I had the honor of guest blogging for Scot McKnight a couple of weeks ago. It was a good opportunity to try something out with a different crowd. It was instigated by last weeks post in response to Roger Olsen and Scot McKnight.
It was a fantastic conversation and I learned several things that I will take with me into future engagements. Here are some observations:
- I learned to clarify the difference between people in the pew and theologians.
I go to a mainline school and work at a mainline church. I have an amalgamation in my mind of the ‘average liberal’. But if you are in the conservative camp, your main engagement and concern is with Liberal theologians who have a high profile.
If was starting the post over, I would address this up front and make an early distinction. I think that would have helped.
- I learned not to use the word ‘versus’ if you don’t mean adversarial.
Neither Scot nor I think liberal is necessarily a bad thing. Roger Olsen does. But some of the readers at JesusCreed think in adversarial binaries. I was not trying to say that progressives are good and liberals are bad. I was simply trying to distinguish the two – not pit them against each other. The argument culture is so strong – especially in conservative circles – that I should have preempted that.
- I learned that those in systematic approaches struggle to recognize non-systematic approaches.
This is an obvious and inherent problem. If you value systematic approaches, of corse you will criticize something as ‘not systematic’ and think that stands alone are a critique. I was trying to point out that conservative, liberal, evangelical, emergent, and progressive are not 5 categories of the same thing. Some are positions. Some are loyalties. Some are approaches.
Here is what I ended up with:
Since my Cobb quick-definition was not working for folks I thought I would ‘shift’ the emphasis and see if this language worked better:
Liberal – a constellation of loyalties inherited from the Enlightenment that is settled/assumed.
Progressive – an approach that integrates such influences as Feminist, Liberation and Post-Colonial critiques explicitly.
I’m open to help refining this – ESPECIALLY if you are a self-proclaimed liberal or progressive
My favorite response came from TJJ and it has me smiling ear to ear.
Qualities of a progressive ………as viewed by an evangelical……….
A. See more “grey” in their approach to scripture issues: inspiration, inerrancy, revelation.
B. Allow for more of a continuum on doctrinal/theological issues: hell, salvation, sin, depravity, exclusiveness of Gospel, etc.
C. More open ended on social issues : gay marriage, illegal immigration.
D. Trends more democratic/progressive politically
E. White, college degree and often more, affluent, alcohol, NPR, Toyota/Honda, MSNBC/CNN
Oh my. That is good.
At first read you may say “yeah – of course”.
But look at it again. It’s actually pretty helpful to see it all in one place.
I would love to hear your thoughts on any part of this whole episode.
March 5, 2013 at 10:04 pm
I’m curious of more “theological liberal” schools of thought hold to these distinctions. I had a conversation with a former Drew University student who seemed to use the terms progressive and liberal interchangeably. Is there a need to educate the nuances of progressives and liberals? In some of these distinctions, I could be considered progressive, but not necessarily liberal. Especially because I still place myself firmly within the evangelical stream.
March 6, 2013 at 12:51 am
– I am at a VERY liberal school and these are not clear distinctions.
-That is part of why I am attempting to be clear about them.
– I do believe that there is a need to differentiate them. The current conflation is not only not clear but not helpful or meaningful.
I especially like your last sentence.
– in my framing, it is possible to use ‘progressive’ as a modifier as well (progressive evangelical) or as a stand-alone.
I go with progressive-emergent 😉 -Bo