…the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God. (1 Corinthians 10:20)

Encouraging Idolatry

Earlier Apprising Ministries brought to your attention a recent post by Tony Jones, the progressive theologian in residence at the Emerging Church of his progressive universalist pastor Doug Pagitt; it was called The Future of Progressive Theology and God’s Future, and in it Jones shares with us that he’d: 

just spent another few days with Philip Clayton, and once again been impressed with the evangelical zeal with which he approaches progressive theology.  He is a force of nature. (Online source, italics his)

Now it’s really no surprise that Tony Jones would be so taken with Dr. Philip Clayton and his Transforming Theology because he’s done the foreword to Clayton’s current book Transforming Christian Theology (TCT). In that foreword Jones tells us, “For just when the pundits are proclaiming the death of progressive Christianity, along comes Philip Clayton” (vii). And then in TCT Clayton himself informs us:

There are no signs of emerging neutral ground betweens liberals and the most conservative [read: those theologically fundamental] wings of the church. In fact, the negative connotations of the term liberal are so great that I doubt it can be used profitably within a “big tent” Christianity today. [1]

Clayton goes on to say that “we must have some positive term” to describe the big tent Christianity he’s pushing for and which A New Kind of Christianity, the new book by Brian McLaren, begins to lay out systematically. Clayton proposes “progressive” because somebody “can work for progress without being commited to the whole range of doctrines known as liberalism.” However the problem is, one can also do so without being commited to cardinal doctrines of the historic orthodox Christian faith as well.

Then in TCT Clayton goes on to cite Hal Taussig, “New Testament professor” at Union Theological Seminary, whom he says gives a “beautiful summary” of this “progressive Christianity”—the Liberalism 2.0 now being advanced as Emergence Christianity.  The following from Taussig should immediately arrest our attention and give us more cause to reject this progressive neo-liberal, or postliberal, de-formation of the historic, orthodox, Christian faith:

4. The belief that Christianity can be vital without claiming to be the best or the only true religion. In contrast to mainstream Christianity’s lukewarm “tolerance” of other religions, progressive Christianity pro-actively asserts that it is not the best or the only. Progressive Christians take pains to simultaneously their own Christian faith and their support of the complete validity of other religions. (Grassroots Progressive Christianity: A Quiet Revolution, bold his)

Progressive Christian Theology Agrees With Liberalism God Is Found In Other Religions

Note carefully: Progressive Christians “pro-actively” assert Christianity is not “the only” way to God and also lend their “support of the complete validity of other religions.” Certainly Christians should support a person’s right to believe whatever they wish to about God; but that said, we must not deceive people into thinking they are actually worshipping the one true and living God apart from being regenerated in Christ (e.g. see—John 3:3-7; 2 Corinthians 5:17). However, the above is unquestionably classic progressive Christianity.

As a further example, in Liberalism 2.0 The New Prpgressive Christian Theology I told you about the book Inclusive Christianity: A Progressive Look at Faith by Dr. R. Scott Thornton, which comes highly recommended by EC leader and Roman Catholic mystic Richard Rohr. Dr. Thornton confirms Hal Taussig’s point above concerning this progressive Christianity and other religions:

Each major religion has helped a people reach and develop a relationship with God. God’s truth is revealed to people in many different religions. Mother Teresa understood this. She wasn’t interested in proselytizing. She evangelized with her acts of compassion. She never demeaned other religions. At one point she remarked, “We ought to help Jews become better Jews and Hindus become better Hindus.” [2] 

Thornton goes on to inform us that when “people are practicing their religion” sincerely, “as it was originally intended,” and provided it’s “not a distorted version,” then people “should be encouraged” to continue on with whatever faith tradition they are part of. Progressive theologian Dr. Delwin Brown also tells us, “‘Christ’ is the Christian name for the logos of God in all of creation, including all religions” wherein people are to be encouraged “to consider and to appropriate” the teachings of Jesus “according to the light of the divine in their lives.” [3]

EC mystic Shane Hipps has also elaborated on this same panentheistic idea of “the logos of God” supposedly being “in all of creation.” Following right in line with classic mysticism you’ll see Hipps refer to this as “the divine spark” within all mankind; the sermon I quote a bit of below is called Wind in the Sail, which Hipps preached October 5, 2008—long before he was called as the co-teaching pastor with EC icon Rob Bell at Mars Hill Bible Church. Hipps is teaching out of John, chapter one, and he tells us that the Gospel of John is about:

the inner dimension of the gospel… So, in the beginning was the logos and the logos was with God and the logos was God… The logos made all things of the world…logos was not a word you’ll find very much in the Hebrew or Jewish literature…at the same time that John was writing, there were a whole lot of Greek philosophers of religion. And, the Greek philosophers were…wrote extensively about this universal animating life force called the logos…

John is the ultimate unifier and integrator of two religious systems that have nothing in common; the Jews and the Greeks…here’s what’s so stunning: at a time when it was unthinkable to try and unify religions, John is basically saying your religion totally valid…I love it…I’m even using your language…and your religion…I love it…it’s beautiful totally valid…I’m even using your language, but I just want you both to know that there’s something bigger than what you’ve got…

Jesus is the ultimate unifier in these various diverse ways of looking at the world. The only way that anyone could ever see that is by looking at the interior (not the exterior)… Having a distinct religious identity marked by some boundaries, knowing how you’re different from other religions isn’t a problem. John isn’t trying to get rid of that, he’s trying to point beyond it… To lose your religious identity is like losing a sail at sea. The sail is like religion, the wind is the Spirit…

Some religions are not as well equipped to fully capture and be compelled by the Spirit. So it matters what religion you choose… Just because we claim Jesus as the center of our religion does not make us one and the same with the wind of God. It just means we have another sail. I happen to think it’s a better sail than most other sails. I happen to think it’s a more effective sail than other sails… [John’s] pointing beyond the sail to the wind and he desperately wants us to experience the wind…the logos…that animating, creative life force that gives you breath…

And that’s why it says, “It was the life and light of all people.” It didn’t say the light and life of the people who believe in Jesus. This logos affects everybody including Osama bin Laden, as long as he’s got breath in him is a spark of the divine. “It was the life and light of all people.” It didn’t say the light and life of the people who believe in Jesus. This logos affects everybody including Osama bin Laden, as long as he’s got breath in him is a spark of the divine. [4]

Understanding all of the above will help you see more clearly what leading EC voice Samir Selmanovic wrote a while back in An Emergent Manifesto of Hope (AEMoH), a book co-edited by the dubious duo Doug Pagitt and Tony Jones. Those who hold to this new progressive theology now being advanced by the Emerging Church, like Hipps and Selmanovic, agree with classic progressive theologians like Delwin Brown above, and with Progessive Christian scholar Marcus Borg in the video below, that God is also found in the other religious traditions.

In fact Borg has said:

To be Christian means to find the decisive revelation of God in Jesus. To be Muslim means to find the decisive revelation of God in the Koran. To be Jewish means to find the decisive revelation of God in the Torah, and so forth. I don’t think that one of these is better than the other. You could even say they are all divinely given paths to the sacred. To be Christian in this kind of context means to be deeply committed to one’s own tradition, even as one recognizes the validity of other traditions. (Online source, emphasis in original) 

Did you catch that; in contradistinction to Jesus in John 14:6, progressive theologian Marcus Borg has just said that we “could even say” the other religions “are all” paths which have actually been “given” by God Himself. This becomes crystal clear when Borg tells us that instead of “being the unique revelation of a way known only to him” what “we see incarnate in Jesus,” in “his life and death,” is “the incarnation of a universal way known in all of the enduring religions.” [5] And so in AEMoH Selmanovic speculates:

Can it be that the teachings of the gospel are embedded and can be found in reality itself rather than being exclusively isolated in sacred texts and our interpretations of those texts? If the answer is yes, can it be that they are embedded in other stories, other peoples’ histories, and even other religions?…

God’s table is welcoming all who seek, and if any religion is to win, may it be the one that produces people who are the most loving, the most humble, the most Christlike. Whatever the meaning of “salvation” and “judgement,” we Christians are going to be saved by grace, like everyone else, and judged by our works, like everyone else…

For most critics of such open Christianity, the problem with inclusiveness is that it allows for truth to be found in other religions. To emerging Christians, that problem is sweet… Moreover, if non-Christians can know our God, then we want to benefit from their contribution to our faith. [6]

As I close this out, for now, I encourage you to carefully consider the following by The Center for Progressive Christianity where the aforementioned Marcus Borg, and the ultra-liberal John Shelby Spong, are Honorary Advisors. This is from About Us—The 8 Points:

Point 2: Pluralism By calling ourselves progressive, we mean we are Christians who… Recognize the faithfulness of other people who have other names for the way to God’s realm, and acknowledge that their ways are true for them, as our ways are true for us. (Online source, bold mine)

Since, just as the original liberalism, this neo-liberalism is in direct contradiction to e.g. John 8:24 and John 14:6 I will say it again: Progessive Christianity is neither progressive nor is it Christian.



1. Philip Clayton, Transforming Christian Theology [Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2010], 120.
2. R. Scott Thornton, Inclusive Christianity: A Progressive Look at Faith [Pasadena: Hope Publishing House, 2009], 28
3. Delwin Brown, What Does a Progressive Christian Believe? [New York: Seabury Books, 2008], 38.
4. For a complete transcription of this sermon see: Shane Hipps Exposed.
5. Marcus Borg, The Heart of Christianity [New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 2003[, 111.
6. Samir Selmanovic, “The Sweet Problem of Inclusiveness: Finding Our God in the Other” in An Emergent Manifesto of Hope Doug Pagitt and Tony Jones editors [Grand Rapids: Baker, 2007], 192, 195, 196.

See also: