The de facto leadership of the liberal mainline church has lost its mind, but does not know it. For as long as it has been living in the sanitorium populated by secular cultural and intellectual elitists, most of whose beliefs it shares, it feels itself to be in the mainstream, and so judges itself sane. But insanity is the norm in an insane asylum. A church which has adopted the fundamental mores and beliefs of its surrounding worldly culture has lost the mind of Christ. To be sane by the world’s standards is to be insane by God’s. Strong words, I know. But I will gladly take my stand in the shadow of the apostle Paul who commanded his readers: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, so that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2).
Years ago, until I read the Bible, I was a philosophical and theological liberal. More liberal than most Christian “progressives,” I harbored no illusion of being a follower of Christ, and shunned any veneer of Christian imagery or language. I was a card-carrying universalist, convinced that all “truths” ultimately led to enlightenment. I believed in the native goodness and upward evolution of the human spirit. I taught that we were all part of an interconnected, organic whole. I believed in a benevolent Universal Mind which I could tap into through mental and bodily disciplines. Over three decades ago, I was a “progressive” of the most forward kind, before the term ever became popular in liberal church circles. Hardly Christian, I was a devotee of Eastern mysticism, a practitioner and then licensed teacher (trained in India) of classical yoga.
Then I met Jesus Christ through the Gospels in the presence of his Spirit, and my former world crumbled. In future blogs I will spell out why this was so, why it had to be so. But for now, suffice it to say, Jesus Christ deconstructed my faulty views about the nature, cause and purpose of the universe, the identity of God, the meaning of life, the nature and destiny of humankind, and my own failings as well as my personal calling.
For the past 28 years as a Presbyterian minister it has surprised, shocked and pained me to see both the de jure and de facto leaders of my denomination march a once great institution of gospel proclamation and action down the road of ruin paved by the bankrupt ideology of liberalism. Oh, ours is a liberalism festooned with Christian terminology and still marked by the vestiges of common grace and morality, but it has ejected the gospel from its heart and replaced it with a Jesus who cannot save, one made in its image. In this setting, I have become an unrepentant apostate liberal trying to make my way in a world of regressive Christian professionals.
But as a rather reclusive, somewhat self-doubting evangelical, I have managed to hide in my hole and keep my head down these last 30 years, bemoaning the increasing cultural captivity of the PCUSA and wishing someone with gospel sanity would step forward to lead us willing recluses back to God’s heart. I acknowledge that with various fits and starts attempts have been make to break us out of the sanatorium, but none has succeeded to date.
I now realize that though I am just one voice, and not by temperament a martial leader, my love for Christ, his church and his Kingdom demands that I speak my mind and heart, come what may. So I begin this series, investigating and critiquing the theological underpinnings of progressive “Christian” thought, especially those I heard appealed to at our most recent General Assembly. I will start with an assessment of the eight foundational beliefs of progressive Christianity as delineated by The Center for Progressive Christianity (www.tcpc.org), and then move on to twelve foundational premises leading many Presbyterian progressives to the views they are so aggressively pursuing today.
My mood as I undertake this self-imposed task swings back and forth between Eeyore and Tigger. If you are still reading, please pray for me.