Event Banner

Christianity vs. Progressivism: An Irreconcilable Clash of Worldviews


“Progressivism would have us turn our eyes to mankind and the clock to determine what is right and good. Christianity lifts our eyes to the Son of Man and the cross and calls us to cast ourselves before the cross where we can find mercy and forgiveness in our time of need.”


Light and dark. Oil and water. Mentos and Coca-Cola. Truth and error.

There are some things that just don’t mix, concepts that are totally irreconcilable, beliefs that contain polar opposite moral and ethical judgments such that to bring them together would destroy them both.

In our modern political climate, here is another set that cannot work together: Christianity and progressivism.

Why is this? Fundamentally because Christianity is the truth and progressivism is a myth.

What do I mean? As a worldview, a totalizing system, progressivism is a historical fallacy. It is the faulty belief that mankind is predetermined to “progress” over time, becoming better and better, more enlightened, simply because the pages on a calendar are turned.

Progressives view themselves as being on “the right side of history,” as if “history” — the mere passage of time — could render a moral verdict on anything. It’s worth noting that this is a very Hegelian, and also Marxist, understanding of history. Progressivism is not just a modern form of “classical liberalism”—no, it’s roots go back to much darker places in history.

As an ideology, progressivism, whether political or theological, “holds that it is possible to improve human societies through political action. As a political movement, progressivism seeks to advance the human condition through social reform based on purported advancements in science, technology, economic development, and social organization.”

The “advancements” of progressivism, however, fundamentally include a rejection of strong religious commitments and “ancient beliefs.” As a result, religious faith is no longer something that is meant to be a metaphysical ordering system for all of life, a way of knowing the One True God, but rather a set of personal beliefs that must always be “brought up to date with the times.”

While it has some different expressions, both political and theological progressivism share a lot of similarities — including the willingness to sacrifice truth for feelings and objectivity for personal interpretation. Theologically, progressives reject the belief that Christianity is the “one true” religion, or that the Bible is God’s inspired Word. Politically, progressives reject, to give just one example of many, the claim that marriage is only between men and women, arguing that marriage can be whatever people want it to be.

One Christian theologian, J. Gresham Machen, warned about the dangers of progressivism (also known as liberalism) over 100 years ago in a book that endures in its reach and utility today, entitled Christianity and Liberalism. He wrote,

“In the sphere of religion, in particular, the present time is a time of conflict; the great redemptive religion which has always been known as Christianity is battling against a totally diverse type of religious belief, which is only the more destructive of the Christian faith because it makes use of traditional Christian terminology. This modern non-redemptive religion is called ‘modernism’ or ‘liberalism.’”

What Machen is arguing here is that the fatal flaw with “liberalism” or “progressivism” is that it wasn’t just a different interpretation of Christianity but rather an entirely different — and therefore false — religion.

Even worse, the fake religion borrowed all the symbols and language of true Christianity, making it particularly confusing to spot and denounce. As one philosopher has noted: “Progressivism will hollow out your religion and wear its skin like a trophy.”

Writing for the Christian Post, Justin Steckbauer echoes Machen, explaining that:

“Progressive ideology essentially stems from non-biblical positions about the nature of truth (that it is relative), the nature of people (that people are basically good) and the nature of scripture (that it should change with the times.) It’s rooted in enlightenment thinking, modernism, and post-modernist thinking especially, which has surged across Europe and the United States in the last 30 years. Progressive ideology stems from the culture and politics of western civilization, slipping into the churches across the west and affecting the core teachings of many important movements.”

Steckbauer does an excellent job fleshing out how progressivism is an antithetical worldview in comparison to Christianity in three main ways: It rejects a Christian understanding of 1) truth, 2) people, and 3) God.

In short, progressivism argues that truth, right and wrong, and even our understanding of God not only should, but must, change over time and even be based on our feelings and personal experiences.

Against this, Machen explains how Christianity is based on historical facts that never change and those facts give us the doctrinal truths of Christianity:

“But if any one fact is clear, on the basis of this evidence, it is that the Christian movement at its inception was not just a way of life in the modern sense, but a way of life founded upon a message. It was based, not upon mere feeling, not upon a mere program of work, but upon an account of facts. In other words it was based upon doctrine.”

On the other side of this equation, progressivism wants to reduce Jesus down to some “good moral teacher” who teaches us about love and essentially endorsed socialist economic policies. Nothing could be further from the truth.

We know from the Bible that Jesus isn’t just a good teacher with an inspiring message that needs to be updated with the times to be more and more inclusive — no, He is Lord of all. We learn this quite clearly in Philippians 2:9-11:

“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ guarantee that there are fixed truths to this universe, truths that stubbornly refuse to change with the passage of time or mankind’s self-important sense of progress.

This means that the Christian truth claims about the world — how man is fallen, how truth is objectively determined by God, and that God is both Creator and revealer — are also unchangeable truths, whether in A.D. 50 or A.D 2050.

Progressivism is a myth. It is a historical and moral fallacy. Therefore, Christians should reject it, both politically and theologically.

The famous writer C.S. Lewis once had this to say about progress:

“We all want progress. But progress means getting nearer to the place where you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turning then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man.”

He is exactly right: We can only, ever, rightly make progress when we are going in the right direction, the true direction, and that is one that leads us closer, never further, away from our Creator God.

Progressivism would have us turn our eyes to mankind and the clock to determine what is right and good. Christianity lifts our eyes to the Son of Man and the cross, and calls us to cast ourselves before the cross where we can find mercy and forgiveness in our time of need.

Like I said, there is no middle ground between truth and error. There is thus no middle ground between Christianity and progressivism. No matter how enticing such a philosophy of mankind may appear, as it promises a release from all moral inhibitions and the shackles of custom, we are each faced with the choice that Joshua set before the Israelites in Joshua 24:15:

“Choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

Choose now this day whom you will serve: Christianity or progressivism? God or man? The cross or the clock? Choose wisely — nothing less than eternity hangs in the balance.

Follow William on Twitter! @William_E_Wolfe

Ready to dive deeper into the intersection of faith and policy? Head over to our Theology of Politics series page where we’ve published several long-form pieces that will help Christians navigate where their faith should direct them on political issues.

Not Just Conservative.

Christian conservative news and issues that matter. Curated just for you!

Tired of your social media feed being censored?

For more timely, informative, and faith-based content, subscribe to the Standing for Freedom Center Newsletter

Join us in our mission to secure the foundations of freedom for future generations
Donate Now
Completing this poll entitles you to receive communications from Liberty University free of charge.  You may opt out at any time.  You also agree to our Privacy Policy.