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Yvonne
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Say you want to recommend a good book about progressive Christianity to someone who has never heard of it. What topics would you look for in the Table of Contents? I don't mean a specific author, but topics of interest to a would-be progressive.

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Guest billmc

That's a good question, Yvonne. I was, spiritually and psychologically speaking, dragged kicking and screaming into being progressive. :) In other words, I didn't wake up one morning and say to myself, "I think I want to be progressive." Rather, there were a bunch of "pebbles in my shoes" placed there by the teachings and experiences of the Christianity of my youth that I simply thought were either immoral or didn't make sense or were superstitious. The straw that broke this camel's back was when a former church that we attended told my four-year-old son that Jesus was going to burn him in hell if my son didn't accept him. And I just knew that I had to find another way of interpreting my faith or I would be an atheist (which isn't a bad philosophy).

 

Despite my penchant for writing with a lot of words, I tend to like things that are simple. I look for a basic framework that makes sense and can be easily understood. One of the best books I've ever read on "progressive Christianity" is Marcus Borg's "The Heart of Christianity." Marcus makes it simple in boing down Christianity to two things - loving God, loving others. In Marcus' view (and in mine), if this isn't at the core of our faith, then we misunderstand the basic message of Jesus.

 

Borg's book touches on a lot of topics - what God is like, who Jesus was/is, the meaning of being a Christian, what is the church, the role of the bible - but Marcus' book is a far cry from "systematic theology." So you can't look up a certain topic and find a "progressive Christian" answer to a question. Rather, what Borg does is to gently lead us into asking questions of ourselves and trusting the Someone is behind this sometimes painful journey out of institutional religion into what many of us call progressive Christianity. More in a bit.

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Guest billmc

Progressive Christianity is a open religion/philosophy with a great deal of freedom for personal beliefs/experiences. Put maybe over-simplistically, it could be said, "Love God, love others, and believe/do as you will."

 

In contradistinction, conservative/fundamentalist/traditional Christianity is a fairly closed system of beliefs. The focus is on orthodoxy, on getting everyone to believe the same way on things. This is why institutional Christianity has colleges, bible schools, bible studies, and Sunday Schools. The goal of this indoctrination is to try to get everyone on the same page of beliefs, to get everyone to think alike. It is, IMO, a subtle form of mind control. This doesn't mean that it is bad. There is a great strength in unity. But there is a loss of freedom and individuality in that paradigm.

 

The difference between these two ways of approaching Christianity are very evident here on this community. On many other Christian forums, you will often hear it said or put, "Christians believe..." From their point-of-view, Christianity is (or should be) a closed system where beliefs don't change. So the goal is to teach what Christians or "true Christians" believe.

 

But you will seldom hear, on this forum, "Progressive Christians believe..." We are each individuals on our own journeys and while we enjoy sharing with each other, we don't tell each other what to think. So here at the forum at PC, you are more likely to hear, "In my opinion..." or "In my experience..." or "I think..." We cherish and honor the individuality of our participants and their journeys. There is no "orthodox" progressive teachings that must be adhered to. Yes, we do have the 8 Points, but these are meant to reflect our values as people on spiritual journeys rather than as some kind of litmus test for "progressive orthodoxy." The 8 Points are, for me, starting points for conversations, not the conclusions of our journeys.

 

On the other hand, Yvonne, we do talk about a lot of the same subjects that other Christians do. So you can search for topics such as: atonement, original sin, the cross, the resurrection, the bible, miracles, Jesus, God, the church, etc. to see what we, collectively, think about these things. But there will be a much wider range of opinion here than on more conservative forums because of how we view our faith. No one judges who is a Christian or who is not based upon a set of beliefs. We recognize that we are all in process and respect each other as individuals. Ironically, if PC ever did come out with a book on systematic beliefs, doing so would go against what we believe. :D

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