Junior Ganymede
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The Progressive Origin Story

August 10th, 2017 by Patrick Henry

Progressivism not only lacks a pope, it’s not even clear it has a Mohammed.

Modern progressivism is a Godless informally organized religion.  It has tenets, sacraments, conversion narratives, shibboleths, seminaries, apocalyptic hate figures (Trump, Hitler) and outbreaks of evangelistic fervor and heretic-hunting as is currently occurring at Google.  One of its tenets is that it is not a religion.  That tenet, like so many others, is false.Where did it come from?

First, it has some Christian/Protestant characteristics.  (Indeed, you find something that looks something like progressivism all the way back to Joachim of Fiore and the Cathars).  This cannot be denied.  It has taken a few elements of Christianity, stripped them of their context, and stupidified them.

The question arises, though, whether this feature is fundamental.  From an evolutionary standpoint, progressivism is a stealth religion that lives by invading and taking over existing organizations, while avoiding their religious antibodies.  Vague Christian precepts is exactly what one would expect from such a thing in a Christian environment.

I just ran across an article on the origins of Progressivism that is worthwhile.

The author offers the Socinians and the Arminians as the most comparable Christian sects to Progressivism:

 The Christian sects/tendencies that progressivism has the most similarities with are Arminianism and Socianism.

I don’t see it at all.  Free will and the Socinian hodge podge of beliefs hardly seem central to progressivism.  Creedal Christians would doubtless accuse Mormons of being Arminian and Socinian (ish), but we are one of the churches least infected by Progressivism around.  Meanwhile more strongly creedal churches have succumbed or are succumbing left and right: the Congregationalists, the Presbyterians, the Catholics . . .

I believe the Amish are also largely Arminian, as were the Southern Baptists historically.

The author says

The Darwinian observation that progressivism is an example of a religion adapting to a legal environment which forbade the establishment of an official religion, I grant

This doesn’t go far enough, not even close.  Progressivism exists in environments with official religions, as witness Scandinavia.  The author himself sees much of it evolving in England, where there was an official religion.

No, the  Darwinian landscape that progressivism is evolved to exploit is the landscape where exclusivist  monotheistic religions have strong antibodies to conversion to other religions.  The environment of post-antiquity, in other words.  It is this environment which makes a cryptid religion useful.


Also interesting:

I still stand by a point I have made previously, namely that the attempt by minority sects (Methodists and Presbyterians in nineteenth-century England, Roman Catholics in America) to demand public impartiality between the minority and the majority can produce many of the tenets of progressivism de novo

The main thrust of the piece is to exonerate Calvinism and predestination from the taint of being responsible for Progressivism, which is the main weakness of the piece, the point not being made with great conviction, but along the way much that is interesting is said.



Comments (3)
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August 10th, 2017 09:46:39

August 10, 2017

That last quote is interesting, and I agree with it. With the rise of Protestantism came the choice between constant fighting between sects over which would be the official religion of a place, or official tolerance of all points of view. To this extent I can’t help thinking that the Catholic Church of the time was right to consider the proliferation of sects not only dangerous to the traditional faith, but dangerous to society itself. From the time that official tolerance became public policy, it was only a matter of time before Christian values unraveled and society became secular, with the demand for tolerance of ever more unchristian views. And by now of course the tables have turned and we have intolerance of Christian views.

Because whatever people say, there is only one truth and one reality, so that even those who profess themselves tolerant of all points of view have to draw definite lines beyond which no one may pass. It’s just a matter of what those lines will be. I submit that the Catholic Church’s supposed doctrinal and moral rigidity and suppression of dissent was a careful effort to make sure the lines drawn were the right ones and that they would stay drawn, because if they were erased, God only knew what would replace them.

Bruce Charlton
August 10, 2017

Ultimately, I can’t be satisfied with an analysis that leaves-out some consideration of what God was aiming-at throughout human history (and pre-history).

I would also want to take into account the development of Man – the changes in ‘consciousness’, such that people in different times and places perceive reality differently – and this is related to spiritual progression/ theosis.

I think this kind of long-term account has to have an underlying idea of the direction and goal of creation, pointing beyond mortal life.

August 10, 2017

Your point about modern progressives stripping Christianity of its context reminds me of this Chesterton quote (since those are going around here these days)

“When a religious scheme is shattered it is not merely the vices that are let loose. The vices are, indeed, let loose, and they wander and do damage. But the virtues are let loose also; and the virtues wander more wildly, and the virtues do more terrible damage. The modern world is full of the old Christian virtues gone mad. The virtues have gone mad because they have been isolated from each other and are wandering alone. Thus some scientists care for truth; and their truth is pitiless. Thus some humanitarians only care for pity; and their pity (I am sorry to say) is often untruthful.”

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