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HolyGround >> What is a Christian?


8/2/12 4:55 PM
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Grakman
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I wrote a tongue-in-cheek post in another thread wondering aloud whether I should call myself a Christian anymore. I actually began to reflect on that question and was surprised at the answer. I don't think I fit the label of Christian anymore. Here's why:

1) I don't believe in any the penal substitution, Christus Victor, or governmental theories of the atonement; I do however accept the atonement theory of moral transformation through Jesus' death on the cross as a sacrificial act of martyrdom.

2) I don't believe in the Trinity, or I should say that having an understanding of the Trinity is irrelevant to the Christian life (in my opinion.)

3) I don't believe in the virgin birth (again, irrelevant.)

4) I don't believe in eternal hell, or a hell of literal flames period.

5) I don't believe the Bible is inerrant or infallibly inspired.

6) I don't believe in original sin.

Now, is it just me or aren't those beliefs the 'core' of Christian theology and doctrine? I have continued to call myself a Christian because I love Jesus as revealed in the Gospels and try to follow his example to the best of my ability as I understand it, but these days I'm not sure that's enough to call oneself a Christian.

What say you, HG? Comments, criticisms, suggestions are all welcome.
8/2/12 6:45 PM
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gord96
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You're still a Christian in my opinion. I share a few of your beliefs myself. :)

Wish I had more to say, but I don't really feel like defining what a Christian is. ;)
8/2/12 9:42 PM
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Demitrius Barbito
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 http://whatwoulddemido.blogspot.com/
8/2/12 9:45 PM
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Ali
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Edited: 08/02/12 9:49 PM
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It looks to me like you're a Christian. I'll say that very provisionally [and with fair warning that I don't identify as a Christian or have any attachment to whether you do or not. And no attachment to whether how it looks to me matters to anyone else, either -- just... trying to situate, here].

I don't understand fully your point number 1. What is the theory, exactly, that you identify as "the atonement theory of moral transformation through Jesus' death on the cross as a sacrificial act of martyrdom" ?

I don't know how to ask more without sounding like a wiseguy, which is not my intent. (i.e., "did his having to pay the death penalty atone for your various sins"? Something like that? I will stop for fear of getting in too deep or getting off track).

I think many, many people who self-identify as Christians agree with you on points 2-5. Maybe I'm off about point 2. But you phrased that in a way that dis-invites conversation anyway, I think! (which I'm fine with -- I don't particularly have any feeling about it to tell you whether you're wrong or right or how either one).

and 6)... well... I think original sin as a very good metaphor. Whether I "believe in" it or not depends on lots of definitions. So what would it mean to you to believe in it? Certainly not a literal Eve-ate-an-apple against orders sort of thing. So what? The Augustinian and Gregorian views are a bit different and even then taken more-or (often) less literally. Does it mean you're born into an environment which, since the beginning of humanity, is corrupting? (Because if it means that I might well believe in it! Though that of course just invites lots more qualifications and definitions).
8/3/12 12:12 AM
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Grakman
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The moral influence theory of the atonement teaches that mankind is transformed and saved from their sins by the life and teachings and martyr death of Jesus, not through any vicarious means but rather through inspiring mankind to repent of their sins and follow his teachings and example. In the OT individual sins were forgiven by God through repentance and only through repentance, not through the animal sacrifices in the temple as is commonly believed. A good book if you're interested that discusses this in detail, with extensive footnotes to the works of the Church Fathers, is Moral Transformation: The Original Christian Paradigm of Salvation, found here:

http://www.amazon.com/Moral-Transformation-Original-Christian-Salvation/dp/1456389807

It discusses various Scripture in detail as well. Not a lot of people know that the penal substitution theory of the atonement is the one of the latest theories of the atonement to have been formulated.

As to original sin, I mean that we inherit and must pay for Adam's sin, as opposed to the sins we commit ourselves. In theory, it is possible for us to live righteous lives without sin, or even to still be considered righteous through repentance and reformation of character. The OT is full of such examples.

Hope this helps, and thanks for participating in the thread. :)
8/3/12 12:19 AM
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Ridgeback
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Your beliefs certainly exclude a lot of people who lived and suffered and died for their faith over the span of history from being right if you are right about your beliefs.  
8/3/12 12:20 AM
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Ali
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Thanks for the book recommendation... I hope one shows up used/cheap if I keep it in mind. I'm not really sure what to think in the sound-byte version (this is not a complaint -- the forum necessarily makes for shorter than optimal posts on things that are at all complicated).

If original sin means we are to "pay for Adam's sin," then I'm with you entirely. And that would explain why you don't believe in "penal substitution" either. (And isn't that a repugnant idea, period!?!)
8/3/12 12:28 AM
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Grakman
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Ridgeback - Your beliefs certainly exclude a lot of people who lived and suffered and died for their faith over the span of history from being right if you are right about your beliefs.  


Excluded from what exactly? The Grakman religion? I was trying to convey that I think I am outside of Christianity, not the other way around. :D

On another note though, there are billions of people that have been excluded from Christianity and consigned to a fiery hell for not believing those things either, or for having the misfortune of having been born in a time and place where they never got the er, Word. Total number of martyrs of the Christian faith < all those who've lived and died outside Christendom.
8/3/12 12:30 AM
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Grakman
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Ali - And that would explain why you don't believe in "penal substitution" either. (And isn't that a repugnant idea, <i>period</i>!?!)


Indeed.
8/3/12 12:37 AM
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Ridgeback
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Grakman - 
Ridgeback - Your beliefs certainly exclude a lot of people who lived and suffered and died for their faith over the span of history from being right if you are right about your beliefs.  


Excluded from what exactly? The Grakman religion? I was trying to convey that I think I am outside of Christianity, not the other way around. :D

On another note though, there are billions of people that have been excluded from Christianity and consigned to a fiery hell for not believing those things either, or for having the misfortune of having been born in a time and place where they never got the er, Word. Total number of martyrs of the Christian faith < all those who've lived and died outside Christendom.

If you want to be considered a non-Christian it isn't that hard.  I suppose some Christian traditions believe that people who never had a choice in the matter will be sent to hell.  Not sure why you are bringing them up though.  There is a difference between the man who meets Jesus and rejects him and the one who never did and is in ignorance.  In at least some old Christian circles Christ preaches to all the souls in Hades who have died and not heard his gospel on this earth.  Are you putting yourself in their category?  

BTW, have you read anything of Zizioulas?  He is a living theologian that has brilliantly pointed out why Trinitarian theology is not simply a confusing theological addendum to simple Christianity, but rests at the ontological heart of existence itself.  I don't know how a person can understand him (even poorly) and ever go back to the way they thought of things before.  

Anyway, based on your Creed above, you wouldn't be an honest communing Orthodox Christian but we nevertheless pray that all people (living and dead) will be saved. 
8/3/12 12:43 AM
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Grakman
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Edited: 08/03/12 12:47 AM
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<quote>Ridgeback - Anyway, based on your Creed above, you wouldn't be an honest communing Orthodox Christian but we nevertheless pray that all people (living and dead) will be saved. </quote>

But we knew that already. :D
Just kidding Ridge. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

Edited to add: I logged off and thought of a question Ridge. In Orthodox doctrine and in your own personal beliefs, is an understanding of the Trinity a requirement for salvation, however you define salvation? Is an understanding of the Trinity a requirement to be considered a Christian?
8/3/12 12:54 AM
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Ridgeback
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Grakman - <quote>Ridgeback - Anyway, based on your Creed above, you wouldn't be an honest communing Orthodox Christian but we nevertheless pray that all people (living and dead) will be saved. </quote>

But we knew that already. :D
Just kidding Ridge. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

Edited to add: I logged off and thought of a question Ridge. In Orthodox doctrine and in your own personal beliefs, is an understanding of the Trinity a requirement for salvation, however you define salvation? Is an understanding of the Trinity a requirement to be considered a Christian?

 Yes we did know that.  What I am trying to hint at is that exclusion works in both directions and nobody escapes "creeds" for long.  

I don't think an understanding of the Trinity is a "requirement" for salvation.  My one year old certainly doesn't "understand" theology of even an elementary kind but he is a communing member of the body of Christ nevertheless.  But I think the very nature of reality or being itself is communion and this is why Trinitarian theology is so essential to understanding what we are talking about when we are talking about "salvation" and "God" and "Paradise" and "theosis."  I believe that our salvation is wrapped up in our communion with God and with others not because it is a nice aside, but because it lies at the heart of our existence.  You could say we are only really persons in our relationships to the Other.  It certainly is the key that unlocks the biblical statement that "God is Love."  

I thought of a question.  Do you believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus?  


8/3/12 1:03 AM
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Ridgeback
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 Just remember Grakman that I was the one arguing that the word "Christian" is almost a dead word because it fails to convey any coherent meaning.  It just means so many different things and I think people who identify themselves with the word can believe in and practice radically different things that are contradictory and mutually exclusive.  I am certainly not a real Christian according to a whole slew of people because of what I believe as an Eastern Orthodox Catholic.  I am just as unsaved as you are on any given Sunday.
8/3/12 11:05 AM
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gord96
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Ridgeback just said what my limited post was getting at when I said I don't feel like defining what a Christian is, because there is probably not any right answer that everyone would agree on.
8/3/12 3:48 PM
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Grakman
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I remember that Ridge, and I think that started my descent down the rabbit hole. :D

In answer to your question about the resurrection, to be honest I found myself stumped when I read it. That is really the cornerstone of Christianity so when I was going through all the things I said I don't believe I was surprised to find that I had not even addressed that question. It didn't even arise in my stream of thought. Anyway, I decided to think about it instead of giving a pat answer, and I would say yes I believe in it but without 'doctrine' attached. I would say that it was evidence of God's approval of Jesus' message and a proof for mankind that there is life after death, not so much that it wiped out sin and death and so on.

I am not sure that I would call myself a Christian anymore, mainly because when one assumes that identity others will have a set of pre-conceived ideas that they think you believe. I am not evangelical, Orthodox, Catholic, Mormon, anarchist, Baptist, mainline Prostestant..

I suppose the best label for me may be universalist, period, because even though I love Jesus and what I believe to be his teachings, I know other people have different ideas about what he taught. I think my beliefs may be summed up thusly:

“All that one needs to gain salvation is purity of heart, tolerance of all beings, compassion and kindness.”

"Castes are folly, names are folly. All creatures have one shelter, that of God. If a man calls himself good, the truth shall be known when his actions are accounted for. Regard all men as equal since God's light is contained in every heart."
21 days ago
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DBmma
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In my opinion a christian is a person who is tuned into the specific energy current and state of consciousness that Jesus was a vessel for.

Not tuned into that current=not christian.

A person may be working towards becoming a christian and believe they are a christian, but if they are just a regular joe without that said contact then they arent a christian.

baptism=a ritual to get linked in.
last supper=ritual for the disciples to get linked in
9 days ago
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colubrid1
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How can anyone say that this person who denies the scriptures is a Christian?

I guess everybody here makes up their own God and worships that made up God in their own hearts and minds..


God help us!~
9 days ago
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Ali
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I'm at a loss to know what it means to "tune in" to a "current" at all. It's not a very clear metaphor (assuming it's a metaphor). Phone Post 3.0
8 days ago
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PastorJosh
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Grakman - I wrote a tongue-in-cheek post in another thread wondering aloud whether I should call myself a Christian anymore. I actually began to reflect on that question and was surprised at the answer. I don't think I fit the label of Christian anymore. Here's why:

1) I don't believe in any the penal substitution, Christus Victor, or governmental theories of the atonement; I do however accept the atonement theory of moral transformation through Jesus' death on the cross as a sacrificial act of martyrdom.

2) I don't believe in the Trinity, or I should say that having an understanding of the Trinity is irrelevant to the Christian life (in my opinion.)

3) I don't believe in the virgin birth (again, irrelevant.)

4) I don't believe in eternal hell, or a hell of literal flames period.

5) I don't believe the Bible is inerrant or infallibly inspired.

6) I don't believe in original sin.

Now, is it just me or aren't those beliefs the 'core' of Christian theology and doctrine? I have continued to call myself a Christian because I love Jesus as revealed in the Gospels and try to follow his example to the best of my ability as I understand it, but these days I'm not sure that's enough to call oneself a Christian.

What say you, HG? Comments, criticisms, suggestions are all welcome.
Let me help you. You're no Christian whatsoever. Phone Post 3.0

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