Progressive Theology – Shared Affirmations

Patheos recently launched a progressive Christian portal.  During the next two weeks, this new portal is hosting a symposium exploring what progressive Christianity is and why that matters today.  Bruce Epperly, an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ and Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) who serves as  Professor of Practical Theology and Director of Continuing Education at Lancaster Theological Seminary, contributed an article to this week’s discussion on defining the landscape of progressive Christianity.  In that post, Epperly suggests that there are several theological affirmations held in common by progressives:

  1. God is present in all things as the source of energy and vision.
  2. God seeks abundant life for all creation.
  3. God’s revelation is generous and diverse, and is found in every person and religious tradition.
  4. God seeks to maximize freedom and creativity in the creaturely world.
  5. God is constantly doing new things, calling and responding to the world as it is in terms of what it can become.
  6. God invites us to be companions in healing the earth.
  7. The God revealed in all things is uniquely and dynamically revealed in certain persons and moments. Jesus of Nazareth, in his freedom, creativity, and experience of being “chosen” by God, reveals God’s vision of human life and empowers us to be God’s companions in healing the world.
  8. We are all children of God, reflecting divine wisdom and creativity. We have power and energy beyond our imagination to bring forth healing and beauty.
  9. Prayer, meditation, touch, love, and hospitality can transform and heal minds, bodies, relationships, and spirits.
  10. The future is open for both God and us. This means that our actions and commitment can be “tipping points” in the realization of God’s dream of Shalom.
  11. This world is a place of beauty to be cherished and affirmed. The afterlife is not a “better” place but a continuing adventure in companionship with a living and creative God.

So What?

Those outside of progressive Christianity often seek to critique it using standards that simply do not make sense and in doing so illustrate their misunderstanding of what unites the group.  For some people in traditions that find theological common ground through shared creeds, confessions, and catechisms the idea of a creed-less Christianity is not only not appealing but troublesome.  For some people in conservative congregations (whether denominationally affiliated or not) faith that holds answers makes sense while faith that asks questions and is enlivened by paradoxes is nearly incomprehensible.  Current expressions of Christianity offer a full spectrum of theological understanding.  Those who truly seek to understand any group must begin their critique within the boundaries of the group being explored rather than their personal experiences or norms for their theological position (or that of their tradition).

  • Do you think Epperly’s list offers a helpful starting point for framing a shared theological perspective within progressive Christianity? Why or why not?
  • How would the body of Christ be strengthened if members of its varying parts (traditions, denominations, networks, theological vantage points, etc.) invested time to get to know one another better?  What might this type of dialogue look like in your life? In the life of your congregation?

 

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