History is not on your side, Pete.
In response to ongoing discussion from Mr. Enns podcast, The Gospel Coalition Doesn’t Get Progressive Christianity, much concession and caveats were previously mentioned. Even while anti-intellectualism remains problematic for general evangelical Christianity—particularly with The Gospel Coalition—one should note the critics are in no better position to criticize the alleged conservative spectrum if one does not remain fully aware of the realities pertaining to the doctrines from their own position.
This is one of the weakest points to Mr. Enns’ spectrum: history.
As much as one would expect, many disaffected evangelicals tend to delve into the stream of progressive ideology, acting as though the answer provided by this stream of thought casts a form of intellectual enlightenment for those who are continuously challenged by the onset of the Scriptural cannon. Never mind the loosey-goosey evangelical pop tarts who could not engage with problematic dilemmas one finds in the Bible. After all, we can make the Bible available for normal people, right?
Not if one means by normal, that s/he would never consider him/herself a student of history.
Let me explain.
A little research into the history of progressive religion can be traced back to the late seventeenth century, around the same time the Puritans have made their way to the Americas, established a colony and slowly took on the influence of 17th Century English Culture. The history of this theology does go back at least one century further, but since this is not about the history of eastern Europe, skipping the century is warranted. Around this point in time, as the influences continued, questioning the authority of the Scriptures garnered some ground within the United Kingdom, which later carried its influences to the United States.
This is Unitarianism.
With history of going back well over 450 years, one has more than the average amount needed to examine the whims of progressive Christianity. Moreover, one could use this to measure the ongoing progress it had in relations to its’ stiff competitor Reformed Christianity. After all, these controversies were not fought in vain solely based on the denial of Trinity. As matter of fact—according to the American Unitarian Conference—at least seven principles were in direct competition with Reformed Protestantism, which consisted of the following:
- God’s presence is made known in a myriad of ways. Religion should promote a free and responsible search for truth, meaning, communion, and love.
- Reason is a gift from God. Religion should embrace reason and its progeny, including the scientific enterprise which explores God’s creation.
- Free will is a gift from God. Religion should assist in the effort to find a path that exercises that gift in a responsible, constructive, and ethical manner.
- Conscious of the complexity of creation, of the limits of human understanding and of humanity’s capacity for evil in the name of religion, we hold that humility, religious tolerance, and freedom of conscience should be a central part of any religious experience.
- Religious experience is most fulfilling in the context of a tradition. Our religious tradition is the Unitarian tradition, which emphasizes the importance of reason in religion, tolerance, and the unity of God.
- Revelation is ongoing. Religion should draw inspiration not only from its own tradition but from other religious traditions, philosophy and the arts. Although paying due regard for the hard lessons learned in the past and to the importance of religious tradition, religion should not be stagnant but should employ reason and religious experience to evolve in a constructive, enlightened and fulfilling way.
- Conscious of the spiritual and material needs of our fellow men and women, the evil they may be subjected to and the tragedies they may endure, works of mercy and compassion should be a part of any religious experience.
One could probably save himself oodles of time from listening to a Rob Bell podcast or a Pete Enns book because essentially, these bulleted principles are an expression of their thoughts. The complaints of a rigorous, formulaic, comprehension of a Christian faith mentioned in their circles result from a direct belief that revelation is ongoing. Insomuch that religion should employ reason and religious experience to evolve in a constructive, enlightened, and fulfilling way.
In other words, change!
That is the gist of RHE’s books.
Rob Bell’s podcasts.
And Jen Hatmaker.
One could not possibly look past the historicity of this movement and think there are intellectually enlightened thoughts from a pseudointellectual class of academic nitwits! This remains part of the ongoing problem from Mr. Enns, is that he claims on one hand how the Gospel Coalition does not get him while at the same time denying the historical reality of his ideological faith. Even though the connections between progressive Christianity and Unitarianism come off as a bit of a surprise for today’s Evangelicals, the irony of complete and utter ignorance from Mr. Enns’ camp does not stop here at this point—for there are a myriad of religious scandals that plague his neck of the woods which do not necessarily revolve around the concept of sexual abuse.
Entering the camp of heretical cohorts.
Has it ever occurred to anyone why Thomas Jefferson has his own version of the Bible?
Or why Thomas Paine’s Common Sense reflected his aberrant religious worldviews?
Or why Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote The Celestial Railroad?
These are written with the notion these are the products of Unitarian thinking per se. The main point to this whole series is to show the audience there is sufficient reasoning for Evangelicals to reject Progressive Christianity. Because these forms of thinking (Rationalism & Unitarianism) have had an impact from the start of the Reformation to the Year 2020, there is plenty of history to demonstrate the futility of progressive thought and ideology. While Mr. Enns tends to think general Evangelicals do not have the capacity to demonstrate their faith is intellectually robust does not negate that fact. Furthermore, the deliberate failure to take into consideration of approximately five hundred years of history seems to suggest Mr. Enns prefers to engage with professional and intellectual dishonesty.
By taking all these into consideration, one should come to the realization there is a plethora of examples to demonstrate religious scandals, which are not sexual perversions by nature. As matter of fact, much of these scandals continue onward even unto today. Although a continuation of these ideologies within mainline denominations are a major concern, many progressives ought to take note on how these problems started, which is where this post will end.
For the meantime, let the readers take note on the Unitarian views of the Bible, as generally expressed by James Freeman Clark, author of the Principles of Unitarianism.
“ § 11. Unitarians regard the Bible as a sacred book because full of the utterances of inspired souls. It brings us near to God by placing us in communion with the deepest and loftiest experiences of mankind.
§ 12. We believe the Bible to be an inspired book because it is full of the thoughts which come to men by inspiration. The Psalms, the Book of Job, Isaiah, the writings of Paul, and the words of Jesus were not the result of pure thinking, but came from a region higher than the reflective reason.
§ 13. But, though considering it an inspired book, Unitarians also regard the Bible as coming not only from God, but also from man. It is full of human experience, sorrow, joy, temptation, sin, repentance, trust, hope, love. Coming from the deepest places in man’s heart, it goes to the deepest places. It has its heights and depths, its lofty mountain-tops and its level barren plains. It is human, there fore fallible. Written by many men and at different times, it is of very various application and value. There is little that is edifying for us in the Book of Leviticus or the Book of Revelation. Our Bible opens naturally not there, but at the Psalms, the Sermon on the Mount, the parables of Jesus, the ardent utterances of the soul of Paul.
§ 14. Unitarians do not believe in the infallibility of the Bible. Inspiration leads to the sight of truth and reality, but not necessarily to a perfectly accurate description of what is seen. But these errors of expression do not detract from the authority of the Bible as a teacher of the best moral and spiritual truth.
§ 15. Unitarians also see a difference in the moral and religious teaching of different parts of the Bible. The Old Testament teaches a different doctrine from the New in regard to God, duty, and immortality. The truth unfolds itself gradually to human eyes; and the human race may say, as Paul said, “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I felt as a child, I thought as a child; now that I am become a man, I have put away childish things” ( 1 Cor. xiii.II ). The Unitarian objections to the doctrine of plenary or infallible inspiration of the Scripture are such as these:
(a) The Scripture nowhere claims or assumes infallibility. The texts usually relied on (2 Tim. iii. 16 and 2 Peter i. 21) teach that the Prophets and Apostles were inspired, but do not assert that their inspiration made them infallible.
(b) The Scripture contains errors and contradictions which are fatal to the theory of its infallibilty. But if its authority consists in its being more full of truth and goodness than any other book, then its errors of detail cannot shake its divine power over the mind and heart.
(c) The Apostle Paul distinctly declares the partial, provisional, and temporary nature of that which he teaches. Having said (I Cor. ii. 10-16) that he is inspired and led by the Spirit to know and to speak Christian truth, he adds, in the same Epistle (I Cor. xiii. 8-12), that all knowledge, so far as we are able to state it, is partial, relative, and incomplete, and will be done away.”
NOTE: One should take into consideration that the phrase ‘the infallibility of the Bible’ should be readily equated with the term inerrancy. Because this publication predates the fundamentalist-modernist controversy in the late 1920s, readers should discard the notion that biblical inerrancy is a twentieth-century concoction, as described by Ernest Sandeen, author of The Roots of Fundamentalism.
To be continued…
Read the rest of the series at the following links: