Os Guinness on Progressivism


I thought I would offer another quotation from Os Guinness because it hits on something that has been bothering me about much of the drive to grow very large churches. Mr. Guinness writes:

“For those who subscribe to ‘progressivism’ . . . progress by definition is good, always good, self-evidently good, unquestionably good. Reaction, by definition, is bad. The world is getting better and better. Whatever is is not only right but a great deal better than what was. And of course, whatever is next must be a great deal better still. The word ‘progress’ simlply makes it so and tells us so. We are not asked to think. We are not even given the opportunity or the criteria to judge for ourselves. If it’s progressive, by definition it must be good. If it’s reactionary, it obviously must be bad, and that’s the end of it. Discussion over.”

Os Guinness in Prophetic Untimeliness

We expect this type of thinking from political progressives, but unfortunately, this thinking has crept into the church.

In some churches, the words tradition or traditional are used in a pejorative sense. Anything that smacks of tradition is considered harmful to the desire to grow a large church. And since bigger is always better, tradition cannot be good.

In such churches the parable of new wine into old wineskins (Matthew 9:17) is reinterpreted to mean that old is automatically bad and new is automatically good. I will leave it for another post to present my thoughts on what this verse is really saying.

Using the mindset that new is automatically better, leaders can then find an excuse to ignore denominational boundaries and violate their oaths to follow constitutional guidelines. But every institution, including the church, has a process for its bylaws or constitution to be amended. The problem is that progressives are often unwilling to follow that process because it takes too much effort and takes too long.

I am not advocating a slavish adherence to tradition. Constitutions can be amended. Traditions can and should be reevaluated to determine if they are helpful in the current cultural context. But there is an appropriate process for these amendments and reevaluations to follow.

In the church, the why we do things should always be determined before the how we do things. In the church, the why should always be drawn from Scripture and not from a pragmatism that is based on increased attendance or increased contributions.

New is not always better.