People often assume that, since I’m a Christian, I believe everything that any other Christian they’ve ever met has ever believed. But this can be quite problematic, not to mention annoying, particularly when their experience of Christianity is limited to what they know from their neighbours or their television set. So here, for your reading pleasure, is my statement of unbelief.
I don’t believe the author of Genesis 1 was a science teacher
In the debate between “Evolutionists” on the one hand and “Creationists” on the other, the media often miss that there are many people who do not fit neatly into either of these polarized categories. I am one of them. I do not buy the secular argument that says, “Genesis 1 is not scientific so it can’t be authoritative.” Nor do I buy the fundamentalist argument that says, “Genesis 1 is authoritative so it must be scientific.” I buy the literary analysis argument that says, “It’s anachronistic to even look at Genesis 1 either of these ways!” I believe the parallelism embodied in the six days structure illustrates how Genesis 1 is a polemical narrative aimed at Mesopotamian pagan imperialism, a polemic describing creation through the “cosmic decree” of God in contrast to creation through the “cosmic conflict” of the gods.
I don’t believe in the rapture
The rapture is a theologically speculative teaching, with little support from scripture unless considerable interpretive gymnastics are employed. The rapture is a recent teaching, with little support from Christian tradition. The rapture encourages date speculation and religious paranoia of the wildest kind. Given the prophecies it has engendered have invariably proved false (hey, did someone mention Hal Lindsay?) I reject it as false teaching of the most tragically embarrassing kind. Apocalyptic literature needs to be read far more carefully than rapture teachers are accustomed to.
I don’t believe Jesus was kidding when he said, “love your enemies”
When I read what Jesus said about loving your enemies I see no caveats suggesting it was only for personal situations, or only for a limited time, or only for a future age, or only as a way of reinforcing our awareness of our sinfulness. I don’t believe he was kidding. I believe he meant us to “Just Do It!”
I don’t believe in the church as an institution
When defining church, the primary line of distinction is between the church (understood as Christians in community) and the world, not the church (understood as Christian clergy) and the laity. The church is a “we” not an “it”. Thus, I can be “in church” without ever stepping foot in a building or participating in an institution. As long as I am in community I am in church.
I don’t believe homosexuals are worse people than me
We are all less than perfect, straight and gay alike. We have all been separated from the perfect One – one way or another. If we are reconciled with the perfect One it is all on the same basis, through his perfect action, not ours. I don’t believe, therefore, I am in any position to hound a homosexual for his behaviour whilst ignoring my own.
I don’t believe Jesus junk is a cool way to promote Christianity
Bumper stickers are dorky, ugly and so not funny. But if you insist on displaying one, please make sure you don’t cut me, or others, off in the traffic! Ditto for other sorts of Jesus junk, if you like it fine, but please don’t use it as a substitute for a living witness.
I don’t believe the Ten Commandments are the last word on ethics
Read in isolation, the Ten Commandments are Jewish, not Christian. They only take on a Christian flavour when viewed from the perspective of Christ, who summed the law up as: love God, love others. Not only this, Jesus sharpened their application by asserting that criticizing others was as bad as murdering them, that lusting after others was as bad as adultery, that what was going on inside could be just as corrupt as what was going on outside. Moreover, by insisting we should live apocalyptically, in the awareness that the future was breaking into the present through his activity, Jesus posed a radical critique of what is considered “responsible action” by worldly standards.
I don’t believe paedophiles should be protected from the law
There can be no reconciliation when there is no repentance. And repentance means more than “feeling sorry”. Repentance means “turning around”. Repentance means full confession before their victims and before the courts of the land. Repentance means submitting to a discipleship process to maximise protection for the vulnerable and pursue growth in sexual discipline. Any leaders who would disrupt this process, out of misguided face saving concerns, should likewise submit themselves to a reconciliation process or face excommunication.
I don’t believe contemporary worship is easy listening
Quite frankly, I find much of it distracting, even painful. Give me ambient. Give me metal. Give me something with spice! But more, give me something with lyrical depth and theological breadth. I accept aesthetic minorities have to make stylistic sacrifices for the unity of the church, but I wish more have the decency to recognize aesthetic diversity actually exists, and act accordingly, at least giving us some meaty lyrics to crew on whilst we aesthetically struggle. If our music must be soft pop, let our lyrics not be!
I don’t believe in conformity
Unity yes, conformity no. There are some things we need to believe if we are to meaningfully call ourselves Christian. For instance, if we don’t believe Jesus is the Christ then calling ourselves Christian can start looking self delusional even to self-identified non-Christians. But there are many things we Christians believe which are peripheral to Christianity if not downright optional. For instance: what date we think Easter should be celebrated on, whether or not we think lining up in pews is a good thing, whether we like our leaders in casual or fancy dress. To disagree on peripherals is not disunity, its just Christian freedom.