10 things I don’t believe

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.

29 thoughts on “10 things I don’t believe

  1. Overall a good list, though I suspect each point could be expanded and explored several times over.
    I am going to suggest reworking the point on homosexuality a bit, as right now it skates on suggesting that having sex with other men (or women) is all it means to be gay. I know you understand human sexuality and sexual orientation to be more complicated than that, but it’s not how this particular post comes across in isolation.
    Also, you might want to consider rearranging things so the point about paedophiles (of course, you might want to expand this point to discuss the importance of accountability among clergy in general) and the point about homosexuality don’t follow one another. Too many people are used to seeing them linked in really ugly ways, and I doubt you want people mistakenly assuming you’re linking them here.

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  2. I can’t know your motives, but it seems as though maybe you are doing some of the same things you purport to hate. You are having problems essentially with people…people who you think make it harder to get a “purer” message out.
    Don’t you get tired of fighting, “it’s us against them”? It takes all kinds to make up this crazy dysfunctional body, whether we like it or not, and that, in the long run, is good news we don’t have to be annoyed with. Jesus didn’t deliver logical, kind, thoughtful, hip, loving people. He delivered people like me: opinionated, illogical, loud, unkind, and…perhaps even rude (so forgive me for commenting, I don’t mean to be rude–we haven’t met).
    I propose a new movement: While on the way…to love my sisters and brothers who I find prickly and obnoxious…because Jesus (annoyingly it seems to me) somehow loves them and sees them as fitting into the Body of Christ. I have also found when annoying people feel love instead of ridicule they seem to be more willing to dialogue and change.

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  3. Well see the thing is, I’m just tired. Tired of leaders turning a blind eye to paedophilia, tired of leaders turning a blind eye to failed prophecy, tired of leaders preaching hate towards homosexuals and never being censured for such hate, tired of leaders alienating people over peripheral issues, tired of leaders saying we have to put up and shut up in the face of all this for the sake of saving face under the language of maintaining unity. Paul didn’t put up with such things. Jesus didn’t put up with such things. Not sure I should either. We need to deal with them rather than sweeping them under the carpet.

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  4. I share in these with you, Matt. I could go even further in things I don’t believe but the church does and which I don’t think Scripture teaches, but I don’t share them publicly for fear of being run out of town with torches like in the close of Frankenstein only by evangelicals.

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  5. Well done, Matt. Of course there are nuances (and I agree with John … one must choose one’s audience, eh?) and context that make your thoughts easier to under … but that will always be the case in any conversation.
    Thanks for sharing, mate ….

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  6. Funny! Let them come, they can only burn out lies. The Truth remains. I truly believe the church needs to be purged of goofiness. What Jesus did is far to important to tolerate nonsense. Happy Easter! The Lord is Risen Indeed!

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  7. Thank you for your ‘words! My personal changes in using words biblical is to use Lovingkindness instead of Love. The difference is in what is being loved & how Love is used in relationship to others whose object of worship differs. Jesus did so with his “new commandment”; “Love one another as I have loved you.” Loving one’s neighbor as self doesn’t work with people who don’t love or treat themselves kindly or w/forgiveness…& Forgiveness is Jesus biggest radical departure from the imperialisms of all times. Love your reconciliation/repentence distinctions. ❤

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  8. 1. The Bible is clear that the creation was six literal days. This is reaffirmed in the ten commandments as to why the Jews were to observe the Sabbath. There’s really no wiggle room there. To say the days were time periods completely throws the other uses of the word day in the OT into complete confusion.
    2. Me either. It’s ridiculous.
    3. What is love? It is sitting idly by while and not judging while people do the wrong things? Paul tells us in 2 Tim 4: 2Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine. Look deeper into the Greek what the word reprove means. http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G1651&t=KJV
    4. Whatever church you choose should be an institution to you. Hebrews 10:25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.
    5. Homosexuality is spoken very specifically over and over again in both the New Testament and the Old. There’s no getting around the fact that the Bible teaches it is an abomination. If you want to be accepting of gays, I think you should find another religion to get into, because Christianity may not be for you.
    6. That’s fine, but some people have a hard time witnessing without them. We are supposed to witness, witness, witness.
    7. The Ten commandments are definitely not the final word. Jesus said the two most important things are love God Deuteronomy 6:5 and love your neighbor Leviticus 19. Neither of those come from the Ten.
    8. I don’t think there is a person on earth who would openly disagree with this thought, except maybe a few archbishops.
    9. Metal and rock n roll come from secular often satanic artists. If you want to follow people who are emulating that sort of stuff, more power to you I suppose. You will know them by their fruits.
    10. Whatever. Just don’t insist on going to a church where they dress up in shorts and flip flops. It’s rude.

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    1. A person who doesn’t believe in the literal interpretation of Genesis is hardly likely to think that the words of Saul of Tarsus are divine commandments. As for Lev. 18 and 20, they are part of the holiness code, and it is far from clear whether they are violations of the moral or only the ceremonial law, like the prohibition on intercourse during menstruation. Indeed, there are Jews who hold that Leviticus prohibits only anal intercourse, not homosexual behavior (between men; nothing is said of women) in general.

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  9. I have a suggestion that applies to two subjects on this list:
    Design a T shirt that reads, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” (Luke 27-28)
    …only it’s printed UPSIDE DOWN so the wearer can read it. 😉

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  10. @ Moonbird
    Sorry, I should have been more clear on number 10. I meant to write. Don’t insist on going to a church where they dress up in suits and ties wearing shorts and flip flops.

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  11. I am curious, however .. as a gay man, I will likely never go back to any church where I am not fully welcome, and I wonder if there is a time limit of some sort as to how long a gay person would be welcome and FULLY accepted as a member of the community, before he/she would have to become other than who he/she is as a gay person? Would the person be allowed to participate in the life of the church ministries, etc. or would that sort of thing be a “prize” to be won if they confessed to a change from their identity as a gay person? I don’t ask this as an argumentive question, but more as a challenge, I guess … out of curiousity for where you really stand. Thanks!!

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  12. What is love? Well, here’s what Paul had to say about it:
    “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
    I always find it interesting when those who profess the authority of scripture start talking about what love is, yet never seem to quote that passage.
    5. The Bible (allegedly) teaches that a number of things are an abomination. Funny how some Christians don’t seem to get as worked up over pride, lying, or gossip when they see it. (And if they don’t see it, they must not be looking very hard.)
    6. They should try reading Rebecca Manley Pippert’s wonderful book (published by InterVarsity Press), “Out of the Saltshaker.” She talks about a much more effective approach to witnessing.
    9. And a lot of church hymns use melodies from bawdy bar songs. Your point?
    10. If a church has an issue with someone showing up in shorts and flip flops, I would argue they have lost sight of their purpose. The church is there ultimately for those on the outside. I think a lot of churches tend to forget that and become something of a fancy social club instead.

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  13. You know, we call them ‘thongs’ down here, not ‘flip flops’. I imagine though, if I told you many of us Aussies happily wear thongs to church, I’d risk giving you quite the wrong impression. So I’ll refrain. From telling you that is. What you don’t know can’t hurt you 🙂

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  14. Hey,
    thought would reply because in a curious situation with this myself. I find both genders equally attractive (at some times more one or the other) and have done as far back as I can recall finding anyone attractive. I don’t believe these attractions need define the path of my sexual behaviour, but also believe it would be false to pretend that this is not the case, or that this has no impact on how I see myself as a person. I am a Christian & think that this view of myself & my sexuality has been shaped by my understanding of following Jesus & my interpretation of the bible. If you like labels, I’m christian, bisexual, and celibate, but I’m not sure that quite covers it all!
    I belong to a church where the majority of members would consider that I am equally free to choose a wife or a husband, boyfriend or girlfriend. Some view my interpretation as outdated & shaped by cutlture rather than God. Occasionally I find this patronising, on a grumpy day, mainly I find their love of their fellow human beings in this respect encouraging. With some, we just haven’t discussed this yet, I don’t know how they see things, it’ll probably come up at some point.
    We manage to be able to be a community for all of us because, despite disparate opinions on a multitude of topics, for us, to be a Christian does not mean ticking doctrinal boxes. We’re in a discussion about who we are & where we’re going all the time, the anchoring point is Jesus. We want to love God & our neighbours, & can encourage each other in that, even when our paths go different ways at times.
    There isn’t any particular point to this except to say that maybe things aren’t as black and white as a ‘them’ vs ‘us’ way of thinking.
    Also @Jarred, thankyou for the little side comment on one of your blog entries about bisexuality. And @Matt, lol re: Aussie flip-flops 🙂

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  15. Good stuff. I’m with you. I could go even further on number 1 by adding the thoughts of John Walton in that the Genesis creation stories refer not to the stuff of material creation in “how to” fashion, but rather, of the preparation of the cosmos as God’s temple, in narratives which also served as polemics against polytheism as you note. I also reject the Rapture and am a moderate preterist. I would also add my theistic evolutionary views, that hold to non-reductive physicalism rather than a dualism of body/spirit, that the Bible teaches a doctrinal minimalism in terms of knowledge of doctrine necessary for salvation, and I won’t share my thoughts on homosexuality here as that would label me a liberal even more than I am viewed in some conservative American evangelical circles already! Thanks for this, Matt.

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  16. One more: I believe the imago Dei, the image of God in humanity, is representational not ontological. That is, evangelicals tend to view human beings as having a soul, spirit and immaterial aspects, possibly advanced mind and language, and these ontological things separate us from the animals and represent at least part of the imago Dei. I think a consideration of the concept in its ancient near eastern context indicates that we represent and mirror God and his rule and stewardship to the creation, and in so doing bear his image. Not a widespread view in evangelicalism.

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  17. Christianity is about Salvation and Salvation only. Since the beginning, it has always been about faith in believing that Jesus died and paid the debt for our past, present, and future sins. Nothing else. The life we live in between birth and death is just that, life. No one is different, we all sin, we all have gifts and talents, we all get deceived, we will all receive (or not) rewards and/or crowns for our faith, etc. etc.. As for the “rapture” (I really hate that word) or rather being “caught up” (so much more appropriate), if you believe that the OT is a shadow of things to come, then you would have to come to the conclusion that the church is somewhere to be found in the OT. I believe a couple of “models/shadows” of the church were Enoch and Elijah, alive and living at the time of their departure, then there’s Daniel, missing from the fiery furnace while the others were “in it”. All the hoopla from main stream media and authors I agree leads to a “sky is falling” type of falicy, but that shouldn’t deter the believer from believing that the Bride of Christ, His own body, will depart from this world before it all comes down. I don’t think God the Father wants to see anything bad happen to the Bride to be, and what lies ahead is going to be very very bad!

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