Monday, March 12, 2007

New Online Book Explores Progressive Christianity

Dr. Delwin Brown, Academic Dean Emeritus of the Pacific School of Religion, hopes that his book Progressive Christian Beliefs will contribute to the building of “a systematic understanding of progressive Christian beliefs and the reasons for them.”

Brown (pictured above) believes that it is “absolutely urgent that progressive Christians become articulate about the transforming faith that is within them.”

“For the sake of our nation as well as the church,” he insists, “we must be able to say what we believe, and why.”

Brown notes that as well as the foundational example of the life and teaching of Jesus, progressive Christianity in the United States draws its inspiration from the witness of evangelical Christians in the middle of the 19th century.

“These first American evangelicals,” says Brown, “were on the front lines of the movements to abolish slavery, to give women the right to vote, to mitigate poverty and overcome sharp class divisions.”

He also observes that these men and women “understood that their progressive, even revolutionary, stances were required of them as Christians. They were not progressives who also happened to be Christians. They were progressives because they were Christians, in order to be faithful to the gospel.”

Progressive Christianity also draws from the witness of the liberal Christian movement around the turn of the 20th century. These people, says Brown, “welcomed progress as a gift of God. They supported the advance of the physical sciences and democratic practices. They led in the analysis and critique of structural injustices in society.”

Finally, Brown is adamant that progressive Christianity “must hear and be transformed by the manifold witnesses of the liberation forms of Christian faith that emerged in the last part of the 20th century and continue with force today.”

He notes that these include “the voices of the racial/ethnic communities, the feminists and womanists, those who have suffered from colonialism, the poor and other previously voiceless people, and indeed the silent cries of the earth itself.”

“The search for truth,” says Brown, “must be undertaken in the company of the powerless. Wisdom and virtue is to be found in all people.”

Delwin Brown has taught for more than forty years at universities and graduate theological schools, and published more than fifty articles and books. He is dedicated to introducing into public awareness “an understanding of the Christian faith that is informed by secular knowledge, committed to causes of justice, and is biblically, historically and theologically responsible.”

Without doubt his book serves as one interpretation of the progressive Christian perspective. It is introductory in character, written for “ordinary people, not specialists,” and is comprised of eight chapters, each from 2500-3000 words.

Beginning February 19, the chapters are being posted serially, every other Monday until May 28.
Two chapters have been posted to date: “Introduction: What Progressive Christianity is Not” and “Bible: Negotiating the Heritage.”

The next chapter, “Christ: Overturning the Categories,” is scheduled to be posted next Monday, March 19.

Brown notes that, “Responses, comments on the responses of others, and general discussion are warmly invited, in fact encouraged. And the changes you may wish to suggest for the final version of this work (to be submitted for publication later this year as a “normal” book) will be considered very seriously, even if every suggestion is not specifically responded to in this web forum.”

For more information about Dr. Brown’s online book, Progressive Christian Beliefs, or to read those chapters of it that have already posted, click here.

To read a 2006 article by Dr. Delwin Brown on “Our Progressive Christian Heritage,” click here.

To read an article co-written by Delwin Brown on “Everyday Theology,” click here.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
What’s a Conscientious Faggot to Do?
What the Republican Leadership and the Catholic Hierarchy Have in Common
Comprehending the “Fullness of Truth”
Our Catholic “Stonewall Moment”
In the Garden of Spirituality: Joan Timmerman
The Decline of the Neocaths?

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