Progressive Christianity is as Much of a Threat to Your Kids’ Faith as Atheism


In our backyard we used to have a beautiful lime tree.

Progressive Christianity Atheism

One day I noticed that a thorny vine of some kind had started growing around it. It looked enough like the rest of the tree that I figured it was just another stage of growth. A quick Google search told me thorns often grow around citrus trees, so I didn’t think much more about it.

Then, within a couple of months, the thorns took over the tree and it began to die. A gardener looked at it and said these particular thorns weren’t part of the tree at all. It turns out they were a foreign invader.

Had the foreign invader looked more foreign, I would have realized the need to uproot it immediately. But because it shared surface-level similarities with the tree, I was fooled into thinking it was all the same thing.

I often write here about the threat hostile atheists pose to kids’ faith today. But atheism is not the only threat. In fact, there’s a particular threat that can be even more dangerous because it less obviously requires attention. It’s like the thorny plant that gradually killed my lime tree because I didn’t even realize it was foreign.

That threat is called progressive Christianity.

What is Progressive Christianity?

It can be hard to define progressive Christianity because it’s an umbrella term for a lot of different beliefs. But I think my friend and fellow blogger, Alisa Childers (who was once part of a progressive Christian church) hit the nail on the head when she summarized it this way in a recent post:

  • A lowered view of the Bible
  • Feelings are emphasized over facts
  • Essential Christian doctrines are open for reinterpretation
  • Historic terms are redefined
  • The heart of the gospel message shifts from sin and redemption to social justice

Here’s the danger. To the untrained ear, the progressive Christian message can sound a lot like biblical Christianity. There’s talk of God, Jesus, the Bible, love, and compassion. If a child has never learned to think more deeply about theology and what the Bible actually teaches, they can easily mistake progressive Christianity for biblical Christianity.

And progressive Christianity often teaches an incomplete or false gospel.

Exhibit A: There’s a blog called Unfundamentalist Parenting that promotes parenting according to progressive Christian views. This Easter, the blog featured a guest post by a Children’s Pastor at a progressive Christian church. In her post, The Trouble with Easter: How To (and not to) Talk to Kids about Easter, the author expressed how difficult Easter is because she doesn’t want to teach the kids in her spiritual care that:

  • Jesus died for you/your sins (this is “psychologically damaging”)
  • God intended for Jesus to die (this is “confusing and jarring”)
  • Jesus died to save them from God’s judgment (“an atonement theology of inborn corruption in need of redemption has no place in a conversation with kids about Easter”)

The whole article literally made my heart hurt.

Views like these are thorny, foreign invaders in the church.

Why Progressive Christians Don’t Like Apologetics

The Unfundamentalist Parenting blog recently featured another post that caught my eye: Why Your Children Do NOT Need Apologetics. (If you’re not familiar with the term, apologetics is the study of why there’s good reason to believe Christianity is true.) The post is filled with misunderstandings, but my purpose here is not to rebut it. Instead, I want to highlight why progressive Christians don’t like apologetics…and why that shows just how important the study of apologetics actually is.

The author bemoans the fact that apologetics “confines faith as doctrine,” explaining:

Our faith is a dynamic experience that shifts and evolves for us and especially for a child growing leaps and bounds in their development. We cannot capture that experience and box it into a set of propositions to memorize and defend—that limits and denies the realities of the human experience.”

This statement says so much. The author is confused between the objective, unchanging truth of God and the subjective, changing experiences we have as we relate to God throughout our lives.

God and the truth He has revealed do not shift and evolve.

Our experiences shift and evolve, but that has nothing to do with what is true.

Teaching kids apologetics isn’t about putting their experiences in a “box.” To the contrary, apologetics is about stepping outside personal experience and examining what reason there is to believe Christianity is true regardless of our feelings.

If kids are only developing a faith based on “shifting and evolving” experiences, they have no way of knowing if their faith is well placed. I could have faith that a mouse will fly out of a tree right now, but that would be a bad thing to have faith in.

Faith, in and of itself, is no virtue.

It’s only as solid as the object of the faith.

The question is, how can we be confident that Jesus, as the object of Christian faith, is “solid”?


Progressive Christians don’t like apologetics because it challenges them to think of biblical teachings in a category of objective truth—something we’re not free to change just because we happen to “experience” it in varied ways.

Two plus two equals four whether I experience difficulty with that or not.

Experience cannot be elevated over objective truth.

Progressive Christianity is Just One More Reason Your Kids and the Church at Large Desperately Need Apologetics

The study of apologetics is desperately needed for all Christians today, both for engaging with the secular world and, less obviously, for engaging with groups that teach an unbiblical version of Christianity.

But, for some reason, the church is still largely blind to this need.

Cold-Case homicide detective, apologist, and author J. Warner Wallace sees this all the time. He speaks nearly every week at churches and conferences across the country on the reliability of the Gospels, the reasonable inference of the resurrection, and the evidence for God’s existence. Wallace has the opportunity to engage with the spectrum of believers in a way that few others do.

What he’s found has been disappointing at best.

In his new book, Forensic Faith, Wallace says, “In many of these churches, the people I meet aren’t really interested in Christian ‘apologetics’…In fact, most are still completely unfamiliar with the word, and some even reject the value of such an effort. On more than one occasion, I’ve heard a well-meaning believer say something akin to, ‘Well, that’s nice, but I don’t really need any evidence. I just believe Christianity is true.”

In other words, Christians are largely unprepared to make the case for what they believe and many in the church still deny the need to be prepared in the first place.

The church is asleep.

And while the church sleeps, the secular world marches on, becoming increasingly hostile to the truth of Christianity, and thorny foreign invaders continue to grow within.

For that reason, I don’t think there’s a more important book for the church right now than Forensic Faith. In it, Wallace powerfully makes the case for the importance of apologetics for every Christian. It’s a wake up call to the sleeping church.

For those new to apologetics, it’s a perfect place to start. Wallace motivates you to take your Christian case-making duty seriously and shows you, step-by-step, what to do once you’ve accepted that duty.

For those who already understand the importance of apologetics, it’s the ultimate resource to share with fellow believers who need the understanding you have. It’s the book you can give to your small group members, pastors, children’s ministry leaders, and friends.

I pray this fantastic book will truly sweep through the church.

As Christian parents, we must continually be vigilant. Threats to our kids’ faith aren’t always as obvious as the freeway billboards proclaiming “There is No God.” Providing kids with a foundation of apologetics, however, will give them the training of a discerning gardener ready to identify and uproot any kind of invader that shouldn’t exist alongside biblical truth.

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8 replies
  1. Glenn R Jackson says:

    Spot on! I agree, I agree, I agree, I find the apathy in the 21st century church appalling. It’s more about feelings, idol worship, that is making the God of bible into some kind heavenly bellhop, or a Jeanie in a bottle. Somehow slowly changing the truth of God’s word into some kind of weird -hybrid- humanistic- materialistic faith. Centered around the needs of individuals instead of worship of the living God.

    • Carol Dudley says:

      Right on! It is very alarming to me that people, some of whom I have known for years who are in the ministry, have adopted this “progressive Christianity” in a “whatever floats your boat” mentality. The worst thing about it is their dogged determination that they are right and you are wrong and I have found that there is no wiggle room or reasoning with them. I don’t like to argue and I especially don’t like to cause hard feelings but there does come a point at which a stand must be taken. Once again, I repeat that it is alarming, very alarming.

  2. Victor Feria says:

    Perhaps, Glenn’s understanding of the Church is minimal at best. The teaching of the Church against idolatry is very much in order. When one is looking from the outside, it may appear that the statue is being worshiped. Statues in the Church are reminders just like the pictures of your love ones that maybe hanging on the wall of your family room or office. It could be a photographed of your spouse of girlfriend in your wallet. There are times you kiss the picture out of passion!

  3. ... says:

    I love my church but this has worried me for a while. My pastor preaches often on grace but never mentions sin. This has troubled me for a while. Maybe someone here can give me their thoughts. I feel it’s like seeing a doctor for your advanced stage cancer diagnosis and the doc walking in and saying well let’s not talk about what’s killing you, let’s talk about how good your blood pressure is and your cholesterol. The wages of sin is death and I know about grace but if you don’t turn from your sins then what good is it? I wanna believe my church isn’t going this direction but I can’t shake this thought. Any advice?

  4. Brian says:

    Even the Pope is falling for Pop Christianity. Real Christianity is not easy. You are required to accept the Truth, even when it goes against your “feelings”
    Telling people the Truth about their souls is not hate. In the end, no one is going to open Heavens Gates to them, slap them on the back, and say, “It will be a hoot!” Nope. Only for the repentant. If no repentance were required, Jesus would not have had to die. So, it is not those who are honest with you, even if it hurts, who are doing wrong.
    Reality can be harsh. Sin, and evil, are real. There is a hell. Salvation is serious business.

  5. Susan Tan says:

    I’ve never known a Progressive Christian personally in real life at least I don’t think so but I have exchanged posts with them online as an apologist and I thought their two biggest issues were either they weren’t Christ centered enough and the other is that many don’t consider the scriptures to be divine. But they also have some very unusual interpretations of the Bible. Some of the Progressive Christians started out in conservative Christianity though and moved more and more progressive over time. Some of them do really get that love is the key concept to practice and that may be one reason they drift more liberally than other Christians do following their emotions. I know that from an online dialog with a Progressive Christian minister who if I recall correctly said she was raised Pentecostal. But definitely exposure to social causes changed her beliefs over time. I also noticed a lot of accomodation by them of unbeliever’s opinions which could possibly be a pro or con in your belief system. You really do want to be able to witness and evangelize if possible but you have to be strong in your beliefs before you engage people in discussing them.

    Right now I suspect there is more undermining of Christian values in the West than any other time. Christians are going soft on sin and not reading the Bible enough.

    The biggest problem today in Christianity in the West may be the media. Because the Bible says to guard our hearts and doing that requires we guard our senses like our eye and ear gates. Our senses are the gateway to our hearts and if we don’t reinforce our guarding of them with regular bible study and meditation and cutting of regular access of evil ideas to them then we leave the gates wide open to the world and the world can walk right into your home through the television, computer or social media almost any time it wants to unless you have your quiet regular time with God. You can’t even go on youtube any more to watch a video without some consumer ad barging onto your computer and taking up your time jockeying for your attention.

    So I suspect the tv with all the violence, immorality, materialism and non-stop stop drama of social causes has done more to split the focus of the Body of Christ than anything. It is like we don’t know how to rest or be peaceful any more. People just flit from one selfish pleasure to the next but never being satisfied. Pleasure can be like greed. It is never satisfied unless you become aware of the existential emptiness without God’s peace in your heart.

    Hebrews 12:1-3
    Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

    I also have found that there is mass confusion in people’s minds over the difference between love and tolerance. In our society people love to bash other people with a different belief system for a lack of tolerance. Some people will totally violate your personal boundaries to insult you and accuse you of intolerance. But that is because they make a key discernment error.

    Love is the higher standard. Love is better than mere tolerance. You can tolerate some mighty evil ideas. But love doesn’t tolerate. It goes the extra mile of actually being concerned for another human being’s welfare and that is a higher standard than the tolerance of the world that the world teaches and demands.

    So here is the core of Christianity if you boil it down to it’s most basic principles:

    1 Cor. 13:4-8
    4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

    8 Love never fails.

    Now isn’t that a better attitude than mere tolerance which will do nothing when something terrible happens to another person?

    That is traditional Christianity when consumerism and over exposure to other social evils hasn’t watered those values down.

    So guard your heart and keep your eyes on Jesus and you will be a good soldier for God.

    And remember 1 Cor. 5 where it says we’re not suppose to judge unbelievers. God judges them but we do judge other believers. Judgment starts with the House of God so we need to examine ourselves thoroughly because it says if we examine ourselves then we escape the judgment.

    How can you be the salt and light to the world if you haven’t gotten your own act together?

    May His Grace Abound to Everyone Reading!

  6. Jeffery says:

    I’m not sure it’s a fair statement to lump all of “progressive Christianity” into one category. Sure there are some who will write out Jesus almost entirely, but those are few and far between. And once you write out Jesus and his sacrifice you essentially aren’t a Christian anymore except by name. But I know plenty of people that hold a different view of the Bible being inherent, focus on social justice, don’t believe in young earth, believe in annhilationism, universalism, don’t read the Bible literally, and many other issues that would be seen a “progressive”. Those issues aren’t near a danger as the example you used. You can be a Christian and hold a differently theological viewpoint then others.

    In fact I think those are issues our kids should wrestle with (once an appropriate age). We cannot just indoctrinate our kids to believe what we believe. Because we are WRONG on some issues, everyone is. So to say we are right and you have to believe what we believe is just arrogant. There’s room for varying beliefs, even some progressive ones. We need to encourage everyone to pray, study the bible, and engage in conversation about these topics. And when we arrive at a different conclusion we shouldn’t kick anyone out, rather pursue unity together.

    The church in America is far to0 threaten by different viewpoints. The only thing we should take a hard stand on is Jesus being the only way to heaven. That’s it and that’s offensive enough. Everything else is up for debate and interpretation.

  7. Nate says:

    Hmmm. Is this a safe place to disagree? I grew up fundamentalist Pentecostal with a healthy dose of Baptist extracurricular involvement. I even attended a year of Bible College. I have spent almost every Sunday of my entire life in bible-believing churches. I am not sure what I am now, but it is much closer to Progressive (P) than Fundamentalist (F). I know there are some who would accuse P. of not reading the Bible, or just cherry picking what they like from the Bible and rejecting what they don’t like. I am the way I am now because I read the Bible. A lot. Many times. In different translations. Parts of the Bible are lovely to me. Parts of the Bible are extremely disturbing to me. For example, it is one thing to say that God saved Noah and his family and destroyed the earth’s population. But that would mean God also killed the children. We widely believe in an “age of accountability” that children cannot fully be held responsible for their actions until they reach a certain maturity. I’ve read that this age could be as old as 20 (everyone 20 and younger in the Exodus account did not have to die in the desert). I have a five year old and a seven year old, and they are far from perfectly obedient-but wicked? Hmm. That God would destroy children either because of their great wickedness, or because of their parent’s great wickedness should, at least, make us very uncomfortable. The passages referring to the annihilation of the Canaanites is also very disturbing to me for the same reasons. The list of punishments for Israel should they break covenant with God also bothers me. Patriarchy as well (poor Hagar!). Don’t get me started on how much eternal hell bothers me. I’m not asserting that none of this is true, but it does make me uncomfortable. I hope it does for you too.
    If I can be vulnerable here, my faith started falling apart a couple years ago. I was forced to look at my Christian faith and the Bible in one of three ways: 1.) The Bible is 100% inerrant, everything happened exactly the way a plain reading said it did, God is loving, but also monstrous and vengeful, he plays favorites and he likes men better than women. 2.) The Bible is just literature and these are all myths. 3.) My understanding and interpretation of this sacred book is flawed. The only one of those where I walked away with some semblance of faith is #3.
    This post is already longer than I intended, but please consider the issue of slavery. One can make a compelling, biblical case for slavery that is well supported with contextualized scripture. Yet, slavery is a repulsive idea to most of the modern world. How did this happen? I humbly submit that good people understood that their interpretation of scripture was flawed and they dug deeper and found that slavery was the backdrop that the biblical passages were written in. Just like violence and patriarchy was the backdrop for many biblical periods. By taking the Bible seriously, but not always literally, I found I could still believe in God with a clean conscience and without having to pretend that I am OK the slaughter of children.
    I am afraid I have to agree with you about apologetics: I don’t like them. Don’t get me wrong, I probably know the F. arguments better than most. (I should. I used them for most of my adult life!) But how many people come to faith in Christ because they lost an argument? More impactful to me though, is that I no longer have the certainty that I have interpreted my translation of a translation of the scriptures perfectly. I am no longer convinced beyond any doubt that I am right. I am far more prone to listen to other’s view point and ask genuine questions now than I was as a F. I can learn a lot from another’s perspective! I just don’t see the value in trying to convince someone else that I am right and they are wrong. People come to Christ because of experience and relationship, not because of a good debate.
    Will I go to heaven when I die? I sure hope so, but no one actually knows what happens when we die. Is homosexuality inherently sinful? My interpretation says that clearly gang rape is a sin, clearly lustful and rampant behaviors are bad, especially when it involves someone in a position of inferior power or authority. But take me to the passage about monogamous, loving, respectful and deeply committed homosexual relationships? What does the Bible say about that? Nothing. Please read what I’m saying: that the Bible is at best unclear on some of these issues and it requires deep study, prayer, and humility to enter in. I take it a step further: what are the fruits that some of our positions have born? How many gay people feel loved and welcome in our churches? Compare that to how many are wounded, alone, judged, persecuted and rejected by people who claim to love them, but really just want to change their behaviors? By our fruit will they know us.
    I also clearly see social justice as an issue in the Bible, and I cling to defending the weak and powerless, marginalized and oppressed as one thing that Jesus was quite clear about. I take no issue with your statement about that whatsoever.
    I am not trying to persuade any reader here to join me. Deconstructing my faith was and continues to be deeply painful, chaotic, unsettling and I have enjoyed very little of it. But it has allowed me to retain my belief in God and not discount human experiences in the world, as well as God’s general revelation (i.e. Nature). I know exactly the instability that having to parse scripture for what is literal and what is allegorical means for people. Anyone who has undertaken this journey will tell you how difficult it is. But I would encourage people to drop the broad brush that paints every progressive in one color, to deeply consider the fruits of your worldview, and above all, study to show yourselves approved unto God, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. Thanks for reading.


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