Unfundamentalist Christians

Unfundamentalist BugA while back I responded to repeated requests that I articulate my personal theology by writing the 14-point document below, which expresses the Christianity that I have believed to be true since the moment of my sudden conversion experience.

In February of 2012, I and a small group of people who had read and liked my mini-manifesto quietly started a Facebook page called Unfundamentalist Christians. We put my document under the page’s What We Believe tab, and then just … sat back to see what happened. I personally did nothing to promote the UC Facebook page, because I did not want to influence its growth; I wanted it to grow organically or not at all.

As of this (updated on 3/6/2014) writing, the UC Facebook page has 31,800 members. The admin team of that page has done a terrific job with it. I’m as proud of what those guys do over there as I am of anything I’ve ever been part of.

About six months ago we launched the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog, which I consider a privilege to oversee and edit.

Here are the tenets of Unfundamentalist Christians:

Generally speaking (because do any two people anywhere believe the exact same things?) we here at UC hold that:

  1. Jesus Christ was God incarnate. He performed miracles; as a means of providing for the irrevocable reconciliation of humankind to God he sacrificed himself on the cross; he rose from the dead; he left behind for the benefit of all people the totality of himself in the form of the indwelling Holy Spirit.
  2. The Bible is not a contract stipulating the rules for being a Christian. It is an ancient, massive, infinitely complex tome comprising songs, visions, histories, dreams, parables, commandments, and more. Christians seeking to follow the Word of God must look to all the words of God, ever seeking within those words the spirit of Jesus Christ. This means never failing to choose love, compassion and charity over adherence to any Biblical “law” that in practice or spirit violates Christ’s Great Commandment to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.
  3. Christianity is supposed to be all about nothing more (and nothing less!) than living a life of love, compassion, fairness, peace, and humility.
  4. The Biblical scholarship supporting the idea that Paul never wrote a word condemning natural homosexuality is more credible and persuasive than is the scholarship claiming that he did. Moreover, we remain mystified as to how any follower of Jesus could choose damning an entire population over obeying Jesus’ Great Commandment to love God and one’s neighbor as oneself.
  5. God does not want any woman “submitting” to any person.
  6. Using masculine pronouns to refer to God is strictly a matter of convention, a profoundly unfortunate necessity of the English language, which to date offers no satisfactory alternative. But God is neither male or female. God is both. God is all.
  7. The belief that throughout history God chose to introduce himself in different ways into different culture streams is more reasonable, respectful, and compassionate than is the conviction that there is only one correct way to understand and worship God.
  8. There is no support in the Bible for the morally repugnant idea that hell is an actual place to which God sentences people to spend eternity in mortal agony.
  9. God’s will and intention is to forgive and teach us, not to judge and punish us. [Tweet this.]
  10. Anyone desiring to mix Church and State has failed to understand the nature and proper role of either.
  11. God can handle converting people. Our job is to love people.
  12. An all-powerful God and the theory of evolution are not incompatible.
  13. Getting a divorce is painful, and if at all possible should certainly be avoided. But in and of itself divorce is not immoral.
  14. The single most telling indicator of a person’s moral character has nothing to do with how they define or worship God, and everything to do with how they treat others.

Recently we added an addendum to the above, which reads:

A question we are sometimes asked is: “Why the name Unfundamentalist Christians? Wouldn’t it be better to define yourself by what you’re for, rather than what you’re against?”

Christian fundamentalism is defined by and vigorously promotes everywhere authoritarianism, the oppression of women, homophobia, xenophobia, the “danger” of education, corporal punishment, a literal and inerrant view of scripture, “all or nothing” thinking, and a God whose primary function is to judge and punish.

We are Christians who are for none of those things. And we think it’s high time Christianity stopped being associated with them. Hence our name.

Also, there is nothing wrong with defining oneself by what one opposes. Martin Luther opposed the wrongs of the Catholic Church; George Washington opposed the British occupation of America; Gandhi opposed the British occupation of India; Martin Luther King, Jr. opposed racism.

To oppose a negative is a positive.

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About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. John is a pastor ordained by The Progressive Christian Alliance. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. And don't forget to sign up for his mucho awesome monthly newsletter.

  • http://allegro63.wordpress.com sdparris

    It has been quite the experience watching Unfundamentalist Christians grow and flourish, and to see more and more people feel a connectivity that they’d been looking for. To be a part of that process has been most rewarding and highly illuminating. I know I look forward to what the future holds.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      sdparris!

    • Jill

      And what an amazing milestone, rewarding all your efforts! Seriously if all of us 12,500 members were gathered in one place– I get chills thinking about the energy and the love that would be generated there.

    • Andy

      Me three!

  • Jill

    Reading this just now, it actually brought tears. So much good stuff has happened in the course of a year. So much of it I owe to John’s blog and the UC page. THIS is the Christianity I’ve been called back to. Wow. Brilliant work everyone! Thank you for offering a second home to us spiritual orphans and nomads!

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      thanks for the great work you do here on the blog, Jill.

    • Christy

      Reading what you wrote made me tear up, Jill. It’s a wonderful community both here on John’s blog and over on the UC page where remarkable things happen among people as they support, challenge and nurture one another. It’s been a blessing to be a part of it.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

        (Christy here is one of the heavyweights over at UC. She’s done soooo much to foster, engage, and direct that community.)

        • Elizabeth

          Christy is amazing in so many ways. She checked my bona fides before even accepting my friend request. #hardcore

  • carl

    This is a wonderful list and I agree with it 100%. I think I’ve always been an unfundamental Christian most of my life and never knew it. Everythin on this list speaks to my heart and make perfect sense to me. I’m excited to see what’s to come. I can’t wait! I am sharing this for sure.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Thanks for this, Carl.

  • ser

    Whoops! Stuck on number 1 right off the bat; too much of a scientist to believe in miracles. But it’s all good; that’s not the only reason I don’t identify as Christian, and luckily, I don’t have to be Christian to really enjoy and appreciate what you do here and there (UC). Liked the page a long time ago. :)

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      But … it’s GOD. Any God that CAN’T do whatever miracle he/she wants would be … no God at all. (And thank you, btw!)

  • Doug Wilson

    I’ve been on a journey over the last couple of years to basically come to the same conclusions as those listed above. The central tenant of my Christian walk these days is trying to show love to everyone. Living a life that shows others what Christ can do is my goal and desire and the list of principles you’ve got listed is a very good place to start. Thanks for sharing those.

  • Miles

    I’m incredibly thankful that God has led me to the few Christian groups on Facebook (like The Progressive Christian Alliance) that promote the same kind of love that Jesus talks about in the Gospels. After spending years with a fundamental church and getting burnt out by the hate and vitriol that so many spewed forth, it’s refreshing to find that there are people actively promoting this divine manner of love and acceptance. You and your kind are a tremendous blessing.

  • Steven Waling

    Stuck on number 1 myself. But really because as a Quaker it all sounds rather creedal, and we don’t do creeds. And if he performed miracles because he was God, he wouldn’t be human and would have a get-out-of-jail card that would kind of cancel out the cruxifiction, if you believe the incarnation as in orthodox religion. Which I’m not sure I do anymore, though I do some days. I waver somewhat between theism and non-realist theism these days.

    Heck, I don’t know what I believe in these days. But I try to follow those two great commandments about loving God and your neighbour, which as a Quaker who believes ‘there is that of God in everyone’ are basically saying the same thing twice. And I appreciate what you do John. Keep it up and keep exploring.

    • Jill

      Steven, I have been interested in Quakerism for their social justice work and non-violent stand. I love that Cadbury chocolate was founded by a Quaker (for obvious reasons). I would like to attend a service someday.

      • Carol B.

        Jill, I would highly encourage you to worship in the manner of Friends….It is very good for your soul to engage in waiting worship…..

        • Jill

          Thank you Carol B.! I will find the local church.

          • Elizabeth

            Quakers have been on the forefront of pacifism forever, Jill. You could do worse.

      • Harrisco

        Admiring Quakers or Friends for peace work is like admiring an apple for its sweetness–but not having a sense (yet) of the tree and the orchard and the planters that produced it. Some people use Friends gatherings to confirm their own preexisting admiration of sweetness in life and in apples–and they leave things at that level. You can go much deeper if you choose. Go to a meeting and explore. See what happens. If you stay, try to get a sense of how Quakers became Quakers–and why it has often been very, very hard work, far from sweet, though in service of it.

  • Matt

    Although I am not as active on UC’s Facebook page as I’d like to be (it would bring my private and public lives too close for my comfort), I have loved following along as it grows.

    These tenets make perfect sense to me. If only we could gather physically together, even just once. That would be something, wouldn’t it?

  • Kate

    Thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you. As a woman who has been greatly struggling with my faith, I cannot say thank you enough. I’ve struggled not because I don’t believe in Christ, but because I cannot reconcile what I have come to know of “Christians” since I have re-embraced my faith in my 30s after spending about 15 years away from the church. Never in my life have I experienced such criticism and animosity as I have since “coming out” as a Christian again. And the devastating part is that this hostility has come from “fellow Christians.” It warms my heart to know there are other Christians out there who do believe what I believe, and it gives me faith that I can continue to follow my path and rely on what I know in my heart to be true – about God, about the message and about myself. So again – thank you.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      thank YOU for this, Kate.

  • http://www.lakeschooling.com Paula F.

    I hadn’t read the origin of the FB page yet and enjoyed reading it here. My challenge lately as been with fundamentalist liberals, those whose views, though quite liberal, are unbending. It is refreshing to read this credo, as it offers a place for everyone.

  • Paul A Ramoie

    I absolutely looove this list. Albeit I can get really deep into explaining how the language in the bible used to describe hell is not actually an eternal tormenting inferno. The Greek nor Hebrew words describe such a hideous place.

  • Samantha Megan Scott

    I am so glad to have someone have written down the kind of Christianity I strive to be a part of

  • Janet S-b

    You took the words right out of my mouth…..blessings!!!!

  • Clark M. Sherman

    I love it! Kudos!

  • http://nopartyline.blogspot.com Brian Meadows

    John, I believe! I could hardly agree more! Thanks to you and pu-RAISE to God!!!

  • Robert Rister

    You’re a bit too conservative for me to honestly say I agree with you. But I love the say you said it.

    • Elizabeth

      John too conservative! That’s funny as hell. I’m not mocking you. That’s WAY cool. Just… not the guy I know.

  • Emily

    I wonder that you couldn’t find any expression of Christianity that resonated with you. For example, I am Lutheran, and have not a jot of disagreement with you (well, you know, about anything I’ve read so far :)). I’m glad that there’s another avenue for people to discover a “saner” version of Christianity though. The FB page is great, with fantastic articles, etc. Thanks for all you do!

    • Carolyn

      Emily – could not have said it better – I am also Lutheran and am very inspired by John’s words. God bless!

  • Anne

    Thank you John, for setting up this web site and allowing such an open forum for all to participate in. Even though I don’t agree with your tenet#1 it matters to me not at all, as to me being a Christian is not about doctrine or dogma, but about the demonstration of Truth and Love…lived – “faith seen in works”. To me Truth by its infinite nature is forever unfolding, so I don’t believe anyone can say “they’ve got it!” I just love that you have provided the means whereby we can share and learn…be a blessing and be blessed.

  • Margie Gage

    Congratulations on such an auspicious Unfundamentalist milestone! I’m looking forward to reading more and more. . . . .

    (Could you do me a little favor? Right before you list the “tenets”, you write “Here’s our tenets:” – it should be “Here ARE our tenets:” This little change would make me feel SO much better!!!!!)

    Blessings!

  • http://www.wideopenground.com Laba

    wow that’s sooo super cool!

  • Mike Haas

    I’ve digested the whole of both lists and have forwarded to other friends. A few of us are curious: Does this stand as a “finished” list? Most of us, or perhaps all of us, have posted “likes” of the UC FB page. Its a regular feature on my own Wall. But would you or will you entertain amendments and if so, do you have a formal process in mind?

    Otherwise, Bravo, John. These tenets stand as a modern monument to both inter-denominational ecumenicism and outreach to non-Christian faiths although I realize that is certainly not their primary goal or focus. Many, many heart-felt thanks for your continued work.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Hi, Mike. No, nothing formal, thanks for asking. Just email me (see the “Contact” tab along the top of the blog), let me know your thoughts, and if whatever you’ve said makes sense to me, or improves the tenets, I’ll make the change. Thank you for your very kind and encouraging words about this whole thing.

  • http://kellythinkstoomuch.wordpress.com KellyK

    Yay! Very exciting! The group blog sounds like an excellent thing.

  • Anne Evans

    Love it, love it, love it!

  • Chet Christian

    Walk on water much?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      I don’t like walking on water. But I have to. I can’t swim.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

        HAR! Okay, stupid joke. Sorry.

  • Kathy White-Mackie

    Wonderful idea John, I just found Patheos the other day. So happy that you will be joining in the collection! Now my “seeking” will be a bit more of a one trip visit! But you will always be the first “aisle” I check out on that visit! And as far as the Troll’s comment below about you walking on water, I don’t think he quite gets the idea, that people can have other points of view, and different experiences with God. I’ve never once heard you proclaim that you were anything less than a Human Being. Perhaps he just takes his name a bit too seriously, or since your forum is not a Mega Church, Gasp! He just may see you as one of the False Prophets, that he has been warned about! I think I’ll say a prayer for him. Peace!

  • Sean Viehl

    I just love happening upon these every few months. We’re all here to love and to cherish each other in magnitude. Slow down, take it easy, and have a loving conversation and our Christ will be present. Life is marvelous!

  • Wanda Lotus

    I look forward to reading the blog!

  • Ann Hughes

    I cried when I read this. I prefer the more formal first draft. I was beginning to wonder if I was the only one who thought this way. I’m so happy I’m not alone.

    • Elizabeth

      There’s a wonderful version aimed at teenagers. I took a quick look and couldn’t find it—unless it’s morphed into the second version on the FB page? The contrast between formal and informal is striking.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

        The more informal version of the tenets still follows the more formal version both here and on the FB page; I just took out the “teen” descriptive. So many people prefer the informal version that I thought it was time to do that.

  • Chris ODonnell

    Wow– pretty interesting. My issue/beef/problem with Christianity is that so-called Christians often give Christ a bad name. This UC perspective resonates much more with me. Thanks for sharing this.

  • Lynn Anderson

    As a pastor in need of engaging theology and support this site has meant the world to me. I check out the posts every day and follow the link where they lead. I find my mind and spirit stimulated. I am empowered for the leadership I engage in. Thank you so much!

  • Paulo Gustavo França

    It still sounds “fundamental” to me..

    • Nicole

      Well, John is a Christian, after all. There are still some truths an Unfundamentalist Christian can hold to. That doesn’t mean anyone else has to hold to them.

  • Monica Johnson

    Saving.

  • http://www.earrelevantfaith.com Larry

    I’m curious as to why there are 15 points here but 16 on the FB page? The added #9 on the FB page seems out of place to me. The rest of the list beautifully describes an ecumenical and interfaith vision of what has been elsewhere called Progressive Christianity but #9 on the FB page smacks of old-school Christian exclusivism. Thoughts?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      The lists are the same. BUT we just recently ditched #9 (feeling it was already adequately subsumed by the tenet before it)–and it appears there’s simply a lag time on the Facebook servers, so (apparently) some people are still seeing #9 over there. (Or it could just be your browser cache.) But it’s 15, and those 15 are here. Make sense?

      • http://www.earrelevantfaith.com Larry

        Makes perfect sense! It was the only one that I stubbed my toe on and now it’s gone. :-)

        Looking forward to reading more here. Glad I found the site.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

          This is a little video thing I made about what the old #9 (“Where in “No one comes to the Father except through me,” does it say you have to be a Christian in order to get into heaven?”) was … about.

          • http://www.earrelevantfaith.com Larry

            Hmm. That’s still taking a pretty literal interpretation of John 14:6. I think it was Borg who suggested that “no one comes to the Father except through me” is better understood as something like “no one really awakens to God’s presence and transformational power except through my WAY – which is the pattern of dying to your old way and being reborn into a new way – a way that is defined by loving God and loving people.” (that’s the gist of it anyway).

            But I don’t want to belabour or argue a point that is no longer one of your 15 tenets – which are really, really good.

            Thanks for the dialogue!

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

            It is literal. And it’s meant to literally refute literalists who use John 14:6 as “proof” that heaven is exclusive to Christians. Fire with fire, and all that.

      • http://heckledtrio.blogspot.com Helly

        OMG, I’m so glad someone commented about this. I remember reading the list earlier this week and that tenet about “No one comes to the Father except through me” was one that really jumped out at me, because I found it especially apt, and a very succinct way of saying what I believe about it. I loved it. Then I went back tonight and couldn’t FIND it. I thought I had gone crazy and imagined the whole thing in the first place!! :-P

        On a side note, I wish you hadn’t removed it. I get what you mean about it already being covered by #8, but I really thought it stood well by itself and deserved a bullet point of its own :-)

  • Aggie

    John, I continue to enjoy your musings. Have you ever defined exactly what you regard to be fundamentalist Christianity? Of course, I have a good guess what you’d say, but I think it would be helpful to see. (It seems to be one of attitude more than doctrine for many folks I think.)

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      I mean … Christian fundamentalism is … Christian fundamentalism.

      The Fundamentally Toxic Christianity

      • Aggie

        Gotcha. I remember that one. A very striking post that’s hard to forget. I just hear a lot of differing definitions of the term. Some who are considered to be fundamentalists by others would still feel very uncomfortable with that “fundamentally toxic” brand of it in that prior post of yours. (Perhaps it’s sometimes the difference between being conservative theologically and being a jerk about it?) E.g., this list of “fundamentals” that the term “fundamentalism” derives from…

        The inerrancy of the Bible

        The literal nature of the Biblical accounts, especially regarding Christ’s miracles and the Creation account in Genesis

        The Virgin Birth of Christ

        The bodily resurrection and physical return of Christ

        The substitutionary atonement of Christ on the cross

        • Nicole

          “Perhaps it’s sometimes the difference between being conservative theologically and being a jerk about it?” That’s a lot of it. :)

          I deeply believe in several fundamental tenet as you listed, but that doesn’t mean I have the lock on truth. For me, they are fundamentals and I believe them. But I don’t require others to believe them in order to live in kindness and love with the world.

          It’s the need to apply the fundamentals to EVERYONE otherwise they’re going to hell, that causes the rift. Once I left that behind, I was able to freely love those around me without feeling torn inside.

  • http://stevesnead.blogspot.com Steve Snead

    13, 14, and 15. Amen!

    I am not a lover of creeds. I can remember cringing a little when I would read creeds on church walls. There was always something there that I’d think “well, I guess I can’t believe that so I guess I must not be a good Christian.” But, this is something I can look at and feel much kinship with. Thanks.

  • Curtis

    You say

    “all about living a life of love, compassion, fairness, peace, and humility.”

    and

    “What really matters [is] how well they treat others.”

    But certainly a person can behave well and treat others well without Jesus.

    Are you saying Jesus serves primarily as a moral teacher?

    What about salvation? How do you define salvation?

    You are not describing anything particularly Christian, you are describing good citizenship. Which is fine. But we don’t really need Jesus to be good citizens, do we?

    • Nicole

      If God has called you to himself through Christianity, then yes, you probably do.

      • Curtis

        Well, of course. But what is the relationship between Christianity and good behavior? Is there one? Nowhere does John define what Christianity is, other than behaving well. The list could just as easily be called “Unfundamentalist People”. The Unfundamentalist part is well defined. But the Christian part is never defined or explored.

        If Christianity is one of many ways to right behavior, there really isn’t any need for Christianity. There are certainly easier and cheaper ways to behave right.

        And it does not address the question: what happens when a person falls short on one or more of the 15 points? Then what? Are they a failed person? Should they try harder next time? Are they bad people who should be shunned and ridiculed? How is this list any different from any other list of rules that fundamentalist Christians tell people to live by?

        • Matt

          There is no “connection” between Christianity and living well. You don’t necessarily *need* to be a Christian in order to live a loving, compassionate, joyful life. Being Christian doesn’t necessarily make you loving or compassionate (just glance over at the fundamentalists).

          On the other hand, a lot of people find it helpful to live out their spiritual lives within a certain framework. It offers consistency, coherency, and community. Christianity is one framework that seems to be useful for a lot of different folks.

          “Nowhere does John define what Christianity is, other than behaving well.”

          Refer to tenet #1. Right at the beginning.

          And because these are just a group of tenets (“any opinion, principle, doctrine, dogma, etc., especially one held as true by members of a profession, group, or movement”), there is no punishment or shaming for falling short. They are a group of beliefs to be followed if the person wishes, for as long as they wish.

        • Elizabeth

          I believe in God the Father Almighty,

          Maker of heaven and earth:

          And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord,

          Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,

          Born of the Virgin Mary,

          Suffered under Pontius Pilate,

          Was crucified, dead, and buried:

          He descended into hell;

          The third day he rose again from the dead;

          He ascended into heaven,

          And sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty;

          From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

          I believe in the Holy Ghost;

          The holy Catholick Church;

          The Communion of Saints;

          The Forgiveness of sins;

          The Resurrection of the body,

          And the Life everlasting.

          That, and the pesky Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and love your neighbor as yourself. As you can see, it’s a pretty tall order to do it on the daily and still find time to buy groceries. We all fail. Shunning is usually left to the Amish. (No disrespect to the Amish who can’t read this due to the electricity thing.)

          Otherwise, you can call Him Ahura Mazda, as far as I’m concerned. Persians were among the first converts. Sorry to interrupt.

          • Matt

            You did not interrupt anything, Elizabeth. There is no need to apologize. And you’re obviously more well-read than I am in this area. Your input is always appreciated.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Curtis: Does it appear to you that I anywhere said anything that looks like “Jesus serves primarily as a moral teacher”?

      But more to your point: Are you saying that Abraham Lincoln was a bilingual pogo-stick champion?

      • Curtis

        All of your 15 tenants are about behaving right. It seems you think that Jesus exists so that we might behave right.

        • DR

          You’re either unwilling to see these for what they are in their entirety or unwilling to.

          • DR

            (unable to). One of the two. Whichever one it is, you’re setting up a straw man so you can continue to decide that Christianity is based on the way you specifically interpret Scripture. It’s a choice that serves you, only you know how and why. And before you as, no, I’m not going to “prove” to you how you’re wrong. You have already decided that you’re right.

  • Brian W

    Hi John,

    I was curious in point #1 you state:

    ……as a means of providing for the irrevocable reconciliation of humankind to God he sacrificed himself on the cross…….

    Do you mean that all of humankind has been reconciled to God because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross? Does faith and belief play a part anywhere? It almost sounds like universalism, just not clear to me.

    • DR

      “Universalism” is often a straw man term used to dismiss anything that does not follow a very specific type of Biblical interpretation.

  • Brian

    Hi John,

    I have a few issues with some of your tenets. I should point out that I’m not a “fundamentalist Christian”; in fact, I’m what would best be described as a seeker… someone who wants very badly to believe that Christ died for our sins and that there is an afterlife waiting for me, but who is having a lot of trouble doing so. As such, I’ve done a lot of research into Christianity and what it means to be a Christian, looking for truths.

    My main issue is that it seems that a lot of your tenets seek to ignore or change parts of Christianity that you don’t like. I will admit it – I don’t like a lot of what Christianity teaches either; but it seems to me that changing things you don’t like into things you do like is changing Christianity into a religion that, while being more accepting of other people and seemingly more suited to this century, is not “Christianity”.

    Here are a few of the passages I have issue with:

    2. Christianity is supposed to be all about living a life of love, compassion, fairness, peace, and humility. Period.

    This seems to contradict what the Bible says, which is that Christianity is about gaining salvation by becoming a follower of Christ. By following in Christ’s path, people should naturally become people who live a life of compassion, fairness, peace, and humility. The fact that people don’t become these sorts of people makes me believe that they’re missing what it truly means to be “Christian”. But I don’t think that what you have outlined here is the key teaching of Christianity. See the next quote…

    3. Jesus Christ was, and is, absolutely real. He performed miracles (not hard when you’re God); he sacrificed himself on the cross so that everyone could be forever reconciled with God; he rose from the dead; he left behind, for everyone, the indwelling Holy Spirit.

    8. No one religion contains all of God.

    15. What really matters most about a person isn’t how they define God. It’s how well they treat others.

    These tenets contradict each other. In the first, you mention that Christ died on the cross so that everyone could be forever reconciled with God (this also contradicts tenet #2). Meanwhile, in the second tenet you indicate that no one religion contains all of God. Does this mean that everyone is saved? The Bible indicates that those people who put their faith in Jesus are saved. Does this tenet mean that evil people and Satan-worshippers are also saved? It seems that one might answer, “well, all good people are saved.” But then… how do we define what is good without using the Bible as our moral compass?

    Meanwhile, the third tenet introduces your own version of “what to do to get into Heaven”: treat others well. People should be treating others well, but it doesn’t seem to me that anywhere in the Bible does it say that if you treat others well and only treat others well, that that is how you get into Heaven.

    7. The only way to think being gay is a sin is to never actually know any gay people.

    I know lots of gay people and am pro-gay rights, and I don’t necessarily believe that being gay is a sin, but I don’t think that it is a stretch to consider acts of gay sex a sin. Put it this way… according to what I know of the Bible, pre-marital sex is a sin, and in fact, I think that it even says that lusting after someone is a sin. I know many people who do these things – perhaps even most people – but I think most Christians would still consider these things sins.

    The truth of the matter is, we’re all sinners… if we weren’t, we wouldn’t need salvation through Christ. So sure, gay people are sinners… and so is everybody else. The key is to accept Christ as our way to salvation and then try to live our lives in accordance with this faith. This means accepting our lot as sinners and working to avoid the temptation to sin. It also means accepting gay people as fellow sinners and not believing you are somehow better than they are or less of a sinner than they are.

    I think it’s unfair to gay people if gay sex is a sin, and there are other things about Christianity that are also unfair to certain groups of people – for example, people who are swingers are sinning according to the Bible, and yet there are people out there who are polyamorous or for whom swinging is a natural part of a healthy sex life. But it seems to me that if Christianity is true, then just because something in the Bible is unfair to some group of people doesn’t mean it’s any less true.

    12. Divorce is awful. But the idea that God wants anyone to continue suffering in a terrible marriage is ridiculous.

    This is another one of those places where just because you don’t happen to like something in the Bible doesn’t mean it’s not true. It may or may not be true, but whether or not it is true should be based on what the Bible says and not on our own personal feelings.

    11. God can handle converting people. Our job is to love people.

    Jesus specifically tells his followers to go out and spread the good news. He doesn’t say, “go out and love people,” he tells people to spread the good news of the gospel.

    I do not think God can handle converting people without us. If it hadn’t been for the followers of Jesus spreading the word and evangelizing, there would be no Christianity today. The way God “handles” converting people is through his followers.

    People who try to convert other people get a bad rap. I don’t stand in the street trying to convert people myself, but I see where those people are coming from. They truly believe that the work they are doing is saving peoples’ souls. With so much on the line I do not blame them for their fervor.

    4. Church and state should always be separate. Nothing else can be fair to all citizens.

    If this is true, then how can we define what is “fair”? I once saw something on the Internet that showed states where gay people could get married, and states where people could marry their cousin. The goal of the photo was to show that wow, gay people can’t get married, but look, people can marry their cousins! Well, if you’re truly fighting for the freedom to marry whom you want, why shouldn’t these people also have the freedom to marry their cousins? Why shouldn’t they marry five or six wives? Why shouldn’t they marry their sisters? Why shouldn’t they marry their dogs? If you take Christianity out of the picture, then how do we figure out who should be able to marry whom? “Fair” is relative… and even coming up with a “majority rules” way of figuring out what is “fair” is going to be a moving target over time.

    Anyway – let me know if you have any thoughts, I’d appreciate hearing them. And just to reiterate, I do see the appeal of a lot of what you say over what Christianity seems to say… but it seems to me that either Christianity is true and we have to deal with what it has to say about how to gain salvation, or Christianity is a load of codswallop and nothing we or anyone else does means a darn thing.

    • Elizabeth

      Hi Brian! I appreciate your specificity. #15 is pretty much covered under “do unto others” etc. God knows I treat others better than I treat myself. #7: Lust is a given. God gave us libidos. He got over worrying about that a long time ago. Please see: Adam and Eve. Likening equal marriage to incest is just, well, dumb. The separation of church and state (#4) is “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s. Render unto God what is God’s.”

      And I don’t try to convert anyone. Christianity’s not for weaklings. It’s walking the walk every day. I don’t judge people who can’t hack it.

      • Kerry

        Haven’t read all these comments at all so probably should keep reading and not comment, but I’d like to share that when I read that last line about “not for weaklings” and not judging those who can’t hack it, it bothered me. Calling someone a weakling is kind of ‘judgey’ in my opinion.

        I just wanted to pipe in with my first reaction to those words. I think it is one of the things about Christianity I struggle with – people thinking they are doing it right and others aren’t. Not you, per se, but the Fundamentalist types. I think it triggered an old reaction ( if that makes sense).

        • Elizabeth

          Hi Kerry. I wasn’t calling anyone a weakling. I’m sorry if it was triggering. There are many paths to truth. I’m Christian because I like the ritual, symbolism, and community. I identify with it. It resonates fully. My point was more that to truly live my faith takes discipline. It’s not for everyone. I mean, look at me: I took a swing at answering Brian’s criticism knowing full well 1. he probably wasn’t paying attention, and 2. someone would probably read it as holier-than-thou. That’s not everyone’s idea of fun.

          • Brian

            Hi Elizabeth, I was certainly paying attention. However, I got the impression from your reply that you missed the point I was trying to make with my comment, so I chose not to try to continue the discussion. However, as you have brought me back into the conversation, I’d be glad to try to better explain my main point. I do appreciate your having taken the time to respond to my comment, and am not trying to be a jerk or put down what you have to say… I am simply trying to understand.

            It seems to me that changing “the rules” to Christianity as explained by Jesus in the Bible turns it into something that is no longer Christianity. It sounds great to say that there are many paths to salvation, that people of other religions are saved in their own way, and that it is the act of loving one another, not the embracing of Jesus as our savior, that is the proper path to Heaven. But, at least to me, these things seem contrary to the things Jesus taught… so far from criticizing these tenets, I was asking how this new flavor of Christianity aligns with true Christianity.

            Let’s take another example. Let’s say that I told people that killing squirrels was the path to salvation. Yes, this is ridiculous, but hear me out. So a lot of people are killing squirrels thanks to my guidance, thinking they’re going to Heaven. When they die, it turns out that what Jesus said in the Bible was that if you believe that he died for you on the cross and become his follower, then you will be saved. All those people who killed squirrels to get into Heaven were led astray by my words!

            Now of course nobody is going to believe that killing squirrels is the way to salvation. But what if someone said, well, you don’t have to believe in Jesus to get into Heaven, all you need to do is be a good, loving person (see tenet #2 and #9). In fact, you don’t even have to be a Christian (tenet #8)! People who follow this new “Christianity” turn away from Jesus and be good, loving people. Well, on judgment day, will these people be saved by Jesus? That is something to which I do not know the answer, of course, as it’s not for me to judge who gets into Heaven and who does not… BUT, it seems that if you are going to lead people toward this new flavor of Christianity with these tenets that, at least to some degree, appear to go against what the Bible has to say, you should make absolutely sure that you are not in fact leading your flock astray. Does this make sense?

            Just to reiterate… I’m not saying you are leading your flock astray, I’m not criticizing these tenets, and I’m certainly not a fundamentalist or “getting close to predestination or prosperity doctrine”. I simply want to understand how these tenets, which I do happen to find valuable, reconcile with the actual teachings of Jesus as described in the Bible.

          • Elizabeth

            I respect that. It’s just that Jesus didn’t say anything about homosexuality. At all. A few rabbinical lawmakers centuries before did. Jesus was/is a fresh start. Then Paul wrote a couple of lines about it a century later. Paul was cool, but he had some control issues. That’s why he’s so much easier for people seeking hard-and-fast rules to cling to. Jesus only had the two: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and love your neighbor as yourself. Encouraging and Accepting people where they are today and encouraging them to use their own minds—which includes answering questions and providing an example of how intellectual inquiry can be done—is the mandate. If God struck Saul on the way to Damascus, he sure doesn’t need my help converting anyone.

            And hey, you’re always a part of the conversation. I usually nest comments under whatever interests me. I don’t usually respond directly to John posts. Everyone knows I think he’s da bomb. I just find that because I was trained in the Bible as literature instead of as a religious text, albeit from a professor as nebulously devout as I am, I sometimes have a different perspective. I’m satisfied not “leading” any flock.

          • Elizabeth

            Mentally delete the first “Encouraging and” if you would. Typos are my control issues.

          • Elizabeth

            Interestingly, John Stott (evangelical Anglican, Cambridge) thought Paul’s conversion was gradual. Damascus was simply the final straw. He wrote a dialogue called Essentials with a leading liberal Anglican, David Edwards (Oxford). Now I know what Santa’s bringing me for Christmas.

            Interesting might be an overstatement.

          • Brian

            Hi Elizabeth, this is a great response.

            I, too, have done research into what the Bible says about homosexuality, because it seems to me that homosexual people are created by God to be who they are. I see so many hateful posts on Facebook and elsewhere that basically hammer in the point that gays and Christians are opposites. I’ve always wished I could find a one-line argument to rebut these sorts of posts to show that, in fact, you can be Christian and gay, or Christian and gay-supporting, and that this is a completely natural thing that falls in line with the teachings of Jesus.

            Unfortunately, it’s hard to defend all of Christendom from being anti-gay, because whenever you point out all the amazing things that Jesus had to say about loving one another, and about how being Christian is all about loving and accepting others, someone will inevitably pull up some scripture from Paul or from the Old Testament to try to refute you. Note that it’s not usually the Christians themselves that I find coming up with these scriptures… it’s the people who are seeking to demonstrate the intolerance of Christians. Anyone else notice that?

          • Elizabeth

            Good morning, Brian! Did you see John’s piece http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/2012/04/02/the-best-case-for-the-bible-not-condemning-homosexuality/? It’s his definitive answer. It’s full of one-line responses. I (somewhat arbitrarily) would use “God does not ask us to choose between compassion and faith in the Bible. …The answer is that no Christian is called upon to make that choice. The text of the Bible on one hand, and full equality for gay and lesbian people on the other, is a false dichotomy. God would not ask or expect Christians to ever choose between their heart and their faith.”

            I never thought homosexuality was unnatural or opposed to God’s will. I always had LGBTQ teachers and friends who fostered and supported me. I was never conflicted. When I finally read John’s work, the lightbulb was blinding. Here was the guy who clearly verbalized the disconnect I felt all along.

            The ratio of pseudo-Christians whipping out clobber passages to Christian haters whipping out clobber passages is about equal around here. It’s hard to say since John works hard to keep this space safe. He deletes comments when they’re too abusive or distracting.

            Also, I wouldn’t dismiss Allie. She’s got tenacity and fire; she holds her own. You have to admit, “Are you saying that you lack the innate sense of justice of a BABY?” is a good line.

          • Allie

            Pretty well, if you read the words of Jesus (something most fundamentalists inexplicably avoid doing) and the tenets themselves.

            There’s a point to be made, though. Since you raised a hypothetical, let me raise one: what if the Bible said that the only way to reach heaven was to shoot ten random strangers and then laugh at their bereaved relatives? Would you go for it? Would that become “good” just because the Bible said it was good?

        • Elizabeth

          It’s not the pro forma “love the sinner, hate the sin” in regards to LGBTQ that bothers me. It takes real creativity to break new ground on that. I think what bothered me was his critique of #2 and #15. Starts getting dangerously close to predestination and prosperity doctrine. I can work out the knots all day long. It’s a sickness, really.

    • Allie

      There’s no contradiction between loving others and seeking salvation through being a follower of Christ. The way to be a follower of Christ, the ONLY way, is to do good to others. That’s what it means and it doesn’t mean anything different, or anything additional. If you BELIEVE in Christ, but don’t actually do what he told people to do, then you are not a follower of Christ. Even devils believe in God, so the verse says. And then there’s Matthew 7:21-23 (quick copy paste from the first searchable text that came up:)

      Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy by thy name, and by thy name cast out demons, and by thy name do many mighty works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

    • Allie

      Reading over this very long post a second time, I find myself tempted to rebut at length. But rather than do that, I think I can sum up my rebuttal simply: you’re finding contradictions in things John never said. READ IT. Don’t make up stuff out of your own mind about what you think John must be saying based on your own previous experiences, just read the perfectly clear words written down here and take away from that what those words mean. Just to give one example, John never said being nice to others was “how to get into heaven.” That’s all you.

      • Allie

        Ugh. Sorry. Too annoyed by certain points not to respond to them.

        “…it doesn’t seem to me that anywhere in the Bible does it say that if you treat others well and only treat others well, that that is how you get into Heaven.”

        In at least two places Jesus specifically does say this. One is the parable of the Good Samaritan. Another is where he says that those who, having not the law, yet do the law, are a law unto themselves.

        And do you REALLY need the Bible as a moral compass to know the difference between right and wrong? Because studies have found that pre-verbal babies know that just fine. Shown two scenarios, one in which goodies are divided fairly, and one in which they are divided unfairly, the babies freak out at the unfair divide. Likewise they freak out when a puppet show demonstrates a mean puppet being rewarded, as opposed to one which demonstrates a nice puppet being rewarded. Are you saying that you lack the innate sense of justice (the one referenced in the Bible in the allegorical tale of the tree of Good and Evil) of a BABY?

        • Brian

          Hi Allie,

          There is no reason to get annoyed… if we question our beliefs and have difficult discussions about them, then we can work to better understand them, and to better understand ourselves.

          I think you hit the nail on the head when you said “If you BELIEVE in Christ, but don’t actually do what he told people to do, then you are not a follower of Christ.” This is precisely how I feel, and what I was trying to get across. It seems to me that Christianity starts with faith in Jesus, and ends with the acts that we perform based on this faith and putting our trust into him. If people are intolerant or hateful, it is because they do not understand what it truly means to be Christian. However, it seems to me that this process starts with a strong faith in Jesus, and not simply by the performing of “good acts”. If you see someone doing good things, you wouldn’t say “that person is doing good things, so he is a Christian”. There is a faith element that goes along with the package.

          As for your moral compass argument, you should ask yourself… where does our moral compass come from? If the answer is God, then would we not then ask ourselves: if God did provide specific moral teachings in his scripture, should we not seek to follow these moral teachings?

          I certainly did not post my questions to work people up and get people upset; I simply wanted to better understand how these tenets, which as I mentioned before I find valuable, were rooted in solid Christianity. This is because without a solid foundation in scripture, these tenets will be difficult to pass on to people with strong, traditional Christian backgrounds. However, as I seem to have stirred the pot rather than started meaningful conversation, I’ll step away from this thread. Thanks for your input, however – I do appreciate it.

          • Anne

            Hi Guys, just a thought. My take on it “believing on Christ versus following his teachings” leading to salvation is this. It’s not about how good you are, as even when Jesus was called good he stated ” why callest thou me good? There is none good save the Father”, so I don’t think our personal effort in this regard will do much good. The “believing on Christ “bit is also tricky ’cause I guess it would depend on what that actually means…just believing itself I wouldn’t think would be of much benefit. To me the means of salvation that Jesus was teaching, was to demonstrate to us “the Son of God was made man, so that man might become sons of God”. I believe that is why he was called “the way”. So to me it’s not about “doing” but by “being” (Christ like) knowing who we really are that will bring with it salvation, which of course Jesus said “is within you”. Does this make sense? Hope so!

  • Drew

    I assume your blog will be on the progressive christian page, correct?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      I think so, yeah. I mean, that’s my understanding at this point.

  • Nessie

    Thank you, John…:)

  • Anne

    I found it interesting to hear what Brian had to say earlier…it does seem to me also that some of your tenants were contradictory to each other. Wouldn’t it be GREAT not to list tenants at all ? Truth is infinite and shouldn’t be shackled by our “hold” on it, it is forever unfolding in consciousness, seen as spiritual growth (unchanging change) a bit of a paradox I know, but that to me can be a new way of thinking ?

    • Elizabeth

      Yeah, but… the ten commandments and all. People seem to respect lists. Truth is infinite; human understanding isn’t. We change change. Never mind, you were addressing John.

      • Elizabeth

        And tenets. I’m not trying to be mean. The wrong words just get on my last nerve. #human

      • Anne

        Elizabeth, if Truth is infinite, then doesn’t it follow suit that our understanding of it must be infinite unfoldment also. How could Truth be infinite and at the same time finite (limited). To me it’s the “living” word thereby constantly being revealed to human consciousness. Jesus said “Ye shall Know the truth…..” but to me that’s open-ended. I didn’t get what you mean by WE change change, when I said “unchanging change” I meant paradoxically….a new way of looking at something that was already perfect and thereby unchangeable, it’s just “change” of thought. (Boy! Words are sometimes so insufficient !)

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

          Ahhh, Anne. I remember the first time I got stoned, too.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

            [old joke. sorry.]

        • Elizabeth

          “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” ― Mahatma Gandhi. Along those lines. Otherwise, I should really try hallucinogens again. I’m sure it’s just me. I’m enjoying the hell out of your passion, though.

      • Anne

        Yeah, but tenets (oops nearly wrote tenants again!), aren’t like the Ten Commandments, as these are God’s laws, whereas tenets are human beliefs, which inevitably lead to friendly, or oft times very unfriendly combat. It’s this dogmatic attitude that seems to separate us, instead of uniting us Christians.

        • Elizabeth

          Rules, in and of themselves, don’t separate us. Sometimes they even unite us. We don’t lie, at least not about the big stuff. We don’t steal. We don’t kill each other. It’s how we implement them that encourages combat. John’s changed the national dialogue on Christians and gays. I (in some miniscule way) try to broker some understanding here in the shooting gallery. That’s not dogmatism. That’s listening. That’s hope.

          • Anne

            Sorry Elizabeth, I didn’t mean to infer that you were dogmatic, not at all! What I meant when I said dogmatic attitudes, I was referring to tenets themselves being “stumbling blocks”, that may cause division among Christians if held to in a dogmatic way. I guess I was only speaking from my own experience, when a wonderful relationship I enjoyed with a particular denomination, terminated our friendship, because I did not fully agree with their tenets (beliefs/rules). By the way, I do appreciate your listening :)

          • Elizabeth

            Bummer. “Terminated our friendship” sounds painful. One thing John’s blog has covered is listening. I’ve done more recently because I’ve got a surplus of free time and I genuinely like hearing different opinions. There are a bunch of regulars, though. As DR put it not too long ago, we can be a church.

          • Anne

            Same, same :) I too enjoy plenty of free time, to hear all the different ideas of others. I agree “we can be a church” (the definition I like, for Church, (as I interpret Jesus’ meaning of it) “the structure of Truth and Love”) don’t need a ‘building’ for that ! :)

        • Elizabeth

          You probably know this, but here’s a little background on tenets. Luther called them theses. https://www.courses.psu.edu/ger/ger100_fgg1/supplementary/luther_tenets.html

  • Anne

    Sorry John, meant tenets…not tenants :) my goodness what was I thinking !

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      I make the same mistake all the time. I’m always, like, “It’s time for us to really whip these tenants into shape!” and so on. Awkward.

      • Elizabeth

        *falls out of loft laughing hysterically* Anne, John. John, Anne. Now that the introductions are done, Imma gonna go get a job.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

          good luck with the getting of the job!

  • Valerie Wall Hedrick

    This is pretty cool.

  • Anne Young

    I dunno John, goodness knows you are on the right track theoretically, but any attempts to organize might screw it all up – you know, like it did 2,000 years ago. Wishing you all the best for peceful co-existance.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Anne: I appreciate what you’re saying. But I don’t think doing a themed group blog counts too much as “organizing.” I’ll publish stuff I like. That’s … pretty entirely the extent of it.

  • David Weintraub

    I love you, John. That is all.

  • Cheryl Root

    Good stuff!

  • Jim Stanley

    Love it!

  • Francisco Ruelas

    Love it

  • Kim Upton

    Nice stuff.

  • George Orban

    AMEN!

  • Muir Halleron

    I personally don’t believe that Jesus is God incarnate but rather he was a very wise man who encouraged people to live in love and kindness. Was he led by God? Well, I’m not sure – mainly because I’m not convinced that there is such a thing as a huge invisible all-knowing everywhere-at-once perfect being. If God exists, I think it’s more along the lines of God being everything that is good inside of us and everything around us. But that’s ok and what you believe about God and Jesus is ok. That’s the neat thing about humanity – there is room for everyone to have their own belief system and none of us are wrong.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Well, I mean … if Jesus wasn’t who he said he was, then he was hardly a very wise man. If he wasn’t who he said he was, then CLAIMING to be who he said he was can only mean that he was a complete nut-job.

      • Lymis

        Well, yes, but those really aren’t the only two options. Everything we know about what Jesus said about himself or others is recorded by people writing decades after the events in the Gospels.

        And even in what we do have, there are relatively few references to him saying explicitly that he was God. Being “one with the Father” (besides being a translation) can be taken a number of ways, for example.

        So a third option, besides “Every word is true” and “He was a nut-job” is “At least some of what was recorded was, even if it was written with the best intentions, not an accurate representation of what was said and done.”

        Heck, even here, we see people misquoting or misunderstanding what someone said in writing that’s documented right on the same page. Word of mouth 30 years later?

        But yes, I’d say not believing in the divinity of Jesus pretty much knocks someone out of being labeled Christian. Doesn’t mean they aren’t great people beloved of God, but it’s a bit of a definitional thing.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

          Nah. I still say that if Jesus said the things we have Jesus saying in the Bible–and if you start trying to work into your calculation of who Jesus was all the things he said and did that isn’t in the Bible, you can only go nowhere fast–he could only be a nut.

          • Elizabeth

            Speaking of nuts, the barren fig tree is in Luke. Doesn’t anyone get I’m making up half this stuff as I go along?

          • Penelope Vos

            This false dichotomy irritate me. Jesus also said he’s bread, a vine and a way.

            He was neither lying (nor crazy) nor telling literal truth. Once you accept that metaphoric truth exists in the Bible, there is no reason why “Son” cannot be a non-literal truth.

            (Generally, you are doing good work, thanks!)

          • Elizabeth

            “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” That and, “Jesus wept.”

            That’s all the ‘literal’ you need to memorize. John taught me that.

        • Brenda in La.

          Lymis,

          Yes! I agree with your saying it’s a definitional thing. My saying I’m a Christian defines me as someone who believes in the divinity of Christ, someone who believes him to be the Son of God, and so on, as recorded in the scriptures. I also agree with your comment about allowing for human error in recording his life and acts, and that there could even be misinterpretation of some of his words.

          Still, for me, I believe him to be the One who sacrificed himself for us. Now, that opens up the question of who the “us” is in that statement, which almost always leads to disagreements, especially among fundamentalists. Fortunately for me, I am not a fundamental Christian, so I have no problem with it.

          I absolutely also agree with you that there are people beloved by God, but who define themselves as Buddhists, or perhaps Muslims, or Hindus, etc. That thought may make some gasp, but it’s what I believe. My God is so broad and so loving that I don’t believe He only loves Christians. Gasp! It is impossible for me to know God’s relationship with other faiths (or those with no faith), as it is impossible for me to know His relationship with another Christian.

          Again, these are simply my beliefs, but I think anyone who presumes to “know” what God has planned for any of us, especially for those who don’t believe as we do, is smacking of arrogance.

          Love this blog. Thanks, John, for giving an opportunity for these discussions!

  • Kelly

    I like this list except for #1. #1 is an interpretive doctrine … I was raised by a denomination that could assert with scripture and certainty that Jesus was NOT God. If I am looking for a Christianity that does not assert interpretational things as true, then this cannot be for me.

    Can we leave it at “Jesus was real” please?

    • Elizabeth

      In this context, incarnate is pretty much the same as real. He walked, he talked, he was friends with questionable personages. I’ve never been hung up on whether Mary was technically a virgin, either. It’s a sweet idea, I believe it, but it doesn’t really make a difference. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incarnation_(Christianity)

      • Kelly

        Jesus was God real? That doesn’t make sense.

        I’m not here to debate the doctrine, because I’ve sort of come to the conclusion that the two sides are really arguing the same thing but it’s the words that are causing the problem. What I object to here is that it is included as a tenet with that symbolism-laden, charged wording. It immediately starts a debate, or turns off and away, someone who has internalized the rejection of the traditional (“fundamental”) interpretation. Which is why it doesn’t seem to fit with this unfundamentalist Christianity.

        Or maybe I just need to go and write my own tenets. :) Which would say that Jesus is pretty darn special, whatever his “matter and substance” (truly unknowable to humans, in the same way that life after death is), is.

        • Elizabeth

          “Real” is a metaphysical concept. I wouldn’t dare assume I knew the answer. I feel God. I know God. I wonder at God. It’s undefinable in the end. I think Jesus would be more than happy with pretty darn special. ;)

          • Kelly

            :)

  • Chris

    Oh wow! I’m home!!!! If only I could find a real life church like this.

    • http://www.greggdeselms.com Gregg DesElms

      CHRIS WROTE: If only I could find a real life church like this.

      MY RESPONSE: Where, on the planet, are you physically located? Maybe there’s something closer than you think.

      Gregg L. DesElms

      Napa, California USA

      gregg at greggdeselms dot com

      • Zoe

        It’s your lucky day! There totally are churches like this! Depending on where you live, the United Church of Canada (in Canada, obviously) and the United Church of Christ (in the United States) come to mind. Also many Methodist, Presbyterian, and Anglican churches. Theology varies from church building to church building even among denominations, so if you explore I’m sure you can find one in your hometown or in a neighbouring town that closely matches these tenets. Good luck!

  • http://www.susanirenefox.com Susan Irene Fox

    John, just discovered this site today. Love it, love the short video, think the facebook is terrific. I’m 62, only became a believer just under 7 years ago. What you say makes SO much sense to me. I’ll be visiting often. Bless you. I’m definitely a UC!

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Thanks, Susan. I’m glad to hear this. Welcome!

      • chris

        Hi john, just reading the 14 values that you have on your belief system about the bible.

        I observed number 3.which generally talks about love peace and harmony. Yes you are correct about those values the bible values but the bible also talks about holiness.

        Holiness has links to purity. How do we know what is pure and what is not unless we have laws. Jesus said he did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it. You are right about the New Test talking about grace and love superceding laws.

        However laws are put in place for those that dont always get love and grace right. Because humans are frail and we were born so the bible saids in sin structures are needed to be put in place to help us make the right choices when we as a human race or individual choose not to follow love and grace.

        To abolish long worn out laws and structures or straightforward biblical verses and change them to more suitable princbles may apply in some cases but not all.

        The early churh had good reasons for operating the way they did in the new test. Paul claimed he received much of his doctrine from the holy spirit who is all wise and knowing as the bible saids.

        To understand what is right, pure and holy we must also understand what is wrong, impure and unholy.

        The new test of its time gave examples of each and much of it came from pauls writings.

        To acknowledge what is is the dark is not pointing the finger in judgment but pointing towards the dangers of unholiness. How people do this needs to be done wisely and we are all imperfect.

        But nevertheless the bible is a guid regardless of old or new readings. God so it seems has portrayed his character, likes and dislikes throughout his 3 persons and everything that has been inspired by them is relevant.

        About number 5. And about females submitting.

        Females submitting usually refers to socail order within a family unit. Even Jesus said that he submits to his Father in heaven and proclaims his fathers message.

        I suppose it comes down to your understanding of what submit really means. If there is order within a relationship and the relationship is grounded on love then theres nothing wrong with submiting. Many women like to be led by men. It helps them feel secure emotionaly and financially.

        But then if you have gay relationships that rule doesnt apply as the structures of socail order and family is misplaced.

        Structural order even exists in gay relationships as many woman take on the role as the leader of the relationship and even dress more manly then the female taking on a more femine role.

        If people stop submitting socail order in society starts crumbling across many spheres including employment, education, families, relationships and children towards their parents. Submiting could be looked at like a power trip or a tool to help make smoother tranactions between people.

        Referal to 6. There is more evidence that God leads to being more male then female in the bible. The fact that Jesus calls God ” father” instead of mother. I think jesus new the difference between the to. Also the way god dealt with his people in the old test seems to be more masculine. The fact that he created Adam first and then eve was created out of adam so that adam would not be alone. Both jesus and the gold of the old test point to god being more masculine where the holy spirit points to jesus and god.

        Referal to point 8. The bible especially in the new test talks about hell being a place reserved for satan and those that god chooses to send there. Jesus talks about in in parables. Also the apostles mention it as well. Paul and peter mention it in their writings.

        As I was saying earlier dont evolve away from the truth.

        I suppose the last thing is that the bible saids god created man in his image or ” our image” then he created adam and eve. Adam and eve together as a socail bonding and sexual unit were represented as the image of god. Becareful how you try to redefine that image…

        All ghe best…chris

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

          Ha, ha! I love it when the guys from The Onion come over here and write fake fundy letters. Good one, guys! You got exactly right that weird combination of arrogant conviction, random illiteracy, and dead-eyed zombie recitation. Love it!

          • http://heckledtrio.blogspot.com Helly

            Ah, come on, John! The Onion writers at least have better grammar/spelling, right? :-P

          • Cody

            That’s pretty rough, John. Let’s be honest here: you believe Jesus is God incarnate but deny that he means what he says. If he says he is the only way to the Father (which he does), and you believe that Jesus is the Christ, then it follows that he ought to mean what he says. Why then would you deny that he is in fact the only way? It isn’t possible for both assertions to be true: that, one the one hand, Jesus is the only way and, on the other, that all ways are valid. This is where post-modernism fails. It’s completely illogical.

            That’s not the only point of yours that I take issue with, but it’s the only one I’ll comment on for now.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

            I assume you’re referring to John 14:6: “”I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” You’re a big believer in logic, right? So you must realize that quote does not say that only Christians can get into heaven.

          • Cody

            Ah, yes. Nice cartoon. What about verses like John 3:36, 8:24, 17:3? Would you reject them by similar logic? Jesus is the judge and he gives us his criterion for entrance into the New Jerusalem (what you generically call “heaven”). If you believe the Bible is true, then you believe a life of continued obedience to Jesus is necessary for salvation. The only non-Christians who will be there with the saints are those who “By nature do the things of the law” and thereby become “a law unto themselves.”

            What you have done, and admittedly so, is fashion a “Christianity” after your own desires. You mock God because you mock God’s people. Not all of us agree on every point, but you, sir, have no knowledge. You literally do not know what you’re doing in spreading these unscriptural ideas. You’ve created a little cult around these tenets of yours. Weak-minded people follow tenets like those because they don’t have the boldness to confront the darkness that is around them. It’s an unfortunate reality, but quite true.

            Jesus was and is a very confrontational figure. Would you have us believe that he wants us to let wickedness (as God defines it rather than John’s definition) run rampant in our culture without standing for what is right and honorable? It is telling that the tenets of your religion don’t include repentance, holiness or faith. It’s because you’ve fashioned yourself into a spiritual leader without having considered the ramifications of being terribly wrong. John, what if you’re wrong?

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

            “Nice cartoon” is a woefully inadequate response, Cody. If you want to have a real dialogue, then tell me you understand that John 14:6 does not, in fact, say that only Christians can make it into heaven. Don’t claim that logic means a great deal to you, and then so disdainfully dismiss logic when it disproves something you’d prefer to be true. Doing that makes it seem like you care a good deal less about the truth than you do about your being right. And I’m sure you don’t want to come across as someone that shallow and ego-fueled.

          • Cody

            When taken with the whole of scripture, John 14:6 means just what I believe it to mean. What about the others I mentioned?

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

            So, in other words, you can only understand any given passage of the Bible if you take its entire context into account. I couldn’t agree more.

          • Elizabeth

            Oh Cody. Silly rabbit, tricks are for kids. John is not a ‘spiritual leader’ and we’re not ‘minions’ who drank the ‘kool-aid’. He’s a wise man who writes around the clock. He’s been ordained. He founded the NALT (Not All Like That) Christians Project and Unfundamentalist Christians.

            Not only has he endorsed repentance, holiness, and faith, he’s taught it to thousands if not millions. He’s so good, he’ll be polite to you.

            I’m under no such obligation. I’m thieves in the temple, all the way. You want confrontation? Bring it.

          • Cody

            Elizabeth, so far John has not rebutted a single claim of mine (aside from that wonderfully insightful cartoon, of course). You contradict yourself. Either John is a spiritual leader or he isn’t, but you say both! He’s been ordained? Wonderful! Men can’t ordain anyone; only God can do that. “Ordination” is a funny thing as it is an invention of religion. [Note: on his website, "Brother Cody" describes himself as "a minister of the Gospel by divine adoption."]

            If the man teaches on spiritual matters, had founded religious organizations and so on…well, he is a leader, is he not? You come to his aid because you love him. That’s wonderful, but you ought to come with scripture and truth rather than rhetoric.

            How can he possibly teach repentance, holiness and faith if he believes they’re optional? That’s a question with an obvious answer. I’ve read some of your comments, Elizabeth, and I’m not worried about you. You deny the most fundamental of Christian ideas. You’re an idolater if you worship anything at all. In all likelihood, though, you worship nothing.

          • Elizabeth

            Ha! I’ve already been called an apostate and dangerous sexual anarchist by people with more street cred than you. I do love John. But not in some blind, accepting way. The scripture you’re looking for is Matthew 22:36. “Master, which is the greatest commandment of the Law?’ Jesus said to him, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second resembles it: You must love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments hang the whole Law, and the Prophets too.”

            I studied the Bible at Corpus Christi, Oxford. I’m not really hung up on your appraisal.

          • Cody

            Well, you didn’t study it hard enough. How much “street cred” do I need in order to be right? I’m not sure about your sexual anarchy; what in the world is that anyway? I probably don’t want to know. Your own testimony here proves the equation “Filth in=Filth out.”

            How can you obey those commandments, Elizabeth? Is it all on a cerebral level like you other comments on this page imply? You need to know God in a real way, through repentance and faith. Repent or perish.

          • Elizabeth

            Sorry it took me so long. I’m taking social network analysis and marketing classes. I had homework. It’s true; I’m too cerebral. John pointed out that wasn’t a compliment years ago. I know God through ritual. I know God because I have yet to observe a ‘coincidence’ in 39 years. And I know God because, on a dark night, I can cling to John 1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,” and accept it as literally true. Jesus hung out with prostitutes, lepers, tax collectors, and ignorant fisherman. He’ll certainly accept me. And you, too, although He wasn’t too crazy about Pharisees. At least be a Sadducee. Then you’d be upper class.

          • http://www.wordpress.com Cody

            I’ll just talk to you since John doesn’t like my honest comments and doesn’t want to play me anymore.

            Well, it’s not uncommon for people to believe they can know God through ritual; unfortunately, they cannot. You can only know him through obedience. As a Bible student, that should have been apparent to you.

            I pray that you come to repentance and really follow Jesus. Let me say this: Jesus “hanging out” with sinners is a far cry from what you are doing here. This group exists to propagate sin rather than expose it. Therefore, I can say with confidence having spoken to John (having seen his hypocrisy), also having dialogued with you about your strange brand of Gnosticism, God is not head over this “fellowship” and Christ is not represented here. Therefore, Christ cannot accept this group as legitimate (because it is based on hypocrisy and lies) and I cannot accept it either.

            What limited influence the group has over some of my friends will hopefully be extinguished soon so that they will remain in the faith and not apostasize as you have. Oxford didn’t do you any favors.

          • http://www.wordpress.com Cody

            Wow! I didn’t notice the edit inserted into my comment. Rebut my arguments. You don’t believe in the priesthood of all believers, John? God certainly does.

            My conversion experience was from degenerate drug dealer/addict, violent, thieving, manipulating sinner to a son of God (by that adoption I mention on my website). I was converted in a jail cell. There is a clear difference between my life then and now, and I praise God for it. Can you take issue with anything I’ve said or must you continue editing comments in order to keep a semblance of integrity?

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

            Just letting people know where you’re coming from, Cody. I hope there is as much of a difference between the person you are now and the person you were before your conversion. Do you mind if I ask: What was the most violent thing you ever did to anybody?

          • Elizabeth

            Hi again, Cody. Oxford did me BIG favors. For one thing, I can say “I went to Oxford.” It’s a great way to start conversations at cocktail parties and, you know, avoid jailhouse conversions.

            I’m not a Gnostic. Some of Christianity’s roots are in Gnosticism as well as Zoroastrianism. That’s what they teach us when you read the hard books. That’s why it’s pertinent.

            BTW, John doesn’t usually participate. He keeps tabs on us while he writes real stuff. When he edits you, it’s generally to make you look smarter. Or yank your chain when he’s in a mood. One or the other. I wouldn’t even be here if Facebook weren’t down. The fact that you haven’t been blocked yet is tacit approval. Fire away.

          • http://www.wordlikefire.wordpress.com Cody

            Good morning, Elizabeth. Good thing he’s editing because I need all the help I can get to look smarter. I think John is genuinely interested in what I have to say. I have faith in intellectual honesty.

            You’re right; Oxford is a good conversation starter. It certainly got my attention! Don’t discount jailhouse conversions, though. Many times they are the most dramatic and lasting. Who knows, you may have one yourself someday so keep an open mind.

            As far as Christianity having roots in Gnosticism and Zoroastrianism, well that’s just inaccurate. Some sects had Gnostic beginnings (Augustine’s crew, for instance), but not the whole of the religion. Some would argue that Calvinism is a bit gnostic, and certainly the LDS movement is. I would caution you against a blanket revisionist history on the while shebang, though, no matter what those “hard books” say.

          • Elizabeth

            Cody, no one here is judging you. It can get heated. We talk religion, politics, and sex (my personal contribution, often) a lot. I live in a crack neighborhood. By choice. I’m on a first-name basis with the dealers, hookers, and ex-cons. I treat them with the same respect I treat anyone. My Jesus is anything but obedient. If you want to pick up this conversation at any time, do.

          • Elizabeth

            You’re there! Cool. I really don’t want to my homework. I’m Christian, through and through. Presbyterian potlucks at 3, traced Petrarch back through Augustine to Paul as an independent study at 19, 1500 pages a week of exegesis and literary criticism at 21, Episcopalian by choice. Augustine of Hippo had ISSUES, no question. But he was the same century as the Nicene Creed. Dealing with his Manichaeism and Neo-Platonism is the same way: it’s a deal breaker if you want to use the C-word.

          • Cody

            John, I wouldn’t know how to answer that question as the answer would be sort of relativistic. The bar fights may have been the most violent in actuality but, then again, someone else may have another opinion. I sold crack cocaine, so violence came with the territory. I robbed people, etc. In other words, I guess we’d have to ask my victims what they believe to be the most violent.

            At any rate. If you want people to know where I’m coming from (and I certainly do), then enable the link to my website. At least let the people see for themselves what I believe. You’ve scanned my blog, but they haven’t. You know what I have to say on it, but they don’t.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

            You’re dissembling. You know perfectly well what the most violent thing you’ve ever done to another person is. (And I don’t let people who are openly hostile to me and my readers use my blog to advertise theirs.)

  • Rachel Anne Enders

    I’m a very strong pro-life Catholic, although I’m progressive.

    Pro-lifers need to find a way to support women before demanding that they carry a pregnancy.

    • Rachel Anne Enders

      Oops. Posted this on the wrong article… d’oh!


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