Progressivism vs. Biblical Christianity
Let me start by saying that this message is intended as a warning to Biblical Christians to not get sucked into the mindset and philosophical world view that is pervasive in our world today. Don’t be deceived and don’t let your Christian mindset be diluted by the current discussions. The remedy, of course, is to remain diligent in your reading and studying of God’s word, the Bible, and your prayer/communion with Him.
Please don’t consider this a partisan discussion, as you will see that my view of progressivism not restricted to the views of any current political party, but in fact, I think it encompasses both the left and the right, liberal and conservative alike. I have noticed that the liberal Democratic party seems to want to be identified with some type of new progressive reform movement and many liberals have been calling themselves progressives. We’ll get into this.
First, let’s define the word progressivism. According to Wikipedia, progressivism is “a philosophy based on the idea of progress, which asserts that advancement in science, technology, economic development, and social organization are vital to improve the human condition.” The key word in the definition is “vital”, suggesting that there will be little or no improvements without these advancements. Wikipedia goes on to say that “progressivism became highly significant during the Age of Enlightenment in Europe”. It was during the Age of Enlightenment that men elevated reason and intellect as a means of determining truth, above the use of faith in the revelation of truth via the Scriptures. Thus scientific observation and the use of reason as a means of determining truth led to the elevation in importance of the above mentioned items especially science and technology, along with education.
It is also mentioned that the early application of this philosophy of progressivism was to support the advancement of western culture or “civilization” to transform the world from “barbarianism” by “strengthening the basis of empirical knowledge as the foundation of society”. By empirical knowledge, they mean knowledge that is determined by the use of scientific observation and reason. For example, during the 1800’s in America as people were moving west, the push to move the Native Americans from “barbaric conditions” to civility was driven by this idea of progressivism.
As a side note, I would like to mention here that it is not unreasonable to question the extent of the “progress” that has been made by the contributions from the scientific, technological, economic, and organizational changes to our western “civilized” culture. Has all of our material items and technological advances really made us happy? Have they contributed to our overall well-being and satisfaction? Have they lessened our stress levels? Most would agree that our “progress” has made us more stressful. In some ways we are much better off, but in other ways we are worse off. We must also realize that all advancements have a price to pay. For example, most would consider the automobile to be an amazing technological advancement and symbol of progress, but we must also consider that 1.3 million people are killed each year in car accidents and many others injured. Many so-called advancements are motivated by monetary gains and offer conveniences that we often would be better off without or that place us in a dangerous position of dependency that has the potential to cause great harm to us if the “convenient technology” fails. My point is that the argument is based on a faulty premise that all technological and scientific based “progress” is good and will contribute to the human condition. This is not true in all cases and requires a deeper analysis to get the real picture.
We also need to understand that at the foundation of the progressive thinking is the belief in evolution as the source and continuance of life, with man being the most “evolved” part of this process and now responsible for its success and progress. Progressivism aligns with the idea that we are on an upwards evolutionary trajectory, and that mankind’s use of the “tools” of progressivism are crucial to the proper and speedy evolutionary advancement. Additionally, the improper use of these would possibly result in the end of our race.
Be aware also that the teachings of Marx, Engle, Lenin and Stalin had a similar concept of evolutionary progress. They called it “Dialectical and Historical Materialism” and its explanation in text books became compulsory education within the Soviet Union and China during the communist rule. At its core was the idea that the conflict of social events, and there solutions, would bring about evolutionary progress.
Historically, in the United States, according to an article from George Washington University, the “Progressive Era” was from 1890 to 1920. It started as a social movement and then became political. The movement was a response to the social problems that were believed to be the result of the industrial revolution: poverty, violence, greed, racism, class warfare. According to the article, these problems “could be best addressed by providing good education, a safe environment, and an efficient workplace. Progressives lived mainly in the cities, were college educated, and believed that government could be a tool for change.”
Apparently, both the Republican and Democratic parties of the time had groups of progressives in their ranks. As for their activities, the article says this: “They concentrated on exposing the evils of corporate greed, combating fear of immigrants, and urging Americans to think hard about what democracy meant.”
Fast forward to today and we see a similar thing happening. It has become obvious to most people in our country that something is wrong, that our government system is failing and that the disparity between the rich and poor is growing much larger than in recent history and much more noticeable. We see the exact same problems emerging as were present in the Progressive Era and the same solutions being suggested.
Think about it though, back in the time period of 1890 to 1920 there was no television or radio (let alone the internet), only newspapers and magazines. Also, the percentage of college educated people was quite low; in fact college graduates were a rarity and most didn’t even have a high school diploma.
Today we have a large percentage of the population with some amount of college education, and most having graduated from high school. We also have information streaming into our lives via the television, radio, and internet. If you have a question about any topic whatsoever, all you need to do is “Google it” to get the answer. What a contrast this is to the way it must have been in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.
Although there is some value in this massive increase in available information, we must realize that there is an increased potential for people to be indoctrinated with the popular philosophies, as well as the potential for the use of propaganda to induce fear and stir up emotions. Realize too that the underlying ideas that support this progressive philosophy have penetrated all areas of western society and are aggressively promoted by the media and education system. As a result of the current availability of information in our western society, the progressive philosophy, including the supporting ideas of the theory of evolution and secular humanism, is widely accepted, strongly influencing all voters and political parties.
It would appear that the liberal side of the political world has most closely resembled the traditional progressives from the Progressive Era, but have upped the ante by adding the “emergencies” of global warming, the environment, and a need for alternate energy. Added to this list of vital needs is the need for a global system for these solutions to work. Globalization was a major factor in this last election with the platform of Donald Trump opposing it with his nationalization stance reflected in his campaign slogan “Make America Great Again”, which really meant put the United States first before other countries.
This is where I think that confusion can enter in for the Biblical Christian. We must be aware that the underlying philosophy of Donald Trump’s solution is still progressive; He is still suggesting the use of government as a tool for changing social organizations and economic development, and for advancing science and technology. You might say the Trump view and the liberal view are “in the same church, but in different pews”, as the analogy goes. The extreme emotion and distress that was displayed by the Hillary Clinton supporters after her loss of the election was not because Donald Trump was opposed to progressivism, but rather it was because they disagreed with his means of attaining this progressivism. Their underlying progressive philosophy are the same, but their methods of implementation are different.
Two of the major differences were as follows:
First, the liberals wanted a global system of free, unrestricted trade that allowed for uncontrolled or unrestricted immigration with a vision of a one world type of economy and also having the US as a leader in this system, maintaining their military control, whereas Trump wants a nationalistic approach with new trade laws that favor the US, possibly with tariffs and a controlled immigration to favor US workers, rejecting the idea of a global system and calling for a reduction in military influence overseas (to save money for spending on the US needs at home). This was similar to the issue that was at the core of the Brexit decision that occurred earlier in the UK. We must be clear though that whether trade and immigration are restricted or not, or whether the system of trade is globally based or nationalistic does not change the underlying progressive philosophy that calls for advances in science, technology, economic development and social organization.
Second, the liberals wanted more government with controls and regulations to manage large corporations, Wall Street, and entitlements (like healthcare), with more taxes on the “rich” whereas Trump was pushing to reduce taxes and the role of government, pushing for fewer regulations on businesses and looking at focusing spending on infrastructure improvements to stimulate economic growth, possibly making changes to the financial system. Again, the underlying progressive philosophy is not changed in either of these approaches, rather, there is just a difference in opinion as to the method of social organization and economic development.
In summary, I believe that we are in a similar situation as was faced by the US back at the turn of the 19th century during the Progressive Era. Today we have the same social issues of poverty, violence, racism, and class warfare. People are upset and looking for answers; many looking to the government and political leaders. The recent election brought this situation to a head, with people looking to either the liberal solutions as represented by the Democrats and Hillary Clinton or the ideas and solutions as proposed by Donald Trump and his supporters, who became the candidate for the Republicans (and eventually President Elect).
My main point is that although there were strong emotional feelings associated with each side of these differences as represented by the political parties, both sides were in alignment with the progressive philosophy with its foundation of evolutionary thinking and a humanistic focus.
As Biblical Christians don’t we see the problems of greed, violence, racism, poverty, and class inequality as being either directly or indirectly related to moral issues, and don’t we see the solution of these moral issues as being a spiritual solution that is offered in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, allowing for people to be restored in their relationship with their Creator and transformed into new creations causing these problems to disappear? But this solution is so ridiculous to the current discussion that it is not even given the smallest bit of attention. It is diametrically opposed to the progressive, evolutionary viewpoint and philosophy, and is therefore seen as at best ridiculous, and at worst evil.
We must be firm and clear in our understanding that the Biblical Christian philosophy and approach is the truth and the progressive philosophy is a lie and an error. Remember that we have died to this world system and live now with our hope totally on the fact that this world will NEVER progress to a utopia, but will only really improve at the return of the Lord Jesus Christ!
We should also step back and consider the fact that both of these candidates have a questionable moral character, and their lives are far from upholding the standards of the Judeo-Christian ethics. It says something when these two were the best that our society could offer. It is likely that they were the most disliked candidates in the history of US elections (at least in recent history from my experience). It was even a joke going around to ask “Who did you vote against?” rather than “Who did you vote for?”.
As Biblical Christians we must be wise and acknowledge that Donald Trump’s approach, although it may possibly be better than Hillary Clinton’s approach, is still based on a flawed, progressive type of philosophy. It therefore is doomed to fail.
Biblical prophecy and warning of the future clearly paint a picture of a future that will get worse and worse and not better and better. As the world pressures us into “being optimistic” or “thinking positively”, we need to accept the reality of what we have come to understand by our faith, that this world needs to be completely transformed by an act of God, that is, the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.
“Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.” 1 Timothy 4: 1-3
“But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” 2 Peter 3: 10-13
Many Americans who have voted for Donald Trump as president have placed their hope in him to resolve the issues that we face as a society today. I believe their hope will end in disappointment. I would even go as far as saying that there is a high probability that a major economic collapse, civil unrest, global war, or some other failure of our government will occur during the Trump presidency and he will be blamed for it, although he has inherited the problems from the past few decades of poor decisions by those in power, and he is therefore not responsible. At best, even if he does some good things, he will be presented as a failure by the main stream media and many will most likely agree and look for the next great political hope.
As Biblical Christians we must also recognize fully the current state of spiritual and moral affairs in our country. Clearly, they are on a decline both in the secular and religious realms. The reality is that the judgment of God is inevitable and we need to be prepared by removing any and all ungodliness from our own lives, separating ourselves from any ungodly associations, as well as planning for a means of escape from the inevitable results of this judgment.
It is possible that we are entering the end times with the approach of the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ very near. The Bible predicts a time of tribulation preceding His return. We must also not lose sight of this potential future situation.
Here are the Biblical truths that we must not lose sight of:
- Our country is in moral decline and has moved away from the laws and standards of God. This condition has consequences. God’s judgment is inevitable. The progressive philosophy ignores this truth
- The Bible prophecies that in the last days there will be a one world government with a single monetary system (controlled by the mark of the beast), and a single global religion. Globalism and the move towards a global system will happen eventually. A one world religion will also come about.
- This world has been cursed and will continue to devolve to a corrupt state or dystopia, not evolve to a utopia as suggested by the progressive philosophy, and eventually will be destroyed and replaced by the kingdom of God at the second coming of Jesus Christ.
- The source of mankind’s social problems is a moral and spiritual issue that can only be resolved by the embracing of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and the salvation and redemption that He has offered. Social problems have dramatically increased as a result of our disregard of God’s directives regarding the sanctity of marriage and sexual relations and its impact on the family, our disregard for truth and honesty in our dealings, turning to massive lying and fraud in our financial dealing, and our arrogance in our view of ourselves, elevating our own importance and the importance of the creation and creatures above the Creator God who should hold a place of honor and respect in our lives (for the most part, I don’t think that our society is honoring God either individually or as a group).
- This entire world will be destroyed by fire when the Lord Jesus returns. He will establish a new heaven and earth based on His government of righteousness. We should look forward to this day, without putting our hope in the false promises of today’s leaders.
Regarding progressivism, it is helpful for me to create categories to make these things clearer. Allow me to give you my brief view of the current situation pertaining to the progressive philosophy. I see people falling into 3 groups: Progressive Realists, Progressive Idealists, and Progressive Spiritualists. Here’s the explanation of each:
- Progressive Realists are those who are more practical in their approach to a solution to our social problems, you might say using more “common sense” to determine a means of progressing. These solutions will appeal more to the average blue collar workers. They would promote less government with less regulation, strengthening of local industries and communities, strengthening of local apprenticeship and training, less focus on world wide organizations and controls.
- Progressive Idealists would be those who support the idealistic solutions for our social ailments, much like those from the earlier progressive era. Their solutions are more theoretical and idealistic, and will be held and promoted by intellectuals and educators. They would most likely have been college educated where they were indoctrinated with these idealistic viewpoints. They support advancements in education, science and technology, more global organization and controls, with more use of government as a tool to accomplish this.
- I did not mention the Progressive Spiritualists previously since they were not a strong group represented in the recent election discussions, but I believe they will be more pronounced in the near future. This group aligns with the evolutionary, progressive thinking, but they include the metaphysical realm as either a source of information or enlightenment, or as a new evolutionary plateau to be realized. These would include the “New Age” religion, eastern mysticism, and other occult related practitioners who would use occult practices to examine the metaphysical realm. It should be noted that these practices are forbidden by the Lord (see Deuteronomy 18: 9-22) and they have many times opened the practitioner to demonic spirits and even demonic possession. This group will most likely play a role in the future one world religion as they merge with the Progressive Idealists and globalism.
All three of these above mentioned Progressive categories have some limited merit or value in the solutions being proposed, but cannot be considered a hope for the future of mankind. These philosophies are flawed since they are rooted in the humanistic world view that has overtaken our world that is based on the lie of evolutionary theory as opposed to the truth of an all powerful Creator God as apparent in the beautiful design of His creation. This progressive philosophy also places the full burden and responsibility for the future existence of the human race upon mankind (creation) without any input from the Creator who brought it into existence in the first place.
As Biblical Christians our hope is solely anchored on the promises of God as delivered to us through the Lord Jesus Christ. Please keep your heart pure with this focus and remain steadfast in your journey through these days as I believe the last days are upon us.
My prayer for my Biblical Christian brethren is the same as what Paul prayed for the Ephesians:
“That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come, and He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” Ephesians 1: 17-23
I need to mention also that in the future, there will most likely be more and more animosity towards the Biblical Christian philosophy since it is so contrary to the popular progressive philosophy and people are so passionate about the elevated importance of this approach as a solution for our social issues and problems, for their future and the future of their offspring. This equates to an increase in persecution, as has been prophesied for the end time. Be strong in the days ahead!