Why I Was Depressed As A “Progressive” Christian
by Matt Rawlings
One of the most acclaimed episodes of the classic series The Twilight Zone is “It’s A Good Life.” The plot focuses on a six-year old boy named Anthony who has godlike powers. His actions are terrifying but exactly what you would expect from an immature child who, like all kids, live in the now and are almost wholly self-focused. The meaning of the brilliant Rod Serling script (from a short story by Jerome Bixby) is clear–human beings make lousy gods.
I graduated from college in 1998 and immediately began attending Bible college classes before shipping off for seminary. I attended a New Testament Greek class with a professor who directed me to a progressive theological movement led by young pastors such as Mark Driscoll, Doug Pagitt and Brad Cecil. I was given tapes (Google it) of a conference in Mt. Hermon, California hosted by the Young Leaders Network that would become Emergent.
I was a fairly new Christian with a chip on my shoulder about the traditional evangelical church and the lectures I listened to seemed to blame that church for its disconnect from Gen-X (people born between 1960 and 1980) of which I was a member. I was sold.
I followed the “emergent church movement” from a distance. As a seminary student and later as a starving pastor attending law school, I could only afford to attend the occasional conference but I tried to keep up online with the burgeoning group of leaders that grew to include Rob Bell, Dan Kimball, Tony Jones and, the elder statesman of the crew, Brian McLaren.
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I came to reject orthodox doctrines such as Biblical inerrancy, substitutionary atonement, the exclusivity of salvation through Christ, the foreknowledge of God and many others. I publicly ridiculed “the old guard” as out-of-touch and fully embraced post-modernism.
I had been an atheist for ten years who had grown depressed at the lack of meaning in my non-belief (see here). I was initially excited by my conversion and the sudden injection of meaning into my life. My excitement continued into my emergent for a few years but began to diminish halfway through seminary. I decide to go to law school partly on my loss of passion for the church.
My decreasing lack of zeal for the mission of the church was a result of my increasing rejection of orthodox Christianity. I had come to accept the postmodern dictum that because we all interpret, there is no real fixed meaning to any text. There may be better and worse interpretations but there was no final interpretation.
The “the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people” (Jude 3) didn’t really interest me…