Wednesday, March 30, 2016

What I believe (and don't)

A recent conversation around the blogosphere has left me pondering whether or not my readers actually know my viewpoints regarding much of Christian theology. After all, the name of the blog is The Christian Agnostic, isn't it, and how many of my readers actually know where I stand on key issues of Christian theology? I'm not sure, to be honest. So, then, what exactly are my Christian leanings? That is, what do I really believe regarding the tenets of Christian theology? In light of such questions I have decided to compile a list that briefly surveys said beliefs, and it is this list that follows:

  • The Bible: I don't believe the Bible is perfect, inerrant or infallible. I believe it is a book written by wholly human authors that contains the same imperfections that permeate humanity. However, I agree with the writer of 2 Timothy when he says scripture is, "useful for teaching, reproof, correction, and for instruction righteousness." It is, to me, a medium that does in fact aid us in growing more intimate with God, despite its shortcomings.
  • Biblical Criticism: I generally believe what the consensus of scholars and historians have inferred about the documents that make up the Bible, as well as what they have concluded about the Israelite culture. For example, I believe the Israelites came from Canaan  (and not from Egypt), that the book of Isaiah is composed of multiple authors, that the book of Daniel was written years after the events it "predicts" etc. 
  • Genesis: I don't take the opening chapters of Genesis as history--the rest of Genesis is most likely an etiology. I don't believe in Adam and Eve or the story that describes their supposed fall. This, to me, is just another creation myth--albeit the most sophisticated of the ancient Near East--most likely promulgated in contrast to the opposing pagan creation myths of the time. However, I do believe that it communicates an important point: we are fallen creatures who have removed God from the pedestal.
  • Jesus: I don't believe Jesus was God, and it seems pretty clear to me that some of the earliest sources that attest to Jesus--Paul, Mark, and Matthew--have little idea of such a concept. I agree with the majority of scholars that Jesus was most likely a self-proclaimed eschatological prophet who sincerely believed that the end of the world was coming in his follower's lifetime. That being said, none of this turns me away from Jesus. I do believe his words should be heeded--as long as they're interpreted in light of his radical eschatology--despite his mistakes. And I do, especially, believe that Jesus is the best moral prophet to grace mankind, and that he gave us the best example of what a life devoted to God looks like--again, as long as we interpret his life in terms of his extreme apocalyptic worldview. Jesus is, to me, still the best gateway we have to the mind of God, and takes us as close as we can be to the face of God himself. 
  • Trinity/Incarnation: Since I don't believe that Jesus was God in the flesh, then I obviously don't believe in the incarnation, or the trinity. Both of these concepts, as I hinted to earlier, seem to not have been promulgated by the earliest Christians. There are only verses here and there, mostly from the later New Testament writings, that even seem to hint at such things. (In fact I believe that if we were to read the Bible from a fresh perspective, with no previous assumptions from outside sources--e.g. the Nicene Creed--we wouldn't close the Bible thinking that there was anything like a trinitarian ontology promulgated.) 
  • Atonement: I don't believe Jesus atoned for anyone's sins, and while the Christus Victor theory of atonement appeals to me, it only does so in a metaphorical sense. And I certainly do not hold to the Penal Substitution theory, which seems to make a mockery of any God worthy of worship. 
  • Jesus' resurrection: I believe, or at most hope, that Jesus resurrected from the dead. However, I don't believe that the evidential arguments for his resurrection are without their flaws. And I certainly don't believe that said arguments are overwhelmingly irresistible or undeniable. A reasonable person can very much be skeptical about such things, and, if they don't believe in God, then their skepticism is even more warranted.
  • Heaven/Hell: I definitely believe in an afterlife--for both logical and emotional reasons. But I don't think anybody knows what the nature of such a life will be. Heaven and Hell, to me, are in the same camp as the opening of Genesis: they are myths that we have constructed to make sense of what we deeply take to be true. In any event, if God does exist, and if he is infinitely loving, and if heaven and hell do indeed exist as well, then I can't help but be a universalist. Moreover, on these conditions, I believe that hell is only temporary, and, in some sense, simply a mental anguish created from enmity towards all that is good and just (i.e. God himself).

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