Published by Tyndale on October 6, 2020
Genres: Non-Fiction, Apologetics
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A Movement Seeks to Redefine Christianity. Some Think that It Is a Much-Needed Progressive Reformation. Others Believe that It Is an Attack on Historic Christianity.Alisa Childers never thought she would question her Christian faith. She was raised in a Christian home, where she had seen her mom and dad feed the hungry, clothe the homeless, and love the outcast. She had witnessed God at work and then had dedicated her own life to leading worship, as part of the popular Christian band ZOEgirl. All that was deeply challenged when she met a progressive pastor, who called himself a hopeful agnostic.
Another Gospel? describes the intellectual journey Alisa took over several years as she wrestled with a series of questions that struck at the core of the Christian faith. After everything she had ever believed about God, Jesus, and the Bible had been picked apart, she found herself at the brink of despair . . . until God rescued her, helping her to rebuild her faith, one solid brick at a time.
In a culture of endless questions, you need solid answers. If you or someone you love has encountered the ideas of progressive Christianity and aren't sure how to respond, Alisa's journey will show you how to determine--and rest in--what's unmistakably true.
I went into Alisa Childers’ Another Gospel not knowing how I’d feel about it. In many ways, here journey mirrors mine. Grew up deeply entrenched in conservative evangelicalism. Lived in a conservative, white bubble. And slowly but surely had my perspectives stretched by people I would have called “liberal.” Basically, our only differences are that while Childers retreated toward the center, I’ve found myself firmly identifying with a lot of “Progressive Christianity” and that I was never a member of an award-winning CCM band.
Given that the subtitle was A lifelong Christian seeks truth in response to Progressive Christianity, I went into the book a bit defensive. I would define myself as a progressive Christian. I’m a firm believer in social justice. But there was just something about Another Gospel that made me want to pick it up.
I soon found that I pretty much agreed with Childers on almost everything—except maybe the definition of Progressive Christianity. Her own personal experiences surround growing up with a pastor who was a self-proclaimed agnostic who had jettisoned much of the historical Jesus. The beginning chapters focus on her story and growth in the faith and how it was challenged by a pastor who had left orthodoxy.
In the chapter “Fixing What Isn’t Broken,” Childers attempts to make the claim that progressive Christianity softens the moral demands of historic Christianity. To make this case, she uses the topic of same-sex sexual behavior. Historic Christianity says that it is wrong; progressive Christianity says that it is allowable. Progressive Christianity softens the moral demands of historic Christianity. Except no work is done to prove that historic Christianity generally frowned upon same-sex sexual behavior. Not even the stereotypical “clobber texts” are trotted out. There’s just an assumption of what the Bible says without even a perfunctory attempt to look at the text, let alone how progressive Christians understand those texts.
Further, the assumption then becomes—since the book’s title is Another Gospel—that one’s position on same-sex sexual behavior is a matter of theological orthodoxy. This elevation of a moral command to the level of determining salvation is very dangerous. Placing it on such a high pedestal without even attempting to work through the various interpretations of the passage shows that Childers is catering to an audience that already has made up their minds on the issue.
A second example comes in the chapter “Cosmic Child Abuse,” which is a takedown of progressive Christianity’s distancing from penal substitution as the primary metaphor of the atonement. What many progressives try to do is widen the viewpoint of the atonement to show that Christ’s death was not simply an intra-Trinitarian transaction. (And yes, some do go too far in decrying it). But while the reality of the Atonement is a matter of orthodoxy, the nature of the metaphor of the Atonement is not.
That’s what we have to focus on. The various theories of atonement are all based on Scripture’s description of the indescribable. And each of them hold value—even if we see penal substitution as being the primary metaphor. But again, because the book is entitled Another Gospel, the assumption becomes if you don’t believe in this particular type of atonement, you don’t just have an interpretive difference, you’ve committed heresy. And by this metric many of the Church Fathers would be considered heretics, from Origin to Augustine to C.S. Lewis.
This is a good book when it focuses on the majors, when it accurately attacks actual orthodoxy. Unfortunately, it sometimes seems that Childers doesn’t know how to identify the difference between first-order and second-order doctrines. It focuses on the social differences between conservative Christianity and progressive Christianity rather than the theological differences, and ultimately offers mediocre social critiques instead of substantive theological ones.
And progressive Christianity needs hit with substantive theological critiques. I stand as someone who leans progressive in my actions and conservative (historic?) in my beliefs. I don’t agree with those who try to redefine the historical Jesus or deny the Resurrection or downplay the validity of Scripture. That’s what this book needed to focus on: that you can love the other and seek social justice while yet remaining theologically faithful to historic Christianity. Instead, Another Gospel gets sidetracked on social issues.
So here’s what I’d like to tell Childers: There’s a part of Progressive Christianity that’s much different than what you’ve painted here. Sure, we’ll disagree on some ancillary matters of faith, but we’re not questioning orthodoxy. Or, when we do, it’s to be sure we have a better understanding of what it is. I won’t be the apologist for everyone you quote here—least of all your agnostic pastor—but many of the people you dismiss as heretics who proclaim another gospel love Jesus and hold to all the foundations of the faith. I would encourage you to use your position to reach out to these individuals and do the work of engaging with them—not just their books—and seeing their love for Jesus. Another Gospel is obviously sincere, it’s conversationally written, it’s a good primer to introductory apologetics, but it overstates any perceived errors of most of progressive Christianity as heresy.