Progressive Christianity

By Jason Jimenez

FEB 16



By the 1990s, many modernists, moderates, and liberal Christians with postmodern leanings began to coalesce. The group would quickly self-identify as “progressive Christians.”

In 1994, Episcopal priest James Adams founded the Center of Progressive Christianity. In 2010, the organization was renamed Shortly afterward, partnered with liberal Christian theologian and retired Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong (1931–2021) to disseminate Spong’s online work,, and circulate his book, A New Christianity for a New World, as a pivotal piece of literature to advance progressive Christianity worldwide.

By the early 2000s, emergent leaders such as Tony Jones and Brian McLaren began to capture and publish content for theologically and politically liberal audiences. McLaren’s books A New Kind of Christian (2001) and A Generous Orthodoxy (2004) are seen by many Christians as a manifesto of the emerging-church conversation and acted as roadmaps for many left-leaning evangelicals, Social Gospel advocates, and mainline Protestants. . .

In a nutshell, most progressive Christians will align with these “beliefs”:

  • They are reclaiming the “truth” through postmodern thought.
  • Mankind did not inherit a sin nature from Adam and Eve.
  • The Bible has errors and has been altered many times, and most of it is to be interpreted metaphorically.
  • Many paths make up the Oneness of God.
  • Social justice is the Gospel.

Placing the term “progressive” in front of “Christian” makes it seem like a “new and improved” version of Christianity. It acts as though it belongs in the same camp as biblical Christianity, but it does not embrace any of its fundamental beliefs. The truth is, progressive Christians not only sharply oppose biblical Christianity, but do not consider themselves to be biblical Christians. . .

Let me put it bluntly: Progressive Christians are “doctrine deniers.” They deny the beliefs, creeds, and doctrinal statements of historic-orthodox Christianity. They make it sound like doctrine gets in the way of our truly knowing Jesus. You will hear them use phrases such as “freeing Jesus from doctrine,” “not restricting or limiting Jesus to doctrine,” or “doctrine is not the way to know who Jesus truly is.”

Diana Butler Bass, a mentor to Jen Hatmaker, writes in Freeing Jesus:

I appreciate the theological traditions surrounding the Christ of faith. Yet neither historical scholarship nor conventional doctrine quite captures who Jesus is for me—the skepticism bred by one and the submissiveness inculcated by the other do not fully tell the story of the Jesus I know: the Jesus of experience.

In his classic book Jesus for the Non-Religious, Spong openly states that he is “interested in finding Jesus beyond scripture, beyond creeds, and doctrines.”

It is impossible to articulate what you believe without establishing a framework of practical doctrines. Doctrines hold Christians accountable to certain beliefs that align with the Word of God and uphold specific behaviors that reflect and honor Jesus Christ. They are not based on rituals or formulas built from philosophical theory; they are formulations of God’s historical actions in the world that are experienced by humankind and are articulated by following God’s revealed truth.

[Alister] McGrath correctly observes,

At the heart of the Christian faith stands a person, not a doctrine—but a person who gives rise to doctrine the moment we begin to wrestle with the question, “Who is Jesus Christ?” The idea that we can somehow worship, adore or imitate Jesus Christ without developing doctrines about him is indefensible.

Progressive Christians treat orthodoxy (right doctrine) and orthopraxy (right living) as though they exist at opposite ends of a spectrum. But you cannot know how to live if you do not have moral truths that teach you what is right, so in biblical Christianity, the two work hand in hand.

Without familiarizing ourselves with a formulation of doctrines and creeds that illuminate the person of Jesus in the context of Christianity, there is no way to know who He is or how to worship Him correctly. Thus, doctrines are essential truths about Jesus that provide Christians a standard of beliefs that reveal truths about God from Scripture, exalt Him as Lord and Savior, and teach the Church how to pattern their lives in obedience to Him.

 Jason Jimenez is the founder and president of Stand Strong Ministries. He is a bestselling author and national speaker, specializing in biblical worldview training, family ministry, and church leadership.


Excerpted from Hijacking Jesus: How Progressive Christians Are Remaking Him and Taking Over His Church by Jason Jimenez (Salem Books, 2023). Used by permission.

Hijacking Jesus is the book I’ve been hoping someone would write! It’s a thorough and accessible intellectual response to progressive Christianity that will become an essential resource for the Body of Christ. Jason Jimenez graciously and truthfully exposes the falsehoods of progressive Christianity and gives wise and practical advice for how to interact with friends and loved ones who have become seduced by its false promises.”

— Alisa Childers, host of the Alisa Childers Podcast, author of Another Gospel? and Live Your Truth and Other Lies