Introduction 2 – TCPC’s 8 Points

August 13, 2006

Before I so rudely interupted myself, I was trying to do a small survey of the faith documents put out by liberal Christian groups. I’m starting with Christian faith statements, because I’m not qualified to really discuss, say, Buddhist statements (are there Buddhist statements of faith?). Second off the rank is the Centre for Progressive Christianity and its 8 Points.

Source

The Centre for Progressive Christianity is, in its own words, dedicated to providing “guiding ideas, networking opportunities, and resources for progressive churches, organizations, individuals and others with connections to Christianity.” It has as a founding document “8 Points”, which are:

By calling ourselves progressive, we mean we are Christians who…

  1. Have found an approach to God through the life and teachings of Jesus.
  2. Recognize the faithfulness of other people who have other names for the way to God’s realm, and acknowledge that their ways are true for them, as our ways are true for us.
  3. Understand the sharing of bread and wine in Jesus’s name to be a representation of an ancient vision of God’s feast for all peoples
  4. Invite all people to participate in our community and worship life without insisting that they become like us in order to be acceptable (including but not limited to):
    • believers and agnostics,
    • conventional Christians and questioning skeptics,
    • women and men,
    • those of all sexual orientations and gender identities,
    • those of all races and cultures,
    • those of all classes and abilities,
    • those who hope for a better world and those who have lost hope
  5. Know that the way we behave toward one another and toward other people is the fullest expression of what we believe.
  6. Find more grace in the search for understanding than we do in dogmatic certainty – more value in questioning than in absolutes.
  7. Form ourselves into communities dedicated to equipping one another for the work we feel called to do: striving for peace and justice among all people, protecting and restoring the integrity of all God’s creation, and bringing hope to those Jesus called the least of his sisters and brothers
  8. Recognize that being followers of Jesus is costly, and entails selfless love, conscientious resistance to evil, and renunciation of privilege.

Each of these has an associated “Study Guide”, which are too long to post here. Interestingly, the first sentence “We are Christians who…” doesn’t have a study guide.

The TCPC says “From the beginning of TCPC, the intention of the ‘8 points’ has been to present an inviting expression of a particular approach to the practice of Christianity. Our hope is that this series of ideas will be appealing especially to those who do not find a comfortable fit with traditional understandings of Christian faith, and result in thoughtful conversation on basic themes throughout the Progressive Christian network and beyond.”

Initial Impression

Somewhat random, a shopping list and not a story. Obviously a camel – the work of a committee. A strange amalgum of dogmatic statement (Pt 8 ) and denial of the goodness of dogmatism (Pt 6).

Specific Comments

First off, what does “we are Christians who” mean? What does it mean to be a Christian? I’ve been told more times than I can remember that I’m not a Christian (I’m especially proud of the time I was told that I was a ‘fata morgana of a Christian’) so the term is hardly uncontested. Is this meant to limit what follows, or to say “This is the type of Christian we are”?

I have a big rant about the word Progressive, but I’ll save that for another time.

I actually quite like Point 1. It is reasonably clear while remainging broad. It is presumably further clarified by Point 8 – this is what it means to approach God through Jesus.

Point 1+8 seems to be immediately undercut by Point 2, though. I get what they’re trying to say – youse all ain’t going to hell. But this is such a strong statement of relativism that it tends to send the rest of the points into a spin. Can we approach God through a path that doesn’t involve Point 8?

Part of the problem is, I think the confusion between a way and a name for that way. It is one thing to say “other people have other names for the way to God’s realm”; it is another thing to say “their ways are true for them, as our ways are true for us”. Which is it? A single way (outlined in Pt 8 ) that has been called by many names, or a multitude of ways, all of which are valid for those who follow them?

Point 3 is pointless. Christians will recognise this as a position statement on the Eucharist. Why is this a matter of such importance to this group? The Study Guide on this point doesn’t really help me – it only talks about how there should be an open table. Great, I agree. But why mention this and not, say Baptism?

Point 4, “We’re TTTHHHIISSS tolerant!” (holds arms out wide)

Point 5, good-oh. The fruit test.

Point 6, Absolutes like Point 8? I guess I would put this in the “work out your salvation in fear and trembling” basket.

Point 7, Let’s Get Together!

Point 8, And be Nice!

I’m trying not to be cynical (really!). But there isn’t anything here to excite me. There’s no underlying proclamation, no good news. It’s an inhouse document, for Christians to speak to each other, which is fine. But I don’t live in that world. I want to be able to speak to the people around me with intellectual integrity and be able to say “This is where I stand”.

This document is too fuzzy for me. It would communicate little to my non-Christian friends, and little beyond fuzziness and “liberalism=doubt” to my Christian friends.

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5 Responses to “Introduction 2 – TCPC’s 8 Points”

  1. Scott Wells Says:

    You put well what I was thinking. Programatically, too, I don’t get TCPC.

    Fruit test?

  2. demas Says:

    Hi Scott,

    Fruit Test = “By their fruit shall you know them”

    Matthew 7:15-20.

    (Oh, and Luke 6:43-45)

    (Oh, and the Gospel of Thomas, Saying 45)

    (I so love the Internet!)

  3. Bill Baar Says:

    Seems strange to see a definition of Christianity, progressive, liberal, conservative, or traditional; that omits the word salvation.

    That seems the core of Christian faith to me, and all of the above pretty tangential or generic.

    Omit salvation and you omit the radical message.

    That’s the good news that’s missing here.


  4. The two statements of point 2 are just different facets of the same idea. What is expressed is the notion that there are different paths to God, and that these various paths may use different names for the Divine reality. Can “we” address God through a way that doesn’t involve point 8? Sure, “we” can, because, as point 2 says, there are many paths to God, but then “we” wouldn’t be progressive Christians. Point 8 simply addresses specifically the path that agreeing groups of progressive Christians use. Since those 8 points address points of unity for progressive Christians, rather than Buddhists, then naturally the people who adhere to those points will use the path outlined in point 8.

    The thing about points of unity like this is that they tend to be somewhat general because they incorporate various different tendencies and represent a kind of common denominator that can’t get too specific on every little matter of theology. People with different variations of theologies can come together for those points and still disagree with one another on certain issues. If you are looking for some kind of creed that clearly states a theology that you can present to others, then the points of unity aren’t it, but then they really aren’t intended to be. They are instead meant to be, as I see it, a set of common beliefs that people who fall under a certain rubrik can come together on. For me personally, I find these 8 points to be an excellent starting point for progressive Christians to come together on. If you read the message board on that web site, you’ll see that there are differences of opinion on various matters of theology, which are politely discussed; but despite those small differences, there is a general focus towards certain philosophical issues that the 8 points express.

  5. Eric Stetson Says:

    I agree with many of the criticisms that have already been mentioned.

    The Universalist Churches Association — a new organization now forming which seeks to bring together Christians who believe in Universalism — has a statement of faith that is quite substantive, spiritual, and Biblically based. It is far superior, in my opinion, to the statement produced by the Center for Progressive Christianity. Here it is:

    1. We believe in a God who is Light, Love, Truth, and Spirit, the Creator of the universe, whom we are called to seek, know, and love; and whose nature was revealed to the world in the person and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ.

    2. We believe that the universal commandment is to love and serve one another as each loves oneself.

    3. We believe in the law of justice by which actions generate consequences, whether to be manifested in this life or the life to come.

    4. We believe in the ultimate triumph of divine mercy and grace: that no being ever created will be condemned or allowed to suffer forever, but God has arranged through a benevolent plan of learning and growth for all souls to attain salvation, reconciliation, restoration, and reunion with the Source of All Being, in the fullness of the ages.

    5. We believe every person is the divine offspring of God, created in the image of the Heavenly Parent of all; and that every person is destined to be raised up from imperfection to maturity according to the pattern of the archetypal Christ, the Son of God, the Perfect Human in whose image all humanity shall be transformed.

    6. We believe in the historical reality of miracles and mysterious spiritual phenomena, such as the resurrection of Jesus Christ, which cannot be explained by the current level of understanding of science.

    7. We believe that God’s Holy Spirit has inspired numerous prophets, saints, philosophers, and mystics throughout history, in a variety of cultures and traditions; and that by reading the Bible and other great texts of spiritual and moral wisdom with a discerning mind, and meditating to connect to the Spirit within, we may all gain a greater understanding of truth, which should be applied for the betterment of ourselves and our world.

    The Universalist Churches Association website has short articles about each of these statements. Visit http://www.universalistchurches.org/beliefs.html

    Divine blessings,

    Eric Stetson
    Executive Director,
    The Universalist Churches Association
    http://www.universalistchurches.org


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