To recap, the series tried to make the following argument:
God is love. This means that God is weak in the world, not exerting top down power over the world. Thus, love exists among a plurality of antagonistic powers, forces of violence and dehumanization, forces we'd call "satanic" in that they are manifestations of anti-love (and, thus, in the Christian imagination anti-Christ). Creating outposts of love in the world--making the Kingdom of God come to earth as it is in heaven--thus involves constant, daily struggle, a spiritual battle and war that is both moral and political, social and individual. And critical to keep in mind in all this is that this battle and war is fought with love and for love. Jesus "wins" a "victory" over satan on the cross. Jesus does battle with satan at Golgotha. That is the paradigmatic example of spiritual warfare. And if that vision has been bastardized in the Christian witness, with "warfare" looking like power and dominion rather than self-giving and weakness, then that is no reason to abandon the metaphor of spiritual warfare but cause to reclaim its biblical roots. Let's not abandon the language of spiritual warfare to heretics.Basically, what I'm arguing is this. Progressive theology is rooted in the confession that God is love. My observation is that this confession makes God weak in the world and this weakness implies a "warfare worldview," to use the label of Greg Boyd. So I argue that "spiritual warfare" is the natural language of progressive theology.
As I noted, progressive theology has run away from the spiritual warfare language because it has been too reactionary. That is, progressives have abandoned areas of Christian thought and language that have been contaminated by toxic elements in Christianity. For example, progressives have, as I said, abandoned the language of spiritual warfare because they have seen that language tragically misused and abused. But rather than thumping their bibles to continually point out that Christ's victory over the satan was won on the cross, progressives got timid and evacuated this language altogether. And I think this has damaged progressive theology as it effectively separated progressives from Jesus and his Kingdom proclamation. Dislocated from Jesus progressives had no robustly biblical ways to unpack their central confession that "God is love." Unplugged from Jesus progressives defaulted to liberal humanism. Not a bad move, but the confession "God is love" was thinned and hollowed out to become an insipid vision of liberal tolerance rather than a robust conflict against the forces of dehumanization in the world and in our own hearts.
Okay, with that as an overview and recap of my series let me offer some final reflections as to why I think progressive theology struggles if it eschews the language of spiritual warfare.
First, progressive theology is too focused on epistemology. Progressive theology has generally focused on the epistemological challenges associated with modernity and post-modernity. That is to say it's hard for many modern people to believe in Christian metaphysics, to believe in things like miracles or even God. To be clear, this is why I am attracted to progressive theology. And I think one of the great achievements of progressive theology is found in how it uses doubt as a theological and moral resource. I make this very argument in The Authenticity of Faith.
The trouble is, this focus on doubt only gets you so far down the Christian path. You can give up God for Lent only so often before the novelty wears off and you just start giving up Lent completely. Doubt is a powerful moral and theological resource that cannot be abandoned, but doubt will struggle to sustain Christian practice and witness throughout the lifespan. At the very least, doubt has failed to do this for me. I've needed something else, some positive vision to fight for. I think recovering the language of spiritual warfare can help with this.
Second, progressive theology needs to recover a theology of sin. Progressives have been so worried about judging people--in yet another reaction to toxic forms of Christianity--that they have evacuated the language of sin. If the language of sin is used at all it is usually reserved for structural sin, systemic injustice. But this leaves progresses fairly well mute when it comes to the personal realm, where we experience addiction, infidelity, lust, vanity, and selfishness. This means that progressives have tended to have a great deal to say (usually in Facebook rants) about, say, famines in Africa but less about the moral struggles of day to day living. I think this is a huge hole in progressive theology. And I think recovering the language of spiritual warfare can help with this.
Finally, progressive theology needs to connect better with the poor, uneducated and marginalized. For a variety of reasons the language of spiritual warfare is the idiom of disenfranchised groups. In working with poor and prison populations I've had to learn to talk like a Pentecostal. To be sure, as a progressive I unpack this language in progressive ways (see: Wink and Stringfellow). Regardless, if progressives want to communicate with the poor and marginalized (who also tend to be people of color) they will need to learn to sound a bit more charismatic. Progressives may even--gulp--have to raise their hands during a worship service.
Basically, the language of progressive theology is too white, male and European. I'd recommend less talk about Derrida, Lacan, and Heidegger and more talk about the devil and the Holy Ghost.
And, obviously, I think recovering the language of spiritual warfare can help with this.