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4 years ago  ::  Nov 03, 2010 - 10:21AM #1
byronearnold
Posts: 280

Whats the similarities and differences between Liberal Christianity and Progressive Christianity?  Is one a subgroup of the other? Or are they just two names for the same movement?  Thanks for your thoughts, and god bless!!!

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4 years ago  ::  Nov 03, 2010 - 1:52PM #2
Stardove
Posts: 15,700

Nov 3, 2010 -- 10:21AM, byronearnold wrote:


Whats the similarities and differences between Liberal Christianity and Progressive Christianity?  Is one a subgroup of the other? Or are they just two names for the same movement?  Thanks for your thoughts, and god bless!!!



Interesting question for which I don't have a real answer.  I don't believe I have actually heard the term Liberal Christianity, so I have looked up the terms.  Maybe other Progressives can add more to answer your question.


Liberal Christianity, sometimes called liberal theology, is an umbrella term covering diverse, philosophically and biblically informed religious movements and ideas within Christianity from the late 18th century and onward. The word "liberal" in liberal Christianity does not refer to a progressive political agenda  or set of beliefs, but rather to the manner of thought and belief associated with the philosophical and religious paradigms developed during the Age of Enlightenment.

And this (both or links)

Progressive Christianity is the name given to a movement within contemporary Protestant Christianity characterized by willingness to question tradition, acceptance of human diversity with a strong emphasis on social justice or care for the poor and the oppressed (see Minority groups) and environmental stewardship of the Earth. Progressive Christians have a deep belief in the centrality of the instruction to "love one another" (John 15:17) within the teaching of Jesus Christ. This leads to a focus on compassion, promoting justice and mercy, tolerance, and working towards solving the societal problems of poverty, discrimination, and environmental issues. They stress Collective Salvation as a requirement toward salvation of society.


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4 years ago  ::  Jan 08, 2011 - 10:46AM #3
Cjbanning
Posts: 282

I've realized that I tend to think of my brand of Christian theology as "liberal," and the resulting brand of Christian praxis as "progressive" (although the theology and praxis aren't as necessarily as intertwined as it might seem sometimes), and find it disorienting when they get switched (e.g., talk of "progressive theology"). I'm not at all sure whether this an idiosyncratism of my idiolect or if it parallels the way others might use the words, though.


In my usage, "progressive" and "liberal" are intended to call out a specific recognizable content in theology and in praxis which could, presumably, be contrasted with (say) a "conservative" theology or praxis, and are intended to be descriptive rather than terms of praise or critique (cf. "pro-life" and "pro-choice," where both terms assume certain assumptions which are rejected by the other side but which nonetheless provide a commonly shared set of descriptors).


So a progressive and/or liberal theology is going to start from certain recognizable assumptions (e.g. the validity of the historical-critical method) and a progressive and/or liberal praxis is going to work towards certain recognizable objectives (e.g. a left-liberal understanding of social justice). It makes sense then for that movement/thread of thought to understand movement towards the fulfillment of those objectives as "progress" (independently of whether or not the movement is right about what progress looks like or should look like). (My account of Christian progress is found at my blog essay History and Christ.)


For me, then, "progressive" is the much more politically-loaded word since it essentially refers to a mode of being-in-the-world, and thus of being-the-Church, while "liberal" has more to do with a certain post-Enlightenment understanding of the world and humanity's place within it which has as much to do with classical liberalism as with modern-day left-liberalism. Progressive Christianity has some set of (recognizable) reforms which it desires to enact within society and/or the Church; Liberal Christianity affirms certain (recognizable) things as true about the human person's (ideal) relationship with Scripture and Church tradition.




The question, for me, is how well the words are commonly understood to refer to the already-existent movements in Christian theology and/or praxis they are supposed to call out (Rosemary Radford Ruether, Leonardo Boff, etc.--what Wikipedia refers to as "the Christian left"). It's not at all clear that there is any real uniformity of usage in how "liberal," "progressive," and other similar terms get applied, although of course I think my way makes the most sense. :oD 

http://cjbanning.dreamwidth.org

"This is my prayer: that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best." -- "St. Paul's" [deutero-Pauline] Epistle to the Philippians 1:9-10

"Come now, let us argue it out, says the LORD." -- First Isaiah 1:18
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4 years ago  ::  Jan 08, 2011 - 11:55AM #4
grampawombat
Posts: 269

My somewhat random recollections about the terms liberal and progressive:


I think of Liberal Christianity as a position developed in the mid-19th century by Friedrich Schleiermacher and Albrecht Ritschl (I hope I got the spelling right). Superficially I think of it as relating to opposition to the notion of original sin, but I know there is much more to it than that. I'm just too lazy to find out. I kind of see it as contrasted to the much later development of Neo-Orthodoxy and Karl Barth.


I associate the term "progressive" with Teddy Roosevelt and others who, though pro-business, tried to mitigate some of the worst aspects of capitalism. They came along about the same time as the Social Gospel movement, and I associate it with Walter Rauschenbusch and Henry George.


The term "liberal," particularly as it refers to politics, has fallen into disuse due to a concerted effort on the part of many concervatives to characterize it as a flawed and maybe outdated philosophy. So in many situations progressive has become an acceptable subsitute.


It is all rather confusing at times.

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4 years ago  ::  Jan 08, 2011 - 9:19PM #5
Cjbanning
Posts: 282

That's mostly how I think of it, too. Schleiermacher was one of the big influences of Paul Tillich, one of the truly great 20th-century theologians, and Tillich in turn influenced much of contemporary liberal theology, including the feminist theological movement.

http://cjbanning.dreamwidth.org

"This is my prayer: that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best." -- "St. Paul's" [deutero-Pauline] Epistle to the Philippians 1:9-10

"Come now, let us argue it out, says the LORD." -- First Isaiah 1:18
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