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Whats the least a Christian can believe and still be Christian?(Interesting article)

When I first met Danny, he said, "Preacher, you need to know that I'm an atheist. I don't believe the Bible. I don't like organized religion. And I can't stand self-righteous, judgmental Christians."

I liked him right away!

In spite of Danny's avowed atheism and my devout Christian beliefs, we became close friends. Over the next year Danny and I engaged in numerous conversations about faith. During that time Danny softened his stance on atheism. One day he announced with a laugh, "I've decided to upgrade from an atheist to an agnostic." Several months later Danny said, "I've had an epiphany. I realize that I don't reject Christianity. Instead, I reject the way that intolerant Christians package Christianity." A few weeks after that conversation, Danny said, "Martin, you've just about convinced me on this religion stuff. So I want to know--what's the least I can believe and still be a Christian?"

"What's the least I can believe and still be a Christian?" What a great question! Danny's provocative question prompted me to write a new book, using his question as the title. Part one of the book presents 10 things Christians don't need to believe. In short, Christians don't need to believe in closed-minded faith. For example, Christians don't need to believe that:

• God causes cancer, car wrecks and other catastrophes

• Good Christians don't doubt

• True Christians can't believe in evolution

• Woman can't be preachers and must submit to men

• God cares about saving souls but not saving trees

• Bad people will be "left behind" and then fry in hell

• Jews won't make it to heaven

• Everything in the Bible should be taken literally

• God loves straight people but not gay people

• It's OK for Christians to be judgmental and obnoxious

On the other hand, there are things Christians do need to believe, which is the focus of part two of my book. They need to believe in Jesus -- his life, teachings, example, death and resurrection. A great benefit of these beliefs is that they provide promising answers to life's most profound questions including:

• Who is Jesus?

• What matters most?

• Am I accepted?

• Where is God?

• What brings fulfillment?

• What about suffering?

• Is there hope?

• Is the church still relevant?

• Who is the Holy Spirit?

• What is God's dream for the world?

Like Danny, many people in the 21st century hunger for an open-minded expression of Christian faith. That's especially true for young people. For example, in a recent episode of the popular television show Glee, several high school students explain why they are turned off by religion. From their perspective, the church is down on gays, women and science. When you add to that the arrogant and judgmental attitudes found in many religious-right churches, it's easy to see why people are repelled by religion. If the only faith options are fundamentalism or no religion, many people will opt for no religion. Thankfully, a better alternative exists -- vibrant, open-minded, grace-filled, gender-equal, life-giving, centrist, moderate/mainline faith. Promoting that kind of faith is my greatest passion in ministry. For example, I received the following e-mail a few weeks ago from a woman named Shelly:

...I was raised in a religious-right fundamentalist church. Suffice it to say that my experiences were such that by the time I finished college, I was totally estranged from religion. Twenty years later, I realized that I was neglecting an important part of my life, and I began searching for a church home. I attended a few churches and was so discouraged. I wondered whether it was possible to find a church where my children would not hear hate and intolerance preached. Then one day my family and I visited your congregation, and were filled with joy to find a church that embraces grace instead of judgment. So here we are, a year later, and I actually look forward to Sunday services each week. I feel God's presence in my life for the first time in many years, and I want to thank you for your part in this process...
In a nutshell, that e-mail explains why I wrote What's the Least I Can Believe and Still Be a Christian? I want people like Shelly to know that a viable alternative exists to arrogant, judgmental, closed-minded religion. I also wrote the book for moderate and mainline churches. We in the moderate/mainline tradition have a compelling faith story to tell. However, we need practical resources to better share that story.

Answer Question

Asked by sahmamax2 at 4:42 PM on Jan. 25, 2011 in Religious Debate

Level 37 (88,208 Credits)
Answers (31)
  • I think I'd say: that's a deeply personal decision that no one else could judge accurately. People identify themselves according to their own decisions about what their beliefs mean and what terms they use are equally personal.

    I find it's helpful to think of all those other people 'out there' living in their very own universes, each with their own vocabulary and probably what the colour green looks like to them. Then they're free to say they're who they are without it meaning 'that is the same as everyone else who uses the same word.'

    Answer by LindaClement at 4:47 PM on Jan. 25, 2011

  • i love this

    Answer by momofone725 at 4:48 PM on Jan. 25, 2011

  • interesting

    Answer by dancer at 4:48 PM on Jan. 25, 2011

  • The least you need to believe is that everyone sins and deserve hell, but if we believe in our heart that Jesus is God's son and our only way to salvation. Christianity is about the relationship with God not how "religious" you are.

    Answer by TaraK. at 4:49 PM on Jan. 25, 2011

  • that is one other thing that christains believe that i think is wrong. everyone deserves hell???? you swear a few times, you may lie a few times. sure you make mistakes and yet you believe you should burn for all eternity for those mistakes?? seriously i have a problem with that. a man murders his entire family sure thats wrong and he deserves hell. but believing you deserve it for the minor mistakes you make in your life is stupid. thats christians problem, they believe out of fear of something they logically don't deserve if they are a good person

    Answer by momofone725 at 4:57 PM on Jan. 25, 2011

  • "everyone sins and deserve hell"

    I will never understand this.

    Comment by sahmamax2 (original poster) at 4:59 PM on Jan. 25, 2011

  • I saw this article the other day, and thought it was really good too. There are actually many people who consider themselves Christian, and follow the TEACHINGS of Jesus without believing in a literal resurrection. To be a Pauline Christian, I guess you have to believe in that, but there are some alternate views within Christianity that put more emphasis on Jesus' teachings and actions/good deeds. There's a huge difference between what more liberal Christians believe compared to conservative Christians, and most of the the mainline churches are in between these in various ways. I'm reading a book right now by someone who considers himself a non-exclusive Christian (he's quite pluralistic in his views), and frankly it's always refreshing to find anyone who is inclusive in their beliefs IMO.

    Answer by pam19 at 5:14 PM on Jan. 25, 2011

  • Do you have a link to this article? I have a friend who I think would like it. :)

    Answer by DragonRiderMD at 5:19 PM on Jan. 25, 2011

  • sahmamax2

    Comment by sahmamax2 (original poster) at 5:32 PM on Jan. 25, 2011

  • sounds like an interesting book. ive found that its becoming more and more popular to be a "light" Christian, one who believes in Jesus' teachings and thats about it. ive found a lot of younger people find it freeing to focus on the relationship & individuality part of a Christian faith instead of the "do this, dont do that" parts.

    i wonder how long it will take the library to get it...

    Answer by okmanders at 5:44 PM on Jan. 25, 2011

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