Should Christianity be about Believing the Unbelievable or Doing the Unbelievable?

Should Christianity be about Believing the Unbelievable or Doing the Unbelievable? April 30, 2012

A post by Jim Burklo seems to me to pose a key question about what Christianity is, what it can be, and what it should be. Here is the question in a nutshell:

Should Christianity be about believing that which is unbelievable – accepting claims about miracles and the supernatural, for instance – or about living in an “unbelievable” manner – by radically loving enemies, and the like?

I know that there are some who will immediately object that this is not an either/or scenario. Fine, then think about the question in this way: Which is more important? If one was jettisoned but the other embraced and followed, would it still be Christianity? Would it be a better version of Christianity than others?

There are points in Jim’s post I would quibble about, but I think the overarching point is an important one, summed up well when he writes:

Christianity is both simpler and harder than most people make it out to be.


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  • Jona L.

    Good question.

  • Given Paul’s view of Christ’s resurrection as central to faith, I don’t see how divorcing it from obedience to Christ (which is what produces the radical lifestyle) is a productive exercise.

    I agree, however, that true Christianity is both simpler and harder than most people make it out to be.

    However, we do not have to re-imagine Christianity in order to purify it.  We simply have to return to what was presented to us in the Scriptures.  The Protestant Reformation only took us halfway there. 

    The gospel is all about Christ.   

  • Mira

    I think that believing unbelievable things makes doing them more possible. It’s much harder to risk what you have if you don’t think there is a fundamentally different system that determines your value and security than the “worldly” one(s). I’m not even very good at the “doing,” it IS really hard and I think it IS more important, but I’m not sure I would really be able to think about it without the believing. 

  • Gary

    Interesting view in “Beyond Belief, The Secret Gospel of Thomas”, Elaine Pagels. Her personal story, dropped out of church as a teenager, when a Jewish friend died in a car accident, because evangelicals would say he’s going to the wrong place…coming back when her 2 year old son was diagnosed with a fatal disease, but not buying the doctrine/creeds, as much as the gathering of people with a common cause, “here is a family that knows how to face death”. Her technical story, Didache didn’t think of people as Christians or Jews, but sets forth what the “way of life’ demands. Politics determined the bible books and creeds, since Thomas and John gospels were in conflict. John and Paul won out. Thomas was closer to Mathew, Mark, and Luke in viewing Jesus more as human than God from the beginning. John and Paul and creeds are “believing the unbelievable”, whereas Didache, Mathew, Mark, Luke, and Thomas are more about trying to follow “doing the unbelievable”. One is believe or else, the other is more mellow and 60’s, give peace a chance.

  • helen

    obedience requires submission.  following Jesus and doing things that don’t seem ‘natural’ requires submission.    standing firmly with arms crossed and stating, ‘i’m not going to believe anything i don’t want to’ is rebellion, and misses the point entirely.   i don’t understand the insistence that God can’t do anything supernatural, though of course i suppose strictly speaking God is natural in whatever he does do.   insisting on denying miracles is a way of telling God what he can’t do, like a cranky toddler who needs a nap.    or someone who is bitter because they didn’t get the miracles they asked for.   

    • Comparing those who do not treat claims of the supernatural with the same credulity that you do to “cranky toddlers” really doesn’t help anyone understand why they ought to accept your viewpoint. I expect that you are not as ready to believe claims connected with other religious viewpoints, even though they can be found in abundance. 

      And so let me suggest that your standing firmly with your arms crossed and stating “I’m going to believe anything I want to” misses the point.