The three presenters also take issue with Childers for making “progressive Christianity” sound big and scary, based on lists of what those adherents tend to deny or affirm. “What a weird list,” says Schiess. Jethani wonders how Childers would categorize someone who doesn’t deny any foundational tenets of biblical Christianity yet believes systemic racism is real. “In some cases,” he says, “it is the Bible itself and the historic Christian faith that leads people to engage” in certain cultural and political issues.
Again, definitions matter, Vischer says, and a “lack of specificity” is “unhealthy.” While conversing, people need to clarify what they mean by terms such as “progressive Christian” and “social justice,” he adds.
John Cooper Decries ‘Elitist Snobbery’
In his rebuttal to the “Holy Post” episode about him and Childers, Cooper says he doesn’t mind a little ridicule and criticism. But after playing some clips of Vischer’s group, Cooper describes their attitude as “demeaning and smug.” In fact, he labels it as “elitist snobbery” because they’re “belittling things that shouldn’t be belittled.”
“I do like to go to war,” Cooper admits, saying the concept is scriptural. Talking about the armor of God isn’t a waste of time, he notes, because “the world is attacking” today’s young people. Its weapons include lies, progressive ideology, and “former Christians who have left the faith [or deconstructed] and attack it now.” Kids know this, says Cooper, because “they have eyes to see what’s happening to their friends.”
This deconstruction debate fits right into Cooper’s concerns about the “leftward drift of Christian elites,” who he says are letting down the body of Christ. Noting that a Skillet song titled “Stand Up” once appeared on a “VeggieTales” compilation, Cooper maintains, “Phil [Vischer] doesn’t need God to stand up for him for anything because the ‘Holy Post’ never says anything that’s gonna get outrage from the world.” Referencing topics such as abortion and sexual immorality, Cooper claims that Vischer’s podcast has “gone soft.”
‘There’s Cause to Freak Out,’ Warns John Cooper
Cooper points out that when writing about deconstruction, he and Childers don’t generalize but instead offer very specific definitions. Calling deconstructionism an epidemic, Cooper defends cries of alarm, saying, “There’s cause to freak out.” The trend, he says, is enmeshed with postmodernism, liberalism, relativism, and humanism.
Cooper also refutes the claim (from Schiess) that Christians can learn from people who have left the faith. “No, you can’t learn about God from people who have deconstructed and left Christianity,” he tells ChurchLeaders. “That would mean they have wisdom, and the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” On the other hand, “If people are re-examining their faith, then I certainly believe I can learn about God from them.”
That distinguish is critical, Cooper says. Schiess “makes it sound like everybody has good ideas about God. Whether they are Christians, nonchristians, pagans, hedonists, apostates—truth could be up, down, left, or right—no one really knows. This is the subjectivity that is leading so many people to say, “‘There really is no way to know for sure what the Bible means.’”
The list of progressive warning signs “is weird,” adds Cooper, “because it’s not biblical.” Yet it contains items that progressive Christians actually say. As proof, he reads from a recent Vox article about former evangelicals who are now “putting the American church under a microscope.”