Tuesday, September 26, 2006

"Progressive"?

Some style themselves as "progressive." I must ask,
"When you get to where you're going to,
just where then will you be?"


There are some among us who style themselves as progressive. They believe they have something better to offer than the "traditional" churches of Christ they criticize. They have often suggested that traditional churches cannot grow and are "graveyard" churches. They have used the old you-will-die-if-you-don't-change argument to justify doing whatever it is they want to see happen.

Adolph Hitler said, "If you tell a lie long enough, loud enough, and often enough, the people will believe it. The secret to get someone to believe a lie is constant repetition. Just tell it over, and over, and over again."

In the nineteenth century, in the midst of the industrial revolution, some self-styled progressives thought that that since progress was being made in education, in science, in daily life, then the church is going to have to keep up or perish. They believed we were going to have to keep up with the times in our musical worship or we'll lose all our young people. More than eighty percent of our churches bought into that notion, but some didn't.

More recently we heard that if we don't give our young ladies a more vital role in the church, we will lose them to churches that will. Yes, we will and have lost some. Bored with the system as it is, they believe that the traditional churches somehow shortchanged us by not letting us use instruments, by not letting our women lead us in worship, and by not preaching enough grace.


Some didn't change with the times; and, interestingly, their churches didn't die. In fact, those who stuck by their convictions grew much faster and multiplied much more than those who "progressively" practiced accommodation to the times. The conviction of those who held fast led them to work hard for the Lord, and the Lord gave the increase. Those who accommodated sought for religious acceptability. When they finally found it, they looked so much like everyone else that they found little reason for existence. The very thing they feared (dying) they brought upon themselves by weakening with accommodation rather than by strengthening with conviction.

In more recent days we have seen some progressives who were so convinced that the traditional churches of Christ were so narrow they couldn't grow keep moving past the progressive congregations to the community churches. If the truth be known, many of our most "progressive" preachers have now poisoned their own children to the truth and led them to leave churches of Christ altogether for a denominational or community church home. Such men did not bring about the change in churches of Christ they sought. What they did was shipwreck the faith of those whom they taugtht.

When I think of the agenda of many progressives today, I wonder what is really new about what they are offering.

Instrumental music? No, it has been around for centuries (and some who have it found it wasn't all that great and are longing for a simpler, more reverent, way to express their hearts).

Choirs? Those started more than a thousand years ago. Many churches who have them have people in the pews who don't sing much, and the people up in the choir constantly seem to compete to be noticed. Choirs have caused a lot of friction. When churches have choirs, folks get far more concerned with the quality of the music than the quality of the worship. The focus settles more on how good "we" sound than how great God is.

Grace? Many progressives flirt with an ill-defined grace that has little need for repentance or for obedience to the will of God. What they offer is little different than the hard-core Calvinist that removes any responsibility for righteousness from men and puts it all upon God. God will save you in your ignorance, so there is no need to listen and obey. And if you made a mistake, just pray up; God will excuse your disobedience. This too is not a new notion. It is as old as time and just as foolish as it ever was. Progressive grace is grace without repentance--it is an old lie that we can presume upon the grace of God.

When progressives get to where they are going to, where will they be? They will have created a bad imitation of a tired denomination.

The restoration leaders sought to lead us out of the digression of man-made religion. There is no real progress in returning to the very things our fathers left. It is delusional to repaint old error with new names and think we have somehow "progressed."

One last note: people can progress too much. They can progress to the point that they lose their identity and the blessing of God. The gnostic anti-christs of old did just that; and people who want to remake Christianity in their own image today can make the same mistake.

John said, "Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son" (2 John 9). The word "goes on ahead" is "proagon," and is much akin to our word 'progress.' While the specific reference in 2 John is to a first century heresy, we must realize that the principle of going beyond the will of God holds little hope in any area of doctrine or practice.

Let us hold fast and not be moved from the truth of God's word.

kindly,
phil

5 comments:

David Morris said...

Phil,

Well said. Most every controversy in the church today boils down to what I consider the most important question we could ever ask: "What is your source of Authority?"

Most people in churches of Christ think of authority as it relates to the question of how we worship, but it is far more encompassing than that. "What is your source of authority" is the question behind every belief we hold dear and every action to which we give ourselves.

Ask someone the question, "Is it OK for homosexual couples to marry?" The answer depends on that person's source of authority.

Ask someone whether or not it is acceptable to worship in a presumptive way. The answer depends on that person's source of authority.

Will grace cover our willful disobedience? The same Father who showered his "dead" and "lost" son with mercy and forgiveness is the same Father who did so only after his son came home in repentance.

"What is your source of Authority?" It is a question that contains both the source of all our controversies, as well as the answer.

David Morris said...

Phil,

Well said. Most every controversy in the church today boils down to what I consider the most important question we could ever ask: "What is your source of Authority?"

Most people in churches of Christ think of authority as it relates to the question of how we worship, but it is far more encompassing than that. "What is your source of authority" is the question behind every belief we hold dear and every action to which we give ourselves.

Ask someone the question, "Is it OK for homosexual couples to marry?" The answer depends on that person's source of authority.

Ask someone whether or not it is acceptable to worship in a presumptive way. The answer depends on that person's source of authority.

Will grace cover our willful disobedience? The same Father who showered his "dead" and "lost" son with mercy and forgiveness is the same Father who did so only after his son came home in repentance.

"What is your source of Authority?" It is a question that contains both the source of all our controversies, as well as the answer.

Charles North said...

Phil - the Hitler quote actually came from Joseph Goebbels. I get it though.

Phil Sanders said...

Thanks for the correction. whoever said, it is true to life. Ask any advertising company.

I found numerous citations of this quote, and all of them attributed to Adolph Hitler. I suppose if you tell something loud enough, long enough, and often enough, people will believe it!

Phil

Phil Sanders said...

Joseph G. was Adolph Hitler's Propaganda minister. So while JG wrote it AH probably said it.

phil