A few months back (July 15 and 19, 2022), I reviewed Roger Olson’s new book Against Liberal Theology: Putting the Brakes on Progressive Christianity (Zondervan, 2022). In my assessment of the book I complained that Olson focused almost exclusively on liberal theology and left the category of “Progressive Christianity” vague. On August 12, 2022, I posted an essay asking “Are Progressives the New Evangelicals?” in which I attempted to clarify the category of Progressive Christianity. Next I reviewed Kristin Kobes Du Mez, Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation (Liveright, 2021). Although as far as I know Du Mez does not designate herself as a progressive, her stinging critique of Evangelicalism seemed designed, as I said in that review, to please “those who already hate Donald Trump, those burned by evangelical churches, those already leaning leftward in their politics, and theological liberals and progressives.”
Many people within my circle of friends, colleagues, and students are reading books by Christian authors from within the progressive camp. Indeed they hardly read any others. These progressive authors specialize in pointing out the faults of fundamentalism, evangelicalism, and traditional denominations. They propose a kinder and gentler, less dogmatic and intolerant, more spiritual form of Christianity. They offer a new way of reading the Bible and of doing church. They claim to point the way to authentic and healthy Christianity. But do they really? In this series I plan to assess this claim.
To further this aim, I’ve begun reading books that champion and books critique this this phenomenon. One does not need to read very extensively to discover that “Progressive Christianity” is a very broad category encompassing people on the extreme left, mainline liberals, and disillusioned and wounded evangelicals. In this series I hope to clarify the main commonalities and distinctions grouped under this term. I will begin with some reviews of books I am reading on the subject.
The first book to be examined is David A. Kaden, Christianity in Blue: How the Bible, History, Philosophy, and Theology Shape Progressive Identity (Fortress Press, 2021). This book represents the far-left end of Progressive Christianity. Look for it soon.