Ways I Am A Heretic

A few years ago my now-wife/then-girlfriend and I were leading a small group together. We had decided from the start that one of our goals would be a place where disagreement over hard questions was acceptable. We started by having everybody state how they identified themselves as a Christian and what issues were important to them. Being one of the leaders, I went first and for whatever reason I started my turn by saying “so these are the ways that I’m a heretic.” I meant it fairly tongue-in-cheek, of course, using heretic as labelled by the most extreme conservative evangelicals which sadly is what many think of as “real Christians.”

I only listed a couple that night, but a conversation on Twitter last night reminded me of the idea. Without further ado, here’s my expanded list. I again say these fairly tongue-in-cheek and most people who identify themselves as Christians would probably actually agree with me on most of them. But for those evangelicals with fairly precise definitions of orthodoxy, a lot of them will be considered heretical or at the very least dangerous.

Christian Discussion

I believe that we should be able to ask questions.

I believe that we should view theology in concentric circles rather than claiming that any one disagreement makes you a heretic.

The Character of God

I believe Jesus is the Word of God (John 1), the ultimate revelation of God’s character, not the Bible.

I believe God is not violent, although he does at times withdraw his protection to allow us to experience the consequences of our actions which may include violence from ourselves or others.

I believe God is interested in restorative justice (restoring the world and everything in it) rather than retributive justice (punishing the bad and rewarding the good).

I believe that God does not exhaustively know the future because he allows us free choice.

Church and State / Social Ethics

I believe Jesus taught us to live in a way that is better and often contradictory to the values of our political system. Therefore I don’t feel obligated to support conservative candidates by virtue of their so-called biblical values (and I don’t necessarily support liberal candidates either).

I believe Jesus taught us to love our enemies instead of dropping bombs on them. I believe that killing people in the name of God is a contradiction, even if those other people are a part of another nation or another religion.

I support same-sex marriage/unions both in the church (where I see more room for debate) and the state (where I really don’t understand how anyone claiming to love their neighbour can oppose it). I think here in Canada we have the best system: the state will give legal rights to lesbian or gay couples and it is up to individual churches to decide if they will perform a religious blessing. Nobody’s rights are infringed.

I am anti-abortion, at least for Christians (if pushed for a political view, I would approach it like just war theory where it is allowed in certain circumstances), but I also am far more interested in caring for those considering it or having already committed it than I am in treating them as the scum of the earth. I theorize that if we took all the time and money we usually spend fighting over abortion and put it into caring for those considering it instead, abortion rates would go way down.

I believe that the greatest sins are idolatry and greed, not being a Democrat, being gay or even having committed an abortion.

I believe that when Jesus said the poor are blessed, he meant that we are better off when we share the wealth God has given us, not that they are blessed because wealth would eventually trickle down to them in a couple generations.

Defining Christianity

I believe Catholics are real Christians. I also believe Orthodox Christians are, Anglicans are (even the Anglo-Catholics), mainliners are, Pentecostals are, and so on.

I don’t believe Mormons are Christians even when they represent the political party which is most often associated with evangelicalism. I think Mormonism is to Christianity like Christianity is to Judaism – a spin-off, siblings in many ways but also different in other important ones. Realistically now that there isn’t a Mormon leading the Republican party this one probably isn’t controversial any more.

Salvation/Eschatology

I believe the Gospel is ultimately the declaration of the Kingdom of God, not a Get-out-of-Hell-free card. I consider the latter approach to be cheapening the Gospel.

I don’t accept a penal substitutionary understanding of atonement. It is inconsistent with the character of God in Scripture and it is pastorally damaging.

I do believe that there will be people in Heaven who have not explicitly prayed the sinner’s prayer or otherwise declared themselves part of the Christian religion.

I believe in a purgatorial conditionalism understanding of Hell but I consider many understandings including universalism to be valid interpretations of Scripture and of tradition.

I don’t believe in the Rapture. It has little to no Biblical basis, encourages escapism which is contrary to the Bible, and is a historically new doctrine that was started by a special revelation to one teacher.

I believe God will redeem the world, not destroy the majority of it.

The Bible

I believe the Bible is complicated and does not present clear answers on many issues and it is therefore missing the point to declare every one of your opinions to be equal to Scripture.

I believe that the Bible is perfect in its message, but I don’t believe that the Bible is inerrant in the usual sense of perfect history and science. I do believe it is authoritative but inerrancy is a modernist concept which would have made no sense to the authors.

I believe that the Bible’s primary message is the culmination of the Kingdom of God in Jesus, not salvation through saying a prayer (which isn’t in the Bible at all) to escape the punitive effects of “the Fall” (also a term not used in the Bible).

I believe that God used evolution to create the world.

Church Life

I believe leadership should be determined by calling and gifts, not by genitals.

I don’t believe that being a man means we have to be aggressive and domineering.

I think that the majority of the time, random evangelism causes more harm than good.

I believe that using Hell as a threat to get people to convert is also doing more harm than good.

I believe that rituals can be very good and helpful in someone’s faith (provided they know the meaning).

I believe that an African Christian has an understanding of Christianity at least as valid as an American Christian. Just because the Western world had the modern era doesn’t mean we hold a monopoly on understanding God.

Ryan Robinson

It is easiest to identify Ryan as both theologian and tech guy. By day, Ryan is a Technical Consultant work with PeaceWorks Technology Solutions. There, he works on websites, CRMs, and SharePoint implementations. Along with blogging here, Ryan is a founding member of the MennoNerds blogging network and a contributor to the book A Living Alternative.

  • Jeremy Gretton

    I am so glad that you are a “heretic”.

  • ConsciousMary

    Yaaaay I am not alone in my love for God and ….well His people ! Creation….