Here, I want to give my own thoughts about the definition of progressive Christianity, as I understand the term and apply it to myself.
Basically, and at the risk of oversimplifying, (most) evangelicals believe that the Bible is the inerrant, infallible word of God and the very foundation of Christianity.
Of course, there are differences in the way infallibility is understood, and some conceptions are much more sophisticated than others.
Yet, the large majority of evangelicals agree that whatever stands in the Bible must be devoutly believed in, even if this leads quite a few of them to conclude that genocide and the butchering of babies is sometimes okay, or that God predetermined many human beings to end up in hell where they’ll suffer eternally for sins he pre-ordained them to do.
But they generally beg the question: if we found out that the God of an inerrant Bible is not only not superior to our greatest, most beautiful ethical ideas, but infinitely inferior to them and (grating for the sake of the argument) that this being is real, why should we worship him? And why should we call him God anyway?
To my mind, both progressive and liberal Christianities begin with the realization that it is neither epistemologically nor morally permissible to believe everything standing in our favorite holy book without any kind of reality-check. Our faith should always welcome facts from the external world and from our undeniably true moral intuitions to correct and possibly abandon our theological doctrines.
If we don’t, we cannot bring up a coherent answer to Sam Harris’s contention that religious people would systematically slit the throat of every girl with red hair if God said so in their sacred scriptures.
Liberals believe that miracles are impossible (or at the very least extremely unlikely) and that we should interpret the resurrection as a psychological experience of the first disciples. Many go as far as saying that God cannot be personal (even as a distant landlord) and that he has to be some kind of energy or impersonal concept.
Unlike them, progressive Christians do believe in the reality of a supernatural world, or are at the very least open to it (like in my case).
But they don’t view the Christian faith as fixed, unchangeable, but as constantly evolving as new data come in to correct and improve our beliefs.
This raises an interesting question: if we’ve given up inerrancy, how can we make a difference between true and false beliefs about God?
While I cannot pretend to speak for every self-described progressive Christian, my response would be that:
1) God has necessarily to be a perfect being
2) Despite all their flaws, humans are quite able to recognize goodness and perfection (and that’s what makes us guilty, like Paul expressed it in Roman 2).
Now, I welcome all your thoughts to this subject, hopefully we’ll have an enjoyable conversation!
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