[Originally published on thegospelcoalition.org]
“Listen. I gotta break it to you . . . I’m post-Christian. . . . I don’t believe it anymore. I don’t believe any of it.”
These are the words former Christian minister Bart Campolo recalls speaking to his famous evangelist father, Tony Campolo, after leaving the faith of his youth. He explained that his journey to secular humanism was a 30-year process of passing through every stage of heresy. In other words, his theology “progressed” from conservative to liberal to entirely secular.
He predicted that in 10 years, 30 percent to 40 percent of so-called progressive Christians will also become atheists. Progressive Christianity is tough to define, because there isn’t a creed or list of beliefs that progressive Christians officially unite around. However, progressive Christians tend to reject the historic biblical understanding of marriage and sexuality, and generally deny or redefine doctrines such as the atonement and biblical authority.
As a result, Campolo believes that for the most part, progressives have already abandoned Christianity, simply redefining terms in an effort to hold on to some semblance of their faith. He believes the generation behind them will recognize the shallowness of this new theology—and, with nothing invested in remaining a Christian, they’ll basically say, “Let’s just call it what it is,” and leave the faith altogether.
The trajectory Campolo identifies isn’t difficult to spot. Husband-and-wife Christian recording duo Gungor recently made headlines when Lisa described her husband’s year-long conversion to atheism in a Buzzfeed video titled, “I Stopped Believing in God after Pastoring a MegaChurch.” The video highlighted the couple’s spiritual evolution from faith to “heretical” to unbelieving . . . and back to belief. Although Lisa’s own atheism lasted only a day, the faith she and Michael have finally come to embrace looks little like historic Christianity. After stating he no longer feels “spiritually homeless,” Michael identified himself as an “Apophatic mystic Hindu pantheist Christian Buddhist skeptic with a penchant for nihilistic progressive existentialism.”
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You might recognize the name Lisa Gungor as one half of the singer/songwriter duo, Gungor, who have written and recorded widely beloved songs such as "Dry Bones," and "Beautiful Things." A few years ago, the Gungors made headlines after revealing they no longer believe in biblical historical narratives such as a literal Adam and Eve, or Noah's flood. They even compared these notions to believing in Santa Claus.
For many Evangelicals, this came as an utter shock. But for those who were paying attention, the Gungors had been veering from historic Christianity for a while, and none of this happened in a vacuum. To help connect the dots, Lisa Gungor recently penned her memoir, The Most Beautiful Thing I've Seen: Opening Your Eyes to Wonder.
The Wild Goose Fest, Abortion, and Progressive Christianity: With Chelsen Vicari—The Alisa Childers Podcast #36
The New Testament: How Do We Know We Have an Accurate Copy? With Dr. Peter Gurry—The Alisa Childers Podcast #35
"Once upon a time, there lived a girl with a magic book."
The opening line of Rachel Held Evans' new book, Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again—resonates. Like Evans, I grew up in the Evangelical subculture of the eighties and nineties, replete with sword drills, purity rings, and scare films about the rapture. We were well aware of the dangers of playing Dungeons and Dragons, listening to secular music, and backward masking. Like all good Christian kids of this era, we sang "Friends Are Friends Forever" at the end of summer camp every single year.
Evans describes her childhood affection for the Bible which told tales of "kings and queens, farmers and warriors, giants and sea monsters, and dangerous voyages." (She forgot unicorns, but we'll let that one slide.) She walks the reader through her stages of disillusionment, as she began to notice things like Abraham being rewarded for agreeing to commit child sacrifice. She notes the horror of the Canaanite conquest and the dark side of the Noah's ark story. She wrote, "If God was supposed to be the hero of the story, then why did God behave like a villain?" (p. xii)
I once sat with another parent at a playground making small talk about religion. (I know, right?) He was a Progressive Christian who didn't believe in Original Sin. He pointed to his daughter playing sweetly with another girl and said, "See her? She's innocent. She has to be taught to do bad things." At that very moment, I kid you not, she had a Toddlers and Tiaras-level meltdown, tantruming all over the playground. He sheepishly chuckled and said, "Well, maybe you're right."
As I revealed in my last post, progressives typically deny the doctrine of Original Sin. But historically, Original Sin is how Christians have answered the question, "What's wrong with the world?" In today's post, we'll look at the historic and progressive understandings of redemption and restoration.