Beliefs and Characteristics found in Progressive or Incarnational Christianity
- A conviction that how a person behaves is much more important than what he or she believes (i.e gives intellectual assent to);
- A conviction, based upon scholarship, that the Bible is a historical, cultural, and even political document, written by humans to express their understanding of God; many narratives and statements in the Bible contain valuable truths, but are not to be taken literally;
- A conviction that it is more important to understand the humanity of Jesus than it is to understand his divinity; that belief in his divinity (the post-Easter Jesus or the Christ), while valid, has been fused or melded with the historical Jesus in ways that has distorted his message, and that the divinity of Jesus has often been misrepresented by dogma;
- A conviction that the teachings and the life of Jesus are central in explaining how God loves humanity, and that these teachings and examples from his life are more important than the dogmas created by the church to define him;
- A belief that sin is a pattern of behavior rather than an act and that salvation is a process of spiritual growth through time, not an event of being “saved” at one point in time.
- A rejection of the dominant doctrine of Atonement as a blood sacrifice, the belief that Jesus was sent by God to die to save us from our sins, and to satisfy God’s need for justice after the sin of Adam; the belief that this sacrifice is more important than the life and teachings of Jesus.
- A conviction that Christianity is about creating the “Kingdom of God,” that this Kingdom is primarily about love and acceptance, compassion and justice for all creation, on earth, in this life; that this is what incarnation” means;
- A conviction that while institutional religion has value, churches are human institutions subject to human failings, chief among them the idea of protecting the institution from harm, even at the cost of modifying or even denying the truth of the message the institution was created to proclaim;
- A conviction that understanding of God is enhanced, not diminished, by the findings of modern science, that scientific and religious ways of understanding truth change and may even converge;
- A conviction that Jesus, in his life and teachings, promoted love and acceptance of all, but was especially attentive to the poor and victims of injustice, and that he calls us to imitate him.
- A conviction that, however we try to explain the existence of evil, it should never be seen as something we deserve or as a form of punishment by God.
(These ideas are based upon my reading of the following authors, but the list is not all-inclusive: Marcus Borg, John Dominic Crossan, John Shelby Spong, Cynthia Bourgeault, Richard Rohr, Brian McLaren, Delwin Brown, Tony Jones, Philip Gulley, William James, Elaine Pagels, Gary Wills, Jacob Needleman, Albert Nolan, Wilfred Cantwell Smith, Walter Winks, Robin Meyers.)
Ken Wolf, August, 2014; revised, 2017
Progressive Christianity: Propositions to explain, define, and defend by Delwin Brown:
- Christianity is about how we live, not what we believe; God is made manifest by what we do, not by what we say; it is particularly important to love, not just ourselves and our enemies, but even other members of our faith community—and not try to change them to be more like us;
- Christianity is about Jesus, more about his teachings and his “kingdom” than about his death and resurrection, though both of these are still important; death was not part of a pre-existing Divine Plan but was due to his love—an exclamation mark at the end of his life. Both death and resurrection were refusal to let the Domination System have the last word; resurrection (bodily or not) was also a sign of continuing incarnation of divinity in
our world—whatever its psychological impact on his followers;
- Christianity is about individual transformation through community. Salvation is individual and social and includes all creation.
- Christianity is about creating “the Kingdom of God,” and this kingdom is about love and acceptance, not rules and practices, dos and don’ts; we access the divine love found in Jesus by being open to it, and though spiritual practices; followers of Jesus must reject all forms of hatred, domination, and dismissal of others, especially of those who are “not like us,” culturally, economically, socially;
- Christianity is about changing the world through nonviolent resistance to the “Principalities and Powers,” the “Dominion System” of human institutions that “are good, are fallen, and must be redeemed;”
- Christianity, like all religions, is embedded in culture, but also (like other world religions) transcends culture. The divine can be found everywhere, in all cultures and even among sinners; no one is outside the love of God!
This is the Zeteo class midweek update
The class moderator sends a midweek email to class members with a link to this page, as a review of the previous Sunday’s discussion and a reminder of where the class begins when it meets again.
For more information contact Terry.Foreman (AT) murraystate.edu