Will RELIGIOUS PROGRESSIVISM SURVIVE? WHEN THE EMPEROR HAS NO CLOTHES (Part the Second)
Dr. Riley B. Case
Originally published in “Happenings in the Church” Newsletter
Used by Permission / Edited for Use
Disclaimer: The opinions and research is that of Dr. Riley B.Case and does not necessarily
represent those of the invertedchristian.com
John Pavlovitz is well-read blogger who blows the progressive religious trumpet, which means, among other things, he spends much of time castigating evangelicals as fundamentalist, homophobic, racist, power-hungry, and anti-Jesus. But Pavlovitz is an example of one who cannot attack evangelicalism without at the same time attacking historic Christianity. Here are his words:
We believe that Christian tradition is embedded with thousands of years of misogyny, racism, anti-Semitism, and homophobia and that our task as Christians in these days is to remove those cumbersome layers and uncover the very essence of what it meant to follow Jesus.
We believe that social justice is the heart of the Gospel, that it was the central work of Jesus as evidenced in his life and teachings, the checking of power, the healing of wounds, the care for the poor, the lifting of the marginalized, the tending of the hungry, the making of peace….
Progressive Christianity is about not apologizing for what we become as we live this life and openly engage the faith we grew up with. Here there are no sacred cows, only the relentless sacred search for Truth. Tradition, dogma, and doctrines are all fair game, because all pass through the minds of flawed humanity and as such are all equally vulnerable to the prejudices, fears, and biases of those it touched.
But what is notable as what Progressive Christians agree on—is all that we do not. We differ widely with regard to the inerrancy of Scripture, the existence of Hell, intercessory prayer, salvation by atonement, abortion, the death penalty, and gun control.
We believe that a God who is eternal isn't land-locked to a 6,000-year-old collection of writings, unable to speak in real time to those who seek. Revelation can come within and independent of the Bible.
We believe God isn't threatened or angered by our questions, our doubts, or our vacillations born out of authentic pursuit, even when those things are labeled heretical by other people. God is more secure than they are in who God is.
Pavlovitz has some other words but when they all add up the ideology has no Incarnation, no Atonement, no Resurrection, no judgement for sin, no forgiveness for sin, no Holy Spirit, no Church, no victorious living, no heaven, no hell, no eternal truths, no Biblical authority, no miracles, no answers to prayer, no transcendent Power, no personal relationship with a living Christ. It is an ideology that would operate without creeds, statements of faith, and truth claims outside subjective hunches. Its "social justice" would have to come about by political power, and the landscape of the past 100 years is strewn with the wreckage of those ideologies which sought utopias by political force and power.
At what point do those of us who care about Christian faith say of such ideology that the emperor wears no clothes? There is no substance. At some point Christian faith can be so de-constructed that it ceases to be Christian faith.
Not all religious progressives, of course, would state their ideology in the same way that John Pavlovitz does, nor would they agree with him. But if it is important that Christian conservative’s distance themselves from fundamentalist extremists who claim far more than historic faith ever intended, can we not also call for moderates in the church to do the same with the extreme progressives? There is such a thing as false teaching, and heresy, and those who seek unity and a future for the church have the responsibility to call it out.