Wednesday, October 19, 2011

What DO Progressive Christians Believe?

Often Christians who are labeled as either "progressive" or "liberal" are described as having wishy washy faith systems or theologies that change at a whim.  Try reading most of the professional theologians who represent that side of the spectrum and you're likely to find dense and difficult going, far beyond the commitment of a layperson and even many pastors.  Pastors, if they understood it, have not done a good job of communicating it to their congregations.  As a result many lay folk who fall outside of the conservative camp are not particularly articulate about what they believe.  They are only able to tell you what they do not believe in conservative theologies.

One subset of progressive theology is process theology... a form that I find particularly attractive but also often particularly difficult to understand as it is articulated by many of it's primary thinkers.  More recently there has been a movement to bring process theology into the local churches.  Philip Clayton of the Claremont School of Theology  and his Transforming Theology initiative has been particularly important in that movement.   They describe the mission of the initiative thus:
Our goal is an ambitious one: to rekindle powerful Christian theologies that have a transformative effect on church and society. It is widely believed that only the conservative church knows how to speak in a distinctively Christian voice, that only conservatives are qualified to represent Jesus' message and mission. We believe that the gospel of Jesus Christ is far more complex, far more interesting, and far more relevant than what the Religious Right has offered for consumption in recent years.

I have found Clayton's book Transforming Christian Theology for Church and Society particularly helpful.

Bruce Epperly is another writer/theologian/pastor/academic who has tried to make process theology accessible to a wider range of folk.   At Cambridge Drive we have used his book Holy Adventure: 41 Days of Audacious Living for a study/devotional series and found it just wonderful and a much, much better fit for us than the other 40 Days books.  One of our lay members was so excited at the end of the 41 days.  He told me that every day he found himself identifying with the book and better able to put words to what he had known in his heart all along.  (I highly recommend this book for a small group study/devotion series)

My friend, Bob Cornwall, just posted a piece by Bruce Epperly on his blog where Epperly gives a short capsulation of process theology. If you have ever looked for a good short explanation of process theology, here it is.  If you haven't, read it anyway.  Take a read and let me know what you think.

No comments: