Trevin Wax

5 Quick Takes for New Culture Wars

We’re in uncharted territory as we head into an increasingly post-Christian environment. Assume the best of your brothers and sisters trying to figure out what faithfulness looks like. And trust that God is going to make the most of all our bungling attempts at truthful witness, that he will fulfill his plan and build his church. Negative world or not, no weapon formed against his people will stand.

This is the last in a series on the rise of the neo–Religious Right, in which I’ve sought to explain and describe some of the historical and contemporary features of this movement, as well as some cautions and concerns I have for younger evangelicals going forward. (A full list of the previous columns is provided below.) In this final installment, I’d like to offer a potpourri of additional thoughts that may aid us in a time when we need truthful witness in the public square.
1. Don’t overestimate the power of politics.
First, let’s make sure that in all the talk about culture warring and culture engaging we do not prioritize the political sphere of life to the exclusion of other important parts of the good life. Government is important, but it is not god. As gospel-centered evangelicals, we must “dethrone” politics. We must value the political sphere but put it in its proper place. Indeed, politics is not ultimate. This recognition is essential for truthful witness in the public square.
In this way, let’s make sure we don’t so focus on Washington, DC, and the drama glowing on our social media apps that we forget our callings. We are called to be members of communities, and we must serve those communities and be exemplary citizens. We are called to marriages and families, and we must cultivate healthy relationships within them. We are called to local churches, and we must exercise faithful and meaningful membership. We are called to workplaces (located in various spheres of culture like business, education, science, technology, art, law, politics, or hospitality), and we must fulfill our vocations in ways that honor Christ.
In other words, we must not shy away from truthful witness in the political sphere, but our political witness must not outmatch or be overshadowed by our witness in all these other spheres, and the impact of these other areas should not be underestimated.
2. Play the political “long game.”
It can take years for political change to happen. I’m reading the new book from Matthew Continetti, The Right, which traces the modern conservative movement from its origins a century ago to the present. One of the takeaways is just how much time it takes for ideas to move forward in society, and how networks and think tanks and finding the right messenger are all vital in seeing political change take place.
Amid today’s culture wars, we must beware the temptation to compromise our convictions in order to attain a short-term win for our chosen political party. We can so convince ourselves that now is the crucial moment, and this is the most important election in our lifetime (something I’ve heard every four years my entire life) that we hand over our birthright for a mess of pottage.
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Encouragement and Caution for Culture Warriors

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to cultural engagement. Christians with a different political calculus, with various regional sensibilities, temperaments, or experiences, may choose different courses of action. Debate over the best course of action is good and necessary. But culture warriors and culture engagers alike must be careful not to criticize unfairly or demean brothers and sisters whose different choices are not out of line with confessional faithfulness but flow from prudential judgments about how best to be faithful in the public square.

What should Christian public engagement look like as we move forward in this era? So far in this series, I’ve laid out some of the challenges facing traditional Christianity, and why it’s no surprise that some on the right claim a more combative posture is necessary for pushing back against harmful ideologies and practices in society.
Some Christians seem to believe that confrontational or combative approaches to public theology are inherently sub-Christian. This is not the case. Christianity has a long history of people willing to speak truth to power, to call into question the reigning ideologies of the day in the name of Christ the King.
Too often, the negative label of “culture-warring Christians” gets applied solely to Christians who oppose ideologies common on the left. When left-leaning Christians call out politicians or pastors who support sinful beliefs or behaviors common to the right, they get described as “prophetic” and “courageous.” This is unfair. Culture warring requires two sides, and one can be a left-wing culture warrior just as easily as a right-wing one.
But, speaking of being “prophetic,” sometimes, we think courage and boldness consist in bloviating bluster, “destroying” the opposition, “owning the libs,” or mocking the “nutcases” we find on the other side of the aisle. No. It takes little courage to be bold in opposing those whom your closest friends, family members, or online followers would expect you to oppose. What takes courage is to police your own side, to call out the problems not only in “the culture” but in your particular subculture, to buck the consensus of your own tribe and go against the people whose favor you usually enjoy. Compromise always involves capitulation, but capitulation can happen in more than one direction.
It seems likely that we will see a return to something akin to the older culture-war mentality among younger evangelicals in the years to come. Rather than rule that option out of bounds, I think it better to offer some encouragement and caution for younger evangelicals who are enthusiastic about this mode of public engagement.
The Reality of Christian Warfare
First, let’s dispense with the idea that warfare has no place in Christianity. I remember restraining my laughter when, 15 years ago or so, progressive Christians were protesting the “unbiblical” martial imagery of many Christians and churches. In taking aim at conservatives, they were shooting the Bible.
The language of spiritual warfare is pervasive in the Old and New Testaments. Jesus blessed the peacemakers and called us to turn the other cheek, and yet he said he came to bring division, not unity. His was the sword that separated son from father, and daughter from mother. The apostle Paul used martial imagery, as did the other apostles. We are on a spiritual battlefield. The response to such circumstances is for the church to be, dare I say, militant. Downplaying the stakes fails to do justice to the Bible itself.
In this battle, Christianity is “on offense”—not in a way that implies we should seek to be offensive, to take it as a badge of honor when others are offended. No, to speak of Christianity “on offense” is simply another way of describing the image Jesus gave us when he said that the gates of hell will not prevail against his church. Jesus’s statement imagines the church moving outward, plundering hell, and pushing back the forces of darkness. Passivity has no place in the Great Commission.
The Danger of Misidentifying the Enemy
But the danger for Christians who apply the New Testament’s warfare motifs to political engagement is that we can easily misidentify the enemy. The apostle Paul makes clear we do not wrestle against flesh and blood. It’s the church moving forward into battle against the powers and principalities that hold people captive—against the evil forces that wreak havoc in our world, the supernatural realities the Bible describes as present and persistent.
We must distinguish the serpent from his prey. This is why we seek to convert our opponents, not own or destroy them. We seek their rescue, not their ruin.
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The Tearing Apart of Convictional Civility

First, winsomeness is not a political strategy. We do not seek to be kind and gentle merely as a strategy for winning over our neighbors to our point of view. We seek these characteristics because our Lord commands and exemplifies them. Kindness is a fruit of the spirit. Secondly, in different seasons of cultural change, the church can and should shift its public posture.

Something has changed in the air of evangelicalism in recent years. Once-aspirational words like “winsome” and “thoughtful” or descriptors like “nuanced” and “kind” now trigger an attitude of dismissiveness and sneering from many on the right.
For some, these words describe a mindset too focused on currying favor with the world. It’s too accommodating to engage in this way with the “cultural elites” whose leftward politics wreak havoc in society. The “winsome” may have good intentions, according to this view, but their attitude and actions demonstrate an extraordinary naïveté in relation to politics and cultural change.
How did we get to the point where some Christians spurn civility? In my previous column, I offered a brief look at the rise of a “neo–Religious Right” and explained why some younger evangelicals thirst for a more confrontational approach to engaging the culture. Today, I want to dig a little deeper into the reasons why some have repudiated a more evangelistically front-facing, pastoral posture to culture change and now call for a more combative, political approach.
Winsomeness Doesn’t Win
Why do words like “nuance” and “winsome” receive sneers from some on the right today? Because the strategies these descriptors represent are seen by many as having failed. Society is changing quickly, and not favorably toward Christianity.
Christians have experienced a rapid shift in which traditional Christianity has been downgraded from respectable to reprehensible. For example, in 2008, Rick Warren prayed at President Obama’s inauguration. Just four years later, Louie Giglio—who shares roughly the same theological framework and approach—was deemed too controversial to do the same. When prominent, well-regarded pastors, such as Max Lucado and Tim Keller, are seen as hateful and bigoted (with Keller even having an award rescinded), how can anyone be so naive to think that “thoughtfulness” or “winsomeness” can earn the right to a hearing?
Younger evangelicals recognize instinctively that no amount of goodwill or winsomeness will create warm feelings among those who claim Christian moral teaching is repressive and harmful. Christians don’t win a hearing by “playing nice.” And so, we’re told, the need of the hour is to be forthright, bold, and confrontational. The culture war is upon us, and we need to stand up and fight.
2 Approaches to Life in Babylon
Although we can spot similarities, we shouldn’t assume younger evangelicals are picking up the same playbook as the old religious right. Unlike our parents and grandparents, most of us agree that we’re in Babylon, not Israel. The difference is in how best to live as exiles in Babylon.
For a generation now, many evangelicals have assumed we’re a moral minority living in a world that is, if not hostile, at least barely tolerant of our views. Over the years, the prophet Jeremiah’s letter to the Babylonian exiles (Jer. 29) has been the go-to text for helping us live faithfully in these times.

“Build houses and live in them. Plant gardens and eat their produce. Find wives for yourselves, and have sons and daughters. . . . Pursue the well-being of the city I have deported you to. Pray to the LORD on its behalf, for when it thrives, you will thrive.” (vv. 5–7, CSB)

In other words, remember, Christian, that you are not “at home.”
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Your Money Will Trick You

Our money lies to us, constantly. Whenever we see our accumulation of assets or the increasing dollars in our account, Mammon whispers: I am your security. I am your hope. I make the good life possible. Meanwhile, Jesus is shouting, “It’s a lie! One’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15). 

In the church today, it’s common to interpret biblical teaching on sin in a way that shies away from specifics so we are able to walk away unscathed.
We walk through the sin lists of Scripture and quietly check off each one, thinking, Not guilty. In some cases, we grow accustomed to hearing the warnings of Scripture, falling prey to a familiarity with the words that keeps us from feeling their full force. Worst of all, we read about sin in Scripture and think about others who struggle, never letting those unflattering adjectives (“greedy,” “lustful,” “hot-tempered,” “foolish”) come too close to our self-perception. Too often, we think of sins as actions we perform and miss the subtle ways we sin in our attitudes or develop sinful patterns of the heart.
The New Testament on Money
The best example, I think, is the way many Christians in America interpret and apply the clear and consistent teaching of the New Testament on the desire for and acquisition of wealth. Here’s how we rationalize:
Making money is a good thing, right? Spending money is neutral, right, as long as it’s not on something immoral or unjust? Therefore, as long as I’m honest in how I make and spend money, and as long as I’m sincerely seeking to steward my wealth well, the warnings about wealth don’t really apply to me. Sure, there are “greedy” people out there—rubbing their hands together with gleeful anticipation of acquiring more wealth and surpassing others in stature—but that’s not me! 
Having adopted this mindset, when we read the account of a man asking Jesus to intervene in an inheritance dispute with his brother and hear Jesus’s command to “watch out and be on guard against all greed” (Luke 12:15, CSB), we may hope greedy and covetous people take note, but we don’t see any imminent danger for our own spiritual lives.
But the inability to hear, truly hear, the seriousness of Jesus’s warning is a problem. And it’s dangerous. It reflects our obliviousness to the spiritual jeopardy the accumulation of riches brings to the human soul.
Mammon on the Move
Jesus says “Watch out!” and “Be on guard” as if there’s a silent, stealthy enemy creeping up on an unsuspecting person, ready to pounce. We like to think of wealth and possessions as inanimate objects, helpful to us if we use them correctly, but basically neutral. And so, in our churches, we warn against the abuse or misuse of wealth, and we teach on good stewardship so we can maximize and increase our wealth. But rarely do we sound the alarming note of Jesus and the apostles in this matter.
Preachers in the United States sometimes come under fire for tiptoeing around sensitive subjects, failing to boldly and courageously take on respectable sins in our society, most notably those related to sexual behavior.
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A Church of Suspicious Minds

Suspicion is not wisdom, so let’s not confuse it with discernment. We don’t begin with the assumption of guilt and then look for evidence; we begin with love and assume the best—bearing with one another, pursuing the truth together, carefully listening to discover what someone means by the words they use, and sharing fellowship as we proclaim and promote the essential elements of the Christian faith.

“We can’t go on together,” sang Elvis in 1969, “with suspicious minds.” It’s a song that laments the breakdown of trust, resulting in the corrosion of a romantic relationship.
More than 50 years on, these words could apply to the American experiment, with increasing levels of distrust toward government officials, media and news outlets, and the “experts” in various fields. Some of this suspicion is justified, as is often the case when trust is violated, and when people see the rules for discourse and debate applied unfairly. A healthy dose of skepticism toward top-down approaches in business and government is necessary for a free people’s flourishing.
What’s more, we’re living through one of the most disastrous periods in American history if you’re looking for reasons to trust in institutions and their leaders. Glaring failures in leadership—waving off criticism by appealing to one’s credentials— lead people to react with suspicion, and understandably so.
Suspicion in the World and the Church
But suspicion takes a wrong turn when we filter everything and everyone through the lens of distrust, always on a quest to discover an ulterior motive. This is one of postmodernism’s most pernicious effects—a hermeneutic of suspicion that claims every proposal or position is just a power play in disguise. Even deeds that appear altruistic must be tainted somehow by the lust for power.
Once suspicion pervades a society, the slightest disagreements—even among people who generally share the same beliefs—get interpreted as signs of betrayal. Seeds of doubt are sown into every interaction, and often it’s the people closest to you who become the subject of your suspicions. After all, you’ve written off the people opposed to your beliefs as the “villains.” You expect your opponents to act the fool; it’s when someone close to you doesn’t toe the party line, or asks uncomfortable questions, or pushes back on something you feel strongly about that you raise an eyebrow and wonder: Are they really with us? Or are they a villain in disguise?
The worldliness of succumbing to suspicion—assuming nefarious intentions behind every position—should not show up in the church. But alas, we too often fail in this area.
Consider how some of the fiercest debates today, as opposed to 10 years ago, are not between “progressive” and “conservative” Christians, but between varying shades of Christians in those respective camps. Brothers and sisters who attend the same kinds of churches, agree to the same confessional commitments, and share the same general outlook on life turn and devour each other over differences in political priorities, or disagreements over the wisdom of particular policies, or the way we should view certain politicians, authors, or theologians.
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Church Planters Face This Great Danger

Don’t miss the heart of Christianity—being with Jesus. Proximity comes before power. The person of Jesus comes before the proclamation of Jesus. Life with God comes before work for Him.
One of the worst dangers facing church planters is common to anyone heavily involved in ministry: It’s easy to see God’s work up-close and, over time, lose your sense of wonder. We get familiar with holy things. Perhaps overly familiar.
Chuck Swindoll has said, “The scary thing about ministry is that you can learn to do it.” And so we begin to take God’s work for granted – or worse, we lose a sense of holy dependence on His grace.
Preachers talk about this challenge. I just wrapped up an interim pastor role where I preached every week the past seven months. I love to preach. What an honor to spend time in God’s Word, in study, in preparation and then deliver a timely message for God’s people! But those of us who preach or teach on a regular basis know the temptation of becoming overly familiar with the Word, of losing sight of its power for us personally.
In an article a few years ago, Clint Clifton confessed: “My devotional life was swallowed by my teaching ministry. The pace of public teaching meant I was in the Word of God more, but applying it to myself less. Prior to ‘professional Christianity,’ my devotional life was applied directly to my life, my sin, my struggles and my joy. Suddenly, when I became a professional, the words of the Bible were for those I led.”
Familiarity is the enemy of wonder. We start out with excitement and joy at walking with Christ but somehow, over the years, we become spiritual zombies, still alive on the outside but dead on the inside. A selfish sense of entitlement replaces a holy sense of expectation.
Fighting Spiritual Covid
The adventure of life is a fight for astonishment, a determination to resist growing bored in a world of wonders. Perhaps that’s why those who live near the quiet glory of the mountains go to the beach for vacation, and vice versa. We change the scenery so we can see the scene. We leave home so that, for even the briefest of moments, on our return we see its glory anew.
The Christian life begins with spiritual astonishment at the glory of the gospel and the goodness and beauty of Christian truth, the wide-eyed surprise of the infant brought into a new world of grace. But over time, especially for those of us in paid Christian ministry, our eyes grow heavy and our tastebuds dim. We find ourselves with a case of Spiritual Covid. We’re fatigued and grumpy and, even worse, we can’t taste anything anymore. We eat to survive, not because the food has any taste.
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Don’t Miss the Main Point of Bible Study

Augustine as the consummate pastor-theologian studied for the sake of his own soul and then sought to pass on the food he received. “I nourish you with what nourishes me,” he said. “I offer to you what I live on myself.” Seeking the face of God helps protect us from pride, from seeing the Bible as a book to be mastered, or from assuming we have the last word on all things biblical or theological, as if it were possible to put an end to study.

Psalm 105:4 was a favorite verse of Augustine. He cited it four times in his work on the Trinity. “Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his face always” (CSB).
For this reason, Robert Louis Wilken chose Seeking the Face of God as the subtitle for his book The Spirit of Early Christian Thought. Wilken believed this phrase, more than any other passage in the Bible, captured the spirit of early Christian pastors and theologians.
Revisiting Wilken’s work and the legacy left by the early Christians, I couldn’t help but wonder why it’s so easy for those who study the Bible or engage in the task of theological reflection to dismiss or downplay the desire to seek the face of God.
Ways We Approach the Bible
We can’t help but be shaped, at least in some measure, by Enlightenment rationalism and the tools of modernity.
We come to the biblical text and the task of theology with presuppositions about what we are to find in the sacred Scriptures, and our assumptions shape the goal and purpose for our study. Someone might think that our personal devotion should be cordoned off from our theological study; otherwise, we’d fail to be “objective” in the task.
And so, we approach the biblical text looking for our next sermon outline, or we study theology in hopes of passing the exam, or we peruse journals and book reviews so we can stay on top of current conversations in the academy.
Perhaps most Christians read the Bible to glean a little insight and inspiration for the day ahead, a morsel of wisdom to strengthen us in the life we’ve already chosen for ourselves.
How many of us consciously open the Scriptures or engage in the work of theology as a way of seeking the face of God himself?
Education and Exultation
On my shelf sits a commentary on the Gospel of Mark written by a solid, well-respected evangelical scholar, renowned for his work over decades of study. The bulk of it deals with questions of redaction criticism, textual variants, and the like—important issues to grapple with, certainly helpful for scholars who specialize in those fields. But somehow, lost in all the study, Mark’s portrait of Jesus receives little elaboration. Mark’s purpose in showing us Jesus seemed to run counter to the commentary, which focuses on everything else.
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There’s No Such Thing as a Post-Truth World

There are only those who ignore the truth and those who seek to bring themselves in line with it. And so, more than ever, we must pray for the grace to bear witness to the truth of Christ with the love of Christ, with faithful hope in an outcome secured by the Savior whose heel crushed the father of lies.

In 2016, the Oxford Dictionaries word of the year was “post-truth,” because that’s when the word began showing up in multiple articles about political movements in the United States and Europe. The official definition reads: relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.
In a post-truth world, feelings trump facts, and personal subjectivity matters more than objective reality. Six years later, we’re swimming in post-truth cultural waters and trying, with increasing difficulty, to hold society together when even basic agreements over the nature of truth and reality become contested.
Truth-Resisters
The paradox of fallen humanity is that we both love and hate the truth. We long for the truth, as beggars hungry for something of substance, even while we despise the truth, as mini-tyrants who chafe at any notion there might be someone or something that exerts authority over us. Our longing for truth leads to the easy embrace of lies.
Why do we resist the truth? Because deep in our souls is the desire to be the masters of our own destiny, and truth too often gets in the way. Truth stands outside and above us. Truth doesn’t bow the knee to our preferences, no matter what Orwellian language we adopt, euphemisms we deploy, or pronouns we insist upon.
As John Webster wrote:
“The truth about the world is something over against us, something that we cannot subdue. Truth cannot be commanded; instead, it commands us. It forces us to acknowledge that the world and we within the world are what they are, independent of us. Truth blocks invention; when we reach the truth, we reach the limits of our wills. And it’s because truth is that kind of barrier against us that we have to find ways of circumventing it. We have to flee from the truth.”
In today’s world, we see two common strategies for fleeing from the truth.
Strategy #1: Relativize the Truth
One way we circumvent the truth is by relativizing it based on our experiences. That’s why we hear a lot these days about “speaking your truth” or “living your truth,” as if the word “truth” is now just a synonym for “perspective” or “experience.”
Yes, we should make room for sharing our perspectives and recounting our experiences. But if our tendency is to adorn “truth” with adjectives like my and your, and never the, we’re violating the very definition of “truth” to begin with. “Truth” is what’s right regardless of time, situation, or circumstance. It’s as valid for the young as it is for the old, for today as it is for yesterday.
Furthermore, when we think about truth in exclusively personal terms, we miss the adventure of seeking and finding something beyond the depths of our heart.
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3 Simple Ways to Flatten Your Neighbor

When you look at yourself, you see a bundle of contradictions, wrong in ways you don’t see, flawed and often failing, and yet you want people to consider you in all your complexity, not put you into a box of “good” or “bad.” So treat others the same way. 

I remember as a fourth grader looking in my NIV Adventure Bible at a chart that listed all the kings of Israel and Judah. It included the dates of each king’s reign and a sentence on their accomplishments. On the right-hand side, each king was rated “good,” “bad,” “mostly good,” or “mostly bad.” Someone like King Asa, for example, would have been in the “mostly good” category. Curious, I’d go back and read the biblical account to learn more about Asa, to see why he was mostly good, and that’s when I’d learn how his relationship with the Lord suffered near the end of his life.
These days, unfortunately, many in our society seem to be reverting to fourth-grade categorizations for just about everyone, and often doing so with the zeal of a crusader for a righteous cause.
As our society becomes increasingly post-Christian, it’s no surprise to see the vanishing of a Christian view of humanity—an understanding that allows for complexity, even expects it.
Instead, we give in to the impulse to divide everyone into categories of “bad” or “good,” and then treat them accordingly.
The result? Fewer and fewer people, even in the church (and we ought to know better!), who are able to distinguish what’s good and bad in the same person, or truth and falsehood in particular causes.
It’s easy to flatten our neighbors, past and present, into rigid categories, without care and consideration, nuance or grace, and thus betray a Christian anthropology. Here’s how we do it.
1. Make everyone and everything “all or nothing.”
Every society must decide what virtues should be represented through monuments we erect and names we engrave on buildings. When I lived in Romania, street names changed on occasion, as people reassessed the appropriateness of showing honor to certain individuals in the past.
Unfortunately, much discussion in recent years about historical figures flattens everyone into that all-or-nothing trap. Suddenly, a statue of Winston Churchill in London is threatened because, regardless of his chivalry and heroism in helping to save Western civilization from the threat of Nazism, some of his racial attitudes and subsequent actions were abominable. Abraham Lincoln comes under fire because at various points his commitment to the Union outstripped his abolitionist sensibilities and he never became a champion for Black equality.
Similar impulses show up in religious discussions. Some progressive Christians refuse to learn from any pastor or theologian—no matter how personally devout, biblically rooted, or theologically beneficial—who don’t line up exactly with the latest theological position or political proposal. Meanwhile, some conservative Christians do the same, dismissing any book or boycotting any conference featuring a well-respected, biblical preacher, because they disagree with the way the pastor has handled questions about racial justice in the past.
I’m reminded of a quote from one of my seminary professors who recommended several books from a theologian from another tradition. When a student complained that the theologian was in the “bad” category, the professor said, “I agree with you that he’s fallible and there are problems with some of his views, and yet he is so very helpful in other areas that to not read him is to impoverish yourselves.”
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3 Surprises from New Research on “Progressive” and “Conservative” Christians

It’s progressives who rarely defy political orthodoxy and who harbor disdain for conservatives. And the hardening lines between these two groups add weight to the thesis of J. Gresham Machen a century ago: when it comes to Christianity and theological liberalism, we really are talking about two different religions.

Are conservative Christians prone to politicizing their faith, conflating Republican Party politics with biblical fidelity?
Some are, and we could point to plenty of examples. But the bigger, underreported story is that conservative Christians are not uniquely prone to such errors, and in fact, “progressive” Christians outpace their conservative counterparts in succumbing to politicization.
One Faith No Longer
George Yancey and Ashlee Quosigk’s new book, One Faith No Longer: the Transformation of Christianity in Red and Blue America, published by NYU Press earlier this year, has a provocative thesis. Based on new research and extensive interviews, the authors claim current progressive-conservative divisions among Christians in the U.S. (descending from the modernist-fundamentalist battles a century ago) are manifestations of fundamentally different belief systems.
Yancey and Quosigk believe we are not dealing with minor alterations in doctrine and values, but belief systems that have grown so drastically different that each side’s “goals” become oppositional, thereby “interfering with one another’s ability to accomplish their desired purposes” (209).
In defining conservative and progressive Christians, the authors use theological rather than political criteria. Individuals who believe the Bible is the inerrant Word of God and say Jesus is the only path to salvation are conservative Christians. Those who do not believe the Bible is the inerrant Word of God and do not see Jesus as the only path to salvation are progressive Christians.
The decision to define these groups by theological rather than political criteria is itself one of the areas where the differences between progressives and conservatives are most starkly represented. Everywhere we turn, we hear that conservative evangelicalism has become overly politicized and partisan, unable to speak to power prophetically. And we can certainly point to people and places where this has been the case. But we’re wrong to assume that the answer to this politicization will be found by turning to the Christian left. On the contrary, progressive Christians who fit this description are more, not less, politically minded than the conservative Christians.
Here are three surprises from Yancey and Quosigk’s research.
1. Progressive Christians are more likely to establish their identity through politics, while conservative Christians find their identity in theology.
Put simply, progressive Christians see the world through a political lens; conservative Christians, through a religious lens (155). This doesn’t mean that progressives are atheological and conservatives apolitical, but only that the emphasis is wildly disparate between the groups.
For example, progressive Christians…

…emphasize political values relating to social justice issues as they determine who is part of their in-group; they tend to be less concerned about theological agreement. Conservative Christians, however, do not put strong emphasis on political agreement in order to determine if you are one of them—their major concern is whether you agree with them on core theological points…(4)

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