Hey, Calvary Fremont –
The newest development in Christianity is known as Progressive Christianity. Progressive Christianity is called such because its adherents have progressed beyond the faith of their youth. They have the same Bible as before, and the same Jesus as before – but not the same faith, not the same set of beliefs. They are former evangelicals or, to use a newly coined phrase – exvangelicals. They have deconstructed the faith handed to them and have reconstructed a faith more in step with the true heart of Jesus. This is what they tell us.
Deconstructing one’s faith is a process where everything that has been believed is subject to intense scrutiny. Every doctrinal or theological proposition is put through the philosophical/logical grinder in an effort to ascertain whether it can still be believed in good conscience. For example, is eternal suffering in hell really something that should be believed? Would a loving God create an eternal prison where He would eternally torture those unfortunate enough not to believe in Him? Would a loving God really do that? Is that what God is like or did man add this to the Bible?
Yet by what criteria is a theological proposition declared unworthy of belief? Very few would admit to relying on a purely subjective standard, such as, “My heart tells me that God would never send anyone to hell.” We are assured that it is not mere subjective preferences, but that the Holy Spirit guides the Progressive Christian in their quest for a purer faith. The process of deconstructing faith brings someone face-to-face with the person of Jesus Christ. And the way this usually works is that the person and character of Christ becomes the criteria whereby everything else in the Bible is measured. After everything is deconstructed, Jesus is left. Faith deconstructed is stripped to the person and character of Jesus Christ. After the Bible has been winnowed, and the chaff blown away, we are left with Christ.
And so, faith reconstructed begins with and is guided by the person and character of Jesus. What is reconstructed is more a revelational faith than a propositional one. More than texts and propositions, Progressive Christians look to the example of Christ as mediated by the Holy Spirit. The Living Word has more weight than the written word. Jesus has more weight than the Bible. After all, Jesus is God – not the Bible. If what is contained in the written word doesn’t conform to the person and character of the Living Word, then it is discounted and shrugged off – it is the chaff blown away by the wind of the deconstruction process. And since God is love and His love is revealed in and by Jesus Christ, if something doesn’t lead to love, it is considered chaff.
I’ve never deconstructed my faith – but I have rearranged it. I have never asked the question: Is the stuff in the Bible worthy to be believed? I have asked the question: What should I believe about the stuff in the Bible? To ask if the things in the Bible are worthy to be believed assumes an attitude of skepticism. To ask what should be believed about the things in the Bible assumes an attitude of faith. Even though I’ve never deconstructed my faith through the lens of a radical skepticism, I understand deconstruction. What I don’t understand is reconstruction.
Many with a reconstructed faith have gotten rid of an eternal hell, inerrancy (meaning – the Bible isn’t the Word of God, it contains the Word of God) the daunting Biblical sexual codes, the prohibition of homosexuality, and other doctrines deemed to be out of step with the heart of God as revealed in Christ. And yet the path taken to arrive here is confusing to me. One of the first conclusions drawn is that only some parts of the Bible are reliable guides in knowing God. As previously mentioned, the Living Word stands in judgment over the written word. Whatever in the Bible that does not conform to Jesus can be dismissed. Whatever in the Bible is out of step with Jesus cannot be trusted. Yet it is the Bible that tells us about Jesus. The written word points us to the Living Word. If I can’t trust the Bible when it speaks about hell and homosexuality, why should I trust it when it speaks about the person and character of Jesus? If I’m suspicious of the Bible and what it says, I should be suspicious of Jesus and what it says about Him. If Bible authors didn’t tell the truth about God and hell, how can they be trusted when it comes to God and heaven? If Bible authors are wrong about God condoning warfare and bloodshed, how are they suddenly right about Jesus revealing to us the heart of God?
And to pile on, if God would never send anyone to an eternal hell, why does Jesus talk about those who reject Him spending eternity in hell? How is it that the reconstruction process leaves us with a Jesus who forgives and heals, and yet strips Jesus of His warnings and threatenings? So, the gospel writers got Jesus right when He offers forgiveness, but they got Jesus wrong when He threatens hell. The reconstruction process leaves us with a warm and fuzzy Jesus who has had all his sharp edges and rough surfaces sanded off. This is Burger King Religion – you can have Jesus your way. “Yes, I’ll have the loving and affirming Jesus, please. And for my side dish I’ll take the Social Justice Jesus. Please hold the judgment and warnings and threatenings – they leave a bad taste in my mouth. Thank you.” The deconstruction process results in a diluted Bible which results in a diminished Jesus. The reconstructed Jesus is always a smaller Jesus than the Jesus of the Gospels. The Progressive Christian has a Regressive Christ.
But let’s be honest – many Evangelicals with a full theology have a reduced Jesus. We don’t go to Jesus for healing, deliverance, comfort, guidance, blessing, forgiveness, and encouragement. Our Jesus is the Jesus of eternity and not the Jesus of time. We trust Jesus for heaven, but not in earthly matters. May you take all of Jesus to all of you. A deconstructed Jesus is a little Jesus. Charles Spurgeon said, “We don’t have a little Jesus for little sins and little problems. We have a big Jesus for big sins and big problems.”
Be blessed and stay healthy and follow the Big Jesus – Pastor Tim