There is a Difference Between Liberal and Progressive

Roger Olson caused some ripples last week when he posted “Why I am not a Liberal Christian”.  Then Scot McKnight went and took it even farther with “What is a Liberal Anyway”  and said :

“Evangelicals have successfully made “liberal” a pejorative term. So today many liberals call themselves “progressives.”

I want to be clear about 2 things:

  • Liberal and Progressive are not the same thing. I hear this accusation from conservative evangelicals all the time that young/cool liberals just hide behind the term ‘progressive’. This view is very dismissive and not very informed.

I grew up evangelical. Scot McKnight and my father car-pooled to seminary together when I was a kid in Chicago. I went to the Billy Graham School of Evangelism. I get Evangelical.
I am now part of the Emergent stream and I serve at a Mainline church and go to a Mainline seminary. MP900405058

So please believe me when I say that there is as big a difference between Liberal and Progressive and there is between Evangelical and Emergent. 

Liberal simply mean that one’s experience is a valid location for doing theology.

Progressives are folks that would be Liberal but who have learned from Feminist, Liberation and Post-Colonial critiques. *

 

Here are Olsen’s 6 markers for determining if one is Liberal:

  • First, I look at their overall view of reality. Do they think the universe is open to God’s special activity in what might be called, however infelicitously, “miracles?” Do they believe in supernatural acts of God including especially the bodily resurrection of Jesus including the empty tomb? If not, I tend to think they are liberal theologically.
  • Second, I look at their approach to “doing theology.” How do they approach knowing God? Do they begin with and recognize the authority of special revelation? Or do they begin with and give norming authority to human experience, culture, science, philosophy, “the best of contemporary thought?” That is, do they “do” theology “from above” or “from below?” Insofar as they do theology “from below” I tend to think they are liberal theologically.
  • Third, I look at their Christology. Do they think Jesus was different from other “great souls” among us in kind or only in degree? Is their Christology truly incarnational, affirming the preexistence of the Word who become human as Jesus Christ, or is it functional only, affirming only that Jesus Christ represented God, was God’s “deputy and advocate” among men and women? Insofar as their Chistology is functional and not ontologically incarnational, trinitarian, I tend to think they are theologically liberal.
  • Fourth, I look at their view of Scripture. Do they believe the Bible is “inspired insofar as it is inspiring,” a wisdom-filled source of religious illumination and record of our “spiritual ancestors’” experiences of God? Or do they believe the Bible is supernaturally inspired such that in some sense God is its author—not necessarily meaning God dictated it or even verbally inspired it? Another way of putting that “test” is similar to the Christological one above: Is the Bible different only in degree from other great books of spiritual wisdom or in kind from them? Insofar as they view the Bible as different only in degree, I tend to think they are liberal theologically.
  • Fifth, I look at their view of salvation. Do they believe salvation is forgiveness and reconciliation with God as well as being made whole and holy by God’s grace alone or do they believe salvation is only a realization of human potential—individual or social—by spiritual enlightenment and moral endeavor? Insofar as they think the latter, I tend to think they are theologically liberal.
  • Sixth, I look at their view of the future. Do they believe in a real return of Jesus Christ, however conceived, to bring about a new world of righteousness? Or do they believe the “return of Christ” is a myth that expresses an existential experience and/or social transformation only? Insofar as they believe it is only a symbol, myth or metaphor, I tend to think they are liberal theologically.

Olson says that the problem with being Liberal is that  “I find it thin, ephemeral, light, profoundly unsatisfying. It seems to me barely different from being secular humanist.”

I object!  Look, I’m no liberal – but I hang out with lots of them and to say that it is barely different from secular humanism is just non-sense. These are people who:
A) participate in the Christian tradition
B) use Christian narrative and vocabulary and
C) belong to Christian community.

Those are 3 powerful and good things – whether or not they have ‘thin’ theology.

Next is where the real contention comes. Olson says:

If I ever wake up and find that I think like a true theological liberal, I hope I will be honest enough to stop calling myself “Christian.”

This is a terrible line of reasoning.  Liberal Christianity is a kind of Christianity! Being a liberal Christian doesn’t mean you are not a christian – it just means that you are not that type of Christian.

This is the Santa Clause problem I keep talking about. It’s the equivalent of saying ‘If there is no Santa Clause and Jesus wasn’t literally born on December 25 – then Christmas isn’t worth celebrating.’  Yes it is. It has all sorts of inherent worth and intrinsic value … it’s just not where you thought it was.

So to both Olson and McKnight I want to say ‘I get what you are up to. I agree with 80% of it. But it is that final 20% that is really concerning and threatens to compromise the integrity of that other 80%’.

_______

*  Progressive does not mean that all change (progress) is good or that history is always progressing toward justice and enlightenment. 

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50 comments
Kurt van Kraut
Kurt van Kraut

Yes, the pietist tendency to internalize one's spiritual life has meant that many Christians have not been the transformative agents of God's Kingdom that we are all called to be. And yet, maybe there is something to be said for working out your label not through public declarations (or actions), but in quiet conversation with the God who knows you best. In my most foundationalist moments (that is, when I pray), I find that I am never who I think I am. For instance, the other day I told God I was a liberal (in a vain attempt to pass myself off as more Christ-like), and She totally called me out for being an idolatrous literalist... :-)

Seriously, though, pieces like Olson's are so awkward because they betray a desperate human search for identity. As adult Christians, why do we often behave like high school kids who want to belong to a doctrinal in-group? I know that, when I first dared to acknowledge to myself that I had actually stopped believing in an interventionist God, I immediately wondered what people in church would think. 

castaway5555
castaway5555

Wow, I just read this, and I say thanks ... thanks for challenging Olson. I'm a liberal; have been all of my career (43 years worth) and I found Olson's descriptions of "liberal" to be thoroughly off the mark, I mean, seriously. Once again, it's the proverbial straw man - setting up something that truly doesn't exist, and then going after it. 

I know lots of liberals, and we're all over the place with all of this. I think where Olson stumbles is setting up firm distinctions where none exist, trying to categorize "the other," which may be just fine for rocks and bugs, but hardly for people.

In reality, all such categorizations fail ... in reality, we are all variations on many themes - I suppose the broadest of themes can be described in some respects, which Olson does, but with too firm a hand, and then the old evangelical mantra: "That's not what I am. Everyone give me an amen!" And that goes for liberals, too, and I've been there. The too-easy categorization of the other, and then the dismissal.

Makes one feel good, but hardly serves the truth of the matter.



sean muldowney
sean muldowney

I learn from Feminist, Liberation, and Post-Colonial critiques (so I'm ok with "progressive"). I think that one's experience is a valid location for doing theology (so I'm ok with this def. of "liberal"). I let these two categories inform and critique my evangelical convictions. Since evangelical is still my starting point - despite the increasing discomfort  I am experiencing in the camp - is this how I should still ultimately classify myself (for the sake of dialogue)? I think so ... but I'm just getting so sick of the whole "I'm evangelical ... but not like those ... or those ... or those kinds." I don't want to define myself by what I'm not, yet it I don't think it would be fair to those who really own the labels of progressive or liberal to use those as mere adverbial modifiers that precede "evangelical."  I'm ok with the tensions I'm experiencing right now, but I'm trying to come to a conclusive descriptor of my theology, if only for the sake of brevity. 

MarshallPease
MarshallPease

I do think Olson got it about right when he quoted Claude Welch: Liberalism is about "maximal acknowledgement of the claims of modernity" ... at least, the liberalism I grew up with as a Boston Unitarian in the 50's. These days Unitarian/Universalists will accept even avowed Atheists, whereas I think you used to be expected to at least verbally acknowledge God. But it's a self-selected label, and it means what it means in context. I think Bo's definition is more edifying than Roger's so OK by me for U/U's to identify Christian. If they do.

 

Agree Olson is doing some obnoxious and unnecessary fence-building here. On both sides there is loyalty to "Foundationalism" and also "Individualism" ... and I would point out (agreeing with Mark Farmer) that Modernism has two oppositions, pre- and post-.

 

Travis Mamone
Travis Mamone

Whelp, just call me Sporg 'cause it looks like I'm a three-sheets-to-the-wind flaming liberal!

JessePals
JessePals

I have a question right out of the gate. Why is this Liberal/Progressive distinction couched in Evangelicalism? Is this an expressly evangelical issue?

 

I'll take a swing at it. Because as far as Christian traditions go, evangelicalism has inherited a charming preocupation with propositional belief and individual piety (wink wink), specifically the assumed connection of the two. Let me explain. As far back as the 17th century, Christian pietists made a turn from the collectivism of Church and doctrine and begin to emphasize interiority and the godly character of the individual. Despite Lutherans accusing these forerunner evangelicals with stressing godly character too much and Calvinists saying they're flirting with Pelegianism, I would argue the pursuit of holiness was subsumed in the broad interest of  'right belief'.

 

It's not easy to shake hundreds of years of compulsive scholastic orthodoxy and the early pietists did not, however the renewed interest in interiority combined to generate a guage of intellectual assent that apparently today has the power to indicate whether someone is saved or not (and BTW Olson doesn't need to answer the question to come off as sounding simplistic and inadvertent, he only needs to ask it).

 

When I read Olson's post I see remnants of this assumed connection between right thinking (orthodoxy) and soteriology, especially when he calls into question the mutuality of 'liberal' and 'christian' categories. Now the pietists of the 17th century were not anti-intellectual or anti-rational. They were, on contrary, deeply thoughtful. Historically, it isn't until later on in the break of fundamentalism where this combination of right thinking and moral uprightness really dominates the evangelical landscape in north america. 

 

Does the future of evangelicalism need to include, as its primary discourse, an apologetic for Liberal Christians or Progressives? Or are there more pressing matters at hand for the church in north america? 

jdharrison
jdharrison

Bo, thanks for this. I don't have anything profound to add; this just resonated deeply with my recent experiences. I grew up an Evangelical, went to Fuller for seminary, but now find myself studying the history of liberal theology (mostly Schleiermacher) at a secular university in a religious studies PhD program. I'm not even sure if I'd consider myself a liberal theologian (progressive, definitely), but I feel like I'm constantly having to explain myself to people who, like Olson, aren't sure if I'm really a Christian anymore. This helps.

bultmanniac
bultmanniac

The continued ignorance of how one goes from "special revelation" to knowledge or faith without hermeneutics is nasty tribalism.

Jonnie Russell
Jonnie Russell

I agree that the dismissive distinctions he's making are disconcerting and really surprising in their simplicity.  I think using a word you like here Bo gets at the heart of what's 'going on' in these kind of liberal/conservative schemas as developed by a semi-conservative type.  Binaries. It's got the dividing lines all laid out, you are either this or this, etc.  Here, I think the underlying logic g is the truly hurtful part of setups like Olson's (and Tony Jones response today provides a perfect example).  If you go on to obscure or disavow the simply categories set up for distinguishing, you get the liberal card because you're deconstructing or absconding away from picking a side.  This is where these binaries are so pernicious! You can't even come against the methodology without being coded with the big "L."  There's no way out of the dichotomy as construed from the conservative side.  Herein lies both the problem and the angst I think so many feel when they are forced into Olson-like distinctions.

charis9
charis9

"All theology is autobiographical." St Augustine

The quote may be inexact since I quoted from memory... Although I am a follower of the Emergent Church, and would love to be a part of an emergent community, but here on the coast of South Carolina that will take some time, I attempt not to place labels on one's view of Christianity. I call myself a Christian and do not qualify that with any sub-group of theology. There is enough division in the world... This concern with such concentration on theology and philosophy may perhaps leadus away from the gospel of loving God and our neighbor...

adamdmoore
adamdmoore

Olson seems to be doing the same thing as those he criticizes and labels neo-fundamentalists. Olson just happens to move the boundary a notch to the left. All of them are simply calling those to the left of themselves liberals (and therefore non-Christian).

 

Of course, liberals (and/or progressives -- however you want to define these terms) also tend to have problems with those to the left of themselves. 

FitzTho
FitzTho

Olson's article reminded me of Mark Driscoll's much-criticized tweet on election day. Driscoll pretends to be able to judge the validity of Obama's faith; Olson judges the validity of the faith of everyone who disagrees with him. For Olson, discipleship is apparently based, not on one's relationship with Christ, but on one's agreement with Olson. I'm glad I wasn't the only one made uncomfortable by this lack of grace, humility, and compassion.

WrdsandFlsh
WrdsandFlsh

I have huge problems with the premise. We're lifting terms that were grounded in a POLITICAL conversation and attempting to use them to cover theological categories. "Liberal" and "progressive" are borrowed terms. So they don't quite fit. One can be theologically conservative and politically/socially liberal. And vice versa (theoretically anyway).

 

As someone who identifies on the "Liberal/Progressive" side of both faith and politics, I think that Olson's "marks" of liberalism come uncomfortably close to the marks of fundamentalism (like the requirement to literally believe in the Virgin birth & inerrancy of Scripture).

 

What if I agree to some degree and disagree to another? What if I can say that just because there wasn't a historical person called Moses, it doesn't negate the theological value of the Exodus story? As I see it, the problem first is with trying to take terms originating in a political debate (and thusly having heavily political connotations) and using them to awkwardly divide people in faith. Once can't escape (or divorce!) the political connotations of such language as "Liberal/Progressive." That is a stumbling block. Also, there is an assumption that those who are not "Conservative" or "traditional" in their theological work (i.e. don't have the same Christology as Karl Barth) must then have "weak" theology or a less sophisticated understanding of theology.

 

Finally, Olson is giving pride of place to those who end up on the non-Liberal, Evangelical side. It smacks of a kind of theological arrogance - one that seems to claim that if you aren't a literalist or ineerantist you can't have a profoundly meaningful relationship with God. As someone who falls in that weird, amorphous "Liberal/Progressive" category (how about just "not-conservative" or "un-Orthodox") and who has personal issues with the term evangelical (because of it's co-opting by a fundamentalist contingent in the US and because of their often militant tactics in recruitment) , I find the implicit "less-than" attitude toward religious "liberals" undermining to any attempt at brigding the differences in theology. One is not more devout as a Christian because one believes in the Virgin birth; one shows faith in how that faith transforms our lives as expressed in belief and action.

 

(/end rant)

Mark Farmer
Mark Farmer

Bo, can we also say that Progressive implies an embracing of some degree of postmodern thinking as well? It would be anachronistic, on the other hand, to describe classic liberalism as postmodern. Let me add that I have come to a much greater for respect of liberalism than I had as an Evangelical. As for the thinness of our theology, perhaps it is because we have come to see that the quest for correct doctrine is a hopeless one, with no way to verify that one has actually attained it. But learning to love people, treat them right, and seeking to overcome evil with good (first and foremost in ourselves) is much more tangible, do-able and urgent.

David Miller
David Miller

Sometimes I call myself a postliberal progressive.  I've come through liberalism, but I'm not returning to a pre-liberal position.  I don't mean postliberal in exactly the same way the Yale school has used the term, so I add progressive to the description.  Postmodern critique of modernism has informed my theology as has Ricoeur's work on postcritical faith.  In fact, I might think of myself as postcritical more than I think of myself as a postliberal of any kind.  I'm still groping my way along, so I don't hold any hard and fast definitions of myself.I do know I am definitely not conservative and definitely not an evangelical. That's pretty hard and fast. :)

pakeeton
pakeeton

This progressive christian would like to object to Olson as well.

Mark Farmer
Mark Farmer

I thought someone might pick up on this. Glad it's you.

ZachWaldis
ZachWaldis

Isn't your strident insistence on what is really "liberal" or "progressive" kind of conservative in the end? :)  For me as a progressive evangelical (try that one on for size!) I identify with the politically progressive movement in the first part of the twentieth century.  I most certainly do not identify with theological liberalism; as Olson says "maximal accommodation to modernity".

MickyScottBeyJones
MickyScottBeyJones

Can you define Progressive? Or give your ideas of the term progressive, especially in relation to Christianity? Are all Emergents progressive? Thanks! I have no idea where I fit today and I am trying to figure out all these titles. 

BoSanders
BoSanders moderator

 @Travis Mamone SOmetimes you say the funniest things!   -Bo

 

p.s. I'm not too surprised that you are an actual liberal :) 

castaway5555
castaway5555

@JessePals - thoughtful question. As I think about it, evangelicalism, with its roots in the Anabaptist movements of the 16th Century, has always been a "restoration" effort - to recover what has been lost, and, thus, lots of effort spent in describing what's been lost, and how it was lost in the "false" church. Restoration movements use lots descriptives, e.g. "real," "true," "authentic," "faithful," "bible-believing," etc., and in the United States, especially with the founding of Christianity Today, tremendous effort has been expended on "defining" evangelicalism, with much of the effort cast against the backdrop of what was then the dominant Mainline/Ecumenical Protestant expression of the faith. My "joke" of the day has been: "If ya' wanna get a bunch of evangelicals arguing with one another, ask them to define evangelical." Anyway, Olson's article is in the old Christianity Today mold of "whatever we are, we're not like those guys!"

WrdsandFlsh
WrdsandFlsh

 @JessePals Somewhere in these comments @BoSanders explains how the emergent "stream" (if you will) of Christian thought is more concerned with expression than with doctrine. What I'm hearing is dissonance between Orthodoxy and (ortho) praxi.

 

Personally, I think that tackling the issues of being the Church in the world (praxis) is more important than continuing centuries-old theological debates. While I don't dismiss the debates over things like sacramentality, these finger-pointing arguments of who "thinks the right way" about Jesus are self-defeating and range on Pharisaic.

 

Why do I think this isn't just an evangelical issue? Two reasons. This first is that the who of North American Christian expression is influenced by trends in Evangelical communities. They are influential - even if it's scholars/pastors reacting against them. The second is that pietism has a much larger inheritance than just contemporary evangelicalism. Those Pietists influenced John Wesley, among others. Mainline churches (of which I am a Pastor-in-training) still have deeply ingrained senses of "piety" and "holiness." The conversation has been dominated by a rhetoric which equates "piety" or "real devotion" to a "traditional" or "conservative" theological hermenutic. There isn't room - as Olson's article reflects - for an understanding of the profound faith and religious conviction that people who do theology from "un-Orthodox" have (and which is often the motivation for unOrthodox theology in the first place). This is hugely problematic! I think it is precisely this inability to have conversations - this arrogant perspective that non-traditional theology is "weak" or even "unChristian" that Olsen reflects - which continues to perpetuate unhelpful stereotypes about piety. And also it's just damn annoying to be told that because I don't agree with a bunch of dead white men about the nature of God, I'm somehow not a good Christian. But that;s my feminist card showing.

BoSanders
BoSanders moderator

 @jdharrison 1) I didn't know that you went to Fuller 

2) Is that where you grew that amazing mustache? 

3) I am giggling about you having to defend yourself against people who are sure that you are not in the faith anymore...   

-Bo 

BoSanders
BoSanders moderator

 @bultmanniac LOL!  Oh that you would write a 500 word post and send it to me at aneverydaytheology@gmail.com :)   please say more!   -Bo 

BoSanders
BoSanders moderator

 @JonnieR you have framed the trap perfectly. This is a categorical problem for sure. -Bo 

BoSanders
BoSanders moderator

 @charis9 ya - I sort of get that ... but I don't know that it is that helpful.

 

The problem seems to come when we think that the categories are inherently combative or adversarial.  But they don't have to be.

 

I mean - it's like house addresses.  We can't all live at the same address. i live at 124 and your live a 136 ... but it doesn't mean that we are adversaries - it just means that we aren't at exactly the same location.  

 

does that work for you?  -Bo 

BoSanders
BoSanders moderator

 @adamdmoore  I loved your first point!  That is a really good insight!  

 

I would not agree with your second point.  I think that those on the 'far left' (of this imagined spectrum) actually have a problem with those to their RIGHT  - not the left... 

 

For instance: to my left I would put Borg & Crossan - and to their left I would put Spong.   I do not have a problem with either of them.  They are what they are.

 

My contention is the the fundamentalist on the far right.

 

What do you think about that?   -Bo 

BoSanders
BoSanders moderator

 @FitzTho I'm gunna give Olson a little grace on this one ... even though I think you are right about the tone .... he is always coming under so much fire and having to defend his position against the neo-calvinites and conservative republican crowd .... I kind of get the orny tone. 

 

actually, now that I have written that ... it seems kind of soft on my part -Bo 

BoSanders
BoSanders moderator

 @WrdsandFlsh Listen, everything after your opening sentence was amazing. I think you have nailed many problems with the categorization and complication of the political- social - theological use of those terms. 

 

My one encouragement would be to drop that line of reasoning you opened with. They are not political terms originally. Look at Schleiermacher. Liberal has been historically theological. If you dropped that first section of your comment - the rest is smokin' right on!!    -Bo 

WrdsandFlsh
WrdsandFlsh

 @Mark Farmer I like what you have to say about doctrine. That is a brilliant point. As one moves away from ultra-Orthodox ways of thinking/seeing one notices that adherence to doctrine pales in importance to living out faith. Great insight!

BoSanders
BoSanders moderator

 @Mark Farmer WOW.  that was really insightful.  I think you are on to something! -Bo 

BoSanders
BoSanders moderator

 @David Miller I think I can see the advantage of 'postcritical' for you. Your having read Ricoueur sets you apart in this way.   I have seen you use 'post-liberal' in the past but not mean Yale school so I think that postcritical is super helpful in this case !   -Bo 

BoSanders
BoSanders moderator

 @ZachWaldis I would agree with your second and third sentence :)  I stick with the 'strident' clarification because I truly believe that they are concern with different things! -Bo 

BoSanders
BoSanders moderator

 @MickyScottBeyJones  OK- I will give this a try :)  this format may leave my vulnerable to critique but I think it is worth a shot! 

 

SO - Liberal & Conservative are two sides of an old fight. They are entrenched established positions based on the concerns of centuries past. They are 2 sides of the same coin - the coin is foundationalism (or fundamentalism) - just different loyalites -but the loyalties are HELD in the same way.

 

Liberals and Conservatives have pre-commitments (apriori). Liberals are committed to 'rationality' and (I would include) the laws of physics.  

 

Progressives and Emergents are asking a different set of questions because they have a different set of concerns. Progressives are concerned with outcomes (direction) and I would say that Emergents are more concern with expression (or process). 

 

This is why it is possible to have (as we read in the above comments) that one can be theologically 'conservative' or evangelical but be progressive socially or politically.  The categories are dealing with a different set of concerns. 

 

So I (for instance) am an Emergent because I am very concerned with the expression and I am Progressive (not all emergents are) because I am concerned with feminist, liberation and post-colonial issues.  

 

I do not identify with as a liberal because I am not primarily concerned with those issues - even though on Olson's scale, I fit 5 of the 6 categories. 

 

Is that helpful?   What are your thoughts? Do I need to flesh anything else out?   -Bo 

JessePals
JessePals

 @WrdsandFlsh  @BoSanders I appreciate your take. And I get the relationship of belief to praxis as well, somehow I don't get the impression that this is Olson's concern though. Also, I DO believe the liberal-progressive conversation is an issue outside of evangelicalism, this was my original grievance with the whole conversation, that it has only been contextualized in evangelical circles.

 

I also am most interested in praxis (I'm a pastor-in training in a mainline church as well and really value feminist epistemology! :) While I've learned much from history and medieval scholasticism I cringe when liberal or progressive labels are wielded pejoratively. I simply think this gets in the way of doing sincere theology today.

jdharrison
jdharrison

1) Yep! Just graduated last year.

2) Yes, though the cold Chicago winter has transformed it into a large beard.

3) Sometimes I feel like I'm in this weird middle area. I have to explain to Evangelicals (including some students that I know in other departments at NU) that I really am a Christian theologian, but on the other hand, I'm regularly explaining to non-Christian students in my seminars that I don't attend the seminary (Garrett) that's on campus: I really am in the Religious Studies department at NU doing theology. It actually is more exciting than frustrating (most of the time), I guess! And kinda funny too.

David Miller
David Miller

 @BoSanders  @charis9 I'm sorry, but it's perfectly evident that everyone whose house number is lower than 130 is a down-towner and everyone whose number is higher than 130 is an up-towner.  The real XYZ Street doesn't begin until 130, despite what you down-towners claim.  Binary opposites forever!  :S

charis9
charis9

Well, as in the earliest Christian tradition "my casa is your casa." Like you, I have a varied church experience, from S.B.to Emergent, and although my understanding has hopefully grown, I have not changed that much in the understanding of the Gospel since I was ten years old.My experience, however, has led me to new approaches of attempting to live that good news. 

MarshallPease
MarshallPease

@BoSanders@adamdmoore

Liberals are people who believe in gradualism whereas Radicals think it needs to be changed now. Liberals think radicals are dangerous monomaniacs who upset applecarts. So yes, it works in both directions. 

 

 

adamdmoore
adamdmoore

 @BoSanders I guess it gets tricky to group people together and determine exactly who is to the right or left, etc (probably not the best exercise anyway). It might be that everyone has a problem with those to the right of themselves! Ha! I was probably mainly thinking of political liberals criticism of those on the political far left. I probably shouldn't have introduced those political categories on this same spectrum (which is, as you said, merely imagined).

FitzTho
FitzTho

 @BoSanders

Ha - after posting my response, I thought I didn't come off quite soft enough. His position somehow got under my skin, by implying that people who hold beliefs I hold are not true Christians, and might not even get in to heaven.

 

That said, my response shows my temptation: to be a "fundamentalist liberal." I tend to think "other people should be able to hold diverse beliefs ... and you have to think so, too." This, of course, is a contradiction. Which is why I like grace :)

WrdsandFlsh
WrdsandFlsh

 @BoSanders Pulling at semantics - terms like liberalism are often grounded in the political atmosphere of the Enlightenment (I thought is derived from Locke/Hobbs but am completely willing to admit my history is wrong!). But who developed there terms what isn't the heart of the matter. I guess what I was trying to emphasize is that those terms are so heavily steeped in political rhetoric that it is unhelpful to use them as a way of labeling/dissecting/organizing Christian thought. People immediately want to match theological "liberalism" with political liberalism (and so on).  But, now I'm just preaching to the choir. :)

David Miller
David Miller

 @BoSanders Yeah, my blog is sub-titled post-critical something or other, and has been for a long time.  (As an aside, I need to make my sub-title shorter if even I can't remember it.

 

I've only used the label postliberal progressive in conversation with Eric Elnes's use of the label postliberal in his model of Convergence Christianity.  I basically said, if I'm postliberal in any way, I'd have to qualify that to say I'm a postliberal progressive.

 

I do think postcritical is a better description of where I am.

BoSanders
BoSanders moderator

 @adamdmoore that sure does it make tough to keep the theological, political and social sorted out ... but I have to say that I think it is worth it to try!  

Political , social and theological categories do overlap or blur at some levels but there is enough good going on in the categories to make the attempt -Bo 

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  1. […] second thing I thought was worth revisiting is that original Roger Olson article that got all of this started. Dr. Olson proclaims why he is not a liberal christian. I too have […]

  2. […] There is a Difference Between Liberal and Progressive — Based on this blog post, which was actually very helpful, I’m certain I’m not a liberal, at least by his differentiations.  That being said, I’m not sure if I’m a progressive because all I really got out of the article on that matter is that a progressive “would be Liberal but [has] learned from Feminist, Liberation and Post-Colonial critiques.”  I need to read up more on that element to know what he’s saying.  Author Bo Sanders seems to note in this article as well as in Leaving Behind The ‘Liberal’ Label from a couple days ago that he considers himself left-leaning, progressive, postmodern and emergent.  The labels get tiring, don’t they?  He ultimately identifies himself as a HyperTheist.  I’m not sure which, if any, of those I am, but I’m willing to read up (and listen up) on them to figure it out.  My concern, though, is that the definitions shift depending on who’s using the term, so maybe it’s better just to avoid labels. […]