Christianity has long ago been divided into various branches, but recently it seems that a new wave of Christians have been coming forward, defining themselves as something different than the norm. Progressive Christians. But what does that mean and how do they differ from traditionalist?
First, let's talk about the word PROGRESSIVE. Here are some positive and negative terms you may see connected to Progressive Christianity (PC): Relentless pursuit, evolved, openness, potential, amorphous, intentionally ambiguous, non-Christians, anti-Bible and inclusive. Progressive actually means to develop or happen in a gradual sequence or various stages. It can also mean a person advocating social change and is typically associate with liberal politics, which seems to be the definition more likely to get tagged to the progressive Christians. And sure, some are liberals, but it may surprise some readers to hear the first is more accurate for this discussion. PC is about an evolving understanding of the Bible, rather than a stagnant interpretation.
I believe Christianity has always been progressive. In the old testament, God is talking to his people, preparing them for the coming of Christ. When Christ comes, he changes everything in fulfillment of the scripture. Look at Matthew 10:35 :
"I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law."
Jesus came with a message that would turn people against one another. It was a radical, progressive message. Think of everything the old testiment spoke of and then think of how Jesus spoke. Example - Mark 12:33 :"To love with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices." Burnt offerings weren't necessary because Jesus was to sacrifice his life for our sins. He was progressing the Christian faith forward, in order to fulfill God's will.
Throughout history, many important saints and religious individuals continued to progress the faith. People began to split from the church, various branches of Christianity were formed. Example - Martin Luther. He didn't want his thesis to cause a revolution, but he was passionate about the changes that needed to occur in the church. Progressive Christianity.
So what do modern progressives stand for? Progressives focus more on the life of Jesus rather than the strict rules of who will end up in heaven and hell. The idea is, love one another and the rest will take care of itself. Rather than focus on the black and white rules, we focus on the "why" and extend that toward a lifestyle in accordance to Jesus.
By no means are Progressive Christians throwing out the Bible. On the contrary, we believe it to be the truth, but truth as it relates to an ever evolving human species. It's okay to doubt, question and appreciate the ambiguity of faith. Like Martin Luther, we're dissecting the word with deep respect and love, ultimately coming up with a more abstract way of thinking about the scripture.
Some people may think Progressive Christians are conforming the Bible to modern times. Honestly, I feel like this is a whole different subject. So many people think the Bible should not be read and dissected in terms of modern society, but I disagree. I wrote about this in my Homosexuality is Not a Sin blog and I encourage you to read that post in order to see how I feel about this point.
I hope this sheds a little light on the subject. If you have questions or comments, feel free to leave there here!:)