People objecting to positions taken by The Center for Progressive Christianity play an important role in helping us to define more clearly who and what we are. One such person and I had an E-mail exchange that began with a message from him that arrived under the subject heading, “Are you Christian?” I have arranged our correspondence in the form of a dialogue:
Objector: Are you Christian?
Adams: By any definition that makes sense to me, I am a Christian. I am a follower of Jesus. I attempt to follow the way to God that I find in the life and teachings of Jesus as glimpsed through the gospels and the letters of Paul. I also recognize that other people have other ways to God, and I do not claim my way is the only way or even the best way. Having stated my position, I realize that you may define “Christian” in terms that would exclude me, and I respect your right to do so.
Objector: What I read at your web site is more of an ethical culture society with theological trappings.
Adams: Thank you for taking the time to investigate TCPC. By your choice words, I gather that you do not have a high regard for ethical culture, with or without theological language. Let me also point out that The Center for Progressive Christianity is not a “society” or a church or an organization but a loose network of individuals and churches who care about people who have found organized religion to be irrelevant, ineffectual, or repressive.
Objector: Since my United Church of Christ Pastor is bent on becoming part of your organization, I have done a comparison of the United Church of Christ Statement of Faith and your Eight Point Definition. I find that you eviscerate the core faith of the UCC.
Adams: As I am sure you would agree, The Center for Progressive Christianity does not have the power to eviscerate the faith of any individual or church body. I suppose you mean that if your congregation were to affirm the Eight Points by which we define progressive Christianity, the faith of people in your church might no longer correspond to the UCC Statement of Faith. I also suppose you mean that if your congregation welcomed people who have difficulty in giving assent to the UCC Statement of Faith, the church and its ministry would suffer.
You may be right.
If I have misunderstood you, I would be pleased to have a clarification of your position. I would also be pleased to know what specific points in our statement you find unacceptable or inadequate.
Objector: One of my faith bench marks is God’s choice to be uniquely revealed in Jesus of Nazareth.
Adams: Surely you are not using “unique” in the original sense of the word as “single” or “sole”. If revelation began and ended with Jesus, we would have to disavow not only the Hebrew Scriptures but many of St. Paul’s insights and much of the other Christian writings that appeared subsequent to the gospels.
If you are using “unique” as it has evolved to mean “not typical, unusual”, then we are in total agreement. The revelation in Jesus was different from any other.
Between these two meanings of “unique” is a third, which perhaps you had in mind: “having no equal”. I am troubled whenever Christians claim that the revelation of God in Jesus has no equal. Such a claim implies that all other revelations are inferior, hardly a respectful attitude to take toward people of other faiths.
Last year I heard a talk by a lawyer from Sri Lanka. As a Christian, he had suffered much because of his faith, but he closed his remarks with this thought. If the Lord Buddha and the Lord Jesus met on the road, they would not argue about who was the greatest. Instead, each would say to the other, “My lord, how may I serve you?”
I did not hear from this objector again. I don’t know how he and his pastor are getting along, but I appreciate his willingness to raise the questions.