Post-Progressive Christianity: Part 4, The Bible

As I described in Part 2, progressive Christians have a fraught relationship with the Bible. During the post-evangelical season of deconstruction the Bible looms large as a faith challenge.

There are two main challenges:

First, there's a lot of violence in the Old Testament that seems to be sanctioned by God. The herem texts are the key area of concern, the texts where during the conquest of Canaan God commands the Israelites to kill every man, woman, and child in the conquered towns.

A related concern here is how violence is implicated in the atonement, in Jesus' death on the cross. Why does salvation require a killing?

Second, the ethical witness of the Bible on the issues of slavery, gender and sexuality, if read in a flat, literal way, is problematic for many progressive Christians.

Consequently, progressive Christians spend a lot of time struggling with the Bible, devoting great energy on hermeneutical approaches that allow them to read the Bible non-violently and in a way that supports a liberal, humanistic ethical vision.

As a post-progressive, I agree with all this. I read the Bible non-violently and from a liberationist perspective (as good news for the oppressed and marginalized). That said, as a post-progressive I have concerns with how progressive Christians approach and handle the Bible.

First, many progressive Christians are biblically fragile. Almost every page of the Bible triggers a faith crisis, every Bible study getting stuck on what is "problematic." The Word of God isn't enjoyed as a location of delight and joy. The Bible isn't a daily source of life, comfort, and sustenance.

Second, because they are so biblically fragile, progressive Christians focus so much on hermeneutics--ways to read the Bible progressively--that they are prone toward idolatry. Put bluntly, progressives don't read the Bible much because they already know what the Bible is supposed to say. God is always being judged, criticized, and indicted by a progressive moral vision. Progressive Christians believe in morality rather than the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. And when that happens the Bible is thoroughly tamed and captured by the progressive moral and political imagination. The Word of God is stuffed into a progressive moral box and is not free to startle, surprise, challenge, criticize, indict, unsettle, disturb and interrupt us.

And so...

I AM A PROGRESSIVE CHRISTIAN because I read the Bible non-violently and as a word of good news for the poor, oppressed, and marginalized.

I AM A POST-PROGRESSIVE CHRISTIAN because I believe the Bible must be a devotional source of comfort, joy, delight, and spiritual sustenance. Daily devotional reading and Bible study are vital spiritual practices and disciplines. From a prophetic aspect, while I still have questions and concerns about the Bible, as a post-progressive I spend less time questioning the Bible and more time letting the Bible question me.

This entry was posted by Richard Beck. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply