(Photo by Selma Komisky)
Oxymoron: Progressive Christianity
By Kyle Jane Heskett
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness…”
– 2 Timothy 3:16
It is a difficult thing to admit in today’s society that, yes, a Christian can be too progressive. For a while now, many Christians around the country have been afraid to be too legalistic, and rightfully so. In result, some may have swung the pendulum too far the other way. Is it possible to have a better balance?
As for a disclaimer, when I talk about being progressive, I don’t mean politically. I fully believe in the freedom to have different views to an extent. When I think of a Christian being too progressive, I think of someone who has a progressive view of scripture, one that denies the 2 Timothy 3:16 view of God’s Word. This position can affect their viewpoints on all sorts of topics. Progressive Christianity is redefining scripture so that it is more appealing to themselves and others. It is believing in parts of it but not the whole. It is worshipping the characteristics or principles of God more than God Himself. When that happens, we try to yield God’s values to what we feel they should be, or what others feel they should be. We forget to go back to God’s Word and get in touch with Him above everything else.
How does this play out in everyday life? For example, two Christians who have very different viewpoints politically, socially, or personally, who seem to be passionate about their position, should look to the inerrancy of God’s Word regarding their position. If they are, great! Their opinions still may vary because not everything is as clear cut as we would like. But if someone’s opinion is coming from a place of putting personal needs above scripture, that’s where the problem lies. God made us all unique and our differences can enhance the church. We don’t all need to be the same to be unified, but we do need to have the same God, the same Leader. Yes, God cares deeply about our feelings and cares when we struggle to understand how His Word fits into today’s culture. We do need to care about our culture, but we don’t need to succumb to it.
So why is it so easy to have a lower or more “progressive” view of the Bible? I think the temptation lies in wanting God to be liked by everyone and wanting everyone to like us. I get it. I’ve been there too. We don’t like to ruffle feathers or be seen as intolerant. I’ll admit that I don’t always know the right way to handle situations when disagreements happen over God’s truths. We know forcing our opinions on others does not work, and any reaction should be done out of love. At the same time, we cannot compromise God’s Word. If our weapon against the evil forces is His Word, how can we downplay it (Matthew 4, Hebrews 4:12)? If His Word is the source of our hope, joy, and encouragement, why would we want to edit it (Romans 15:4, Psalm 19)? If His Word has the power to sanctify, break our chains, and save our very souls, how can we ignore it (John 17:17, Romans 1:16)? If the Word of God was at the beginning, will never die, and sweeter than honey on our lips, how can we live without it (Isaiah 40:8, John 1:1, Psalm 119:103)?
To downplay scripture is to downplay God Himself. Don’t let this scare you into worrying about whether you understand everything in scripture perfectly or not. We will still make mistakes in interpretation and grow in wisdom if we are pursuing Him. But knowing Him should empower us to be confident in Him and in His grace, to not be afraid to stand up for what we believe in while loving others who see things differently at the same time. This is a balance that only knowing His Word—His Word in full—can provide us.