Necessary Beliefs

I began writing a post on the recent debate surrounding the historicity of Adam and Eve; namely, whether a historical Adam and Eve is necessary to Christian belief. The post quickly became a long, laborious rant that was not well-organized and and was not particularly positive in its outlook, so I decided to switch gears.

Are there any beliefs that for you are necessary? Late last year I asked this same question of Jesus’ divinity, but today I’m interested in the whole range of beliefs. I’ll give you a few examples, feel free to respond to these questions and others:

  • Is a historical Adam and Eve necessary?
  • Is it necessary for Jesus to be divine?
  • Is it necessary for Matthew to have actually written the gospel with his name?
  • Is a literal reading of Genesis necessary?
  • How about Exodus?
  • Did Jesus have to literally perform the miracles attributed to him?
  • Is a physical resurrection necessary?
  • Is the male-ness of God necessary?
Think about these topics and more. What are the sine qua non beliefs of “Christianity”?
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9 thoughts on “Necessary Beliefs

  1. None of those things are necessary for me, but I believe most Christians would argue that in order to “be” a Christian you must believe Jesus is divine.

  2. A literal reading of Genesis mustn’t be necessary for Christians, because that would require Christians to actually read Genesis.

    On another note, I’ve been thinking lately that belief in God can be unnecessary for a Christian to be a Christian.

      1. I started writing a response, but then I got another round. So you’ll get a long, but shorter response.

        “In ‘God is love, is the ‘is’ one of predication as in ‘Tony Blair is Prime Minister’? In the latter case, I can refer to Tony Blair without knowing that fact. He is that person over there who has arms, legs, a face, and so on. But when I say ‘God is love,’ or ‘God is gracious,’ what is the ‘it’ to which the love or grace attributed? There is none” (D. Z. Phillips in “Encountering Evil,” 155).

        I currently consider myself agnostic and Christian. I can conceive of atheism as a live, rational option that will still coincide with my Christianity. (“My” Christianity, because other form of Christianity require belief in God. Theism is necessary for evangelical Christianity, but not Christianity in general.) I’m agnostic, because I don’t know if God exists outside of being love, that power, thing, force–I feel like Faust translating “logos” into German–that somehow encompasses my feelings for tacos, myself, sex, other people, and, hopefully some day, a wife. Love, that power, thing force, that guides and misguides men and women daily. Is that same thing we call “love” in English also some sort of being with a conscious and a will? I don’t know, which is why I call myself agnostic.

        I call myself Christian, because my understanding of the world is steeped in Christian imagery. I may not read the Bible daily like I used to, but my life is still largely involved in interpreting and thinking about the Bible, which, as far as I understand it, is one of the other gods of Christianity (if any evangelical argues with me, I sure hope they don’t think Catholics worship Mary and the saints). And I a still have a deep appreciation for the roles of the persons of the trinity: God the parent, God the Christ, and God the Holy Spirit.

        Despite the many reasons I am on this part of my journey, briefly, if I can still use that word, Christ is the reason I am agnostic. Because of my dedication, appreciation, and belief in Christ, I gave up my belief in the deity of Christ. Like Meister Eckhart, I prayed God to rid me of God, which happened and did not happen.

  3. I do not think that most of the above beliefs are necessary for one to be a Christian. The ones that I am more unsure about are, unsurprisingly, the beliefs that I myself hold. First of all, let’s talk about what it means to say Jesus is “divine.” There are many different levels of christology that would label Jesus divine. The most traditional modern christology would be “Jesus is God”; however, several lower christologies also depict Jesus as divine in some sense. The Arian view that Jesus is lower than God, yet superior to creation still has him being divine. The Adoptionist view also has Jesus as divine, since he was specially adopted by God, even though he is ontologically completely human. Even considering Jesus to be a prophet makes him divine. I would say that one can hold any of these christologies and still be a Christian. However, I do not think one can be a Christian and just believe Jesus was a “wise man” with no special inspiration and no unique authority. Such a view is the equivalent of just believing Jesus existed and deciding that he made a couple good points. In that sense, being a Christian would be on the same level as being a Keynesian. In my mind, if one is a Christian, that identification stands above any generic allegiance to an historical figure whose ideas one happens to agree with.

    The other two I have a bit of a problem with are believing that Jesus literally performed his miracles and believing in a physical resurrection. For me, believing in Jesus’ miracles is directly related to believing Jesus is divine. If one believes Jesus was divine in some sense, what’s the point of denying his miracles? I suppose it’s possible for someone to believe that Jesus was inspired by God, but that God does not really defy the regular patterns of nature to intervene in history. For such a person, Christianity would really just be a sort of psychological venture in which God only interacts with humans mentally. If someone rejects Jesus’ miracles in the way I just described, then I guess I would still consider his or her a Christian, though not without reservations. I would have even more reservations if that person also believed God was not going to intervene at the end of time in any way.

    As for the physical resurrection, if anything, I am just disappointed in Christians that reject it. Ideas of a spiritual resurrection seem to be primarily driven by Platonist ideas about the body and the soul rather than Second Temple Jewish or Near Eastern ones. I would like to see the body and its symbiotic relationship with the soul emphasized more in Christianity. However, I definitely would not say someone is not Christian for believing only in a spiritual resurrection.

    1. I’m not going to say, for now anyway, what I think the “essentials” are, but I did want to point out that one can easily read 1 Cor 15 and take away a view of a spiritual resurrection. I do not think that view is only found in Platonic thought and is not to be found in Second Temple Jewish or Near Eastern ones; though later, but still solidly “near eastern,” gnostic beliefs certainly emphasize the spiritual over the physical.

      1. I agree that 1 Cor 15 could be read that way, which is why I put physical resurrection as a preference. Maybe I shouldn’t have even mentioned it in this conversation to avoid confusion. I am also aware of the difficulties of calling something Second Temple Jewish or Near Eastern as opposed to Platonist. I sort of regretted that I mentioned these categories at all after I posted. Obviously these categories overlap, especially in the first few centuries BCE and CE. One could argue that Platonic influence greatly contributed to the development of Near Eastern “gnosticism.” I suppose what I was trying to say is that such a dichotomy between body and soul that is found in the Church Fathers is not so readily found in the Hebrew Bible and was probably not as clear in the thought of Jesus or his Galilean disciples.

  4. You’re all wrong. God has to be a man. He must have a penis, but it can absolutely NOT be bigger than mine!
    Hope you learned something.

    (don’t you miss me?)

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