In this post-evangelical wilderness in which I have found myself, there is a cacophony of voices all clamoring for attention and approval. I try to listen to those who are reasonable, and I do this in charity. I don’t want to write off someone simply because I don’t understand them. So I listen.
I have begun to realize there are three primary ways people think of their Christian faith. Each of these ways of thinking is characterized by common human characteristics. I will briefly describe each of these three groups as I see them and leave the judgement of their validity to you.
Those whom I call Traditionalists are classic Christians, or at least want to be and look to classic Christianity to answer their moral and theological questions. For them, the “Faith once delivered to the saints” is an inviolable thing that defines forever what the Church is to believe and how Christians are to behave. The Faith is statically defined in the Nicene Creed and as such it is considered the symbol of Faith. Traditionalists look within the Church itself for answers regarding itself as well as the world at large. Examples are Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and Traditional Anglicans/Episcopalians. Christian Fundamentalists also fall in this camp, but their brothers, the Evangelical Protestants are a borderline between Traditionalists and the next group, the Progressives.
Progressives are often labeled as “modernists” or “liberals” by Traditionalists. But, in fact, this confuses the motivation present that places one in the Progressive camp as opposed to that of the “modernist” or “liberal”. Progressives begin with faith, as do their Traditionalist brothers, but Progressives employ the sciences as well as tradition to understand the world around them and to guide them in determining their faith and practice. On many issues Progressives and Traditionalists can agree. But they also sharply differ in other areas such as evolution and ethics.
The final group is the Modernist. Modernists or “Liberals” take doubt as their starting point concerning Christianity. If it cannot be proven or demonstrated, then it is to be rejected. There is little room for mystery and certainly no room for dogma. Science is the primary means of determining values, ethics, and belief. Modernists may be cultural Christians regarding worship and the visible trappings of religion, but in other things they tend to be secularists.
I cannot give concrete examples of Progressive or Modernists denominations, because no denomination that I am aware of has been founded on the principles each of these groups operates on. For the most part, individuals within most of the denominations fall into one of the two groups unless they are in a Traditionalist denomination or independent congregation.
These are just a few thoughts and observations and they are by no means my final thoughts on the matter. I reserve the right to alter my thoughts and opinions radically if need be. I am open to other viewpoints and encourage any reader to comment with your own thoughts.