progressive Christianity. Rev R’s letter seems to deny the whole emotional/spiritual side of faith. He also ignores the first and foremost point of PC (as Joseph noted) on finding an approach to God through the life and teachings of Jesus.

I agree with Fred Plumer’s response, “what people want is something that… offers the possibility of some kind of transformative, spiritual experience…. community and meaning for their lives.” As he says, Jesus did not have a systematic theology, nor did he require it of others.

Bill suggests it would be strange if people “claim to follow Jesus but have no beliefs about Jesus” – perhaps, but what connects us is not so much particular assertions but the heart commitment we have in common.

One other surprise-- Plumer referred to Del Brown’s book as a standard definition of PC – haven’t read that one, would have thought Marcus Borg is the closest. There certainly are plenty of books on PC – the latest one that looks interesting to me, Jesus was a Liberal, by Scott McLellan.

 

Oh, I agree with Fred Plumer all right. No doubt there. I had the honor to call him Pastor Fred for some time. Still do. I cannot speak directly for Pastor Fred. I can speak to my understanding of his own experience as he presents it. His sermon(s) brought me back to Christianity. It took but one sermon to draw me back, the rest was ... the path I am now on.

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