This is my last column describing the meaning and history of Progressive Christianity. Finishing our historical journey, let me mention a few more people who have contributed to Progressive Christian thought.
Martin Buber (1878-1965) was an Austrian-born Israeli Jewish philosopher best known for his book "I and Thou," which focused on the way humans relate to their world.
According to Buber, we frequently view both objects and people by their functions. Doing this is sometimes good: when doctors examine us for specific maladies, it's best if they view us as organisms, not as individuals.
Scientists can learn a great deal about our world by observing, measuring and examining. For Buber, all such processes are I-It relationships.
Unfortunately, we frequently view people in the same way. Rather than truly making ourselves completely available to them, understanding them, sharing totally with them, really talking with them, we observe them or keep part of ourselves outside the moment of relationship.
Buber calls such an interaction I-It. It is possible, notes Buber, to place ourselves completely into a relationship, to truly understand and "be there" with another person, without masks, pretenses, even without words. Such a moment of relating is called "I-Thou."
The bond thus created enlarges each person, and each person responds by trying to enhance the other person. The result is true dialogue, true sharing. Buber then moves from this existential description of personal relating to the religious experience. For Buber, God is the Eternal Thou. Yet another concept of God to consider.
Charles Hartshorne (1897-2000) was an American philosopher who concentrated primarily on the philosophy of religion and metaphysics. He developed the neoclassical idea of God and produced a modal proof of the existence of God that was a development of St. Anselm's Ontological Argument.
Hartshorne is also noted for developing Alfred North Whitehead's process philosophy into process theology, a component of Progressive Christianity. One of the technical terms Hartshorne used is pan-en-theism. Panentheism (all is in God) must be differentiated from classical pantheism (all is God).
In Hartshorne's theology, God is not identical with the world, but God is also not completely independent from the world. God has his self-identity that transcends the Earth, but the world is also contained within God. A rough analogy is the relationship between a mother and a fetus. The mother has her own identity and is different from the unborn, yet is intimately connected to the unborn. The unborn is within the womb and attached to the mother via the umbilical cord.
Next, Rudolf Bultmann (1884-1976) was a German Lutheran theologian and professor of New Testament at the University of Marburg. He was one of the major figures of early 20th century biblical studies and a prominent voice in liberal Christianity.
Bultmann is known for his belief that the historical analysis of the New Testament is both futile and unnecessary, given that the earliest Christian literature showed little interest in specific locations. Bultmann argued that all that matters is the "thatness," not the "whatness" of Jesus; i.e. only that Jesus existed, preached and died by Crucifixion matters, not what happened throughout his life. Bultmann contended that only faith in the kerygma, or proclamation, of the New Testament was necessary for Christian faith, not any particular facts regarding the historical Jesus.
Finally, Marcus Borg (1942-2015) was an American New Testament scholar, theologian and author. He was among the most widely known and influential voices in progressive Christianity. As a fellow of the Jesus Seminar, Borg was a major figure in historical Jesus scholarship. The Jesus Seminar was a group of about 150 critical Biblical scholars and laymen founded in 1985. Members of the Seminar used votes with colored beads to decide their collective view of the historicity of the deeds and sayings of Jesus of Nazareth. They published their results in three reports: The Five Gospels (1993), The Acts of Jesus (1998), and The Gospel of Jesus (1999).
As Friedrich Schleiermacher argued that while we cannot know God in a scientific way, humans have a sense and taste for the infinite, no one can know Progressive Christianity from these four short articles. However, I hope you now have a sense and taste for what we are about. If you would like to learn more, join us at United Christian Church, Levittown.
Sources: Wikipedia and Jewish Virtual Librar
Keith A. Pacheco, Langhorne, is an aspiring peacemaker and a student of nonviolent communication.
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