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Are there required Christian beliefs?

Are there required Christian beliefs?

John McQuiston II, writing at Building Faith asks if there are any required beliefs to be a Christian?

It is commonly, and mistakenly, assumed that Christianity consists of a uniform set of fundamental beliefs. Although many assert that a person is a Christian only if he or she believes certain propositions, the particular propositions that one “must” believe have changed over the centuries and continue to change today. Christians – and there are two billion of them today – have always believed many different and often contradictory things.

Some Christians insist that the belief that Jesus was born of a virgin is absolutely essential to being a Christian, while others consider that belief irrelevant and misguided. Some Christians assert that one cannot be saved without being baptized, others do not. There are conflicts over the meaning of the Trinity, the authority of the church, whether there is a heaven or a hell, whether there is an afterlife. There are great differences over the meaning of “accepting Jesus” and “being saved.” The Book of Acts, the letters of Paul, Peter, John, and Jude chronicled differences among the earliest followers of Jesus. The two-thousand-year history of Christianity is replete with disputes over beliefs.

There have been many efforts to establish agreement among Christians concerning beliefs. It seems that we humans have a strong urge to seek uniformity of belief. Perhaps it is because we feel more secure when others believe as we do, ans we are troubled by those who challenge our beliefs. The need for other people to believe as one believes, and the fear of those whose beliefs differ, are powerful impulses. They have led to the redrawing of boundaries of communities and nations, to murder, and to religious wars.

Read it all here.

What do you think? How far does one have to agree with a set of beliefs to be Christian? Or should we not define what it means to be Christian at all?

Building Faith is a publication Church Publishing Incorporated. It was created buildingfaith to be an on-line community for Christian education and faith formation leaders. Clergy and lay professionals and church volunteers from different denominations can share knowledge and best practices, offering each other encouragement and practical tools.


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Gary Paul Gilbert

“There’s nothing wrong with not being a Christian” implies it is simple to define Christianity. It reminds me of the a former Dean of a prominent cathedral in the United States who said he found it hard to answer the question “Do you believe in God?” because he first had to determine how the questioner defined the term.

Some would even say that the opposite of faith is not doubt but certainty.

Gary Paul Gilbert

Harriet Baber

I don’t get this: I wasn’t suggesting that anyone, regardless of their religious beliefs, should be “rejected”–either from civil society or from the Church. Everyone, regardless of their religious convictions, including atheists, should be completely welcome in the church, to participate, and to receive the sacraments. There’s nothing wrong with not being a Christian: if there’s one thing I can’t believe is that God gives a shit about whether we believe he exists or not, much less whether we adhere to some transubstantionist Body-BloodSoul&Divinity orthodoxy. Metaphysics is speculative and inconsequential. And I say this as someone who makes her living by metaphysics.

There is however an important substantive issue that people who are deeply involved in the Church don’t recognize, viz. that a great many of us live in social worlds where religious belief is not socially acceptable and where atheism is the norm. To my ears, coming from there, the very word “atheist” sounds peculiar because atheism is the default: we talk about “theists”–a peculiar minority. We look to the Church to back us but the Church sides with the Cultured Despisers.

Now let me finish my piece. This isn’t only, or primarily, my problem. It’s the Church’s problem. I’m only speaking anecdotally, but I’ve met quite a few clergy and a number of lay leaders, who don’t think that the religious part of church–i.e. metaphysics and liturgy–is important or even interesting. They think what matters is do-good work, social justice, and such. Well that’s very nice but secular organizations–and the welfare state if we could only get one!–do a much better job of doing good and promoting social justice. If this is what churches sell themselves on they’re not going to have many takers–as we can see from the decline in the Episcopal Church and other mainline denominations. People who have these moral and political interests can, should, and currently more than not do satisfy them elsewhere.


“fundamental metaphysical claims, which are the essence of Christianity”

Well, sez you, Harriet—I guess you want to see *me* “rejected”?

See re my above comment: The problems associated w/ telling someone “No, regardless of how you identify yourself, you are NOT a Christian”* are so much greater than permeable boundaries of the label.

What’s wrong w/ a BROAD church, anyway? There’s room for BOTH Transubstantionist Body-Blood-Soul&Divinity “orthodoxy” *AND* “agnostic social workers who meet Sunday mornings”. If you call yourself an Episcopalian, and worship from the BCP, that’s good enough for me (OCICBW).

JC Fisher

Gary Paul Gilbert

It rather depends how one defines “Christianity.” There are narrow and broad definitions. Like R. M. Hare, I don’t think it matters if people consider me a humanist or a Christian. I will still believe/disbelieve the same things. Nothing changes.

I don’t think requiring people to accept the worldviews of previous eras will work.

For me, the tradition is responding to the needs of today with the available tools.

Gary Paul Gilbert

Harriet Baber

Excuse me, I attended Episcopal services for decades. I have no sympathy whatsoever with “Continuing Anglicans” or with conservative Evangelicals, whose primary goal as far as I can see is to promote sex roles. And I didn’t claim that ALL TEC clergy were in line with Spong but just that in my experience quite a number were.

I want to make it clear that what I’m complaining about here concerns metaphysics. I’m further to the left on ethical and social issues than TEC. But when it comes to metaphysics, look at the history: Bishop Pike, who lampooned the Trinity as “a kind of committee God.” Bishop J.A.T. Robinson who asserted, in 1963, that the very idea of a God “out there,” as an objective, supernatural being, was as ridiculous as the idea of a God “up there,” in the sky. And then there was Spong.

If bishops, who speak for the Church, are dismissive or contemptuous of these fundamental metaphysical claims, which are the essence of Christianity, what do you expect? And if the Church, as a body, doesn’t reject their repudiation of these metaphysical claims it is tacitly affirming their positions. And that ain’t good for religion.

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