“A righteous person who yields to the wicked is like a muddied spring or a polluted well.” — Proverbs 25: 26
While there are a few points I agree with in the recent article 10 Reasons Reading the Bible Makes Me More Progressive by Benjamin L. Corey, I respectfully think that Mr. Corey has made some big mistakes in his reasoning, and he basically “strains out gnats and swallows camels” here. If our differences were petty and had little significant real-world consequences, it wouldn’t be worth my time to respond, but in actual fact, the propagation of Mr. Corey’s views result in more actual pain, suffering, confusion and death, so I feel that it is worthwhile to respond.
For the sake of clarity, Corey’s words are in blue, my responses are inserted in black following each segment of his article hereforward.
“I once read a study showing that the more people read their Bible, the more liberal they become—something I have found to be completely true.”
That’s odd — although I’ll assume that Mr. Corey is being honest here, I myself, and most people I’ve discussed this with, seem to have the opposite opinion.
“I’ll use the term “progressive” here since that’s how I identify. Looking back on my own journey out of fundamentalist thinking and into a Christianity that is life-giving instead of life-sucking, this trajectory of moving away from the hard right the more I read my Bible has been a daily reality. (Quick point of order: I’m not saying that reading your Bible will make you all the way left, because certainly I am not on many issues. The argument is simply that for those of us on the hard right, when we read our Bibles more often, it tends to move us in a leftward motion on some issues.)”
The term “progressive” is a misnomer, as their policies result in tragic regression. I’ll start with the biggest issue: killing babies. Speaking of “life-sucking”, “progressives” literally support life being brutally and heartlessly sucked out of innocent babies by large vacuum devices (and other barbaric instruments which literally tear them limb-from-limb without anesthetics). How is this “progressive”?! This is regressive to a level that only the most vicious of animals sink to! Conservatives (a more accurate term than “hard right”, or “fundamentalist”), on the other hand, follow the Bible’s consistent imperatives to “seek justice”, and “love mercy” in this issue by opposing such horrendous barbarity. I think Mr. Corey will soon be standing in front of The Judgment Throne and being asked why he supported an anti-Christian movement (“progressivism”) that systematically butchers little people He created in His image, not to mention encourages gender mutilation of children, every kind of depraved perversion, violations of our natural freedoms and rights, and many other atrocities warned against by His Son and His Prophets.
The question is: Why?
“When we move ever so slightly out of the far-right corner of the field, those family and friends still in that paradigm often assume that we are not taking the Bible seriously; they accuse us of being “relativists” and make other assumptions as to why we are changing. The ironic truth, however, is that so many of us have arrived at being Christian progressives not because we decided to set half the Bible aside, and not because we decided to stop taking the Bible seriously, but as a gradual process that resulted from taking the Bible more seriously and deciding to try to follow those often neglected parts. We became Christian progressives because we read our Bibles, not because we put them away. It’s okay if you’re not there yet or if you never will be, but it’s important to understand the truth about how and why we arrived here. While this isn’t comprehensive, based upon my own experience, here’s my list of how and why.”
I’ve read The Bible from cover to cover numerous times over the years, and in my opinion, you have to ignore great swaths of it to think it endorses “progressivism”. It clearly and unflinchingly opposes (among other things) cruelty, tyranny, perversion, and unscientific “gender transitioning,” which progressivism supports.
The more I read my Bible, the more I realize that I don’t have it all together.
“Growing up I was frequently reminded that the Bible, through the Holy Spirit, will convict us of sin…and you know what? It’s true. The more I get to know my Bible the more I realize how deeply flawed I am, which makes me see others more compassionately, because I am reminded that they are just like me. The more I see others as being just like me, the more progressive I become because I move in a trajectory of love, tolerance, and am way less likely to pronounce judgment on someone else than I was before. (Obviously, I still struggle, but I am working on it.)”
We are at least partially on the same page here. I definitely realize that I don’t have it all together, also. But that being said, Jesus implored us to try to do our best, and to encourage others to do likewise. And contrary to urban legend, Jesus never gave us a blanket instruction to “judge not” (in Matthew 7, where those words come from, He was addressing hypocrites who expect to judge via different standards than those by which they’ll be judged). To the contrary, Jesus instructed us to “judge rightly” so that we’ll be consistent (John 7:24). In fact, the dictionary definition of “tolerance” presupposes that you have judged somebody to be out of line, and yet for various reasons will put up with it for the time being. If what you’re calling tolerance doesn’t include judgment, then it’s not tolerance — it’s something else!
The more I read my Bible, the more I develop humility.
“The Apostle Paul says that we should view our sins as being worse than anyone else’s…”
Not really — he was talking about his own sin being literally worse than anyone else’s because he persecuted the infant church and helped its members be murdered. He didn’t instruct us to randomly view our own sins that way.
“… and that we should view ourselves as walking examples of how patient God is with people who can’t get it together.”
Yes, God is very patient, and that is awesome!
“When I am honest about my life, I admit that I am a walking example of someone who knows how to test God’s patience, and my sins are just as bad as whatever yours might be.”
Really? Hypothetically, let’s say I’m a serial murderer/rapist; are your sins as bad as that? That old trope that “all sins are the same” is urban mythology. Sure, all sins are equally powerful to separate one from God, but Jesus clearly stated that some sins are greater and lesser than others (John 19:11).
“This realization made it too difficult to stay in my old paradigm; yes, I want to spend my life inviting people to experience Jesus (in that regard, I am completely still an “evangelical”), but I want to do it in a new way—a more humble way. I’m not always there (see #1), but I desperately want to get there.”
Humility is good, so to some extent I agree with the author here.
The more I read my Bible, the more I discover that justice for the poor and oppressed is at the heart of it.
“I wasn’t all that concerned about the poor and oppressed until I opened my Bible and discovered that commands to care for them are all over the place, from the Old Testament all the way through the New Testament. I tried to escape it and explain it away, but I can’t—God wants us to care for, serve, and love these people.”
Justice for the oppressed? How about the most innocent among us being torn limb-from-limb without anesthetic — does that count as being oppressed? If not, why not?! How about confused children being misled by “progressive” adults into permanently mutilating their genitals as a result of their temporary confusion? Anybody who doesn’t count those things as oppression needs to think again.
Even more primarily emphasized in scripture than actions of justice, however, is repentance. Single acts of justice are great, but they don’t change a person’s whole orientation towards God (so that they become less likely to sin) like repenting and becoming born again. And justice for the poor? When The Bible uses that terminology, it’s clear from the contexts that the particular poor they are referring to have been unjustly fleeced in some manner. Of course justice is good for those who have been swindled, but poor people who are that way due to sloth and/or corruption deserve nothing, so the term justice (as in “reparation owed”) does not apply here! Especially given that the “progressive” solution for perceived injustice is typically “robbing from Peter to pay Paul,” it’s a case of the cure being worse than the ailment. If Peter wants to give to Paul, that’s great, but you have no right to reach into Peter’s pocket and do the giving for him. That idea is a perversion of the term “justice.”
Of course, the author is correct that basic generosity towards the poor is mentioned frequently in scripture, and we’re on the same page here with two caveats: 1) It shouldn’t be called “justice” unless you are specifically correcting for a particular injustice (such as somebody paying reparations for a swindle), and 2) It should be done with one’s own money/resources, rather than reaching into someone else’s pocket via the instrumentalities of government and giving on their behalf. “Kindness” for the poor and oppressed is great, but repentance is even more important.
The more I read my Bible, the more I realize “redistribution of wealth” wasn’t Obama’s idea—it was God’s.
“That redistribution of wealth stuff? Yeah, it’s in the Bible and was actually God’s idea. In the Old Testament we have years of Jubilee, restrictions on gleaning your garden more than once, a command from God that there should be “no poor among you,” and prophets who came to denounce the nation when the rich grew richer and the poor grew poorer. Let’s not give Obama the credit—God thought of it first.”
If you think Obama’s ideas on redistribution of wealth resemble God’s, I’d say “put the crack pipe down, and back away slowly.” The Levitical Law was only given to The Jews, who were supposed to conduct themselves as a nation of priests (and, of course, they largely failed at that). The Mosaic Law only ever applied to them — not humanity at large (although of course it encompassed basic moral law). The years of Jubilee, restrictions on gleaning, etc. were basically statutes regarding how Jews were to treat other Jews, and they were allowed to opt out and leave the community, if they so desired. Moreover, even if they applied to humanity at large, they would be de minimis in comparison to the massive redistributions of wealth the likes of Obama have in mind.
In fact, there is good evidence that Obama supported full-blown Marxism in which government controls all the means’ of production, and all private property is effectively “redistributed” to the government (“for the benefit of the people,” of course!). Obama was the most anti-Judeo/Christian president in the history of the universe (https://wallbuilders.com/americas-biblically-hostile-u-s-president/), and referencing him as if he even has a remote resemblance to Godly governance is patently absurd.
The more I read my Bible, the more I realize that the early Christians actually practiced this redistribution of wealth.
“For a time, those early Christians practiced some radical economic principles. And, guess what? The book of Acts tells us that there weren’t any poor people among them. They rejected individual ownership and gave their wealth to leadership who in turn redistributed it according to need. There weren’t any mandatory drug testing programs, just assistance according to need. While this still seems too radical for me, it moves me in a right to left trajectory as I read it.”
This a red herring, as the early church practiced COMMUNALISM (voluntary pooling/redistributing of wealth), as opposed to COMMUNISM (the involuntary pooling/redistributing of wealth). In our free, capitalist society, everyone is welcome to practice communalism if they like, and this is a model on which many non-profits are structured. This is massively dissimilar to government-enforced redistribution.
The more I read my Bible, the more I realize Jesus taught we need to pay our taxes.
“After reading 4 and 5, some are probably saying, “Yeah, but that was never supposed to be the government’s job.” Well, we see Jesus tell someone that he should “sell everything and give it to the poor”…”
That was a specific request to a specific individual at a specific time for specific purposes; not a general command to everybody for all time.
“… and also command us to pay our taxes. So, it looks like we’re not getting off the hook either way—we need to pay our taxes and give private charity. It’s not an either/or proposition. I’m not a fan of that either, but it’s in the Bible.”
Yes, we need to “render unto Caesar what is Caesars,” but the amount they paid in taxes at that time pales in comparison to what the likes of Obama want us to pay.
The more I read my Bible, the more I realize that God wants us to be people who are quick to show mercy.
“The prophet Micah says that “loving mercy” is actually something God “requires” of us. Jesus tells us that justice and mercy are the “more important” parts of God’s law. This means that when it comes to issues of justice, economics, poverty, the death penalty, etc., I have become more quick to take the default position that sides with radical mercy.”
Mercy is great where it’s appropriate. The Bible is very clear that it’s not appropriate when somebody has committed a capital offense, however (such as, say, torturing and killing a baby). It’s also not appropriate for people who stubbornly continue to sin and make messes in their lives and in the lives of others (see Matthew 18). We’re never to abandon justice in favor of “sloppy agape” so we can obsess on mercy. Mercy is appropriate for the repentant, but not for those who refuse to repent.
The more I read my Bible, the more I realize that God cares how we treat immigrants.
“Whenever God lists people who he wants his children to take care of, immigrants make the cut. The more I read about God’s heart for the immigrant, the more I realize that I might be held accountable for how I treat them, and how I talk about them.”
Treating legal immigrants well is great, and is the standard conservative position on it. Illegal immigration, however, is never supported in The Bible. The old canard that Jesus, Mary and Joseph “were illegal immigrants in Egypt” is poppycock, as both Israel and Egypt were merely territories in The Roman Empire, and travel between the two was allowed.
The more I read my Bible, the more I realize that God will hold us accountable for how we care for the environment.
“God’s original mandate for humanity was to care for creation—we were designed and called to be environmental conservationists.”
That’s simply not what He said. Let’s look at it: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” — Genesis 1:28. Of course we don’t abuse it, but it’s ours to “subdue” and “rule over.” You don’t have to like that, but it’s right there in the text.
“In the end, we see that God is going to judge quite harshly those who refused: “The nations raged, but your wrath came, and the time for the dead to be judged, and for rewarding your servants, the prophets and saints, and those who fear your name, both small and great, and for destroying the destroyers of the earth” (Revelation 11:18).
Not sure how to escape it—God wants me to care for and protect the environment, so I will.”
The phrase “the destroyers of the earth” may in fact be referencing the moral destroyers of the earth, but either way, it’s only reasonable to eschew pollution and flagrant abuse of the environment. To that extent, we’re on the same page. That’s a far cry from the “progressive” psychosis of treating the earth like a god, however (which is warned against in Romans 1:25), and obsessing over it as if it were an idol.
The urban legend that 97% of scientists believe in man-made climate change is demonstrably false (that legend grew from a paper claiming that 97% of a cherry-picked, AGW-inclined group believed in it). The truth is that over 31,000 scientists have signed a petition stating that man-made climate change is a bogus hypothesis. God is not pleased when Christians jump on a potentially very destructive “bandwagon” like this via shallow research or no research, no matter how many others are on that bandwagon. The Paris Climate Accord nonsense illustrates the utterly irrational depths to which some will sink on this issue: it would cost the US over $100 TRILLION to join in on this, and the resultant difference in temperature would be almost zero. This is manic idolatry — not reason.
The more I read my Bible, the more I realize that God isn’t judging us by whether or not we get all of our doctrine right. He’s judging us by whether or not we get the “love one another” part right.
“This aspect wasn’t a major player in my faith before, but the more I read the Bible the more I realize that God is less concerned with us all sharing the same doctrine than God is heavily concerned with whether or not we love each other. In fact, Jesus said this would be the calling card of his followers and how others would realize we’re actually following Jesus—that we love one another. The more I read my Bible, the more I want to defer my position or preference and instead side with what is in the best interest of others, because that’s the loving thing to do.”
Then I guess we should all just have a big utopian orgy, because then we’d for sure be loving one another, and any objection to that would just be over-emphasis on doctrine, right?
Of course I’m being facetious here — The Bible very clearly wants us to have the correct views on IMPORTANT doctrines (like, say not killing babies for convenience) as it allows for grace on peripheral issues (Romans 14:2), while simultaneously loving one another.
As Meldenius stated: “In Essentials Unity, In Non-Essentials Liberty, In All Things Charity.” It’s neither peripheral nor charitable to torture-murder babies, encourage same-sex relationships and other perversions, transgenderism, hormone “therapy,” genital mutilation and other directly anti-Biblical compulsions, forced income redistribution, and the violation of Natural Law rights such as for self-defense and free association, such as “progressives” do.
“How has reading your Bible changed your worldview? Has your experience been similar, or different?”
Reading my Bibles has shown me how the conservative view tends to be correct, as it more closely follows the spirit of the Scientific Method. It’s circumspect, and it doesn’t dismantle old fences merely because it doesn’t yet know why they were put there. It tracks initial conditions, changing conditions over time, and considers the best possible inferences as to why things change over time as they do. “Progressivism,” contrarily, seems to have missed Jeremiah’s prophetic statement in chapter 17, verse 9: “The heart is more deceitful than all else, And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?”
“Progressivism” starts with emotions, lunges into Ideology, and largely bypasses the (more painstaking but worthwhile) process of testing and discarding hypotheses on the path to the best and most harmonious inferences.
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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of FreeThinking Ministries.