The 10 Commandments of Progressive Christianity #2: Are We Born Sinners in Need of Salvation?

“Affirming people’s potential is more important than reminding them of their brokenness.”

The core issue in this second tenet is the issue of sin.  Are people sinners?  If so, how big of a deal is it?  And, more than that, how important is that people know they are sinners? Should we tell them? And how we do balance people’s sinfulness with their potential as God’s image bearers?

 

“At the very root of the modern liberal movement is the loss of the consciousness of sin.”  –J. Gresham Machen (p.64)

I’ve been working my way through a new series entitled “The 10 Commandments of Progressive Christianity.”  It’s an examination of 10 core tenets of progressive (or liberal) Christianity offered by Richard Rohr, but really based on the book by Philip Gulley.

We come now to the second of these tenets: “Affirming people’s potential is more important than reminding them of their brokenness.”

The core issue in this second tenet is the issue of sin.  Are people sinners?  If so, how big of a deal is it?  And, more than that, how important is that people know they are sinners? Should we tell them? And how we do balance people’s sinfulness with their potential as God’s image bearers?

There are few issues that divide progressive Christianity from historic Christianity more than this issue of sin.  Indeed, as the above quote from Machen indicates, it is the loss, downplaying, ignoring, or sometimes even the outright rejection of sin that fundamentally defines progressive Christianity.

Balancing Sin and Human Potential

Of course, we should acknowledge from the outset that this second tenet is partially true. The Christian message is not only about our sin and our brokenness. “You are a sinner,” is not all that can, or should, be said.  Christ saves us from our sin, yes, but then he begins a renewing work inside each believer.  And that renewing work begins to restore the beauty of God’s image within us.

And, in that sense, we can really say that people have “potential.” And that potential should be affirmed and celebrated.  But, it is potential wrought only by the saving grace of God and the death of Christ which conquered our sin.  Apart from that, any affirmation of human potential quickly devolves into a version of humanistic moralism.

Put differently, we must affirm both our deep depravity and also the amazing potential we have as God’s image bearers.  The two belong together.

But, this is precisely the problems with the progressive message.  They are eager to accept the latter, but hesitant about the former.  They have, again, separated what the Bible joins.

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