My Favorite Type of Christians

st_francisSome wrong belief are better than others:

95% of people remain in their religion-of-birth. Some may change to different denominations or sects within that religion — the reasons for change may include: geographical convenience, marriage, community status, or because they actually thought about issues and disagreed with their sect.  But most stay right there inside there religion of birth.

I am not a relativist.  I do not believe all beliefs are equal.  I also believe that among mistaken beliefs, some are better than others.  I also believe that if mistaken beliefs are construed properly and contain enough caveats can capture truth just as well as many true beliefs. Beliefs are complicated.

This aspect of my philosophy is highly controversial in atheist circles. But with such principles, I therefore feel that even if I disagree with a person’s religion in general, I don’t have to argue against their faith in particular but can challenge them to improve their faith.  In fact, I am not convinced that leaving a religion is always the best thing for a person.

My Favorite Christian Theologies

Among all the huge varieties of Christian theologies, I have some versions I favor over others.  So to aid dialogue, let me be transparent with my prejudices.  The table below shows theology categories: major beliefs within Christianity and the variety of ways different Christians believe about these issues. I also she how I’d prefer believers to move if I were to have any influence on that believer’s Christianity. Links in the left column are to my posts on those topics.

God’s Nature
Intervening –> Non-intervening (see Tinkerology)
Personal –> Impersonal
Christology High –> Low
Low:   Arianism , Ebionitism,   AdoptionismUnitarianism
Bibliology Unified Theology –> Multiple Theologies
Inerrant –> Errant
Inspired –> Inspiring
Infallible –> Fallible
Literalists –> Figurativists
Soteriology(Doctrine of Salvation) Who is saved:
Exclusivist –> Inclusivist –> Pluralist –> UniversalistHow we are savedAtonement Theology
Substitutionary Atonement Theories –> Mystical Theory or Moral Example Theory
Angelology:
Angel, Satan & Demons
Literal –> Figurative
Dualistic (you serve God or the Devil) –> NonDualisticSee Jewish Encyclopedia article  (I have much more work to do here)
Harmartiology (Doctrine of Sin) original sin –> ancestoral sin –> tabula rasa
Concept of Sin:
Ontological (nature) –> Deontic (behavior) –> Relational
View of Hell Traditionalist –> Annihilationist –> Universalist
Resurrection
Bodily  –> Metaphorical
Cosmology Young Earth Creationist –>
Gap Creationist –> Old Earth Creationists
–> Evolutionist
Ecclesiology Top down rule –> Local rule
Missionology Salvation First –> Service First
Eschatology Christian Zionist –> Pro-Israel –> Israel-Neutral
Premillenialist –> Postmillenialist –> Amillenialist –>
No Millenialist
Goyology isolated –> acquaintances –> friends –> welcomes family
Tinkerology Marionette –> Tinkerer –> Watch Maker –> Absentee
Theodicy Irenaean (necessary for development)  –> Augustinian(free will)
Deadly Yahweh Dilemma Conservative: Unchanging, Dispensational, Marcion
Liberal: Inaccurate stories, Metaphors
Prayer Life Miracle Prayer –> Guidance, Endurance, Thanksgiving prayer –> Meditative Prayer
Hearing God God tells me what to do –> I talk to God –> My Prayer is simple contemplation
Science Anti-science –> Pro-science
Women Misogynist –> Pre-defined roles –> Equal Rights & Respect
Homosexuality Anti-Gay –> Gay-tolerant –> Gay-friendly

Generous Understanding vs Condescension

All of this may sound a bit condescending to believers, but remember, in my world, you aren’t going to hell and I still feel that with inaccurate beliefs you could be a better person than a person with accurate beliefs.  My challenge is to try and understand how you use your beliefs to live your life.  Yes, I may disagree with you on a belief but it does not mean I look down on your life.  I may actually come to conclude that you use your beliefs better than I do my own.  I am just trying to understand how you make your beliefs operate in improving your world and the world of those around you.

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37 Comments

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37 responses to “My Favorite Type of Christians

  1. Oooh, I like this post. It is interesting to me how the categories you listed can exist in different clusters in people; towards the left in one category does not mean to the left in another.

    I find it a challenge to communicate to Christians that i think they should move towards the positions on the right in your table while communicating that I do not feel that requires one to give up faith in God. It is hard, because moving in that direction can mean introducing a larger degree of doubt to their faith. Which while I think is a good move, can be traumatic for the faithful practitioner of religion. And to top it off, when I made that slide in faith I fell off the edge into the abyss of unbelief, so I have only little leverage in trying to convince Christians that there is a platform of faith to stand on should they shift their position.

  2. WOOT! i’m steal’n this and putting it on my blog (with citation to you of course). i’m right there with you. i feel like i hit all of these catagories (yet don’t label me, i’m a postmodernist ;-))sometimes i get depressed and ask “Why am i a christian when so many others find it easier to be rigid?” sometimes i find myself really loathing christians, but my time in CPE is helping me meet ppl where they are. RAWK!

  3. @ ATTR == agreed. Glad you like. Change is a funny thing.

    @ Luke: Thanks Luke, borrow away !
    But note, I am continually fixing it up

    Do you think it facilitates dialogue?
    Would it make a better Christian
    or a better Atheist?
    Maybe both, eh ? !

    FYI for readers: I think Luke is a member of the United Church of Christ and is finishing(ed?) at one of their seminaries in Lancaster PA: Lancaster Theological Seminary where he did a CPE project (Clinical Pastoral Education at a local hospital?)
    Right Luke?

  4. you’re on it dude. currently in CPE now (5 traumas in 2 hours yesterday, 5 in 3 today) and in my final year of seminary.

    i think it absolutely facilitates dialogue unless one is really rigid. ppl can be toxically rigid in their belief whether atheist or non. dialogue is important, in fact, vital. if y’all are in the area of my future congregatoin, i’d love to have atheists come and visit. not in the sense to convert y’all but because i’m all about a faith that is open to atheist critique and open dialogue.

    thanks for the intro and RAWK!

  5. People are rigid in beliefs about:
    Sports, Politics, Sex, Hobbies, Neatness, Outgoingness, Spontaneousness and much much more. Oh yeah, superstitious and religious thinking too.

    — Concerning visitors, you mean you’d accept hecklers? Smile. I went to a several different UU churches years ago, looking for community but they had sermons too — I can’t handled being sermoned too unless I can object during the talk. For that reason, several of my past teachers begged me to take their courses independently (in other words, “Please don’t show in my class” — but then, that was Wheaton College — Christian City , U.S.A. ! )

    Thanks for the invite — keep us posted, we’ll see who pays you to preach !

  6. “I can’t handled being sermoned too unless I can object during the talk.”

    aaah… i don’t think i could hand someone objected during the talk.. but afterwards! or after the service. the “Bible Studies” would be the location to do that.. but maybe i could try that sometime. like a Q&A session each sunday, that’d be cool. it’d definately different and we’d get some user response. i’m about that!

    i’m all about the resistence and not passively accepting stuff cause someone says so. struggle, wrestle, and yet know history. the broader the better!

    “keep us posted, we’ll see who pays you to preach !”

    haha, this made me laugh out loud! i’m looking forward to that too! hopefully there’s a church out there!

  7. @ Luke — there will be a good church to hire you — you sound fun, vital and interesting … gambatte ! (Japanese for, “hang in there, endure!”)

  8. Boz

    Sabio, despite your protests, I can tell that I have Planted The Seed. I will add one to my “Souls Saved” total, and will also brag about this during bible study.

    :p

  9. @ Boz: Sorry, buddy , that was a bit too aloof. You will have to spell that out for me better.

  10. Temaskian

    In practice, it’s good to have liberal Christians; they’re better friends, and they’re more permissive.

    On the other hand, they may not be so easy to persuade to change their mind about God, because they are too fluid! To view it from another angle, and not-so-nicely, they’re not very rational about all of their beliefs. Whereas for some fundamentalists, if you can shake their foundational
    beliefs and tear down some of their arguments, they can be persuaded to entertain doubts. Serious doubts.

    The worse thing about liberal Christians is that because they are ‘nice guys’, like Luke here, they will turn out to be charimatic leaders, leading many more astray, :-D. And liberals are the perfect screen for the conservatives hiding in their midst.

    Try arguing with a nice, liberal Christian in real life; they’d just keep smiling at you and offering to buy you a coffee.

  11. @ Temaskian — as always, brilliant contributions. Can I buy you a cup of coffee? Smile.
    Seriously, I can agree with much you are saying. I must say, I don’t know that many liberals — only here on the web. Most Christians I know are cultural Christians (haven’t thought at all), or Cafeteria Christians (pick and choose what they like but don’t feel others are going to hell) or Evangelical semi-fundamentalists.

    I wonder how Luke would reply to this.

  12. Pingback: Agnostic can be fundamentalists too « I Remember Everything

  13. Temaskian

    What a compliment, thanks! You can buy me a coffee anytime. :-)

    There are no confessing liberal Christians around in my neighborhood either. :-D

    I guess I’m conflating them with those nice cheery ministers that I have bumped into who seem not too concerned about theology, more on making you their friend, or recruiting you, depending on your point of view.

    There are many ministers who have gone through seminary and turned liberal as a result, but do not realize it, since it’s the de facto position of all seminary graduates. Maybe that’s why they do not label themselves as such. Either that or they actively choose to hide their position, the sneaky ********. ;-)

  14. Ian

    Atonement theologies are a tough one.

    I’ve not met many Christians who could articulate their atonement theology.

    Sure there are some who run straight for penal substitution. But they usually haven’t thought about it, so when you ask further they realise it is nonsense.

    In the UK there was a bit hoohah a few years ago when evangelical poster-boy Steve Chalke wrote a book saying that penal substitution was barbaric (“cosmic child abuse”). The evangelicals rallied round the doctrine and reaffirmed it. Most folks I talked to about it had no clue what the fuss was about, and when I explained, were quite shocked at the full implications of penal substitution.

    There has been a renaissance of writing about different atonement theologies in Theology recently, but I haven’t spoken to anyone for whom that has filtered into the pews.

    Have you?

  15. Sure there are some who run straight for penal substitution. But they usually haven’t thought about it, so when you ask further they realise it is nonsense.

    Agreed, though I prefer those who have not thought about it to that degree to those with brilliant minds who spend their careers formalizing and confidently asserting equations for the ways PST works out.

  16. Earnest

    @ Boz: that ship sailed long ago. Knowing Sabio, I would say that the Plant the Seed grew into was ripped out, but some of the roots continue to be planted within him, and at times seem to have a life of their own. With all the seeds people keep throwing at him I think he has developed something of an immune response to them.

    That image is a bit more disturbing than I had planned…..

    Great post Sabio! I am finding a trend in your posts that they are becoming harder to resist! I get so frustrated with Atheist blogs that go on and on with abrasive exclusivist bombast. Soon it sounds like the teacher in Charlie Brown, as I find myself deliberately ignoring its content for my own mental health. I just don’t bother to read them anymore.

    As a sneaky ******* such as those mentioned by Temaskian, co-habitation of the multiverse with other intellectuals is my goal. I am very pleased to be able to do that here on this page.

    It is becoming increasingly clear to me that the hateful violent language of extreme religious elements of all stripes arises from the fear of progressive marginalization. The end is indeed near! It’s just not in any way the end they wanted to happen. Sabio I think your inclusive statements here accelerate that marginalization. If the extremists knew what was good for them they would issue a fatwa against you. Watch your back! LOL! See you around town sometime!

  17. “they will turn out to be charimatic leaders, leading many more astray” -Tema

    umm… you’ll have to define “astray.”

    “There are many ministers who have gone through seminary and turned liberal as a result”

    aaahh this made it click. yeah, liberals have been known to be a little too permissive. i don’t think that is inherently a bad thing, but when boundaries are crossed, that becomes awful. i’ll have to post on that concept here shortly of personal, professional, and spiritual boundaries. where conservatives tend to the too rigid, “you’re going to hell” stance, libs tend on the “God loves you! and i do too!” and only look at the positive. now this maybe too dualistic, but those are the extremes and we must note that there are many who fall in the middle.

    a great book i read in the past was Jack Good’s “Dishonest Church” which talks about how liberal and progressive, seminary trained pastors lie to their congregations because that’s what the cong wants to hear and it’s easier to go with the flow than to fight against it. it’s a really good read, save for the last chapter. i think i had a review on it some time ago.. i’ll find the link and post it.

    “Most Christians I know are cultural Christians (haven’t thought at all), or Cafeteria Christians (pick and choose what they like but don’t feel others are going to hell) or Evangelical semi-fundamentalists.” -Sabio

    i think those are some active categories but maybe not all inclusive. i don’t think the Orthodox would fit into those camps totally, they would be another catagory too. what we’re dealing with is American Pop Christianity. we’re a nation that is haunted by the 1st and 2nd Great Awakening and those assumptions. there are those out there who don’t fit into any of those, who are saints among us. i can’t tell you what the exact qualities of these people, just that you know one when you meet them. i guess i’ve been blessed with knowing a lot of them. there seem to be a lot more bad examples or completely toxic (fundie) beliefs out there… the worst for me is the apathetic. those who claim but don’t do anything. Sabio and Tema, you are still explore’n and listening and that’s much more than i can find in some pews in any given congregation.

    but churches exist out there.. i’ve found three in my midst. but those were hard to come by.

  18. “There has been a renaissance of writing about different atonement theologies in Theology recently, but I haven’t spoken to anyone for whom that has filtered into the pews.”

    in my church internship last year, i did a sermon series and bible study on one of my prof’s books, “Saving Power: Theories of Atonement and Forms of the Church” by Peter Schmiechen which outline at least 7. i got complaints and praise from each one, from substitutionary to penal to Christus Victor to NonViolent Atonement to Nonexistent… then i added Rene Girard’s Memetic Theory and THAT is when it clicked for everyone.

    finally a theory almost all could affirm, largely that the world works to suppress and scapegoat the resistence only to lift them up after death. kinda what Neitzche was talking about in his slave, master, morality.. i’ll be posting on that today. RAWK!

  19. Ian

    @Luke, Nice – I’ll look out for it.

  20. Ian

    @Luke

    Just read your post, and it is interesting (I’ll comment there), but didn’t talk about Atonement.

    What, specifically, is atoning about the pattern of deifying your demons after they are put to death?

  21. thanks for checking it out… it was about another post but i have an associative brain, so let me break it down here.

    defintion first: Atonement is “at-one-ment,” becoming reconciled with God, and this is the work of Christ as described in the gospels and passed down through the many christian faiths.

    Girard’s Atonment and connection to Slave Morality: going back to the beginnings of humanity the victimization occurs because of mimetic rivalry, the victim is innocent, and God stands with the victim and restores him or her. If the Passion is regarded not as revelation but as only a violent event brought about by God, it is misunderstood and turned into an idol. In the Gospels Jesus says that he suffers the fate of all the other prophets going back to Abel the just and the foundation of the world (Matt. 23:35; Luke 11:50).

    So what theology needs is a corroborating anthropology. This anthropology will open up the Gospels again to their own generative center and witness. thus the cycle of violence ends, the injustice of the system is exposed, and coexistence occurs between oppressed and oppressor. as for “deifying your demons” i wouldn’t call it deify’n, but finally “Getting it.” sometimes the pressures of daily life cause us to talk past one another… but after a trauma, frames are shifted, lens of view reality change.

  22. Ian

    Okay, I understand all your bits (and I’ve read Girard, btw, but not his writing on Imitatio Dei) but they don’t join up very clearly to me.

    You’re saying, I think:

    – Girard-esque mimetic desire is the cause of victimhood.
    – Jesus endures victimhood.
    – God raises Jesus.
    – Therefore God will raise the victim.

    It is a kind of sympathetic model of atonement. God went through what we go through to show us the ending (and therefore show us that he stands with the victim and will vindicate the stance of the victim).

    I’m not clear still how this fits with the Slave Morality, other than by coincidence that they both invoke the perspective of the oppressed.

    “If the Passion is regarded not as revelation but as only a violent event brought about by God, it is misunderstood and turned into an idol.”

    This is a non-sequitir for me. What model of atonement is non revelatory? What is “only a violent event” Is this a false dichotomy? Or is it intended pejoratively on alternate atonement theories? I can’t tell because your language is a bit vague.

    “So what theology needs is a corroborating anthropology. This anthropology will open up the Gospels again to their own generative center and witness.” This appears to be theology buzzword soup. How about “Girard’s redemptive meta-narrative is only actualized when we participate in it, so allowing its transcendent ‘teleos’ to be realized immanently.”?

    And then: “as for “deifying your demons” i wouldn’t call it deify’n, but finally “Getting it.””

    You seem to be advocating a kind of moral influence theory here, without the moral dimension. A kind of educational influence view. I suspect that isn’t your intent.

    Without the deification, how can one be ‘at one’? Surely that is what Girard is arguing for, not just a ‘metanoia’?

  23. Ian

    I also intended to say I’m not sure how the initial process hangs together?

    Why does it matter that it is mimetic desire (i.e. what is Girardian about it)? Is Jesus’s victimhood a matter of mimetic desire (if so, of what). Or is it just analagous because of its victimhood? (Using ‘mimetic’ as a fancy way of saying ‘it mimics’ in order to take advantage of the confusion of terms)?

  24. “It is a kind of sympathetic model of atonement.”

    that’s it. and the slave morality fits as this is the atonement model that is used (at least in praxis) by Liberation theology and the statement of “God’s preference for the poor.”

    “Or is it intended pejoratively on alternate atonement theories? ”

    yes. i find substitutionary and penal-sub. both extremely violent and nonrevelatory. at least, for me.

    “This appears to be theology buzzword soup”

    haha. sorry about that, seminarian-ese strikes again. what i meant was along your lines but also that we can see this story unfold time and time again through history. like Matthew Fox’s Cosmic Christ book where “for every age there is a Christ” and that Christ usually preaches unity and gets killed for it.

    ” I suspect that isn’t your intent.”

    no, it wasn’t. i suspect i misread your intent on the “deifying demons” quote. did you mean we make good what was once evil? or do we make good at was once perceived as evil? i’d go with the second one.

  25. “I also intended to say I’m not sure how the initial process hangs together?”

    how so? as in why we’re talking about this? or why this theory matters?

  26. Ian

    “how so? as in why we’re talking about this? or why this theory matters?”

    No, I was puzzled why Girard thinks there is a connection between mimetic desire and the suffering of Christ, does he talk about what the mimetic desire actually was that lead Jesus’s oppressors to oppress him? Or is that because I’ve read the wrong bit of Girard, on my understanding mimetic desire is directed towards something…

    > “This appears to be theology buzzword soup”
    > haha. sorry about that, seminarian-ese strikes
    > again.

    I had a great supervisor for my theology dissertation, when I wrote things like: “Girard’s redemptive meta-narrative is only actualized when we participate in it, so allowing its transcendent ‘teleos’ to be realized immanently.” in my thesis, he’d cross it out and say “what do you actually mean?”

    And I’d say something like

    “I meant Girard is claiming there is an ordained plot structure that we can enter into as actors, and in doing so we make the story real and our life then becomes a living, earthly reflection of God’s infinite character.”

    And he’d say “why didn’t you write that?” and I’d say “erm…” And he’d say… (drumroll)…

    “How are you ever going to explain something that really is complicated, if you take even simple concepts and throttle them in jargon?”

  27. Temaskian

    Earnest,

    “As a sneaky ******* such as those mentioned by Temaskian, co-habitation of the multiverse with other intellectuals is my goal. I am very pleased to be able to do that here on this page.”

    I meant that in jest, and in a friendly way. It was sneaky bas—–. Actually, I think people offering to buy me coffee is indeed a friendly gesture, just that it would be a waste of time and coins for them to be spending on me.

    Hope you don’t take what I said the wrong way.

    ~~~~~~~

    Luke,

    “a great book i read in the past was Jack Good’s “Dishonest Church” which talks about how liberal and progressive, seminary trained pastors lie to their congregations because that’s what the cong wants to hear and it’s easier to go with the flow than to fight against it.”

    Thanks for that, it proves that my observation was correct. It always helps when what I can see with my own 2 eyes is corroborated by something in print.

    “but churches exist out there.. i’ve found three in my midst. but those were hard to come by.”

    You remind me of myself, when I used to look for the perfect church, or at least a biblically correct church.

    shalom

  28. Ian: “I was puzzled why Girard thinks there is a connection between mimetic desire and the suffering of Christ”

    the truth “hidden since the foundation of the world” is the scapegoat mechanism, which fails and only results in more violence. Girard then connects this to Christ by saying he ends the cycle of violence through nonretailation and forgiveness. that’s the atonement model in a nutshell and without all the throttle’n :-) love that story btw.

    Tema: “It always helps when what I can see with my own 2 eyes is corroborated by something in print.” yet what our senses tell us can be so misleading right? that’s why we use the scientific method right? test the results, in depth, and report the findings?

    “You remind me of myself” danger will robinson! that’s called transference! i’m look’n for a church that is honest and has a love of people. i have no room for correctness or perfection. those are two notions i think christianity could do away with. humanity is messy, irrational, and contradictory.. but those who realize this and opt for relationship anyway despite it all is what i’m after.

  29. Ian

    Luke, I’ll have to read him. I’m still seeing the dots but not the joins. How he thinks the atonement has ended the cycle of violence through nonretalliation is beyond me. Do you know the book where he proposed this (I prefer primary to a secondary source written about him, if you have one).

    Thanks again.

  30. Temaskian

    Luke,

    “i’m look’n for a church that is honest and has a love of people. i have no room for correctness or perfection. those are two notions i think christianity could do away with.”

    You say you don’t mind a church that is incorrect about Christianity. How imperfect are you willing to go? The whole hog? Are there no doctrines core to you that you would not be willing to do without?

  31. Ian: Girard’s “Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World” is where he first talks about the theory and how it relates to Christianity.

    Tema: gotta be okay with humans, we’re an imperfect and funny bunch. can’t get too rigid on creeds. i’m all about interpretation with integrity but to think that there is one correct way is wrong. no one right way to interpret a story, but some are more valid than others. using some sort of method of criticism and hermanuetics helps.

    as for doctrine… i’m UCC, so we have our Statement of Faith you could check out. but as a group there’s a love/hate relationship with doctrines as they’re a mixed bag.

  32. “You say you don’t mind a church that is incorrect about Christianity.”

    a second thought about this… Tema, is there a church that ever got Christianity right?

  33. Temaskian

    “a second thought about this… Tema, is there a church that ever got Christianity right?”

    No.

    But you haven’t really answered my question, have you?

    “You say you don’t mind a church that is incorrect about Christianity. How imperfect are you willing to go? The whole hog? Are there no doctrines core to you that you would not be willing to do without?”

  34. “How imperfect are you willing to go? ”

    what rubric are we working with? are we measuring the church as a whole system or individuals? are we talking doctrine and beliefs stated as corporate, or how they take shape in the pews and on the street? gotta narrow the range we’re looking in.

    what rubric i would use would be based on my demon’s national headquarters. we’re a local rule denom, so anything put out nationally is just a suggestion… so i’d go with O&A, a “five for five”, noncreedal save the statement of faith, missional, and emergent but that’s my denom. this rubric wouldn’t work in say, a baptist or your church of origin.

    i don’t think there’s any 100% way to say what my ideal church is doing is right save for by the fruits… and since i don’t have a church yet, i can’t really answer it. it’s all pie in the sky right now… but i’d be okay and accepting of lots of imperfections cause we’re human.. not saying i wouldn’t work to correct ‘em and be corrected by the cong.

  35. Sabio, I for one am glad for your openness. Thank you for including me in your conversation.

    Luke’s ‘demon’ apparently has a national headquarters :)

  36. dreadpiratescetis

    Yar me hartie! I be like’n your scrawlings!

    This rubric is an interesting one and shows me that you have a curious and logical mind. Very empirical and I am very impressed at both the depth and width of your riggings here. I may have to fill this out me-self.

    I also like the gum flappings that have gone on about this. Ian, Luke and Temaskian (is that a misspelling of Temastian, Mexico? nice place to visit btw) had a good and full conversation here.

  37. Glad you enjoyed. If you can think of theological categories that need added, let me know !
    Argghh

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