British actor, writer and speaker Gyles Brandreth wrote a book in 1984 titled, The Joy of Lex: How to Have Fun with 860,341,500 Words. He had estimated that the average person says more than 860 million words in their lifetime. That’s the equivalent of reading the entire King James Bible aloud more than 1,100 times. It brings new meaning to the statement – “you talk too much.” : )
That does raise an interesting question. How many of those hundreds of millions of words that a person speaks in their lifetime are wise words? How many are helpful words? How many of those words inspire others to live a better life?
One other question. How many of those hundreds of millions of words have the authority of God in them?
Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock. Matthew 7:24
And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. Matthew 7:28-29
The sayings of Jesus stand out from all other sayings of people through the ages because they have the authority of God in them. Jesus was not just a great teacher who shared pearls of human wisdom with His audience. Jesus was the greatest Teacher of all teachers because He is God in flesh. When Jesus talked, He spoke words of eternal wisdom – words from Heaven itself. When Jesus told Satan that “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God,” He was including His words as well since He is God.
In the last part of our series we looked at how liberal theology views Jesus of Nazareth. In brief and for the most part, liberal ‘Christians’ do not believe in the virgin birth of Jesus of Nazareth. They do not believe Jesus is God in the flesh. Many do not believe Jesus predicted His death and that He was actually surprised by His arrest and trial and was defeated by His death on the cross. They do not believe Jesus rose from the dead. It’s a wonder why they even bother to call themselves Christians. Why call yourself after someone who was delusional and defeated in life?
The answer, at least for some, may be that they can pretend to be ‘religious’ and moral people. Liberal ‘Christians’ believe in a “soft” Jesus that they can manipulate and mold into their own image and likeness. They cherry-pick the sayings of Jesus that fit their worldview and go through life thinking they are just fine with God, if they even believe in the existence of God.
Liberal ‘Christians’ believe they are rich and don’t need anything. What they don’t realize is that they are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked (one of the sayings of Jesus). What’s the answer? “Repent” (Revelation 3:19). That really is their only hope.
So much for liberal Christians. Let’s move next to progressive Christians. What do they believe about Jesus?
The “Progressive” Jesus
I’ve written at length about Progressive Christianity, so you may want to look at that eBook to read more about it. The first two points of the 8 Points of Progressive Christianity address the teachings (sayings) of Jesus of Nazareth:
- Believe that following the path and teachings of Jesus can lead to an awareness and experience of the Sacred and the Oneness and Unity of all life;
- Affirm that the teachings of Jesus provide but one of many ways to experience the Sacredness and Oneness of life, and that we can draw from diverse sources of wisdom in our spiritual journey
Notice that progressive ‘Christians’ view the teachings of Jesus as one many “diverse sources of wisdom.” This explanation from a ‘progressive Christian’ church explains how they view the second point:
This principle stems from the reality of the 21st century. We share our lives with people who are Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist. We experience these people as loving and caring by following their religious traditions. To deny that is to deny that God can only draw people with one way. That simply isn’t born out in our experience.
The power of the Christian faith to transform lives does not require it to be exclusively true. Exclusivity is born out of fear. The fear that there is one train to God and if you aren’t on the right train, you’ll go to hell. We believe there are many trains and God welcomes them all. Bethel Congregational United Church of Christ
You’ll see several “clue” words in their brief statement – words that give us some clues about what’s behind their worldview.
- reality of the 21st century — progressive ‘Christians’ believe that the 21st has its own “reality” that is superior to previous centuries .. they believe in a progressive evolution of spiritual knowledge that is becoming better in the 21st century
- experience — how someone ‘experiences’ the world is more important than what someone thinks .. the societal change from saying “I think” to “I feel” is evidence of that .. progressive ‘Christians’ depend almost entirely on their feelings and experiences with people of other worldviews (e.g. Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist) rather than the factual data driving those worldviews
- loving and caring — love and acceptance of other worldviews is foundational to how progressive ‘Christians’ view life .. that’s why they are quick to quote what Jesus said about “love,” while rejecting the words of Jesus about repentance, judgment and punishment
- their religious traditions — progressive ‘Christians’ do not believe it is right to interfere with the beliefs of people that differ from the plain teachings of Scripture .. progressive ‘Christians’ care more for the religious traditions of non-Christians than do for the teachings of Jesus
- only draw people with one way — progressive ‘Christians’ despise Jesus’ teaching in John 14:6 – “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” – because it is an “exclusionary” statement .. progressive ‘Christians’ only accept the teachings of Jesus that appear to be “inclusionary” .. how do they know that to be true? “That simply isn’t born out in our experience.” Experience will always trump facts and truth for the ‘progressive Christian’ .. exclusivity is something to abhor and shun .. notice how they attack the idea of what Jesus said in John 14:6
- The power of the Christian faith to transform lives does not require it to be exclusively true .. progressive ‘Christians’ do not believe in truth that is true .. truth to them is subjective .. everyone has their own truth and shouldn’t be excluded if their truth is not your truth .. the idea of transforming lives with a belief system that doesn’t need to be true is also a clue .. truth is not what matters to a progressive ‘Christian’ .. experience is what matters
- Exclusivity is born out of fear .. now we’re getting down to the emotional part of what drives progressive ‘Christians’ – fear .. their fear comes from the teachings of Jesus about people going to hell .. those are teachings the progressive groups don’t support .. apparently, to progressives, that’s where Jesus lost His wisdom .. why? because progressives believe there are many “trains” to God – not just one — there are many ways to get to God – not just one .. “We believe there are many trains and God welcomes them all.” Progressives view God as someone waiting at a train station and overjoyed to see all the trains arrive .. progressive ‘Christians’ have a very low of God if they think the Almighty is ready to welcome everyone who rides any train to Heaven .. they are delusional and deceived
Even as progressive ‘Christians’ have a “low” view of God and His Word, they also have a low view of Jesus. However, they do believe some of His teachings have value in the same way that other religious people of the past (e.g. guru) have some wisdom worth considering for their spiritual journey. Progressive ‘Christians’ believe Jesus is someone to “emulate,” but not to worship. They are interested in the “moral” teachings of Jesus, but not His “salvation” teachings. Progressive ‘Christians’ don’t view themselves as needing to be saved from anything because they are not fallen or sinful. They believe that most people are good, so they just want to be ‘better’ people. Progressive ‘Christians’ don’t believe God is upset with them at all. He just wants to help them live a better life now (sound familiar?).
In the Progressive ‘beginning’
So, when did Progressive Christianity begin? The church we quoted from above states on its website that progressive Christianity began in 2006.
The movement was a part of a larger movement called “the emerging church.” At the heart of these movements was the desire to articulate a way of being Christian that was an alternative to the Christian faith portrayed in the public realm. The leaders of Progressive Christianity had grown weary of defining their Christian faith in negative terms: ‘We aren’t fundamentalists. We don’t believe the Bible is the inerrant or infallible word of God. We don’t agree that Creationism should replace the science of evolution in public schools. We don’t believe that God hates gays. We don’t believe that people of other faiths are going to hell unless they convert to Christianity. We don’t deny the right of women to choose what happens to their bodies. Bethel Congregational United Church of Christ
Ah, yes .. “the emerging church.” We’ve also written about that group as well. You can read about the history of the emerging church beginning on page 22 of our eBook on Unity Movements. Even though we can find some writings from the end of the 20th century that impacted the progressive ‘Christian’ movement (e.g. Jesus Seminar, liberal theologians), most of the effort that we call the emerging church and progressive ‘Christianity’ began in the early part of the 21st century.
Progressive ‘Christians’ are not progressive and they are not Christians. That’s a fairly simple but accurate way of explaining the movement. Unfortunately, progressive thinking about Jesus of Nazareth has crept into evangelical churches and denominations. National polling done during the past decade shows how much of progressive ‘Christianity’ has affected the thinking of evangelical church leaders and members, especially as it relates to Jesus.
Strangely, while most evangelicals strongly believe in justification by faith alone, they are confused about the person of Jesus Christ. On one hand, virtually all evangelicals express support for Trinitarian doctrine. Yet at the same time, most agree that Jesus is the first and greatest being created by God, which was a view espoused by the ancient heretic Arius. Christian, What Do You Believe? Probably a Heresy About Jesus, Says Survey
The sad fact is that if you attend the average evangelical church, more than half of the people in the building with you believe an ancient heresy about Jesus. What about your pastors and teachers? What do they believe about Jesus? If more than half of all evangelicals believe that Jesus is a created being, what are your pastors and teachers doing about it? Are they concerned? Are they preaching the Gospel of Christ that includes the truth that Jesus of Nazareth is the Eternal God? If not, you may be in a church pastored by closet progressives who are moving your church toward progressive ‘Christianity’.
Rather than take up any more time in this post, I hope you will read our articles and eBooks about progressive ‘Christianity.’ You’ll find more background on the history of the movement there. It’s important that we spend time learning about the impact of liberal and progressive theology on evangelicalism while there are still some true Christians left in it.
Is there any hope for progressives? Absolutely! Their hope is the same as the hope we mentioned for liberals. “Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). That’s another saying of the very wise Jesus of Nazareth. Progressives must repent and believe in the Gospel of Christ – not their mixed up, messed up gospel – but the real Gospel of Jesus of Nazareth. If they don’t do that, then they will have to face their greatest fear – the exclusivity of the Gospel of Christ – that there really is just one train that God will welcome at the station.
We will look at the flawed process liberal scholars have used in the last several decades to promote a fraudulent view of Jesus of Nazareth – in the next part of our series, And Jesus Said.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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