Follow-Up: Can you be a Christian and still believe … ?

December 29, 2012 in Books,Theology · 20 comments

Chi RhoMy post Can you be a Christian and still believe … ? caused quite a bit of furor on the interwebs, so I’d like to take a moment to offer a few explanatory notes as well as provide some resources for further exploration of these topics.

First, the point of the post wasn’t to provide a litmus test for Christian faith (liberal or otherwise). The moment we use any of these issues to judge someone else’s relationship with God, we’ve stepped into dangerous territory — territory that belongs not to us, but to God alone. What you believe about these things doesn’t include you in or exclude you from the Kingdom of God. Many people took exception to one or more of the points — and that’s fine. What’s not fine is when we label someone as being “in” or “out” on the basis of a non-essential doctrinal position. That said, these are important issues, ones that we should take the time to carefully consider and thoughtfully engage with. Which leads to my second point:

I’ve had a few requests for resources regarding some of these topics, so below I’ve provided an annotated version of my original list that might help in that regard. I’m primarily going to stick to book recommendations, since what I’ve conveniently reduced down to pithy one-liners are in reality often extraordinarily complex topics that can’t be adequately discussed with brevity.

These resources aren’t meant to be comprehensive (just as the list of ten issues only touches on some of the divisive issues in Christendom) but I think they offer a good starting point for further exploration. If you have other resources you’ve found helpful regarding these issues, I’d love to hear about them.

  1. Evolution is true.
  2. The Bible isn’t inerrant.
  3. Women have the same rights as men.
  4. Homosexuality isn’t a sin.
  5. Owning a gun isn’t a God-given right.
  6. America isn’t God’s chosen country.
  7. Republicans aren’t God’s chosen political party.
  8. The modern state of Israel isn’t God’s chosen people.
  9. Decisions about abortion should be left up to individual women.
  10. Non-Christians won’t burn for eternity in hell.

19 comments… read them below or add one

Deane December 30, 2012 at 3:40 am

Hey, it sorta appears to me that the above reference material is a bit one-sided. I would’ve hoped that if we’re to have well-considered, rational, informed discussions on any or all of the 10 statements, should we not be directed to reference material for both sides of the debate? Anyway, here’s one for the evolution debate that I guess most people know about anyway: http://creation.com/ If you do a search on the site for ‘Kenneth Miller’ you’ll find a review of his ‘Finding Darwin’s God’ book.

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Dan December 30, 2012 at 11:18 am

Yes, of course all those references are one sided (well, not all of them, I did included a couple of “Four Views” books under number #10). The point wasn’t to provide comprehensive resources for a well-rounded debate, the point was to show that thoughtful, Christian defenses of all of those positions do exist. There are good, Christian arguments in favor of evolution and there are good, Christian arguments opposed to evolution. But if you think that one simply can’t be a Christian and believe in evolution, then I think it would be a good idea to take a look at the work of Miller, Lamoureux and other Christians who do accept evolution.

That said, I’m glad to entertain resources from both (or all) sides of these issues.

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lucyhouston December 31, 2012 at 11:19 am

The reason they are one sided, is because the opposite of those points, is generally what a main-stream fundamentalism Christian in this country believes. My family are all fundamentalist christians and with the exception of #5 above (guns), they absolutely believe that the Bible and Jesus agree with the opposite of each of those statements. They constantly “witness” to me and explain to me that I’m going to hell and am not really a christian, simply because I believe in evolution. So the point of the list, to my understanding, is that those particular topics are irrelevant to being a christian, and Dan was providing the list from the point of view of christians who are attacked for holding them.

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Dan December 31, 2012 at 1:08 pm

Yes!

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Marion Lane December 31, 2012 at 9:12 am

I thought your 10 points were absolutely wonderful and I do appreciate this list of resources.. Please keep your articles and thought provoking posts coming!

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Dan December 31, 2012 at 9:37 am

Thank you so much for those encouraging words!

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Richard Jones December 31, 2012 at 11:27 am

Thanks for the original post and this very helpful follow-up!

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Diane Medlen Yanacek December 31, 2012 at 12:40 pm

Thank you for the thought-provoking original post and follow up. The only thing I’d like you to consider, especially since this is a blog post, and therefore reaching out to an internet audience, is perhaps providing some “further reading” on the web, rather than links to hard copy purchases. I’d love to read further, but it’s not particularly practical to purchase even one on each subject, even for the purpose of edification.

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Dan December 31, 2012 at 1:15 pm

Yes, this is a good point. But as I mentioned in my post, these issues are often sufficiently complex that it’s tough to do justice to them in an online format. That said, there are some good online resources about these issues, such as The Biologos Foundation and Christians for Biblical Equality. A little work with Google should help you find more…

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Diane Medlen Yanacek December 31, 2012 at 2:00 pm

Yes, I”m busy Googling the authors you’ve cited, but I do appreciate the two links you started me off with- thanks!

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Christina Prier Steffy December 31, 2012 at 2:25 pm

As far as I’m concerned, the Rev. Mark Sandlin has written the definitive piece on the question of homosexuality and the Bible, and you can read the whole thing here: http://www.thegodarticle.com/7/post/2011/10/clobbering-biblical-gay-bashing.html

Thanks for your original list, btw.

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Lynelle December 31, 2012 at 2:40 pm

Great article! As you know, there are many great books out there about the concept of eternal torment. I really, really got a lot out of Jule Ferwerda’s “Raising Hell” (http://www.raisinghellbook.com/)

I used to be on the “other side” of most of these issues. It’s so wonderful and freeing to learn that there are logical and “biblical” reasons to expand ones understanding of “truth”.

thank you!

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Jill December 31, 2012 at 3:45 pm

Awesomely extensive list, Dan, and once I’m done merrily ushering in the new year, I’m going study these at length. This is a great reference point to use again and again.

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Donald Rappe December 31, 2012 at 11:36 pm

For point one, I would add ; The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin. It is plain and easy to understand.

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Dan December 31, 2012 at 11:51 pm

For a straight-ahead explication of modern evolutionary theory, I’d choose What Evolution Is by Ernst Mayr.

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Steve Condrey January 2, 2013 at 12:13 am

The more I look at these matters, the more I’m coming to the conclusion that American Fundamentalism is really a deception of the Enemy intended to divide the body of Christ against itself. While there are legitimate reasons to believe many of the assertions of Fundamentalism, the rancor with which they are delivered is more often than not antagonistic. And Christianity and national identity should *never* be conflated. Thank you for putting this out there!

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Dan January 2, 2013 at 9:18 am

Thank you for this comment. While you may be right in identifying American Fundamentalism as an intentional deception, I would be cautious about pressing this point too far in conversations with those of differing views. As you say, “there are legitimate reasons” for holding Fundamentalist beliefs — and while intentionally antagonistic voices often garner a disproportionate amount of attention, many conservative Christians hold their beliefs with an honest sincerity that, though perhaps misguided in some particulars, is still truly seeking to love God and neighbor.

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Carol October 18, 2013 at 12:10 pm

Just ran across your site, thanks to an Unfundamentalist Christians facebook post. Thanks so much for this list of resources, and I know I’ll be back to read more posts!

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Dan October 19, 2013 at 9:02 pm

Thanks for stopping by!

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