Category Archives: Controversial

Progressive Christianity, Fact or Fiction Campaign — the pastors speak

FH-Times-Progressive-Christianity-Ad-2015.05.13In the town of Fountain Hills, Arizona, 8 local churches have come together to preach a series of sermons about the differences between progressive “Christianity” and traditional Christianity. The above is from a newspaper ad taken out by the churches and includes the churches and their websites. Most, if not all, of the websites have a way to listen to the sermons given during this campaign. There has been much made of this on their local news and of course in the world of social media. I am going to provide several links here in case you are unfamiliar with the story, including links to statements made by a local church who felt “attacked” by this series of sermons by the 8 churches in question. What the media has not covered is the campaign by the progressives before this Fact or Fiction round.

With a casual web search I am certain you can also find a variety of blogs on the subject. In a good bit of the news coverage, it is stated that these 8 churches are trying to besmirch one. The statement by the 8 churches preaching however seem to make rather clear that this is not about one progressive church in their community, but rather about the movement as a whole.  I also want to note that many of the news stories seem to try to include LGBTQ issues. Feel free to disregard this red herring as an examination of the sermon topics does not seem to include anything regarding same sex, or opposite sex for that matter, issues.

I contacted the pastors of the 8 churches to ask a few simple questions and they graciously answered them. Please keep in mind that as they reflect several denominations, and some non affiliated, the answers will represent a variety of faith traditions that differ on much but agree on that which is the core of our shared faith.  They will not be individually identified as per their wish not to hide who was making statements but rather to appear as one unified voice in the series going forward. This is a partial quote from the email response I received explaining their position (It is only partial as the rest of the email was personal and has no bearing on this issue):

The questions and answers appear unedited.

Hello Scott,

Trusting you have had a great week.  I wanted to get back to you with the responses from our group of pastors here in Fountain Hills.  I purposely did not give credit for specific quotes or answers because we want to speak as one voice on this matter. “

First, how is it that you all ended up deciding to preach about progressive belief? You are from several different backgrounds with differing points of doctrine after all.

We realize that the eight churches doing this sermon series have disagreement in many important areas as well as in the non-essentials. However, we believe that Progressive Christianity disparages the essential core beliefs of Christianity. On these core beliefs we are united and believe it is our pastoral responsibility to speak to our congregations about the differences between Biblical Christianity and Progressive Christianity.

For the last four or five years there have been a series of seminars presented in our community which promoted Progressive Theology.  The joint effort of these few churches presenting these seminars has created confusion within our community concerning the differences between Biblical Christianity and Progressive Christianity. We who believe in Biblical theology felt it was time to address some of the concerns which have been raised.

While it is true that there are doctrinal differences between us, the fundamental doctrines of Christianity are shared by all: Jesus Christ, born of a virgin, died for our sins according to the Scriptures; that He was buried, and then raised on the 3rd day according to the Scriptures.

The joint effort between our churches was in response to questions we as pastors had all been receiving regarding the differences between Biblical Christianity and Progressive Christianity. The real value in a joint effort like this is that it clearly reveals (and demonstrates) the unity of doctrine across a wide section of Christian denominations

Second, what do you believe the primary danger(s) of progressive belief is?

Progressive Christianity leads to a Christ-less Christianity. If Jesus is simply a good man we are trying to emulate and not the Son of God, then we dead in our sin and are dependent on works righteousness.

It’s all about Jesus.  Progressive theology denies the Deity of Jesus, the atoning sacrifice of Jesus, the resurrection of Jesus.  Sin is not dealt with, thus salvation is not available

I told the congregation Sunday that for years Christians have been trying to keep Christ in Christmas, today we are trying to keep Christ in Christianity. The real danger that Progressive Christianity poses is that it undermines the very core of what Christianity is. To take the name Christian means not only to strive to walk as He did, but also to believe as He believed. Progressive Christianity has made it quite clear that they don’t believe in a theistic God, nor do they believe Jesus is the only way to God. Comparatively, Jesus clearly believed in a theistic God (He called Him Father) and it was Jesus Himself who said He was the only way to the Father. Do I think Progressive Christianity poses a danger? Absolutely! You see once you remove the atoning work of Jesus on the cross (which is the net result of removing a theistic God and the Deity of Christ) you remove any hope of salvation; you are left in your sin. With eternity in the balance, how can I be silent?

Third, what role does doctrine play in the life of your congregations and how do you foster that?

Doctrine expresses the beliefs that the church has forged over time as it has faced challenges to its beliefs in past eras. It provides us with a way to express our beliefs and gives us boundaries as to what is accepted and what is not.

This is the summation of our belief and a reflection of Biblical truth and guidelines for our faith.

Doctrine is at the very center of everything we do, but then that would be true for a Progressive Christian as well. In fact, it is at the center of what every human being does; even the atheist. A person only acts on what they believe. The real question is what do you believe? We believe the Bible is the Word of God, as such, inerrant. We then use the Bible as a guideline for the outworking of our faith in day to day life. Fostering that doctrine is really quite simple: blow the dust off the book and read it!

Fourth, do you believe progressive beliefs to be an expression of Christianity, or would you describe it as something that is separate from Christianity? (or of course if neither of those is a proper expression of your thoughts on progressive beliefs please explain why)

Progressive Christianity is neither. It is man centered rather than God centered.

Progressive theology is not Christian theology.  It contradicts the core tenets of Biblical theology.

Progressive Christianity is neither. The term Progressive indicates something that evolves (changes from one state to a more improved state) over time. Is Christ progressive? Does Jesus evolve? What improvement would you add to His perfection? More to the point, what can man’s knowledge and learning add to Divine perfection? Regarding the term Christian, that is the term claimed by those striving to be like Christ. Again, this is not only in action, but also in belief. To say that you like what He did, but you aren’t interested in believing what He believed should be cause for alarm. Progressive Christianity is quite different from Biblical Christianity and the term “Progressive Christianity” is simply an oxymoron.

Fifth, a local church has made claims that this is directed toward them specifically. Did they factor into this decision? Did they inspire this?

The local progressive church has claimed that this is an attack on them. It is not. This is a sermon series to counter a larger concern; a teaching that is not biblical but disguises itself as Christianity. The progressive pastor in town has clearly stated his beliefs in the local paper and on the radio. Through these media he has denied the bodily resurrection of Jesus, the Virgin birth, and the Bible as the Word of God. His public statements caused many members of our congregations to ask us questions about Progressive Christianity and about the biblical view of Christianity. It is not our desire to attack any individual or congregation. Our motivation is to contend for the faith and to feed our own flocks the truths found in Scripture.

From the beginning it has been clearly stated that this is not about one individual or one congregation.  The issue is theology.  We are merely explaining Biblical theology and doctrine.

I have heard the same claims, but let’s think about this logically. How would it look for us to attack a specific person (or congregation)? That really wouldn’t help our case for Christianity much, would it? No. From the very beginning we have made it absolutely clear that the series isn’t about a person or congregation; it is about doctrine and theology.

So what is compatible with Christianity in this case (or to turn a phrase, what would Jesus do)? Would He say, “don’t worry, doctrine isn’t all that important anyway” or would He point out the false doctrine? Thankfully, we have the Bible to show us exactly how Jesus handled these situations. He said to take note of the wolves that slip in among you wearing sheep’s clothing (that is, point the wolf out to protect the sheep). Jesus Himself was quite confrontational when it came to people espousing poor doctrine (and He usually led with something like: “you brood of vipers”…) should His church be anything less? So, contending for the faith is very much a Christian doctrine. While the term “attack” has made for dramatic news coverage, it is wholly unfounded.

Finally, is there anyway that someone could, if they wanted to, listen to the sermons being given? (pod cast, online via YouTube, etc.)

Our sermons can be found on our individual church websites. (I don’t know if this is true for all of us.)

In regards to the actual messages, I believe that most individual church websites would have the messages available to stream or download. I would encourage people to download the messages and judge for themselves.

As a side note: It is interesting that those who are complaining about this series have held several seminars in collaboration with other congregations, to express their progressive theological beliefs.  Their seminars have attacked the core beliefs of Biblical theology.  Now eight Bible believing congregations are uniting to present Biblical theology, and somehow this is viewed as wrong?

This ends the questions I asked and the answers that the pastors generously provided.

Dear Duggar Family Children

Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...
Stained glass at St John the Baptist’s Anglican Church ” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dear Duggar Family Children.

This is for Jana Maria, John-David, Jill Michelle, Jessa Lauren, Jinger, Joseph, Josiah,  Joy-Anna, Jedidiah, Jeremiah, Jason, James, Justin, Jackson, Johannah, Jennifer, Jordyn-Grace, and Josie. Even you, Josh. This is for you when you finally leave your home, in thought and in deed.

I want to welcome you to a world that is far brighter than you’ve led to believe it is. I want to welcome you to a chance to truly experience all of God’s creation, as something more than sex objects, as something more than husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, baby-sitters, and anything else that you were told you could only be. No doubt, you are going to be afraid.

Then you are going to be mad at your parents, at yourselves, at each other, and finally at God. As someone who has escaped a cult, let me tell you now: you are absolutely right to feel every bad thought you are feeling right now. The pain is real. Even if no one can see it, it is real and maybe even more real than if you had just been torn asunder. Your entire world is breaking down and you simply have no one left to turn to you give you the firm assurance you once had. If someone promises to restore to you a black and white world, don’t believe them. Find someone though, whether it is a real counselor, a priest, a pastor, a friend — find someone who will listen.

If you are reading this, you are now “free” of Quiverfull and a host of other systems imprisoning you. In truth, as I have learned, you will never be truly free of things that have happened to you or that you have done to others. Don’t worry. I understand that. Do not let anyone judge you for this, especially yourself. You can be your own worst critic. And you should be, but don’t believe everything you tell yourself. To be honest, it wasn’t your fault. You were trained to think and believe and act a certain way. You couldn’t have left if you tried. You are only now leaving because your psyche cannot handle any more walls and mental gymnastics between what you know and what you see. It is exhausting to continue to build those walls up. At one time, you had help. Your parents and church elders helped to reinforce those walls. But they are gone. They may return, but they will never return to a place that allows you to go back from whence you came.

You are going to be mad at God. You may reject Christianity. I don’t blame you. I did myself, really. What you are told is Christianity is not Christianity, I assure you, but you will have to decide that for yourself. Right now, don’t give up on believing in God. Just because the God of Quiverfull and your parents may not be in the box you were given, don’t mean God does not exist. In fact, I found out — like many before me — that God can never fit into a box. If you find someone who tells you they have God all figured out, don’t believe them. There is no answer, proof, or concept of God that is healthy to have for too long. If, in the end, you reject Christianity altogether, and even the concept of a deity, I don’t blame you. No one can because everything done to you was done in the name of the Christian God.

For me, I choose to believe in God because I cannot believe in a world of this much evil without a deity as the redeemer. I have to believe that life matters because I have seen real beauty. I believe in orthodox Christianity because theology is a theory and as a theory, I find orthodox Christianity the best of all worlds, one where God became human so that we could become divine. Only orthodox Christianity provides for me the love of a God that I believe this world needs… that I need.

But, as a friendly piece of advice from someone who grew up with a god much like you did, God is far better and more real than what you have been given in that box of yours.

You aren’t going to be fine. You are going to be different. You are going to be a different person because there is simply no other way you can exist as the person you were before. You will have the same name, experiences, friends and family (if you choose to have the last two, that is). Yet, you will see them differently. You will see them almost like they exist in a movie. But, they will be real to you. The foods won’t taste the same. The clothes won’t feel the same. You will get squeamish when people pray, joke, or attempt to understand what you are going through. This is part of the new life you have now. It is not easy, but it is worth it.

A couple of words of advice.

  • Get into a real counseling program. Whatever state you land in, find a licensed counselor through that State. Go. Go as often as you want.  Be honest with your counselor about everything you are feeling.
  • Breathe. You are exhausted. You will remain exhausted for a long time. You will be depressed. Find a real way to handle this.
  • Don’t rush. You can’t rush this. If you do, you will find that you have established more walls, but that this time they block out other stuff, like getting the help you need.
  • Take the ruin and the ashes around you and salvage the good, discard the bad, and rebuild.
  • Never think this is easy. You have come from a cult. Many of you were physically harmed, some sexually harmed, and all of you emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually harmed in this. Some of you are in a part of your lifespan where maturity has set in. That means you have learned certain things that you will have to first fight to unlearn and then attempt to learn a better way. This is just not going to be easy, but if you decide it is worth it, you will make it.
  • Don’t be afraid to be by yourself. But, try to be near to people who love you — they usually won’t understand you — and will care for you. You need more than bodily care; you need soul care.

Whatever brought you to this point, you are here now. You will not return. Stay with us and let us help you. Many of us have been where you are right now, coming from a cult and into a world that we are not ready for — a world we do not want. Yet, we have made it. You will too.

— Joel.

Engagement, “Going Clear, Scientology and the Prison of Belief”

L. Ron Hubbard
Cover of L. Ron Hubbard

I, with my trust HBO NOW subscription, sat down to watch “Going Clear, Scientology and the Prison of Belief” the other night. By now, if you are interested in these certain things, you will have seen the reviews and basic plot lines.

It details the story for 8 former Scientologists, each with their own unique story that somehow ends up being the same. Many of them were high level executives of the organization. We are introduced too briefly to the genesis of the cult, that of L. Ron Hubbard (or LRH). Watching the brief clips of him, you can see the sadistic hold this man had on life. I think he suspected that of himself as well, given that he did at one time ask the VA for psychiatric help. We are also told of some of the belief systems — and reminded that only only top level Scientologists get to really find these out.

Jamie DeWolf, the great-grandson of LRH, has a video of the family’s secrets – The Son of Scientology.

They are tax-exempt, for some unknown reason… The IRS simply surrendered.

There is abuse, there is torture. There is the prison of belief. There were mind games and simple acquiesces of the human spirit. I cannot fault them, as I too consented to have my humanity disparaged and destroyed. One of the more striking things, as a continuous believer, is that a recovering cult member, could tell you the difference between religion and Scientology. One person compared “the bridge” to Christianity’s Hell. It was a small quote, but nothing added to that. But it reminded me of what Einstein said, “You may call me an agnostic, but I do not share the crusading spirit of the professional atheist whose fervor is mostly due to a painful act of liberation from the fetters of religious indoctrination received in youth.”

One of the things that become apparent to me, especially as one who has moved out of a (Christian) cult and experienced many of the psychological wars these people face, is how the sense of shame permeates every bit of one’s being. Further, they understand their role in it. They were abused and in turn passed that abuse on to someone else. When they got out, they have attempted to build a life with a huge black hole where their normal development should have been.

I can tell them that there should not be a sense of shame, but I wouldn’t and still do not listen to myself. Those who move out of abusive cults — and especially those who participated in them — maybe want that sense of shame.

Something else that became clear — each had their own breaking point. For some, it was the forced loss of family. For others, it was the realization that they were the victims of systematic abuse. In watching the actor Jason Beghe speak, there is something else. He has not left. Or rather, he has not learned how to cover in the hole that exists in his life. He looked to be on drugs. This, I think, is understandable. When you have your life, your entire belief system, ripped away from you — the natural, human, instinct is to find something to replace it. For some, it is drugs and alcohol. For others, as Einstein said, it is atheism (and by atheism, I mean more like a-theism, an anti-theist position).

There is another quote. Someone asks a survivor about why they think they could believe that. They said something about the mind turning itself off to that which would hurt it. This, the theory of motivated reasoning, is what drives many of us, I think. Or maybe, prevents us from exploring anything not directly supportive of our current belief system. This is the prison of belief. But, we find this in total atheism, in total Christianity, in total Islam. When we lock ourselves up in our minds, we will stay there and be destroyed, led around by our captivity.

I would encourage you to read the book and to watch the movie.

I’m going to watch it again.

@Indiana new legislation “protecting businesses”.

(Someone asked me if I can’t just be foolish on Facebook… Well, hell, NO! I will be foolish here as well:)

1 – The State of Indiana passing laws that are to allow business to reject service to gays: WRONG. Even with the argument that it is to protect businesses from the heavy lawsuits gay people file against business. We should not respond with legislation against others whereas saying that we don’t like “legislation” which is against us

UPDATE: Please read a clarification in the comments.                               UPDATE #2 – Please read how CNN “headlines” the matter here

2 – Gay people closing otherwise good business by suing them because they cannot bake a cake for themselves, or arrange flowers by themselves (what kind of gay people are they?): WRONG
3 – Gay people in business, hypothetically, refusing to provide services for the KKK and the Westboro (more like West Burro) Baptist Church in a anti-gay regalia: WRONG.
So, in whatever case, it is all wrong! The fact is that no one wants to live together with those with whom they disagree. The fact remains that TOLERANCE is something you give, not something you DEMAND! The one demanding TOLERANCE and rights should be the first one READY TO GIVE IT!
I have repeated this often, including in “diversity” courses: Tolerance demanded is in and of itself INTOLERANCE! Especially when it is in detriment of others.
If it matters, before you call me names, read this: I do business with gays although I respect those who do not!
Now you can call me names …
A Civil War “of sorts”?
  1.  We can’t live without legislating against those whose live styles or opinions we despise;
  2.  We can’t live without involving the courts against those whose life styles and opinions we despise;
  3. We can’t live without involving the GOVERNMENT against those whose life styles and opinions we despise:
THEN, we are already amid a CIVIL WAR; a bloodless one indeed, but perhaps just as dividing of a society as a full blown CIVIL WAR!!!!

“wrong side of history” is colonialism

Native Americans flee from the allegorical rep...
Native Americans flee from the allegorical representation of Manifest Destiny, Columbia, painted in 1872 by John Gast (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Scot McKnight has a post up that helps to solidifywhat I’ve been trying to say.

He begins,

Some people think they know where history is taking us and are quite happy to declare boom-booms on those who take exception, the boom-booms declared with a long finger pointing at them with the accusation they will be on the “wrong side of history” or, perhaps more damaging, they will be “left behind” or “irrelevant.”

He wrestles first with statements against religion and how as a species we are losing our connection to the need for a divine. Taking this a step further, he attacks inclusion advocates who often use the “wrong side of history” mantra as a reason to progress. McKnight and I differ on inclusion, which seems to be needed to said because if you question progressive idols, then suddenly you are a bigoted fundamentalist.

Frankly, “wrong side of history” is a tired and worn-out phrase that has been co-opted from other narratives, providing a slippery slope and dismissing the moral imperative of inclusion.

Let me explain. The “wrong side of history” mantra is nothing short of a modern-day manifest destiny, the 19th century version of American Exceptionalism that led to the extermination of indigenous peoples as well as the preservation of slavery, both African and capitalistic. This mantra is about Americans, for Americans, and sets a particular interpretation of American values above the rest of the world not to mention Christian Tradition. It has no regard for soundness of logic, reason, or doctrine, only for a political movement that can change as quickly as the weather. Indeed, in one FB conversation recently, Roger Worsley (a prolific UMC progressive blogger), stated simply he writes only for American progressives, feeding them only what they want. In doing so, Worsley (albeit, passively) admitted that the only Christianity that mattered was his white progressive version.

If you are fighting for inclusion only because you don’t want to be on “the wrong side of history” you have to ask yourself, in what way are you respecting the people you are supposedly fighting for? Aren’t you just using them as mere bodies, footstones/cannon fodder/pawns in all actuality, to advance your cause? Why not fight for inclusion simply because it is right rather than as a means to re-establish white American dominance, colonizing the world and Christian Tradition?

History is fickle and has no sides. It can be undone, destroyed, and forgotten. What cannot be so easily destroyed is the mind and heart changed for the good, for the right.