A Grand Illusion: How Progressive Christianity Undermines Biblical Faith
By David Young
“Progressive Christianity? What is that?” a dear friend asked me while in conversation about the current state of our country and the Church.
“Yup, progressive Christianity,” I replied. “It’s a thing.” And then I proceeded to tell her about what it is, how to spot it, and why it is damaging the American Church.
The biggest problem with progressive Christianity is that [for the most part] it does not directly identify or outwardly claim to be progressive Christianity or theological progressivism. Even so, like most things in life, counterfeits are easy to spot when you know, recognize and/or have experience with the real thing.
I first learned of the term, or rather, “movement,” “progressive Christianity” while listening to Alisa Childers’ podcast. Childers attended a church that had turned progressive and upon questioning it as so, she began [what she refers to as] a journey of deconstructing her faith, which ultimately led to a realignment with orthodox Christianity. Everything she describes both on her podcast and in her book, Another Gospel: A Lifelong Christian Seeks Truth in Response to Progressive Christianity, affirmed my own experience “church shopping” over the years my family relocated to four different states across various parts of the U.S.
It was on Childer’s podcast that I heard David Young speak more in depth about progressive Christianity. Immediately following the podcast episode, I went on Amazon and purchased his book, A Grand Illusion: How Progressive Christianity Undermines Biblical Faith.
A Grand Illusion is one of several books on this topic that I plan to read in 2021 (based on other recommendations by Alisa Childers). It is also the first book I read regarding American Progressivism within the local church.
The introduction in this book sets the stage for the more topically profound chapters that follow. Young begins by describing the relatively recent increase of progressive indoctrination within the American Church by widely known voices in the Christian community such as Rob Bell, Richard Rohr, Jen Hatmaker and more. These individuals have publicly spoken in support of progressive policies and ideologies pertaining to social justice, universalism and/or gender identity and sexuality and they are not alone.
It appears, many influential individuals within the American Church have embraced or aligned with secular values and have tailored their “theology” to fit the progressive agenda rather than traditional, biblical, orthodox Christianity. This is not a new shift or movement in Christianity, however, the current political climate coupled with the increase use, exposure and influence of both media and social media has rapidly steered American Christians towards a path of faux, feelings-based faith in a religion that is unbiblical. You may have heard this trend referred to as deconstruction of one’s faith.
A dramatic shift into Progressive Christianity has been the result of the amplified use of identity politics (specifically pertaining to sex, gender, and race) from the Democratic Party. In the hope of being more accepting, validating, and inclusive, Christians are knowingly or inadvertently conforming Jesus’ to fit the leftist ideology.
There are many problems with this image of Jesus but perhaps the most problematic is the cherry-picking of certain aspects of scripture and Jesus’ character to mold this “new” Jesus into a modern-day, social activist.
Young believes this shift is because secular Americans prefer social action to personal responsibility. Christians who “buy” into secular Progressivism create a “Jesus” who doesn’t make personal demands nor holds individuals accountable for their actions, beliefs or lifestyle. It’s easy to see how this viewpoint has gained traction.
But for those who know and believe the Bible is God’s infallible Word, the desire to conform to culture is not a new desire. It has always been apparent and following Jesus has always been countercultural. It is why Jesus preached to live in the world but not of the world (ref: Romans 12:2, John 15:19, John 17:14-16, 1 John 2:15, 1 Corinthians 5:9-10). Idol worship seems silly and foreign to us in the 21st century, but the fact is the pressure to worship idols has always existed.
“If everyone around you is saying a cow is a god, the social pressure on you to deify cows will be tremendous. In the same way, if everybody around you is saying that a man may be a woman, the social pressure will be enormous for you to say that men are women.”
A Grand Illusion, pg. 15-16
This statement makes sense, right?
Young argues those who seek progressivism are not ones who are coming to faith in Jesus Christ but rather are those who are seeking an alternative to their current faith or ideology. He refers to this shift as an “exit ramp off the highway of biblical Christianity.”
Young supports his argument by contrasting the growth and stability of Christianity outside of North America as well as the explosive gospel-movement seen in the underground Church globally to that of progressive Christianity that is seen primarily in the United States. Young concludes that most individuals become theologically progressive after giving up on traditional, orthodox Christianity. It’s almost as if they are spiritually numbed or checked out and decide to give “this Christian thing” one last chance before throwing in the towel and adapting a completely secular worldview.
The sad reality of adapting this ideology and conforming to a secular worldview is that faith and belief in the one, true God and in salvation received only through His son, Jesus Christ, is forever lost. Temporary “control” of one’s life in pursuit of an unobtainable “utopia” this side of eternity is preferred and chosen over a life of eternal paradise with the Maker of the Universe.
You guys, everything I just outlined above is only the introduction of this book! Seriously!
Diving deeper, Young uses A Grand Illusion to purposely guide Christians to pursue (and cling!) to a biblical faith that is rooted in God’s Word and lived by following Christ.
The chapters in A Grand Illusion address:
- The tenets of Progressive Christianity (which include an argument or disbelief in Jesus’ divinity, opposition to the scriptures as the final authority, a tolerance for other ideologies like Marxism to be combined with other spiritual pathways to construct a universal worldview, public policy as the gospel, salvation as self-actualization, and more)
- How to detect Progressive Christianity (which include “red flags” such as a lower view of the bible and an emphasis on feelings over facts, amongst other signs)
- A battle over the Bible (which asks questions like, Is it infallible? Open to interpretation? To be considered literally or figuratively?)
- The challenge of Jesus (Is he the divine son of God or merely a social justice activist?)
- The future of the Progressive church
- How to respond to theological progressivism
- And so much more…
A Grand Illusion concludes with the harsh reality that is in store for those who choose to exit the highway of biblical Christianity. Like all things that are worldly, this ideology is vapor. Things, concepts, and “movements” come, go and then disappear. They are not lasting. Moreover, things of the world sit on sinking sand instead of being planted on solid ground, in fertile soil. The inevitable will occur if your life is not anchored in the everlasting truth of God’s Word. This is a harsh, but very real, fact.
I definitely recommend reading A Grand Illusion because there is a LOT you can learn from it (as you can see from what I gleaned from the introduction alone!), especially during a time when so many prominent Christian pastors, leaders and influencers are promoting a “deconstruction” of faith.
This book is packed with powerful wisdom, biblical truth, and knowledgeable resources. Like most hard-hitting topical books I’ve read over the last year, I found myself highlighting and marking up the pages of this book for further emphasis and future reference. Likewise, I combed through the vast index of sources cited for my own personal research, review, and consideration. I encourage you to study these sources as well.
Bottom line, North American Christianity is at a major intersection right now. Will the local churches across our country veer left or right? Which direction will you pursue?
*I personally purchased this book. The thoughts and opinions expressed are my very own.