How do we talk to our Christian friends who may hold to doctrines we think are unbiblical?

Hi @Logan_Gates !

Thanks for being here to answer some of our questions :blush:

As I read in Colossians 2:8 this morning:
Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principals of the world, and not according to Christ.

I’m burdened lately by my progressive Christian friends’ theology- often times, sounding so full of love and acceptance. I do believe they love Jesus. I’m concerned, though, that they’ve believed some lies…picking and choosing scripture/ following a “philosophy” of living a Christian life- instead of really digging in and knowing the truth.
I’m not sure they get the part of our Christian journey when we take up our cross…and sometimes following Jesus is hard. But, there’s deep joy there.
How would you suggest we reach these “already Christian” friends and family?
I admit, I sometimes have trouble sorting out the progressive ideas from the truth.
Thanks Logan !

PS- Our oldest son is Logan :wink: Great name!


Hello Heidi!

That’s neat to hear your oldest son’s name is Logan! I’ve liked having that name : ) I hope your son has too!

Thank you for your question. It’s one that’s close to my heart as well.

I went ahead and checked to see whether other RZIM Connect threads have pressed into this topic a bit, and I found one on “Can we find common ground with progressive Christians?” and another on “Have you seen liberal churches unite with conservatives?” Their thoughts are helpful.

I might just add one more dimension to consider, namely, what “kind” of progressive Christian we’re relating to. To give you a sense of what I mean, I think someone could call himself a Christian, hold a “progressive” view on a major issue (like sexuality, inerrancy of the Bible, salvation outside of Jesus, etc.), and yet fall into a one of several categories, which should impact the way in which we relate to him:

  1. He could be a new Christian still working out a biblical worldivew, and is still carrying with him the secular views he had before he became a Christian. Perhaps he’s had a powerful encounter with the Holy Spirit, but he’s not far beyond the faith of the “thief on the cross.” Like the thief perhaps he knows he’s a sinner, and that Jesus was not. He has sought Jesus’ forgiveness and trusted in Him as the only one who can save him. He has submitted his life to Jesus and to living under His lordship. “Reaching” a friend like this might involve being like Priscilla and Aquila, offering correction and instruction to Apollos in Acts 18:18-28. Someone in this category will have more of a “teachable” attitude, even if it might be hard for them to accept what submitting to Jesus’ lordship will imply on certain issues. Our job will be to show how what God’s Word has to say on these topics actually offers a better answer with a deeper beauty than the other answers out there. (If you have any specific topic that you find often coming up, I’d be glad to offer thoughts that might be helpful). The other day a friend of mine in this category (a new Christian, wrestling with what the Bible says on some controversial issues) remarked to an older Christian, “I’m starting to realize that my views on this topic are against both yours and against God’s.” I’m happy she’s gotten to that point – she’s on a journey, and I think she’s on her way to submitting to God’s Word on these tough questions. I should add, it’s not just new Christians who sometimes need to be corrected (2 Tim 3:16). I’ll just share personally in my life there have been at least three occasions when I have been “rebuked” for progressive views on issues that were out of line with Scripture. Some of those rebukes were delivered better than others. The rebukes that were most helpful (and for which I’m thankful today) were when I wasn’t just told “your views are unbiblical,” but rather had someone express kind concern for my viewpoint, give me a good book pointing me to relevant Scripture, invite me wrestle with the Scripture myself, and then be willing to walk through any questions I had. I felt “gently restored.”
  1. He could be familiar with Christianity, but has never truly grasped the Gospel message for himself. I have many extended family members in this category. They are culturally or nominally Christian. Some have even been in church most Sundays of their lives! In this case, I think we should engage these friends basically as non-Christians. We should be looking for ways to share the Gospel with them. That would mean applying all the Biblical wisdom I’m sure you picked up in the RZIM Academy :wink: like “majoring in the majors” – setting aside controversial issues for the moment, and instead trying to focus on sharing God’s reckless love for them, and what he has done on their behalf through his death and resurrection. With these friends, it might actually be helpful to call to mind something familiar to their Christian background (perhaps the Lord’s Supper), and expand on it – bringing it into relevancy for their daily life. Perhaps look for opportunities when they’re going through something hard, ask how their faith is helping them – share how your faith helps you, and perhaps ask if they have that kind of secure relationship with God that you have, through Jesus. The book on evangelism I’m reading and recommending these days is Rico Tice’s book Honest Evangelism.

  2. Lastly, he could be actively involved in a church and be promoting views that go against the clear teaching of Scripture on core Gospel issues. This would be someone who has resisted gentle rebukes (including perhaps from church leadership), and who continues to actively promote a view that would fall into the category of what Paul called “another Gospel” (Galatians 1:6-8). In this case, a key passage for us to wrestle with is 1 Corinthians 5:11-13, which tells us “not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.” We must read this carefully. Paul isn’t speaking here of Christians who simply have an odd view on a minor theological issue, but rather believers who are caught in serious sin or, as in the case of idolatry, who have distorted the Gospel. Furthermore, just a few verses earlier, Paul has clarified that he isn’t saying Christians shouldn’t associate with non-believers who fall into these categories – clearly Jesus associated with such people – and so should we! However, for those who “bear the name of brother,” we aren’t to “associate” with them in such a way that would suggest to them that we see them as faithful brothers and sisters in Christ. This is, ultimately, for their own good – that the Spirit would convict them and bring them to repentance. This doesn’t mean, I’m convinced, that we aren’t to lovingly relate to such people, or necessarily to leave off having conversations about God. Paul tells us, however, for their spiritual good, we aren’t to associate with them as if they were fellow believers. What this might look like is no longer praying together. It might look like simply expressing that, though you love them, you believe they have walked away from their faith to “another gospel.” It should certainly involve praying for the Spirit to convict them and draw them back into a full relationship with God.

These are three rough categories, and I imagine there are many who don’t fall into any one category neatly! My sense from what you’ve written is that you’re speaking mainly of people in those first two categories. I hope, however, it offers at least a high-level framework for how to lovingly relate to those who see themselves as Christians, though “progressive” on certain key issues.