Apology: A Moderate Christian View

I’ve been away for a while, and for that I feel I should apologize – by writing a series of apologist posts!

Being a moderate Christian, I often feel like my greatest witness is taken up by responding to situations like the one in this comic and saying “but not all Christians are crazy.  Probably, not even most of us!”

http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=1851#comic

I’m a Pentecostal, which is a conservative subset of Protestant Christianity, which is itself a subset of catholic (universal) Christianity.  There are over a billion Christians in the world, with thousands of denominations that are divided either by geography or by slight variations in doctrine (religious views) and practice, but all proclaiming that Jesus Christ is the Lord of all creation.  In spite of all of that diversity, it seems that Christianity is represented by a very small, very vocal minority – basically, there are a few mouthpieces, usually in the US, who get all of the airtime.  And like most things in American media, this issue is polarized: we only hear from the ultra-conservatives, or the ultra-liberals, with neither camp adequately representing the majority of Christians and most especially Christian belief.

I’m a bit disturbed, and pretty angry, that so much Christian witness is reduced to how Christians are portrayed in the media.  I know that there are many people who do a fantastic job of representing Christ to their neighbours and friends and family, showing them what Jesus is really like; on the other hand, I’ve heard this phrase several times:

“Well, I know you’re cool, but this is what ____________ just said on Fox.”

People that I know and love, who have seen the dramatic change in me since I’ve become a Christian, who respect me and my beliefs to a very high degree, still have difficulty reconciling themselves toward Christianity because of how it is represented in the media (that is, the NEWS media – i.e. how some Christians really behave).  And so, as I said above, I spend most of my time explaining what Christians are not, rather than what we are or who Jesus is.  I thought it might be helpful to catalogue some of these explanations, perhaps do a bit of a compare/contrast between moderates and extremists in the Christian faith.

So this is my apology, in both senses of the term.  First, in the sense of rationally defending my faith – I am, in this sense, acting as an apologist.  And secondly, I really do apologize for the excesses, irrationalities, polarizations, and offences of those who claim Christ.  Most of them just don’t know any better, but that’s no excuse.  Let’s try to set the record straight, so that we might all be without excuse – and hopefully, moving toward a positive, moderate Christianity that is capable of expressing actual Good News.  I say “Let’s” because, as always, I crave your comments and feedback.  This blog is not a soapbox or platform for my personal authority (of which I have none); it’s a conversation, a public forum, for the discussion of God and his universe.

And so, for the rest of the summer…I apologize.

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4 thoughts on “Apology: A Moderate Christian View

  1. I remember having discussions- not arguments- with you and your family about religion and christianity. Though you and I don’t share the same beliefs, I’ve always appreciated that you’ve respected my right to have my own, just as I respect your right to yours.
    Unfortunately, as you say, the spotlight is definitely centered on the extremists (of any religion), and that makes it hard for those of us who just want to get along to get along. When all I know is that God hates fags and Canadians, I have a hard time respecting anyone who believes in that God, just as I have a hard time respecting anyone who believes their faith needs to be proven with blood.

    • Amen, brother. Thanks for posting!

      …did you ever finish reading the Pagan Christ? I must admit that I didn’t, though I still have it. I don’t remember if we ever talked about it afterward, but since then I’ve learned quite a bit and discovered that it’s pretty bad – both from a historical point of view and most especially from a theological point of view. Harpur may have had something to contribute at some point, but he’s entered uncharted territories of whackiness.

  2. I completely forgot about that book. I actually don’t remember anything about it, except that it resonated with me more than mainstream institutionalized Christianity. If I remember correctly, anyway, it had more to do with a person’s inherent godhood (which I chose to interpret as potential of any kind), and that appeals to me.
    In school I took a course on Eastern religions- Hinduism, Buddhism, Daoism, and Shinto. It was really interesting, and helped open my eyes to other beliefs.

    • I’ve really appreciated my study of other religions as well. This past semester I had a course called Contemporary Christian Theologies, most of which were particularized (i.e. feminist, liberation, black, asian, etc.), and many of which asked the question of where the line is between religions. A lot of them have a lot to offer, and Christianity by no means has a monopoloy on all truth and insight – but our core confession is that God himself has been revealed to humanity personally and completely in Jesus Christ, a claim that doesn’t really leave room for basing one’s theology in other religions. But because another religion’s theology is based in a very different idea of who God is, how much can we appropriate their ideas or point of view, even if we do so with Christ assumed?

      Harpur’s notion of personal godhood is a very common and popular one these days, but it can’t be sustained from the sources he was using. I find it strange that he still teaches New Testament at U of T (or at least, he did at the time of writing that book) considering his stance.

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