As I have grown older, I have noticed that the rate of change in my religious beliefs has increased rapidly. I am on a journey through the transition from being a traditional Christian to becoming a progressive Christian. Sir Francis Bacon once said, “Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man.” I have inaugurated this blog to document these transitions in order to share them with others and to help me be a more articulate advocate of Progressive Christianity.
I am a married middle-aged man and the father of two grown children. I’m now retired. My education and work experience were in the fields of engineering and education, which means I am not a theologian. I was raised in a church-going family and attended a Congregational Church regularly until I went into military service at age seventeen. Using the terminology of Marcus Borg, I would classify my religious beliefs at that time as being at the “Pre-Critical Naïveté” level. This means that I accepted the religious concepts given me based on my ignorance and lack of critical thinking. Some things didn’t seem plausible to me, even in those days, but I was under the impression that I either had to accept the whole package or reject it entirely.
After several years (decades actually) away from all things religious I began to look for that thing that was missing in my life and I attempted to reconnect with my religious self. My first attempt was to join my wife and children in their church, a Roman Catholic Church. This was probably a good thing because I realized quickly that all religions were not the same and that I was better suited to the religion of my youth, Protestantism. But this time around it was different.
The first thing I noticed when I returned is that the Congregational Church had ‘morphed’ somewhat from the church I remembered. There were subtle things like a new hymnal and a less dogmatic approach to worship. But the primary change was in my approach to the religion. I was beginning to question some of the beliefs and to measure some of the things I heard against my own experience and knowledge. I had entered what Borg called the “Critical Thinking” stage. I can’t say that this was a comfortable time for me because as I had more life experience and was beginning to learn more about the “historical Jesus” I found myself constantly in a position where I had to decide if I was going to believe a particular concept or not. I felt uncomfortable taking this “smorgasbord” approach to religion, but I was glad that, as a member of a UCC church, I had the freedom to question things I didn’t believe or understand.
During this period of my journey, I read several authors who helped me sort out my thoughts on matters of religion. Crossan, Fredriksen, Yancey, and Borg are just a few of the authors I read during this time. Each contributed to my growing level of knowledge as I continue to examine the concepts of religion and theology. Most recently I have been reading Spong as well as Borg and Crossan, and I am developing alternative interpretations of some of the “facts” on which my religious beliefs are based. As a result, I think I am beginning to enter Borg’s “Post-Critical Naïveté” level. In this blog, I will share some of the insights I have gained as part of this latest transition.
Amazingly, when all is said and done, I still consider myself to be a Christian. Despite all the layers of interpretation, misrepresentation, and total fabrication that have conspired to keep me from who Jesus really was, what he taught, and why he is indeed relevant to me, I am still a believer.
Join me on these pages as I retrace parts of my journey and move ahead into new territory.
The Progressive Christian