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Book Review: Kissing Fish

Here’s something you don’t see often…a book whose content is unashamedly progressive in its theology and ethic.

You can look and find books that offer up a dose of high-minded liberalism, or passion driven evangelicalism, or esoteric emergent theology.  Try as you might, however, (and I tried) what you can’t find much in the way a progressive manifesto.  Until now.  Author Roger Wolsey is a Methodist minister who serves on the campus of the University of Colorado.

What makes Progressive Christianity a different from the other brands of theology is that, according to Wolsey, it is less interested in a religion about Jesus and more focused on the religion of Jesus.  Wolsey writes that Progressive as interested in Jesus, “his actual beliefs, practices, and lifestyle” (58).   It rejects what my Mission’s professor Jon Johnson called “fila’ of soul” evangelism (where you ‘remove the soul, save it, and put in back in the person, without any real concern for the person’s burdens, struggles, and needs).

Progressive Christian theology is also more tolerant (again, according to Wolsey) than other brands of theology.  With an emphasis on reconciliation, healing, inclusiveness (including other religions, alternate lifestyles, etc.) that Wolsey would affirm Progressive’s “inclusion” is not surprising.  Add to that the fact that conservative evangelicals reject these very things, and the notion that Progressives are open and Conservatives closed is fairly well accepted, though often (in practice) just the opposite is the case.  As a person who is far removed from the “conservative” theological label  (actually, I don’t like any labels) I have witnessed much among the Progressives that is closed-minded.  To Wolsey’s credit, however, his book was much more about what Progressives belief, rather than a polemic against Conservative (though for comparative purposes, some of that does take place).

The book is divided into two broad sections.  The first section is something of a systematic theology from a Progressive perspective.  I said “something of” because the notion of a “system” only occasionally makes an appearance.   In the second section, the book is more practical in nature, describing how the Progressive theology looks in social ethic and ministry.

Where I feel the book might have the most value is as a text for those who are NOT Progressive, but want to have a fair representation of what the theology actually believes from a self-avowed proponent.   Too often, in all brands of theology, those of differing perspectives are misrepresented by people who are misinformed.  Those wishing to actually engage Progressive Christian Theology in a fair manner will find this book helpful

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