Truth Magazine - Editorial: Progressive Perverseness by Mark Mayberry

Truth Magazine - Editorial: Progressive Perverseness by Mark Mayberry

Posted by Mark Mayberry on Feb. 8, 2024

Truth Magazine

(February, 2024 | No. 2 | Vol. 68)

Edited by Mark Mayberry


EDITORIAL: Progressive Perverseness

By Mark Mayberry

Synopsis: Conservative jurists follow an “originalist” approach toward the Constitution in the United States, while liberals view it as a “living” document subject to reinterpretation based on current dogma. Progressive “Christianity” adopts a similar approach toward the Bible. Those who embrace such thinking allow their understanding of Christianity to evolve according contemporary norms.


First, let us define “progressive” and consider its meaning in both the political and religious context.

Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines the adjective as “(1) of, relating to, or characterized by progress, making use of or interested in new ideas, findings, or opportunities. . . (2) of, relating to, or characterized by progression; (3) moving forward or onward: ADVANCING; (4) increasing in extent or severity, such as a progressive disease. . . (5) often capitalized: of or relating to political Progressives. . .”

In the Realm of Politics

Conservative jurists adhere to an “originalist” approach to the Constitution, while liberals view it as a “living” document, subject to continual reinterpretation based upon current dogma. Originalists affirm that the Constitution should be interpreted strictly according to how it would have been understood by the Framers. They believe that the original meaning of constitutional texts can be discerned from the document itself, along with language tools such as dictionaries, grammars, and by consulting other legal documents from which the text might be borrowed.

Originalism stands in stark contrast with the concept that the constitutions should be interpreted as a living document. Political progressives reject the idea that a constitutional system created in the eighteenth century should remain authoritative nearly 250 years later. Living constitutionalists believe that the meaning of the constitutional text changes over time, as social attitudes change, even without the adoption of a formal constitutional amendment pursuant to Article V of the Constitution.

In the Realm of Religion

The same basic assumptions impact the discussion of religious progressives.

Who are religious progressives? What is “progressive” Christianity?

In its more advanced forms, Progressive Christianity may be defined as follows:

This is a post-liberal theological movement within Christianity that seeks to reform the faith via the insights of post-modernism and a reclaiming of the truth beyond the verifiable historicity and factuality of the passages in the Bible by affirming the truths within the stories that may not have actually happened. Progressive Christians have a deep belief in the centrality of the instruction to “love one another” within the teachings of Jesus Christ. They focus on promoting values such as compassion, justice, mercy, and tolerance, often through political activism (Bing CoPilot).

The movement claims to be unaffiliated with a political party or ideology, but seeks to foster a deeper understanding of the Christian faith and its role in society. Nevertheless, political and religious progressives usually march in lockstep. Both systems involve a radical reinterpretation of the underlying relevant systems of authority, namely, the U.S. Constitution, and the Holy Bible.

Sometimes, Christians start down this path without realizing where it will end. They have been indoctrinated to oppose pattern theology, traditionalism, perfectionism, and a Pharisaic approach to faith. Instead of recognizing that there is, indeed, a pattern for the work, worship, and organization of the church, and seeking to conform to the biblical standard, they adopt the inclusive language of progressivism, without acknowledging their evolving mindset (at least in the early stages). The progressive mindset inevitably leads to broad-based cultural accommodation, and an increasing tolerance for doctrinal error.

So, in the cultural arena, if a person self-identifies as a “Purple-Headed-Puppy” and their chosen pronouns are “It/That,” I must refer to them accordingly, or be condemned as unloving and judged guilty of having committed a thought/speech crime. In the spiritual arena, if a person manifests an increasing tolerance for doctrinal error, I am at fault for pointing out his digression and warning others about it.

Impact among Brethren

In reflecting on the history of “Progressive” Christianity, consider the impact of this thinking upon churches and institutions associated with the Restoration Movement in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and also today.

Advocates of Progressive Christianity adopt the prevailing theology of the broader religious world. In the division that affected the Lord’s church in the 1850s, this led to the adoption of the instrument and the missionary society—which were part and parcel of dominant Protestant culture of the nineteenth century. In the division that affected the church in the 1950s, this resulted in the adoption of an institutional mindset toward the work of evangelism (centralized support through sponsoring churches), edification (church support of educational institutions), and benevolence (church support of benevolent institutions)—which reflected the centralized, hierarchal, top-down-management-style approach that dominated all aspects of society in the mid-twentieth century.

In the twenty-first century, advocates of Progressive Christianity are adopting the practices and preaching associated with contemporary evangelicalism—namely, they echo Calvinistic concepts—emphasizing man’s inability to obey God and focusing exclusively upon divine grace. In later stages, proponents of Progressive Christianity adopt the view that man is perfectible, and redefine the concept of sin. Establishing an earthly paradise (i.e., creating a terrestrial utopia) supersedes the biblical emphasis upon an eternal, celestial home of the soul.

Over time, the leftward drift of progressive mindset becomes ever more pronounced. The sundering of the restoration movement in the nineteenth century initially resulted in a division between the Christian Church (on the left) and Churches of Christ (on the right). However, the leaven of progressive thinking continued to spread, leading the liberal wing of the Disciples movement to ultimately embrace the unitarian/universalist mindset. The sundering of the restoration movement in the twentieth century initially resulted in a division between the institutional churches of Christ (on the left) and non-institutional churches of Christ (on the right). However, the leaven of progressive thinking continued to spread, leading a large segment of the church to embrace the contemporary evangelical model.

Progressive Christianity is difficult to recognize because it uses biblical language, but gives familiar words a whole new meaning. Its proponents flow with societal norms, leading them to remove biblical boundaries on sexuality, gender roles and responsibilities, etc. Proponents also reimagine the church so that it fits in the broader evangelical culture. Progressive Christianity advocates often deny core doctrines of “the faith,” which leads them to promote a “different gospel.” Eventually, they argue that the Bible records what ancient peoples believed about God, rather than being the inspired and authoritative word of God.

A Biblical Rejoinder

Two vital questions come to mind: (1) Can we understand the Bible? (2) Can we understand it alike? God created men and women as creatures of intelligence who can understand His revealed will. Searching for “intelligent” or “intelligence” in the NASB yields twenty-two results in eleven verses. For example, Abigail, who eventually became David’s wife, is described as one who was “intelligent and beautiful in appearance” (1 Sam. 25:2-3). When Job’s friends stopped being silently supportive and became verbally abusive, Zophar rebuked the suffering patriarch—accusing him of being boastful and dishonest, and inferred that if Job disagreed, he was stupid (Job 11:7-12). In response, Job defended himself: “But I have intelligence as well as you; I am not inferior to you. And who does not know such things as these?” (Job 12:3). Contrasting the wise and the foolish, Solomon said, “The mind of the intelligent seeks knowledge, but the mouth of fools feeds on folly” (Prov. 15:14). Daniel and his friends were chosen to serve in Nebuchadnezzar’s court because of their noble lineage, physical appearance, and intellectual abilities (Dan. 1:3-4; 17-20). Jesus commended the thoughtful scribe who (in contrast with his fellows) answered intelligently, by saying, “You are not far from the kingdom of God” (Mark 12:28-34).

English Meaning

What is the common meaning of “intelligence”? Intelligence is a complex and multifaceted concept that can be variously defined. One definition is: “Intelligence is the ability to learn, understand, reason, and solve problems in different domains of knowledge and activity.” This description captures some of the key aspects of intelligence, such as learning from experience, applying knowledge to new situations, and using logic and creativity to overcome challenges. However, it does not specify how intelligence is measured, what factors influence it, or how it varies across individuals, groups, cultures, and species (Bing CoPilot).

Biblical Meaning

What is the biblical meaning of “intelligence?” The Greek word sunetos, derived from suniēmi (to set together, figuratively, to understand), identifies one who is “intelligent” (4908). Arndt defines the word and its root as “pertaining to being able to understand with discernment, intelligent, sagacious, wise, with good sense” (BDAG, 970). Occurring four times in four verses (Matt. 11:25; Luke 10:21; Acts 13:7; 1 Cor. 1:19), it is rendered “clever” (1x), “intelligence” (1x), and “intelligent” (2x) in the NASB.

Arndt says the aforementioned root word means “to have an intelligent grasp of something that challenges one’s thinking or practice, understand, comprehend something” (BDAG, 972). Occurring twenty-seven times in twenty-five verses, it is rendered “gained. . . insight” (1x), “understand” (17x), “understanding” (1x), “understands” (2x), and “understood” (5x) in the NASB. Clearly, God expects us to understand and obey His word.

What about “Artificial Intelligence?”

We commonly use computers to communicate with other humans through email, text messaging, video conferencing, posting to social media platforms, using specialized discussion forums, newsgroups, etc. However, how does one communicate with a computer? That is more challenging!

While modern computing devices possess great processing power, they are not intelligent—at least in comparison with human comprehension. Computers cannot deal with ambiguity, which makes it difficult for them to understand human languages. We communicate in various languages, such as English, German, Spanish, etc. At their most basic level, computers use binary code to communicate internally in machine language. Binary code is a system of representing data using only two digits: 1 and 0. These digits correspond to the electrical signals that computers understand and manipulate. The most common way of communicating with computers is to use programs that are written in some highly structured programing language, but these are often difficult to learn. Command shells are also useful because they provide a rigid grammar (with commands, variables, conditions, etc.) and can be understood by both humans and computers. By using a terminal command shell, a knowledgeable user can give instructions to computers that are 100% unambiguous, which allows the computer to act on them (cf. Bart Busschots, “Taming the Terminal” Podcast).

Actual Intelligence (from a Biblical Perspective)

Sacred Scripture declares that God made man in His own image and likeness: not physically, but intellectually and spiritually—if we are renewed in real knowledge and conform to His righteousness (Gen. 1:27; 5:1; 1 Cor. 11:7; Eph. 4:23-24; Col. 3:10).

God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them (Gen. 1:27).

This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day when God created man, He made him in the likeness of God (Gen. 5:1).

For a man ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man (1 Cor. 11:7).

And put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth (Eph. 4:23-24).

And have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him (Col. 3:10).

Sometimes men and women have difficulty understanding each other. Both are human and share many similarities; however, their differences can make communication difficult. Thus we (jokingly) say: “Men are from Mars while women are from Venus.”

How can God Almighty (who is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent) communicate with mortal man (who is limited in knowledge and power, and whose existence is constrained by time and space)? His comprehension is infinite, while ours is finite. How is the gap to be bridged?

Recall the aforementioned analogy: Computers are binary (i.e., communicating in ones and zeros), while we speak in human languages. Yet, the communication gap can be bridged by using a structured computer language that can be understood by computers and humans.

In like manner, God has communicated with mankind in a manner that we can understand. In creating men and women in His image, God granted us intelligence and the gift of language. God spoke. Inspired apostles and prophets recorded His message. Sacred Scripture contains the communication tools that humans commonly employ—commands, examples, and inferences. The ability to make inferences and draw conclusions is a defining characteristic of higher intelligence. While the blinking command prompt on a computer terminal cannot deal with ambiguity, we handle such challenges every day.

Handicaps and Hinderances

When Paul and Barnabas journeyed to the island of Cyprus on their first missionary journey and reached Salamis, they encountered Sergius Paulus (the proconsul, described as “a man of intelligence [sunetos]”) and Elymas (a corrupt and deceitful magician). The former was submissive, while the latter was subversive; one recognized truth, while the other rejected it (Acts 13:6-12).

Sometimes human wisdom blinds those who are intelligent from recognizing the value of Sacred Scripture (1 Cor. 1:18-31). Recently, Joyce Carol Oates, an American writer who has published fifty-eight novels, a number of plays and novellas, and many volumes of short stories, poetry, and non-fiction, interjected herself into an online discussion of the need for Christians to be concerned with the plight of widows, orphans, and prisoners, by declaring:

The bible, as you call it, is a work of fiction; or rather, an anthology of fictions. It is not ‘the’ bible for much of the world’s population & those who claim it as their own select those verses that appeal to them while ignoring other verses. Fertile ground for hypocrisy.

Spiritual understanding is hidden from those who are defiant and disorderly (Matt. 11:20-24), but open to those who are receptive and obedient: Jesus said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight” (Matt. 11:25-30, esp. v. 25-26; cf. Luke 10:21).

Why did Jesus speak in parables? To reveal divine truth to those who were seeking to know God, and to hide truth from those who are not (Matt. 13:10-17). Individuals that Jesus likened to the wayside hear God’s word but do not understand: “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road” (vv. 18-19). However, those who possess good and honest hearts will hear and understand: “The one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty” (v. 23).

At the end of this long discourse, in which Jesus taught in parables, He said: “Have you understood all these things?” They said to Him, “Yes.” Jesus replied, saying, “Therefore every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a head of a household, who brings out of his treasure things new and old” (Matt. 13:51-52).

Growing in Knowledge and Understanding

On one occasion, the Pharisees and scribes criticized Jesus, saying: “Why do Your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread” (Matt. 15:2). After rebuking them for elevating human tradition above divine instruction, Jesus called the crowd to Him and said, “Hear and understand. It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man” (Matt. 15:10-11).

Matthew 16 begins with another adversarial encounter with the Pharisees and Sadducees, who came up, and testing Jesus, asked Him to show them a sign from heaven. He replied by saying,

When it is evening, you say, “It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.” And in the morning, “There will be a storm today, for the sky is red and threatening.” Do you know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but cannot discern the signs of the times? An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign; and a sign will not be given it, except the sign of Jonah (Matt. 16:2-4).

Departing from there, Jesus and His disciples came to the other side of Gennesaret, but they had forgotten to bring bread. Recapping the previous encounter, Jesus said to them, “Watch out and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (Matt. 16:6). They misunderstood His statement, assuming that it was connected with their failure to bring provisions on the trip. Jesus, aware of this, said:

You men of little faith, why do you discuss among yourselves that you have no bread? Do you not yet understand or remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets full you picked up? Or the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many large baskets full you picked up? How is it that you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread? But beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees (Matt. 16:8-11).

Afterward, they finally put the pieces together: “Then they understood that He did not say to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (Matt. 16:12).

On the mount of transfiguration, Jesus’s face radiated glory, shining like the sun, and His garments became as white as light. Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. Afterwards, as they were coming down from the mountain, His disciples asked, “Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” He answered and said,

Elijah is coming and will restore all things; but I say to you that Elijah already came, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they wished. So also the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands (Matt. 17:11-12).

Despite knowing the prophecy of Malachi (4:5-6), and having listened to Jesus’s previous discussion of John the Baptist (Matt. 11:7-15), in which He explicitly said, “John himself is Elijah,” they did not comprehend His words. . . until that very moment: “Then the disciples understood that He had spoken to them about John the Baptist” (Matt. 17:13).


May we recognize the dangers associated with adopting a progressive religious mindset. Let us acknowledge the authority of Sacred Scripture and seek to understand and acknowledge God’s divine pattern to our collective and individual activities. While spiritual blindness is characteristic of lost humanity (Rom. 3:11), if men turn to the Lord, they can comprehend and be converted (Rom. 15:21).

False teachers by definition are dishonest—not only with others but also with themselves: “deceiving and being deceived” (2 Tim. 3:13) and are, therefore, “without understanding” (2 Cor. 10:12). In contrast, let us heed the admonition that the aged apostle gave to young Timothy:

You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:14-17).

If we genuinely seek to know God, so as to find Him and obey His will (Acts 17:22), true knowledge and spiritual understanding is within our grasp (Eph. 5:17).

[The Lord desires] that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us (Acts 17:27).

So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is (Eph. 5:17).


Arndt, William, et al. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (BDAG). Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2000.

Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, 1996.

Thomas, Robert L. New American Standard Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Dictionaries: Updated Edition. Anaheim, CA: Foundation Publications, Inc., 1998.

Author Bio

Mark Mayberry has labored with the Adoue Street church of Christ in Alvin, TX, since 1998, where he serves as the evangelist and an elder. The church website is here. His website is here. He can be reached here.