Where’s the Chocolate?: The Disappointments of Progressive Christianity

Easter mornings as a Hiltz kid were almost as exciting as Christmas mornings. My brothers and I would go to bed Saturday night knowing that on Sunday a special Easter basket would be waiting for us on our dressers when we woke up.

The best part of any Easter basket is most certainly the chocolate, and no self-respecting basket is complete without a chocolate Easter bunny. Though I love those bunnies, I do have one complaint.

They’re hollow.

How frustrating is that! You tear off the shiny foil wrapper to reveal what you expect to be solid chocolatey goodness. Then as you take the first bite, it crumbles into pieces that fall into your mouth, lap, and floor. Your bunny–and now you–are empty on the inside.

Popular modern Christianity reminds me of a chocolate bunny. It looks appealing and satisfying on the outside, but when you bite into it, you find it’s completely hollow. You’re left disappointedly wondering, “Where’s the chocolate?” You had hoped there would be something more.

This hollow form of Christianity is subtly invading the Church by providing a judgment-free zone with promises of love and inclusivity and by striving to make the Christian faith cool, “relevant,” and attractive to younger generations.

I’m talking about liberal or progressive Christianity, and it’s a new system of theology that, once you get past the shiny wrapper, is dangerously postmodern.

ProgressiveChristianity.org gives this definition: “Progressive Christianity is an open, intelligent, and collaborative approach to the Christian tradition and the life and teachings of Jesus that creates a pathway into an authentic and relevant religious experience.”

Um…what? This definition is decidedly vague. To better understand progressive Christianity, let’s take a look at what its supporters believe.

Liberal Christians are ones who…

Promote community that is affirming of all people, religions, and lifestyles.

It’s true. God loves everyone, and so should we. But there is a notable difference between love and affirmation.

During His earthly ministry, Jesus loved sinners. He showed great compassion in healing their hurting and broken bodies. He associated with them, ate with them, and attended their parties. He forgave them of various transgressions and even died for them, but never once did he affirm their sin.

In today’s society, being called judgmental and bigoted is one of the worst but seemingly easiest insults to receive. Whenever conviction of sin looms near, offenders scream at their accusers, “Don’t judge me!” This demand is closely followed by a hasty quoting of Matthew 7:1. “The Bible says, ‘Judge not, that you be not judged.’ So there!” Arms crossed, tongue protruded — end of conversation.

Yes, the Bible does caution us about judging others so hastily. Christ warns against arrogant, condemnatory judgment because critics are just as likely to fall into the same sins as those criticized.

But the humble offering of corrective counsel is encouraged, even necessary, for an individual’s spiritual health. Several verses in Scripture emphasize the importance of spiritual correction and how to do it correctly.

  • Psalm 141:5–The reproof of a righteous man is considered a kindness by the one who receives it.
  • Galatians 6:1–Restore a brother in a spirit of gentleness.
  • Matthew 18:15–Go privately to your friend and tell him of his offense against you.
  • 2 Thessalonians 3:15–Do not consider him an enemy but warn him as a brother.
  • Proverbs 12:1–The one who hates reproof is stupid. Yep, the Bible actually uses the word “stupid” (ESV).

The Church must love the sinner but also confront his sin. This knowledge leads us to the first disappointment of progressive Christianity.

Disappointment #1: It does not deal with the sin problem. 

Progressive Christianity appeals to the masses because of its emphasis on love and inclusivity while downplaying sin and its consequences. Sin is avoided instead of confronted. Lifestyles and practices that blatantly contradict biblical teaching are accepted, affirmed, and ignored all in the name of love. Believe it or not, sin matters to God, so much so that He sent His Son to die for it. Love that sits back and watches a friend walk unheeded into judgment is not real love.

Question the inerrancy of Scripture.

Conservative Christians hold the Bible as the ultimate standard for how we live our lives. As we study it, God reveals Himself to us and teaches what He expects of us. We also read of His great love for us and the ultimate sacrifice of Christ on the cross.

Liberal Christian pastors and teachers use phrases like “The Scriptures contain the word of God,” “The Bible contains contradictions because men wrote it,” or “I disagree with Paul’s teaching here.” These claims may not initially seem like a big deal, but the damage they can cause to the Christian faith is extensive.

If one verse of God’s Word is errant, all of Scripture is susceptible to errancy and is therefore untrustworthy. If we can’t believe God’s Word, how can we know Jesus is the Son of God as He claims? If Jesus is not God’s Son, He is not the Savior. If that’s the case, we are Savior-less sinners doomed to an eternity in hell.

Yikes. We’ve got a lot riding on the inerrancy of the Bible after all.

Every word in Scripture has been inspired or “breathed out” by God and is profitable for doctrine, correction, and instruction in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). We can trust the truths found in the pages of God’s Word because they are just that–God’s words. The Bible does not merely contain the word of God; it IS the Word of God.

Because of this, Christians must trust the Bible in its entirety. You can’t pick and choose parts of the Bible that you want to believe and ignore the teachings with which you disagree.

And here we find another disappointment of liberal Christianity.

Disappointment #2: Human interpretation is a poor substitute for the authoritative standard of God's truth. 

Those who question the inerrancy of Scripture appoint themselves as the ultimate authority of their lives. They get to decide what is right and wrong and are responsible to no one for their actions. History proves that when humanity does what is right in their own eyes, dire consequences are sure to follow. But God has given us clear commandments in His Word that, if obeyed, will lead to a joyful, fulfilled life (Proverbs 19:23, 22:4).

Reject the existence of absolute truth.

This one is entirely laughable because the phrase “there are no absolute truths” is in itself an absolute truth.

Aside from this inherent contradiction, further implications of this postmodern claim should concern us. Let’s imagine a liberal Christian society, shall we?

Imagine a world where God’s many promises in Scripture are no longer absolute. The comfort found in scriptural truth is now unavailable. What would believers have left to cling to for hope and assurance of salvation? Feelings.

I feel saved; therefore, I am. I sense God’s presence; therefore, I know I’m not forsaken.

Am I alone in knowing I could never persevere in my Christian walk in such a world? Does anyone else have days when they don’t FEEL their faith?

For the progressive Christian, feelings replace facts, and these emotions come from a fickle heart that is deceitful and desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9). This foolish trade leaves you with no truth to claim on days when you’re not feeling your faith.

Thank you, progressive Christianity, for yet another disappointment.

Disappointment #3: The feelings on which liberal Christian theology is based are fleeting.

The existence of absolute truth is so vital to the Christian faith because, quite frankly, living a godly life can be hard. That is why Christians cling firmly to God’s promises to give the wisdom to face uncertainty (James 1:5), renew our resolve in the daily struggle against temptation (James 4:7), forgive our most egregious sins (1 John 1:9), provide strength in our weakness (Isaiah 40:29), grant us eternal life (John 3:16), and so much more.

If you find yourself drawn to the enticing lies of liberal “Easter bunny” Christianity, I implore you not to be fooled by the pretty packaging of postmodernism. It may guarantee happiness, love, and freedom, but those promises are empty. I can assure you that a life dedicated to serving the Lord and obeying His Word brings true satisfaction that is so much sweeter than chocolate.

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