Patheos, which has developed into a great site on matters religious, recently opened its “Progressive Christianity Portal.” They are hosting a symposium on “What is Progressive Christianity?” that includes input from Brian McLaren, Diana Butler Bass, Phyllis Tickle and other notables. Given the recent controversy over whether Jim Wallis and Sojourners belonged within the big tent of Progressive Christianity, it’s an important question.
I’ve never been comfortable with the label, any more than I was comfortable with the label “liberal.” Perhaps my dis-ease comes from the Eight Points of Progressive Christianity posted by progressivechristianity.org. There is, among these eight items, no reference to God, let alone the Trinity. Instead, appeal is made to the Sacred and Oneness of Life.
To be sure, many of those writing about “What is Progressive Christianity?” would have no problem with using Trinitarian or Christocentric language. Still, I agree with Fred Schmidt’s observation that:
Classically, for Christianity, sacred or divine mystery has been a term applied to the limits of what can be known about the ways of God as understood in the Christian tradition. But, true to the leading lights of Progressive Christianity, Ms. Astle describes the identity of God itself as the mystery.
We shall see how the conversation develops.
Those Progressive Points are rather Unitarian, aren’t they? Not quite to that “church for people who don’t like church” level, but close.
I long for a radical orthodoxy that remembers that while somethings remain the same, our understanding of them grows and changes. In John, the Lord comments that there are things they weren’t ready for that the Spirit would bring them later. We have to remain aware of that Spirit in the glorious chaos that is God’s creation.
As time has progressed the message of God’s love has been opened up to a wider and wider audience. As Mr. Bell noted in his now infamous book length sermon, it’s possible to believe that Christ is the only way to God while not thinking that non-Christians are damned. How this happens may well be a mystery to us but that is no more a mystery than the Triune understanding of God is itself a mystery or even the resurrection can be for a scientific mindset. I certainly can’t tell you how God will do any of these but I believe that all will be saved, I believe in the Trinity and I believe in the Resurrection rather more because of that mystery than in spite of it.
Mystery is a vital component to an understanding of God and especially the Incarnate God that is the focus of our faith. But then again, I like my smells and bells.