Anti-Progressive

Progressive Christianity is Cultural Relativism.

Readership: Christians;

Progressive is a Converged Term

Jack’s post, Progressive (2020 November 10), pointed out the confusion that surrounds the eponymous word when used to describe culture or religion. 

He concluded,

“Obviously, the word progressive cannot be used to refer to a return to Covenant theology, Biblical Law, and the Natural Order described by the Christian Red Pill.  This word needs to be revised or replaced in order to avoid unnecessary confusion (and offence).”

I agree.  The word “progressive” cannot be used at all to describe anything Christian — it is utterly tainted with another meaning that has nothing to do at all with anything Christian in substance. The whole idea of anything “progressive” is to move away from anything Christianity stands for, because Christianity is the “establishment culture of the past”, and of the West, par excellence.

In the same post, Jack also posed the question, What is a better word that we can use to describe “favoring or advocating progress, change, improvement, or reform, as opposed to wishing to maintain things as they are?

As for this, “favoring or advocating progress, change, improvement, or reform, as opposed to wishing to maintain things as they are”, I’ll comment on each word.

  • I would not use the word “progress” at all.  It is too similar in meaning and usage to progressive.
  • I would stay away from the word “change” because, again, in Western culture, “change” is a byword that indicates a one-way liberating change — it is never “changing back”.
  • Improvement” doesn’t convey the fact that many converged beliefs and practices should be discarded.
  • The word “reform” may be okay, but again this is also tainted now because it’s all associated with one direction of reforms — the liberating kind. Projects of restoration are, by definition, not seen as “reform” movements, and so the term is also a bit misleading in our cultural context.

I think in reality what Jack was describing is a kind of “neo-restoration” or a “neo-orthodoxy” — something that isn’t exactly a going back to the past, which is always impossible, but which does entail the following:

  • Abandoning elements of the present which are inconsistent with the unchanging truth of Christ and of the Church.
  • Restoring the Church to its purity and fullness of truth and practice.
I suppose that’s one approach to getting men back in church …

Progressive Christianity is Cultural Relativism

“Progressive Christianity” is a term people are using to kind of repackage some things that came out of the “Emerging Church” movement — something which was openly about “embracing a generous orthodoxy”, which always comes down to meaning “disregarding orthodoxy”, because “orthodoxy”, whatever else it may be, is never “generous” by definition, because it always excludes things that are not considered “orthodox”.  For example, …

In contrast to the “generous orthodoxy” of truth that they promote, there prevails an underlying spirit of agnosticism about the truth claims made in the past, which happens to reflect more or less entirely the cultural progressivism of the surrounding post-modern culture.

In reality, the “Progressive Christians” imitate liberal Christianity, but seek to be more culturally relevant in practice, by installing a trendy, post-modern mindset as the central feature of their consciousness.  It is this centrality of the popularized mindset (rather than the renewing of the mind by the Holy Spirit) that leads to its corruption, similar to Gnosticism.

They are using post-modernism as a means to bring back certain elements of past (most often liturgical or devotional practices).  But that’s a walk in the dark, because following traditional liturgical or devotional practices is useless unless they are grounded in the truth — the high church Episcopalians exemplify that quite well.  As a result, this group tends to be “halfway” in nature — they get some aspects of contemporary “broad Protestantism” that are too weak or shallow in practice, but they do not want to embrace orthodoxy in substance or doctrine because they are post-modern in mindset, so instead they want a kind of “post-modern collage” of a church, which doesn’t work in practice any better than the late liberal Protestantism of the mainline churches did.

As bad as this seems, it is actually much worse.  Elspeth alluded to this when she wrote,

“…progressive Christianity… basically sees the entire Bible as offensive (no matter how much they claim otherwise)…”

Some of it, yes.

The bigger problem is that those who advocate progressive Christianity use biblical textual criticism in a way that treats the Bible as any other text — that is, it treats the Bible as a set of human texts which can be (should be) deconstructed, analyzed and, in places, dismissed, like any other human texts.

The impact of this change is that it shifts how the Bible is viewed. Instead of being the Word of God expressed through human writing, it is now merely a collection of human writings about God which were inspired by the faith of the human writers.  I’ve covered this subtle erosion here before, What is the Authority of the Bible, and why is this Important? (2020 November 12).

Once this bridge was crossed in the early 20th Century, the game was up when it came to “left” Christianity, whether of the original “liberal” kind, which now typifies the mainline, or of the newfangled “progressive” kind, like Brian McLaren and so on.

What Remains of Christian Faith?

The question then asks itself, why then, do these people remain Christian?  That is, why believe any of the Bible if you are going to deconstruct it this way?

The answer, I think, if you look at the people at the “top”, in terms of say the leadership of the ECUSA or what have you, the most liberal theologians and so on, is that they do not, in fact, believe that what Bible teaches is true, in any meaningful sense of the word “true”, other than “mystical” or “symbolic”.  However, they do think that religious practice is useful to people, and to society as a whole, and that for most people in the West this means some kind of Christian practice. Therefore, remaking Christianity into something that meshes better with the culture (by getting rid of aspects that conflict with the culture) is good for people and society, even if it creates a religion that is, in substance, a different thing from what historical Christianity was. It may be an entirely new faith in substance, in terms of its content, but it will appear Christian and look Christian in terms of its trappings, its catchphrases, and symbols.  The preservation of an image that is outwardly recognizable as Christianity is critical to branding and marketing, because these are familiar to the West, and are a kind of “spiritual comfort food” for Western Christians through which a new religion can take shape and play the “important social and cultural roles” of building community, communicating and reinforcing shared moral commitments, and providing a context for personal and shared meaning making.

In essence, it expels the power and authority of Christ, but keeps the culture, religion, and tradition.  It is not too hard to see how this has already happened within many mainline protestant churches in the west.

But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come:  For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!  For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.

2nd Timothy 3:1-7 (NKJV)

And what is the new content? Generally speaking, it is something people call “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism” (MTD), coupled with a generous helping of progressive social politics and morals, cooked together into a new stew of progressive pseudo-Christianity. It’s something that looks Christian and talks Christian in terms of its words and symbols, but embodies a different worldview, a different moral system, and a different substance altogether in terms of what it teaches, if anything at all beyond merely Deism, therapeutic spiritual assistance, and new progressive social mores (affirmation, affirmative consent, equity, tolerance, etc.).

This is the new human religion project. It is not as weak as we might think. Old mainline liberal Christianity was blue haired and weak, and the Episcopalians are limited in scope and impact to their small church. This movement, however, is not. This is going to be the rising face of newfangled Christianity in the US, and we have to recognize it for what it is now.

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11 Responses to Anti-Progressive

  1. rontomlinson2 says:

    Jack , you obviously aren’t a progressive, thank goodness, but do you believe in progress at all?
    It seems to me that progress is possible in some areas, e.g. technology, science. But not others, e.g. morality. However, progress seems to come from understanding things as they are rather than trying to make progress directly. Trying to make progress directly is like building a science fiction set: it’s bound to be wrong in the salient aspects. Though this isn’t appreciated till later on.

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    • Jack says:

      @ Ron Tomlinson
      Progress, as I understand it, has to be measured with respect to a specific goal. Without a goal in place, the idea of progress has little meaning.
      I believe individuals can have goals, businesses and corporations can have goals, research projects can have goals, and so on.
      Individual goals are quite unique, because they can include personal goals, life accomplishments, self improvement, career advancement, etc.
      Setting up goals is an important part of an individual’s personal growth too. But it’s important to make a difference between anticipations and expectations. Expectations can always be false and lead to disappointment. An anticipation on the other hand, is more about living in the moment by moment experience of interacting with the present reality, and is therefore much less likely to fail.
      Back to your question, there must be an implied goal behind the current usage of the word progressive. Novaseeker alluded to this in the post, but he didn’t put a fine point on it. I would guess that the goals have to do with cultural integration under the guise of evangelism.

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  2. rontomlinson2 says:

    Sorry, Novaseeker, my question was addressed to you! Though I’d appreciate answers from anyone. I like and want to retain the idea of progress even though like you I don’t care for progressivism. And even the idea of technological progress has its problems, since ‘Technology is a word that describes something that doesn’t work yet.’ (Douglas Adams)

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    • Novaseeker says:

      Hi Ron —

      I think we can use progress to refer to things outside the realm of religion, morals, and worldview, judiciously. I think the main issue arises when it gets applied to religion and morals, and the worldview which underlies them, which is what has been happening in the past few centuries.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Elspeth says:

        I don’t think it’s an accident that “progressive” is the term coined to describe moving away from objective truth and traditional understandings of morality. Whoever came up with that considers it progress and want to condition the masses to see it that way as well.

        I can almost hear John Lennon’s insipid Imagine as their “progressive” theme song.

        Liked by 3 people

  3. Cill says:

    “It seems to me that progress is possible in some areas, e.g. technology, science. But not others, e.g. morality.”

    Computerization has given us an illusion of progress. In real terms we are already into another dark age.

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  4. Scott says:

    There are (at least) 4 specific doctrinal/near dogmatic thought processes that have entered the faith–every tradition I am aware of including RC and Orthodox–that have made pretty much any brand you go to Therapeutic Moralistic Deism. Maybe I will write my own post somewhere, or do a you tube video, to explore further. These four things have never been a part of the faith until, as far as I can tell late modern times. All of them use scripture to back themselves up, and all of them are rationally incoherent.

    (1.) You must learn to “love yourself” before you can love others. (Usually “love your neighbor as yourself” is twisted to make it mean this.)
    (2.) You must learn to “forgive yourself”.
    (3.) Unconditional immediate forgiveness for anyone who sins, no matter what the circumstances, no matter how heinous the crime, no matter whether or not they have repented. Conflating the lack of doing this with “holding a grudge”– which a clearly enumerated sin.
    (4.) God wants us to be happy.

    From the poisoned water of these four ridiculous precepts flows the rest of the stupidity that is called “being a Christian”, now including how weak and ineffectual it looks to the outside world for causing real heart level change.

    Go find a priest or other clergy who does not believe these four things. And who can carefully, precisely and articulately argue against them. There you have found the remnant.

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