"Buried in our little tiff the other day, Jacke and I had what I found to be a revealing and profitable–I think for both of us–exchange. This was the question Jacke asked that got me to thinking:
Are “Progressive” Christians trying to redefine the historic and traditional meaning of “Reformed” Christianity to suit their progressive agenda?
My answer is an unequivocal “yes”. And, I think it sucks. Of course, this is less often the problem with “progressive” Christians in reformed Christianity as it is with “conservative” Christians. Regardless, though, of who’s doing the redefinition of Christianity to suit their agenda it ain’t cool.This was my response to Jacke’s question:
Some probably are.
Others, like me, pursue orthodoxy radically (or at least we try to) and we find that that radical orthodoxy expresses itself as an adherence to a progressive politic.
In fact, Jacke, it’s probably a whole hell of a lot like “Conservative” Christians who try to redefine the historic and traditional meaning of Christianity to suit their conservative agenda.
Some do that.
Others are in pursuit of radical orthodoxy."
"If we’re going to believe in the God that allows different people as they grow nearer and nearer to her diverge in their political opinions, perhaps it’s time that we all learn a lesson. I doubt that the lesson is that politics are unimportant. Rather, if one of the main vehicles for the Church is community, and Christ followers (who are called to fellowship and commune) are turning out to be both liberal and conservative, perhaps the lesson is that we need to listen to eachother and learn from eachother."
Okay, my problem is this. If Conservative Christians are redefining Christianity, I would like to know how? By believing that God's Word is true? By believing that we can draw conclusions from God's Word based on implications regarding other subjects which can be reasonably applied to modern day issues which are not mentioned, specifically, in the Bible? How is that redefining Christianity? How is believing in widely accepted interpretations of the Bible which have a long history in our faith somehow redefining Christianity? I would like more specificity on how, exactly, Conservative Christians have redefined Christianity by continuing to believe in time tested interpretations of theologians and Biblical scholars for ages. I would like to know how remaining committed to trying to live one's life according to our understanding of scripture we are somehow redefining Christianity. In my own opinion, standing up for what has historically always been the accepted interpretation of particular scripture in the Bible plays a large role in pursuing that radical orthodoxy of which Brandon speaks. If we cannot stand up in the face of those things of which God clearly did not approve, and in fact condemned in His Word, before they get a foothold and change our entire American society and value system how can we then claim that we are pursuing radical orthodoxy? It makes no sense to me.
Orthodoxy (Page: 1014)
Or"tho*dox`y (?), n. [Gr. : cf. F. orthodoxie. See Orthodox.]
1. Soundness of faith; a belief in the doctrines taught in the Scriptures, or in some established standard of faith; -- opposed to heterodoxy or to heresy.
Basil himself bears full and clear testimony to Gregory's orthodoxy. Waterland.
2. Consonance to genuine Scriptural doctrines; -- said of moral doctrines and beliefs; as, the orthodoxy of a creed.
3. By extension, said of any correct doctrine or belief. (emphasis mine)
In my own view, a Conservative Christian would be one who fits the definition of a follower of othodoxy. In my view that would define a Conservative Christian. One who makes an effort to understand the Bible as a whole, in context and connected throughout, inerrant and the authority over our lives. Oh, and I know that Progressive Christians like to use Pat Robertson as our poster boy, but the fact is that most Conservative Christians do not agree with Pat Robertson and Pat Robertson does not speak for them. Let's keep in mind that we are all individuals as we look at this issue, just as all Conservatives do not agree with Pat Robertson, there may well be Progressive Christians who do not agree with Brandon's admission that Progressive Christians are making an effort to redefine Reformed Christianity. Brandon, however, believes this to be the case, and remember, in his own words, he is a liberal among liberals. This begs for us to take a look at what is the historic meaning of Reformed Christianity. I have found a good reference for studying that very issue here: What is Reformed Christianity? and according to this source, here are:
The Fundamental Beliefs of Reformed Christianity
"In our day there are "many" Churches that call themselves Reformed, which in reality are Reformed Churches in name only. For any Church can slap the title "reformed" over its entrance. But the basic teachings of God-centered historical and Reformed Christianity, remains constant. They do not change with the shifting winds of time, or with the social, political or moral climate of a culture. They forever stand as strong as the solid rock of scripture upon which they are built. The following are the general guidelines of the doctrines of true Historical Reformed (Biblical) Christianity (emphasis mine):
1). We accept without question that the 66 books of the Bible, both the Old and the New Testaments, are the divinely inspired Words of God to man (Psalm 119:160).
2). We believe that the Bible in it's original manuscript, is infallible, and thus the ultimate authority for the Christian Church today (2nd Timothy 3:16).
3). We believe in one God, revealed in the three persons of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This God is Sovereign Creator and ruler of the universe (1st john 5:7; Isaiah 48:16) who upholds all by His power.
4). We believe in the personage of the spirit of Satan, and his present control over unregenerate man (Luke 22:3; Gal. 4:3).
5). We believe in the fall and lost estate of man, which places him under the curse of sin. He is a slave (in bondage) so that he cannot please God with his good works, unless he is regenerated unto righteousness by the Spirit of God (Jeremiah 17:9-10; Romans 3:10-18).
6). We believe in the necessity of regeneration, or being born from above a new creation in Christ. Every person who is justified before God, must be born from above (John 3:7).
7). We believe in God's irresistible Grace, that all whom God has chosen unto Salvation, and all for whom Jesus Christ died, will be drawn of God, by absolutely no merit of their own, and be saved through faith (John 6:44; Ephesians. 2:8).
8). We believe that Jesus Christ is the only Saviour (Acts 4:12), the God/Man who was crucified in our stead, that our sins might be forgiven. It is in our wearing His robe of Righteousness, that we are accounted to stand righteous (1st Peter 2:24) before God.
9). We believe in the deity of Jesus Christ, His miraculous virgin birth, and His fulfilling the prophesy of the coming Messiah (Isaiah 9:6; Luke 1:34-35; John 1:14; Isaiah 53;), Saviour of man.
10). We believe in the Sovereign right of God, in which:
"..He does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand or say to Him, 'what have You done?' " -Dan. 4:35 We believe that God, before the worlds were made, has Chosen those in Christ that they should be Holy and without blame. As scripture makes clear, "He will have mercy on whosoever He will have mercy, and whomever He will, He hardeneth." (Romans 9:18).
11). We believe in His realized redemptive death, and we understand the faithful truth that Christ did not die in vain for any man, thus He couldn't have died for every man or indiscriminately for all mankind. The wages of sin is death! He died for the sins of His People, those known only to God from before the world. They are those who were predetermined to be saved for His own purposes. His death was sufficient for His people, that every sin that went to the cross with Him, was atoned for, providing a "real" redemption of man from those sins (Matthew 20:28; John 10:15, 26; 17:9).
12). We believe that in Christ's Resurrection from the dead, we were raised with Him, and as He was raised without sin, so we are risen without spot or blemish, an eternal redemption. It is Finished! God succeeded in saving those for whom He died (Matt. 1:21). He Saved all His people from their sins.
13). We believe in Christ's Resurrection from the dead, His present exaltation at the right hand of the father, and that in due time He will come again and bring all of His saints with him, and so they will reign in Life and Glory evermore (Luke 24:1-8).
14). We all believe in the spiritual, indivisible (not invisible) Church, the Body of Christ that is bound together by the Holy Spirit. We believe that the "true" body consists only of those who are born from above, for whom Christ now makes intercession in Heaven. We believe in the visible return of Christ to this world for final judgment (Acts 17:31).
15). We believe in eternal security, where all for whom Christ died, washing away 'every' sin, cannot have that sin return wherein they could be lost again. We understand the belief in man's ability to "lose his salvation," is not only an unbiblical doctrine, but also an illogical and indefensible one. For it is self-evident that "if" all sins were washed away in Christ's blood, we cannot come into condemnation for any bad works, or lack of works (sins). Else all sins were not atoned for in the first place. In this God is revealed not as an idle bystander, but as an active Spirit in all of nature and the affairs of man, that He keeps His elect secure, and will not slumber (Psalms 121:3). Those who "truly" receive salvation from God are sealed (secured) by the holy Spirit and preserved in strength of His faith, that they will endure to the end (John 10:27-29; Eph. 1:13; 4:30; 2nd Cor. 1:22). Not by their own merit, but by the meritorious work of Christ."
This is a perfect description of what I believe, so am I a Reformed Christian or is a Reformed Christian something else entirely? Something whispy and non-committal, something abstract which cannot be pinned down, as Brandon described in these blog entries: reformed christianity and truth, reformed christianity and community, reformed christianity and minority voices, reformed christianity and service?
I am pleased that Brandon showed the honesty to reply in the way he did regarding the fact that Progressive Christians are trying to redefine Reformed Christianity to suit their own political agenda, I have always found him to be honest in the past and he has my respect for that, I have no reason to begin questioning him now, based on his own past honesty, and that must have been a difficult admission for him to make. I do have questions regarding how he thinks "Conservative" Christians have strayed from the historic meaning of Reformed Christianity, because I believe that most Conservative Christian's belief system would adhere to the guidelines in the above referenced source.
This brings me back to an issue which has troubled me concerning Progressive Christians since the moment I have tried to open a dialog with them. If one believes in the old saying "Two wrongs don't make a right," how can one justify doing the very thing which they have accused Conservative Christians of doing and for which Progressive Christians have condemned them? My most recent entry on this subject asked some hard questions of the Progressive Christian, find it here: On Jim Wallis, Progressive Christians and Hypocrisy at the Other End of the Political Spectrum. I did not receive any replies to the questions I asked. I did, however, shortly after writing it, get a comment from a Progressive Christian on another blog that he had read my blog and that it was "brutal." I have conceded that it is, indeed, brutally honest.
I am thankful that Brandon would like to listen to Conservative Christians and I am thankful to God for giving me a passion to listen to Progressive Christians. I do believe that when we begin and continue in this dialog we can all learn and we can all grow in the Lord.
I have tried to be as fair as I can in replying to Brandon's entry. I wish to repeat his quote and add one:
"Regardless, though, of who’s doing the redefinition of Christianity to suit their agenda it ain’t cool."
and further, he wrote this:
"Yes, I’m a liberal. In fact, I’m so liberal that I’m known as a liberal amongst my classmates at an institution of higher education. (I know, I know, if I ever get my Ph.D. your children won’t be safe.) The thing is, I really don’t think that I’m trying to redefine Christianity to be a liberal. In fact, in my pursuit of Christ, I’ve found that I’ve become more and more liberal all the time. Perhaps one thing hasn’t anything to do with the other, but I don’t think so. Absolutely, part of my liberalism springs from my devotion to Christ. But, here’s the really wierd thing: I know a lot of really great people for whom the exact opposite was true! Shocking, no? I could swear that their conservatism was born directly out of their own radical orthodoxy."
Perhaps there is hope for future dialog between "Progressive" and "Conservative" Christians, I do hope there is and I find it a great learning experience. It is not my intention to misrepresent Brandon's views in any manner, and he, of course, is always just as welcome to comment here as he has made me welcome to comment at a badchristian blog.