Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Real Meaning of a Word

It was recently mentioned to me, second or third hand, how a certain somewhat loosely associated group of churches were going through some degree of turmoil. The division was labeled as being between "traditionalists" and "progressives".

It is not at all my purpose to comment on the issues between the two sides. I have no direct connection to these events or the issues at hand. That said, I do have some familiarity with the history of this particular movement. It was that knowledge that prompted me to question what was meant by "progressive".

"Progressive" is a relative word. To be progressive is to, at some level, move from a base reference point towards a point away from that base; and in doing so, make the new point the base of reference. Opinion may vary as to that movement being "progressive" or "regressive", but my point is that either term is relative to that original base reference point.

In the case in question, I might look at the progressives and say that, relatively speaking, they are making what I believe is positive movement, but at the same time believe the movement made, while progressive, has not progressed far enough to get those involved to where they really need to be. It all goes back to where that original starting point is.

In thinking of this I was again reminded of examples I have observed in the past of how necessary Biblical change is sometimes resisted.

"We don't want to over react." This statement gives a certain level of recognition that we may be imbalanced, but no plan ever comes forward for how we should react, and we end up not reacting at all, thus the status quo is maintained.

Related to this is the saying, "If we have to err, we should err on the side of (fill in the blank)." The Bible doesn't give us the option of erring on either side. The ethical demand of the Bible is that we get it precisely right. Now thankfully the Bible is more then just ethical demands, and forgiveness and redemption are also a major part of the story. The point is we should not allow this statement to give us false comfort, nor allow it to feed our sense of self-righteous complacency. If we know we err to one side or another in a matter, we need to hold out both arms, and with our hands, firmly grasp both extremes.

Then there is the "slippery slope" argument; known in debate as the slippery slope fallacy. The argument is that once we take that step in the other direction, it will be the first step in a series that leads to a very bad end. The problem with that argument is that if the Bible is telling us we need to move, then we need to move period. To use the slippery slope fallacy to avoid that movement results in sin based in fear; fear that in spite of its appearance of holiness and doctrinal zeal, is often rooted in a failure to more fully trust the promises of God.

All of that said, I confess I have to make a conscious effort to avoid sinful cynicism. It is not for me to say the Holy Spirit can't or will not work in the hearts of those involved in any particular movement of churches. In this particular situation, I welcome any degree of true Biblical progressive movement, and thank God for it.


~ The Billy Goat ~

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