A Review of "Another Gospel" and Thoughts on Progressive Christianity

Note: I read and reviewed this book for a discussion with Mobile Bay Pastors. 

The Emerging Church. Exvangelical. Deconstruction.  

Over the last couple decades, all these have been buzzwords and fad movements in the broader Christian world. In short, all assert that historic, Biblical Christianity has gotten it wrong, and what is needed is a radical course correction. While also responding to some legitimate abuses within the church, these movements ultimately reject numerous core doctrines of the historic faith. Progressive Christianity is one label of this trend. It is not “Progressive” in the political sense of the word, but it is theologically progressive, in that it seeks to update the faith and move beyond what it regards as backward beliefs such as the inerrancy of Scripture, penal substitutionary atonement, eternal conscious torment, and the Bible’s teaching on gender and sexuality. 

Just as the theological liberalism of the early twentieth century sought to preserve the faith for the modern world by stripping away “unscientific” miracles and supposed myths from the faith, so progressive Christianity seeks to re-voice the faith for the post-Christian world by stripping away socially unacceptable beliefs. While liberalism was "updating" the faith for a scientific age, progressive Christianity is "updating" the faith for a secular one. 

It is in response to this latest attempt at redefining the ancient faith that Alisa Childers writes Another Gospel?: A Lifelong Christian Seeks Truth in Response to Progressive Christianity.


The book’s title is drawn from Galatians 1, where Paul denounces the church’s first heresy, legalism, as “another gospel,” that is a gospel which is no gospel at all. 

Throughout the book, Childers recounts the story of her exposure to Progressive Christianity and the subsequent crisis of faith she experienced. Progressive Christianity, in spite of its use of traditional Christian forms, casts doubt on historic Christian beliefs. It ultimately replaces the Jesus of Scripture with a Jesus of tolerance and acceptance. 

As a result of the bewilderment she experienced from her interactions with Progressive Christianity, Childers rediscovered historic Christianity after a lengthy study of theology and apologetics. The book alternates back and forth between her personal story and her refutations of common Progressive Christian claims. Another Gospel is essentially an apologetics book, giving helpful answers to common questions about the Bible’s inspiration and canonicity, the reality of heaven/hell, and the atonement.  It is well-researched, with citations from numerous Church Fathers and from Christian apologists. For someone looking for a primer on Progressive Christianity and/or an introduction to Christian apologetics, this is a good place to start. Childers provides accessible explanations of well-honed Christian arguments to respond to the common claims of skeptics of all stripes, giving this book broader application than might first appear. 


As a whole, Childers successfully refutes the claims of Progressive of Christianity, while upholding the truth of Biblical Christianity.

Perhaps one weakness in her argument is this: Childers routinely contrasts Progressive Christianity with historic Christianity, potentially giving the impression that historic Christianity is in monolithic agreement on all point. Insofar as Progressive Christianity surely departs from truths held dear by orthodox Christians throughout the centuries, it is a fair contrast to make. But historic Christianity, while certainly enjoying agreement on basic matters like the authority and accuracy of Scripture, is marked by numerous disagreements on many matters. Giving more space to this point could have helped preempt the predictable rejoinders along those lines. But her basic point is well taken: where historic Christianity might fiercely disagree about the right interpretation of Scripture, progressive Christianity rejects the idea that there can even be a right interpretation, as the very text of Scripture itself is up for grabs. 

I also wonder as I read this book how pressing the issue of Progressive Christianity is. As a pastor, I have not often seen its influence within the church I pastor and have yet to encounter it among the churches with whom I fellowship. In conservative churches in my part of the country, Christian Nationalism and prosperity theology might be the greater threats at the moment. That is not to say that there are no progressive dangers to my left; it is to say that they are somewhat removed from my lane of travel.

What I sense anecdotally seems to be supported historically. The progenitors of Progressive Christianity--theological Liberalism, the Emergent Church--did not last long as distinct movements for the simple reason that their key assertion was that the Christian faith didn’t really mean anything after all. Progressive Christianity will fall prey to the same inherent weakness. A movement that rejects Biblical authority, institutional religion, and tradition is unlikely to capture or create lasting institutions. Indeed, its voice is in such close agreement with secular Progressivism as to be essentially drowned out by that choir. Eventually, the “Progressive” will erase the “Christian” part of the label. Progressive Christianity will prove to be more of a temporary off ramp from Christianity than a lasting destination. 

But that perhaps is its danger: its ability to exist in the shadows, to change forms, to lurk below the surface. While Progressive Christianity as a movement may not be highly visible (in my opinion), its questions and ideas are quite potent. It is often responding to real abuses, problems, and weaknesses within mainstream Christianity. It often asks the right questions (e.g. “why is there so much spiritual and sexual abuse within churches?”) but gives the wrong answers (“Because of Biblical authority, teachings of divine child abuse in penal substitutionary atonement”). The explosion of the deconstruction movement and the phenomena of the “Exvangelical” label demonstrate that, where Progressive Christianity fails as a meaningful lasting movement, it succeeds as a set of corrosive ideas that destroy the hollow faith of disillusioned evangelicals. Where the ideas of Progressive Christianity meet the doubts of a disillusioned evangelical, the results can be spiritually disastrous.


The danger posed by Progressive Christianity underscores the importance of evangelical churches teaching not only the “what” of the Christian faith but the “why” behind it. In a skeptical and online age, it will not do to simply demand conformity. We need to teach upcoming generations both the reasonableness and the goodness of our faith, particularly when it comes to the Biblical sexual ethic. We should point to both the Bible’s clear teachings (e.g. “homosexuality is sinful”) and the creational structure underlying this prohibition (e.g. God’s good design for male and female to reflect the gospel).   

Sadly, the lack of doctrinal teaching within many evangelical churches leaves many particularly vulnerable to the siren song of Progressive Christianity and deconstruction. When huge swaths of evangelicalism have been fed a steady diet of relevant life hack sermons, sanctified self-help, and culture war cliches, they will be utterly unprepared to answer the difficult questions posed by Progressive Christianity. Sermons need to center on the Biblical text itself and the doctrinal concerns presented on every page of the Biblical text. Preachers need to consider objections to Biblical truth raised in our culture and refute them. Theology and apologetics should be heralded from the pulpit, not sequestered off into the ivory towers of academia or farmed out to para-church experts alone. Furthermore, we need evangelical churches that make asking and answering questions a welcome feature of church life. When questions are off-limits, curiosity is piqued and skepticism begins to fester. 

In my judgment, doctrinally meaty and culturally aware expositional preaching would go a long way in equipping the Evangelical Church to be better prepared for the onslaught of doubt that is hitting many in our pews. It is the Bible, after all, that is designed to fully equip God’s people to live in His world. Expositional preaching further teaches Christians the actual content of the Bible in its larger arc of Creation, Fall, and Redemption. The more familiar we are with the content of the Bible--and its transforming power--the less likely we are to be swayed by worn out (and already refuted!) objections to its content. What’s more, the right handling of Scripture in the pulpit is the most natural corollary to the belief in the Bible’s inerrancy. Rob Plummer rightly decries the “hermeneutical failure” of the “preacher who bullies and blusters about the authority and inerrancy of Scripture while practically denying its authority through his sloppy preaching” (40 Questions about Interpreting the Bible, pg. 118). Perhaps, one of the best defense of the Bible’s inerrancy is the respectful interpretation of the Bible’s inerrant text. 

Finally, it bears repeating that Progressive Christianity often is responding to very real and legitimate problems within the Church. Dealing with un-biblical leadership, shoddy handling of the Word, personality cults, entertainment-driven “worship,” coverups, sexual abuse, and the like should be of utmost concern for Bible-believing Christians. A holy church is perhaps the best apologetic for the truth of Christianity. Judgment must begin at the house of God, and people of the book should be the first to act when the Bible is openly defied in our ranks. 

As a whole, Another Gospel is a good book that I could hand to the average church member to help teach them apologetics, shore up their faith, and answer questions they themselves may be wrestling with. 


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