"Progressive" - A Political Or An English Word?
I honestly believe that one of the issues surrounding this concept of the rejection of "progressive revelation" has something to do with terminologies that have been adopted from the American political space and consciously or unconsciously inserted into mainstream Christianity.
Generally, many Christians in the USA have embraced the concept of being seen as "Conservatives". This same terminology is largely used to describe the Republican Party in the USA. The term "Liberal Progressives" on the other hand is generally used to describe Democrats or the Democratic Party in the USA. Seemingly, many Christians, especially white evangelicals, identify with the Republicans and not wanting to be labeled as "Liberals", many of these American Christians have refused to identify with the word "progressive".
We must however, remember that the words "progress and progressive" are English words that actually have positive meanings and had no political meaning when they were first introduced. These words were in use in the English language to mean things like advancement and growth, before the formation of the Republican and Democratic Parties in the USA.
I will not continue to use this article to entertain the political meaning ascribed to the word "progressive". I would stick with its use in regular English which is still applicable to the over one (1) billion people across the globe who speak the English language.
Hence, I think the problem of "Progressive Revelation" primarily lies is the poor context of the use of the words "progress or change" in relation to God and Christianity. I believe that the politicization of the word "progressive" has somehow made it difficult for many conservatives to see it simply as an English word, which positively speaks to progress or advancement. The very mention of the word is akin to using a cuss word for some people.
We Must Not Change Scriptures With The Changing Times
Many who dislike or do not agree with its use in relation to Christianity also indicate that it speaks to changing the scriptures to suit the times and consequently losing the original meaning of it.
For example, this is notable in the context of same sex marriage, where some religious leaders believe that we should move with the times and "progress" into accepting it in the church.
In this context, where people believe that the meaning of scriptures change with the times, I agree that we cannot embrace the concept of "progressive revelation". We must be mindful that we do not change the meaning or application of scriptures to suit our ideas or idiosyncrasies. The Bible was not written to deliver man's thoughts, but rather to deliver the thoughts and will of God. Though it was not written in a cultural vacuum, its contents transcend all cultures. This is why at the end, every tribe, tongue, peoples, nation and kindred, are to hear the gospel and will be represented at the throne of God.
"And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come" - Matt. 24:14.
"And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation"- Rev. 5:9.
"After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands" - Rev. 7:9.
This is also why I honestly believe that though our methods of conveying the gospel has to change with the times, the gospel message itself must remain the same. The Apostle Paul spoke of the problem or consequences of people presenting another gospel.
"I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed." - Gal. 1:6-9.
As can be seen from the above scriptures, Apostle Paul indicated that the consequences of presenting another gospel to God's people are grave and we are hereby admonished not to go down that path. He further showed that preaching another gospel or changing the gospel is tantamount to pleasing man and not God.
"For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ. But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ." - Gal. 1:10-12.
Our words or preaching must be to please God and not man, for the revelation of the gospel is from God and not man. Hence, if your idea of "progressive revelation" is that we change the meaning and application of scriptures to suit the times we live in, then I beg to disagree with it. I will not subscribe to us preaching another or a different gospel, apart from that which was delivered to the Apostles and the early church as a whole.
Now let us properly analyze the concept of "Progressive Revelation" which I humbly subscribe to.
Adopt An Objective Approach
To better appreciate this we must become dispassionate and view the word "progressive" simply as an English word and not a political or even religious word. We would also use its synonyms "change and growth" as this will make it easier for us to objectively view the word and consequently the concept of it in relation to the word "revelation".
Remember that the word "revelation" which comes from the word reveal simply speaks to that which is uncovered so that it can be seen. So, for the purpose of this article I would also like us to see the word "revelation" simply as "understanding". This will help us better appreciate it.
Firstly, our Father-God is unchanging.
"For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed" - Mal. 3:6.
Secondly, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.
"Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever" - Heb. 13:8.
Hence, He is unchanging.
Thirdly, The Holy Spirit is eternal. Hence, He remains the same and does not change.
"How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" - Heb. 9:14.
Fourthly, The faith (Christianity) to which we have been called is one, hence, it does not change.
"One Lord, one faith, one baptism" - Eph. 4:5.
Our Father-God, The Lord Jesus Christ, The Holy Spirit and the faith (Christianity) to which we have been called, do not change because they are all at the Zenith of perfection and therefore, they do not grow (change) or need to grow or change.
However, we who have been called unto God, we His people, are growing or changing daily. Yes, we are maturing daily, we therefore, progress or change from glory to glory.
"But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord" - 2 Cor. 3:18.
"And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God" - Rom. 12:2.
Our call is perfect, our righteousness and holiness is Perfect, our spiritual nature is perfect, however, we are also being perfected daily as we renew our minds with the Word of God.
"And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness." - Eph. 4:23-24.
"Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more. Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." - 2 Cor. 5:16-18.
"Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God." - 2 Cor. 7:1.
Though our nature is perfect, we are still called upon to be perfect. This is because we are growing and are therefore, not at the zenith of perfection. Hence, the perfection to which we are called actually speaks to us maturing or growing in the Lord. Just as no one is born as an adult in the natural, so also no one is born as a spiritual adult. We are all born as babes and then called upon to grow.
We Are Increasing In Revelation Knowledge And Understanding
Our knowledge and revelation or understanding of the unchanging God and our knowledge and revelation or understanding of the new life that we have been given in-Christ is changing (or progressing) as we grow up in-Christ.
Hence, this knowledge or revelation of ours is progressing or changing daily.
Note, that the God that is revealed to us daily is not progressing, neither is the revelation of who He is changing or progressing, rather it is our understanding and or our revelation of Him, that is changing or progressing daily as we grow in-Him.
"But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day. The way of the wicked is as darkness: they know not at what they stumble. My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings. Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart. For they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh." - Prov. 4:18-22.
"Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church." - Eph. 1:16-22.
"Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall:" - 2 Pet. 1:2-10.
According to Proverbs 4:18, as can be seen above, the path of the just is indeed a shinning (not a shun but a shining) light that shines brighter (or progressively) unto a perfect day.
Just as the day does not instantaneously or automatically dawn, but does so progressively, so is our revelation of God's Word is described by Apostle Peter.
"We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts" - 2 Pet. 1:19.
Note the word "until". This speaks to that which is progressive and not instantaneous or automatic. That's the true meaning or context of "progressive revelation" that I believe we should embrace.
It doesn't mean that God or Christianity is changing or progressing, but rather that our knowledge of Him and of who we are in-Christ, what we have in-Christ and what we can do in-Christ is progressing or changing daily as we grow up or mature in Christ. Jesus Christ gave ministry gifts to the church to ensure that we grow up in-Him. He does not change, but we are called to change through the process of "progressive" spiritual growth.
"And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love." - Eph. 4:11-16.
Hence, every new born believer is called upon to grow through the milk of God's Word.
"As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby" - 1 Pet. 2:2.
Apostle John actually speaks to four (4) levels of spiritual growth, which are; little children (teknion in the Greek = Babes); little Children (paidion in the Greek = young child or simply children); Young men and Fathers.
"I write unto you, little children (teknion), because your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake. I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one. I write unto you, little children (paidion), because ye have known the Father. I have written unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one." - 1 John 2:12-14 (words in brackets are mine).
The knowledge exhibited by a baby, a child, a young man and a father, are definitely not the same. They are all at different levels of growth or maturity and therefore see the very same thing differently. What they are looking at is the same but their perception or understanding of it differs greatly. Hence, Apostle John was definitely speaking to different levels of revelation of the same Unchanging God and Christianity as a whole, by these different people or stages of spiritual growth.
Progressive Revelation Of Christ Is Real
There is therefore a "progressive revelation" of Christ, because our revelation or understanding of the Unchanging (non - progressing) God, indeed changes or progresses as we grow or mature in Him. When you tell a toddler about fire burning him or her when the put their hand in it, their understanding of what your saying is limited. But as they grow they get a better appreciation of what you told them earlier. The truth is that the nature of the fire never changed, the damage the fire does to the skin never changed, but the toddler's appreciation or understanding of it has changed. It has progressively changed as the child grew up. This is why Apostle Paul spoke about the difference between his understanding as a child and as a "grown" man.
"When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things" - 1 Cor. 13:11.
This clearly speaks to the proper understanding or use of the term "progressive revelation". It must never be used to change or twist the meaning of scripture, but rather to speak to the clarity we encounter and embrace as we grow or mature in-Christ.
"Progressive Revelation" must never be seen as change in the core meaning of the scriptures because this never changes. For the core meaning of scriptures to change is for God who gave us the scriptures to change. Since God remains the same and never changes, so too do the scriptures remain the same and never change. We however, who are called to follow God through the scriptures change because we grow and are certainly growing daily. Hence, our knowledge of God and His Word progressively changes as we grow, so we can come to the accurate knowledge and understanding of the Unchanging God. Yes, that is the proper use and meaning of "progressive revelation".
Praise God. I remain committed to making your life better. Until next time, keep feeding your faith and starve your doubts to death. Stay strong. I love you.