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How Do Progressive Christians Rationalize The Bible, Including The Gos


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***NOTE: Part of the title got cut off, it should say "Including The Gospels?". Sorry I'm new to this forum, so I didn't know it would do that and I don't know if I can fix it. In the future I will preview.***

 

I am not a Christian. Neither am I anti-Christian. I would describe myself as a ritual atheist: I do not believe in God or any other deity, but I admire the symbolism, art, ceremonies, and some teachings of many religions, including Christianity. I believe all religions are made by ordinary humans and religious texts are a mix of embellished history and myth.

 

As I understand it, many Progressive Christians accept that parts of the Bible are simply human creations whereas other parts (especially the gospels) are divinely inspired. To be honest, this perspective makes no sense to me. Sure, I see the appeal of this belief.

 

A lot of the old testament is really messed up. Rape, genocide, capital punishment for unorthodox beliefs are all not only permitted but actually demanded by God or his chosen representatives. Plus there is a ton of stuff that just doesn't make sense: Noah's Ark, God being afraid of iron chariots, remnants of polytheism. Jesus seems great by comparison. He takes the nice parts of the old testament (like love and mercy) and emphasizes them while adding his own interesting bits of theology. So why not just keep those parts and throw out the rest?

 

The problem is that Jesus himself affirms all that the old junk both directly and indirectly.

Even in the otherwise lovely Sermon on the Mount, he says

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven."

At its worst, this would mean that all the barbaric laws of the old testament still apply: it's a crime to blaspheme or engage in homosexual sex or follow a different religion, etc. At its best, this would mean that they applied at one time but no longer do. How this acceptable, though? Why would an loving and all-knowing deity give people a set of laws, some of which are fine and some of which are both stupid and cruel, just so he could seem generous for getting rid of them later?

 

There's also the case where is on that hill with Moses and Elijah in Matthew 17. Moses orders the Israelites to rape and murder other tribes for the crime of living a piece of land and following a different religion/belonging to a different tribe. Elijah similarly murdered a ton of priests for following a different religion. Would you be okay if Jesus got all buddy-buddy with the leader of ISIS? Because that would be pretty much the same thing.

 

It would seem to me then that the new testament is inextricably linked to the wicked and decidedly non-progressive values of the old testament (and this without even getting into some of the bigoted stuff Paul says). If you just ignore all of the teachings throughout the Bible that are incompatible with a progressive ideology, what is the point in accepting any of it as divine? Why not just make a new religion that is progressive from the get-go, or just be progressive without the Christian part?

 

I am not trying to proselytize atheism here. I am glad such a thing as Progressive Christianity exists and wish more Christians belonged to it, but I am having trouble understanding the thought-process behind it.

 

Thank you.

Edited by curiousAtheist
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As I understand it, many Progressive Christians accept that parts of the Bible are simply human creations whereas other parts (especially the gospels) are divinely inspired. To be honest, this perspective makes no sense to me. Sure, I see the appeal of this belief.

 

 

Thank you.

I believe that is a misunderstanding. Most but not all PC believe the Bible was written by men and therefore is a human creation which includes the OT and NT. The writings are found by most to be inspirational but no more divinely inspired than any other religious text.

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I believe that is a misunderstanding. Most but not all PC believe the Bible was written by men and therefore is a human creation which includes the OT and NT. The writings are found by most to be inspirational but no more divinely inspired than any other religious text.

 

I don't understand the use of the word "Christianity" in "Progressive Christianity" then. If the words of Jesus are considered "no more divinely inspired than any other religious text" than why not simply refer to it is religious universalism (the belief that all religions are true) or indifferentism (the belief that having a religion is important but that one religion is equally as good as another).

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Hi CA. You are trying to paint truths with a 3" flat brush when you need a pointed sable. The Hebrew word torah translated as 'law' is not quite like our English word 'law' and there is ceremonial law, civil law, religious law, a holiness code etc.

 

Add to that in Christianity Jesus was correcting the overly literal implementation of the torah adopted by the Jewish community.

 

The best place to start your study of Jesus' teaching of the torah is Matthew 22:36-40.

 

"36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

 

That is the Christian litmus test for righteousness.

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Add to that in Christianity Jesus was correcting the overly literal implementation of the torah adopted by the Jewish community.

 

Did Jesus actually say these things? Or was it later scribes who added their world view to the New Testament?

Again in some ways it does not matter. But if true we can start to ask questions of the text.

 

In that are the words of some 2000 year old scribe any more divinely inspired than mine? And that of anyone else for that matter?

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Matthew was written around 70 A.D. It was based on redacted oral history (note it is according to Matthew; Matthew was not the author) and an unknown text referred to as "Q". Q has never been found, but is inferred from the commonalities in Matthew, Mark and Luke/Acts.

 

I think it's a fair statement to say that these three gospels are the best record we have of first century Christian belief.

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I don't understand the use of the word "Christianity" in "Progressive Christianity" then. If the words of Jesus are considered "no more divinely inspired than any other religious text" than why not simply refer to it is religious universalism (the belief that all religions are true) or indifferentism (the belief that having a religion is important but that one religion is equally as good as another).

The early followers of Jesus were called Christians. Some of them never even met Jesus nor had such a thing as the Bible to read. Since most PC's here have found an approach to God through the recorded teachings of Jesus wether verbal or otherwise, they have as much right to the label as anyone.

 

So while many here may feel like many of the recorded teachings ring true for them when placed in practice and they self identify as Christian they also have found similarities in the teachings of others that ring true to them and find no need to change the label they most identify with. I have no problem with that..... Do you?

 

In fact I don't really find labels all that important nor a single word or short series of a few vowels and consonants to adequately define an individual or his/her belief system.

Joseph

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The early followers of Jesus were called Christians. Some of them never even met Jesus nor had such a thing as the Bible to read. Since most PC's here have found an approach to God through the recorded teachings of Jesus wether verbal or otherwise, they have as much right to the label as anyone.

So while many here may feel like many of the recorded teachings ring true for them when placed in practice and they self identify as Christian they also have found similarities in the teachings of others that ring true to them and find no need to change the label they most identify with. I have no problem with that..... Do you?

In fact I don't really find labels all that important nor a single word or short series of a few vowels and consonants to adequately define an individual or his/her belief system.

Joseph

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The early followers of Jesus were called Christians. Some of them never even met Jesus nor had such a thing as the Bible to read. Since most PC's here have found an approach to God through the recorded teachings of Jesus wether verbal or otherwise, they have as much right to the label as anyone.

 

So while many here may feel like many of the recorded teachings ring true for them when placed in practice and they self identify as Christian they also have found similarities in the teachings of others that ring true to them and find no need to change the label they most identify with. I have no problem with that..... Do you?

 

In fact I don't really find labels all that important nor a single word or short series of a few vowels and consonants to adequately define an individual or his/her belief system.

Joseph

 

Early Christians, however, would have followed some form of the gospel portion of the Bible, albeit in an orally transmitted form. That doesn't mean they weren't following some form of the Bible just because it wasn't written down. 2000 years later the only remnant we have of that oral tradition is recorded in the Bible (unless you believe the apocryphal gospels are accurate) and in some earlier forms of the same texts that are in the Bible.

 

My question was about how PC accept portions of these teachings that are incompatible with a progressive ideology, or conversely how they justify retaining some aspects of these teachings while disregarding others.

 

The answer that I seem to be getting mostly (correct me if I'm wrong) is that most/many PC respect some of the teachings of Jesus while ignoring the ones they do not agree with. You ask me if I have problem with such people identifying as Christian.

People are entitled to call themselves whatever they like, of course.

 

However, essentially all non-Christians, including myself, have the same view of Jesus' teachings. We accept what we like and reject what we don't. You would be hard-pressed to find someone who did not agree with at least one thing Jesus said or is reputed to have said.

The only problem I have with such people identifying as Christian is that it causes the population of people who adhere to the belief-system that is typically described as Christian (people who believe Jesus was somehow divine) to be over-counted.

 

I personally would encourage such people to use a less misleading description such as "secular but influenced by Christianity."

 

Of course, that is only my preference, I don't think anyone else has to follow it. I just think people who respect Jesus but don't believe in his divinity or infallibility should question why they call themselves Christians.

If it is because they genuinely think that is most accurate way to describe what they believe, I would disagree, but that is their prerogative.

If it because they want the privilege associated with being part of the religious majority (in a country such as the United States where most people are Christian), then I strongly think they should reconsider.

Edited by curiousAtheist
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The answer that I seem to be getting mostly (correct me if I'm wrong) is that most/many PC respect some of the teachings of Jesus while ignoring the ones they do not agree with.

 

Funnily enough, that apparently is what Jesus taught ...accept what is true for you. PCs as far as I can tell don't take everything hook, line and sinker. I am sure someone could find the appropriate verse in the New Testament if required.

 

Interestingly Buddhism seems to have a similar take on its writings.

Edited by romansh
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Curious Atheist, (Your real first name would be preferable to me :) )

 

Personally i feel that unless a teaching comes alive for me, it would be unwise for me to just blindly accept it. The NT says to PROVE ALL THINGS. That speaks to me For me, i had a problem with having a relationship or connection with my source, substrate of existence or God. When i read a reported teaching of Jesus that said " as you forgive others it is forgiven you " I decided or choose, for whatever reason, to make that a practice. And i found that when i did, guilt no longer had a hold of my mind. I essentially experienced a freedom that i up to that point had never consciously experienced before. Science or psychology could possibly explain why, but it doesn't matter. Experience has shown me the benefits of such a choice. Many of the other writings also ring true to me but that does not mean everything i read of the recorded teachings of Jesus are true or false. It doesn't even matter whether Jesus really said them or not but i have no need to believe or disbelief he did. The teachings , in my view are more important than the man less i follow after idols.

 

As Rom said, even the Buddha is recorded saying something similar from the Kalama Sutta Now, Kalamas, don’t go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, ‘This contemplative is our teacher.’ When you know for yourselves that, ‘These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness’ — then you should enter & remain in them.

 

I think the Buudha , if he really said that was also wise. Where did this wisdom come from? He didn't say.

 

As for a different name other than Progressive Christianity. It is my hope you might get past such a delema.

 

Here is a link by many other PC's here that might give you a more broad and better feel for what it means to them. Probably in more satisfactory definitive terms than what i have said.

Joseph

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Funnily enough, that apparently is what Jesus taught ...accept what is true for you. PCs as far as I can tell don't take everything hook, line and sinker. I am sure someone could find the appropriate verse in the New Testament if required.

 

Interestingly Buddhism seems to have a similar take on its writings.

 

 

I agree...........................I enjoy sitting with Muslims, Hindus, Atheist ect, and when something strikes me as true I acknowledge it and put it in my tool box to make life better.

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  • 1 month later...

CA, the term "Christian" is, of course, an umbrella label that covers everything from Catholics to Protestants to Eastern Orthodox to over 40,000 different denominations now. There is not any one definition that covers all of these different varieties of Christian, though most would claim that they, in some sense, go back in teachings or practice to the person of Jesus Christ. Progressive Christianity, as I understand it, is non-creedal i.e. it does not dictate what a person must or must not believe in order to wear or associate with the label "Christian". Each person has the freedom to determine for himself (or herself) if the shoe fits. I lean toward the label "Christian humanist" in that I'm a non-theist who still finds value in many of the alleged teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. My roots are in traditional, evangelical Christianity, but I don't let that determine where my branches grow. Like many PCs, I consider the Bible to be a human product and I hold to what the apostle Paul said, "Test all things, hold to what is good." So my approach to the Bible is not based in an claimed authority or inspiration. Rather, I approach it seeking that which speaks to me in meaningful ways. Much of it I find to be little more than rubbish. But I also find much of it that is still valuable, which still calls me to life and love. To me, the difference between the PC approach versus the traditional approach is that we bring the tools of modern scholarship and reason to the scriptures. We don't take the "if you don't believe all of it, you can't believe any of it" approach that many Christians do. Yet many of us still find value in the accounts of Jesus' life and teachings.

Edited by BillM
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In "Hold to that which is good", good refers to God. We do not get to define good, but are expected to compare results with the objective good defined in scripture. Paul is not inviting us into narcissism.

 

It is not "Hold to that which you think is good". That would make Paul would sound a lot like Trump ;-)

Edited by Burl
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I would suspect, Burl, that if Paul had meant "hold to God", he would have said so. :) Besides, who gets to decide who or what God is? Yahweh of the Hebrew scriptures? The father of Jesus? Allah of Islam? Vishnu of Hinduism? We all know that bad things have been done in the name of God. Good things also.

 

To me, the good is what is of benefit -- that which benefits ourselves, others, and our world. I wouldn't say that it is an entirely objective term, but I would say that we generally know what good and bad are. There is, of course, always room for cultural mores and discussion of what is good or leads to good. But I wouldn't go so far as to say that the Bible always portrays God as a good, moral, and just character. I have, in practice, let go of many of these images of God, knowing that they are often idols created by humans seeking to understand their place in the world and cosmos. Paul, in his experience, found that he had to let go of a tribal deity who was pro-Jews only. Perhaps in doing so, he embraced a deity who was pro-Christians only? Who's to say? Being humans, I think all of our ideas of God are idols. But I also think that some idols are better than others. :) Some gods are "gooder" - for us, for humanity, for the world, than others.

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God and good are synonyms. Good is not an attribute of God; it is his definition.

 

Paul did not "let go" of the Jewish God. Jewish worship became impossible after the destruction of the second temple, and Paul said the Jews were grafted on to Jesus's rootstock.

 

This was Jesus role as messiah. Today Jews worship, sacrifice and purify via prayer instead of blood. They have adopted Christian methods. A good thought now that the High holy days have just closed.

Edited by Burl
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Before his Damascus Road experience, Burl, the apostle Paul was convinced that he was doing God's work in hunting down Christians and having them executed as traitors to the Jewish faith. After Damascus Road, Paul became an advocate for the Christian cause. He even went so far as to say that the Jews were blinded by God. That, to me, would acknowledge a significant change of Paul's understanding of who God is and what God desires. This is why I said that he let go of one understanding of God in order to embrace another understanding, especially an understanding that embraces tolerance and diversity. I suspect that such is the lot of all spiritual seekers. May we all see God more clearly.

 

PS - I by no means speak for all Progressive Christians. I speak only for myself. ;)

Edited by BillM
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Before his Damascus Road experience, Burl, the apostle Paul was convinced that he was doing God's work in hunting down Christians and having them executed as traitors to the Jewish faith. After Damascus Road, Paul became an advocate for the Christian cause. He even went so far as to say that the Jews were blinded by God. That, to me, would acknowledge a significant change of Paul's understanding of who God is and what God desires. This is why I said that he let go of one understanding of God in order to embrace another understanding, especially an understanding that embraces tolerance and diversity. I suspect that such is the lot of all spiritual seekers. May we all see God more clearly.

 

PS - I by no means speak for all Progressive Christians. I speak only for myself. ;)

Amen.
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  • 2 weeks later...

The only problem I have with such people identifying as Christian is that it causes the population of people who adhere to the belief-system that is typically described as Christian (people who believe Jesus was somehow divine) to be over-counted.

 

I personally would encourage such people to use a less misleading description such as "secular but influenced by Christianity.".

Interesting perspective. I suppose if every Christian who doubted the veracity of most of the supernatural parts of the theology weren't allowed to use the copyrighted symbol, their populations would be fewer than my Jewish brethren! Ha ha.

 

Frankly, calling oneself a Christian these days in America isn't exactly the bon mot it once was, what with all the hijacking by the AltRight.

 

Personally, when asked my religion, I usually say "evolving."

 

NORM

Edited by NORM
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Norm I like that I will use Evolving Christian. I agree that Christians narrow their view with a Supremacist attitude. The first commandment is broken daily as Christians invent different gods so their God can be better when God is an all encompassing energy, matter and subtle spiritual energy in one whole.

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Evolution of course involves change ... no problem here. It seems humans evolved from fish; but to still call ourselves evolving fish, while I think accurate I suppose, does seem a touch incongruous to me.

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First we wanted to be fish. Then we wanted to be human. Now we want to understand why we aren't comfortable anywhere at all!

 

Steve

 

 

:):):)

 

Just remember Steve, we don't really choose our wants.

 

And speaking personally ... I am comfortable, though I have some, though incomplete, understanding of other people's discomfort.

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