Minimalist Christianity

(RiderOnTheClouds) #1

Should we as Christians (yes I’m starting to feel an attraction back to Jesus again, dunno how long it will last for) stop worrying about problematic passages of the Bible, as well as with church tradition and doctrinal obsessions, and instead merely focus on the core ethical principles of the Bible, i.e. to show love to others, which both Christianity and Judaism say is the heart of the scriptures? (Matthew 7:12, Galatians 5:14) My Christianity is solely focused on the golden rule, as well as prayer, meditation, mysticism and Bible study, to learn of, and form a relationship with God.

Once this is accepted, all the issues with faith and science disappear. I also no longer worry about the harshness of Genesis 1:26-28.

(btw, my main issue with Rabbinical Judaism was it’s excessive focus on rigid interpretive traditions, which allowed little flexibility. Christianity liberates this somewhat, though paradoxically, I feel attracted to such denominations that rely on tradition, such as Catholicism and Anglicanism)

(Mitchell W McKain) #2

I used to think that way too. Even tried to put up a website. Found it is was a rather common thing to do. The problem is that everybody’s idea of “minimal” is different and even for me it changed until it wasn’t so minimal anymore. Now I just realize that Christianity is a spectrum and the earliest definition from Nicea 325 AD is pretty minimal. For one thing, you have to realize is that if you make it too minimal then it isn’t even distinguished from other religions, and then why even call it Christianity. Though you do pretty good just by including the Bible, but that is exactly what opens the door for it to keep becoming more for you as you continue to study it.

(btw, I am a little surprised with your comment about Rabbinical Judaism, and I wonder if it isn’t quite as narrow as you think. For I see Christians confused about the breadth of Christianity all the time just because of their immersion in one corner of it. Though, I am sure it would help to include all of Judaism. Hassidic Judaism is well worth exploring.)

(Dillon) #3

The Quakers are fairly awesome. And also pretty minimalistic. Maybe give them a try?

All it’ll cost ya is an hour of one of your Sundays. I can only recommend an unprogrammed meeting, as I’ve never been to any other kind.

(Phil) #4

Sort of reminds me of the efforts to cut the number on genes to the absolute minimum needed to survive. It lives but is not very robust. Sort of like driving a Yugo.

(Mitchell W McKain) #5

Another one of my favorite historical religions.

That may depend on the actual group you visit. One I went to once was a bit dominated by members pushing an extreme liberalism agenda. Historically, however, they were an exquisite balance between liberal and conservative.

(Dillon) #6

I only know the one Quaker group I used to visit. I never got any sort of agenda while I was there from anybody. That’s kinda what I liked about it. It’s a shame to hear that all Quakers don’t run their meetings like that.

(Mitchell W McKain) #7

I think it’s more about the vulnerability of an unprogrammed meeting freely open for anyone to speak their mind.

(Daniel Fisher) #8

The real question, I’d humbly suggest, is as to whether or not God agrees with your focus on minimalist Christianity, your being solely focused in the golden rule, etc.

If this is a religion that he approves of, endorses, and recommends, then by all means you should so pursue it, regardless of what any person says.

But if, in fact, God himself, as he truly is, does not approve of this kind of religion, then whatever god you are trying to form a relation with must by definition not be the God who really exists. Or at best, he is radically different than the way you conceive him.

My basic question to you, then, is to ask… by what means have you sought to determine wehther or not God approves of this form of religion?

(RiderOnTheClouds) #9

There are many Bible verses which say that love is all that matters

(Mitchell W McKain) #10

HOGWASH! People say things like this only because they imagine themselves speaking for God and it is really about whether THEY agree. If God disagrees then He can very well speak for Himself!

Why? Is this to see whether you approve of those means, by any chance?


Right under that one though, might be another about not being taken in by those selling tickets.

(Daniel Fisher) #11

Any many Bible verses that say other things. I’d be curious by which standard you use to select one as authoritatively true and the others as false?

(Daniel Fisher) #12

My personal approval is irrelevant. However, if someone wants to know what is or isn’t true about God, there are certainly some methods which would objectively be more or less helpful than others.

(Mark D.) #13

I personally doubt that. Whatever else God may be, mysterious is first and foremost. Assuming you share assumptions about quite a few things, there may be an arguably best approach you can take and an objective basis for reaching agreement. That would seem to be very far from saying there is an objective basis for determining God’s will.

(Daniel Fisher) #14

I simply said “some methods are objectively more or less helpful than others” in terms of knowing whom God is. I certainly stand by that. Flipping to a random page in the Bible and letting your finger drop, for instance, is objectively a very poor way of determining who God is. Doing the same with the NEW YORK TIMES is objectively less helpful.

(Jay Johnson) #15

Not “we as Christians,” but you, as a prospective Christian, should follow that path.

Since you’re a fan of Peterson, I suggest you go straight to the source and read a bit of Kierkegaard, particularly his spiritual writings. You already share the same outlook on ethics. There’s a free, short book that is a good introduction to him:

Martin Heidegger, a century later, would remark that "there is more to be learned philosophically" from Kierkegaard’s upbuilding discourses "than from his theoretical ones—with the exception of his treatise on the concept of anxiety." A couple of quick selections to help you decide :wink:

In the end, the archenemy of decision is cowardice…. And yet the separation of cowardice and pride is a false one, for these two are really one and the same. The proud person always wants to do the right thing, the great thing. But because he wants to do it in his own strength, he is fighting not with man but with God. … The proud person, ironically, begins looking around for people of like mind who want to be sufficient unto themselves in their pride. This is because anyone who stands alone for any length of time soon discovers that there is a God. Such a realization is something no one can endure. And so one becomes cowardly… Cowardice and time always find a reason for not hurrying, for saying, “Not today, but tomorrow”, whereas God in heaven and the eternal say: “Do it today. Now is the day of salvation.” The eternal refrain of decision is: “Today, today.”

But “God does not give us the spirit of cowardice, but the spirit of power, and of love and of self-control” (1 Tm. 1:7). Cowardice does not come from God. … A good decision is our will to do everything we can within our power. It means to serve God with all we’ve got, be it little or much. Every person can do that…. This much is certain: the greatest thing each person can do is to give himself to God utterly and unconditionally – weaknesses, fears, and all. For God loves obedience more than good intentions or second-best offerings, which are all too often made under the guise of weakness.

… Therefore, dare to renew your decision. It will lift you up again to have trust in God. For God is a spirit of power and love and self-control, and it is before God and for him that every decision is to be made. Dare to act on the good that lies buried within your heart.

…Indeed, many have doubted. And there have been those who felt obliged to refute their doubt with reasons. But these reasons backfire and foster a doubt that gets stronger and stronger. Why? Because demonstrating the truth of Christianity does not lie in reasons but in imitation: what resembles the truth.

Recall that the Savior of the world did not come to bring a doctrine; he never lectured. He did not try by way of reasons to prevail upon anyone to accept his teaching, nor did he try to authenticate it by demonstrable proofs. His teaching was his life, his existence. If someone wanted to be his follower, he said to that person something like this, “Venture a decisive act; then you can begin, then you will know.”

What does this mean? It means that no one becomes a believer by hearing about Christianity, by reading about it, by thinking about it. It means that while Christ was living, no one became a believer by seeing him once in a while or by going and staring at him all day long. No, a certain setting is required – venture a decisive act. The proof does not precede but follows; it exists in and with the life that follows Christ. Once you have ventured the decisive act, you are at odds with the life of this world. You come into collision with it, and because of this you will gradually be brought into such tension that you will then be able to become certain of what Christ taught. You will begin to understand that you cannot endure this world without having recourse to Christ. What else can one expect from following the truth?

This is also what Christ says, and this is the only proof possible for the truth of what he represents … “If you continue to follow my teaching, you are really my disciples and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32

(Christy Hemphill) #16

I don’t think it is about one standard (or verse) being authoritatively true and others false. But it should matter that when Jesus was asked the question about what mattered most, his answer was love God and love people and that everything could be summed up in those two commands.

(Razumov) #17

If you believe that God gave you the religion, is it so wise to throw almost all of it away?

Once Christianity has been reduced to merely “love God and other people”, it withers away and dies.

(Mervin Bitikofer) #18

Any parts of any religion (including Christianity) that do not fulfill exactly that: “love God and other people” need to fall away and die. Or so we learn from Jesus. And if he didn’t know what he was talking about, then Christianity would be beyond withering: it would be dead.

(RiderOnTheClouds) #19

That’s exactly what I meant

(Daniel Fisher) #20

Putting one’s focus on those areas Jesus declared to be central is of course good, noble, and right.

But I have seen too many times where this approach is then used to justify ignoring, abrogating, undermining, or otherwise nullifying many other things that Jesus said or that God revealed through Scripture…

That seems a rather suspect way of “loving God with all our heart, mind and soul and strength.” Part of loving him entails seeking to know him for all he’s revealed himself to be, and obeying all he’s commanded, whether I agree with it, or like it, or not. How is anything less than that a genuine attempt to ”love God with all my heart, strength, etc.”

I could be wrong, and my deepest apologies to Reggie if I do misunderstand… but that sounds like what he is proposing… to drop all that other “doctrinal” stuff or specific commands and rather “merely focus on the core ethical principles of the Bible.”

So yes, focusing on what Jesus said was central via his summary of the rest of the law and prophets is a wonderful start…

… But I would be a very poor military officer indeed if I limited my obedience to only what I read in the executive summaries of my commanding officer’s orders, ignoring everything else written in those orders.