The Edmond Sun


April 30, 2012

THE POWER TO PERSUADE: Pastor dispels myths about progressive Christians

EDMOND — Protestant Christianity has divided into two large streams in the past 125 years: Evangelical Christianity and Progressive Christianity. Evangelical Christians are more numerous, especially in Edmond.

Christians can’t help criticizing other Christians who believe differently from them. They have been doing it since the first century. Here are some of the myths that I often hear about progressive Christians:

• Progressives are atheists. They don’t believe that God has the power to do miracles and to control human events.

This is false. It is not God that progressives have a problem with — it is the Evangelical image of God as a supernatural being that exists outside the world and who intervenes occasionally. Progressives tend to see God as intensely active in the world, calling out to each of us and to every part of creation at every moment. God is a mystery; God is more like a force than a person. God is another name for the sacred aspect that permeates all of reality. God does not have a gender. Progressives do not refer to God as He.

• Progressives do not take sin seriously. They talk about loving one another, but they don’t believe in tough love or in holding people accountable.

It is true that progressives are more suspicious of authority than evangelicals. They don’t often use the language of command and obedience. They prefer to talk about how we fall short of God’s hopes for us and how we betray the gospel by harming our family, friends and neighbors, as well as ourselves. Progressives tend to emphasize social sin as much as individual sin. Social sins are sins that are taught to us by our culture; they include consumerism, patriarchy, homophobia, militarism and nationalism.

• Progressives are soft on Christ. They don’t believe that Christ is divine.

It is true that progressives emphasize the humanity of Jesus of Nazareth; he was not a different species with different DNA. He showed us what God would be like if God were a human being walking among us. We lose track of what a remarkable human being Jesus was when we turn him into a God who walked on earth for a short time. Many progressives believe that it is more accurate to say that Jesus was mystical rather than divine — Jesus was intensely connected to the sacred aspect of reality and it was reflected in his life and ministry.

• Progressives are relativists. Anything goes.

This is false. Progressives see the world through the eyes of a crucified Christ. They also are religious pluralists. They recognize that different cultures see and interact with the sacred in different ways. This enhances their own faith rather than diminishing or diluting it.

• Progressives don’t believe in the Bible. They don’t accept the Bible as the literal word of God.

This is perhaps the biggest difference between evangelicals and progressives. All the other differences flow out of this. Evangelicals tend to see the Bible as a divine product — it was written under the guidance of the Holy Spirit so that God is essentially the author. Progressives see the Bible as the product of two ancient communities: The Old Testament is the product of ancient Israel and the New Testament is the product of the earliest followers of Christ. The Bible reflects how these two ancient communities thought about and experienced God.

Progressives see the biblical stories as sacred not because they were written by God but because our ancestors in faith believed that these stories were the most important stories they knew. We tell these stories every time we gather for worship. Marcus Borg writes in “The Heart of Christianity,” these stories are the foundation of our identity as Christians.

To understand these texts, we need to study the historical context in which they were written. These are not timeless documents that were written for us; they were written for people who lived at the same time as the authors. They do contain many profound reflections on God that still have enduring truth today. They also contain difficult passages that we must struggle with to determine if they are still good news today.

Stories in the Bible often use metaphor to describe the sacred aspect of reality. Metaphor is the only way we can describe that part of reality that we cannot perceive though our senses. The important thing about these stories is what they mean. These stories contain some historical facts but we get distracted when we try to prove how much of the stories are fact and how much are metaphor. We should focus on what the ancient authors were trying to say about God through these texts.

Evangelicals and progressives have many things in common. Christ is the center of their faith. They know and cherish the same Bible stories. Evangelicals and progressives can come together by studying the Bible together. If they will open themselves up to each other’s perspectives instead of trying to prove that their own understanding is superior, they will deepen their faith and their relationships with each other.

DON HEATH is pastor of Edmond Trinity Christian Church. He may be reached at


Text Only
  • Raw oysters spike U.S. rise in bacterial infections, CDC reports

    Raw oysters, so good with hot sauce, increasingly can carry something even more unsettling to the stomach: A bacteria linked to vomiting, diarrhea and pain.

    April 19, 2014

  • Crazy spring weather brings frantic pleas

    It was a bright and sunny Saturday morning. Tulips were blooming, squirrels were all a’skitter, my allergy-prone nose was running ninety-to-nothing, and workmen were in my yard leaning on rakes at $18 an hour. You might know I’d be anxious to remedy that! They were waiting to get started on spreading 60 bags of mulch, which I was belatedly on my way to reserve and pre-pay so they could pick it up and get started. Rush ... rush ... rush, and oh my aching back.

    April 19, 2014

  • Oklahoma History Center new home for Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame

    The Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame has a new home at the Oklahoma History Center. Created in 1999, the hall of fame, operated by the Oklahoma Military Heritage Foundation, has been housed the past several years at Oklahoma Christian University but there was no available space to display photographs and information on the inductees.

    April 18, 2014

  • pink.jpg Local children win Edmond Sun Easter coloring contest

    Two local children were named winners of The Edmond Sun’s Easter coloring contest. At left, Madsion Porter, 4, daughter of Tracy Porter, won a princess Easter basket, which included a tiara, tea set, stuffed bunny rabbit and chocolate rabbit. At right, BriAnna Harbaugh, 9, daughter of Leslie Haubaugh, won a Hello Kitty Easter basket, containing art supplies, a Hello Kitty stuffed animal and a chocolate bunny.  The families also received a three-month subscription to The Edmond Sun. For your own subscription to The Edmond Sun, visit, call 341-2121, or visit 123 S. Broadway.

    April 18, 2014 2 Photos

  • Annual Turkish art and food festival set for April 26-27

    Raindrop Foundation is a nonprofit cultural organization that seeks to promote friendship and understanding through shared understanding and community experiences. This free event is set for 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. April 26 and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 27 at 4444 N. Classen Blvd., Oklahoma City.
    This year Raindrop Foundation will bring cultural entertainment and education to Oklahoma City area by presenting the Annual Turkish Art and Food Festival. The festival will feature Turkish folk dances, traditional music, water marbling art, whirling dervishes, calligraphy, traditional art of felting, China pieces as well as original arts and crafts for sale to the public.

    April 18, 2014

  • Health seminar focuses on Oklakhoma’s high suicide rate

    OU Outreach and Norman Regional Health System are offering a new health seminar titled “Circle of Care Methodology: Risk Assessment and Prevention of Suicide.” The seminar will be from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 24 at the Norman Regional Hospital Education Center. Suicide touches many people’s lives. This seminar focuses on the Circle of Care Methodology, which engages a holistic and mitigating approach to the issues and care that is required to address suicidal ideations, attempts, completions and the aftermath.
    The cost is $45 per person, and seating is limited. There will be free parking onsite for all seminar attendees. For more information, visit

    April 18, 2014

  • Film documentary explores hunger in America

    The Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma will host a screening of the 2012 documentary, “A Place at the Table,” at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Food Bank Volunteer Center, 3355 S. Purdue, Oklahoma City. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. The story documents the struggle of food insecure people in the United States.
    Author Joel Berg will be present as a featured guest. Guests also will have the opportunity to participate in a panel discussion about the issue of hunger in our communities. The screening is free, but seating is limited to 275 people. For more information, go online to

    April 18, 2014

  • Nominations being accepted for Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame

    The Oklahoma Military Heritage Foundation is accepting nominations through June 1 for inductees into the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame. Oklahoma veterans including Medal of Honor recipients have been being honored by the hall of fame since 1999. A banquet and ceremony honoring those selected this year for the hall of fame will be Nov. 8 at the Tower Hotel, formerly Marriott Hotel, at 3233 Northwest Expressway in Oklahoma City.
    Nominees can be living or deceased. Nomination forms can be obtained by writing to the Oklahoma Military Heritage Foundation, P.O. Box 30658, Edmond, OK, 73003; or on the foundation’s website at

    April 18, 2014

  • Annual wheelchair basketball tournament set

    OU Medicine will present the 6th Annual Wheelchair Basketball Tournament, benefiting the Greater Oklahoma Disabled Sports Association, April 24 at Oklahoma City University. Teams from OU Medicine administration, anesthesiology, neurosurgery, nursing, otolaryngology, surgery and urology, and a team from 180 Medical will compete in 10-minute exhibition basketball games against wheelchair athletes from GODSA. All participants will compete in wheelchairs.
    The free event will begin at 5:40 p.m. at OCU’s Freede Wellness Center, 2501 N. Blackwelder Ave. Fundraising activities including a silent auction, baked goods sale and more. Funds will help GODSA athletes purchase sports equipment and travel for national basketball tournaments. For more information, call 271-6900.

    April 18, 2014

  • The case for separate beds

    The other night I slept on a twin bed in the guest room of the house I share with my husband and our two kids.
    It was the best night's sleep I've had in years.

    April 18, 2014