Another Gospel? A Lifelong Christian Seeks Truth in Response to Progressive Christianity

Alisa Childers’ faith wasn’t shaken by an atheist professor or a New Age neighbor.

Her beliefs were dismantled by her pastor.

She knew and trusted him. He had invited a select group of “out of the box thinkers” to a special class, a “safe zone to process our doubts and questions.” Alisa was surprised when he began to question and then to take apart the doctrines she had always believed.

“I wouldn’t hear the term progressive Christianity until years later. But it was clear that this group of people wanted to ‘progress’ beyond the Christianity they had known. They were going through what would practically become a rite of passage in this new and flourishing movement: deconstruction. In the context of faith, deconstruction is the process of systematically dissecting and often rejecting the beliefs you grew up with” (p. 24).

There were things that bothered Alisa about Christianity as it had always been presented, things like massive altar calls where people streamed forward. Did those people know what they were doing? Did their decision “stick?”

But those things didn’t cause her to question her foundational beliefs. Her pastor’s class did. She realized she knew what she believed, but not why. She had grown up in a Christian family who actively ministered to others. But her faith was “intellectually weak and untested” (p. 5).

“When progressive Christianity first entered the scene, its proponents raised some valid critiques of evangelical culture that the church needed to examine and reevaluate. But those progressives who reject essential teachings—like the physical resurrection of Jesus—can confuse unsuspecting Christians and kick the foundation out from under them” (p. 8).

This class led her into a dark pit, “a spiritual blackout—a foray into darkness like I’d never known” (p. 8). What if everything she had ever believed was false? Another girl in the class stood next to her in choir practice one day and said, “It’s funny that we’re all singing these songs and none of us have any idea what we believe!” (p. 28).

That wasn’t good enough for Alisa. “When I have doubts about my faith, or deep nagging questions that keep me up at night, I don’t have the luxury of finding ‘my truth’ because I am committed to the truth. I want to know what is real. I want my worldview (the lens through which I see the world) to line up with reality. God either exists, or he doesn’t. The Bible is his Word, or it’s not. Jesus was raised from the dead, or he wasn’t. Christianity is true, or it isn’t. There is no ‘my truth’ when it comes to God” (p. 10).

“I wanted to progress in my faith . . . in my understanding of God’s Word, my ability to live it out, and m relationship with Jesus. But I didn’t want to progress beyond truth” (p. 25).

Alisa prayed for God to send her a lifeboat. And He did, sending more than one. Alisa took time to study in detail the claims of the foundational doctrines of Christianity. It was a long process. Sometimes her study brought up more questions.

“Slowly and steadily, God began to rebuild my faith. The questions that had knocked the foundation out from under my beliefs—the ones I had never thought to ask, the ones I didn’t know existed—were not simply being answered. They were being dwarfed by substantial evidence and impenetrable logic so robust that I felt like a kid in a candy store—who had just found out that candy exists” (p. 227).

Her faith didn’t look exactly as it had before. She corrected some beliefs and determined some, while important, weren’t essential. But her beliefs in the fundamental truths of historic Christianity were now on a firm foundation.

Another Gospel: A Lifelong Christian Seeks Truth in Response to Progressive Christianity is Alisa’s testimony and the result of her study. She takes a great deal of information and distills it to its essentials in an understandable way.

She quotes from progressive Christianity’s authors to show what they believe and how it differs from historic Christianity. Then she draws from her extensive research to share why she believes the evidence supports historic Christianity.

There’s so much I wish I could tell you and quote from this book. But I’ll touch on just a few issues.

One big difference between historic and progressive Christianity is their views of Scripture. Alisa spends three chapters on the different threads of thought in regard to the Bible and the abundant proof that it is accurate and reliable and authoritative.

Other major differences involve who Jesus is and why He came. Some call the idea of Jesus dying for our sins “cosmic child abuse.” But Jesus said He willingly gave His life. Atonement wasn’t an idea borrowed from primitive religions. It was worked into the fabric of the OT sacrifices and symbols and came into fruition in Jesus’ death for our sins. Many NT books expound on it.

If more churches would welcome the honest questions of doubters and engage with the intellectual side of their faith, they would become safe places for those who experience doubt. If people don’t feel understood, they are likely to find sympathy from those in the progressive camp who thrive on reveling in doubt. In progressive Christianity, doubt has become a badge of honor to bask in, rather than an obstacle to face and overcome (pp. 51-52).

As I navigated through my faith crisis, I realized that it’s not enough to simply know the facts anymore . . . we have to learn how to think them through—to assess information and come to reasonable conclusions after engaging religious ideas logically and intellectually. We can’t allow truth to be sacrificed on the altar of our feelings. We can’t allow our fear of offending others to prevent us from warning them that they’re about to step in front of a bus (p. 11).

The progressive wave that slammed me against the Rock of Ages had broken apart my deeply ingrained assumptions about Jesus, God, and the Bible. But that same Rock of Ages slowly but surely began to rearrange the pieces, discarding a few and putting the right ones back where they belonged (p. 9).

Those of you who have read here for a while know that I am not given to gushy superlative statements. But this is one of the most important books I have ever read. I had seen some of the things Alisa described mentioned here and there, and her book helped those pieces click into the bigger picture.

These doctrines matter. There are many areas where we can differ from other Christians and give each other grace. But it’s not enough to have a nebulous belief in a generic Jesus. It’s vital that we know Who and what we believe in and why.

I strongly encourage you to read this book. It will help you discern the threads of progressive Christianity. It will strengthen your own faith and its foundations. It will help you minister to others.

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

27 thoughts on “Another Gospel? A Lifelong Christian Seeks Truth in Response to Progressive Christianity

  1. I’m sure I’d enjoy reading this. In today’s world, with anti-Christian worldviews seeming to take over so many of our institutions, it’s definitely important to teach new Christians not only what we believe but why. How sad that Alisa’s pastor was the one who nudged her out of faith rather than deeper into it.

    • It’s so important to know why we believe what we do. But I’ve noticed people are more drawn to feel-good posts and books rather than meaty ones. For our sake and our ability to share truth with others, we need to dig into it.

  2. Oh, wow! This sounds like just the book I’m looking for. One of our daughters has been ‘deconverting,’ and the books sounds like it has great information for people who are going through, or have a loved one going through a similar situation.

  3. I so appreciate reading this post. I have so struggled when hearing the term “deconstruction”. Not because of doubting my own faith, but so concerned with how it has become a badge of honor. May we know what we believe, and be fully convinced of God’s truth, and not waver in our faith. Barbara, I not only appreciate this post and the book recommendation, I appreciate you!

  4. It’s clear from this why James has given such solemn warnings to anyone who wears the name.”teacher.” It’s a monumental responsibility and it’s a mercy that the author found her way back to faith.

    • I was astonished that the author’s pastor took it upon himself to undermine people’s faith in this group (she later said he took these teachings to the whole church). Yet it’s a needed warning to me to put much study in what I share so I am not leading others astray.

  5. This sounds like a powerful book and one that would behoove me to read right now. Thank you for the review and recommendation.

  6. Thank you for doing this review, Barbara. I have read some of the book and heard Alisa’s podcast, and I agree … she is doing important work, in a compelling way. I’ve noticed the value that progressive Christians place on doubt. Interesting, though, that Jesus often commends people for their faith but never their doubt.

  7. this is a book that we have been thinking of getting into as well Barbara. She is spot on and very respected by my church leaders. So many are deceived into thinking their “brand” of Christianity is Biblically based and yet they don’t search the Scriptures for themselves. I know of some who ONLY follow the OT…or ONLY follow the NT. Progressive Christianity is something to take seriously……..so many are decevied.

  8. From my understanding, Judaism’s Messiah is reflective of the unambiguously fire-and-brimstone angry-God Almighty of the Torah, Old Testament and Quran. This fact left even John the Baptist, who believed in Jesus as the savior, troubled by Jesus’ apparently contradictory version of Messiah, notably his revolutionary teaching of non-violently offering the other cheek as the proper response to being physically assaulted by one’s enemy.

    Though no pushover, Jesus fundamentally was about compassion and charity. Therefore, Jesus may have been viciously killed because he did not in the least behave in accordance to corrupted human conduct and expectation — and in particular because he was nowhere near to being the vengeful, wrathful behemoth so many people seemingly wanted or needed their savior to be and therefore believed he’d have to be.

    Also, he clearly would not tolerate the accumulation of tens of billions of dollars by individual people — especially while so many others go hungry and homeless. Today, when a public figure openly supports a guaranteed minimum income, he/she is nevertheless deemed communist/socialist and therefore somehow evil by many institutional Christians. This, while Christ’s teachings epitomize the primary component of socialism — do not hoard morbidly superfluous wealth in the midst of poverty.

    Maybe everything about Jesus was/is meant to show to people that there really was/is hope for the many — especially for young people living in today’s physical, mental and spiritual turmoil — seeing hopelessness in a fire-and-brimstone angry-God-condemnation creator requiring literal pain-filled penance/payment for Man’s sinful thus corrupted behavior (somewhat like an angry father spanking his child, really). He became incarnate to show humankind what Messiah ought to and has to be. Fundamentally, that definitely includes resurrection.

    • Those who claim a different kind of God in the Testaments, or view the OT God as all fire and brimstone, must not have studied the whole Bible. Many times in the OT, God is described as longsuffering, compassionate, merciful, slow to anger. Some of His tenderest expressions of mercy are in the major and minor prophets, when He is warning of what will happen if His people don’t give up their sin. Despite His provision, protection, leading, time after time they rejected Him and went after other gods.
      Jesus said He was one with the Father (John 10:30). Those listening knew what He meant, because they picked up stones to throw at Him. Jesus quoted from the OT, including Moses’ writings. Jesus never claimed to be a different God or different kind of God from the Father. He honored the Father and sought to please Him.

      The nations that God told the Isarelites to destroy were guilty of horrendous sins. What kind of God would not be angry at murder, rape, oppression, and so on? God’s wrath isn’t a sudden temper tantrum. It’s a just anger against willful sin. God gave people many opportunities to repent. The way was always open for individuals to turn and repent and believe, and a few did (Ruth the Moabitess, Rahab the harlot, and others). But for those who persisted in their sin, what else could God do with them?

      The concept of an atonement is in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. Jesus didn’t die because he was practicing non-violence against an angry mob. He foretold His death to His disciples many times. He was “delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23). Jesus willingly laid down His life. John 10:18: “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” Alisa Childers wrote in the book I reviewed above, “Jesus saw himself as the ultimate sacrificial lamb. The writer of Hebrews confirms what Jesus was saying: ‘He entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. . . . He has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself’ (Hebrews 9: 12, 26).”

      There’s much more that could be said about all this—whole books have been written about it, besides this one. But I’ll stop there.

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