I am intrigued by this discussion, though like most internet comments, it's not nearly as thoughtful as it wants to be. Most of the discussion, for example, just reduces the issues to one of power:
The deeper you probe on these issues, the deeper the split grows. That is the lesson of the last couple decades in this nation. The progressive agenda has been to try to ignore the conservative problem, but they did that for too long, and now bridging the divide is probably impossible. They need to face the fact that Christianity is now two totally separate religions with two very different Gods. Ignoring this just means all the progressive denominations will continue to be lost.
Which prompted this response:
You make an interesting point - "two totally separate religions with two very different Gods." I'm not sure I'm ready to go that far, but I would agree that progressive denominations have expended (wasted?) a tremendous amount of time, money and energy on trying to accommodate other perspectives where accommodation was basically impossible. We would do well to examine why such reconciliation couldn't happen. I believe it points to a fundamental disagreement about the nature of our mission, because widely divergent groups can work together if they can at least agree on the overarching mission.What's being described there is nothing less than what has happened in Christianity since Peter and Paul argued over whether to take the gospel of Jesus to Gentiles, or to confine it only to the children of Abraham (who were, in their lifetimes anyway, not yet the "Jews"). How much accommodation, in other words, is too much? Who to take the gospel to is as bedrock a question as Christianity faces, and yet Paul didn't tell Peter to break the church over it, and Peter never went so far as to break with Paul. Why can't reconciliation happen? It's a good question, but you aren't going to find the answer in the last decade or so of American political or social life. You have to go back to the Industrial Revolution, the Romantic movement, the rise of folklore studies prompted by the Romantics which gave rise to what can be grouped together as German Biblical studies; that will get you started on the "progressive" v. "conservative" split.
As for the "accept" or "reject," that has become the position of those rejecting; why should the rest of us adopt it? Modern Biblical Scholarship is so widely accepted even Fr. Raymond Brown, a conservative Biblical scholar by most standards, used it and came off as a radical anti-fundamentalist to those who adhere to the Scofield Bible and even the Biblical studies series I grew up with in my church library (the author of the series escapes me, but it took seminary to show me they were hardly the series Biblical studies I thought they were). Biblical scholars don't insist there must be an "either/or," that one must either be a fundamentalist and at least quasi-literalist, or one must be an atheist. Rudolf Bultmann's adherence to Christianity and love for the gospel message shines through his work on the Gospel of John, is present in his study of the synoptics, and is the force that drives him to write his late popular works on "demythologizing" Christianity. He isn't trying to convert believers to atheism, he's trying to make it possible for believers to hold on to their faith in a post-Enlightenment world. It is the fundamentalists who want to reject such thinking out of hand and insist no reconciliation is possible. And yet there is still no reason to tell the fundamentalists, or the people who refuse to accept change, to get lost. The church should never be about power, but only about the power of powerlessness.
But still you have to analyze that split in terms of power, of who gets to decide what is "Christian," of who gets to determine what is doctrine, even on who gets to decide what the 'overarching mission' is. I grew up in the PCUS, and the dominant mission I remember was helping people; it was not saving souls by bringing them to accept Jesus. We were actually pretty good about accommodating other points of view, even if that only meant not grumbling too much about the Baptists who dominated the population of the town. We did, I recall, accommodate individuals from those who seemed more concerned with sin (most of us were agin it) to those who seemed a bit more lax on the subject (we had few Scottish elders of the type P.G. Wodehouse referenced). That distinction on salvation became an important issue over time. I grew up with Southern Baptist friends asking me if I was "saved," a question no one in my own church ever asked (nor did we ask others outside out church). That concern with salvation eventually became almost universal, as American Christianity turned into a religion primarily concerned with individuals and salvation, which became more and more merely "pie in the sky bye and bye." That movement, too, has its roots in Romanticism. But watch closely as that argument appears again in this very contemporary discussion:
The differences between orthodox christian belief and progressive christian belief are myriad. Here are some of them:Three of those six are explicitly about soteriology, and the soteriology is very basic: one must be saved from damnation. The other three rest on the importance of the first three. Most are problematic because they are matters of definition: what, for example, are "core biblical claims" in No. 4? Like as not many Christian denominations would, officially, disagree; and then there is the matter of what individual church members think. Abortion doesn't even get in there except as a political concern, a cultural marker for what you think government should, or should not, do. The last is most interesting: tolerance, diversity, and acceptance set up as means to an end (getting everyone to be like me), v. ends in themselves (allowing everyone to be who they are).
1. Orthodoxy is a theology of divine redemption. Progressives believe in a theology of divine acceptance.
2. Orthodox: Jesus is the only way to salvation. Progressive: Jesus is one of the ways to salvation.
3. Orthodox-man is basically sinful. Progressive-man is basically good.
4. Orthodox-Core biblical claims are absolute; social and political movements are debatable. Progressives are ambiguous about core biblical claims but express confidence in social and political movements.
5 Orthodox-Abortion is always wrong. Progressives-abortion is sometimes a moral choice.
6. Orthodox-tolerance, diversity and acceptance are means to an end. Progressive-tolerance, diversity and acceptance are ends in and of themselves.
My reading of the Prophets, especially, is that the latter ("ends in themselves") is the proper Biblical claim. Isaiah's vision of the nations drawn to the light of Israel as the people blessed by God is not a vision of the world subjugated to the will of God, or even subject to the Torah; it is a world recognizing the wisdom and beneficence of the Creator, but not a world where everyone becomes tolerant, diverse, and accepting as a way of finally becoming the world wide nation of Israel. Or even the world wide Kingdom of God, for that matter. And the salvation will come, not from becoming acceptable to God, but from learning the way of living found on God's holy mountain.
As I say, I consider that a "core Biblical claim." But it's hardly in keeping with what most people would identify as "orthodox" Christianity, and certainly not what commonly passes as salvation. Indeed, it may be more in line with the Orthodox church than it is with American Protestant orthodoxy; and therein lies another problem: whose Christianity are we talking about?
I guess it gets back to what is Christianity? My answer would have to be I see two different Christianities, conservative and progressive. Conservative Christianity believes all the beliefs, the Bible is true, evolution is not because it goes against the Bible, and Jesus is coming any time now to rapture believers and fight non-believers. Conservative Christians became far more dangerous when they linked up with the fiscal conservatives (Republicans) because the Republicans tell them what they want to hear, and Christians reward them with the votes to win elections, and Republicans use that power to make themselves more rich.
Progressive Christians are the opposite, although they seem to have a hard time understanding just what that means. The beliefs become optional. Adam and Eve is a story and not actual people, evolution might be true, heaven and hell might not actually exist. If you push the point, even the stories about Jesus might be metaphor and allegory, and the miracles didn't necessarily happen. So what is the basic truth of Christianity?
Maybe there is none, and everyone is responsible for their own relationship to the religion. This is a slow process. You can't just make the leap to having no beliefs, so progressive Christianity has to find a winding path that may take generations to get there.
Given that, evangelism becomes a problem. You certainly don't want the conservatives to recruit more people because that way is insanity. Progressive evangelism is needed to keep the church going and growing, but what is it recruiting for? Why is progressive Christianity better than something like secular humanism? Is it just humanism with an option of believing you will go to heaven with your loved ones? I think progressive Christianity is lost, and with no possiblility of finding themselves, because there is nothing to find, other than to find a gentle way to end the religion.
Conservative Christianity will continue to bleed off people, and skew more insane in the process, and hopefully eventually grow too small to do any more political damage to the nation.