The Christian faith deals with the most incredible realities imaginable—a God who took on human flesh and invaded the physical world in the body of a man.
And if that weren’t enough Christians go beyond this to argue that this God-Man was killed by an ancient tool of execution and then rose again from the dead. It’s almost too much to believe. And for many people it is too much to believe.The whole story takes on for them the aura of a fairy-tale. As a result, they try to make the Christian faith more palatable to themselves and to modern ears. You’ll hear such people pontificating on the symbolic language of theology. They’ll say things like:
* The God metaphor is a symbol of the universe
* Jesus was the first fully actualized human being
* The Scriptures represent humanity’s attempt to know the unknowable
* Prayer is an attempt to get in touch with one’s own thoughts and feelings
* Salvation involves embracing one’s own highest self
* The Crucifixion symbolizes sacrifice, the offering of oneself as a martyr out of love for others
* The bodily resurrection of Christ is a myth that expresses the profound truth of life and hope in the midst of death
I could go on. There’s no end to the reinterpretations of traditional Christianity that such people will pursue. And if one expounds upon these abstract concepts in a scholarly tone (and preferably with an English accent), one can sometimes convince the casual observer that one is actually quite brilliant and far-reaching in one’s thinking. And if one goes still further and describes oneself as a Progressive Christian (I assume as opposed to those of us who are Regressive Christians), one can convince a sizable segment of society that one is on the cutting edge of intellectual thought.
The most insidious aspect of this movement is that these so-called Progressive Christians continue to use Christian terminology thereby convincing some people that they are talking about Christian truths. What they’ve actually done, however, is taken rich biblical and theological terms such as prayer, salvation, and resurrection and emptied them of all meaningful substance. It’s like masquerading a corpse around as a living body. It may bear some resemblance to the real thing but it’s nothing more than a shell.
So, what’s a person to do? How can an honest Christian avoid pastors, teachers and churches that teach these destructive heresies? Fortunately, there are some key questions that one can ask. Beware churches that cannot answer yes to these questions. They are counterfeits:
1. Is the Bible regarded as the inspired Word of God?
2. Is God regarded as a personal Being with whom one can have a relationship?
3. Is God regarded as a triune (3 in 1) Being—revealed in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?
4. Is Jesus seen as God in the flesh—fully God yet fully human?
5. Is Jesus believed to have died on the Cross for the sins of humanity?
6. Is Jesus believed to have risen from the dead in bodily form?
Don’t misunderstand me. I am not arguing for a narrow dogmatic legalism that leaves no room for dissent. There is lots of room in the Christian fold for divergent views and opinions. These six questions, however, deal with core Christian truths that orthodox Christians have affirmed since the earliest days of our faith. In other words, they deal with the essentials of the Christians faith. Now, of course, people should be free to believe what they wish. What I am arguing for is not a new Inquisition or witch hunt but intellectual honesty. A person who denies the essentials of our faith yet calls himself a Christian (by redefining what a Christian is) is like a person who eats red meat but calls himself a vegan (by redefining what a vegan is). Such a person should feel free to believe (or eat) what he likes but should also be intellectually honest enough to come up with new terms to describe those beliefs. Such a move would make Progressive Christianity truly progressive (and a lot more honest).