How I Encountered Progressive Christianity
A few weeks ago I wrote a blog post talking about a few of my reflections on something called Progressive Christianity. In my indignation over the doctrines of Progressive Christianity, I admit that I may have been a bit heavy-handed in my language. Since then, I've taken the time to reflect and try to be more measured in my words for this post. That said, I thought I'd take the time to share the story of how I personally encountered Progressive Christianity.
P.S. if you want to read that blog post I referenced, check it out here.
So, my journey with Progressive Christianity started in 2017. At that time I was facing the life-changing challenges of losing my home and dog as well as going through some very significant relational losses. I found myself grasping for any hope and goodness I could find, seeking something that would maybe make my day-to-day life a little easier to manage, emotionally speaking.
For those of you who have not gone through significant emotional pain, there are not words how deeply it permeates every part of your life - both the inner life and outer life. I would rather physical pain ANY day over emotional pain because, for emotional pain, there is very little that can bring relief. If you are one of those who have had that pain, you're with me here - you understand.
During that time, I somehow came across a TED talk by Anne Lamott, an accomplished author who was talking about "12 Truths I Learned From Life and Writing" (you can find that video here). That talk was a breath of air, the fresh wind of grace to the stormy seas of my heart. I later found out that Anne Lamott is a Progressive Christian, but at the time I had never heard of such a thing. So when I took the time to look into her writing and found that she identified as a Christian, I immediately ordered a book of hers that stood out to me called Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy. I bought the book and read it in 2 days! I simply couldn't get enough of the words she was sharing; it's like her message was speaking directly to my internal brokenness and breathing hope into me. I went on to buy and read at least 5 more of her books, including another that became a favorite called Help, Thanks, Wow.
SIDE NOTE: if you are a Christian and are finding yourself drawn to the words of people more than the Word of God, it's time to, as they say... "check yourself before you wreck yourself." People don't always accurately represent God or His Word, even if what they're saying sounds good and right.
I should clarify that, as I read Hallelujah Anyway and other books by Lamott, it's not that I agreed with every word she was writing. Even then, I could tell we had some obvious differences in the things we believed. For example, she consistently would refer to God in the feminine by using pronouns like "she" and "her." I knew that The Bible refers to God as "He" and also knew that even though that's the case, God technically does not have a gender. However, it was Lamott's beautiful message of grace that continued to draw me back for the next book, and the next. I could never get enough of it. Even though I had gone to ministry school, my craving for that message of grace caused me to ignore some of the warning alarms that were going off as I read.
As time went by, life began to level out and I was able to pull my emotions back into check. I didn't think about Anne Lamott for a few years, until 2020 when I began to listen to a podcast by Alisa Childers and I started hearing that term "Progressive Christianity" for the first time (check out her Youtube for more info). I realized that I had begun to compromise the real Gospel of Jesus for an empty version I'd found in these books that appealed to my emotions.
So what about the message of those books was empty? As I reflect on the things I read, I realize now that the emphasis of Hallelujah Anyway did not draw the reader back to Jesus, but rather to search within themself for the things they need. Unfortunately, when we do that, we end up living life in the vicious cycle of not having what we need, taking time to search within ourselves for what we need, and finding that we still don't have what we need. The true good news of the Jesus we read about in the Bible is not that we somehow meet our needs within ourselves, but rather that ALL of our spiritual needs are met in Him.
If I, as someone who has spent time studying Christian doctrine had my guard down and was starting to be led into doctrinally dangerous trains of thought, can be caught off guard by these ideas then I am absolutely positive others can too - especially those believers who have not yet matured in their faith.
I should back up. Do you know what Progressive Christianity teaches? Do you know what "dangerous trains of thought" I'm talking about? I have spent some time researching it, so I want to make sure I am accurately representing these teachings. Instead of summing up what they teach in my own words, I'll refer you to the 8 Points of Progressive Christianity as listed on the movement's website. I encourage you to take the time to research and understand for yourself what progressive Christianity teaches and why I would consider it a completely different faith than traditional or what Alisa Childers calls "historical Christianity."
so what's the conclusion?
Realizing that I had taken and internalized information that is untrue caused me to take what I've been believing and teaching and hold them up against the real litmus test of doctrine - God's Word, the Bible. So what is it the Bible says about the teachings of Progressive Christianity? Well, I think that may be a much larger topic for a different post. Would I still recommend Hallelujah Anyway? Actually, yes. But not because I believe it teaches truth about Jesus, and definitely not to a Christian who's immature in their beliefs. I would still recommend Hallelujah Anyway as I would recommend Where The Red Fern Grows or Lord Of The Flies - because it is well written and poignant, but not necessarily truth.
So I'd like to conclude with this - emotions are not a good barometer for what's true and what's not. I had a time when I accepted Progressive Christian ideas as true because they were presented as Christian thoughts and they felt good and healing to me. But as I mentioned before, I couldn't get enough of that message - it was an empty well that kept me reaching for something I couldn't really find. Let me tell you, there is a well that never runs dry.
His name is Jesus.
And not a modern idealistic Jesus, but the Jesus of The Bible. The One who died on the cross to atone for my sins and yours, and then was raised to life to conquer sin and death forever.
"Jesus answered, 'Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.'"
Have you been thirsting for that living water? Look to Jesus. Look to the Bible, God's Word. I believe that, when you find the real Gospel that I've found, you will never thirst again.