The False Dichotomy of Progressive Christianity

If you have read some of the last few articles that we posted (“Progressive Christianity and Polyamory” and “My De-conversion Story”), you can probably surmise that we are concerned about the rising tide of Progressive Christianity.
 
Now to be clear, I am not concerned that Progressive Christianity will thwart the plans of God or His church. As Jesus stated, “I will build my church and the gates of hell will not stand against it.”
 
And neither am I solely attempting to convince those who have adopted progressive theology that they are in error. As a pastor, it is not my primary job to persuade others to believe as I believe. As Jesus also said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, […] Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from Him comes to Me” (John 6:44-45).
 
As such, my primary job as a pastor is to encourage and equip other disciples of Jesus who have already been (or are being) convinced and drawn by the Father to believe about the Son the same things that I have been convinced and drawn by the Father to believe.
 
However, part of being able to do so is to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” And to be able to do so, “with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander” (1 Peter 3:15-16).
 
Therefore, our purpose in addressing Progressive Christianity is to reassure those who have been drawn to the Son by the Father, that orthodox Christian theology is still a true and right representation of the Father and the Son (and the Holy Spirit).
 
But, if I did happen to convince one who has adopted progressive theology of their error, I would consider that as a win as well. As Jude wrote:
 
Be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh” (Jude 1:22-23).
 
One of Progressive Christianity’s great errors is that it resorts to the logical fallacy of a false dichotomy. A false dichotomy is the argument that there are only two choices, when there are in fact multiple choices.
 
However, to be clear, there are those times when there are only two choices; such as the narrow road of imitating and obeying Jesus as His disciple or the wide road of not doing so. But false dichotomies unnecessarily create the false impression that there are only two choices when there is a least a third.
 
Specifically, Progressive Christianity argues that Evangelicals must choose between an orthodox Christian theology which is unloving and judgmental, or progressive theology which is loving and accepting.
 
What Progressive Christianity misses is that true orthodox Christian theology is both loving, and is not unnecessarily judgmental. I emphasis unnecessarily because Jesus did command His disciples to, “Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly” (John 7:24), and therefore must be able to make correct judgments.
 
Moreover, I would argue that correctly applied orthodox Christian theology is the greatest act of love that mankind can impart.
 
At His Words His Ways Fellowship, we use our Four Principles of Discipleship as an outline to the scriptural truths that guide us as we imitate and obey Jesus as His disciples. These are:
 
  1. The Image of God as the Basis of Discipleship. The ultimate goal of the Gospel is that men bring glory to God by being re-conformed to the image of God that they were originally created to be.[1]

 

  1. The Purpose of Imitating Jesus as His Disciple. The goal of men being re-conformed to the image of God is accomplished by men imitating Jesus (who is the perfect image of God) as His disciple; through the empowerment and enlightenment of the Holy Spirit.[2]

 

  1. The First Century, Biblical Understanding of Discipleship. Imitating Jesus as His disciple begins (but does not end) with specifically learning and then keeping the words, teachings, commands, and example that He gave during His earthly ministry. It is simply impossible to imitate someone without knowing what they said and did.[3]

 

  1. Biblical Discipleship in a Relational Environment (Relational Discipleship). Being conformed to the image of Jesus by imitating Him as His disciple is not a passive process, but an active/interactive process that occurs within a relational environment; which was established and demonstrated by Jesus during His earthly ministry.[4]

 

Of course, there are questions that arise concerning them:
 
“What about loving people?”
 
“What about dealing with racism?”
 
“What about caring for the poor?”
 
“What about injustice?”
 
Look again at those four principles and ask yourself these questions:
 
“If we are being re-conformed to the image of God that were originally created to be by being conformed to the image of Jesus (by imitating and obeying Him as His disciple); are we not going to love others who are also created in the image of God?”
 
“…are we not going to deal with racism?”
 
“…are we not going to care for the poor?”
 
“…are we not going to deal with injustice?”
 
Progressive Christianity will no doubt point to churches in America who supposedly ascribe to orthodox Christian theology who do not properly deal with these issues. But ask yourself some more questions:
 
“Do those churches teach those four principles of discipleship (which are actually the foundation of orthodox theology and have been taught historically in the church by great men of God)?”
 
“And if not, are those churches even actually teaching true orthodox theology?”
 
Because if they are not, I would argue that they are at best only partially teaching orthodox theology.
 
Therefore, the false dichotomy that Progressive Christianity presents is not between progressive theology and true orthodox Christian theology; but rather between an incomplete or false orthodox Christian theology (which is often unloving and unnecessarily judgmental) and progressive theology.
 
They then leave out the third choice of true orthodox Christian theology which teaches and abides by those four principles of discipleship, and is therefore both loving and “judges correctly.”
 
However, where Progressive Christianity truly fails is that in a misguided effort to be loving and accepting, it re-defines both the concepts of scriptural inspiration, and the Christian sexual ethic, into something that is completely foreign to orthodox Christian theology.
 
And this is wherein the true danger of progressive theology lies. In doing so, Progressive Christians become those churches and church leaders which Jesus threatened with judgement in the Book of the Revelation:
 
“There are some among you who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin so that they ate food sacrificed to idols and committed sexual immorality” (Revelation 2:14).
 
And:
“You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds” (Revelation 2:20-23).
 
Personally, I would argue that at its core, progressive theology is about promoting an unscriptural, fallen, idolatrous, sexual ethic more than anything; and every other way that it twists scripture ultimately leads back to there.
 

Because, it can’t be just about racism, poverty, and injustice; teaching the Four Principles of Discipleship solves those issues (and every other issue), without departing from orthodox theology and the concepts of the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture.

 

For more information on why it is so important to imitate and obey Jesus as His disciple, start here and follow the links the end of each article:
 
 
 
Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash
 
 
[1] Genesis 1:27, 1 Corinthians 11:7, Matthew 5:48, 2 Corinthians 3:18, Ephesians 4:22-24, 5:1, Colossians 3:9-10, 2 Peter 1:4.
 
[2] Romans 8:29, 1 Corinthians 11:1, 15:49, 2 Corinthians 4:4, Galatians 2:20, Philippians 2:1-5, 3:7-11, Colossians 1:15, 1:28-29, 2:2-3, 2:9-10, 1 Thessalonians 1:6, 2 Timothy 3:12, Titus 3:4-6, Hebrews 1:3, 6:1, 12:1-3, James 1:2-4, 1 Peter 1:1-4, 2-21, 2 Peter 3:18, 1 John 2:6, 3:3, 4:17.
 
[3] Matthew 7:24-29, 10:24-25, 11:25-30, 12:41-42, 13:16-17, 13:34-35, 17:5, 24:35; Mark 4:24-25, 4:33-34, 6:34, 8:38, 9:7, 13:31; Luke 6:46-49, 9:35, 10:24, 10:38-42, 11:31-32, 17:10, 19:47-48,  John 3:31-36, 4:25-26, 4:40-42, 5:24, 5:38-39, 5:46-47, 6:28-29, 6:63, 6:66-69, 8:31-32, 8:51, 9:26, 10:27, 12:48, 13:34-35, 14:12, 14:15, 14:23-26, 15:7-17, 15:20-24, 16:6-8. 
 

[4] Acts 2:42-47, 1 Corinthians 14:40, 2 Timothy 2:2.