Vignettes of Christmas 2023

Column by Dr. Carl Krieg on 25 January 2024 0 Comments

The situation is complicated. Churches are not supposed to endorse candidates. Indeed, many churches have members who support Trump. Some members place more faith in Trump than they do in Jesus. Yes, literally.

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The fifth value of progressive Christianity is to commit to a path of life-long learning, believing there is more value in questioning than in absolutes. My understanding of Christianity was always that we are called to believe God. To believe His promises in His Word would mean his promises are certain. In the NASB Bible in Hebrews 11:1 for the definition of fatih it says: Now faith is the certainty of things [a]hoped for, a [proof of things not seen. Here is my question: How does that verse line up with your fifth value?


Dear Richard,

You have correctly identified a tension that exists for many people when it comes to the difference between faith as obedience to perceived divine certainties and faith as questioning and lifelong learning.  Perhaps you hear the idea of life-long learning as a repudiation of certainties and, thus, a lack of faith.  But progressive Christianity stresses lifelong learning because we have seen the damage done when human doctrines are elevated to divine commands.

For example, slavery is embraced in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation and never repudiated.  Women are second-class humans in scripture, the property of their fathers until they become the property of their husbands.  Disease was thought to be caused by demon possession and humans lived in what they believed was a three-story universe (heaven above, the abyss below, and you and me in the middle).  The earth was thought to be the center of the universe and humans were thought to be the unique and crowning creation of a doting God.  It was only because we continued to learn and grow as human beings that slavery is now universally condemned.  It is only because we understand the injustice of treating human beings differently based on gender that we have made progress when it comes to equal rights for women and LGBTQ+ people.  It was only because we discovered and studied micro-organisms that we now recognize the real cause of disease.  It was only because we have learned to study the heavens that we have discovered an infinite universe where other life is likely to exist, and we know that the earth is not the center of the universe or even of our solar system.

Many no longer believe in God as a person who dwells above the clouds, but as Love’s Transcendent Mystery beyond naming or knowing.  We know about evil in the world, but many of us do not believe in the devil as an independent contractor of evil.  This is not because we stopped being certain of things, but because we became certain of new things.  Who is to say that God is not behind such an evolution?  Who is to say that the model of faith is not to question everything and see what remains to serve the purposes of love?   Indeed, the verse you quote asks that we lean into the future we desire, remembering that the horizon is not the end of things but merely the limit of our sight.  As for certainty, life-long learning does not eliminate certainty but sharpens it.  I believe that love is better than hate, and peace is better than war because life is better than death.  Of this, I am certain.  I also know how much I don’t know and will never know.  So, instead of faith as certainty, I prefer to think of faith as TRUST.  As my Congregational predecessors liked to put it:  There is yet more light to break forth from God’s holy word.  Of that, I am certain.  Thanks for a great question.

~ Rev. Dr. Robin Meyers




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