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.
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