A VINTAGE CHRISTIAN MANIFESTO OF HOPE • 0For People Not Progressive on Purpose
0—Progressive: Let’s Get Vintage!
1—Manifesto: Resist Progressive Christianity, Reclaim the Fundamentals
2—Vintage Faith: 10 Things to Know About Vintage Christianity
3—The Bible: This Book is God’s Book
4—God and gods: The Mars Hill Effect
5—Creation: God Spoke and…What?
6—Humanity: We’re Not Talking Monkeys
7—Homosexuality: An Honest Chat About Its Reality & Revelation
8—Sin: Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be
9—Sin: A Tale of Two Sinners
10—Jesus: Gandhi on Steroids or God Made Flesh?
11—Rescue: Our Victorious Obedient Substitute
12—Cross: A Love Note or Butcher’s Block?
13—Resurrection: Better Than a Zombie
14—Church: No Church No Christ, Know Church Know Christ
15—Universalism: Not All Dogs Go to Heaven
16—Hell: For Real and Forever?
17—Heaven: A Place on Earth?
18—The End: Go Backwards to Go Forwards
Progressive. What a fascinating word.
It is both an adjective and a noun. It describes what something is; it is also a something. Something can be described as progressive; something can be progressive.
At its root is, of course, the word progress, a verb that describes what something is doing. And at the root of this verb are two latin words: pro– and gradi.
Pro– is what we call a prefix, a modifier slapped on the front of a word to amend it, in our case the word gradi. Pro– means “forward” which modifies the latin gradi meaning “to walk.”
Thus, progress is “the act of walking forward.” It’s “the act of moving and advancing forward.”
But we need one more tiny lesson from grade school grammar to make our fascinating word complete. And that’s the suffix —ive.
You’ll remember from days of yore that adjectives and nouns are derived from this ending. Attaching this modifier to the end of a word makes it so that its root word “has the nature of” something.
So progress–ive has the nature of progress. It’s something that’s characterized by the act of walking forward, characterized by advancement.
It can also be a person or an organization—a noun—that does the walking forward, that embodies the advancement. That is advanced.
In the nineteenth century “progressive” took on a decidedly sociopolitical flavor. This fascinating adjective started to mean “characterized by striving for change and innovation,” or “favoring reform” in a social and political sense.
Shortly thereafter it became a noun—oddly enough, originally in Christianity. It was used for people and movements within the Church who favored social and political change in the name of…you guessed it: progress.
In the name of walking forward, in the name of forward movement, in the name of advancement.
Fast forward another century and the word took another interesting turn. Because toward the end of the twentieth and into the twenty-first centuries the word became largely in vogue as a replacement for another word: liberal.
You see this word had become a dirty word, a scary word. So liberals—both political and religious—needed a better word. A better brand. So they turned to our fascinating word.
Who Wouldn’t Want to Be Progressive?
There’s this line from one of the greatest television dramas ever, The West Wing, (I proudly admit I am that much of a nerd). It perfectly illustrates this point.
In the final season the Democrat candidate running for president, Matthew Santos, and the Republican one, Arnold Vinick, square off in this epic showdown-of-a-debate.
At one point Santos exclaims that Republicans have tried to turn “liberal” into a bad word. But Matt won’t take it anymore: “When you try to hurl the word ‘liberal’ at my feet, as if it were dirty, something to run away from, something that I should be ashamed of, it won’t work.”
He vows, “I will pick it up and wear it as a badge of honor!”
Good for Matt—or, perhaps, I should say good for Aaron Sorkin, the ventriloquist behind the puppet.
But let’s face it, while Santos might parade around in a liberal sash, others haven’t and won’t follow suite. Because a progressive t-shirt is much more attractive, which makes total sense.
I mean who wouldn’t want to be progressive? Who wouldn’t want to be forward thinking, forward leaning, forward walking? Isn’t that why the 2012 Obama campaign proudly and prominently featured the word “Forward”?
Who wouldn’t want to be about forwardness? About innovation and change—whether social, political, or religious?
But here’s the thing: Is that what the Church needs? To leave behind the past and walk forward into something else? To change, to innovate?
To be progressive? To be characterized by progress?
What If Progress Isn’t at What the Church Needs?
Over the past decade a number of people within Christianity have sought to do just that. They’ve sought to change the Christian faith,
to reimagine the Christian faith.
They insist we need a new kind of Christian because we need a new kind of Christianity. After all, this is a new day. It’s a new century filled with new questions that demands new answers, that demands new ways of answering old questions.
In other words, we need to progress. We need to be progressive. We need a Progressive Christianity.
What if this isn’t at all what we need? What if instead of going forward we need to go backwards?
What if instead of transforming the Church into a new state we need to go back again to a former state?
What if instead of reimagining we need to rediscover?
What if instead of innovating we need to reach back and retrieve?
What if instead the Church doesn’t need to progress, but to regress? What if instead the world doesn’t need progressive Christians, but instead vintage Christians?
We Are Losing Plot to The Church’s Story
There’s a story in the Hebrew Scriptures about a lost book. A very important lost book, actually. This very important lost book was the foundation to Israel’s life with God.
And it lay missing. Forgotten and forsaken. For two generations. Like some old photo album stuffed away in Grandma’s musty old attic.
While this very important lost book lay missing, several kings ascended the throne who introduced pagan worship practices into the life of Israel. The people forsook their one true love Yahweh, the God of Israel, for fake gods and fake stories.
Israel lost the plot to her story as much as she lost a very important book.
It wasn’t until the reign of a child king that Israel found what she had lost. During the reign of King Josiah Israel recovered the plot to her story. Literally.
One day our very important lost book was discovered during temple renovations by one of the priests. And it wasn’t until it was recovered that Israel rediscovered the plot to her story and returned to the one true God.
In many ways the same is happening in the Church. We have lost the plot to our own story as much as Israel. All because we are forgetting and forsaking the Church’s Story. Forgetting and forsaking what the Church has always believed. Forgetting and forsaking the once-for-all-faith entrusted to God’s Holy People by Jesus Christ himself. Back there. Embedded deep within history.
Which means we need to go back again.
Not Your Mama’s Fundamentalism
You could call us neo-fundamentalists, and I thought of using that word, but that’s not quite right. Not only because it’s fraught with baggage that distracts what many of us are actually trying to do. But because this ain’t your mama’s fundamentalism!
We believe you can hold on to the fundamentals without becoming a fundamentalist. And many of us aim to do just that. To look backwards in order to go forward in the Christian faith. To return to a former state of being by believing how the Church has always believed, by being how the the Church has always been.
We are not progressive on purpose. Instead we are proudly vintage. Regressive, even. We are proud vintage Christians. And here’s why.
This is our manifesto.
A vintage Christian manifesto of hope.