‘Progressive’ Christianity: Even Shallower Than the Evangelical Faith I Left by IAN HARBER for The Gospel Coalition
In John 6, Jesus’s hard teaching causes a large number of his followers to abandon him. After they leave, Jesus asks his remaining disciples, “Do you want to go away as well?” (v. 67). Peter, whom I assume is heartbroken and embarrassed from seeing so many he knows leave the one he calls Lord, speaks up: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God” (vv. 68–69).
This is my story, too. I’ve walked in both shoes: the shoes of those who deserted and the shoes of Peter who couldn’t leave, no matter how hard it seemed to stay. I was an #exvangelical who left the faith of my youth for “progressive Christianity.” Then I returned. Here’s my #revangelical story.
How My Faith Crumbled
The Christian tradition I grew up in—for all the wonderful things it gave me—was not prepared for a generation of kids with access to high-speed internet. Not that the critiques of the Bible we discovered online were new, but they were now at the fingertips of curious folks who grew up in evangelical bubbles. Like me. The answers given in church seemed shallow compared to the legitimate critiques that were a Google search or YouTube video away.
- What about the contradictions and scientific inaccuracies in certain biblical stories?
- How have we shrugged at the passages where God commands Israel to slaughter their enemies and their enemies’ children?
- How could a loving God condemn his beloved creation to eternal torment? What about all the other religions? Aren’t they all saying basically the same thing?
These questions, among others, began to chip away at the authority of the stories I was handed as a child. Not only did I have questions about the Bible, I also had questions about how it squared with my faith’s political culture:
- Why did our policies seem to particularly disadvantage poor and marginalized communities?
- Why was it common in the church to see Christians degrade immigrants, made in the image of God, who were simply seeking a better life in my Texas town?
- As important as abortion is, surely we’re supposed care about those suffering after birth as well, right?
I couldn’t help but think it had to be more complicated than the story I was being told. So eventually, I left the faith completely. I wanted nothing to do with Jesus or the church.