The State of the Gospel Coalition: Being More “Progressive”
A sociologist named Dr. George Yancey has been studying the differences between progressive Christians and conservative Christians (terms that shouldn’t be used in describing members of Christs family but for the purpose of this article they are used to highlight differences in believers that are living under a false gospel) for several years. The findings of his research will be published in a book coming out in the summer of 2021. The book is going to be called One Faith No Longer: The Transformation of Christianity in Red and Blue America.
He's taking a look at the differences between these two groups from a theological perspective and a political perspective. This article that was published on The Gospel Coalition is very interesting. It analyzes the beliefs from a more political perspective.
In defining these two different categories Dr Yancey describes conservative Christians as those who believe that the bible is God's inherent word and that Jesus is the only path to salvation. By contrast he identifies progressive Christians as those who do not believe that the Bible is the inerrant word of God or that Jesus is the only path to salvation. The article points out that there's been much criticism over conservative Christians entangling themselves in politics. Conservative Christians have been under fire for their political activism however, this article points out that progressive Christians are not without their political entanglements. In fact, one of the findings of the study is that progressive Christians actually prioritize political values more than conservative Christians. It also shows that political conformity is more important for progressive Christians than it is for conservative Christians.
Dr. Yancey lays out three reasons why he believes progressive Christians are actually more political than conservative Christians. The first reason is different framework worldviews. Progressive Christians and conservative Christians are operating from completely different value systems or priority sets. He points out that values like inclusion and tolerance and social justice are linked to humanistic values that are usually found among highly educated political progressives and this would be regardless of whether or not they're Christians. For progressive Christians those values are foundational of how they understand reality and even approach questions such as meaning. For conservative Christians the way they approach reality and those deep questions of meaning are largely going to be informed by the Bible specifically a historical biblical understanding.
The second reason he gives for why he thinks progressive Christians are more political than conservative Christians is that they have different images of Jesus. Progressive Christians tend to focus on the actions and the teachings of Jesus that reinforce their values of tolerance and inclusion which they see as examples of love whereas for conservative Christians, Jesus is interpreted through the historical biblical framework. They have less of a problem seeing Jesus be a little more intolerant of religious hypocrites at times even excluding unrepentant people from salvation.
The third reason he gives for why he thinks progressive Christians are more political than conservative Christians is that there's a very different view of the bible between the two groups. Progressive Christians tend to not see the Bible as the inerrant word of God but rather as a book of wisdom. They question biblical hermeneutic interpretations of the scriptures. Conservative Christians tend to view the Bible as the inerrant word of God and authoritative for their lives.
Another finding of the study is that conservative Christians are more likely to create sort of out groups based on theology rather than politics whereas progressive Christians are more likely to create out groups based on politics rather than theology. Progressive Christians are more likely to accept non-Christians as part of the body of Christ which is a part of their values of tolerance and inclusion except the article notes this tolerance however does not extend to conservative Christians. Which through their progressive lens they see as not practicing the inclusion they so highly value. Progressive Christians are less likely than conservative Christians to have different types of believers and friends. Progressive Christians are more likely to reject conservative Christians than conservative Christians are to reject progressive Christians. Progressive Christians envision conservative Christians as barriers to the type of inclusion and tolerance they want in society.
Toward the end of the article Dr Yancey points out that many people have rightly criticized the entanglement of conservative Christians with politics but then he goes on to note that progressive Christians stress political values more than conservative Christians yet there is less criticism of their activism.
He closes out the article by saying that at the very least we should dispense with the stereotype that it's only conservative Christians who impose their faith on politics.