Monday, 3 February 2014

Is Progression actually Regression?

I wrote recently about my concept of Regressive Christianity as my most recent attempt to find a description that fits with my beliefs.

It's not easy. The good ones are taken.

But I keep finding myself pondering the term "Progressive Christianity".

The more I dwell on it, the more I find myself coming back to Paul's letters. I love the way the Amplified Bible puts Romans 12:2: "Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you]."

"Conformed to this world" is an interesting thought.

Much of what we consider to be normal today was considered exceptional in the 1st Century. Wealth as we know it - such as affording three meals a day and only working a five-day week - was reserved for the incredibly wealthy. Slaves and their owners worked seven days a week. The "weekend" as we know it is a contrived concept of the last hundred years. A six day week was normal for decades before that because of the "sabbath" concept of Sunday being a "holy" day. Before that beyond Israel there was no weekend. People just worked every day and didn't think about it.

Greed fills our society and pervades others. Communism fell because - amongst other things - it couldn't compete with the materialistic affluence of the West. I acknowledge that it wasn't the only reason, and anyone suggesting it was would clearly be nuts, but it was a contributing factor as the wealth was perceived as freedom.

Pornography is more accessible than at any time in history now. On my computer I have had many problems doing research for my blog and a book concept I'm working on when I search for simple terms and the first page that opens has boobs and other assorted body-parts wiggling in my face before I know what's happened. (I have consequently stopped using the "I Feel Lucky" button on Google and the incidence has dropped drastically). My wife and I are preparing to move, and I am preparing to embark on a new career. Having become a little jaded by the cutthroat mentality of business I am intending to retrain as a primary school teacher. Doing a search for "Classroom discipline and punishment" some weeks ago scared the life out of me. If my female teachers at school had looked and behaved like that I'd probably have struggled academically more than I did due to inability to concentrate - and a large percentage of my classmates would probably have actively tried to fail!

Immorality has flooded our homes and ethical behaviour - Character - has been replaced with the concept of "situational ethics". I believe ethics are how you behave when nobody's looking. Right and wrong used to be absolutes, now they're conditional.

And yet we condemn some behaviours that were applauded a hundred years ago and applaud others that were condemned. We have conformed to the pattern of the world.

The Bible is a book of absolutes. Jesus said "I am the Way", not "I could be the way if you feel like it". God is described "Jesus Christ (the Messiah) is [always] the same, yesterday, today, [yes] and forever (to the ages)." (Hebrews 13:8 Amplified). He said "Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.”" His role was to fulfil the Law, not abolish it. He chose to take our place and accept Death on our behalf to restore relationship in the long term.

Yet the group describing themselves as "Progressive Christians" actually state in their own doctrinal views that "the teachings of Jesus provide but one of many ways to experience the Sacredness and Oneness of life, and that we can draw from diverse sources of wisdom in our spiritual journey". ( That's a direct opposite position from the one Paul took while writing the Letters that form the bulk of the New Testament. It's the opposite of what Jesus is recorded as teaching in the Gospels.

So I've ruled out "Progressive" as a description of my beliefs.

The problem mainly is that much of the energy expended in recent years by the church has been directed at specific behaviours and the groups associated with it. Most recently these sincere, devout and highly intolerant people have targeted homosexuality. Now I'm not of the persuasion that will declare homosexuality to not be a sin. There's too much in both Old and New Testaments declaring sexual immorality of any nature to be sinful for that. But if a secular government wants to endorse same-gender unions and afford them the same civil liberties as heterosexual marriages within that secular environment, they should be allowed to.

After all, idolatry in the form of the fanatical pursuit of famous individuals fits the general description of worshipping an image, profane use of Jesus' name, not keeping the sabbath/Sunday clear to rest, disregarding and disrespecting of parents, adultery and coveting are all standard parts of a secular society. The richest in the land taxing the food the poorest buy and putting the money in their own pockets by huge pay increases and bonuses is theft from the poorest, but has been so entrenched in our minds that we usually fail to recognise it. Western society has worshipped itself instead of God for decades. That just leaves murder and bearing false witness as staples in the secular courts that are considered "crimes". Of course, a smaller-scale theft is prosecuted, and so the society is appeased.

Hmm... Did I step on some toes there?

I hope so.

As Christians we need to break some eggs for this omlette we call Faith to have any meaning. We calmly sit back as people who are meant to be guiding us towards God slowly turn us away from Him. Judaism and Christianity have for over 2000 years (thanks to Judaism) resisted the nature of the "secular" constructs of this world. Paul stood against the Roman and Greek gods. Elijah took on the prophets of false gods. Every major revival of the last two millenia has been led by men and women not afraid to be uncompromising in their adherence to the Gospel.

Call a sin a sin. Practicing greed, idolatry, homosexuality, covetousness or anything else referred to as abhorrent to God in scripture is sin.

Progression isn't just movement. It's movement forwards.

It's movement towards the final goal as defined before the journey begins.

If we change the target after we've set off by moving the goal to something more "socially acceptable" then we are, by definition, placing current society's thinking ahead of God's revealed Will.

The result?

We regress. We regress as far as Sodom adn Gomorrah. The cities weren't destroyed for homosexuality. They were destroyed for not acknowledging God. Abraham asked God to spare the cities for the sake of any Righteous inhabitants. On looking, God found only Lot and his family. He told them to leave, and the rest is history.

This "Progressive" movement is not forward moving. It does not advance the Kingdom. It fails to acknowledge Jesus Christ as the only way to God.

This progression is regression.