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Comparing Fundamental and Progressive Christianity: One Person’s View

Since November 22, 2011, I have been what might be considered a student of Progressive Christianity.  This is the date of hearing about Progressive Christian thinking for the first time when listening to Bishop John Shelby Spong being interviewed on Minnesota Public Radio.  I said to myself, “Much of what he says I agree with and I no longer feel so alone!”

I now consider myself a Progressive Christianity adherent in spite of my church membership in a mainline, rural, ELCA church.  Though I certainly claim to be no expert, I have been a keen follower of the and TCPC web sites and have done some branching off to resources suggested on-line.  No, I haven’t read all I really need to read or could read.  I have only started to delve into some of the books written by Bishop Spong.  I recently finished reading Jesus For The Non-Religious, a real eye-opener.  I have read all the question and answer weeklies since their inception by Bishop Spong.  Rev. Jim Burklo’s web site is something I regularly go to.  I receive his weekly “Musings” articles on-line.  I’ve done much thinking of my own.  Though not an expert nor having a theological degree (I am a former psychologist), I would like to share the listing I came up with that, to me, contrasts Biblical fundamentalism with what I perceive Progressive Christianity to be.  Later in life, my listing may allow room for changes as I continue to grow spiritually.
One caveat in making my list was imposing on myself a limit of four words for each comparative description.  However, this constraint on myself allows no room for further elaboration but forces me to be using an economy of words.
          FUNDAMENTAL                                              PROGRESSIVE                             
Reference to “biblical authority”                     Self-directed biblical interpretation
Heaven/hell dichotomy                                     Unfathomable eternal destiny
Creedal adherence                                              Individual belief perspective
God as “trinity”                                                    God/humans monotheistically “one”
Bible quoting excessively “wordy”                  Using selected biblical quotations
Devil as real entity                                             There’s only “evil” people
Dogma and doctrine provinciality                  Individual beliefs are valued
Three-tiered universe                                        Scientifically defined universe
Literal “second coming”                                    Revelation description not decipherable
Sin emphasis                                                        Self-improvement emphasis
Adam’s “fall” as real                                           Eden garden as metaphor
Genesis creation account                                  Evolution and Big Bang
Heterosexual union only                                   Love’s open boundary acceptance
Bible as God-inspired                                        Bible: authors’ God experiences
Miracles as literal                                               Miracles as symbolic/metaphorical
Bible supports “end times”                              Earth’s geo-astronomical fate
Ten Commandment stone tablets                 Commandments as humanly recorded
Literal resurrection and ascension                Jesus’ eternal passing unknown
Belief-centered emphasis                                Behavior-centered emphasis
Jesus as only “way”                                           No “one” Godly path
“Faith” primary over rationality                    Rationality shapes faith
Faith healing                                                      Illness acceptance “with” God
Prophetic futuristic revelations                     Naturalistic “come what may”
Fear of God admonition                                  Fearless “going forth”
God perceived more concretely                     God embraced more abstractly
A “worshipping” tribal mentality                  Appreciating God’s awesome mystery
Tyrannical God acts believed                          Tyranny as biblical myth
Earthly circumscribed time frame                 Endless cosmological time frame
“Witnessing” – biblically based emphasis     Sharing personal God-revelations
Jesus as “only” path                                                    Multiple God-pathways
Anthropomorphic God bias                                    God as present panentheistically
Clerical/church tradition adherence                   Religious “breaking free”
“Obedience” to paternalistic God                          Living responsibly, loving freely
God as punishing parent                                            Living your own consequences
Bible: absolute spiritual guide                                 Various spiritual expression forms
Prayer petitioning emphasis                                    Prayer as meditative acceptance
Heaven-bound destiny                                               Desiring fuller Creator Consciousness
Jesus as God’s “son”                                                     Jesus humanly reveals God
Post-Jesus: Holy Spirit                                                God’s spirit always was
“Preachy” church/religious style                            Free contemplative seeking/searching
Security-bound biblical literalism                           God revealed multiple ways
Strict biblically based answers                                  Entertaining other pondered viewpoints
Continuing fourth century interpretations         Scholarly science augments tradition
Exclusive “Savior” necessity                                    “Ground of being” realization
From/into the sky                                                          God within and throughout
Excessive biblical referencing/quoting               Spiritual communication — “everyday” words
Jesus’ “God-head” equality                                        Jesus: divine-like human
Ancient religion complacency                                 Openness to evolutionary thoughts
Security in concrete literality                                  Comfort in questioning unknowns
Eternal reward versus punishment                       Destiny mysterious, more abstract
Uses concretely harsh wording                              Philosophically worded preference
Reason is “the Word”                                                 Allows a scientific rationale
Stereotypically patterned                                        Innovation acceptance
 list  by Randall Wehler, March 2014

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