What are the beliefs that define Christianity

Three beliefs that some progressive Christians and atheists share

"Listen. I have to explain something to you ... I am post-Christian ... I don't believe it anymore. I don't believe any more of it. "

These are the words of the former Christian pastor Bart Campolo. After leaving behind the faith of his youth, he directed them to his father, the famous evangelist Tony Campolo. He explains his journey to secular humanism, which was a 30 year long process through all stages of heresy. In other words, his theology went from conservative to liberal and then it went completely secular.

He estimates that in ten years' time around 30 to 40 percent of so-called progressive Christians will also have become atheists. Progressive Christianity is difficult to define because there is no creed or list of beliefs that officially unite progressive Christians. But progressive Christians tend to reject the historical-biblical understanding of marriage and sexuality and to deny or redefine doctrines of faith in general, such as atonement or the authority of the Bible.

Therefore, Campolo believes that the progressives have largely given up Christianity by simply redefining terms to hold onto a semblance of their faith. He believes that the generation after them will see the depths of this new theology. Basically, since nothing has been done to remain a Christian, they will say, "Let's just say it as it is," and eventually leave the faith entirely.

Stories of repentance

This development that Campolo describes can be found in many people. The Christian musicians Gungor recently made headlines when Lisa shared a buzzfeed video of her husband's year-long conversion to atheism. The video highlights the couple's spiritual development from belief to heresy and unbelief ... and back to belief. Even if Lisa's atheism lasted only a day, the belief that she and Michael ultimately adopted has very little to do with historical Christianity. After declaring that he no longer feels "spiritually homeless", Michael has described himself as an "apophatic, mystical Hindu, pantheist, Christian, Buddhist and skeptic with a penchant for nihilistic progressive existentialism".

The Gungors aren't the only ones. Mike McHargue, better known as "Science Mike", tells a similar story of deconstruction with temporary atheism and a return to the beliefs that are far from the Christianity he lived before. He told thatRelevant magazinethat after he started writing and speaking about his story, he received thousands of emails from people sharing the experience. Even the well-known skeptical New Testament scholar Bart Ehrmann went through a phase of progressive Christianity on his way from evangelical Christian to atheism. Now he believes that “it is possible to be both an agnostic and an atheist. That's how I understand myself. "

Music groups like Caedmon’s Call composed film music for many evangelical youth. For this reason, it is tragic to hear that former member, Derek Webb, recently stated that he had given up his belief because he believed Christian history was "not true". He describes his last album,Fingers Crossed, as a "fairy tale about two divorces," referring to his divorce from his wife and from God. There is a song on the album called "Goodbye for Now" in which he complains:

So either you aren’t real
or I am just not chosen
maybe I'll never know
Either way my heart is broken.
So goodbye for now.

(Eng .: So either you are not real
or I'm just not chosen
Maybe I'll never know
Either way, my heart is broken.
So goodbye for now.)

These “stories of repentance” (see “Jen Hatmaker and the Power of De-Conversion Stories”) have almost become a ritual of passage in the progressive church, so that podcasts, websites and conferences are devoted entirely to the process of deconstruction. Webb's album has even been described by some as "an ode to deconstruction," which inspired a podcast called The Airing of Grief, where listeners can tell the stories of their apostasy.

The future will show whether Campolo's theory that a so-called progressive Christianity leads to atheism is correct. Correlation is not the same as causality, but it is noteworthy that both beliefs share some essential beliefs.

Here are three atheistic ideas some progressive Christians have adopted that may lead them to atheism.

1. The Bible is not trustworthy.

"[The Bible] is an absolutely human book." (Rob Bell)

"If we see the Bible as a book that is historically true, the Gospels become a crippling problem." (Peter Enns)

"Everything in the Bible that is supernatural or contradicting the usual processes of the natural world is not real but mythological." (James Burklo)

"Why should I describe a text as 'infallible' and 'inerrant', which assumes a flat earth standing on pillars, takes slavery for granted and presupposes patriarchal values ​​such as polygamy?" (Rachel Held Evans)

Are these the ruminations of hardened skeptics? Or the declarations of atheists who are determined to destroy Christianity? No. These are actually the words of progressive Christian writers about their own holy book.

Nobody would think twice about whether an atheist was mocking the supernatural stories of the Bible. Yet many are surprised that progressive Christians share this skepticism. Progressive Christian authors David Felten and Jeff Procter-Murphy consider it a fact that the virgin birth, Jesus' healing miracles, and the resurrection should only be understood metaphorically. Progressive writer Rachel Held Evans recommends that Christians be less concerned about the historical accuracy of these miracle stories and focus more on the theological points they teach.

2. There is no answer to the problem of evil.

For atheists, one of the longest lasting reasons against believing in God is the reality of evil and suffering. In fact, over the years many Christians have struggled with the old dilemma: If God is good, why is there evil? If he's omnipotent, why isn't he doing anything about it? Sadly, if one does not come to an answer and attains peace over these questions, the temptation is to redefine the beliefs one had - or to leave them behind altogether.

In an interview on a well-known Irish TV show, the atheist Stephen Fry was asked what he would say if he died and found that God did indeed exist. He replied, “Bone cancer in children? What shoud that? How can you allow that to happen? How can you allow a world to be created where there is so much misery that we did not cause. That's wrong. ”Fry said at the end:“ If God existed, he would be 'absolutely insane' ”.

Derek Webb said similar things when he recently spoke about his conversion from Christianity to atheism: “Either everything is chaos - or there is a God who is both full of love and omnipotent and just a bloody a **** hole. One of the two must be true. "

Lisa Gungor said that one of the turning points in the deconstruction of her faith was a visit to the concentration camp in Auschwitz. She hit rock bottom shortly thereafter, while still dealing with her cousin's battle with cancer. Her temporary atheism turned into a kind of belief after the birth of the second child. Although she does not use a specific label to describe her current belief system, she refers to God as the “divine mother” and says, “I like the way of Jesus. I don't have a definition for it. "

Former atheist C.S: Lewis wrote:

“My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But where did I get this idea of ​​just and unjust? You cannot call a line crooked if you have no idea of ​​a straight line. What did I compare this universe to when I called it unjust? "

For Lewis, the problem of evil led to belief in God. But in the case of progressive Christians and atheists, it often leads to deconstruction and disbelief.

3. Culture-adapted moral concepts

Many atheists believe that an act is moral or immoral because of its effect on the common good. Without the need to refer to God, this view leads to certain social norms being followed.

It is no different for progressive Christianity. Once the Bible has lost its position of authority, authority usually shifts to ourselves. Our own conscience, opinion, and preferences become the lens through which life and morality are evaluated and understood - and become mainly shaped by the current cultural environment.

In 2016, Jen Hatmaker shocked American Christian culture when she announced that she was now endorsing same-sex marriage. LGBT activist Matthew Vines tweeted that this made her “one of the greatest evangelicals”. She is certainly not the only self-appointed evangelical who does not take a historical Christian position on sexuality and marriage.

For atheists, morality has never been based on the Bible, and progressive Christians are changing the Bible to fit the moral standards of the culture.

Atheists in the making?

After his conversion to secular humanism, Campolo was convinced that he still had something to offer as a clergyman. Instead of preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, he now teaches the principles of humanism as a minister at the University of Cincinnati. In doing so, he can use the skills that he has developed as a Christian clergyman. He works like any other clergyman, meeting with students to give them advice and help.

If Campolo is right, many progressive Christians are on their way to becoming mature atheists. He will be there to support and offer friendship to those who have turned away from Christianity in a world without God.

This does not mean that every Christian who has progressive views on some issues is on the straight line to atheism. Progressive Christianity covers a spectrum. But Campolo says that turning away from historical teachings can be addicting. He explains: "Once you have started to adapt your theology to the visible reality in front of you, there will be a development that will not end."

For Campolo, sovereignty had to go first. For others, it may be belief in biblical norms about sexuality and the sexes or Jesus' atoning death on the cross. No matter what it is, once someone believes their own thoughts, feelings, and opinions to be an authoritative source of truth, their beliefs will reflect what they prefer rather than what is true. The further a Christian has gone down this path, the further away he is from a real relationship with God. Tim Keller aptly puts it:

“What happens if you delete everything from the Bible that hurts your feelings or is against your will? If you pick what you want to believe and reject the rest, how can you have a God who can contradict you? It is impossible! One will have a robot god! A God that you have essentially made yourself and not a God with whom you can have a real relationship. "

The Christian answer

What can we do to protect our communities and families from this?

Natasha Crain recently pointed out that staunch Christians are a minority in the West and that they should prepare themselves and their children for this reality. We need to understand what it really means to take the narrow road and focus our gaze on the glorious price that awaits those who walk on it. We must deal with questions of faith carefully and wisely, with compassion and clarity. Instead of just saying “just believe” or “you shouldn't question your belief”, we should create a safe space for people to ask difficult questions and talk about doubts.

Really following Jesus was something that went against the culture of the time as early as the first century. Christians have always had to stand up against the zeitgeist. If we don't, it can be a first step towards disbelief. The teachings of the Bible are not progressive - they are eternal. So we must “hold fast to the profession of hope and not waver; for he is faithful who promised them ”(Hebrews 10:23).

At the end of the day, many of the contemporary views that many consider "progressive" are not that progressive: they are old. They are just an echo of the age-old question, "Should God really have said?" (Genesis 3: 1), which was a portent of the worst rebellion imaginable. And we all know where this is going.

Alisa Childers is an American singer and songwriter who also writes on her blog about apologetics for doubting Christians and honest skeptics.