For the last few years, the term “Progressive Christians” has been used to describe a handful of Evangelical Christians. This past week, influential Christian author and speaker Jonathan Merritt was labeled a "Progressive Christian" on Fox’s show with Laura Ingram. The book of Ecclesiastes eloquently states "there is nothing new under the sun,” however when I heard the term used to describe Merritt, it made me think, “what does the term ‘Progressive Christian’ even mean?”
In an interview with Christian Headlines, the Learning to Speak God from Scratch author chimes in on what he thinks the term means and which people represent it. Merritt doesn't speak for all progressive Christians, but he is one of their influential members.
CH: A few weeks ago, on the Laura Ingram show you were labeled a "Progressive Christian" are you comfortable with that title?
JM: It's fine with me, so long as Christian is the noun in the title. I see myself as a Jesus-follower above all else.
CH: In your own words, what is a Progressive Christian?
JM: The definition of the word depends on who is using it and how. If I use that term, I'm describing Christians who are more theologically and politically left-leaning. But that makes the term admittedly nebulous. One "progressive Christian" would have a range of different political and theological views than the next.
CH: What distinguishes a progressive Christian from an Evangelical Christian?
JM: Many evangelical Christians are progressive. So sometimes there isn't a distinction.
CH: How do progressive Christians relate to the deity and authority of Jesus?
JM: This is hard to generalize. Most progressive Christians I know – all of them, actually – would affirm that Jesus Christ is the Son of God as it says in the historic Christian creeds.
CH: Who are some influential leaders within the Progressive Christian movement?
JM: I don't know that there is a "movement" per se. So there isn't a network or some kind of behind-closed-door gathering where we elect a leader. But when I think of powerful, winsome progressive Christians, I think of people like Austin Channing Brown, Lisa Sharon Harper, Jim Wallis, Sarah Bessey, Kathy Khang, Nadia Bolz-Weber, Peter Enns, and many more that aren't listed here.
CH: How do the majority of progressive Christians stand on the following issues?
JM: A. Abortion - It's a mix. I imagine that most are "pro-life" in principle at least. But what that means for each of them politically would vary.
B. Homosexuality - Again, it's a mix. But generally speaking, progressive Christians are more likely to believe that LGBTQ relationships can be holy than can their conservative brothers and sisters.
C. Death penalty - It's a mix. I'd guess that most are opposed to it like I am, but that's conjecture.
D. President Trump - I don't know any progressive Christians who are supporters of Donald Trump.
Johnathan Merritt is a well-known author within the Christian community. He has penned at least seven books including Jesus Is Better than You Imagined, Learning to Speak God from Scratch and A Faith of Our Own.
Photo courtesy: Jonathan Merritt Facebook