In-Tensions: The fraught work of world peace

Column by Rev. Gretta Vosper on 30 November 2023 0 Comments

Ever since the first mind countenanced an unknown source of benevolence, religion has held us together as powerfully as it has driven us apart.

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As an atheist, I wonder if progressive Christians think of other Christians as regressive or static Christians and that they are, therefore, in some way "less" than progressive Christians?


Dear David,

In recent years, it seems that claims of atheism have become more common in American culture.  While I do not think this is surprising, I do think there is confusion in our wider culture about what atheism means in relation to believing in God.

Generally, people think atheism means not believing in God.  In fact, atheism means not believing in theism, which is different from not believing in God.  For example, I do not believe in the God of theism--the God in the sky (an actual being), who is external to the universe, independent of life here on planet Earth, and who intervenes only at times of God's own choosing.  In this sense, I am an atheist.  However, I do believe in the God of panentheism, the God who is immanent to the universe (and more) and independent of the universe (and more) at the same time.  While the God in the sky, tends to be the God of traditional Christianity, it is a God many progressive Christians find, simply, not believable--an understanding of God that is no longer adequate to our modern experience.

In many ways, the term progressive has become a new word for liberal which, regrettably, has become a weaponized term of division in our national politics.  Clearly, there are distinctions between Christians who see themselves as progressive and Christians who think of themselves as more conservative.

As progressive and conservative Christians, all we can do is try to respect our individual differences and do the best we can to be good examples of the faith to which God has called us.  Put differently, we all need the freedom to believe what God has given us to believe.

While progressives and conservatives can respectfully disagree on a whole range of issues, still, there are consequences to what we say and do as followers of Jesus of Nazareth.  An important consideration for all of us is: are what we do and say life-giving?  The God of our ancestors calls us to life.  Indeed, Jesus tells us in John 10:10 that he has come that we might have life and have it abundantly.  May it be so!

~ Rev. Dr. Jeffrey Frantz




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