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Monday, June 1, 2009

Dealbreakers for Christianity

Last week has sparked some interesting thoughts that I'd like to pursue.

My philosophy is this: a person is of course entitled to believe anything he or she wants to believe. However, if he wants to be called a *Christian* then he should adhere to the core beliefs of Christianity, rather than picking and choosing which beliefs suit him, and which don't.

So, which beliefs are the dealbreakers, and which are conflicting viewpoints that Christians may hold?

As far as I can see, there are three overarching possibilities of who/what God may be:

1. God doesn't exist

2. God is part of all things, including us (pantheism). In this belief system, all roads lead home, to god (small G); all beliefs are equally valid, and the only sin is to not be tolerant of someone else's way. We are all god, and we will all realize this one day as we dissolve into the whole.

3. God is a distinct Being who created all things, including us. Although there are significant differences, this idea of God as Creator is the one of monotheism (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam).

A subjective view means that there isn't a *right* answer: I like strawberry ice cream, you like chocolate. An objective view means that there is one right answer even if no one believes it: the Earth circles the sun, and the sun does not go around the Earth.

In discussions I have with people, there seems to often be a confusion between *subjective* and *objective* truth when it comes to describing God. Sometimes the person will tell me in great detail what his religious beliefs are, and when I say that I believe something significantly different the person will nod and say, great, that is your truth.

Let me ask a question though: Is God a flavor? Can this person be correct in saying this?

In my humble opinion, if someone can say that anything that anyone believes about God is true, then that person does not truly believe in God's existence at all. I can't say the flower is pure purple and you say that it's pure white, and we're both correct. Even if you are a pantheist, all statements about god can't be true because some will certainly contradict others.

OK, so if we agree that the idea of God must be objective -- there are certain statements that are true, and certain statements that are false -- how might we decide which are which?

I came to my own faith through studying the historic circumstances surrounding the death of Jesus, and the evidence was so compelling that it changed my life. Any sense of God's presence came only years afterward -- yet I believed that Christianity was true the same way that I believed in mitochondria -- I couldn't see them (except as a sausage-like blob in an EM that someone told me was a mitochondrion) or experience them, but the evidence was irrefutable.

I stepped back. IF the resurrection is true, THEN what Jesus said was true. I'd already researched the reliability of the New Testament documents and accepted that the Bible I bought at Walmart accurately conveyed what the authors wrote within one generation of the death of Christ. So, I read the New Testament to learn about what Christians believed.

I believe that God exists as a separate Being, and He longs for us to know about Him. He has described Himself in the Scriptures through the writings of many people. He takes what we do with this knowledge very seriously.

I have my own conclusions, of course, but today let me pose the question to you: What do you believe are the Deal Breakers in Christianity? And do you accept these beliefs?


Philangelus said...

Fortunately, the early church went over exactly this question so we don't have to. They came up with the Nicene Creed:

The Apostles' Creed is even earlier and even more bare-bones:

Both of these cover what the early Christians considered the dealbreakers for someone to call himself a Christian.

These discussions always seem to devolve into "Dad loves me more than you," so it's nice to know smarter Christians than me have already delved into the topic. :-)

Alison Bryant said...

I love your statement about God being viewed as a flavor. More and more even Christians seem to pick and choose beliefs (like you said)...almost like Christianity is a cafeteria line.

And isn't this how our society is set up these days? We're conditioned this way. Everything can be "personalized." My music, phone, computer, TV stations, Sonic drink, etc., etc. To a large extent I can surround myself with things to my specifications, and ignore things that aren't "me."
I see the common experience between people slipping away, even in Christianity. Praise God that His Spirit continues to speak His objective truth to us...if we listen. I pray that I do.

Gwen said...

Wow, great post, Amy.

I guess the dealbreaker for me is, "Who do you say Jesus is?"

He was a great teacher, a moral person, a revolutionary. A philanthropist, a leader, a Person of lowly means on earth.

But unless you believe that He was the Son of God, born to die a death profound enough to save sinners from the grave for eternity, you are not a Christian in the way I understand Christianity. Unless you believe the basic tenets of the faith, including the words Jesus said about Himself, you may be bumping up against Christianity but have not embraced Christ.

Great thoughts, as always!

Travis said...

I love your logic. Excellent work here, Amy.