Emptying the faith of dogma


From Jim Burklo's blog:

The progressive Christian movement is about emptying the faith of dogma and doctrines that get in love’s way. It is about the practice of individual Christians who are emptying themselves of selfishness and egotism. In prayer, in worship, we are challenged to do what Jesus did, and empty ourselves of old, tired, uptight beliefs. Empty ourselves of judgment and prejudice. So that we can be amazed by the stars. So that we can be filled with the insights not only of our faith, but of other religions as well. So that we can have holy awe when we look at each other in worship, knowing that each of us flickers with a spark of the divine.


"Ms. Cornelius" said...

Interesting point.

bruced said...

I like that, but I would probably exchange the "worship" in the last sentence to "life".

Harry said...


As far as the number of martyrs, you can argue that with the Russians under the Communists and the Greeks under the Turks, and the North Koreans, and the Iraqis and the Iranians ...

But forget all that.

What is the proper interpretation of the Resurrection?

I'd really like to know.

JP said...

I would love to hear the progressive Christian movement address accountability and sin.

God is love, indeed. God reaches for those stuck in the margins, indeed. But sin is never mentioned.

bruced said...

What about "sin"?

Harry said...



What is sin?

Where did it come from?

What can and should be done about it?

Frank said...

What is sin?

A fifth-century construct.

Where did it come from?

St. Augustine.

What can and should be done about it?

Be informed of this and recognize these are other axes on which faith revolves.


Harry said...



JP said...

sin is a 5th century construct??

Progressives talk about God is love this and God is love that but never talk about how God and sin co-exist. The message seems to be: God loves you for who you are, you do not need to change!

bruced said...

I thought the work of the cross of Christ brought an end to sin. Are you still eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil?

JP said...

"I thought the work of the cross of Christ brought an end to sin."

Bruce my friend, the cross brought to death the result of sin for those of faith.

We can look around the world we live is see much much beauty but at the same time we can see the actions and results of sin by reading the daily paper.

Mystical Seeker said...

Perhaps (and this is just a theory) part of the problem is that certain strains of Christianity have given the word "sin" such a bad rep and have created such a damaging theology out of their concept of sin, that a lot of people prefer to construct a theology around different language.

For example, a lot Christianity has managed to associate its theology of "sin" with intolerance and bigotry surrounding freely chosen and loving lifestyle issues--the idea that homosexuality is "sinful", for example. Or to cite another example, there is this whole association of human sinfulness with of "the Fall" of Adam and Eve, which presupposes that a mythological story portrayed in Genesis is literally true. Or there is the Augustinian doctrine of "original sin", that assumes that this stain of sin is passed on through sexual intercourse. And then there is the idea of Divine justice that says that humans will be condemned to eternal hellfire as a result of even the slightest taint of sinfulness, and the equally offensive idea that only those who are lucky enough to have the right theological ideas before they croak will be spared this divine "justice" and thus be granted a ticket to immortality.

Last, but not least, a lot of the focus on the sinfulness of humanity seems associated with a kind of misanthropy that sees us all of humanity as essentially worthless and unworthy of God's love. A lot of people (myself included) find this objectionable, for reasons that I went into in my recent blog posting on Calvinism.

Given all of that, I don't think it is surprising that the word "sin" is problematic for a lot of people who are trying to move forward with a progressive definition of faith. It isn't that progressive Christianity is in denial about the presence of evil in the world. (On the contrary, progressive Christianity recognizes that we live in a world that is full of evils, including but not restricted to greed, bigotry, poverty, and war.) But given all the above problems that many of us have with what the word "sin" has come to mean, I think that a different kind of language is seen as necessary to describe our relationship with the Divine. If the point of your faith isn't about being delivered from bad consequences of both being an inherently unworthy and terrible person and of not having the "right" theology that would rescue you from those consequences, but instead it is about finding an enriching and meaningful relationship with the Divine in the here and now, then all these hangups about "sin" as relating to eternal hellfire would seem rather meaningless.

OneSmallStep said...

**(On the contrary, progressive Christianity recognizes that we live in a world that is full of evils, including but not restricted to greed, bigotry, poverty, and war.)**

Agreed. Progressive Christianity, from what I'm reading, is very tied to the idea of social justice, which is all about exchanging the kingdom of this world for the kingdom of heaven. The whole idea of "Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven."

So I do see a huge element of change in that mindset. It's the idea of God loves who you are right now, but also wants you to reach your fullest potential, and cast off the things holding you back.

As Mystical says, it would depend on the lens in which one views "sin." The idea of "sin" is often co-existent with the idea of original sin, or that all is stained with the sin from Adam/Eve. In that case, I would view that as a fifth century construct.

Harry said...

Well, if Progressives do recognize the existence of sin (and we can use the Greek word "hamartia" literally "missing the mark") and this hamartia is responsible for the evils in this world which Progressives wish to defeat then it behooves Progressives to develop a theology of hamartia, to wit:

1) Why do we humans miss the mark so often?

2) What can we do to miss the mark less often?

3) Why does Jesus have anything to do with this?

Frank said...

I see sin as that which seperates us from God. A young baby lives with their arms wide open ready to love, but as we get older and more embittered we get standoffish. So one goal of our faith journey is to learn how to go to God as a young child again, as Jesus mentions.

So in this example, "sin" could be something like emotional pain that you carry because it prevents you from connecting to your deeper nature. "Sin" is not always a crime you commit, but rather an obstacle to overcome and grow through.

One issue with sin is that it is so often tied to a simple reward/punishment system in historical Christianity. Yet, the parables of Jesus speak about how God's justice does not mesh with our earthly conceptions of justice. Every worker gets a day's wage. But is it right to say that there is no consequence of sin?

It just seems like religion is about transcendence and transformation to that end. Every religion frames it differently. I had a flash of insight the other day when I realized (on this blog) that even Calvin's depraved theology of deprivation speaks to that. While I disagree with that theology, it does speak to the idea that we humans are in one state, and the intervention of God enables us to transcend to another.

So in other words, sin is just not the only issue in religion, and it has been thoroughly blown out of proportion in western Christian (Catholicism and Protestantism). It is not such a big deal in Eastern Christianity. It may be more about the blind learning to see or the naive becoming wise than it is about the sinful becoming sinless.

Harry said...


Yes, indeed, sin is what seperates us from God.

Emotional pain and despair are not sins, but they are temptations to sin. Sin consists of the things we use to distract ourselves from the disatisfactions and pain of everyday living. (Compare to the Buddhist notion of dukha.)

And you are correct that Christianity teaches us how to transcend the temptations that lead to sins and passions. Other religions may address the problem, but their spiritual technologies are either incomplete or ineffective.

I disagree that sin is not a big deal in Eastern Christianity, but it is viewed in a different, and better, way. Overcoming the passions is a prerequisite to being cured of blindness (Seeb praxis and theoria)

And Eastern Christianity still understands the ancient, and effective, spiritual technology, to deal with that sin.

OneSmallStep said...

**1) Why do we humans miss the mark so often?**

Maybe because that's what we're constantly told? There's a huge part of certian Christian theology that tells us we're all sinners, we have all fallen short, we can't do anything on our own to make God think we're good, and that we deserve an eternal torment.

If you tell a child that she or he will fail a math class, are you really surprised when that child fails?

Likewise with missing the mark -- if you tell a person that they will constantly miss the mark without God, that there's no way they can make that mark on their own, that they are depraved sinners ... can we really surprised when people then perform to the expectations laid out?

This isn't to say that there won't be mistakes. Humanity isn't perfect. And this isn't to say that if we just went around telling people how great they were, life would be much better. There'd still be people out there exploiting others in a variety of ways.

**2) What can we do to miss the mark less often?**
Be affirming, honestly. We can be very good at stripping a sense of worth from people, or locking them into a certain category.
I also think accountability would play into here, as well.

**3) Why does Jesus have anything to do with this?**
I think he gives people a sense of hope. For some, he can help them feel loved in that no matter what they've done, they can be redeemed. For others, he can provide a path in wanting to be better, explore a sense of goodness more. THe answer to this would greatly depend on the person.