Irony in Action: How a Progressive Christian Leader Fails to Live by His Own Standards

homosexuality pc leaders progressive christianity May 06, 2023

(originally published 8OCT21)


Irony: when you complain about others supposedly creating division and refusing to accept correction after you create division and refuse to accept correction.


Caveat: Some may think I’m mean here, and that’s okay. But am I right? That’s the important question. I think Keith was mean in his post, but I’m far more concerned about whether he’s right than whether he’s polite.


Caveat: I’m not addressing all Progressive Christians, but this does reflect my experience with some of them; it also reflects my experience with some orthodox Christians. In particular, however, I am addressing one of their leaders: Keith Giles, in his recent publishings. 


Caveat: I have debated Keith Giles twice, and both times he spoke well of me; we had become decent friends, to some extent, but then he blocked me for unknown reasons. I am saying this to acknowledge my own potential bias and to add backstory for why this isn’t just some random person to me.


So, what irony am I talking about? In a recent article, Keith Giles accused Sean McDowell, Mike Winger, and Alisa Childers of making it “their mission in life to demonize Progressive Christianity, insult those who are Deconstructing their faith, and create as much division as possible between themselves and everyone who doesn’t line up with their extremely narrow and inaccurate definitions of “Historic Christianity,” “Orthodoxy,” and “Biblical Truth.”” 


He also says that “Sean is the ONLY one of these voices who has ever responded to my messages, or replied to my comments or even acknowledged a voice that isn’t his own.”


But are these true? Let’s break this down and then see what’s going on.


First, Keith includes Mike Winger in the accusation. Now, I’m not an expert on Mike Winger, but I know that most of his videos have nothing to do with Progressive Christianity. Most of them are exegetical walk-throughs of Scripture or answering questions from his followers. Go look at his channel if you don’t believe me:

  • 20 videos on his “Answering Progressive Christian Memes” playlist (which means he’s dealing with Progressive Christian voices, which I’ll address in a minute)
  • 51 videos on his 20 Questions series
  • 12 videos on his Divorce and Remarriage series
  • 17 videos on Help for Atheists
  • 70 videos on The Gospel of Mark
  • 27 videos on How to Find Jesus in the Old Testament
  • 51 videos on Romans Vs by Vs
  • Plus 20 other playlists that are not about Progressive Christianity


Does that look like his “mission in life is to demonize Progressive Christianity”?


Second, he accuses Alisa and Mike of refusing to acknowledge voices that aren’t their own. Let’s see how that works out:

  • As already pointed out, Mike’s primary playlist on Progressive Christianity is response, not initiation. He’s responding to their content. That requires listening to that content.
  • Alisa Childers and Lisa Gungor: here, she holds a lengthy conversation with a current Progressive Christian.
  • Another Gospel: in her book, Alisa explains that it was her former pastor who, as a Progressive Christian/atheist, taught her Progressive Christianity. I have personally told Keith Giles about this, but to my knowledge, he still has not read the book nor acknowledged her testimony.
  • Response to Pete Enns: here, Alisa responds to Pete Enns, a Progressive Christian who criticized her. Of note, Keith actually commented on this video just a few months ago, well before writing the article in question today. So he knows (or didn’t listen to the video) both that Alisa attended a Progressive Christian church for a while and is responding to a Progressive Christian.
  • These don’t include any private discussions Alisa and Mike have had with other Progressive Christians, nor any books by Progressive Christians which they have read. I’m not trying to be comprehensive, and I am not an expert on their content, so they probably have more relevant content that I’m not aware of.


So, we have reasonable publicly available evidence that both Alisa and Mike do listen to “voices that [aren’t their] own.” That draws into serious question Keith’s second accusation. And given Sean’s extensive work on New Atheism and various other apologetics directions, we can dismiss the claim that he has made Progressive Christianity his mission. Alisa is the only one that fits. However, if we hold consistently to this standard that focusing on one subject is equivalent to demonizing that subject, then we have to ask: how much focus is Keith putting on Alisa? He’s written at least a couple of articles naming her and made several videos against her, all without her saying his name even once in any of her content. Let us be consistent, yes?


The highlight of the article

 The most important point that I want to bring up is this: who is Keith to condemn them for not responding to him? First, I want to be clear: I know who Keith is, both personally from having spoken with him at length and from his books (two finished, one started, the rest purchased/not yet read). I know who he gets endorsements from, and I know a bit about his ministry. But as far as I’ve seen, he has no moral authority over Sean McDowell, Mike Winger, or Alisa Childers to dictate to them that they must reply to his comments or be in sin. To the best of my knowledge, they have never mentioned Keith Giles publicly: meaning they haven’t responded to his books, cited his articles, or rebutted any of his videos. 


Now, if they were talking about him, by name, I could see a valid weight behind his requests; still not a moral weight, but a valid weight. For example, Mike has made a video or two about Brian Zahnd; I could see Brian having a valid expectation that Mike would reply to him if he reached out. Alisa has made videos about Richard Rohr; if Richard reached out to her, I could see the expectation that she would reply.


What Keith is doing is trying to control them. He’s trying to dictate to them how they spend their time, what comments they do or don’t reply to, who they do or don’t talk to.


I do want to be clear and keep this in perspective, though. I had first messaged Keith several months ago, offering to have the conversation he wanted with Alisa. I’m not on her staff, nor do I represent her; as such, I had no expectation he would even read my message, let alone reply and hold two 2-hour long recorded discussions with me. He did, and that was awesome. But he had no obligation whatsoever to talk with me.


I’m getting ready to email Bart Ehrman to ask him some questions. Bart, to my knowledge, has no idea who I am. Even if he did, he would still have no obligation to respond to me. If he does reply, that’s awesome! I’ve messaged Richard Carrier, and the same thing: there is no moral obligation for him to reply to me.


So, who does Keith think he is that he can make moral demands on people who, as far as he knows, have absolutely no idea who he is and, more importantly, have no moral obligation to him?


Enter the irony

Okay, now that I finished with his claims about their ministry, let’s get to the ironic part of this: Keith is known for creating division. So let’s see one of his articles as a practical demonstration: How Evangelicals Changed the Bible to Support Their Beliefs.


The main reason I call this article out as creating division is this: I have told Keith personally, directly, some of the problems with the article, and not only did he not acknowledge that I had corrected him, but he has refused to correct this article. Since I’ve already made a lengthy response video to the article, my responses today will be very short:



  • Homosexuality in the Bible. Keith starts the article by repeating the claim that before 1946, no Christians debated the morality of homosexuality because the word “homosexual” didn’t appear in Bibles until 1946. Technically, that is true. From Tyndale on, for 400 years, the word “homosexual” did not appear in any English Bible. But, of course, Keith happens to conveniently leave out that the word “homosexual” wasn’t coined until 1869 in Germany, wasn’t used in English until 1892, didn’t become popular until 1906, and had different connotations then than it does now. Surely that might explain why translators didn’t use homosexual before it was coined, right?
  • Philippians 2:10-11 and gladly. According to Keith, the word “gladly” is missing from Philippians 2:10-11, removed by evangelicals. His evidence? An outline of biblical usage that includes “joyfully” as one of four possible meanings. I tested that against the LSJ, Louw-Nida, LTW, M-M, DBL Greek, LXGRCANLEX, MCEDONTW, BTLNTG, LXGNTLEX, GELNT:ALBA, GELNT, CLCEGNT, GLRBPBC146D1100, and MGLNT. (I love Logos Bible Software.). And guess what? None of them say gladly. Some of them talk about praise or celebration, but none talk about gladly. So while I acknowledge that there can be some emotional connotations in the text that might include gladly, there is no mandate that it must be translated as Keith demands. 
  • 1 Corinthians 14:36 and “ἤ.” This one is even worse and much simpler. Keith demands that a certain Greek word, ἤ, is supposed to be translated as “what.” Here is some information Keith “does not care about” (his words about Evangelicals): 


      1. ἤ appears in that verse twice, but Keith only retranslates it once. He leaves the second occurrence.
      2. The word occurs 318 times in the New Testament, but Keith does not mention how it is translated in those other verses.
      3. All these dictionaries/lexicons that do not translate ἤ as “what”: LSJ, DBL Greek, LEH LXX Lexicon, LXGRCANLEX, LCEDONTW, LALS, LXLXXLEX, GELNT:ALBA, GELNT, CLCEGNT, GLRBPBC146D1100, MGLNT. 


  • Septuagint versus Masoretic on Isaiah 53:10. Keith, again, leaves out substantial information about this passage. Let’s start with one: βούλομαι, the word for “will” or “is willing” in the Septuagint.  It is translated 37 other times in the Bible as want, wanted, wanting, desires, willing, wills, planned, decided, intending, refuse, like, determined, choice, directs. In other words: Keith claims that Evangelicals aren’t using the Bible Jesus used, the Septuagint, because they aren’t translating it the way he thinks it should be translated… even though the Septuagint Greek consistently has the meaning that modern translations use.



As you can see, even if Keith is right that each of these verses can be translated the way he wants, there is substantial evidence in all three cases that the “evangelical” translations agree with the original texts. There is also justification for translators not using words that didn’t exist. So that makes Keith’s entire article not only misinformed but, because he has been corrected and refused to listen, slander. Is he willing to accept that he is sowing division among brothers? Is he willing to repent? We’re going on several months since I first told him of the problems in his article, and it remains unchanged. 



So, where does this leave us regarding the original article accusing Sean, Mike, and Alisa of “the unintentional abomination”? Frankly, it doesn’t seem like Keith is seeking peace, or he wouldn’t write such divisive and false content.