What is Progressive Christianity? Is it a branch of historic Christianity or something else? In this bonus episode, Sean has a conversation with Colby Martin, an author and progressive Christian pastor. They discuss how progressive Christians and evangelicals differ over the deity of Christ, nature of the Scriptures, and the resurrection of Jesus. This episode was first recorded on Sean's YouTube channel, which is in partnership with the Talbot Apologetics program.

Colby Martin is Progressive Christian pastor and the author of multiple books including The Shift.

Episode Transcript

Sean McDowell: Welcome to Think Biblically, conversations on faith and culture. A podcast from Talbot School of Theology, Biola University. I'm your host, Sean McDowell, Professor of Apologetics. Today, we have a conversation for you that I think you're going to find just fascinating. It's a bonus episode and it's with an author and progressive christian pastor named Colby Martin. I reached out to him a few weeks ago and asked him if he'd be willing to have a conversation with me, number one, to just model civil discourse, but also to bring some clarity on what evangelical Christianity and progressive Christianity have in common, but also where we differ. We talk about issues of the resurrection, how we approach scripture, what it means that Jesus is God. We touch on the LGBTQ issue today. And the bottom line is I think you're just going to find this so helpful and intriguing when we ask the question, "What really is progressive Christianity?" So as usual, we really hope you'll enjoy and consider sharing this with a friend.

Now, just so you know right out of the gate, this is not a debate. I've had a lot of debates before. I enjoy them. They're fun. There's value in debate. Colby, maybe you and I will follow up and have more of a why conversation. This is more of a what conversation. In other words, the whole goal here ... There's really two goals. Number one, model just a civil conversation between people who differ pretty substantively on important issues and also bring clarity where we agree and where we disagree.

So my guest today is willing to come on the show with a Christian apologist. We had never met before. Emailed you out of the blue. So kudos to you for coming into this lane. I know you have a background in apologetics. You know how these things can go. But Colby Martin has written a book called "The Shift" in which he says it's his move from conservative Christianity to progressive Christianity, and is a pastor of a progressive Christian church in San Diego really about an hour from me. So clearly qualified to engage in this conversation. Colby, thanks for coming on.

Colby Martin: Thanks Sean. Thanks for the invite too, by the way. Kudos to you for extending the invitation. It can often feel a whole lot easier and safer to just have the conversations with the friendlies. And that's good. That's important. We need that too. And I share your value of we also need to continue to figure out how to talk to one another when we disagree on things. So anyways, thanks.

Sean McDowell: Amen to that. You're welcome. Well, it's kind of obligatory in these conversations to start with somebody's story. And what I don't want this to be is story time, taking up your story, my story back and forth, but stories do help us understand where somebody's coming from. And in your book, you talk a lot about your personal story and how this shapes your journey. So why don't you go ahead and just give us the synopsis of going from conservative Christianity to becoming a progressive Christian pastor.

Colby Martin: Yeah. You bet. And please feel free to cut me off at any point, because I can be a bit verbose, Sean. My life motto is why use 10 words when 50 will do? So feel free anytime if you're like, all right, and now moving on. But yeah, in a nutshell, I would say this. I was born and raised in a Baptist home and then went to a generic evangelical church in my high school years after my parents divorced and really fell in love with evangelical culture and doctrine in high school. Went to a four year Christian liberal arts Baptist college. Got my degree in pastoral ministry from my Baptist college and then got a job shortly after college at a Christian missionary alliance church as one of their worship pastors. And then did full-time ministry for a number of years after that. All within this larger tent of what I guess we could just for the sake of today call evangelical Christianity.

Sean McDowell: Sure.

Colby Martin: And I absorbed it all. I almost said bought it all hook line and sinker, but that's a real I think cynical way that people were selling something. No people were legitimately passing on what was meaningful and true for them. In fact ... And forgive me. I'm sure you're on one hand, tired of hearing this, on the other hand may be grateful for the legacy. But your dad's book, "Evidence Demands a Verdict", was one of my favorite books. That and Lee Strobel, "A Case For Christ". I knew these books inside and out and love to draw from them and quote them and point people toward them. And so, yeah, I was just cruising down that path, Sean, of thriving in the evangelical world.

And then, like I said, a couple years after college, as I was working at a church was really when I began to for the first time be exposed to or even be made aware of that there have been different ways that good hearted men and women of Christian faith have understood what it means to be a Christian for 2,000 years. There's been different answers than this narrow ... For me, narrow baptistic, evangelical way. And that was super fascinating to me.

Wait. You mean people have been asking different questions and coming up with different answers? You mean Christianity is a lot more diverse than this little narrow Romans road sort of way of thinking about it? And for lack of a better word, that just sort of opened my mind to this place of, I need to look into this more. I need to ask better questions and I need to be open to the fact that maybe there's different ways of responding. And that led me on probably a number year journey of reading different authors and asking different questions. And then ... I don't know when. Maybe 2008, 2009 is probably when I pulled the last stake out of evangelical Christianity and was like I don't think I belonged there anymore or I don't think they would have me anymore. And now the past decade or so I've used this label for lack of a better one, progressive Christian. Because I think it fits me for now. But yeah. There you go.

Sean McDowell: Okay. Fair enough. That's a great summary to start with. When I read your book, it's full of some serious hurt and pain and rejection and it's pretty raw at times. So I'm wondering in your experience how much of this is due to the hurt, looking back on the way you were treated at times, let go from a church, from other people, and how much of it is theology that drives it or is it both? What's the train driving the caboose so to speak?

Colby Martin: Yeah. No, I appreciate that question. Because that is ... For those who are watching or may watch us back later, if you've ever had a conversation with someone who has left evangelical Christianity, you don't have to scratch the surface much to find there's a lot of pain there. There's a lot of hurt. And so I think your observation is spot on. For me, I come to the table with all sorts of what we call now layers of privilege. The fact that I identify as white, as a straight male. The world is sort of bent toward my favor in many ways. And so I don't have a lot of the same hurts that those who might identify as queer do or those who might be people of color. Women certainly have their own unique pain in this space. So I'm conscious of how, while I do have pain from my evangelical background, it's of a different kind.

For me, a lot of the pain was when I started to shift away from some of these evangelical tried and true answers, when I started to shift away from that or even just get curious about it, it was met with shame. It was met with rejection. It was met with, "If you don't believe that anymore, then you're no longer a Christian. If you don't believe that anymore, then you're no longer saved. If you don't believe that anymore, then you are outside of God's favor" or however that might be described. And that's sort of messaging is just painful. To tell people, you have to believe this or else.

I reference it a little bit in my book, The Shift. My book before that tells more of the story of how eventually I was fired from my church when my theology on sexuality shifted. So yeah. So in terms of real world pain, losing your job, losing your house, losing your livelihood. That sucks. Granted, I'm really glad it happened because my life now is full of so much joy and light and hope and goodness. But yeah, it was hard. So that's one way I'd answer that question.

Sean McDowell: So I guess what I'm getting at is when somebody goes through the shift you're talking about, how are you careful to say, "I'm not reacting against something emotionally because of this pain, but I'm really seeking after truth? "Because I'll see some people who will go through the hurt that you describe and say, "You know what, this is an example of a church that just didn't live the model of Jesus. It's not the position. It's the way people treated me. So I'm not going to reject the position."

Other people are like, "I've been hurt," and throw the whole thing out. So what does it look like for you in your thought process? Because my journey is a little bit different. I went through doubt. And I want to come back to this idea of certainty with you. But I thought things were black and white and someone wasn't a Christian because they literally just hadn't read my dad's book. How hard is it? The evidence in "Demands Verdict." There's the proof. And then you grow up and it's like, okay, things are a little bit more nuanced and gray and it's not that simple. But when I went through a period of doubt, pretty significant doubt, I told my dad who's this apologist and his response was, "Son, I think that's great." And I literally looked at him. I was like, "Did you hear what I just said? You're this apologist defending the world-"

Colby Martin: What happened to my dad?

Sean McDowell: And my dad's like the glass is 99% full. He goes, "Son, you got to follow truth. You can't just live on my beliefs. You have to follow what you think is real and I'll love you no matter what." And he said to me, he said, "Don't rebel against what you've learned because you're hurt or angry. I see that a lot. Only reject it if you're convinced it's not true." And that was actually really good advice. So I see what you're talking about in the evangelical church that doubt is a sin. We don't know what to do with it. We freak out. But Jude 1:22 is like have mercy on those who doubt. So how do you separate the hurt and the pain and the treatment that's there from saying, "Okay, was this Christians treat me badly or does that mean it's false?" What's that process for you?

Colby Martin: I don't know that the separation is super clear or clean and cut, Sean, because a lot of the hurt is a direct result of the theology. Is a direct result of the beliefs. I understand that it takes the manifestation of the humans doing the hurting, but it stems from harmful beliefs. So for instance, when a woman is told that they are not allowed to teach a man, that they are 49% of a marriage and a man is 51%, those are just inherently harmful ideas.

For me, it's all connected, it's all related and I would not and I do not in my own practice, I do not begrudge people. I'm not saying you do, by the way. I'm just saying I don't begrudge people who do ultimately say I need to leave this thing because of the hurt. Independent of as you call my ... Or as you might have referenced, independent of what may or may not be true. I don't begrudge someone who's like, "You know what, the pain is so intense and the harm is so severe that I want nothing to do with it." And I don't know how a ... I don't know what other response other than just looking them in the eye and being like, "Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. I probably would too. If that was me, if that was my story, I probably would too."

And to ask that person to return back to the source of pain, to have some sort of intellectual theological query to make sure that they really want to leave for me, is like although not totally similar ... Obviously it's a metaphor. Is like a spouse who is being abused by their other spouse. That person doesn't need to remain in that to figure out, well, are we really going to be compatible if we can get things figured out? It's like, no, there's legit harm, trauma, pain happening here. It's time to leave. So anyway, I don't know if that was an adequate response. It's just, for me, it's not necessarily an either or, it's a both and.

Sean McDowell: Okay. So that makes sense. That's helpful. I'm trying to get at the source and the basis of our beliefs. For me the bottom line, whether it's true or not is the primary question that should trump all other things. And I'm guessing you would agree with that when it's all said and done. I think this might be an area where we differ in terms of partly, it's not just the way you were treated, but the theology itself is harmful.

So one question I wanted to ask, and you might have already answered this is, had you been treated differently ... Because there's a quote I pulled up here I want to read. You said, "Many of us left conservative Christianity because of the lack of space for doubts and questions. You had to be perfect and shame thrives in those conditions." There's a lot of truth to that. I agree that sometimes doubt is the worst thing you can do in Christian circles and we put shame on people who doubt. And that's why some studies show that kids don't leave their evangelical faith because of doubt, it's because of unexpressed doubt. That they don't feel the invitation to express it. Do you think your journey or other progressive Christian journeys might be different if doubt and questions had been invited as a part of the Christian faith?

Colby Martin: Absolutely. So two quick thoughts and I will make them quick. One, yes, absolutely. I do think that a ton of traction would be gained by more churches being open about inviting people to have questions and doubts and just changing their entire posture on that. 100%. But then also I ... When I wrote that ... In fact, if I could go back and rewrite it today, I might try to get a little more clear. Because I think I was maybe being a bit reductive there. It's not so much the questions that weren't welcome. Even if that might have been true in some individual instances. It's more like the questioning wasn't welcome. Which is to say, people could ... I could think back to my youth pastor. He was totally fine with people asking him questions as long as when it's all said and done you'll land on the right answer. And for him, he had a very clear ...

So it wasn't just that questions are bad. It was, you can ask the questions, just know that here's the answer and you can't remain in a state of questioning. You can't remain in a state of what if I just don't know? What if I just stay in this place of not knowing? Is that okay? Well, the answer is yes it's okay. But what I was told was no, it's not okay. And then two, what if I land in a different place? So that's why maybe I regret the way I worded that just because it's not so much that questions weren't welcome, it's that questioning as posture and attitude was not welcome and then landing in the different place than the correct positions as stated by whatever church it was, was not permitted. Does that make sense?

Sean McDowell: Yeah, it does. And I think that's an area where we're going to find some agreement between the two of us. And I see that in the evangelical church. Questions are fine but questioning, people freak out. There can be shame. I see that in the church. That wasn't my experience. I mean, my dad distinctly said to me, he goes, "Son, I love you no matter what you believe. That's not at stake." And I think that really freed me up to be like, "Hey, if I don't think Jesus is, God, we're going to have a different faith, but we're in relationship. He loves me, cares for me." And it's that kind of posture that I don't think we do super well in the church.

Colby Martin: Fully agree.

Sean McDowell: Now let me ask you something. You probably don't expect this question. But imagine you're still an evangelical and you believed probably what I believe. That Christianity is true. But you want to invite questions. What would you do differently as an evangelical pastor to teach young people what you think is true, but not in a way that's dogmatic, requires certainty and undermines questioning that young people might have?

Colby Martin: Man. That's like asking somebody, imagine you were to play golf, but you couldn't use clubs. How would you hit it off the tee? Because I think my number one ... And that's probably a terrible metaphor. But I use about 27 metaphors and hope that one of them is worthwhile. I get the heart of the question. It's a fascinating question. But I think where I get tripped up, Sean is ... Forgive me if this overly reductive, but at the heart of evangelical Christianity is the belief, the assumption that what God cares about most is what we believe. A way to say that differently is evangelical Christianity is built upon that you have to have the right answer to at least one or two or three questions. This is the whole premise.

If you want to get to heaven when you die, you have to be able to have this correct belief. The whole thing is sort of built on this idea that what the creator of everything cares about most is what humans think. That they have the right data in between their ears. And I find that wrong. I don't know how else to say it. And progressives love the word problematic so I'll drop that. I find that incredibly problematic.

So when I think about your question, it's like, well what I would do is I would start by saying when Jesus was asked, what's the most important thing, he said, "Love God, love your neighbor, love yourself." When Jesus wanted to describe how people knew that they would be followers he said, "They'll know this. That you love one another." When Jesus asked Peter, "Do you love me?" And Peter's like, "Of course I do.", Jesus said, "Well, then make sure you get your theology right." No. I'm sorry. He said, "Well, then go feed my sheep." Which is to say friends, let's take the idea that we have to have the right answers off the table entirely.

Because this is what your dad did for you, Sean, is what I heard. Is your dad provided for you a sense of belonging. That you belong in this family, Sean, regardless of what you believe or think. And once you know that you belong, you have freedom to flex. You have freedom to move. You have freedom to ask and inquire and all of that because none of that impacts ultimately your belonging. And I think that is just a microcosm of what is true about all of us. That by virtue of being human beings on this planet, we are loved children of God who belong you might say in the family of God. And the idea of belief can just really be set aside for a moment and that gives people the freedom to flex and to be curious and ask questions. So that's what I would do and then I would ultimately still not qualify as an evangelical pastor anymore.

Sean McDowell: No, no. Fair enough. I think this might be another distinction. I don't think scripturally what God cares most about is what we believe. I mean, James two says even the demons believe and shutter. Demons have correct theology. I think what scripture says is what God cares about most is that we love him and love other people. But we can only properly love people if it's informed by certain theology about the character of God, the character of man, the nature of salvation. So I saw a couple statements in your book that are like ... I don't have them right in front of me, but if you think it's all about just getting the right answers, you've missed the boat. And I hear that, I'm like, yes. It's not just about getting the right answers. But that doesn't mean the right answers don't matter. It means we better know those answers and then be able to apply them.

Like if I read a letter of Paul, he spends a lot of time on theology, say the book of Romans. Then he gets to Romans 12 and it's like, now that you understand salvation and Jews and Gentiles, what does it mean to love people in practice? So I think that may be just a little difference between the two of us that I would say Christianity is not just ... God is not just interested in what we believe when it's all said and done. That's a fundamentalist way that sometimes in Christian circles we overemphasize at the expense of how that doctrine applies to relationships.

Colby Martin: Can I respond to that real quick?

Sean McDowell: Yeah. Please. Please.

Colby Martin: I love that you shared that. What's coming up for me, Sean, is that it feels like a little bit of smoke and mirrors. A little bit of look over here. Because what I mean by that is ... And maybe you are entirely different than what my experience as an evangelical was [inaudible 00:22:31]. And I totally hold space for that, by the way. And I hear what you're saying th at ... But isn't your take that when it comes to, if we just might say heaven and hell and sort of the classic evangelical doctrine of heaven and hell, that for a person to enjoy eternal bliss with God, that there has to be a belief. There has to be a confession. There has to be an acquiescence to an idea.

Sean McDowell: My answer is correct beliefs are necessary, but when it's all said and done the Christian life and evangelicalism is not about having right beliefs, it's about being in relationship with God and in relationship with other people. So even my relationship with my wife is going to require certain truths about who she is, how I love her, the nature of our relationship. The same is true with God. So I'm not taking away that we have to believe certain things to be saved. That is true. I think that's clear in scripture. But the most important thing is not just about beliefs for the sake of beliefs. It's about loving God and loving other people. It's about taking those beliefs and applying them in relationship. That fundamentalism, I think is about just beliefs for the sake of beliefs.

Colby Martin: Yeah. No, we agree there. It's just it sounds to me like you're saying 1A is the correct beliefs and 1B is working that out in love. But then you say at the end of the day ... And you say it's 1B, but it's not because at the end of the day, it still sounds like it is 1A for you. At the end of the day, you do get to the right belief. If those were ordered the other way ... Uh oh. Did I ... Okay. If those were ordered the other way, my understanding, my experience of evangelical Christianity is that that wouldn't count for eternal life. If your beliefs were incorrect, but your lovingness was correct. So anyway, we don't have to get hung up on this. I just feel like that I hear what you're saying and it sounds like you're saying the right thing, but I feel like if I dig just a couple inches further, I don't know that you can really get out of ... And we're not here to debate so it's not about that.

Sean McDowell: No. That's okay.

Colby Martin: I guess I'll just say for ... I'll say for me. For me, I still don't know how evangelicals don't at the end of the day, say beliefs are what matters most. Even if it's, like I said, a 1A, 1B sort of thing.

Sean McDowell: Well, to me, I guess it's easy. And I'll give a response, we'll come back and then we'll move on. Is that Jesus asked, "What is the greatest commandment?" So we're supposed to have a right belief about the commandment. It's love God and it's to love other people. That's why we're here. We're put in a garden to be in relationship. Heaven is described as a relationship. A city is relationship. We here for relationship with God and other people. That's what we're made for and that's how we thrive. So during COVID, you can sit around with the right beliefs, but if you're not in incarnate relationships with people, we suffer. So in our minds, we can separate right beliefs from action. But I think in principle, God is looking that we have the right beliefs about Him and we live that out together. That's why faith, as you talk about in your book, although we would little differ a little how to apply it, really means a sense of trust. Well, to trust somebody, I have to know certain things about this person and have certain beliefs about the nature of our relationship to trust this person. Trust is so much more than just having the right beliefs, but it's no less. Does that at least make sense? And maybe that's just scenario where we differ over it.

Colby Martin: Yeah, no, it's good. Yeah, we can move on. Thanks.

Sean McDowell: Oh, all right. Okay. Fair enough. Want to make sure you have a chance to speak. Let's get to what we mean by progressive Christianity, because this is where I think some of what we're going to talk about might be most helpful to people. So you have a definition in your book, but just tell us when you say you're a progressive Christian ... And I know you don't speak for all progressive Christians.

Colby Martin: Yeah.

Sean McDowell: I don't speak for all evangelicals. Tell me what you mean by that term.

Colby Martin: Yeah. No. I appreciate you stating that. Because I've had a couple of YouTube videos where some progressive Christians have been on there and been like, "This guy doesn't know what he is talking about. He doesn't speak for me." It's like, no, it's absolutely true. I do not speak for all progressive Christians. What I try to do ... I think about it like this. If evangelical Christianity is like classical music, then maybe progressive Christianity is a bit more like jazz, which is to say within classical music, you have pretty tight parameters around what can be done with any given piece of music. And if you fall outside of that, it might still be a nice piece of music. It just no longer would be considered in the classical. Whereas jazz, you have real loosey goosey, porous boundaries. You have a general sense.

Like here's the key that we're playing in. Here's a little bit of the time signature, although, hey, if you want to go from six, eight to four, four, just for one bar, ain't nobody going to stop you. Here's the tempo. And then there's just a lot of room to breathe in that. So when I think about progressive Christianity, Sean, for me, it's more like that. It's more like a movement than it is ... Evangelical Christianity, I hear what you're saying. There's some diversity there. And also there are organizations whose purpose is to stamp people with the approved, you are in the evangelical world and not. Like I remember in college, one of my professors had to argue like, "No, I'm not an open theist. Don't take my credentials away. I'm not one of those scary Greg Boyd types. But progressive Christianity for me is much more like a movement.

It's like a modality of Christianity. It's a way to practice your faith. And in the book I named four what I call markers. I don't know if I call marker. I call them markers now. Four markers of progressive Christianity. Which is to say this doesn't define progressive Christianity. It just says that chances are, if you move along the spectrum from conservative toward progressive Christianity, chances are the more you get this direction, the more likely the people will have these four convictions. One of them is an open and affirming posture towards those who identify LGBTQ. One of those is an egalitarian attitude and belief as it relates to men and women. That they're equal. None of that complementarian nonsense. Three is that there is an acceptance that the idea of white supremacy is a real thing and that needs to be dismantled and that there needs to be work to undo the damage of that. And then four is there's what I call an agreeableness to science, which is to say, if science reveals a thing to be true, it fits within the larger umbrella of what is true and we don't have to fight that anymore. So progressive Christianity might be more than that, but I think it is at least ... It holds those metrics to help people as they move along in that spectrum.

Sean McDowell: Okay. So let's aim for some clarity here. So take the first issue, women egalitarian. Obviously evangelicals differ on complementarianism. Some are egalitarian. Even at Biola, we have some who are egalitarian. A colleague of mine is. So that's one you could hold and be in the evangelical church. Second one when it comes to white supremacy-

Colby Martin: I'll say yes. I'll say yes. My point though is that there isn't going to be a person who identifies as a progressive Christian that doesn't hold those four things.

Sean McDowell: So it's necessary, but it's not sufficient. Fair enough. So what-

Colby Martin: Well, necessary and-

Sean McDowell: So in other words, to be progressive it's necessary to be egalitarian.

Colby Martin: Necessary implies that there is someone holding people's feet to the fire and they can take away their credentials. And again, when you're in a movement, that just isn't really the case. But I think I understand what you're saying. I just would push back on the term necessary, because there's nobody demanding that. It's just that you can expect that. You can make some safe assumptions of these four things.

Sean McDowell: Sure. But necessary meaning you're going to find this being the case, whether someone's enforcing it or not.

Colby Martin: Yeah. Gotcha.

Sean McDowell: It's going to be egalitarian. Second, you gave the example of white supremacy. Now, this is a whole other topic, but you're going to find evangelicals who even differ over how to make sense of critical race theory. Kevin DeYoung had a great piece from those who are totally critical and dismissive of CRT, some who see it more as a tool within evangelical Christianity. Of course, this ties to how much systemic injustice is there. Another conversation. But you're going to find evangelicals with a range of views on white supremacy, how entrenched it is, and how we fight it. So that doesn't seem to be, when it's all said and done, necessarily a dividing line. The third one ... Let me see. The third one you gave outside of LGBTQ was science.

So there's definitely a strain within evangelical Christianity that resists mainstream science. So young earth creationism. That's one strain that tends to have a warfare model with modern science. But there's a growing movement, say organizations, that embrace evolutionary creation. I have a friend of mine who's an evangelical Christian in terms of his views on scripture, Jesus, who believes God used the evolutionary process, believes there is historical Adam, would consider himself an evangelical.

So those three, it seems to me, you could hold at least ... I'm not making a point of whether I hold those or not. I'm saying in the broader evangelical community, people will hold those three and there's space for it. Seems like it's the fourth one, when you get to the LGBTQ relationship, that that's the dividing line where you and I are going to differ over this distinctly. I'm going to say no, doesn't represent scripture. If you go to an affirming position, you have left what I think scripture teaches and the evangelical church. So is that really the dividing line, if we had to narrow it down where now we've crossed threshold in your mind? Is that fair?

Colby Martin: I think that is an accurate assessment.

Sean McDowell: Okay.

Colby Martin: That is like, yes, you could hold a more progressive view on those other three markers, but once you cross into a full affirmation of LGBTQ people, that is ... For whatever reason ... And I have some ideas of what those reasons are. For whatever reason that has become the litmus test.

Sean McDowell: Okay. So let me ask you a little bit more what you mean by Christian. On page 10 you say, "When I say Christian, I do so in the broadest sense. My bars for what might render a person Christian are fairly low. For me, the term represents one, someone who's decided that in Jesus, through his life and teachings, there exists a trustworthy path for living full to the fullest and trying to live in that way. So in Jesus, there's a path you should follow. Second makes an effort to identify with at least some aspects of the religious tradition and heritage that emerged in his name." So Jesus is the person to follow this tradition he's left and identify with it in some fashion. As I'm reading this, I'm thinking, okay, a Muslim would qualify because they would say Jesus, born of a Virgin, did miracles, was sinless, the greatest prophet. And they would also say they identify with some of the Christian tradition. Although Muhammad was a later prophet that fulfilled it. Mormons would identify with this. Are you okay saying if they call themselves Christians, they're Christians or where does this openness start to get a little leery in your mind?

Colby Martin: I don't know that I agree with you that a practicing Muslim would read that description and be like, "Oh yeah, that applies to me." Yeah. Otherwise they wouldn't call themselves a Muslim, they'd call themselves a Christian.

Sean McDowell: Yeah. But I have a ton of Muslims who say to me, "You and I worship the same God. I hold Jesus in high regard. I'm tied to the tradition of Jesus." In the way you've written it here.

Colby Martin: Oh, okay.

Sean McDowell: But they would add more to it.

Colby Martin: Interesting. Okay. So you have Muslim friends that identify with aspects of the religious tradition and heritage. Like they do some things that are considered traditional Christian practices and traditions and rituals? I guess that surprises me, but they might be out there. Yeah. As I said in the section that you read, I do try to hold a pretty big tent for the term Christian. I'm nobody's gatekeeper. I was a gatekeeper for long enough and those days are well behind me. So I'm not going to be a gatekeeper for anybody. If someone wants to identify as a Christian, I might have some thoughts on that. Like good lord, there are people that ... We don't need to get political, but there are people that have identified as Christian for the last four years and I would have some real questions about that.

Like what the crap? That is not Christian as I understand it. But that's the term that they use. So yeah, my point in writing that is, I'm trying to describe what I mean by Christian, as opposed to create a definition that I expect others to adhere to. So that's really the point of that passage is I wanted the readers to know right up front when I say Christian, here's what I mean by that. I mean that someone sees in the person of Jesus a trustworthy and reliable way to abundant life. Like I am the way, the truth, and the life. And they're like, "Oh yeah. I totally buy into that." And also they make some effort or they try to engage in the heritage of Christianity. Like they have some connection to this religion is really the point. Maybe they go to church, maybe they don't. Maybe they read their Bible, maybe they don't. But they have some connection to their ... There's an institution known as Christianity. Me to identify as a Christian to say, look in some way, I'm connected to that.

Sean McDowell: Okay. All right. Fair enough. Let's talk about, you have a chapter where you talk about-

Colby Martin: It's totally insufficient for people and I get it. Like I see the people in the comments and I understand that people do not like ... And they want me to stop calling myself Christian. And I respect that. I used to be of that opinion too and it's just not where I am anymore.

Sean McDowell: Well, let's track with your position of God here, where you say, there's no progressive Christian way to think about God. Now you do seem confident that God is not a he, but my question is you also use the term that God is like an insisting force, which sounds like a personal being. In your mind, is God a personal being or a force or something else that I'm missing?

Colby Martin: I would say that was the hardest chapter for me to write. And probably the one that I would most like to redo only because ... And I was just talking about this with my wife the other night. This might be a quick tangent, but it'll come back to the topic at hand. One of the pieces of collateral damage that has happened for me over the last 10 years as sort of leaving my evangelical roots behind and moving towards something more progressive, one of the pieces of collateral damage in this is I feel like I have lost a bit of the personal aspect of God. That I feel like I have necessarily needed to allow some of those conceptions of God to die. For instance, God is not a white man in the cloud.

Those ideas, those metaphors, those conceptions necessarily needed to die for me because they were untrue. They were incorrect. They were contributing to harmful ideas. But I've been aware over the last several years more specifically, that what was left behind ... Shout out to Tim Lahay. What was left behind in the tearing apart of those conceptions was this amorphous, I don't know, capital S source. Like trying to figure out how to talk about a divine creator without there being a being in the sky somewhere. And language has just been entirely unhelpful for me in that. I don't know y'all. It's more like, here's what I can describe God isn't. I don't know. So when you say is got a personal being, the idea of a being, I do stumble on as though if we could just have the right telescope, we could see God somewhere as a being in that way, but personal-

Sean McDowell: Now, of course ... I mean, let me jump in here. Of course, no historic Christian would believe that. That you see God in a telescope. Because God is not out there. There's an interesting quote you have. You said, "God cannot be contained by language and does not exist as a separate being out there." So I would say, God can't be contained by language in its exhaustion, but that doesn't mean language cannot reflect in true ways what God is like. That doesn't follow from the fact that God can't be contained by language.

Colby Martin: Sure.

Sean McDowell: But God isn't a separate being out there because God is everywhere. But he's a distinct ontological being who is personal. All branches of historic Christianity would at least concede that minimal point. Is that something you're not sure about, you're hung up on, you're changing your mind about?

Colby Martin: I think what I'm trying ... Because the way that you describe it is lovely and great. I just don't don't think it's the boots on the ground way that your typical Christian, especially within evangelicalism, conceives of God. I think they hear that as sort of this highfalutin, philosophical way of describing God. For them, when they pray, when they sing their worship songs, there is a belief or an assumption that God is a being that exists somewhere. I know the telescope, obviously nobody thinks we can have a telescope. But the point is when they think about Isaiah chapter one, Isaiah in the throne room of God, and their minds are like, "Oh, that's a real thing that could happen someday to somebody somewhere is that they could be in a throne room and see God like God is a being."

And that for me is just wholly inadequate and not correct, but I want to go back to the personal part because that's what I was trying to name for me, Sean, is the thing that I've missed and has been hard for me. And I haven't been able to ... I mourn that part. And so I've been actually ... In fact, I got a book right here. I was just talking about it last night on our live podcast. I don't know if you know Richard Beck.

Sean McDowell: I don't.

Colby Martin: But he's got this new book out called ... Sorry, the camera didn't want to focus. There it is. "Hunting Magic Eels: Recovering an Enchanted Faith in a Skeptical Age". And for me, I'm like, I'd like to sort of re-enchant my faith a little bit, because I've lost some of that. So I do think that God is personal and I do think that one of the collateral damages as a result of my move towards progressive Christianity is I have lost touch with that. But that's more a reflection of my own journey than what I think is actually true about God.

Sean McDowell: Okay. All right. Let's flesh this out a little bit in terms of the characteristics of God. Actually, let's actually focus on Jesus for a second. You have a chapter on Jesus and you ask a question and you think, what do you think about Jesus? Now, we have an entire show on this, but the question Jesus asked was, "Who do you say that I am?" Some obviously said he was demon possessed. Some said he was a drunkard. Some said he was the son of God. I would answer that question obviously to our audience, I think Jesus was the God, man in human flesh. I believe that. That's a standard belief of historic Christianity, Protestant, Orthodox, Catholic. How do you answer that question about who Jesus was?

Colby Martin: I affirm Peter and his answer. You are the Christ. I affirm the early Christians who saw in Jesus the manifestation of the long awaited Messiah. They had anticipated that there would one day be another anointed one like Moses who would come and free them and liberate them at that time from their Roman oppressors. And there were those that saw in Jesus and his teachings, in his death and certainly in his resurrection like, "Oh, it's not the kind of liberation we were expecting. It's not the kind of Messiah that we anticipated, but he is the one we were waiting for." And I totally affirm that. I agree with that. I affirm that. It was within a couple centuries after that then I think the early church started trying to figure out how do we name all this? How do we talk about all this? Who we really was Jesus? What does it really mean to be the Christ, the Messiah?

And Bart Ehrman has some great research on how Jesus became God, how Jesus became Christ in terms of looking back at his life and saying wow. Like the author of Hebrews. When we look at Jesus, he was the exact representation of God, which I totally affirm. BT dubs. He's the express image of God. And then later on in letter one, John, which added even more down the road was like, what if there's three different ways that God exists in the world? What if there's God, the creator? And then we saw in Jesus, this unique express manifestation of God in human form. That's interesting in a way that we've never seen before.

But then also guys, we need to talk about the way that God seems to move in all of us and seems to reside. And so you have this God, the creator, God, the father, you have Jesus, the son, and then you have the holy spirit. And so this doctrine of the Trinity was their way to try to put some language around their experience. To try to name these phenomena that they had been witnessing over and over and over again. And I think that's a really helpful and useful way to talk about it. I really do. I don't begrudge those who hold to a real tight Trinitarian theology. I might asterisk a little bit here in asterisk a little bit there, but I think Jesus was ... To sum it up, I think Jesus was the long awaited Messiah who provided a type of liberation and salvation that was not in the way that the early Jewish people in the first century thought it would be. And I affirm that he was an express image, exact representation. So if you want to know what God looks like ... Here's the end of the story. If you want to know what God looks like, look at Jesus. That's the best picture we can get of who God is.

Sean McDowell: Okay. So if I'm tracking, are you saying that you affirm the Nicene creed classic Christianity, which has been affirmed across different Orthodox, Protestant, Catholic? Will differ over what it means that God is triune, differ over what it means the relationship between faith and works. But certain core beliefs have characterized Christianity since its inception. You're saying you embrace those core beliefs.

Colby Martin: I think I'd have to know a little more specifically what you're asking. What core beliefs? Not that it matters all that much. We're just a couple of dudes on a YouTube channel, so nobody's going to hold me do this, but it is more like, yeah, I think I would have to be a little more ... In order for me to answer with integrity. Because I don't want to just placate you or other people by yeah, I sign off on the Nicene. I don't know if I do.

Sean McDowell: Totally fair. So do you believe ... There's one quote. It said, "Jesus was human full stop." Do you believe he was God in human flesh? So you affirm his humanity. Would you equally affirm his divinity? Because that's something you don't talk about in the book?

Colby Martin: The reason why I don't talk about that in the book and why I would even hesitate to give an answer that I think many of your viewers would appreciate ... Which we talked a little bit about in our tech rehearsal. Just the way that I talk and the way that I answer is not sufficient for a lot of Christians and I get that. I've even seen some people comment like, "He keeps saying, I think, and for me, and I feel." I'm like, "Yeah, that's how I talk." I'm honest about these are my opinions and my thoughts and my feelings and you don't have to like them or listen to them. When you ask me that question was Jesus fully God, I say yes, knowing that what I mean by God is probably different than what you mean by God. So therefore if what you mean by God, are you asking, do I think Jesus was that, I would probably say no. How's that?

Sean McDowell: So what I mean by God is the eternal self existent, all good creator of the universe stepped into human race in the incarnation and was fully human and fully divine. That's the quick summation what I believe. Is that something you're leery to affirm or you're like, yep, I'm on board with that or no, I don't?

Colby Martin: I think the affirmation that was spoken over Jesus at his baptism, behold, this is my beloved and whom I am well pleased, I think that's an affirmation that can and is spoken over all of us. I think that all of us are ... And I said this earlier. All of us are children of God. And that's biblical. That's not just me pulling out of my butt. I believe that we are all beloved children of God. And so yes, I believe that God was entirely and fully manifest in Jesus of Nazareth. 100%. And Sean, I believe God is fully evident and manifest and in dwelling in you and in me and in kneekick103 and pudgenet and redeem52597.

Sean McDowell: So I guess look, I'm just looking for clarity. I look at Jesus and I say he's similar in the kind in sense that he's human as both of us, but he's different in substance because he's also divine. Do you accept that distinction and go, yeah, I was fully made in God's image, Jesus is fully in God's image, but there's a qualitative difference in who Jesus was and is and it is different in terms of his divinity than you, me and others?

Colby Martin: Yeah. I think if I could be so bold, the reason why you think that's the case is because people who told the story of the life of Jesus in the gospels and people who wrote letters later on known as the New Testament have said as much. So that's where you get that from. And that's wonderful. That's fine. But what I would say is that was their way of trying to name and describe and put language to their experience. So I ... Oh, I lost my train of thought. Sorry, my dog started barking and someone pulled up and I'm like, oh crap, can they hear the dog barking? What was your question?

Sean McDowell: So you were talking about how-

Colby Martin: Something unique in Jesus. I just think that I affirm that the early church was trying to make sense of everything. They were trying to make sense of who this guy was, what he was saying, what their experiences were when they were with him. And the way that they sort of concluded, the best way they could think to describe it was the talk about him as God. I'm like, "You know what, maybe I would've too." Like if, if I would've witnessed all that and seen all that, maybe that's how I would describe it too.

Sean McDowell: Would you affirm the historical resurrection that Jesus walked? He was dead, physically rose on the day as the first fruits with a resurrected body. Do you from that as historical fact? Because the way you talk about it in your book is more like a metaphor, not a real historical fact.

Colby Martin: Yeah. I think if you were to go back and if anybody wants to here by the way, you can go to sojourngrace.com. That's our church's website. And if you were to go back and listen to the last seven years of sermons on Easter Sunday, you'd probably get a bit of a sine wave on how Colby feels about this idea. So there'll be some Easter sermons where it's like, yes, literal bodily resurrection, empty tomb, 100%. Then the next year it'd be like, "Well, I don't know y'all." And then it just kind of goes like this. So Sean, I guess it just ... I don't know. I don't know. Some days it totally does not make sense to me. Like come on, body coming back from the dead. And then other days it's like, well, this existence that we have right now is pretty strange. I can't explain this either. Some things are pretty weird in life. So yeah, maybe the tomb really was empty and this guy did come back from the dead.

Sean McDowell: So look, this is helpful. All I'm asking for is clarity because we want to know some of the differences between progressive Christianity and evangelical Christianity. So you're giving what you think is your best answer and that's fair. That's all I'm asking for. And people are weighing in with their thoughts.

Colby Martin: Within progressive Christianity, you're going to have all sorts of different takes on that. You're going to have your empty tombers, which are literal resurrection. You're going to have it was a metaphor that was like Marcus Borg that was just, they experienced the resurrection in their heart. All of that is within this large movement of progressive Christianity.

Sean McDowell: Okay. Let's talk about your views on the scripture, because this is really at the heart of a lot of it. And you say that the Bible is inspired. Now, that's us using the same words, but I think we mean something very different about this, if I read your book correctly. When you say the Bible's inspired, what do you mean by that?

Colby Martin: Yeah, you read it correctly. So whereas I used to hold to the inerrancy of scripture, the infallibility of scripture, and then the inspiration, which sort of fed those other two highs, now I recognize that the inerrancy of scripture is an untenable position to hold and the infallibility of scripture really just doesn't make any sense. But inspiration for me, it's less now about a God who uses humans, you might imagine uses humans to be the exact pen to paper. So God's like, "I really want to write a book, but I don't have any hands. I need humans. I'm going to enter into this human and use their body as the meat puppet to write." So it's less about that, which is to say that every single word on the page is exactly how God would've written had God had the fortune of having a pen and paper and a physical hand.

It's less about that and more about what do I mean when I talk about God? Because I do. I do. I still believe that the Bible is an inspired work of art. It's an inspired collection of stories. It's an inspired collection of letters and poems. 100%. So what I mean by that, I guess, is I believe that it is a reasonable position to take that humans can be animated, for lack of a better word, animated by God. Humans can be caught up into what is most true, what is most real, what is most good, what is most beautiful. And there have been times throughout human history when in that place or in that state, whatever it is, if someone's writing something and it reflects what is most true, most real about the universe, it's like, well, it makes sense to talk about that as being inspired by God. That that is reflective of who God is.

Yeah. I'm conscious of the insufficiency of my answer when it comes to the inspiration of scripture. But I do hold that the Bible is inspired by God and that it may not mean what we've always thought it means. And I've been doing a whole series on my YouTube channel, by the way, quick plug, on the authority of the Bible and how I interact with the authority of the Bible. Do I take it as authoritative? So I've been talking about that for like two months now. But yes, I do think the Bible's inspired. No, I don't think it's inerrant or infallible.

Sean McDowell: Now, you have a quote in the book where you said ... Let me see if I can find this. Boom. The idea was, "That God beamed words to earth via meat puppet vessels known as Moses, Jeremiah, Peter, Paul, and so on." I know that's just a turn of phrase that you're using.

Colby Martin: Yeah, yeah.

Sean McDowell: But I actually, I know some evangelicals may think that, but I don't think that's a historic view of inspiration. That's why the Greek in Luke is different than say Mark or John. Because God uses human beings and there's a divine source behind it. It's not just inspired like Michael Jordan on the basketball court or Michelangelo or van Gogh. There's a divine source behind it.

Colby Martin: To be fair, I believe my example was LeBron James in the book, not Michael Jordan.

Sean McDowell: Yeah. That is a big source of disagreement between you and me, who is more inspired, but we will come back to that by the way. I noticed you said you could dunk easily in high school. I played college hoops and I couldn't even dunk-

Colby Martin: I miss those days.

Sean McDowell: In college. So kudos to you there. But let me come back. I want to make sure I understand what you mean by inspired. Because I would say Jordan was inspired. Of course I would say LeBron is an inspired basketball player. Michelangelo, Bach. But that's humans reaching their potential in a beautiful way. That's different than God coming down and being the source of something, which is more of the historic Christian view. Is that what you differ with? Did I characterize your view of when you say it's inspired fairly?

Colby Martin: I don't know. Maybe, Sean. I'm entirely conscious of how I'm coming up against the limits of my capacity to articulate this. And in many ways it's because I have a limited understanding of it. And I'm okay with that. I see some of the comments here. People are really not happy with me. And I totally ... I get it. I totally get it. I get that my answers are incomplete sounding and feeling frustrating and that's totally fine. When you describe back to me sort of this low level inspiration, no, I'm not talking to about that. I'm conscious of how there's that sort of low level of inspiration. And then the meat puppet idea is the plenary inspiration, this high level of God taking over humans to write. And it's somewhere in the middle there. And I don't have a better way to describe it other than to say, yeah, I think God inspired the Bible and the Bible's full of errors and contradictions. So that clearly can't mean this super high level of inspiration. Or it could and now we're stuck with the God who willingly wrote in contradictions and incorrect things. Which I guess someone could hold that. I don't know anybody who does.

Sean McDowell: That's a conversation about inerrancy and contradictions I would love to have. Obviously, I thought about this. That is another time, but it's obvious to our audience that that's where we differ, which is fine. You mentioned the authority and you've been talking about this weeks. So obviously I'm looking for like the summary of your view, but I've been reading some-

Colby Martin: You and everybody else, man.

Sean McDowell: So I've been reading a couple commentaries by Dennis Prager, who's Jewish and he writes one on Exodus, one on Genesis. And in the beginning, I forget which commentary it was, he says there's some really tough passages in the Old Testament. And because he believes the Bible's authoritative, it motivates him to go deeper and look for answers and reasons. And many time because of that, he's found some very plausible explanations he wouldn't have if he had stopped and just said, "Well, that makes no sense." So when I look at scripture, I think there's a sense of authority if I interpret it correctly. Whether I like it or not, these come from the source of God and it would be above me. And I'm not pretending I always live it. Fall short all the time. That is not my point at all. But there's authority because of its source. Do you hold that about scripture or does it have a distinct authority from any other book?

Colby Martin: Yeah. I think I had a similar posture as the gentleman you referenced, which is to say when coming up against something that doesn't seem to make sense or that initially disturbs us, keep going with it. Go deeper with it. And so that actual move, I think about Acts 17, the Bereans who were called by the author of Luke's as more noble because they dug deeper into this stuff. That was what I did and that was how I got to where I am today was by digging actually more into it and asking more questions and getting more curious about it. And this is one of the straw men that many conservatives make of those who identify as progressive is like, "Oh, you just are wanting to go where the culture's going or you don't like it and so you dismiss it."

I don't actually know any progressive Christians who got to their progressiveness that way. Almost all of us have taken our faith, taken the Bible more seriously, tried to get more curious about it and as a result have shifted away from some of our old beliefs. So yeah. So that's the same move I make, Sean, when I come to these passages. Deuteronomy. Yeah. Anything in the Old Testament where it's like, that does not ... I said earlier that Jesus is the ... Quoted Hebrews. Jesus is the exact representation of God. Anytime in the Old Testament where something is attributed to God, but it doesn't at all resemble Jesus, I'm like, let's focus in on that because something is going on here. This is not who God is. So what else might be going on here? Because that's who God is as Jesus. We can feel good about that. This kill every man, woman and child. Hmm. Something else going on here.

Sean McDowell: Okay. So if Jesus believed that and he affirmed the Old Testament, then there's got to be some reason for that if Jesus is God in human flesh, even if I don't get it. I don't like that. Troubles me on different levels. But if we have the scriptures interpreted correctly, Jesus really believed that. And I think he did. Then I look at that and go, Jesus is God. I don't have the authority to change his views whether I like it or not because Paul said, we see through a glass darkly. So I look at issues like hell, genocide, LGBTQ relationships, you name it, and my lens ... Now, there's other ways I will look at this, but a primary scriptural lens is what does scripture teach? Whether I like it or not, it's my job to follow what scripture says. It seems like you're saying, correct me if I'm wrong, genocide in the Old Testament ... And you talk about some of what you call the angry views of God that can't be right. So how that not a lens that's brought to scripture that it's interpreted through? Or is that not a fair question? That's kind of what I'm trying to get at.

Colby Martin: No, it's great. There's three or four things in there to respond to. So first, I think you're smuggling in, when you say that Jesus affirmed the Old Testament. That's fine to say that, but that's not the same thing as saying that Jesus would affirm a reading of these Old Testament passage where God commanded a genocide. That Jesus would then say that's how to understand that story and that's who God is. So I think we need to be careful about smuggling in our Protestant, Western American evangelical understandings of the Bible or the Old Testament and saying, well, Jesus, in a couple places in the gospels seemed to affirm something in the Old Testament, therefore he affirms evangelical readings of the Old Testament. No, no, no. That is a big leap in logic that I cannot make at all. Second-

Sean McDowell: By the way, hold on right there. That's not an evangelical reading. I mean, Jews would affirm that, Catholics would affirm that. Throughout history in so far as I know in scripture, Jesus says, "Have you not read?" He holds the scriptures authoritative and those views have been understood historically. So you're right. I would recognize there's a difference between an interpretation of those passages. But this is not just an evangelical view. This is the primary view throughout church history.

Colby Martin: I think we have to disagree there, Sean, only in so far as to say the Old Testament itself is sort of a conversation between different traditions. The priestly tradition and the prophetic tradition. So there isn't even a unified voice in the Old Testament, which is the Jewish Bible. There isn't even a unified voice there about the character of God, which is part of why you get to situations like ... Is it Micah? I desire mercy and not sacrifice. Well, what the heck? We just had this entire books of the Bible all about sacrifice and this whole system. And now this prophet's saying, "No, no, no, no. It's about mercy." And then Jesus affirmed that, "I desire mercy and not sacrifice." So I actually reject your position that there is this unified view of who God is in the Old Testament and that I'm an aberration of that in my position. Yeah. I don't agree with that characterization.

Sean McDowell: Okay. That's fair. There are so many rabbit trails I want to go down.

Colby Martin: There's so many. It's great.

Sean McDowell: We're pushing time here.

Colby Martin: I'm good.

Sean McDowell: You're good. Okay. Back to the issue of authority. Part of the question was so if Jesus embraces hell, I don't like it. Do I feel obligated to follow and believe that whether I like it or not? Or would you look at that and go, yeah, a loving God can't believe in hell. That is incompatible. Even if we interpret Jesus correctly?

Colby Martin: I kind of disagree with the question, Sean, because Jesus didn't ... Well, at least when you say the word hell, I really have to ask, what do you mean by hell? Because if by hell you mean Dante's inferno you mean that after life on earth, a soul might experience eternal torment, maybe even eternal conscious torment, which is like the most unjust unloving thing anybody could imagine. That conception of hell Jesus had nothing to do with. The only times that Jesus referenced what we might call hell he was referencing Hades. He was referencing a sort of literal physical place on earth that became this metaphorical representation for judgment. Nothing to do with life after death. Good gravy, Jesus didn't really care about life after death. He cared about life before death. So yeah, I kind of disagree with the question. If Jesus were to affirm something akin to the evangelical doctrine of hell, then that'd be really curious. That'd be like, "Oh, well, I guess I do need to maybe reconsider that." But when I did my deep dive into hell when I was in seminary, it was like, look at Jesus when he talks about hell. He does not talk about hell the way that evangelicals talk about hell. Full stop.

Sean McDowell: Okay. That's obviously an area we're going to differ on, which would take us aside. I guess the heart of what I'm getting at using the hell and genocide is not so much the particulars of how they should be interpreted

Colby Martin: Gotcha.

Sean McDowell: But the authority of Jesus. If he says something about natural marriage, if he says something about the afterlife that's uncomfortable, do you feel obligated to believe that because scripture is authoritative or not? Or is there a third category I'm missing?

Colby Martin: Well, when I talk about authority, when I talk about the authority of the Bible, one of the distinctions I try to make is that there's different kinds of authority. And for me, in order for authority to be what I call an agreeable authority, which is where a person willingly submits, willingly says, I acquiesce to the authority of whatever that source is, in order for that to be the case, there has to be a degree of freedom and trust and the source has to be good and worthy of respect and trust.

What I've noticed is that there's an expectation among some Christians that the authority of the Bible has more of what I would call a controlling authority, which is regardless of how we might think about it, if it says this ... And basically what we mean by that is if it says that and I interpret it in this particular way, then we're just stuck listening to it like a drill sergeant, because we have to take its orders. Whereas I would say for instance, if this passage says something about women needing to be silent in church, that should be an immediate red flag that there is something going on here that we should investigate further. And we shouldn't just be like, well the words on the page say it so we're stuck listening to it. No. We need to get curious about that and maybe figure out what was going on and does that still have anything to do with us here today?

And if at the end of that exploration, Sean, the answer is yeah, then I'm like, okay, great. Then we acquiesce to it. Yes. Yes. Jesus says, I tell you that if someone strikes you on the right cheek, then turn to them ... Or left, whatever. Turn the other ... That classic thing. For me, it's like, well, once we understand what that would have meant to his early audience and we can see how that plays out in human relationships, I willingly place myself under the authority of that teaching. And so when I get struck on the cheek, I might want to strike back. But the authority of the teaching of Jesus that I have willingly said is good and worthy of my submission tells me not to. And so it's got this guiding and correcting authority in my life.

Sean McDowell: Okay. Last question for you. I have so many questions for you Colby. Oh my gosh. I want to explore every single one of these rabbit trails. But this is it. I promise. You have a line in your book that says, "Fundamentalism is the type of extremism and progressives can be fundamentalists just as much as conservatives." Explain.

Colby Martin: Oh, I just ... Good lord. That was one of the earliest surprises to me when I ventured into the movement of progressive Christianity. It was like, oh, watch where you step because there are progressive fundamentalists just like there were evangelical fundamentalists. So I guess the idea of fundamentalism can just be described as it is our way or the highway. There's just one way to think about things and there's one way to do things. Everything's black and white. And that sort of thinking is not exclusive to any side of the spectrum. It can show up. It can show up anywhere. So yeah, within the movement of progressive Christianity, there are those that demand allegiance to certain ideologies. There are those that say ... At our church, Sean, we try to hold a really big bucket for a lot of diverse beliefs.

And we do a lot of work at our church to invite those who still have a lot of resonance with traditional Christianity and really like when the Bible is taught and really like when Jesus is sung about. And then we have those who are fully agnostic and are there for the community and really just can't stand it when the Bible is taught. And they all are part of our community. And the fundamentalism happens when those who are real anti Bible teaching or really just, I don't want to hear about Jesus, start making those who feel like they want that, they start making them feel like they don't belong anymore. So I guess it goes back to the idea of belonging. Fundamentalism is you don't belong here. You need to fit in. And the difference between belonging and fitting in is belonging is you just by virtue of being you, you get to pick up this space. Fitting in is you got to chop off this part, squeeze in that part, adapt that part in order to fit in here. And for me, fundamentalism is all about fitting in and having to change and be this and that can exist, I think on any side of the spectrum. And it certainly exists within the progressive world.

Sean McDowell: So thanks for your willingness to come on. Maybe we can follow up and have A, B or C in due time I think would be helpful for folks.

Colby Martin: Yeah. I think just one-

Sean McDowell: Go ahead.

Colby Martin: Can I say one thing about the clarity just-

Sean McDowell: Yeah.

Colby Martin: I just want to honor that in people. I want to honor that a type of clarity is really important to a lot of people and that makes a ton of sense. And I honor that. Of course, if anybody is of the opinion that they have to have the right beliefs in order to be in right standing with God, then that makes so much sense that they would then want to have a type of clarity and clear cut answers. And I just want to affirm that. That makes sense. It's just not where I'm at anymore and it's not where a lot of people who are in the progressive movement. It's like, you know what, having the exact answer isn't what it's all about. And so there's some comfortability with maybe having what sounds like less of a clear answer. It's not black or white. It's gray and gray doesn't really always feel all that good. So I just want to affirm that for the listeners or the watchers that you're not wrong when you're like, "Why can't Colby just give a straight answer?" Well, it's just not where I'm at anymore.

Sean McDowell: Thanks again. Hang after a minute. Want to just say goodbye. But again, thanks everybody for tuning in. It's a great conversation.

Colby Martin: Thanks Sean. It's been great. All right. Bye bye.