Progressive Biblical Theology

Arapaho United Methodist Church 

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Rev. Jack Soper, Senior Pastor oArapaho United Methodist Church in Richardson, Texas.

What is progressive biblical theology?

One of the values that we embrace as a congregation is "progressive biblical theology."  It's a method applied to the study of the Bible that has been taught in every United Methodist seminary for at least the last 65 years.   Biblical literalism or biblical inerrancy is the opposite of progressive biblical theology.

 Biblical inerrancy is the belief that every word found in the Bible was delivered directly to and then through each of the scribes who recorded "God's words."  Those who embrace biblical inerrancy believe that there is not a single word of the Bible that is other than God's word delivered directly to whoever it was that acted as its recorder.

There are insurmountable challenges that accompany reading the Bible that way.  The Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) was written in Hebrew and the New Testament was written entirely in Greek.  Given the fact that many translations of both testaments have been completed, and adding to that the fact that all of those translations are different, which one is the accurate translation?  Some say that the King James Version is the gold standard when in fact it has passed on numerous mistakes since it was written at a time (1611CE) that predates a multitude of archaeological discoveries that have allowed us to update the accuracy of the original Hebrew and Greek.

Through progressive biblical theology, the Bible is read as an anthology of documents that were written in different times, in various geographical locations and by very different authors and communities of faith.  As history unfolded, the understanding of God and God's nature evolved while our faithful ancestors developed clarity about God's will for their lives.  Each document contains in its unique style, vocabulary, emphasis, historical setting, cultural environment, context, etc., clues that help us learn the messages that biblical authors intended readers to hear.


Messages that come from reading passages of the Bible in their historical context provide hope, grace and confidence about the role that we are able to play through the right relationship that we can share with God today.

Blessings and Shalom,


Rev. Jack Soper, Senior Pastor oArapaho United Methodist Church in Richardson, Texas.

The two ways of being a Christian are often suspicious of, even hostile toward each other. From the earliest paradigm’s point of view, the emerging paradigm looks like a reduction of Christianity, a subtraction. Letting go of the notion that the Bible is a divine product seems to call its authority into question. Being relatively indifferent to whether the virgin birth and empty tomb are historical facts seems to call the divinity of Jesus and the wonder-working power of God into question. Letting go of the uniqueness of Jesus and the necessity of believing in him as the only way of salvation seems to call Christianity itself into question. Can one let go of any or all of this and still be Christians?

From the emerging paradigm’s point of view, the earlier paradigm seems anti-intellectual and rigidly (but selectively) moralistic. Its insistence on biblical literalism makes little sense, as does its rejection of science whenever it conflicts with literalism. Advocates of the emerging paradigm are particularly perplexed and often impatient with earlier paradigm’s subordination of women, its negative attitude toward gays and lesbians, and its preoccupation with conservative political issues rather than issues of justice. It seems to emphasize personal righteousness more that compassion and justice. And its exclusivism, its rejection of other religions, as inadequate or worse, is unacceptable. How can it be that God is known in only one religion – and then perhaps only in the “right” form of that religion?

Which God do you Believe in?
What Faith makes sense to you?

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