Labels aren’t everything, but here at Internet Monk we’ve talked a lot about being post-evangelical. The subtitle for the blog used to be “dispatches from the Post-Evangelical wilderness.” That was Michael Spencer’s journey, and it was also mine. From the culture of American evangelicalism to…what? Michael never really found a home in another tradition but remained in the “wilderness” until the day he died nine years ago. I eventually found a home in the Lutheran theological tradition — especially that of Luther himself– but I remain in something of a “post-ecclesiastical” position, still feeling like a square peg in a round hole when it comes to the institutional church.
Back in August 2010, we suggested in a series of posts that there were “Three Streams in the Post-Evangelical Wilderness.”
- The “emerging” movement, which has morphed into “progressive” Christianity.
- The “ancient-future” movement, which for many (like me), has meant a return to historic traditions and practices.
- The “neo-Calvinist” movement, which embraces Reformed or Puritan dogmatic traditions.
These movements are still going strong, but now Richard Beck has suggested that it might be time to move on from some of these post-evangelical movements into something new. He has been calling himself a “post-progressive” Christian recently, and he has begun a series at his blog on what that might entail.
The reason I’m describing myself as post-progressive is that enough alienation has built up between myself and progressive Christianity that I’ve come to recognize that when I hear progressive Christians talk I tend to have as many objections and concerns about what they are saying as I do affirmations. In some important way, I’ve moved to a different location within Christianity and I’d like to map out where I stand in some detail.
Beyond making a contrast with progressive Christianity I find this task necessary for another reason as well. I’ve shared many of my criticisms about progressive Christianity on the blog and a few readers, in reading these criticisms, have said that it sounds like I’m becoming more “conservative.” I get why they think that. When you hear criticism of progressivism that’s mostly coming from a conservative person or viewpoint. So it’s natural, when you hear my own criticism of progressivism, to assume that I’m drifting back to the “other side,” back to conservatism.
But that is not what is happening. I’m not moving back to conservatism, I’m moving on from progressivism into a new, unoccupied space. What I aim to describe is post-progressive, a view still rooted in progressive Christianity but distinct from it as well. I’ll make this clear in the posts to come, how I’m still progressive, but have moved on in some important ways.
One thing is clear to me: if we are growing, we change. Old wineskins can’t contain the new wine. We realize it’s time to move on.
There is a kind of restlessness that can be a cop out. Things get hard and we suddenly “feel led” to make a change. That’s not what Richard Beck is talking about. He is talking about a journey of observing, learning, growing, and maturing. And realizing he doesn’t fit. He has, in his words, “moved to a different location within Christianity.”
I respect that. It is the same spirit I so appreciated in Michael Spencer. I hope I have enough courage to follow their example until the end of my days.