Lessons and Trends in Progressive Christian Faith
by Brad Duncan
In this post I begin a new 6-part series on the church and how it can move forward into the next generation. I'm referring specifically to my own context, the mainstream evangelical church, in the USA, but I hope that application can be made to other contexts as well.
What's the goal of this? I love the church, and because of that love I want to change it. More broadly, I think the world is changing, and the church really has no choice about addressing these changes and reacting to them. My goal is to show how current trends in progressive Christian faith and theology can teach the church something about itself, about where it came from, and most of all, where it can go in the future. The lessons here are substantial and tangible, not just theoretical or philosophical. In short, the faith and theology of the church has some flaws, and by looking at these we can learn something that will help guide us into the future.
For each topic, I want to look at:
- What is the flaw in our current faith and theology. Faith meaning: "what we believe", and theology meaning: "why we believe that".
- Why is it so important?
- What lessons can we learn and apply immediately, that affect us and our churches in the near-term.
- What lessons can we learn that affect our long term goals, vision of the church, and strategy for accomplishing our mission?
- Importantly, can there be room for both old and new? Can we embrace new concepts and still keep the old ones around? I'll try to address that for each topic.
Of course I realize the pain, debate and controversy tied up in these topics. The challenge for me is that when I see something that is wrong, even if I am benefiting from it, I can't "un-see" it, I can't just ignore it. My view has been changed by examining how my faith relates to the faith that I was taught in the church, how my theological worldview relates to what I hear and see every day from Christians, teachers, books, worship songs, media stories, etc., and I see a huge disparity. I could remain silent, but I feel compelled instead to speak up. What if the old views are not the truth? Shouldn't someone speak up?
On the other hand, Jesus taught us so much about building a kingdom using peaceful means, and showing acceptance and grace to all people. If I apply these teachings, I realize that I must speak passionately, but also compassionately. I am not trying to defeat anyone, but instead to teach, speaking the truth in love.
And I am not alone. The writing is on the wall. Evangelicals everywhere are starting to question life-long assumptions that have driven their faith. There are many books on the subject, discussion groups, entire churches, where these ideas are being tried and validated. In my own life, these ideas have changed my approach to faith entirely, and brought me to a place of joy, peace and freedom that sound much more like what Jesus promised to believers than anything I have experienced before. They are practical, and have radically improved my relationships, interactions with other believers, and perspective on non-believers. Again, if you can read with an open mind I hope you can learn something. You can consider where you fit in this changing landscape.
Other Articles in This Series:
- Joy, Peace and Freedom
- God's Will and Purpose
- Human Nature and Purpose
- The Good News of Grace
- The Fight for Freedom
- The King and Kingdom