Jon Kennedy
Jon Kennedy


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Jon Kennedy's 'Postcards from
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Mere Christianity: Word studies: Progressivism

It's obvious in the writing of far-left liberals and Marxists that one of their favorite words is "progressive." Why? What do they mean by it? Though we've discussed the differences in conservative and modern liberal thought in the Jonals before, we've never specifically addressed "progressivism," but in the past week I've come across some insights worth discussing.

On the Daily Show recently, "progressive" liberal anchor Jon Stewart was interviewing one of his occasional conservative guests—I believe it was Bill O'Reilly, who I usually don't watch because I consider him an unctuous phony—when the guest referred to American traditional values. "But," Stewart interrupted (I paraphrase, not remembering the exact words), "American tradition is a progression from one level to the next. And the next level the society should be arriving at now is gay marriage."

Of course his audience exploded into raucous applause as it always does when any liberal point seems to trump its conservative counter and, even worse, the guest just tried to shrug off Stewart's point. But I was struck by the fact that, for the first time in my life someone had succinctly defined what "progressive" means to that party. To left-liberals (as opposed to "traditional" liberals of the Thomas Jefferson stripe, now known as one of the sub-groups of "conservatives"), it means society should always be "evolving" and (of course) always moving farther and farther to the left.

I found the counterpoint of this in my reading a few days later. In Mary Through the Centuries by the late great church historian Jaroslav Pelikan (who was a Lutheran for most of his life and was when he wrote this), says, "Judaism and Christianity both viewed human history as a process in which divine governance was a matter of divine initiative," and further unfolds that idea:

the New Testament was not the account of how the upward tendency of human history had finally attained to the level of the divine, as though human flesh had become the Word of God; on the contrary, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us." In a radical and transforming sense, then, history was viewed from above, as the record of the actions of the living God. As the New Testament put it, "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning."


Do you see the parallel but opposing views? To "progressives," history is always moving forward, always making another step "higher." To Judeo-Christians, history is always under God's sovereign control. In the beginning, things were actually better (John 1:1; God was more directly interacting with the warp and woof of daily life and the human race was in full direct communion with Him). Not long after the beginning, history made not a step "up" or to the better, but made a plunge "down" or to the worse. When I was in seminary (also called "divinity school") the theology prof often stressed, "it's devolution," always falling farther from the ideal plateau on which our first parents were created, "not evolution," always getting higher and better as the evil one promised would happen during his seduction of Eve.

I'm not saying, and neither has the church said through all of its history, that we should not work to make things better, nor that things never get better from generation to generation or even from decade to decade. The church is always promoting the Kingdom of God, working to demonstrate more and more of it, and although we know through Jesus's prophetic words that will never come in its fullness in this world, we are also commissioned to work as though our work is fruitful. And it is. But the irony is that when things are getting better in one historical "track" (better racial relations now than before 1970, for example; maybe even a higher view generally of the sacredness of marriage) they're getting worse in another "track": (a general "acceptance" now of couples living together without being married; less considerate or more ill-mannered interpersonal behavior in public).

But the church, like the nation of Israel in pre-Christian times, has always taught that God's will is not discerned by anyone's "native (or natural) intuition," hunches, or feelings about what "seems right," but is known only through revelation through His Word and seeking, comprehending, and living its precepts.

—Webmaster Jon Kennedy


 
 
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Today's chuckle

The auto companies in the United States are scrambling to come up with a plan. This week Ford unveiled a new hybrid, the Ford Fusion, which will get almost 40 miles to the gallon. When asked how much it would cost, a spokesman for Ford said, "$25 billion dollars."

— Conan O'Brien


Thought for today

The only place outside of Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.

— C. S. Lewis (1898 - 1963)


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Jon Kennedy's latest book is The Everything Guide to C.S. Lewis and Narnia, now in stores, from Adams Media, F&W Publications. From May 9, 2007 through July 2, 2008 his blog entries or "Jonals" were articles inspired by readings in Lewis's work that didn't fit into the book. Click here for a list of all articles in the C.S. Lewis Overflow series. The book is available for purchase in support of the Liberty Museum in Nanty Glo and is also available on Amazon.



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