The very idea of Christian agnosticism seems a strange—even oxymoronic concept to begin with. But, the fact is, it exists. Not too long ago I happened to be listening to a report on National Public Radio (NPR), where they were discussing agnostic priests and non-believing Protestant pastors. Needless to say, anyone who is a clergyman in the Christian church (who happens to be a non-believer) needs to step down from his or her position. Not only is it hypocrisy, it is inconsiderate of the “believing” congregation they are supposed to be shepherding. That said, I was intrigued—and having no prior knowledge of such people, I was led to do some more digging. After hearing this report, I was pressed to search the Internet and read various Christian agnostic blogs. Here are some quotes taken from those blogs:
- #1: “Belief in God ought not be considered obvious.”
- #2: “The Christian agnostic acknowledges that it is not possible to know for certain if God exists. And if God does exist then there are additional unanswerable questions such as Why is there suffering? Why would God create a world knowing the pain we would all endure? What’s the meaning of life? How can we know what God wants from us? Does God interact with the world? If so, in what ways? Of all religions, how does one know Christianity is true?”
- #3: “Belief is a matter of faith and not a matter of what can be proven or disproven. So we should not fault each other for believing or disbelieving.”
- #4: [A Christian agnostic] “is open to Christian faith claims while acknowledging the inability to know factually.”
- #5: [A Christian agnostic] “values doubt as complementary to faith, and engages instead of suppresses doubt.”
After reading these quotes, these were my immediate thoughts as a “believer”:
- #1: “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork” Psalm 19:1. Anyone who can“visibly” see the cosmos, and not recognize the Intelligent design behind it, would have to be blind.
- #2: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools…” Romans 1:18-22. Further (in my own thoughts) just as a one-year old is not mature enough to understand an algebraic equation, we who are finite are not able to fully understand that which is Infinite. Just as algebraic equations exist (despite the fact that a one-year old has no knowledge or understanding of such a concept), so too does God exist, despite our limited knowledge and understanding of Him, the meaning of life, why there is suffering in the world, and so forth. Further, I would be remise if I did not address the concept of the validity or truth of Christianity, for as a “believer” I accept Jesus Christ’s words when He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” John 14:6.
- #3: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek [e.g. the Gentile]. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith’” Romans 1:16-17.
- #4: To quote number four, I would again defer to the passage of Romans 1:18-22.
- #5: Finally, “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the LORD; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” James 1:6-8. AND, I must add, Hebrews 11:6: “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”
Personally (as a believer), I find the very idea of one being a Christian agnostic to be completely ludicrous. While Christian agnostics say you can be both Christian and agnostic, I completely reject that ideology. My objection to their philosophy is grounded on the definition of “Christian” and its core tenets, as well as the definition of “agnostic.”
As defined by Webster’s Dictionary, “an agnostic is a person who holds the view that any ultimate reality (as God) is unknown and probably unknowable.” Simply stated, an agnostic is “unsure” or does “not know” if God exists, and does not “believe” that anyone can ultimately “know” if God exists. A Christian agnostic, one who follows or believes in Christian principles, but does not “know” if God exists, makes a distinction between “knowing” something and “believing” something.
In terms of defining “belief,” this has to do with a mindset in which “faith” (e.g. trust) is placed in some person or thing. Specifically, Webster’s defines “believe” as “to accept as true, genuine, or real; and hold an opinion or think of something as true.” Concerning “knowledge,” Webster’s defines it as “the fact or condition of knowing something with familiarity gained through experience or association; the fact or condition of being aware of something.”
Logically speaking (when looking at the two definitions), it would seem reasonable to me that the two go hand in hand. For to have “knowledge” or “be aware of something,” one must “accept” it as true, genuine, or real. In other words, “knowing” IS “believing.” Christian agnostics neither know God OR believe in Him!
Now, after taking into consideration what agnosticism, belief, and knowledge mean, my assessment of the lunacy of Christian agnosticism would be incomplete without a solid understanding of what “Christian” means. Simply stated, to be Christian is to be aware of, and believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ and follow His teachings. As such to be a Christian agnostic, or one who believes in the teachings of Jesus Christ, but is unsure about His divinity, or the very existence of God is impossible. One cannot in fact be a bona fide Christian and not know if God is real. One can “say” they are a Christian—but saying you are and actually being who you say you are, are two completely different things.
That said, if one wants to claim to be both Christian and agnostic—they can do that. But, it is impossible, for it goes against the very core of Christian principles. Jesus Christ, the One Whom Christian agnostics “profess” to follow spoke to the existence of God the Father, of He being the Son of God, and the existence of the Holy Spirit. In fact, the core ministry of Jesus was the gospel of the Kingdom of God or Heaven. Knowing this, my question to the Christian agnostic is, “How are you able to even conceive of, or convince yourself of the idea that there is no way of knowing if God exists, and at the same time profess to be a follower of Jesus Christ—the very One Who claimed to be the incarnation of God?” That is ludicrous! It simply doesn’t work. Either you accept what Jesus said, or you don’t. If you “desire” to be a Christian, but are “unsure” of the existence of God, that’s one thing. But to fool yourself into thinking that you are a Christian (meaning follower of Jesus Christ who proclaimed the existence of God) and state that you are not sure if God exists is impossible. To be a “true believer” or “Christian” is to know that God exists.
I can respect someone who owns up to being unsure about God’s existence and wanting to be a Christian at the same time. But, I have a hard time taking seriously someone who claims to be a Christian who’s not sure if God exists. Personally, I kind of see it as a “lukewarm” theology—you’re neither hot nor cold—very dangerous grounds as a Christian (especially considering Revelation 3:14-22, a pericope on the Lukewarm Church).
In closing, to the Christian agnostic who may be reading this post, I leave you with the words of the very One Whom you say Who’s teachings you follow, found in Matthew 14:31: “And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
Copyright © 2011, JerMara Welch
In recent weeks the topic of cyberbullying has been a hot issue in the news. By now, many of you have heard about Tyler Clementi, the 18 year old promising student who attended Rutgers University, who ended his life in October of this year after finding out that his roommate allegedly videotaped a sexual encounter he had with another man and then streamed it online. According to CNN (2010) Tyler’s body was recovered from the Hudson River, more than a week after he jumped from the George Washington Bridge. While I do not agree with Tyler’s lifestyle choices, as a Christian I am appalled by the insensitivity and cruelty of his roommate to have the gall to blast a private matter over the Internet for the entire world to see. Never mind taking into consideration how Tyler might have felt. Invading someone’s privacy, and then going behind their back to make a public mockery of them (on a worldwide level) is beyond malicious—it’s downright sadistic!
In January of this year, Phoebe Prince, an Irish Immigrant and freshmen in high school, hung herself to death after being tormented on Facebook. Apparently a group of older “mean” teen girls resented her all because she was dating an older football player! According to ABC News (2010) Phoebe hung herself, “after nearly three months of routine torment by students at South Hadley High School, via text message, and through the social networking site, Facebook.”
That’s not all folks…this next incident puts the proverbial “icing on the cake.” Alexis Pilkington, a 17 year old, killed herself in March of this year because of threatening taunts and comments made on Internet social sites by peers at her school in Long Island, N.Y. And get this—even after her suicide, the taunts, bad mouthing and condemnation continued by these heartless adolescents. In a report by CBS News (2010) they stated, “Soccer star Alexis Pilkington, 17, took her own life March 21 following vicious taunts on social networking sites — which persisted postmortem on Internet tribute pages, worsening the grief of her family and friends.”
What kind of person in their right mind would bully someone; then after the victim commits suicide, continue to bad-mouth them? When I think about it, I guess they wouldn’t be in their “right mind.” You’d have to be pretty sick and twisted to do something like this—like “demonically possessed” twisted!
What happened to Tyler, Phoebe, and Alexis, along with others in recent headlines is demonstration of a rising trend in cyberbullying. It’s been noted that more than 40 percent of kids in the United States report having been bullied online. In a CNN (2010) report it was noted that according to the Cyberbullying Research Center, “cyberbullying victims are twice as likely to attempt suicide compared to those who have not endured such bullying.” This same report went on to say that since 2003 at least a dozen young people between the ages of 11 and 18 have killed themselves after some form of cyberbullying. I’d like to emphasize, “reported.” I’m sure there are dozens of other cyberbullying related suicides that have never made it to the headlines.
Saints of God, this type of behavior goes far beyond “kids just being kids.” If you ask me, it’s downright murder! Even the Bible says that death and life are in the power of the tongue. Think about it—with the stroke of a key, private photos, videos, and humiliating messages such as “I hate you,” or “Why don’t you just die” are sent across the WORLD WIDE WEB—literally for ALL the world to see! This goes beyond your average playground bullying—don’t get me wrong, which is still bad. Bullying of this nature is akin to what Dr. Phil so eloquently called, “weapons of mass destruction!” And as a parent, I shutter to think of what I, “in my flesh,” would be capable of if someone were to target or hurt my kids in such a manner. In just thinking about it I must remind myself, “Vengeance is mine, thus saith the Lord, I will repay.”
Related to this topic, what really burns me is when I witness so-called “Christians” doing these types of things. I can’t tell you how many times I have personally witnessed Facebook friends—whom by the way list Christianity as their religion on their info page—who bully one another publicly online. My assumptions are that they want to show off to the world that they’re all “big and bad, so don’t mess with me.” Can you spell, “d-e-f-r-i-e-n-d”? I don’t have time for the nonsense or drama, so I just erase people like this from my friend’s list.
Before I go, I want to point out that whatever you feel in your heart will proceed from your mouth. Matthew 12:34 states, “…For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” If you regard evil thoughts in your heart, you will speak that evil. As I stated earlier and taken from Proverbs 18:21, “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat of its fruits.” Might I add, that fruit can be bitter or sweet?
Family, everything you speak carries with it a consequence—good or bad and there is no simple, “Oh, I take that back.” Just as God created the heavens and the earth with His words, He gave humanity (whom were created in His image and after His likeness) the same creative ability–to speak things into existence! My prayer for you and I is that we no longer abuse this powerful gift that God has given us and that we speak life and not death—that what proceeds from our mouth will be well pleasing to God and not shameful.
As I bring this article to a close I’d like to leave you with the following passage taken from Matthew 12:35-37: “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that men will have to give account on the Day of Judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” In other words, what you say can and will be used against you in the Heavenly Court of Law. What you say will either save you or kill you. And folks, please note that this is inclusive of what you send out into cyberspace! Need I say more? No…I think you get the picture. Keep your words few and your thoughts pure.
Many Blessings and Good Bread to you all,