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What Is Progressive Christianity?


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What is "Progressive Christianity"? The 8 Points come to mind, of course, but we of all people should not be allowed to take this as some sort of "dogma for anti-dogmatism." There is nothing in the 8 Points that I necessarily disagree with, as far as they go; but I'd like to explore this "identity label" a little bit, starting with the tiny little part of the 8 Points that comes before the actual 8 Points:

 

By calling ourselves progressive, we mean that we are Christians who…

 

In other words, being Progressive Christians doesn't just mean we follow the 8 Points: it means that we are Christians who follow the 8 Points.

 

What does that mean?

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I've already said on numerous occasions that I think PC has to be more than a social agenda. The C in PC has to stand for something. I know many of us have been burned in the past by churches and organizations who take a good thing like religious identity and distort it into hatred of all kinds. The postmodern mistake is in thinking that any quest for truth must be motivated by exclusionary power drives. We want so desperately to not make one single person feel excluded that we water down our worldview beyond recognition. A robust Progressive Christianity can (needs to, I think) maintain identifying theological markers, while continuing to be open to integrating insights from other spiritual, philosophical, theological, etc. traditions. In fact, that openness to integrating other insights is part of what puts the P in PC.

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I've already said on numerous occasions that I think PC has to be more than a social agenda.  The C in PC has to stand for something.  I know many of us have been burned in the past by churches and organizations who take a good thing like religious identity and distort it into hatred of all kinds.  The postmodern mistake is in thinking that any quest for truth must be motivated by exclusionary power drives.  We want so desperately to not make one single person feel excluded that we water down our worldview beyond recognition.  A robust Progressive Christianity can (needs to, I think) maintain identifying theological markers, while continuing to be open to integrating insights from other spiritual, philosophical, theological, etc. traditions.  In fact, that openness to integrating other insights is part of what puts the P in PC.

 

It seems to me that you and I and some others are struggling to put the "outer" Church and the "inner" Church together into one whole, unitive and sacred Christian tradition...but, I keep thinking that the problem is that we keep seeing the "outer" Church, the Church of the Gate (see point 1) as the whole Church instead of the *gate* or "outer court" which is only the beginning of ones induction into the mysteries. In other words Fred, and to be blunt, there have always been those who want to say that the *gate* is the whole house. It isn't. It's only the gate. What is appropriate at the *gate* is different from what is appropriate in the house and what is appropriate in the house is no longer necessary in the secret chamber, or the holy of holies.

 

Don't get me wrong. I agree wholeheartedly that "a robust Progressive Christianity can (needs to) maintain identifying theological markers", but it seems to me that currently Progressives are most concerned with "outer court" issues in which everyone is "invited" to come, and with the social implications of our Faith. The more mystical aspects of Christian tradition are not unified;each "Progressive" seems to have their own personal experience and preference here...and maybe that's inevitable. But it makes for a difficult and oft-times lonely road.

 

I agree with the 8 points up to a point. I do not self-identify as a Progressive, in fact, at this point I self-identify as little as possible. I am drawn most strongly to a "Christian" orientation toward religious transformation. I am a Christian. Unfortunately, that can mean a zillion things to as many individuals, depending on their perspective or point of view. And, again unfortunately, I don't think self-identifying as a "Progressive Christian" goes very far in unifying the way we as Christians are perceived. Just look at all the different perspectives represented by the few of us who regularly post here. Who of us can say that we are representative "Progressive Christians"?

 

lily

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Your comments on the gate, house, and secret chamber are exactly right. The "secret chamber" is where all theological concepts ultimately break down. (I always say, "Reason carries us all the way to the threshold of God, but can only drop us off there.") But (and I know you know this) it would be a mistake to retroject that insight back into the house and/or gate and therefore suppose that concepts don't matter at all. They are real, and they matter, at the level of reality to which they apply. The "theological markers" I'm talking about do indeed represent the "gate" and "house" level of the Christian tradition, to use your analogy -- the particular concepts and images that focus us as Christians on the path of spiritual transformation -- and as such, are immensely important, worth arguing about, and sometimes even fighting over. (Preferably without death, bloodshed, burning at the stake, and things of that nature.) I think this lack of regard for the furniture of our faith is a large part of what I find myself frustrated with about "progressive-ish" religion in general. Thank you for helping me to clarify that!

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I thought about this post for a while and wondered what to say. I decided, for a place to start and gather my thoughts, to actually offer my views on the 8 points. So here goes:

 

1. Have found an approach to God through the life and teachings of Jesus;

 

I'm trying. Sometimes I feel it so strongly it makes me laugh. Other times I wonder why I'm trying to find meaning in a tribal religion, from another country and another time.

 

2. 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;

 

Yes and no. I'm not a relativist and I don't think all paths are equally valid, but I do recognize that just because someone belongs to another religion, they are not automatically damned and going to hell, so to speak.

 

3. Understand the sharing of bread and wine in Jesus's name to be a representation of an ancient vision of God's feast for all peoples;

 

I'm not sure exactly what is meant by the above statement, so I don't know if I agree with it or not. I like what McLaren says in Generous Orthodoxy about the sacraments and why he likes that Catholicism has more sacraments than two or three:

 

"A sacrament is an object or practice that mediates the divine to humans. It carries something of God to us; it is a means of grace and it conveys sacredness. I care little for arguments about how many sacraments there are (althought I tend to prefer longer lists than shorter ones). What I really like about the sacramental nature of Catholicism is this: through learning that a few things can carry the sacred, we become open to the fact that all things (all good things, all created things) can ultiately carry the sacred ... Start with three sacraments - or seven - and pretty soon everything becomes potentially sacramental as, I believe, it should be.

 

I don't see Communion as re-connecting us to God if that means that we have ever been "disconnected" (as in "the Fall"). I see Communion as realizing or remembering that we are connected to God and that God is in us and in all things. Like Thomas Merton said - God is all around, but most men don't see it. (This is the panentheistic mystic in me coming through.)

 

4. Invite all people to participate in our community and worship life without insisting that they become like us in order to be acceptable ...

 

Agreed, pretty much.

 

5. Know that the way we behave toward one another and toward other people is the fullest expression of what we believe;

 

Agreed.

 

6. Find more grace in the search for understanding than we do in dogmatic certainty - more value in questioning than in absolutes;

 

Not really. Not anymore. I'm kinda tired of searching and questioning actually.

 

7. 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;

 

Agreed.

 

8. Recognize that being followers of Jesus is costly, and entails selfless love, conscientious resistance to evil, and renunciation of privilege.

 

I think I agree, although I'm not sure what is really meant by "renunciation of privilege".

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I've already said on numerous occasions that I think PC has to be more than a social agenda. 

 

I can only speak to my own understanding of this issue.

 

I believe that God gives us the wonderful gifts that he does so that we can make a difference in the world. There needs to be a balance between our inner life and outer life. I feel it would be wrong for me to focus on one at the expense of the other.

 

If I focus on the world at the expense of my spiritual life I lose the peace and strength to make a difference in the world. If I focus on my spiritual life exclusively I get spiritually plugged up.

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I never meant that i viewed Progressive christianity as merely reduced down to "JUST social justice" cause otherwise this would just be an ethical social clubhouse like UU's. (No offense, I like many of UU's concepts..but they are affraid of seeming "Too-Judeo-Christian" in theme that they have gone over-the-top on the left to the degree that the congeragtion gets offended if you even use the word "God" there.)

 

What I meant was/is we all have our beliefs regarding the nature of God and Christ such as deciding whether we are trinitarian or bibical unitarian but..but in refreashing CONTRAST to far right Christianity...we do NOT place such theological personal interpretations ABOVE social justice aka "The Golden Rule."

 

I thought about this post for a while and wondered what to say. I decided, for a place to start and gather my thoughts, to actually offer my views on the 8 points. So here goes:

 

1. Have found an approach to God through the life and teachings of Jesus;

 

Yes, this goes along with the above I stated...

 

2. 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 also goes along with the above statements that i made...God=Yahweh/Jehovah/Jah/The Great Spirit/Father/Mother, Loving Perent,ect..

 

Ath said:

 

"Yes and no. I'm not a relativist and I don't think all paths are equally valid, but I do recognize that just because someone belongs to another religion, they are not automatically damned and going to hell, so to speak."

 

Agreed. For example I find Buddhism's view of God being an Impersonal force within too Impersonal and far removed from the loving universal Comisc Perent belief that I believe in through Christianity..However, that does NOT mean that i think their prayers don;t count or that their own beliefs don;t have any solid good in them..it's just for me, I find lacking..it that it is not personalized enough..that's all.

 

3. Understand the sharing of bread and wine in Jesus's name to be a representation of an ancient vision of God's feast for all peoples;

 

Ath: "I'm not sure exactly what is meant by the above statement, so I don't know if I agree with it or not.

 

Same here. I like to observe the communion process ok, but more so..I like to hear the The Last Supper account re-told.

 

4. Invite all people to participate in our community and worship life without insisting that they become like us in order to be acceptable ...

 

Agreed, pretty much...unless..they are fundamentalist in nature and desire to challenge the whole '8' points of Progressive Christianity...

 

5. Know that the way we behave toward one another and toward other people is the fullest expression of what we believe;

 

Agreed.

 

6. Find more grace in the search for understanding than we do in dogmatic certainty - more value in questioning than in absolutes;

 

Ath said:

 

"Not really. Not anymore. I'm kinda tired of searching and questioning actually."

 

I pretty much have completed gathering together the basics of my belief system..infact I did that in the 90's...it's just I feel I can also aquire new insights or inspiring perceptions from different cultures and sources...

 

7. 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;

 

Agreed.

 

8. Recognize that being followers of Jesus is costly, and entails selfless love, conscientious resistance to evil, and renunciation of privilege.

 

I think I agree, although I'm not sure what is really meant by "renunciation of privilege".

 

Agreed.

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Okay, here's my 1.8 cents worth. (10% discount)

 

By calling ourselves progressive, we mean that we are Christians who:

 

1. Proclaim Jesus Christ as our Gate to the realm of God

 

AlethiaRivers said “Other times I wonder why I'm trying to find meaning in a tribal religion, from another country and another time.

 

i) Just because they were tribal, from another country, and in another time does not mean that they may have had some very valuable insights into life and the divine. We call ourselves progressive, in part, because we believe that we are capable of making progress. While we don’t want to be held back by a rigid requirement to believe now what they believed then, at the same time we shouldn’t want to have to start over from zero in every generation. We are capable of progress. Let us recognize that tribal people from another country and time were also.

 

ii) I believe that Jesus transcended the society into which he was born. There are aspects of his message that are very much about that society, and there are transcendent lessons that are still valuable to us today. To an extent, we need to know something about that society to recognize what the transcendent message is.

 

2. Recognize the faithfulness of other people who have other names for the gateway to God's realm

 

In any real dialogue between person of different faiths there has to be some mutual respect. Each person has to recognize the other’s faith as a valid set of beliefs. At the same time, each person has to recognize the other’s right to feel that his beliefs are, in some way, better or more true.

 

What I am trying to say is this. If you and I believe differently, but respect each other, then you must recognize the validity of my feeling that my beliefs are truer than yours, but at the same time I must recognize the validity of your feeling that your beliefs are truer than mine. I can respectfully tell you why I think that my beliefs are true, perhaps even why they are truer, but if I accuse you of willfully believing things that you know are not true, then I have ceased to respect your beliefs as beliefs.

 

3. Understand our sharing of bread and wine in Jesus's name to be a representation of God's feast for all peoples

 

While I do understand the sharing of the bread and wine in Jesus’s name to be a representation of God’s feast for all peoples, I have a little problem with this statement. It seems to be dismissive of a belief in the real conveyance of grace through the sacraments. The Reformed Christian belief is that the sacraments are given to us by God as the sign and seal of the Covenant of Grace. This makes me think of a contract. While it would be possible for God either to default on a contract or to provide grace despite not having given us a contract, we believe that he did give us the contract as a sign that he would be faithful to it.

 

4. Invite all sorts and conditions of people to join in our worship and in our common life as full partners, including (but not limited to):

 

believers and agnostics,

conventional Christians and questioning skeptics,

homosexuals and heterosexuals,

females and males,

the despairing and the hopeful,

those of all races and cultures, and

those of all classes and abilities,

 

without imposing on them the necessity of becoming like us;

 

I have known conservatives who would tell you that they would welcome, for example, a family headed by a lesbian couple to their church. However, what they mean is that would welcome the opportunity to get that couple to see the error of their ways. In the end, I would say they are not welcoming to that family because, while expressing welcome to the members of the family, they would be denying the validity of their identity as a family.

 

I would welcome individuals as they are. I would also welcome families as they are.

 

5. Think that the way we treat one another and other people is more important than the way we express our beliefs;

 

Yes. But I still think that beliefs are important.

 

6. Find more grace in the search for meaning than in absolute certainty, in the questions than in the answers;

 

It does sometimes get tiring to be always be searching for meaning. Sometimes it is necessary to rest a while. Where people of faith have erred, however, is insisting that others must rest where we rest. Just because we want to believe we have found the answer does not mean that we have. And a time comes when we should rise from our rest and go further.

 

7. See ourselves as a spiritual community in which we discover the resources required for our work in the world: striving for justice and peace among all people; bringing hope to those Jesus called the least of his sisters and brothers;

 

We must also recognize that sometimes we are the resource for someone else’s work in the world.

 

8. Recognize that our faith entails costly discipleship, renunciation of privilege, and conscientious resistance to evil--as has always been the tradition of the church.

 

Amen

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I also wanted to say the following: When I think of Progressive Christianity, I think of Harry Emerson Fosdick and most especially about his book Christianity and Progress. Although it was written over eighty years ago, I think it is still charged with lessons still valid today. Every progressive Christian should read it.

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>Aletheia (and quoting the 8 pts).

>1. Have found an approach to God through the life and teachings of Jesus;

 

>I'm trying. Sometimes I feel it so strongly it makes me laugh. Other times I wonder why I'm trying to find meaning in a tribal religion, from another country and another time.

 

Yes, I have similar feelings at times.I think I esp. feel like this when I see basically most of modern science blown off for what is in the "science" of the Bible. I like the statement about transcendent truths.

 

>2. 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;

 

>Yes and no. I'm not a relativist and I don't think all paths are equally valid,

 

Hear, hear. Me neither. But I also see that some people need that particular path, even if it is just for awhile. I honestly don't think that my sister (and many others) could tolerate the ambiquity of wrestling with her beliefs. Also I think that some people need "atheism", if briefly, even though I consider it a spiritual "dead end".

 

>3. Understand the sharing of bread and wine in Jesus's name to be a representation of an ancient vision of God's feast for all peoples;

 

>I'm not sure exactly what is meant by the above statement, so I don't know if I agree with it or not. I like what McLaren says in Generous Orthodoxy about the sacraments and why he likes that Catholicism has more sacraments than two or three:

 

"A sacrament is an object or practice that mediates the divine to humans.

Though in this case, not sure that seven is any better than 2. You know prayer is a sacrament, looking at nature is a sacrament. I think many Native Americans had it right about the essential sacredness of everything and not trying to tie it to a few things.

 

>I don't see Communion as re-connecting us to God if that means that we have ever been "disconnected" (as in "the Fall"). I see Communion as realizing or remembering that we are connected to God

 

I agree with this.

 

>4. Invite all people to participate in our community and worship life without insisting that they become like us in order to be acceptable ...

 

Very much.

 

>5. Know that the way we behave toward one another and toward other people is the fullest expression of what we believe;

 

Yep.

 

>b]6. Find more grace in the search for understanding than we do in dogmatic certainty - more value in questioning than in absolutes;[/b]

 

>Not really. Not anymore. I'm kinda tired of searching and questioning actually.

 

Hah, not sure you were trying to be funny but sometimes I do feel this way as well. But I do essentially agree with the statement even if I might feel otherwise sometimes.

 

>7. 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;

 

Amen.

 

>8. Recognize that being followers of Jesus is costly, and entails selfless love, conscientious resistance to evil, and renunciation of privilege.

 

>I think I agree, although I'm not sure what is really meant by "renunciation of privilege".

 

I think just to recognise the priviledge is sometimes hard, much less renounce it. I think that there are just tons of people in this country feeling "entitled" and angry for all the have nots in the world (or at least Mexico or the homeless say). Just to say, "hey wait a second I'm the one with the priviledge and opportunities and it's an accident that I'm here and they are there." Just recognizing that... very hard I think.

 

--des

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AlethiaRivers said “Other times I wonder why I'm trying to find meaning in a tribal religion, from another country and another time.

 

This is an important question. I've asked it of myself many times. Along with why, when there is so much in what passes for Christianity both now and throughout its history that is embarassing at best and appalling at worst in my eyes, and when its essential Truths can be found in other traditions that do not carry this baggage, do I stay stuck on Christianity like a barnacle to a Rock?

 

In some vague way the first question can be answered by suggesting that the essential religious impulse knows of no other country. All of the longing of man has carried wisdom down through the ages and all converges upon the Christian Mythos. Christianity is not "tabula rasa", but a convergence of everything that came before, religiously, mystically, spiritually speaking, as well as politically, socially etc. etc. The importance of realizing this results in the awareness that all your longing and all its answering belongs to you as a human being, born of both woman and of Spirit, it doesn't belong to any one tradition. Truth, in other words, belongs to God; Religion belongs to man.

 

The second question is a riddle to me. God in Christ is the God I know. I've had no encounter with other gods. Other traditions, if meaningful to me at all, always only enrich my understanding of and fascination with the Christian Mythos. It's my Fate. And yet a part of me recognizes that the tradition is so fragmented and so splintered and sectarian that it becomes harder and harder to embrace Christianity as a whole, or to know where ones' place is within it, at least for me.

 

That is why I'm here.

 

 

lily

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sterrettc wrote: Just because they were tribal, from another country, and in another time does not mean that they may have had some very valuable insights into life and the divine. We call ourselves progressive, in part, because we believe that we are capable of making progress. While we don’t want to be held back by a rigid requirement to believe now what they believed then, at the same time we shouldn’t want to have to start over from zero in every generation. We are capable of progress. Let us recognize that tribal people from another country and time were also.

 

I didn't say they didn't have valuable insights.

 

If you read back through my posting history here, you'd see how much in awe I am of the Jewish mystical insights into divinity. I respect them so much because they match up with what I've thought up/intuited on my own. Those same insights are found in Buddhism, Hinduism and "Paganism" as well. These common truths, primordial truths, are found in much theology and philosophy and metaphysics.

 

The thing is, I can grasp and immerse myself in those truths WITHOUT belonging to a religion. The other thing is, I WANT TO. Christianity is my heritage. I miss the certainty I used to have. I think we all go through that from time to time. Right now, I'm feeling lost, and I was simply expressing that in a forum where I feel safe to say it.

Edited by AletheiaRivers
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McLaren said: "A sacrament is an object or practice that mediates the divine to humans."

 

Des said: Though in this case, not sure that seven is any better than 2. You know prayer is a sacrament, looking at nature is a sacrament. I think many Native Americans had it right about the essential sacredness of everything and not trying to tie it to a few things.

 

That was McLarens whole point. :D Start with 2 or 3, move up to 7, and keep on a going ... Everything can be a sacrament, everything good and created can mediate God.

 

Des said: Hah, not sure you were trying to be funny but sometimes I do feel this way as well. But I do essentially agree with the statement even if I might feel otherwise sometimes.

 

No, unfortunately, not trying to be funny. Guess I'm feeling kinda lost and a bit depressed. I do appreciate the search, but right now, I'm missing certainty. :(

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Lily wrote: " ... why, when there is so much in what passes for Christianity both now and throughout its history that is embarassing at best and appalling at worst in my eyes, and when its essential Truths can be found in other traditions that do not carry this baggage, do I stay stuck on Christianity like a barnacle to a Rock?"

 

LOL @ Barnacle! Exactly. I feel the stubborn and tenacious need to remain a Christian. :D

 

Lily wrote: All of the longing of man has carried wisdom down through the ages and all converges upon the Christian Mythos. Christianity is not "tabula rasa", but a convergence of everything that came before, religiously, mystically, spiritually speaking, as well as politically, socially etc. etc.

 

I really appreciate this insight. It was something I once knew but have recently forgotten. Judaism didn't form in a box and Jesus didn't live in a box. I appreciate the recent scholarship that has placed Jesus back into Jewish heritage, but at the same time I think these same scholars are making Jesus into "just" a Rabbi. (I know this isn't making sense. This medium can be SO frustrating.) In other words, some Christian traditions, IMO, "spiritualize" Christianity way too much and other scholars "Jewish-ize" :blink: Christianity way too much. (Good grief, I'll give up trying to explain this thought now.)

 

Lily wrote: The importance of realizing this results in the awareness that all your longing and all its answering belongs to you as a human being, born of both woman and of Spirit, it doesn't belong to any one tradition. Truth, in other words, belongs to God; Religion belongs to man.

 

Yup yup yup!

 

Lily wrote: The second question is a riddle to me. God in Christ is the God I know. I've had no encounter with other gods.

 

See, thing is, I have. I've had deeply spiritual encounters with Goddess and I miss them so much. I know it's the same God, but I just can't summon up the intimate relationship with "her" within Christianity. I sure would like to. I don't mind relating to God as Father, and I do, but I miss my Mother sometimes. I don't believe God has a gender, but as humans we relate in anthropormorphic terms, and for me Christianity is "male". Perhaps someday I could envision God/dess as Eastern Orthodoxy does. I'd love to learn more about their insights.

 

Lily wrote: And yet a part of me recognizes that the tradition is so fragmented and so splintered and sectarian that it becomes harder and harder to embrace Christianity as a whole, or to know where ones' place is within it, at least for me.

 

That is why I'm here.

 

Me too. :)

Edited by AletheiaRivers
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Ath said:

 

"See, thing is, I have. I've had deeply spiritual encounters with Goddess and I miss them so much. I know it's the same God, but I just can't summon up the intimate relationship with "her" within Christianity. I sure would like to. I don't mind relating to God as Father, and I do, but I miss my Mother sometimes. I don't believe God has a gender, but as humans we relate in anthropormorphic terms, and for me Christianity is "male". Perhaps someday I could envision God/dess as Eastern Orthodoxy does. I'd love to learn more about their insights."

 

I don;t have a problem with this..which is lucky, I recken..That is..I don;t have a problem seeing God as BOTh Father AND Mother..or more precise...I see God as my Cosmic Perent(s).

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Thanks for the great thoughts everybody!

 

In spite of the stubborn way I sometimes come off :), PC really does cover a wide range of possibilities. Not only are there lots of places on the spectrum of ideas in general, but even my own understanding from month to month, and year to year, is something of a spectrum in itself. I would say with Lily that "...other traditions, if meaningful to me at all, always only enrich my understanding of and fascination with the Christian Mythos." That, I think, is where the Christian label ultimately comes into play. It's more of a "fundamental orientation" thing; not whether we agree on some aspect or interpretation of something in particular. (I think it's the disregard of crucial aspects of the Christian Mythos that makes my hair go up more than anything. I'd prefer vehement disagreement to disregard, but then I'm not the religion police. B))

 

I've seen the "struggle vs. rest" issue come up a bit, which is probably more of a reality within PC than elsewhere. Many of us will be actively struggling at any given time, and that process has to be deeply respected. I know I probably come off a lot as "having it all figured out," because I think I've gone through my period of really active struggle, at least for the time being. But I can't stress enough how important it is to struggle with the Christian view of things, and to do it until it starts making sense to you (if it does). Every time I tried to prematurely cram my view-of-the-month into a Christian mold, I ended up driving myself nuts and making the process take even longer. I'm not sure where I'm going with this, but there it is anyway. :)

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I miss the certainty I used to have. I think we all go through that from time to time. Right now, I'm feeling lost, and I was simply expressing that in a forum where I feel safe to say it.

 

I miss the certainty too sometimes...I know what you mean Aletheia. I've been feeling a bit out of sorts about it all too. Perhaps deep things are being stirred in us by way of these discussions, maybe the heats been turned up a bit. I only know that I am glad that we are here and can say these things openly to one another. You are all a great help to me.

 

lily

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My wife and I recently completed the "Living the Questions" course and found it throughly enriching and an excellent perspective on progressive Christianity. I am American Baptist, and consider myself both progressive and evangelical.

 

I am very progressive socially as far as peace, social justice, acceptance and inclusiveness of diversity.

 

I am also of the mind that many of these labels and codewords for strands of belief within the Christian tradition have been overused and not accurately represented much of the time.

 

For me "progressive" means accepting of diversity, deeply committed to social justice and peace, and a more informed faith as a questioning journey rather than arrival at false certitude.

 

On the other hand, one of the things that concerned me about the Living the Questions series was that there seemed to be a very deliberate effort to deconstruct traditional Christianity without simultaneously raising up this so-called "new vision" or "new paradigm" that Marcus Borg speaks so much about.

 

It was almost as if they seemed to be saying "we won't tell you what we think is right, but we know what is wrong about traditional Christianity..."

 

This was initially frustrating, but as the series progressed, Borg, Ammerman, Crossan, Spong, Cobb and others continued to unpack this progressive vision of Christianity, which we both found to be refreshing and very congruent with our own beliefs.

 

Much effort is made to speak out against the "literalist-fundamentalist" strand of Christianity in progressive circles, and in LTQ, but what they failed to mention is that there are many forms of "fundamentalism" including "liberal-fundamentalism" and "secular-fundamentalism."

 

Fundamentalism (capital F) was a very intolerant, literalist, overly-simplistic movement of Christianity that has undoubtedly turned many people away from religion while giving its adherents that sense of false certitude that Borg speaks against.

 

There are many forms of fundamentalism (small f), however, which Webster defines as " a movement or attitude stressing strict and literal adherence to a set of basic principles."

 

I suppose one of the main voices of progressive faith that I identify with is that of Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners. Jim is deeply committed to social justice and open to diverse views, but also remains firmly rooted in the Christian faith recognizing Jesus of Nazareth as not just a wise "Jewish mystic," as Borg refers to Jesus, or "the Jesus program" as Crossan refers to early Christianity, but that recognizes Jesus as the Son of God and Messiah.

 

So, I guess what I am saying is that, from the perspective of social justice, peace, inclusivity of all people regardless of gender, ethnicity, class, sexual orientation, etc, I consider myself fully progressive.

 

Even on theological matters such as the person of Jesus and doctrinal questions like the atonement, kingdom of God, concept of sin, etc, I have found persuasive and compelling testimony in the statements and writings of Borg, Crossan, Cobb, Ammerman, and even Spong.

 

I suppose what I am sorting out now is what I perceive to be somewhat of a mixed message that I hear coming from the progressive movement- radical inclusivity of diverse people on the one hand, but a lack of tolerance or patience for people who may be struggling to find this tolerance and inclusivity.

 

Beyond my exposure to progressive Christianity through the Living the Questions series, I have been reading some recent books by Borg and Crossan. I recently finished reading Borg's "The Heart of Christianity," as well as "The Meaning of Jesus Two Visions" by Borg and N.T. Wright. I am presently working through Crossan's "The Birth of Christianity" and finding it very stimulating and engaging.

 

Well I guess I have shared enough for now, but I am hopeful that we can have some fruitful dialogue on progressive Christianity here and unpack this "new vision" or "emerging paradigm" a bit more.

 

Peace in the name of all that is Holy to you,

 

 

John

Southeastern Pennsylvania

peacemover@yahoo.com

Edited by peacemover
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For me "progressive" means accepting of diversity, deeply committed to social justice and peace, and a more informed faith as a questioning journey rather than arrival at false certitude.

 

On the other hand, one of the things that concerned me about the Living the Questions series was that there seemed to be a very deliberate effort to deconstruct traditional Christianity without simultaneously raising up this so-called "new vision" or "new paradigm" that Marcus Borg speaks so much about.

 

It was almost as if they seemed to be saying "we won't tell you what we think is right, but we know what is wrong about traditional Christianity..."

 

This was initially frustrating, but as the series progressed, Borg, Ammerman, Crossan, Spong, Cobb and others continued to unpack this progressive vision of Christianity, which we both found to be refreshing and very congruent with our own beliefs.

 

Much effort is made to speak out against the "literalist-fundamentalist" strand of Christianity in progressive circles, and in LTQ, but what they failed to mention is that there are many forms of "fundamentalism" including "liberal-fundamentalism" and "secular-fundamentalism."

 

Fundamentalism (capital F) was a very intolerant, literalist, overly-simplistic movement of Christianity that has undoubtedly turned many people away from religion while giving its adherents that sense of false certitude that Borg speaks against.

 

There are many forms of fundamentalism (small f), however, which Webster defines as " a movement or attitude stressing strict and literal adherence to a set of basic principles."

 

So, I guess what I am saying is that, from the perspective of social justice, peace, inclusivity of all people regardless of gender, ethnicity, class, sexual orientation, etc, I consider myself fully progressive.

 

I suppose what I am sorting out now is what I perceive to be somewhat of a mixed message that I hear coming from the progressive movement- radical inclusivity of diverse people on the one hand, but a lack of tolerance or patience for people who may be struggling to find this tolerance and inclusivity.

 

 

You bring up much grist for the discussion mill in this post. Thank you.

 

I was struck by your observation that within Progressive Christianity...and perhaps beyond...there is a tendency to be stuck in *deconstruction* and slow in moving toward a reconstruction of the Christian Mythos. I think this is frustrating to many of us. Still, it may be inevitable and necessary; Christianity does have a lot to account for and there are many threads to be unraveled within it. My instinct is to tear it down to its essentials, which I keep saying but perhaps not clarifying adequately simply because I'm not sure that I can yet; rebuilding or reconstructing from the ground up, so to speak. It's not a process given to certainty or security and oftentimes results in a fatigue that is draining to faith, because it requires a good hard look at those things which shake the tradition to its very foundations. But I think its something many, many of us are being called to do, both individually, and in communities such as these.

 

I also found your clarification on the word "fundamentalism" important. I'm frustrated by a marked tendency to lose the sense of words in the politics of identity. Words such as *inclusive* and *exclusive* are now being made into a self-identity label that sometimes misses the point of the word itself. Is Christianity as a tradition *inclusive*? What does this really mean? Does it mean that we dissolve all boundaries that discriminates one tradition from another? Does it mean that we relinquish what is distinctly Christian in our tradition in order to avoid alienating anyone? This has come up on a current thread here already regarding baptism and the eucharist. The abuses these traditions have spawned in some cases have made many antagonistic to any suggestion of "requirements" or "authority" or "structure" within the Church. Any effort to keep these traditions or a sense of order in the enactment of them is deemed "exclusivity". This tendency, it seems to me, makes *reconstruction* extremely problematic. How can you rebuild when the workers are still reacting against what has gone before and essentially locking us in at that very point?

 

Tolerance toward the intolerant is another double-bind that comes up a lot. Personally, I'm not sure that we are to be endlessly tolerate of the intolerant, but again the words "tolerant" and "intolerant" have begun to morph into a strange definition. My hunch is that part of the problem here is that we are still holding to a belief that Christianity is intrinsically superior to other traditions and therefore we feel a moral obligation to make Christianity appealing to everyone. Give up this very deep-seated belief (I also suffer from it to a degree) and the *tolerance* problem is solved. Only then can we reconstruct a Christian tradition that has any definition at all. Once we stop trying to placate the world, if not run it, we can start reconstructing a tradition that is distinctly Christian and those who are called will come.

 

At any rate, thanks for posting. Much food for thought here.

 

 

lily

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Thank you for your thoughtful reply, Lily.

 

As I mentioned, I found the "deconstruction" process largely frustrating, overly abrasive, and seemingly incongruent with the self-proclaimed inclusivity of progressive Christianity at least INITIALLY (i.e. replacing one set of rules, traditions and code words with another, perhaps newer, or more modern set of rules, traditions, and code words).

 

However, once we navigated through those few weeks of deconstruction and the discomfort it brought to some in the group, we were able to get into some of what I have found to be the most postive aspects of progressive Christianity:

 

-social justice

-peace

-celebration of diversity

-embracing of mystery and metaphor

-faith as a journey rather than a false arrival

 

I must admit that I have found Marcus Borg's insistence on scripture as metaphor and as a "human product written to an ancient community" to be a bit challenging to unpack and sort out.

 

I have never been one to support so-called "inerrancy or authority of scripture" and yes I do recognize that it is a human product; however it seemed to me initially that Borg rushes far too quickly to proclaiming scripture metaphorical without really unpacking this concept.

 

That is where I have found the writings of John Dominic Crossan to be tremendously helpful. As I have worked through his book "The Birth of Christianity" as well as some of his other writings, he makes a very convincing case to me of how all these extra layers of tradition have been heaped upon scripture throughout history.

 

I am realizing that a large part of the problem in mainstream Christianity is that there is very little awareness among most people about the layers of history and source material as well as the influence of tradition upon scripture and its interpretation.

 

I think all too many people, particularly of the more conservative factions of Christianity believe that somehow that scripture was divinely handed down as it appears in the Bible today. Which any person who has done any kind of credible biblical and/or theological study knows is not the case.

 

I think, sadly, that in many of the more conservative Christian traditions, scripture itself has almost been elevated to the point where it is worshipped in a strange, dangerous and idolatrous sort of way. Sadly, it has also been co-opted if not hijacked by conservative politicians for their own political power-grabbing (i.e. the shameful so-called "Justice Sunday" and threats from certain pulpits against judges, moderates and Democrats)

 

So I definitely reject the biblical literalism, as well as the intolerance that Borg and others speak out against.

 

I guess what I am wrestling with at the moment is the apparent movement by Borg, Crossan, Spong and others away from acknowledging Jesus as Son of God and Messiah, toward just referring to him as "Jesus of Nazareth" or as a "Jewish mystic" in the same way that Gandhi, or Buddha or Muhammed were mystics and great faith leaders.

 

I have friends of many different faith backgrounds and deeply respect them all. I also believe that their "approach to the divine" is just as viable, legitimate and relevant for them as Jesus is for me in my faith journey.

 

I still struggle with some of the doctrinal interpretations I have heard from Borg and others regarding the meaning of the crucifixion, resurrection, salvation and sin. I agree with wholeheartedly how Borg and others describe these for the most part. I must admit that regarding the meaning of the crucifixion and resurrection in particular, I connected more with what N.T. Wright had to say in the dialogical book he co-wrote with Marcus Borg entitled "The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions."

 

I found this book to be a good window into progressive Christianity because it addressed the questions and beliefs that I had been taught in my evangelical (but socially progressive) Christian tradition.

 

Interesting conversation and journey. I am continuing to read Crossan, and may try to get into Borg's writings again next, as well as checking out what Cobb has to say about Process Theology.

 

Peace,

 

 

John

Edited by peacemover
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Welcome Peacemover!

 

You've already brought up some issues which are really relevant to this topic. I too think that the liberal and secular forms of fundamentalism can be just as "intolerant" as the religious variety. I've already said I think Spong often falls into this category, with a religious adherence to the modern scientific-critical outlook which rivals evangelical fundamentalism's rigidity about scripture. Crossan and Borg have the good sense to be explicit about their methodological assumptions as methodological assumptions.

 

But as I've made abundantly clear in other places, I share your concern with the progressive reduction of Jesus and Christianity to merely human categories, and on this note, I find Crossan and Borg wanting as well. If you're looking for a treatment of the biblical and historical sources and possibilities, they are very much on target, and have informed and influenced my thinking greatly. But if you're fundamentally coming from a modern scientific frame of reference, there's just no way of extrapolating from the social revolutionary Jesus of Crossan, or the plugged-in-mystic Jesus of Borg, to some of the deep philosophical/theological claims of Christianity, without presuming that some kind of tampering must have taken place by dead patriarchal males who were out of touch with Jesus' original call. Not everyone here will agree, but I think some of those claims and arguments are still tremendously important, even if they will be understood quite differently within a progressive context.

 

Anyway, that's the piece of land I'm trying to stake out. :) Welcome again!

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I post this as an observation, not "debate", since I'm normally confined to the "debate" forum: :D

 

From the outside, it appears the big challenge for the "progressive" movement is, "Where do we go for our foundation, when we disagree on certain things?" It's been said that where you go looking for your answers says everything about what answers you'll come up with.

 

Our evangelical, conservative, diverse and socially concerned church is a beautiful melting pot of people from all kind of backgrounds (socially, economically, racially, church history, etc.) So there are alot of views and opinions. For us, as a body, however, the Bible is the foundation to figure out which way to go. We certainly also take into account the prompting of the Holy Spirit, books which can help explain things, etc.....but the Bible is always the base, the foundation. And that's understood and accepted. As people come in, and join, we're very clear that that is how we operate, make decisions, etc. In love, when there is disagreement, we're going to break out the Bible, and "reason together", as best we can.

 

I would think the challenge for the progressive movement is what is that "agreed" foundation? What views are acceptable, and which ones are grounds for breaking fellowship, if any? Is it the 8 points? If not, who will come up with the foundation? What gets in and what gets left out? I guess that's what I hear some of you saying....Is the 8 points enough?

Edited by darby
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Welcome peacemover (and anybody else I might have missed!)!

 

I have never read Crossan so I can't compare. But I was not at all bothered by Borg's metaphorical interpretation.

 

>I must admit that I have found Marcus Borg's insistence on scripture as metaphor and as a "human product written to an ancient community" to be a bit challenging to unpack and sort out.

 

>I have never been one to support so-called "inerrancy or authority of scripture" and yes I do recognize that it is a human product; however it seemed to me initially that Borg rushes far too quickly to proclaiming scripture metaphorical without really unpacking this concept.

 

I think Borg's comments about this are quite apt. IF you take some of it as literal and some of it as metaphorical you are left with the unenviable position of trying to figure out which you see as literal and which you see as metaphorical. And then you are left with why you conveniently chose one text over another as literal or metaphorical. There may be good reasons like some obvious examples of Jonah and the big fish or say the book of John. And you could come up with ten good reasons to pick each as metaphorical. But you get to other verses and other lines, and well then you get to the point of picking and chosing for less solid reasons. I'm sure Borg (or I myself for that matter) do not say that none of it is historical, as well as metaphorical. Or some other possible interpretation. I find it quite logical to assume that Jesus did heal people thru their faith in him. But that doesn't also mean that I wouldn't look at the metaphor of say the large no. of healings of blindness say.

Anyway it sounds like Crossan is one I might want to read.

 

 

Now for Darby's comments:

>I post this as an observation, not "debate", since I'm normally confined to the "debate" forum:

 

And I think I can say there are many of us who appreciate this!

 

>I would think the challenge for the progressive movement is what is that "agreed" foundation? What views are acceptable, and which ones are grounds for breaking fellowship, if any? Is it the 8 points? If not, who will come up with the foundation? What gets in and what gets left out? I guess that's what I hear some of you saying....Is the 8 points enough?

 

All interesting points. I would say that "agreed on foundation" is not something that most progressives worry about too much in actual practice. Yes, we discuss it on the forum here, after all we can! :-) But doctrinal purity is not necessarily a "high point". In fact, most progressive denominations do not have any required doctrine (ie you believe this or you aren't with us). I think you might think less about doctrine and more about some general "talkign points" or "touchstones" or some sort of concept like that. For example, we have to have some acknowledgement of Jesus as unique or special in some way (otherwise why be Christian), we would believe in some sort of resurrection experience (physical or otherwise), ideas that we practice as Jesus preached for example concerns re: social justice. Generally Progressives don't take the Bible literally or as inerrant. Other sort of accepted ideas are celebration of diversity and ideas that we dont' have a corner on "truth". I think one other concept might be that the life of "faith" is a journey not a destination. Sounds trite but there we are. :-) But in any progressive group (or church) there will be a pretty broad spectrum of views from ones that might be considered more traditional to those that are most progressive or even "out there". And I think you'll find that right here as well.

 

Are 8 points enough? Only if they are only talking points. There might be many other relevant talking points or areas of consideration. OTOH, you can take any of the 8 points and I don't think all progressives are going to say, yes I wholeheartedly believe this.

 

But as to how you consider if someone is a progressive Christian or no, well this is complex.

I certainly have no problem saying anyone is who says he is. So darby, are you are progressive? :-) Though I think questions have come up re: Jim Wallis, Tony Campola, etc. who have more traditional/conservative religious views but very liberal/progressive social views. I think that progressives are happy to accept them for their social views alone.

But when one actually reads their more doctrinal views then they'd prob. go towards traditional views.

 

Generally disagreements are handled pretty well in Progressive denominations. I speak with a lot of experience here having served on a church council (and they do EVERYTHING pretty much). I saw many very dicey situations handled with a lot of love and respect.

Group discussions are pretty civilized, say on Bible discussions or book discussion groups.

Take a look at this forum too. Pretty civilized place I think, with little in the way of name calling, flamage, etc.-- I mean the stuff that goes on all the time in most of the other forums I'm on.

 

I'm sure that's all quite clear. :-) Hopefully Fred elaborate and help me out here. :-)

 

 

 

--des

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