Recently, two articles appeared on www.patheos.com, one about the demise of Progressive Christianity,[i] and a rejoinder to it with the claims that Progressive Christianity creates a spiritual environment “in new and exciting ways,” “nourishing the spirits and theological growth of longtime progressives, newcomers, and a whole new generation of Christians.”[ii]
Upon reading both articles, I find one major flaw in each of them. First, what Longenecker claims about the death of progressivism is really irrelevant. Why? We live in a temporal world destined to pass away with all that is in it. The demise (or not) of progressivism is really of no consequence compared to what lasts. The Bible claims that all things will pass away, but the Word of God will remain well past their existence. In eternity, no one will give thought to the temporal or for that matter Progressive “Christian” thinking or theology. It will die in the end. Outside of that of the death of progressivism [iii], I am in agreement with his thoughts on the historic faith and its theology.
As for Sandlin’s concluding chest thumping about the benefits of Progressive Christianity, he forgets one thing – authority. Since progressivism eschews the Bible as the complete word of God, he overlooks its authority as well as the authority of the One who stands as Lord of All – Christ the King. He concludes by using the 1st person plural pronoun – “we.” We are doing this and that. It is all about what we are doing. This “we” shoves Christ and the Holy Spirit aside. Sandlin mentions Jesus only once and the Holy Spirit zero times. In his mention of Jesus, there is nothing of His power and supremacy. Certainly, Jesus does love, but that is not the sum of His nature. Where is the righteousness He came to fulfill? Where is His throne? Where is His power? Silence.
Progressive Christianity pushes all of these to the curb, injects themselves in the center, and refers to genuine biblical faith (historic Christianity) as an “institution.” That historic faith is to what Jude referred as contending earnestly for the faith when he penned,
Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ” (Jude 3-4).
We have a common salvation. It was “ONCE for all delivered to the saints.” Jude then takes a turn to speak about those who “have crept in unnoticed.” They have upset this common salvation and this “once for all” message of the unchanging gospel. The “we” shove it aside and trump its claims with their own. This “we” corrupts this “once for all” gospel and turns it “into lewdness [showmanship and corruption] and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Therefore, it does not matter who wins the glory on earth in their chest thumping self-glory. The ultimate winner will be the Lord of all who will accomplish redemption His way not by “creating spiritual community” or “nourishing the spirits” or promoting “theological growth.” Rather the time will come when all God’s family will rejoice and be filled and content while no longer needing nourishment. The time will come when all will see the one true God and have no need for “theological growth.” For they will be like Him, for they will see Him as He is. The things of earth will fade away and be no more. There will be one rule of faith – the eternal word of God.
Those who reject this word will find themselves at odds with and separated from God in a community of death, because they rejected the Savior and His word. Therefore, it does not matter who wins on earth. Winning is for the temporal. Rather those who claim Jesus will fall down, worship Him eternally, and do away with all chest thumping.