The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Progressive Theology

Been thinking about the concept of progressive theology throughout humanities existence. The idea that concepts in the bible are getting closer and closer to a solid truth with each generation. Im not talking about general changes in peoples thoughts regarding morality, but whether the bible changes views as we move further into humanities existence.

Looking at the OT, things such as concubines and seeing women as property were quite commonplace for a long time - and the bible sort of just accepts its existence and gives rules and regulations as for how to handle these things. If you consider Oral Torah, Jews basically are adding on and trying to fully explain concepts in the Torah - but it is a very progressive action as it describes things not noted in the bible. They would consider Oral Torah to be just as infallible as the Torah itself (or so I think).

So should we consider the bible to be a progressive document?


I think so. The sermon on the mount, after all, is a juxtaposition of how the people of God previously thought they were supposed to live with a whole new way.

How do we even know if we are going on the right path anyway? People were 100% okay with using concubines back then and would have seen it as fairly normal (I would assume). What if there are things we do today from the bible that would be morally reprehensible 1000 years from now. Are we supposed to just ‘go with the flow’ as it were and follow the attempts made by religions to find Truth?

Hum! Come to think about it…My theory that Z-Hell (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9)…is the most probable, end-times tribulation scenario…might be “progressive theology.”

The approach of Derek Flood is helpful. I wrote about it here : Although talking about violence in the Old Testament, the hermeneutic he suggests is relevant to this discussion.

Thanks for the info fellas - thought those were both helpful.

Dandy Randy - The thing on collective salvation is an interesting one. There was one theory I came across that stated the Jews are small representatives of the whole of humanity. If they do well in obeying God’s commands then humanity benefits from this. Not sure though.

mcarans - The point of saying that ‘fulfilling the law’ meant to ‘interpret it correctly’ is a conclusion that I came to, so that was reassuring for me. To add on though, I don’t think we should read the bible like Jesus did in some ways. Jesus couldn’t read the NT as it was sort of in the works at that time - so all he was referring to was the Tanak.

Side note: There are a lot of times (I think 51 in the NT) where the term ‘scripture’ is used. Since its scattered around the NT it could not possibly be referring to the NT itself as it wasn’t created yet. So all people would have considered scripture to be the Tanak. This would lead me to believe that the NT is a type of Oral Torah as it were and not specifically ‘scripture’ as is commonly believed today. Or so I theorise.

The way I see it is that Moses and the OT prophets had a limited understanding of the nature of God—indeed a misunderstanding when they depicted Him as One who instructed the Israelites to kill their enemies including women and children (though in some cases, they could let the women live in order to be mates for the Hebrews).

But JESUS revealed God as He truly is. Jesus is Another exactly like God—the exact expression of God’s essence (Hebrews 1:3). And Jesus never killed anyone or instructed His disciples to kill anyone

Jesus described God as One who is kind to unthankful people and evil people. (Luke 6:35)

There’s nothing “progressive” about that. That which Jesus revealed was simply the reality concerning the nature of God—a reality that was not understood by the ancient Hebrews.


You simply do not know that… that is simply your own unproven assertion. You likewise have no more evidence that the records of the NT are any more kosher than those of OT, apart from your own faith, i.e., what YOU choose to believe.

When it comes to theological ‘truths,’ or any religion’s claims for the validity of their writings,
does anyone’s view escape involving their own faith and what they choose to believe?

How can one avoid choosing what literature and which beliefs he finds believable?
What does it mean to imply that only some of us “know” our beliefs are true or kosher?

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But that’s my exact point Bob… once you start inventing and introducing rationales for discounting, dismissing, denying and destroying texts, as is well evidenced, demonstrated and practiced on this board by some, how is it NOT reasonable to then hold other apparently more favourable texts to the same self-scrutiny the proponent of these excuses makes? It is totally honest to ask for consistency.

That is a difficult question. Are all texts equally valid or invalid? Given the contradictions that causes, I assume they are not. For example, Jesus appears to overturn some OT teachings. Hence one is left either with throwing out the whole Bible or coming up with a lens to read the Bible which in practice will end up prioritising some texts over others.


Davo, I hear you to essentially say:

That seems reasonable. But just as you imply that you have a consistent “rationale” that allows you to ‘know’ that all texts in the Bible’s collection are equally true and valid, I’d assume that those unconvinced of your reasons for knowing that assume that they too are consistent in applying the rationales to all texts that appear reasonable to them.

With most religions excepted, very few arenas of thought assume that everything written on it within a particular collection need be equally valid and not subject to other external (and even internal) criterion of evaluation. So given the diversity of viewpoints collected in the Bible, those who suggest that they reasonably ‘know’ that this assumption should be embraced, would seem to need to meet a high bar.

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I don’t so much disagree with either of you… BUT that’s NOT what I’m alluding to… I think you, Bob, know exactly what I’m talking about (I can go and find plenty of quotes though I shouldn’t need to).

Plenty of times on this forum a biblical text has been put forward to show a given reality only for someone to debunk said text as invalid or irrelevant based purely on the basis that said text does not agree with some presupposition they hold as more important, i.e., their presupposition is correct, the text however becomes wrong, mistaken and or mistranslated etc, etc… followed then by their own litany of lax interpretation.

Example: a text will say something to the affect… “God said… yada yada” the authenticity of which will then be called into serious question and all manner of excuses given as to why NOT to believe what is actually there in black and white IN THE TEXT.

So I’m not talking about arguments around interpretation etc, surely we all understand that? I’m referring to plain evidence of the text where the text clearly says thus and so but someone will contend and claim no it doesn’t — even though it’s right there in the TEXT.

I don’t understand. Maybe you can give an example or point me to a past occurrence of what you describe?

That God allegedly ordered the genocide of the Amalekites comes to mind.

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I find arguing about what a text says, and doubting that what it says is true, to be are two different things. I too dislike someone arguing that their view reflects the Bible, but then dismissing contrary texts, unless they admit up front that they don’t believe the whole Bible is binding upon their beliefs (as e.g. Paidion or LLC has). For I love taking texts seriously and debating what they really mean, even though I’m not an inerrantist.

But I question that those here who typically consider a given text not binding on their view think their only basis is that it doesn’t agree with their own preferred belief. As I suggested, they have “rationales” (external and internal concerning the narrative) that cause them to think that it is justified to give a particular text supremacy as more valid than another. The retort to their view must engage their rationales, not simply complaining that they are not giving equal authority to every text.

My own impression is that a more conservative view of the Bible as universally binding causes one to be invested in having every text agree with one’s paradigms and views, while those who admit that they don’t find all views in the Bible to be correct, should be more objective and able to admit when it says things that conflict with their own beliefs.

But qaz, the debate I see there is not whether the text says that God ordered such genocides. I think it obviously does, even while I question whether it is true or moral.

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Bob calling Davo!

Very true. I just wish I could get folks to buy into - these Bible verses!

Bible Verses About Zombies

It would be so much easier…when I discuss my theory…that Z-Hell (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9) is the most probable, end-times tribulation scenerio.

Folks can watch Fear the Walking Dead tonight on AMC…to see what this might be like.

Similarly to Bob, I don’t think there is an argument about what the Bible text says only about how to interpret it. For example has the human author of the text wrongly attributed the genocide to God? How was it explained in such a way that the text didn’t say God ordered the Amalekite slaughter?

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Regarding "God’s" instructions to exterminate the Amalekites, we read,

1 Samuel 15:1,3
Samuel said to Saul, “I am the one the LORD sent to anoint you king over his people Israel; so listen now to the message from the LORD.

Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.’ ”

Agreed! The text clearly says—that Samuel says—that God says—to kill babies. Yet nevertheless, here we are, broaching the question of whether or not “the human author of the text wrongly attributed the genocide to God.” But alas, maybe we are all guilty (with the exception of Davo) of doing something we shouldn’t dare to do?

I try to be consistent: I always challenge any biblical text which indicates that God is not the loving Father I know—that God would “kill, steal, and destroy” people. I do this by striving to properly distinguish between God and Satan (as spelled out by Jesus in John 10:10), and by recognizing that, like many believers today, the prophets, in their ignorance, sometimes failed to make this distinction in their writings—misattributing evil to God.

I would further argue that all of us subjectively apply filters, perhaps even in the face of explicit Bible verses that appear contrary to our viewpoint. (And after all, don’t we regularly play “Bible verse ping pong” with each other here?)

For example, my suggested “airtight” John 10:10 hermeneutic tool is nonsense to Davo, because ultimately, he doesn’t believe, as I do, that the devil even exists, and that he is “the god of this age” (2 Cor. 4:4), an evil person for whom the whole cosmos lies in his power (1 John 5:19).

To use his words, I would argue that Davo dismisses the “plain evidence of the text where the text clearly says thus and so…and claim[s] no it doesn’t.” Further, that he himself sometimes “introduc[es] rationales for discounting, dismissing, denying and destroying texts, as is well evidenced, demonstrated and practiced on this board by some.”

As one example, Davo refutes (what to me is) the plain meaning of texts about the very existence of the devil–texts which to me seem uncontroversial, like the following:

Matthew 4:8-11 (NIV. Cf. Luke 4:5-8)
8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor.
9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”
10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”
11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.

I don’t question the pot’s right, for example, to dismiss the devil, but it shouldn’t so blithely call the kettle black.