What is a “progressive Christian?” The Center for Progressive Christianity has created an eight-point statement of faith. Among the eight descriptions of a progressive Christian are the following:
- Believes that following the path and teachings of Jesus can lead to awareness and experience of the Sacredness and the Oneness and Unity of all life.
- Affirms 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.
- Finds grace in the search for understanding and believes there is more value in questioning than in absolutes.
Jesus seems to be viewed as a benevolent teacher, rather than the Savior of the World and Lord of all Creation. Of more preeminence is the “Sacredness, Oneness, and Unity of life.” Strangely, the words are even crowned with the honor of capitalization. Everything else appears to be viewed as a tool to arrive at such an experience.
The remaining five points encompass an array of qualities that exhibit kindness, compassion, peacefulness, environmental concern, and all-inclusiveness. But within the eight points, you’ll find no mention of sin, our sinful natures, or our need for salvation. And no references are made to the authority and sufficiency of the Scripture.
Tony Campolo, co-founder of the “Progressive Red Letter Christian” movement, has led many evangelicals to believe the words Jesus spoke while in human bodily form carry more weight than the rest of Scripture. In an interview with The Christian Post, Tony explained that Red Letter Christians believe that because "Jesus raises the moral standard,” His words are “the most important part of the Scripture.
"There's no question that the morality prescribed by Jesus is superior to anything that was hitherto suggested by the law and the prophets," he continued.”
Tony’s son Bart says that progressive Christians turn into atheists. His claim comes from personal experience. He recited a sinner’s prayer when he was 15. And then he followed in his father’s ministry footsteps. He led inner-city missions in Philadelphia and Ohio, and he traveled extensively as a guest preacher.
In over 30 years of ministry, Bart experienced a great deal of confusion and theological regression. In an interview with Holy Heretics, he said, “I passed through every stage of heresy. It starts out with sovereignty goes, then biblical authority goes; then I’m a Universalist; now I’m marrying gay people. Pretty soon I don’t actually believe Jesus actually rose from the dead in a bodily way.”
Finally, in 2011, his wife Marty who had presumably traveled a similar path, confronted him. “You know, I think you ought to stop being a professional Christian since you don’t believe in God, and you don’t believe in heaven, and you don’t believe Jesus rose from the dead three days after dying — and neither do I.”
She was right. Bart admitted, “The supernaturalism in my faith was dialed so far down you could barely notice it.”
In 2004, he performed a wedding for two close lesbian friends. And in 2006, he began teaching that nobody could go to hell and all would be saved. That compromise had begun back in college when he had two gay roommates. Although he had been taught that homosexual behavior was sinful, he either couldn’t admit his friends were doing anything wrong or he couldn’t bring himself to address them with the gospel. Instead of courageously and lovingly speaking truth into the lives of his two friends, he altered his belief system.
That came after his exposure to urban poverty as a teen. Having believed that God was all-powerful, he couldn’t understand why He couldn’t or wouldn’t intervene. So instead of humbling himself before God, Bart adjusted his theology. Gone was the sovereignty of God. And as he put it, that was “the beginning of the end.”
If he didn’t like the way God defined things or how He did things … or didn’t do things, he changed his beliefs to harmonize with his understanding or to match what he thought should be. And Bart admits, “It’s an infinite progression.”
Today’s progressive Christian fails to take a biblical position on abortion, homosexuality, and other forms of sexual immorality. When we line up our speech with the Word of God concerning the sin most severely attacking the culture at large, we place ourselves in a raging battle over truth. And we may suffer some wounds as a result.
Many are unwilling to take the risk. It’s easier to go with the flow. Why draw a line of distinction? A shift in beliefs becomes necessary.
Jesus Himself clarified in Luke 12:50-53 that He came not to bring peace to the earth, but to divide people against each other. While Christ followers are called to be peacemakers, that never comes at the cost of compromising on the Word of God. Jesus told His disciples in advance that they would be hated by the world, as it first hated Him (John 15:18-19). These are teachings that appear in red ink, yet they seem to be overlooked by progressive Christians. When one reduces God’s Holy Word to the red letters, he will soon find himself picking and choosing which of the red letters are worthy of retaining.
“When you get to this ragged edge of Christianity,” Bart explained, “when people say ‘God’ they sort of mean ‘the universe’ and when they say ‘Jesus’ they sort of mean ‘redemption.’”
He has predicted that over the next decade as many as 40% of progressive Christians will stop pretending they believe God exists. Now a secular humanist himself, Bart described the process of abandoning Christian beliefs as almost addictive, adding that once you start, you don’t know where to stop.
AFA’s new documentary, The God Who Speaks, presents an answer to the issue of progressive Christianity – the Word of God in its entirety. Scores of honest questions are asked during the intensive one-hour-and-30-minute film, and each is answered with accuracy and detail.
Norman Geisler, a contributor to TGWS, said, “If you can get people to doubt the Bible, then you’ll get them, sooner or later, to deny. You have to doubt first before you’re going to deny. Then if you deny, then you’re going to get them to disobey. And that’s worked so well since the Garden of Eden; he [Satan] hasn’t had to change his tactics. He still uses it.” Geisler serves as Distinguished Senior Professor of Theology and Apologetics at Southern Evangelical Seminary.
“We don’t go to the Bible wanting to judge the Scriptures. We go to the Bible with a sense of submission, wanting to hear what the living God wants to say to us – and that’s crucial,” said contributor Conrad Mbewe, pastor of Kabwata Baptist Church in Lusaka, Zambia.
As with the mission of progressive Christianity, the film also finds grace in the search for understanding. But rather than valuing questions over absolutes, it values truth over all. Jesus, after all, is “the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).
“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).