Lowering the Standards through “Progressivism”

How the Culture’s Progress Reworks Sure Foundations

Christopher N. Croom, M.BEx.

(Approximately 4 min read)


Recently, the Daily Wire reported that the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), over the weekend of May 8-9, 2021, became the first mainline protestant denomination in the U.S. to elect a transgender Bishop; this, of course, occurred in California. One of the first comments made by the newly elected “Bishop” was to praise the synod’s decision and declare it to be a step toward dismantling Nicene standards. Why should the Church be concerned about that?

The Nicene Creed itself is a result of the Nicene Council of 325 A.D. That Council was established to combat two substantial heresies: Gnosticism and Arianism. Arianism is a heresy dealing primarily with the question of the relationship of the Trinity. Derived from its heretical Father, Arius, this teaching sought to argue that Jesus was a created being and not one in substance with the Father. The view of co-equality and co-eternality of Jesus with the Father was ultimately accepted as the official position of the Church at the Council of Constantinople in 381 A.D.[1] Arianism is said to have gradually died out after this time. However, it still pops up today amongst some mainline Pentecostal Churches under the title modalism.

Gnosticism, however, posits that people are only saved through specially revealed knowledge or γνῶσις (gnōsis)[2] and that the physical and material are unimportant and thus can be treated any way one desired or indulged in excess. While we are not incorrect in saying that with salvation comes knowledge or wisdom that is not revealed to the world, we are wrong in saying that knowledge itself saves us or that we can reveal God’s salvific truth through personal powers.

However, something interesting has happened in our current culture with this move. The culture has pushed much of the Church to undo the work of Nicaea and reinstitute Gnosticism as an acceptable standard. There are two pieces of the puzzle we should consider first.

The first consideration is that knowledge is not wrong. Wisdom is not wicked. Reason is not unrighteous. In fact, being created in the image of God means that man has a measure of characteristics that exist in God that are shared with us. Humanity can know, reason, and apply that knowledge and reason to produce wisdom, and we should. The logic and reason humanity is given should push us toward the clear and evident truth that there is a Creator who sits in the Heavens, and from Him, the qualities of the creation emanate. Thus, a clear reason should drive us to accept the existence of established order and One who establishes that order.

The second consideration is that Gnosticism does not point to the evil of knowledge but rather the misuse of knowledge. Gnosticism fabricates a faulty foundation about the origin of valid reason and understanding and shifts the authority of that foundation from a created order and its Progenitor to the product of the created order, which is transient in nature.

Today, our culture, in its rush to accept changes in sexuality and established norms, has pressured arms and elements of the visible Church to change. It may be easy for us to say, “well, that is not the true Church.” While this sentiment may be correct, it does significant damage to the true Church as it forces attention upon faithful churches to fall in line or be ostracized. While many of us would attest to welcome this persecution, it seems we do so without an eye to the real problem—or an effort to fight back.

The real issue is this: what have we done to counteract this and act as clarity (light) and preservation (salt) to the culture around us? How have we fought back against the educational and cultural branches of the new Gnosticism, looking to undo foundations laid in our Church for so long? You may preach the Gospel, and you should. However, have we also intellectually battled the “rulers” of our age? The word in Ephesians 6:12 is ἀρχάς, and means “beginnings.” It is used in many senses, some of which include “sphere of authority,” or “dominion,” or “first cause,” or “ruler.” This word is used to speak of conceptual and physical rulers. Do you realize that even when a physical ruler takes power, he first does so with an idea or an ideology?

The Church’s fight is against principles and ideologies in our current culture that are birthing new structures of power that affect the way the Church goes about its business. The Church has, for too long, played gatekeeper and given up ground in the places of society that truly create change. In return, we have allowed the foundation of a society to crack and be replaced with a new knowledge built on the foundation of humanism and Gnosticism, purporting to have a new-found knowledge only possessed by the enlightened of our age, which sets men free.

If the Nicene Creed is created on a foundation of the Church’s thought on knowledge and existence, it would seem the Church would want to combat an ideology that reworks both while providing new definitions for the framework from which they were derived.

Yet, here we stand today, as a mainline Protestant denomination supports the reworking of a sure foundation to produce something wholly unfamiliar to both the culture and the Church. While I expect the culture, separate from the ethical consciences of the Church, to be silent, I am appalled at the willful intellectual silence of the Church as a whole and call it to rise. Not just rise to proclaim a powerful Gospel that saves souls of God’s people, but to give that Gospel a foundation through the reason and logic of an ontological defense that reshapes a culture as well.

The purpose of a new Gnosticism is to lower the standard indeed. However, to be salt and light, the Church must endure the intellectual dishonesty and degeneration of this new secular religion and stand vis-à-vis to the cerebral dumbing down of a nation.

Fight the good fight. Grace and peace to you.


[1]              Faithlife Corporation. “Arianism.” Logos Bible Software, Computer software. Logos Bible Software Factbook. Bellingham, WA: Faithlife Corporation, May 13, 2021. https://ref.ly/logos4/Factbook?ref=bk.%25Arianism_Belief.

[2]              Faithlife Corporation. “Gnosticism.” Logos Bible Software, Computer software. Logos Bible Software Factbook. Bellingham, WA: Faithlife Corporation, May 13, 2021. https://ref.ly/logos4/Factbook?ref=bk.%25Gnosticism_Belief.

CROSS & Culture, LLC, 2021