Progressives, Conservatives and a Restoration Agenda Above the Labels

I was trying to explain to someone the other day how if I am progressive it is only in the sense that I believe progressivism and biblical overlap. I am not a camp, tribe, or side person as best as I can pull it off. I am interested in two things: God (and what He has revealed to us in His word) and people (helping them in their faith journey). That’s pretty much it. I am not interested in upholding tradition for the sake of tradition but that doesn’t mean I think tradition is bad or wrong. It isn’t at all. No matter what you do, tradition will exist even if that tradition is that you change things every single time to not have traditions develop…that in and of itself is tradition. I am for upholding tradition-based practices so long as they are helpful or at least not harmful. I am also very much about restoring and re-focusing Christianity by what we find in the Bible.

Here is where it gets interesting. Sometimes our traditions are actually progressive moves. Let me explain. If tradition is filling in the blanks where scripture gives no guidance then all tradition was innovation and progressive at some point in time. All of the traditions people have a hard time letting go of were once innovations that some considered dangerous. The English translations of the Bible were considered dangerous in the 1500s and people died over trying to produce them! Bible class was once a progressive idea that was rejected (and still is) by some because we don’t find that model in scripture and yet we also don’t find dedicated church buildings to worship in either! But that part was already factored into a long standing tradition that is above reproach or question!

On the flip side there are things that are considered progressive that are actually just scriptural. Consider the church that refuses to have small groups on Sunday evening because they haven’t ever done it that way, fear losing control of the congregation, etc. Well, it turns out small groups in homes are not progressive at all…they are regresssive in that the precedent for communing in that way is biblical/very 1st century. Going to small groups from a corporate assembly is a restoration/biblical move…not a progressive move and yet some will label a congregation progressive for having small groups!

It all depends on where you stand and how you view tradition and silence. We all fill in silence, some just think that as long as our filling in of silence has gone on long enough to be established as a beloved tradition that it is somehow a better filling in of the silence than other attempts.

I try really hard not to be “Progressive” as much as I try to be biblical…sometimes (even often) that is going to land me squarely in the conservative camp while other times it will put me in line with what is considered progressive. None of that matters to me as much as pleasing God matters to me.

So my plea is not to have a progressive agenda or a conservative agenda and chase it as hard and far as you can. My plea is a plea to be in the word and practice what we find there…whether the outcome is considered progressive or conservative shouldn’t matter. Doing things for those agendas in and of themselves is destined to fail. Those words are categories that we contrived to explain what we experience and they are not always good or bad in and of themselves…conservatism is not always good and progressivism always bad and vice versa.

So let us all seek to please the Lord. Let us all seek God through the scriptures and practice what we find there. Let us love and honor each other well as we all seek God together in our feeble attempts to please Him. The truth is that no matter how well we do things we are still in need of grace! So let us be liberal in giving grace without making grace an excuse to ignore the truth.

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