These days there is a lot of conversation about the various “types” of Christianity in the world. I’m not referring to the denominational tags that have evolved over the 500+ years since the Protestant Reformation which began in Germany with Martin Luther and subsequently spread to the rest of the western world. That reformation resulted in the birth of the Lutheran, Anglican/Episcopal, Methodist, Presbyterian, Reform, Baptist Puritan, Anabaptist and eventually the Disciples of Christ “denominations. I am speaking of a more recent sort of reforming and reaction to that reforming. Again, it began in Germany in the mid to late 1800’s with what is referred to in academic circles as the “Historical Critical Method”; a way of studying the Bible by using various techniques to look at individual words, literary forms (i.e. poetry, proclamation, parable, prayer, etc.), historical settings of the Biblical books, structural elements (i.e. letters of Paul, synoptic Gospels, prophetic books, etc.), and more. For some Christians, this “new” way of doing Biblical study was believed to destroy or pervert the original meaning of the Scriptures which resulted in the Fundamentalist Movement. This movement asserted that the Bible was the inerrant word of God as translated into the King James Version. It also asserted that the earth was created no more than 7000 or so years ago among other claims which are contested or can absolutely be disproven by scientific research.
Fundamentalism remains alive and active in the world today. Its adherents continue to claim as “fact” the inerrancy of the Bible (in spite of the many excellent translations available today), Creationist theories about the age of the earth and universe, and Biblical narratives which are scientifically unfounded (i.e. worldwide flood, dinosaurs on the Ark, flat earth around which the sun and moon circle, etc.). In addition to the Fundamentalists there are Christian mystics, Evangelicals, Orthodox/Traditionalists, Reformers, Progressives and others. Unlike the claims of the adherents of Fundamentalism, Progressives accept and use the tools of the Historical Critical Method to study and better understand the Biblical materials and their implications for living as followers of Jesus in our day and in this time and place. I find myself closer to these Progressives than the other choices.
Progressive Christians are Christians who: believe that following the path and teachings of Jesus can lead to an awareness and experience of the Sacred and the Oneness and Unity of all life; Affirm 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; seek community that is inclusive of ALL people, including but not limited to: conventional Christians and questioning skeptics, believers and agnostics, women and men, those of all sexual orientations and gender identities, those of all classes and abilities; know that the way we behave towards one another is the fullest expression of what we believe; find grace in the search for understanding and believe there is more value in questioning than in absolutes; Strive for peace and justice among all people; Strive to protect and restore the integrity of our Earth; Commit to a path of life-long learning, compassion, and selfless love.
And I’m okay with that!
Posted on Tue, July 24, 2018
by Doug Meister