Quotes & Sayings

We, and creation itself, actualize the possibilities of the God who sustains the world, towards becoming in the world in a fuller, more deeper way. - R.E. Slater

There is urgency in coming to see the world as a web of interrelated processes of which we are integral parts, so that all of our choices and actions have [consequential effects upon] the world around us. - Process Metaphysician Alfred North Whitehead

Kurt Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem says (i) all closed systems are unprovable within themselves and, that (ii) all open systems are rightly understood as incomplete. - R.E. Slater

The most true thing about you is what God has said to you in Christ, "You are My Beloved." - Tripp Fuller

The God among us is the God who refuses to be God without us, so great is God's Love. - Tripp Fuller

According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater

Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - R.E. Slater

Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger

Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton

I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – Anon

Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII

Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut

Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest

We become who we are by what we believe and can justify. - R.E. Slater

People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – Anon

Certainly, God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater

An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater

Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann

Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner

“Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh” means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14) or, conversely, “I AM who I AM Becoming.”

Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton

The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens, we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – Anon

The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul

The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah

If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – Anon

Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord

Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another, so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

To promote societal transition to sustainable ways of living and a global society founded on a shared ethical framework which includes respect and care for the community of life, ecological integrity, universal human rights, respect for diversity, economic justice, democracy, and a culture of peace. - The Earth Charter Mission Statement

Christian humanism is the belief that human freedom, individual conscience, and unencumbered rational inquiry are compatible with the practice of Christianity or even intrinsic in its doctrine. It represents a philosophical union of Christian faith and classical humanist principles. - Scott Postma

It is never wise to have a self-appointed religious institution determine a nation's moral code. The opportunities for moral compromise and failure are high; the moral codes and creeds assuredly racist, discriminatory, or subjectively and religiously defined; and the pronouncement of inhumanitarian political objectives quite predictable. - R.E. Slater

God's love must both center and define the Christian faith and all religious or human faiths seeking human and ecological balance in worlds of subtraction, harm, tragedy, and evil. - R.E. Slater

In Whitehead’s process ontology, we can think of the experiential ground of reality as an eternal pulse whereby what is objectively public in one moment becomes subjectively prehended in the next, and whereby the subject that emerges from its feelings then perishes into public expression as an object (or “superject”) aiming for novelty. There is a rhythm of Being between object and subject, not an ontological division. This rhythm powers the creative growth of the universe from one occasion of experience to the next. This is the Whiteheadian mantra: “The many become one and are increased by one.” - Matthew Segall

Without Love there is no Truth. And True Truth is always Loving. There is no dichotomy between these terms but only seamless integration. This is the premier centering focus of a Processual Theology of Love. - R.E. Slater


Note: Generally I do not respond to commentary. I may read the comments but wish to reserve my time to write (or write from the comments I read). Instead, I'd like to see our community help one another and in the helping encourage and exhort each of us towards Christian love in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. - re slater

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Was Jesus Conservative or Progressive in His Faith?

Who is the Founder of Progressive Christianity?

by James F. McGrath
July 16, 2022

Rather than give “Jesus” as a one-word answer to the question of who founded progressive Christianity, let me begin with a quote from something I wrote here on my Patheos blog some years ago which makes that same point but in more words and with more detail, which those who are skeptical of my assertion will need if they are to be persuaded:

If “liberal Christianity” means Christianity that reflects the cosmology and worldview of a particular era, then the earliest Christianity is liberal Christianity. It is only later, as cosmologies and worldviews changed, that some insisted on clinging to the views of an earlier era, because those happened to be part of the worldview of previous generations of Christians, including the Bible’s authors. That is why “conservative” Christianity ends up being a very radical departure from earliest Christianity, even in the process of fighting to try to keep the same worldview as they had to the minimal extent that that is even possible. By making the assumptions of prior generations into articles of faith, they stand against and not with the approach of the earliest Christians, even while claiming to defend their specific beliefs.

Let me immediately add that it may not be helpful to speak of Jesus as the “founder” of Christianity, as though he was seeking to start a new world religion. Jesus, like most “founders” of new religions, did not intend to do so but was instead a reformer within his own religion, Judaism. The process of getting from there to here reflects the progressiveness of Jesus that I’ll be seeking to highlight here. My point is that, to the extent that progressive Christianity has a beginning, that beginning is with Jesus and has continued unabated ever since.


Everyone is more progressive or liberal than some people and less so than others. Progressive and liberal are tendencies along a spectrum and not absolute binary categories. In the case of Jesus, can anyone really deny that he was open to taking things in a new direction, to innovation and change? He taught his followers to do the same. This doesn’t mean that there weren’t elements in which Jesus was conservative, just as is true of his progressive followers today. Many progressives are also interested in getting back behind developments in doctrine and institutional structures to a simplicity they associate with Jesus and his first disciples. That’s very Protestant, and in one sense is inherently conservative. 

Those who are defined as conservatives today often claim to be doing (or at least trying to do) the same thing. But those who are most often labeled conservative are seeking to go back to the supposed original beliefs and practices of Christians and to replicate them irrespective of the changes that have taken place since then and the differences between our own context and that in which Christianity first arose.

Progressives, on the other hand, seek to implement in our time the same openness, the same guiding principles, that Jesus emphasized. Just as he was open to recognizing genuine and even superior faith among those who tended to be defined out of the people of God in his time (Matthew 8:10), today’s progressive Christians seek to do likewise. As Jesus envisaged Gentiles coming to the messianic banquet to dine alongside the Israelite Patriarchs (Matthew 8:11), Paul and others went against the clear teaching of Genesis which required the circumcision of all who were part of Abraham’s household. Instead these Christians insisted (over against the conservative Christians of their own time) that if God had shown that uncircumcised Gentiles are accepted by pouring out the Holy Spirit on them, circumcision must not be essential (Galatians 3:2-5).

As I have said here on my blog before, “Conservative Christians often claim to be the most faithful interpreters of Scripture. But it seems to me that if we have ears to hear what the Spirit was saying to the churches down the ages, it will become clear that focusing on written words and using them to argue against what the Spirit is doing often led people to be on the ‘wrong side’ as far as the Bible’s own perspective is concerned. And part of the message of many parts of the Bible is a warning to learn from such mistakes of the past.” Paul did not feel that pointing out “what the Bible says” settled a matter. Neither did Jesus, who famously said that Moses was the one who permitted divorce in scripture but God’s ideal for human beings was lifelong fidelity (Matthew 19:8).


Those who wrote the Gospels in Greek were likewise progressive inasmuch as they cared less about preserving the exact words of Jesus in his native tongue Aramaic, than they did about communicating the core of his message as they understood it to as wide an audience as possible, which meant writing in Greek, the lingua franca of the Eastern Roman Empire.

Early Christian apologists like Justin Martyr (the original “apologists” before modern internet debaters sullied the term) stood in this tradition as well, being open to Greek and Roman philosophies and the insights they offered. All through the ages there have been those who have stood in this tradition, and so in that sense there is an unbroken lineage of progressive Christianity that connects Jesus to the present day.

Liberal Protestants closer to our time - such as Martin Luther King Jr. - must also be included. Many conservatives embrace his emphasis on racial equality, completely unaware that he represents a liberal Baptist position. If one reads his essay on the topic of the divinity, virgin birth, and resurrection of Jesus that he wrote while a student at Crozer Theological Seminary, one will find things that reflect the stance of today’s liberal and progressive Christians.


Having put matters in those terms let me now pose an important question: Why Switch to Progressive?

I realize that sounds like a slogan in a car insurance ad but that’s not what I mean here, as is hopefully clear from the context.

In the first instance the question is about the terminology (which I confess I don’t find all that helpful). Why do people tend to identify as “progressive” Christians nowadays when a generation ago they tended to use the label “liberal”? 

Progressive doesn’t have a meaning that is clearly distinct from liberal. Moreover, some progressive, or liberal Christians, are theologically conservative but politically liberal, while others are the exact reverse. There’s potential for misunderstanding, to say the least. However, because liberalism reflected a stance that was very modern and shaped by the values of the Enlightenment (just as fundamentalism is shaped by that same context as the flip side of liberalism and a reaction against it), those who have accepted postmodern critiques of liberalism tend to prefer the term “progressive.”

Yet the same openness to new insights (whether from biblical study, history, science, psychology, or anywhere else) characterize the two. Progressive Christianity thus reflects the present-day iteration of a liberal/progressive approach to God, faith, and other human beings that we can trace back as far as the very beginnings of Christianity, to Jesus himself.


Hopefully the above makes clear another sense in which I want to answer the question, “Why switch to Progressive?”

Why do I think others should embrace progressive Christianity? Because it reflects the outlook of Jesus and his earliest followers.

Christianity has always been bridging gaps, including outsiders, challenging assumptions, and innovating new beliefs and structures.

Some deny that, and so, rather than speak about progressive Christianity, I’d much rather talk simply about Christianity, or about honest Christianity, one that doesn’t pretend that there is no picking and choosing going on, just a preservation of a faith in static stagnant sameness.

[But], that has never been the case.

The key difference between progressive Christians and conservatives is that progressives acknowledge the fact that we preserve things selectively, that we pick and choose, and that we never fail to experience change. We do not view this process negatively the way conservatives do, even though they participate in the same processes, however much they might try to deny this is so.

That’s the answer in a nutshell.

It could have been briefer, as I indicated at the outset. I could have said “Jesus is the founder of progressive Christianity” and left it at that. But many people today treat conservative forms of Christianity as the default, as though they genuinely represent the classic historic Christian faith. In actual fact they merely preserve a dogmatic rejection of change that arose in that specific form relatively recently in history.

There were conservatives among the earliest Christians, and we read about them because they did things like opposing Paul’s proclamation to Gentiles of a gospel that did not require circumcision. It is ironic that today’s conservatives cite Paul’s letters as authoritative when they represent the stance of Paul’s opponents.

TL; DR: The core of Christianity was progressive from its beginning, and today’s progressives continue that tradition.

Also related to this topic:
Finally, a couple of memes you can share:

Diana Butler Bass - Understanding Christian Nationalism, Parts 1-3

Vote Common Good is trying to get Pennsylvania voters to understand the dangers of Christian nationalism. https://www.votecommongood.com/penn-live-in-billboards-evangelical-group-urges-faith-voters-to-ditch-support-of-mastriano/

Understanding Christian Nationalism

An invitation to explore the movement shaping American politics

by Diana Butler Bass
September 14, 2022

I got an email this week from a reader letting me know that his adult education group was using the recent Christian nationalism posts from The Cottage as a multi-week study leading up to the fall elections.

What a great idea! Until I read his note, however, I didn’t realize that I’d written a post each month since July on the subject. It certainly wasn’t a planned series. It just happened in conjunction with the news — and the intense interest in the subject of Christian nationalism.

He inspired me to turn the Christian nationalism essays into a three-part discussion curriculum that you can use.

Today’s post links all three of the essays in a single newsletter. I hope this will be helpful to you. Some may want to use these posts as my friend’s congregation is — for others that may be too controversial and you might want to read them in a small group. I do suggest that you engage them with others if possible.

I invite you to re-read them as a group — and with a group. I’ve enclosed some discussion questions for you to think about the ideas presented in each essay as well.

This three-part exploration of Christian nationalism involves terminology, theology, and history. It isn’t exhaustive (there’s much more that can be said), but it is provocative, thoughtful, and timely. And, since the essays are short, you needn’t read an entire book to engage important issues.

Of course, you may agree or disagree with various points and interpretations. That’s expected! Talking about a subject is often a good way toward greater understanding — and moderating fear we might have. Each of these posts comes from my own wrestling with these difficult days.


In this essay, I explore the term “Christian nationalism” and suggest we might need to make finer distinctions in how we define political impulses in white evangelicalism.

Christian Nationalism Everywhere?

2 months ago · 60 comments · Diana Butler Bass

For discussion:
  • What do you think about the central claim of this essay? “Both of these things are true: America is not a Christian nation. And the United States was shaped by Protestantism.”
  • Why is it important to understand this paradoxical proposition? What might it mean for politics to grasp this history?

* * * * *


In recent weeks, talk of Civil War has skyrocketed. This essay looks at the connection between political conflict and theology that lends itself toward violence. This was one of the most widely read, shared, and discussed posts of the year at The Cottage.

a month ago · 90 comments · Diana Butler Bass

For discussion:
  • Do you worry that the central claim of Christianity involves blood and violence?
  • What do you make of this statement?: “Not every Christian who holds to the theory of blood-atonement is a Christian nationalist, but Christian nationalism depends on this theology and can’t survive without it.”
  • How might Christian theology, churches, and preachers address this? Where do you see these ideas in the news? Have you ever considered how bad theology might inspire political violence?

* * * * *


Although most political commentators haven’t paid attention, white evangelical politics has been supported by and is twinned with a particular view of providential history. This essay returns to the theme of “Christian nation-ism” vs. “Christian nationalism” and explores it through history.

6 days ago · 63 likes · 58 comments · Diana Butler Bass

For discussion:
  • What do you make of the popularity of a book like The Light and the Glory?
  • And what does it mean that two best-selling histories — The Light and the Glory and A People’s History of the United States — seem to have helped create the political divisions today?
  • Why is history so often a contentious subject? Why do people fight over the past? Do you know someone who believes in this providential history?

Public Witness on Substack has been running some very good pieces about Christian nationalism. I particularly appreciated this recent post on Doug Mastriano. I recommend both their newsletter and their news and opinion website, Word and Way.

* * * * *


If you understand your own place and its intricacy and the possibility of affection and good care of it, then imaginatively you recognize that possibility for other places and other people. If you wish well to your own place and you recognize that your own place is part of the world, then this requires a well-wishing toward the whole world. In return you hope for the world's well-wishing to your place.

This is a different impulse from the impulse of nationalism. This is what I would call patriotism, the love of a home country that's usually much smaller than a nation. Nationalism always implies competition, always the wish that your nation might thrive even at the expense of other nations. Patriotism is the love of a home place or a home country that recognizes the obligation of charity toward other places and other people, and it recognizes that the prosperity of your place need not come at the expense of the prosperity of other places. There is a generosity, a charity, in what I recognize is the true patriotism, which is not necessarily implied by nationalism.

— Wendell Berry


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