As the reader probably has noticed, there is now a great divide between Evangelicals and Progressives. Can that divide be bridged? It is impossible to know, though it doesn’t appear likely at this time. Our understanding of God and His word are very different.
In our book, A Matter of Basic Principles: Bill Gothard and the Christian Life, the Epilogue, “Fear of Flying,” was included to help the readers understand how those in cults and high-demand authoritarian groups can feel trapped. They have been given a view of God as a malevolent being that is on the lookout for them to step out of line – whereupon He will happily crush them. Many of these people give up or “deconstruct” their abusive faith and opt for atheism or agnosticism. “Joshua Harris – Kissing WHAT Faith Goodbye?” was one who followed that path.
Still, others adopt a faith system that gives them what they believe is greater personal control over their lives – and so they cast off their harsh view of what they thought was the Biblical God and embrace Wicca or some other New Age belief. Many cultists and some former Evangelicals fall into this camp.
We have helped many that have left such groups unwind their false beliefs and embrace grace. It takes time, patience, and availability. There will be many questions the person has to sort through, and it may be some time to begin to trust the word of God again to discern what is true from what is false. Jinger Duggar Vuolo’s book, Becoming Free Indeed: My Story of Disentangling Faith from Fear tells, her story of growing up under the authoritarianism of Bill Gothard’s Institute in Basic Life Principles.1 Jinger’s transition did not cause her to abandon the Christian faith and the Bible. She instead learned to recognize false teaching, legalism, and authoritarianism and gain a spiritually healthy understanding of the biblical faith.
Many people who leave authoritarian groups or churches are rejecting the very dark view of God they were taught and shifting toward progressivism. Brian McLaren, Rob Bell, Rachel Held Evans, Kristin Kobes Du Mez, and others made that trek – and have taken many with them – over a relatively short period of time. Richard Rohr has been the pied piper for many of them. Progressives give a nod to the Bible but adopt what they view as a kinder, more inclusive idea of Jesus –while ignoring or outright rejecting His exclusive claims. As sociologist and professor of sociology at Baylor University, George Yancey points out:
It’s not surprising that the image of Jesus for progressive Christians differs from the image of Jesus for conservative Christians. For progressive Christians, Jesus is the model of inclusion and tolerance. For example, one progressive Christian drew a cartoon of Jesus saying, “The difference between me and you is you use Scripture to determine what love means and I use love to determine what Scripture means.” Progressive Christians focus on the actions and teachings of Jesus that reinforce their values of tolerance and inclusion, which they see as examples of love.
For conservative Christians, Jesus is interpreted through a traditional historical framework. They have less of a problem interpreting Jesus as teaching an “intolerant” faith that excludes from salvation those who don’t follow him. Both progressive and conservative Christians affirm the majesty of Christ, but they greatly differ on what values they see emerging from his life and ministry.2
For Progressives, determining the meaning of Scripture has little to do with what God has said in the historical-grammatical context. They judge and understand scripture by the individual’s personal “social values.” One consequence is that Biblical justice is abandoned and replaced with Marxism’s Social Justice.
For one example, Martin Luther King’s maxim of judging someone by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin is rejected by Progressives today, replaced by completely judging people by their skin color and according to their loyalty to all progressive issues.