Progressive?

I am not a ‘progressive Christian’ if Fred Plumer and his mob get to define the term – http://www.abc.net.au/rn/spiritofthings/stories/2010/2896101.htm. I was listening to Spirit of Things last night and its profile of this movement. If you know me, you probably know my fondess for labels (it comes from being a librarian – I like to give everything subject headings and classify it correctly) and I think they’re ‘post-christians’, not ‘progressive christians’. They think it’s ‘progressive’ to leave behind doctrines like the incarnation and the resurrection. I don’t think there’s much of a future in that.

Rachael Kohn gives way too much time to groups and movements like this, but at least she asked some incisive questions. She asked about what he made of the fact that Jim Wallis liked to call himself a ‘progessive christian’ too but meant something very different by it – an evangelicalism engaged with social justice. Then she asked another interviewee what she would say to the charge that the movement was old liberalism dressed up. The answer was a good one – it builds on the insights of liberalism with spirituality, instead of simply rationality.

The problem is that evangelicals tend to think any critically engaged scholarship is liberal. But my theology is very informed by critically engaged scholarship and I am definitely not Fred Plumer.

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3 thoughts on “Progressive?

  1. Yep it is a misleading term. Yet I’m not sure that Post-Christian fits either. Post-Christian gives me the image that they have given up Christianity all together.
    From what I gather, they may have abandonded a literal interpretation. Yet the “meaning” behind them, such as the resurrection and new life does have meaning. Does believing in the meaning or the truth behind the meaning not have some Christian substance? Mmmm.

  2. ‘Progressive’ is way too rubbery a term full stop. I could say Hillsong is progressive in musical style, Mark Driscoll is progressive for not being a cessationist, Sydney Anglicanism is progressive in its attitudes towards lay presidency. What does that mean? Bugger all. Typecasting things as a binary conservative-progressive debate is too simplistic, too one dimentional, and too open to rhetorical manipulation.

  3. Scott, I felt like some of them would certainly have been post-christian, in the way a number of Quakers are – there’ s a tradition of christianity which is referenced, but not a belief in Christ in any defining way. But I take your point.

    Matt, you’re right about progressive being a relative term and that making it hard to use. But it makes sense to use as a modifier – to call Jim Wallis ‘a progressive evangelical’ for example. To many people’s frustration, I like classifying things and people, though not on a binary classification, – on a spectrum!

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