As a non-profit ProgressiveChristianity.org relies heavily on the good will of donors to continue bringing individuals and churches – FREE OF COST – the resources and tools needed to further the vision of progressive Christians. If you are in a position to contribute we would be grateful for your donation.   Please Donate Now.

Progressive Christian Ideologies on Grace, Faith, and the Trinity? Q and A

Question

From your website I have had many of my questions answered. I am a member of a relatively progressive Lutheran Church, but have more of a Methodist or Wesleyan concept of Grace. I could not find any ideologies on Grace or even Faith in your website or other sources on Progressive Christianity. Personally my faith is based on continuing my quest of “the Truth” or “the Logos” and I believe that salvation is by Faith, but it must be followed by a Discipleship much like that of Bonhoeffer. I could likewise not find a position on the Trinity, something that I feel is necessary in an absolute monotheism. Finally, the idea of a soul, immortal or not, was not revealed in your doctrine as I in my brief and incomplete review of Progressive Christianity. Thank you for any enlightenment or source of clarification.

Answer

Dear Seeker,

You ask some challenging questions that I cannot answer fully here. However, I will do what I can and hope you keep searching for I believe that seeking/searching is an important responsibility of every human. It is the one thing that separates us from other animals and it is our genetic responsibility to continue looking for new horizons but never forgetting our histories.

The subject of Grace is a humanly created idea based primarily on the story that we humans “sinned” against God, in some specific episode of history. The Christian interpretation of that same story suggest that humans are therefore in need of forgiveness from an all-knowing, sometimes angry, judging God for this terrible thing that our ancestors apparently did . We, as progressives, know that this idea is based on a myth that was an attempt that was created by the ancient biblical people as they tried to explain why people must suffer. These ancient people believed that the gods were punishing them when catastrophic events occurred in their world like fire, floods, plagues, etc. They believed that gods were in control of everything so when bad things happened, it must be a punishment for something they must have done wrong. They also believed that when things were going well, it was a reward from the gods or God. They had a simplistic belief that once upon a time, things must have been perfect, just the way that god planned. Science of course has demonstrated that there was in fact no perfect time and that there was no perfect garden. Today we know that disasters, suffering, including child birth, and death are just part of life. Thanks to the study of myth by people like Joseph Campbell we have a better understanding of how myth was created and was used in ancient cultures to explain why certain things happen. The entire Genesis chapters for example and most of the entire Bible is full of myth as people in the biblical era attempted to explain what was otherwise unexplainable in their time. That is where myth as come from and frankly it still does. Jesus was living in such a context and as a result much of his language and concepts are therefore colored by his moment in history. That is why some of his deep insights are so remarkable.

I am not certain what you mean by the term “faith” here. Are you referring to a faith in God? Faith in Jesus the son of God or faith in yourself? Are you assuming that there is a theistic God that intercedes into human history? Eight million Jews may have once had faith in God that would answer prayers but they died a horrible death in gas chambers and fire pits in the 1940s. I have held the hand of way too many parents as we watched their child die from a disease or car accidents, in spite of their faith and they their prayers to their God to be able to fathom a God that intercedes in human to history. I do have faith that I will live a more fulfilling life if I earnestly follow the path that Jesus offers us, for example. But my faith is not based on some belief that Jesus was uniquely divine and he or his “father in heaven is going to fix things for me. I would accept that there is are qualities that reflect something I am willing to call divine qualities and some individual are able to manifest these qualities at a much higher level than most of us. But I believe that we all have that same opportunity. Jesus did suggest that we should have faith in the “I Am” of life, translated sometimes to a word called god or the father. But I think the better translation of the intent of his words would be that we can have faith that the universe will provide. We can also have or develop a faith that all creation is perfect as a whole.

I am not certain what you mean by absolute monotheism but it sounds to me like you want to believe in a theistic God in the heavens that is in control of the universe. I am afraid that I would have to have a better idea about what you mean by that term in order to respond more thoroughly. I have written in the past about my belief that God is the an energy that flows through all creation. It is a positive energy and we have the choice to align ourselves with that energy or not. As we become more intentional about aligning our thoughts and actions with this source, I believe our lives become more fulfilling and purposeful, more full of love and harmony. Every spiritual path is referring to this same infinite source but the form and path that was created to tap into that Source was dependent on the culture and setting out of which it came.

I think that is the best I can do with the information I have. I hope this is helpful. Thank you for writing.

Sincerely,
Fred

Review & Commentary