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After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter.
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A Pilgrim's Regress
In Defense of the Faith
Friday, June 15, 2018
Alf Cengia

A Pilgrim's Regress! - My apologies to John Bunyan's classic, The Pilgrim's Progress, and to C. S Lewis' The Pilgrim's Regress as well.

Many years ago I liked the word "progressive." For me it suggested leaving outdated and useless thinking behind. Only the staid narrow-minded folk didn't want to progress. I wanted to be thought of as broad-minded and progressive.

Nobody talks about being broad or narrow-minded anymore. Being "progressive" is the thing. One can be progressive in politics and cultural issues, as well as religiously. My focus is on the last one. Following are some examples.

The first case in point is a United Methodist minister (Roger Wolsey) who self-identifies as a progressive Christian. Mark Tooley cites him as follows:

Friends, Jesus isn’t God. Jesus didn’t die for our sins. Jesus wasn’t killed instead of us. God isn’t wrathful or vindictive. There isn’t a hell (other than ones that we create here on this earth). Going to heaven after we die isn’t what the faith or salvation is about. God didn’t write the Bible.

Some of Wolsey's other statements (see his Patheos blog) include: "Homosexuality is not a sin" and "Christianity isn’t the only way for humans to experience salvation." He thinks: "The trinity is a beloved Christian poem of who God is to us."

Apparently "Jesus never stated he was God" and no one else in the Bible did. Mind you, he claims Jesus was divine in the same way we are. Did Jesus claim to be God? Yes He did!

Wolsey also writes:

... progressive Christians favor the moral influence/exemplar theory of the atonement and reject the substitutionary and penal theories of the atonement. We participate in our own salvation by living a certain way of life - salvation isn’t imposed on us by Jesus having been crucified.

Some time ago I discovered an Online Church which calls itself "Brazen." Someone must have linked to its pretrib rapture debunking essay, and I bit. One of the reasons cited against pretribulationism was its alleged counter-church-tradition novelty.

Ironically, the Brazen folk claim to be an online community of “free thinking” Christians. In their About Page they opine how Church tradition has let Christians down. For example they say: "The reality is that you’ve probably spent your entire life being fed an absolute narrative about God." Which, of course, they aim to correct!

A more recent essay on their website questions the primary motive for the cross. Ryan Harbidge contends that Christ didn't die on the cross to appease some wrathful trait of the Father. He died to please us:

Was Jesus a sacrifice? Yes. In fact, the ultimate sacrifice to end all sacrifices. He was the sacrifice that we demanded, not God.

How do you rationalize a just God putting His Son through the horrors of the cross on the whims of capricious man? Perhaps someone can correct me, but I've never known anyone to insist that Jesus Christ must die for their sins. On the contrary, most find the cross offensive - as presumably Harbidge does.

See: Why is the Substitutionary Atonement Essential?

Gallons upon gallons of ink would be required to overwrite all the biblical passages contradicting Harbidge's positions. It's almost needless to note that this doesn't bother him given he believes: "...people who dogmatically insist on the inerrancy and infallibility of scripture are missing the point."

Another influential progressive penned a book ambitiously titled "Inspired - Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again." The author's objections to the Bible are numerous and typical, but she found a way to love it anyway - and she wants to show you how as well.

You know where the book is leading when she claims she learned the Bible was the reason why people voted Republican; rejected evolution and opposed same-sex marriage. It was the reason she couldn't become a pastor and had to mind her neckline! She tells her readers that:

When you stop trying to force the Bible to be something it's not - static, perspicacious, certain, absolute - then you're free to revel in what it is: living, breathing, confounding, surprising, and yes, perhaps even magic.

The Bible is to be treated like a wayward brother or sister who doesn't always tell the truth. One still dutifully loves them because [insert reasons above]. Yet if this relative [i.e., the Bible] is unreliable and has certain distasteful dispositions, how can one be sure that all the "surprising" stuff and that "magic" are any good?

These people see themselves as "free thinking" and/or "progressive." Neither is true. They generally rely on historical and modern apostate teachers for their materials - and rebelliousness. They refuse to submit to God's Word. They decide what's right.

Progressives have actually regressed back to the original "free thinking" experiment in the Garden of Eden when the Serpent asked:

Has God indeed said, `You shall not eat of every tree of the garden'?" Gen 3:1

The first example I cited is the most extreme of the three. It's the logical trajectory of doubting the Bible. The case of John Shelby Spong comes readily to mind. My long dark journey into the New Age partly began after questioning Scripture-doubting ministers.

Proponents of progressive Christianity wield considerable influence among the Generation X and Millennial professing Christians. They've sown seeds of biblical doubt and married Social Justice Issues into a different - more worldly palatable - gospel message.

The same Bible people doubt - and/or reinterpret to their satisfaction - is the one which gives Christians their Blessed Hope and Joy. One either believes the Bible fully, or one cannot be sure of any of it. They are in a precarious position (Matt 7:21-23; 2 Tim 4:1-4; James 3:1).

Don't let them rob you of your faith and joy!

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. Rom 8:18

...though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls. 1Peter 1:8-9

Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. 1John 3:2


Further Reading:
Commentary on The Pilgrim's Progress (Barry Horner)
Punching holes in Scripture

About Alf Cengia 

Last week: The Wrath of Christ

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