Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Reversing the Vengeance Motif

 

                                               (Butterfly House, in Whitehouse, Ohio)

We see the vengeance motif in many movies. It captures us. It goes like this.

Person B hurts Person A. Either directly, or, often, indirectly (hurts one of their loved ones).

Person A is going to "get even." To pay them back. To hurt them, we find ourselves hoping, far worse than what was done to them. This appeals to an ancient desire, beyond which humanity has not progressed.

We see the vengeance motif in Genesis 4, in a man named Lamech. We read,

Lamech married two women, one named Adah and the other Zillah. Adah gave birth to Jabal; he was the father of those who live in tents and raise livestock. His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all who play stringed instruments and pipes. Zillah also had a son, Tubal-Cain, who forged all kinds of tools out of bronze and iron. Tubal-Cain’s sister was Naamah. 

Lamech said to his wives, “Adah and Zillah, listen to me; wives of Lamech, hear my words. I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for injuring me. 

If Cain is avenged seven times, then Lamech seventy-seven times.”

We don't know who Lamech killed. We do know that, if someone tries to get back at Lamech, he will make them pay 77 times worse than what he did to the young man who hurt him. (Think here of Clint Eastwood, in the movie "Unforgiven.")

Centuries later, in these postmodern times, the vengeance motif still captivates human hearts. And often, it gets enacted on. Jesus came to reverse this. We see it in Matthew 18:21-22.

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, 

“Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? 

 Up to seven times?” 

Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

Craig Keener comments on this, saying: "Some scholars argue that Jesus here reverses the principle of vengeance in Genesis 4:24 (77 times). Hyperbole reinforces the point." (Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, Kindle Locations 220322-220324)

Jesus reverses the vengeance motif. He overthrows the human desire to get even. He heals the bleeding wound that want to strike back.

Jesus shows us, not only by these words, but by his life, that forgiveness is more powerful than vengeance.

The Coddling of the American Mind Redux










One of the best books I've read in the past few years is The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Ideas and Bad Intentions Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure, by Greg Lukionoff and Jonathan Haidt,

I find myself referring to it often, as a lens through which to interpret things like microaggressions and victimhood culture. 

Their book is a more thorough follow-up to their famous Atlantic essay, "The Coddling of the American Mind." This article provoked much discussion. So does the book.

Read the article to get the idea. 

If you find Haidt valuable, see also The Rise of Victimhood Culture: Microaggressions, Safe Spaces, and the New Culture Wars, by Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning.

I also subscribe to The Chronicle of Higher Education, and read it cover to cover. There's much there, written by university leaders and professors, on how to handle the growing microaggression and victimhood mentality in students, which shackles the free exchange of ideas.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

What I Do When I Go Out to Pray

 


Image result for john piippo lake erie
One of my praying places on Lake Erie

Someone who attended one of my conferences sent me this question: "When you go out to pray, what steps do you take?"

Here's what I do.

I go to a "place of least distraction," which is away from my home and office. One of these places for me is at our local state park on Lake Erie. I go there to pray even in winter, but usually stay in my car, facing the lake.

I bring three things: my Bible, my journal, and a devotional book (like a Henri Nouwen, Thomas Merton, Dallas Willard, or Eugene Peterson book). 

I often bring a cup of coffee with me.

I find a place facing the lake. I sit. At this point I am almost always focused on God. I have done this for so many years that I am filled with expectation.

Currently I am slowly, meditatively, reading through Proverbs and the Gospel of Luke.

As I read, it is common for God to speak to me, either mediately through the Scriptures, through the creation, or immediately. When this happens, I write it down in my journal. My journal is a record of the voice and activity of God, for me.

If my mind wanders, I note where it wanders to. When it wanders it is always to a burden. Sometimes the burden is from God, and I pray about this (e.g., I feel burdened by what a friend is going through). Otherwise, following 1 Peter 5:7, I burden-cast.

When I am deburdened and detoxified (confession of any sins), hearing God happens more often. I may at that time read out of a devotional book. Usually, I get only a few pages (if that far), when I feel God is again speaking to me. At that point I write in my journal what I hear God saying.

All this is my usual experience. It does happen, occasionally, that I hear little or nothing. At other times, I cannot write my thoughts fast enough.

I feel no pressure to make something happen. I do not evaluate my time with God quantitatively. It is always productive, even if I see no immediate results.

Almost always (99%), I am refreshed, renewed, healed, directed, corrected, at peace, with great thanksgiving.

***
My two books are Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God.

Leading the Presence-Driven Church 

I am now writing How God Changes the Human Heart (A Phenomenology of Spiritual Transformation) (Hopefully summer 2021).

Monday, January 18, 2021

JOIN ME AND LINDA FOR Our Annual Summer Conference in Green Lake, Wisconsin

 

2021 HIS IDENTITY ~ OUR AUTHORITY CONFERENCE



June 27 - July 1, 2021 at the Green Lake Conference Center in Green Lake, WI

We are excited to announce our speakers for 2021.

William Hinn Jr. and Clay Harrington will join us along side our HSRM leaders as speakers for a spirit filled week starting June 27 at 6 pm to July 1 at 10 pm in Pillsbury Hall at the Green Lake Conference in Green Lake, WI. 


  • You are invited to the Holy Spirit Renewal conference at Green Lake, Wisconsin for a week of spiritual renewal, healing, transformation, equipping and empowerment to walk the Spirit-filled life as described in the New Testament. 
  • Experience God throughout the week in anointed worship and teachings from nationally known guest speakers, HSRM leaders, and gifted workshop presenters. 
  • Youth Ministry, children’s Ministry and childcare make it possible for the whole family to enjoy and fully participate in the conference and receive a touch from the Lord. 
  • Free time every afternoon allows time to enjoy the great outdoors on the beautiful conference grounds of Green Lake Conference Center. 
  • The fellowship among the conferees at the Holy Spirit Conference is a special feature and has earned it the tag line “More than a Conference, It’s a Family!” 
  • Holy Spirit Renewal Ministries has been serving the Body of Christ for 45 years though conferences, seminars, and retreats and has the distinction of maintaining a great balance of word and Spirit-expounding God’s uncompromised truth and sound scriptural teaching while experiencing and releasing God’s New Testament power that was promised to all believers. 
  • He is the same yesterday, today and forever! 
  • Love yourself and your family and make it a priority to “press in” for all the Lord has for you and wants to do in your life. 
  • The conference is a Paradigm shifter that will bless you in every way! 
  • For Lodging at the Green Lake Conference Center (www.glcc.org)  please make your arrangements with the Center by phone at 920-294-3323. 
  • The Green Lake Conference Center offers a wide range of lodging options, from tent camping sites to cabins/homes and hotel rooms. 
  • Holy Spirit Renewal Ministries does not make arrangements for conference lodging. Off-site hotels are also available in Ripon and Green Lake, WI..
  • ON-GROUNDS DINING is available in the Kraft Center Dining Room 


HIS IDENTITY ~ OUR AUTHORITY CONFERENCE GUEST SPEAKERS

William Hinn Jr.

image77

William is the Senior Pastor of Risen Nation Church alongside his wife Emily; he also travels extensively as an international speaker. Their hearts are to see a generation run wholeheartedly after Jesus — walking in power, identity, intimacy, and righteousness.

During William’s teens and early twenties, he served faithfully at the church of his father, Pastor William D. Hinn. William has directed ministry events in large venues, arenas, and stadiums for both Benny Hinn Ministries and Lifestyle Christianity. He has also served as a personal assistant to Todd White as well as an itinerant speaker under Todd’s ministry.

William and Emily have two beautiful children: William, Elizabeth (Ellie), and one on the way! They are eager to see God’s people come into an encounter with Jesus & see this world invaded with the Kingdom of God.

http://www.risennation.org/

https://www.facebook.com/RisenNation/


Clay Harrington

image78

At an early age, Clay was immersed in timeless teachings about God through his mother – a powerful woman of God. Today, 

Clay travels as an itinerant evangelist who inspires others to press into a rich relationship with the Father, equips the saints to live naturally supernatural lifestyles, and provokes the church to live radically for Jesus. 

Clay is married to his wife, Regina, and has two sets of boy-girl twins. 

He currently works as the Evangelism Pastor at the Vineyard Church in Urbana, IL.


 http://www.clayofgod.com/ 

https://www.facebook.com/clayofgod77/

Why I Believe Praying Works

(Monroe County)

(From my book Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God.)

I pray because prayer works. If I thought prayer didn’t work, I would not waste my time praying. 

Prayer works by actually praying, a lot. To pray is to be in relationship with God. Deep interpersonal relationships communicate, a lot. 

Praying “works.” What does this mean? As I see it: 

Praying brings me into relationship with God, experientially. I meet with God, in prayer. 

I experience and sense the presence of God, with me. This is important because experience, not theory, breeds conviction. 

I engage and co-partner with God in his redemptive mission. 

I experience God’s guiding hand, and can empirically corroborate this. I have multiple accounts of this written in 3500+ pages of journals over the past forty years. I have read countless stories of God's guidance from among the 4000 students and pastors I have taught. 

I have seen things happen and change as a result of praying. I have hundreds of journal pages attesting to this. I can make a case for the causal efficacy of praying as co-laboring with God. 

A life of praying recalibrates, daily, my heart to the heart of God. 

A life of praying has changed me. For the better, I believe. Note: for the Christian theist “better” is understood in terms of the “best” that is Jesus. 

A life of praying renders me less anxious, less fearful, and less lonely. Again, this is a palpable, existential, living reality.

Praying changes things and changes me. I experience brokenness within and see breakthrough without. Therefore, I pray. 

The 4th-century theologian John Chrysostom, in a moment of joyful realization and remembering, wrote on the efficacy of praying: 

The potency of prayer hath subdued the strength of fire; 
it hath bridled the rage of lions, 
hushed anarchy to rest, 
extinguished wars, 
appeased the elements, 
expelled demons, 
burst the chains of death, 
expanded the gates of heaven, 
assuaged diseases, 
repelled frauds, 
rescued cities from destruction, 
stayed the sun in its course, 
and arrested the progress of the thunderbolt. 
Prayer is an all-efficient panoply, 
a treasure undiminished, 
a mine which is never exhausted, 
a sky unobscured by clouds, 
a heaven unruffled by the storm. 
It is the root, the fountain, 
the mother of a thousand blessings. 

(From The Divine Liturgy of St John Chysostom)

I pray because praying works. 

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Prophecies - How to Discern the True from the False (From James Goll)

(Maumee Bay State Park, Ohio, on Lake erie)

I'm on the leadership team of Holy Spirit Renewal Ministries. This past summer we had a wonderful online mini-conference with Robby Dawkins and James Goll.

I've heard Robby several times - what a great activist for Jesus and the Kingdom!

This was the first I'd heard James speak. I, and many of our people, were greatly blessed. You can hear James's message HERE.

James is a prophetic voice I pay attention to, as do many other Christian leaders I admire.

This is important, because crises like the pandemic (Y2K, plagues, wars, economic meltdowns, etc.) bring out many false prophets. 

False prophecies abound on the internet. I have heard so many false prophecies over my fifty (!) years as a Jesus-follower. Most of them have only...

...produced fear in people, 

...caused people to get defensive and retreat from the battle (my Jesus took authority and calmed the storm, rather than saying "Look out disciples - here comes the big one!"), 

...are non-victorious (my Jesus is still the Lion of Judah, and on the offense, not hunkering down in a bunker!), ...

...and have never come to pass (I can't remember a time I heard a false prophet repent of this, and ask for forgiveness for all the anxiety they produced in good people).  

I believe in the manifestation of prophecy. 

I desire to prophecy. (Christians - read THIS.

So, for followers of Jesus, how can we discern the true from the false? Here's what James Goll says in his book The Seer


1. Does the revelation edify, exhort, or console? “But one who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation” (1 Cor. 14:3). The end purpose of all true prophetic revelation is to build up, to admonish, and to encourage the people of God. Anything that is not directed to this end is not true prophecy. Jeremiah the prophet had to fulfill a negative commission, but even his difficult message contained a powerful and positive promise of God for those who were obedient (see Jer. 1:5,10). First Corinthians 14:26  sums it up best: “Let all things be done for edification.” 

2. Is it in agreement with God’s Word? “All scripture is given by inspiration of God” (2 Tim. 3:16a KJV). True revelation always agrees with the letter and the spirit of the Scriptures (see 2 Cor. 1:17-20). Where the Holy Spirit says “yea and amen” in Scripture, He also says yea and amen in revelation. He never, ever, contradicts Himself. 

3. Does it exalt Jesus Christ? “He will glorify Me; for He will take of Mine, and will disclose it to you” (John 16:14). All true revelation ultimately centers on Jesus Christ and exalts and glorifies Him (see Rev. 19:10). 

4. Does it have good fruit? “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits…” (Matt. 7:15-16). True revelatory activity produces fruit in character and conduct that agrees with the fruit of the Holy Spirit (see Eph. 5:9; Gal. 5:22-23). Some of the aspects of character or conduct that clearly are not the fruit of the Holy Spirit include pride, arrogance, boastfulness, exaggeration, dishonesty, covetousness, financial irresponsibility, licentiousness, immorality, addictive appetites, broken marriage vows, and broken homes. Normally, any revelation that is responsible for these kinds of results is from a source other than the Holy Spirit. 

5. If it predicts a future event, does it come to pass? (See Deuteronomy 18:20-22.) Any revelation that contains a prediction concerning the future should come to pass. If it does not, then, with a few exceptions, the revelation is not from God. Exceptions may include the following issues:
- Will of the person involved. 

- National repentance—Nineveh repented, so Jonah’s word of judgment did not occur. 

- Messianic predictions (they took hundreds of years to be fulfilled). 

- There is a different standard for New Testament prophets than for Old Testament prophets, whose predictions played into God’s Messianic plan of deliverance.

6. Does the prophetic prediction turn people toward God or away from Him? (See Deuteronomy 13:1-5.) The fact that a person makes a prediction concerning the future that is fulfilled does not necessarily prove that that person is moving by Holy Spirit-inspired revelation. If such a person, by his own ministry, turns others away from obedience to the one true God, then that person’s ministry is false—even if he makes correct predictions concerning the future. 

7. Does it produce liberty or bondage? “For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father’” (Rom. 8:15). True revelation given by the Holy Spirit produces liberty, not bondage (see 1 Cor. 14:33; 2 Tim. 1:7). The Holy Spirit never causes God’s children to act like slaves, nor does He ever motivate us by fear or legalistic compulsion. 

8. Does it produce life or death? “Who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Cor. 3:6). True revelation from the Holy Spirit always produces life, not death. 

9. Does the Holy Spirit bear witness that it is true? “As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him” (1 John 2:27). The Holy Spirit within the believer always confirms true revelation from the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is “the Spirit of truth” (see John 16:13). He bears witness to that which is true, but He rejects that which is false. This ninth test is the most subjective test of all the tests we’ve presented here. For that reason, it must be used in conjunction with the previous eight objective standards.






This Week's Political Events - Acquiring a God-perspective


If you are a follower of Jesus, you should view this week's political events through the lens of the Christian narrative. 

You won't get this from the media. 

Do not frame political events through the secular media. 

Do not allow this world's mold to shape you.

Acquire a God-perspective, and live and pray from there.

Pray, "God, let me see earth, through heaven."

Meditate on these Scriptures.
















Saturday, January 16, 2021

Deconstructing Progressive Christianity: Point #1

 


ABOUT ME

I am a husband (to Linda, since 1973). A father. A father-in-law. A grandfather! A pastor (since 1970). A professor (taught at several seminaries around the world). A philosopher, and a theologian. (PhD, Northwestern University, in Philosophical Theology, 1986).

I have studied people, and biblical and theological issues, and culture, for over fifty years. I am a constant reader and observer. 


I present to you a series of posts I am calling "Deconstructing 'Progressive Christianity.'" Here are reasons why I could not be a "progressive Christian." The first two posts are especially about this, using semantics and some deconstruction thrown in. (See here.) Post #2 will be - "The Term 'Progressive Christian' is too Vague to be Useful for Me." Post #3 will be - "Progressive Christianity Wrongly Diminishes Confidence in the Bible." In this third post I will critique progressive Christianity's approach to the Scriptures. I am still putting together Post #4, and maybe a fifth post.

A final note before I begin this first post. I have read, as a theologian myself, several of the theologians who are usually associated with progressive Christianity. (Postmodernism, deconstruction, critical theory, linguistic semantics and philosophy of language (my dissertation was in this area), and, yes, political progressivism.) Some of them have written books and articles that I have benefitted from. But then, along the way, some of them turned away from some core beliefs that I see as important to our faith. Some of them were "deconverted" from evangelical Christianity. That has saddened me. 

I want you to know that there are many theologians and biblical scholars, such as myself, who have not departed from what we see as essential. This is not out of ignorance. We are quite familiar with, and have wrestled with, all the questions progressivists raise. And wow! We see things differently. Which means: we disagree with each other. Which means: we think each other is wrong about some things. (For example, see Brian McLaren's vicious disagreement with The Nashville Statement, where he even brings in the KKK, implicating the 24,000+ theologians and biblical scholars, and even Francis Chan, J. I. Packer, and people like me, who agree with the Statement.)

I hope you gain from these posts. I will do my best to revolve around one main point per post. I'll do my best to make it accessible. 

Blessings!


John Piippo

Redeemer Fellowship Church, Monroe, MI

johnpiippo@msn.com


***

POINT #1 - The term 'progressive,' as a modifier linked with 'Christianity', is misleading, even false.

“Progressive” is not a word that fits into a Christian eschatological worldview.

Humanity, throughout history, has not morally and spiritually progressed.

The term "progressive" implies some kind of advancing, a moving forward towards some goal. My understanding of Christianity is that, while individuals and even communities can improve morally and spiritually (= Christ's character being formed in them), there will be nothing morally new under the sun until Christ returns.

This is because of the human sin problem. Every new generation has to deal with this. The next generation, and the generations beyond that, will not have progressed beyond this. (Note: I read one self-identifying progressive who thought humanity has progressed and will further advance so much that we can question whether or not we even need a Savior.)

Let's look more closely at the idea of "progress." Progress only makes sense in relation to a "goal." Such as: "I have made progress in my weight loss strategy. I am closer to my goal weight of 180 pounds." 

There are countless examples of this kind of progress. Someone’s goal is to play guitar like Eddie Van Halen. They take lessons. They practice. They are improving. They are making progress towards this goal.

“Progressive” implies “advancement”; “moving forward.” Towards some goal.

Someone else is constructing a house. Today they began digging the foundation. Next week they pour the cement. They are making progress toward the goal of building a house. That can be good. (It depends on what the house is used for.)

But "progress," in itself, is not always good. For example, I am overweight. My doctor has advised me to lose twenty pounds. But instead, my goal is to gain even more weight. This morning I step on the scale, and see I gained ten pounds over the holidays. Progress! Let us all cheer, and celebrate and affirm John's story! But, arguably, that’s not a progressive story to be celebrated. (FYI – I did not gain ten pounds over the holidays!)

Someone else researches the internet. Their goal is to build a bomb that will destroy buildings in downtown Nashville. Today they began constructing the bomb. They are making progress. They are moving forward. They are advancing toward their goal. Remember that 'forward' and 'backward' only make sense in relation to a goal.

What is the goal of progressive Christianity? And who sets this goal? In reading the literature of those who self-identify as progressive Christians, it’s not always clear to me that it is Christ. Perhaps, the goal for humanity is Love? For a Jesus-follower, it’s true that love is great, and greater than faith and hope. But I see the goal of history as Christ, not Love. Love is not greater than Christ. (See here.) 

My understanding of Christianity is that, in the lifetime of every person, the goal is the formation of the character of Christ in us, individually and collectively. As I read and talk with some who refer to themselves as progressive Christians, I hear them elevating Love and Desire-fulfillment to heights that should be reserved only for Christ. (For Desire-fulfillment as a "progressive" idea, and how this has come about historically, see especially Carl Trueman, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self.)

I see every generation of humanity as having a sin problem, which can only be addressed by the cross of Christ. My studies and observations indicate that humanity has not progressed, and will not progress, beyond that. And, my sense is that some progressive Christians are not thrilled about talking of sin. Affirmation? Yes! Desire-fulfillment? Yes! Sin? Meh...

I do not see the word 'progressive' as being part of what N.T. Wright describes as the "five act play" that is the Bible. Yes, in eternity we shall be like Jesus. But, in this present age, we are not progressing morally and spiritually. I view it as phenomenally difficult to demonstrate moral progress, over the years. Have we gotten better? Are we getting better?  The term “progressive” implies that we are. 

Yes, I know that Steven Pinker thinks that humanity, over time, has gotten kinder and gentler. I, and many others who have reacted to Pinker, do not. (See here.) Violence has declined, says Pinker, because humanity is getting less and less violent. 

This reminds me of what was perhaps the height of progressive optimism, in the early twentieth century. The Enlightenment belief was that human reason was now progressing to make a better world. And then came World War 1. And theologian Karl Barth was moved to write his commentary on Romans, with its teaching that all humanity sins and falls short of the glory of God. And then, Germany changed (progressed?) from a democratic republic in 1932 to a racist tyranny in 1934. And then, according atheist and scholar David Berlinski, the 20th century progressed into being the most murderous, violent in human history. (See Berlinski, The Devil’s Disciple: Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions. See also footnote [1] below.)

But… we have massively progressed technologically, right? Correct. But it is still humans who use and wield technological artifacts. A hammer is a piece of technology. Its appearance advanced us, assisting in doing things like building furniture and ships and homes and you name it. But the human being holding the hammer could also use it to hurt and destroy. I see morally unadvanced, non-progressed humanity as still doing that, only with greatly advanced artifacts with massive destructive capabilities.

I don’t think progress is necessarily good, in itself. When you hear the word "progressive" you should not automatically think "positive." Yes, we seem programmed to think that way. But truthfully, it all depends on the goal. And here is where the word “progressive” is of no help to me, because it functions as a euphemism that should not be attached as a modifier to the term 'Christianity'.  

I know the word "progressive" is politically popular. But I don't like it, because I see it as mythical at best. Jeffrey Burton Russell, in Exposing Myths About Christianity, writes:

“The predominant superstition of our times is Progress. Belief in lower-case ‘progress’ is reasonable, for progress can be made toward definable goals in specific fields, such as electrical engineering, plumbing or surgery. But people often believe in upper-case Progress, as in “The Progress of Humanity.” This is a superstition. Upper-case Progress implies moving toward an undefined capital-G Goal.”

One of the myths about Christianity that Russell exposes is that progress was something Jesus was trying to bring about. Scholar Terry Eagelton calls this the “ideology of Progress.” Russell writes that “the natural goodness of humanity is an illusion based neither in history nor biology, and the empty center of most Progressivism is the delusion that radical evil does not exist. Progressivism can become utopianism, which always sacrifices liberty for its ends, as Stalin did. Those who deny evil will be overtaken by it.”

Ahhh... the natural goodness of humanity. What an anti-Hobbes idea! What an anti-Freud idea! And, what an anti-Christ belief. From such a belief comes the ideology of affirmation. But, I ask, who in their right Christological mind could believe that Christ came, not to rescue us out of bondage to sin, but to affirm us?

Progressive Christianity is too utopian for me. Many, including me, believe that we are “regressing” in our humanity. To call progressive Christianity too utopian is to locate its roots in Hegel and Marx, who both thought humanity was inexorably progressing, but who disagreed on the engine driving the progression, as well as the goal or outcome.  Anyone want to join me in a "Regressive Christianity" movement?

Again, if the goal of life is to embrace the Lordship of Christ and have his character formed in us, I think one can view our time as one of regression, division, and polarization. In fact, I, and many others, see progressive Christianity as divisive (e.g., I am aware of some young people who identify as progressive Christians and tie this in with their newfound belief that the Old Testament is just a bunch of made-up stories. I'll say more about this in my third post.) 

Is humanity progressing? Or regressing? Or decadent and stagnant? (See New York Times writer Ross Douthat's recent The Decadent Society.) You need to know this has always been a topic of discussion among scholars. The answers are not obvious. If we are talking about moral and spiritual development or regression, it is far from obvious that some kind of progressive movement is actually happening. I submit to you that it is not. And I can see, without much effort, that progressive Christianity is aiding the regression. (See footnote [2] below.)

In all this I am saying that I could never refer to myself as a progressive Christian because it commits a mistake… a category mistake… when the two words are placed next to each other. This is not a matter of mere semantics. The kingdom of God, said Jesus, was "not of this world." Therefore, the kingdom of God was not the end-result of an ever-progressive earthly kingdom.

I have a suggestion. I began following Jim Wallis in the early 1970s, when he began publishing what was to become the magazine Sojourners. Wallis is one who is often cited as a "progressive" Christian. But in the Times interview, Wallace says he would rather be called a "follower of Jesus."

Me too.

It's time to get rid of the term "progressive Christianity." And self-refer as "follower of Jesus." This would lead to interesting discussions, to include the morality of Jesus (see here, e.g.) and the relationship between Jesus and the Old Testament. Some progressive Christians, many of them unthinkingly, are on the "dismiss the Old Testament" bandwagon. Let's just focus on Jesus." The problem is, when you focus on Jesus, you see Jesus as not dismissing an authoritative Old Testament.  

Finally, in the term “progressive Christianity,” the word ‘progressive’ is a modifier. It modifies the word ‘Christianity.’ ‘Progressive’ is a euphemism. It puts a happy spin on Christianity. It also feels like a judgment on those who are not “progressive.” which provides another reason as to why I could never call myself a progressive Christian.


COMING IN A WEEK OR SO... "The Term 'Progressive Christian' is too Vague to be Useful for Me."


AND THEN... "Progressive Christianity Dangerously Diminishes Confidence in the Bible."


[1] On atheism (esp. atheistic existentialism) there is no goal in life. Thus, humanity is not progressing towards anything, nor is it regressing away from anything. Nor is it decadent. This leads to things like Theatre of the Absurd, and Camus’s Sysiphus, and Becket’s Waiting for Godot.

[2] For an interesting, illuminating article on whether or not humanity is "progressing," see atheist John Gray's excellent review of The Evolution of Moral Progress: A Biocultural Theory, by Alan Buchanon and Russell Powell.