the difference between “progressives” and “conservatives”

Once upon a time I used to consider myself a “progressive,” until I found out what the term actually means in regard to one’s theology. The idea is that the spirit of the age, now Modernism and Post-Modernism, is a factor brought to the table in our understanding of God’s will. Well, we’d all agree with that. But the difference with progressives is that they will judge what is found in scripture by the spirit of the age.  Whereas so-called conservatives judge the age by the Book, or better yet, by the gospel revealed in the Book, in scripture, that understanding mediated by the Spirit through the church. And I think it’s evident that there is indeed something of what’s been called a “redemptive movement” hermeneutic in scripture, as God moves his people toward the goal of God’s kingdom in and through Jesus.

The teaching of the resurrection of Jesus, at the heart of the gospel and indeed, of the faith, is an example of the difference. For progressives, whether or not it was a literal, bodily resurrection, or simply metaphorical of how Christ lives on through his life and teaching, doesn’t matter. Unlike the Apostle Paul, who in 1 Corinthians 15 (see verses 12-19) saw the resurrection as essential to the Christian faith, these folks beg to differ. Of course Jesus’ resurrection body was spiritual in the sense of being made by the Spirit for the new order. But as we see from the post-resurrection appearances in the gospel accounts, which the progressives would simply call stories with the implication that they need not be historical, actual happenings, Jesus could be touched, indeed did eat, and did not appear to be any different than anyone else. Even though he could do things he couldn’t do before. Appearing and disappearing, evidence of that.

I dislike the term conservative, since I have problems with that term philosophically and politically. All these terms are not inherently bad, but carry baggage, and surely have their limitations. A follower of Jesus, simply a Christian, and a part of Christ’s body, the church suffices for me. But traditional, orthodox would also fit in the place where I stand with others in Jesus, because I believe it does justice to what scripture teaches, to the gospel itself. And for me, there’s no problem in believing the account of scripture in the four gospels concerning the resurrection. The way it reads actually lends support for its historicity in contrast to what likely would have been had the church been making up the story.

And the God who created all things certainly would have no trouble making a new creation, which is precisely what is promised and is already present in and through Jesus. Faith does not contradict science, nor science contradict faith. We have to let both general revelation (creation) and special revelation (scripture) speak for themselves, and keep working on our understanding of both. Even while we as the church receive what is the heart of the truth in the good news of Jesus. Something we can stand on and live by day after day, and as witnesses to, and on which we stake our very lives. The one hope for the world we can count on, as good as God’s word and promise to us.