God's Existence, Science and Faith, Suffering and Evil, Jesus' Resurrection, and Book Reviews

Book Review: Another Gospel?

Book Review: Another Gospel?- Introduction

Historic Christianity faces challenges from those of different worldviews and faiths all the time. These challenges are usually obvious and are not as easily accepted without further investigation by those in the Church. If they are accepted, those in the Church know that they are leaving Christianity for a completely different worldview. However, in recent decades a new challenge has come against the historic Christian worldview, and that challenge comes from within the Church and purports to be "Christian." Recently it has taken on the title of "Progressive Christianity." It uses Christ's name and presents challenges in the names of love and justice. This deception initially shook CCM artist and worship leader Alisa Childers, but her investigation revealed the hollowness of this movement. 

In her book "Another Gospel? A Life Long Christian Seeks Truth in Response to Progressive Christianity" she recounts her journey of deconstruction, investigation, and reconstruction. 

My review will consist of the usual chapter-by-chapter summary and conclude with my recommendation. I will attempt to capture the heart and mind behind this book without giving away the best parts.

Be sure to check out Alisa's blog, podcast, YouTube channel for a continual stream of content related to Progressive Christianity and the many different ways it is sneaking into our churches. 

Chapter 1: Crisis of Faith

Alisa begins recounting her journey by setting the stage. She accepted Jesus at a young age and was immersed in Bible study and Church ministry from then through her teens and into her young adult years. She witnessed the changing power of the Gospel time after time and had no real reason to doubt that what she believed was true. It wasn't until she was a new mother that her faith came under emotional and intellectual fire. The challenges did not come from a skeptic, who she may expect to challenge her beliefs, but from the pastor of the church she was attending at the time. As challenges came, she later discovered that the pastor was part of the movement called "Progressive Christianity." The challenges were not intended to strengthen her faith by addressing the challenges as a "devil's advocate," but they were designed to help her "deconstruct" her faith away from the traditional (and true) beliefs of historic Christianity. The remaining chapters take the reader through Alisa's emotional and intellectual journey of dissecting her faith, investigating the truth of what she believed, and building her beliefs around what she discovered was true. 

Quote from Alisa Childers' book "Another Gospel?": “[My faith] was challenged in the pews of a church. It was rocked by a pastor who had won my trust.”

Chapter 2: The Rocks in My Shoe

Before Alisa ever spoke to this progressive pastor, though, many experiences in ministry did seem amiss. Those experiences that did not seem to line up properly with the Bible did cause her to want to question and investigate more. She describes several experiences that she perceived to be more about getting an emotional response to the Gospel rather than one that could withstand the challenges of life and skeptics. One day in a church where she was invited to sing, she was surprised to hear a pastor that seemed more calm, cool, and collected than the ones she'd heard all her life. This one won her trust through his thoughtful, humble, and authentic approach. After attending the church for several months, the pastor invited her to a special class that would intellectually challenge her beliefs. The pastor informed the class that he was actually a "hopeful agnostic" when it came to Christianity, and that was the beginning of challenging everything of historic Christianity from the inerrancy of the Bible to the atonement of Christ. 

Chapter 3: Creeds, Cobbler, and Walter Bauer

As challenges came week after week of the class, Alisa knew that the Christianity being promoted was completely different from what she had been taught and accepted as true. The progressive pastor was promoting the idea that early Christianity was not unified in their beliefs about who Jesus was, what He taught, why He died, and whether the resurrection was bodily, spiritual, or happened at all. Alisa set out to test this claim. As she researched the early creeds of the church, she discovered that the early creeds were concise, and that ensured easy memorization, accurate preservation, and reliable transmission of the content. This content established that the early Church was united in its beliefs that Jesus claimed to be God, His death atoned for sins, He was buried in a tomb, He resurrected bodily, and all of these truths are evidentially supported and inseparable from the rest of Scripture. Any belief that deviates from these affirmations simply does not match historic Christianity and constitutes a false gospel. 

Quote from Alisa Childers' book "Another Gospel?": “Between the pre-New Testament creeds and the New Testament documents themselves, we have the original beliefs that defined Christianity and made it unique in the world.”

Chapter 4: Fixing What Isn't Broken

As Alisa continued with the class, she noticed that most of the concerns with historic Christianity had little to do with intellectual challenges but rather experiential challenges. Many peers in Alisa's study group had stories of being psychologically and physically abused by those in power in the Church, having no safe place to genuinely express doubts, struggling with the moral demands of the historic Christian worldview, and even beginning to see biblical characters not as the glorified saints they were taught in Sunday School growing up but as seriously flawed and even treacherous individuals. "Progressives" see the failings and challenges of people and reject the beliefs of those individuals in such a way that they relieve even themselves of the moral demands- "progressives" attempt to fix historic Christianity by changing what is affirmed (or denied) or leaving the belief system altogether. Alisa points out that while these concerns do need to be addressed, they have no bearing on the truth of the historic Christian worldview- it is not historic Christianity that is broken but people. Thus "fixing" historic Christianity is not the answer. Progressive Christianity has misdiagnosed the problem thus provides the incorrect antidote- a completely different kind of Christianity. 

Chapter 5: A Different Kind of Christianity

In the effort to address these concerns, "progressives" change their view of several essential doctrines of Christianity, particularly regarding the Bible, the Cross, and the Gospel. They tend to deny the divine inspiration (thus historic truth and moral authority) of the Bible. Sin is not a problem in the progressive view, thus any kind of atonement was unnecessary, much less the bloody "child-sacrifice" of crucifixion. Like all the other religions of the world, salvation has nothing to do with forgiveness or grace. The "gospel," the way one is saved, is by doing good works of social justice and speaking truth to power. The crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus are central to historic Christianity; without them, there is no historic Christianity. But in progressive Christianity, the crucifixion and resurrection are, at best, foot notes on the world's stage (if they even historically happened). Because of these essential differences, progressive Christianity is not true Christianity even though it maintains the label.

Chapter 6: Nothing New Under The Sun

As Alisa has been emphasizing, this different religion has not appeared outside the Church but within it. She reminds the Christian that Jesus told us that both wheat and tares would grow together (Matt 24:30), and that it is up to the Christian to discern and test different claims to separate truth from error. Just as the apostle Paul called out the Circumcision Party, in his letter to Titus, for adding requirements beyond Christ's atonement to attain salvation (thus it is a false gospel and should be rejected), progressive Christianity must be called out for adding social justice to Christ (and also subtracting the atonement) as a false gospel that must be rejected. 

Quote from Alisa Childers' book "Another Gospel?": “We don't get to completely redefine who God is and how he works in the world and call it Christian. We don't get to make the rules and do what is right in our own eyes and yet claim to the followers of Jesus. Our only option is to do it his way or not at all.”

Chapter 7: For The Bible Tells Me So?

Alisa recalls the challenges that the progressive pastor questioned the Bible's transmission through the ages, causing doubt that the Bible that Alisa held was the original words written so many centuries ago. However, the foundation for rejecting progressive Christianity is not merely feeling or desire but rather the evidence and testimony of history. For instance, the academic discipline of textual criticism studies the transmission of historical documents. All the fragments and variations that the progressive pastor claimed was evidence of alteration and reason for rejection, in reality, stands as powerful evidence of reliable transmission of the Bible. Textual criticism is such a powerful tool that the more fragments that are available of a document, the more confident we can be of the original words despite multiplied variations. Interestingly enough, the Bible stands as the most reliable of all ancient documents via textual criticism- if we are jettison the reliability of the transmission of the Bible, we must also reject all other ancient documents. 

Chapter 8: Was It True Only For Them?

The progressive pastor not only questioned the transmission of the Bible but the accuracy of the original documents. He went so far as to say that Christianity started with Peter and Paul and changed doctrinally throughout history to what we have today, with his view being just another step in Christianity's evolution. With the reliability of the transmission of the Bible in place, Alisa turned her attention to the accuracy of the gospels: did the authors actually walk with Jesus, and if they did, did they have any incentive to record inaccurate information? Alisa points out four key factors: the disciples did not have incentive to conspire together to form a new religion so contrary to their culture; even skeptical scholars recognize that the gospels were written close enough to the actual events for mythologizing and misrepresentations would not have survived; the gospels contain numerous embarrassing facts that would not have been present had they not been true, and the gospels bear the marks of authentic eye-witness testimony. The reality is that the progressive pastor is simply wrong: what is written in the gospels was not merely true for the disciples but is true for everyone because it reflects what actually happened, and there have been no changes to those historic records. 

Quote from Alisa Childers' book "Another Gospel?": “I don't have the history of finding 'my truth' because I am committed to finding the truth. I want to know what is real. I want my worldview (the lens through which I see the world) to line up with reality. God either exists, or he doesn't. The Bible is his Word, or it's not. Jesus was raised from the dead, or he wasn't. Christianity is true, or it isn't. There is no 'my truth' when it comes to God.”

Chapter 9: Authority Problems

Because Progressive Christianity rejects the conclusions of the academic discipline that holds authority in this arena, it rejects the Bible as true and authoritative. But what is their view of the Bible then? They believe that the Bible was neither reliably transmitted nor was historic events accurately recorded (or more accurately that we cannot know the latter because of the former) and the Bible is simply not the Word of God. Thus bits and pieces can be believed or not believed depending on what parts "feel" right to the reader. This is contrary to how Jesus viewed Scripture (the Old Testament). He used Scripture authoritatively as He quoted it in rebuke of the Pharisees. Throughout history Christians have agreed with Jesus that Scripture is authoritative and that people have a moral responsibility to follow its moral commands. Progressive Christianity not only separates itself from the Church here, it separates itself from Jesus as well. 

Chapter 10: Hell on Earth?

Another key area where Progressive Christianity separates itself from Jesus is the doctrine of hell. Progressive Christianity denies the existence of hell due to the unpalatable feelings it gives. Alisa addresses some of the misconceptions that often lead to the denial of its existence. She explains that even though many have misunderstood what hell is and will be like, ultimately we have no idea the extent of the suffering because in this world, every person, saved and unsaved, lives in the presence of God who has not left evil unrestrained. In hell, because God will give all those who adamantly do not want to follow Him their wish, evil will be completely unleashed but separated from those who accepted Christ's atonement. No one wants those they love who are not saved to experience hell, and the only way for this to be ensured, even in the context of unbelief, is to deny hell's existence. But that is not an option that Scripture, Jesus or even justice has given us. Hell is real; there is a real decision with real consequences to be made; Progressive Christianity lives in denial of God's love and justice and in denial of reality. 

Quote from Alisa Childers' book "Another Gospel?": “The wrath of God means that there will be justice for the victims of the Holocaust. The wrath of God means that ISIS won't get away with its atrocities. The wrath of God means that one day all evil and sin will be quarantined and that those who have put their trust in Jesus will be entirely separated from wickedness and safe from the clutches of suffering and corruption forever. God's wrath exists because he is love.”

Chapter 11: Cosmic Child Abuse?

Roman crucifixion was a horrific, torturous, and bloody way to die. Progressive Christians do not wish to attribute Jesus' crucifixion in any way to God. So they deny that its purpose was to atone for sins. Rather they believe that it was the result of a mob that was angry at Jesus for speaking truth to power. They believe that Jesus' forgiveness of his executioners was merely an example for us to remember as we try to forgive those who wrong us. They deny that Jesus suffered the wrath of God for anything. Because the Cross was ultimately impotent to serve justice, God's love for the victim of evil is merely a feeling that He has done nothing to demonstrate; God's love for the sinner is merely a feeling that He has done nothing to demonstrate. This attack and denial of the atonement is an attack and denial of the love and justice of God- two key attributes of the Christian God. While the crucifixion was horrific, torturous, and bloody, it stands as a testament that God not only sees our sin and our suffering but became the answer, Himself, to both. The crucifixion was not cosmic child abuse. God is not a moral monster or even a moral bystander; He is the answer. Progressive Christianity ultimately renders Jesus and God impotent and unnecessary, and many followers of Progressive Christianity will follow this logical path in their deconstruction to do away with God in their belief system altogether. 

Quote from Alisa Childers' book "Another Gospel?": “Those who denounce God's wrath or accuse the biblical God of being a moral monster are often the very same people who complain that he allows suffering and evil in the world. Yet Scripture tells us of a God who not only gives us an answer for the problem of evil but literally becomes the answer. God looked on the evil and sin of the world, stepped into his own creation, and took our sins upon himself to effectively end sin and evil forever.”

Chapter 12: Reconstruction

Progressive Christianity looks appealing because of its emotional challenges to historic Christianity and its pseudo-intellectual veneer. In the final chapter, Alisa concludes that the essential contradictions between Progressive Christianity and historic Christianity separate the two to the point that they are different worldviews altogether. While Progressive Christianity wishes to call itself "Christian," that is a misnomer; what is offered is a different view, one that is devoid of anything solid. There is no joy in this life and no hope for beyond. The challenges of the Progressive Christian pastor caused Alisa to deeply study the details and the evidence of the truth of what she believed. The evidence of the truth of the historic Christian worldview allowed Alisa to reconstruct her Christian faith into one that is more accurate in its details and more solidly grounded. Progressive Christianity seems to be gaining momentum in the Church, but it is not because it is grounded in history or reality; it is grounded in shallow emotions that crumble once investigated a little bit deeper. It is the responsibility of the Church to guard against this false teaching and false gospel. 

Quote from Alisa Childers' book "Another Gospel?": “The strength of the evidence for the Christian worldview is so strong that one would have to willfully shut their eyes to it.”

Reviewer's Thoughts

In recounting her own experiences, Alisa Childers highlights what should grab our attention in our churches regarding the deception of Progressive Christianity, how it is to be addressed from a scholarly and biblical approach, and how to present it in a loving yet confident manner. Whether a Christian is merely concerned with some disconcerting things they are hearing in their church or is actively wanting to prepare themselves to identify the red flags when they come (they will), "Another Gospel?" is an extremely important book. It is an easy and enjoyable read even if you're not one for the deeper things of theology. Alisa has written this for the everyday Christian whose knowledge and passion is not necessary theology but whose knowledge and passion is Christ. It needs to be in the hands of every Christian and in the library of every local church. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. 

Related Articles: