Sound Teaching

This is the teaching site of the West Side church of Christ in Fort Worth, TX. Unless otherwise indicated, all materials were written and prepared by Stan Cox

Index by Subject

Progressive VS Conservative

Webster’s Dictionary defines progressive as, (a) of, relating to, or characterized by progress; (b) making use of or interested in new ideas, findings, or opportunities. In relation to politics and societal trends, a progressive is interested in change. He wants to try new ideas, take advantage of new technologies, and is always trying to make the world a better place by replacing old ideas and ways with new ones.

One antonym of progressive, as supplied by Webster, is the word conservative. Again, speaking politically and societally, the conservative is wary of change. He embraces the way things have been done in the past, declaring them tried and true. He does not believe that change is for the better, and rejects new ideas and technologies as merely novel, fearing unknown consequences should they be adopted.

So, which philosophy is correct? The answer is not a simple one. Conservatives yearn for the “good old days” with conservative values, simple government and the nostalgia of childhood. However, that childhood was one that included institutionalized racism, sexism, and war.

Progressives long for a better future, with implemented innovations that hold the promise of eased lifestyles, tolerance and surety. However — despite technological advances and novel social, educational and civil experiments — racism, sexism and war remain. Some things are most assuredly better, but one could successfully argue that other problems have been exacerbated by progressive ideas.

So, the only right answer to the progressive/conservative debate is “it depends.” Sometimes progressive actions bring improvement, sometimes they do not. In the United States of America, we are an optimistic sort. Because of this progress is the norm, though accompanied with many growing pains.

There is a dark side to the question as it pertains to our faith. Christians have been influenced by the society in which we live. Because of this, in matters of faith, the progressive/conservative debate rages among us. Some want to try new techniques and ideas, claiming that innovation will keep the church relevant in a rapidly changing society. Others are content with doing things the way they were done in the “good old days”, even if the traditional ways are rejected by the majority.

I personally am a progressive bound by conservative inclinations. In other words, I am conflicted. While I like technology and the creativity of new ideas and techniques, I see a significant problem with progressivism in the church. Typically, the progressive desires not only to change our technology and methodology, he also desires to change our doctrine.

  • If a progressive wants to put the songs up on a screen rather than read them from a songbook, fine… But if the progressive wants to add mechanical instruments of music, then we have a problem (cf. Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16).
  • If a progressive wants to take advantage of new visual aids or Bible class curriculum, fine… But if the progressive wants to “accentuate the positive, and eliminate the negative” in our preaching and teaching, then we have a problem (cf. 2 Timothy 3:16-17; Acts 20:27).
  • If a progressive wants to reach out to “new demographics” more than fine, (that is what the great commission is all about! cf. Mark 16:15)… But, if the progressive wants to accept and fellowship individuals who persist in sin and ungodliness, then we have a problem (cf. 2 John 9-11; 1 Corinthians 5:2).
  • If a progressive sees expedient and novel options in doing the work of the Lord, fine… But if the progressive wants to abandon the Bible pattern, or engage in activities that are not authorized in scripture, then we have a problem (cf. Hebrews 8:5; Matthew 7: 21-23).

The progressive needs to understand that the way established by Jesus Christ is perfect. It does not need improvement. It will never become irrelevant. If rejected by a man, the problem is with the man, not Christ’s will. We are not to conform our religion to the society in which we live, we are to seek to conform the wills of men to the revealed will of God! While men should not resist technological advancements, new techniques and ideas as we seek to spread the gospel of our Lord, we must always respect that gospel as perfect and relevant. It must remain inviolate. To treat it any other way shows disrespect for God.