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Why Don’t I Call Myself a Christian? Mailbag: October 8, 2016

I’ve decided to address two personal questions in this week’s Readers’ Mailbag, one about why I don’t want to call myself a Christian and the other about where the idea for this blog came from.  If you have questions you would like me to address, either personal or dealing with anything having to do with the NT and the history of early Christianity, just make a comment on any post and ask them!

 

QUESTION:

I find it interesting that you and Lüdemann each create an extremely narrow rule separating Christians from non-Christians and then use it to exclude yourselves from Christianity. It is almost as if you somehow intuitively sense that you should not define yourself as being within Christianity, so you take up a narrow rule that “all Christians must believe in physical resurrection” or whatever, so you can declare that you are not a Christian. Not being a Christian is the goal, and making up a rule is the means. What do you think? Faced with similar dissonance, some others find a broader definition of “Christian” that lets them remain within the fold.

 

RESPONSE

            This is a question that was raised by my post by Gerd Lüdemann dealing with the question of Jesus’ resurrection.  I will not try to answer for him, but will talk about just me and my views.

When it comes to me, I actually do not have a very narrow understanding of what it means to be a Christian, and I certainly am not bound and determined to define a Christian in such a way so that I don’t fit the definition.  Quite the contrary!  I would be happy indeed to be able to call myself a Christian, since I do very much want to live a life following the ethical principles that I think are central to the Christian message, in which love of others is a driving force.  But I just don’t see how I can, in good conscience, call myself a Christians.  I wish it were otherwise, but alas.

I certainly do not have very rigorous theological requirements for anyone who considers themself a Christian, and I can understand why some people with very much my views of things would have no qualms about calling themselves Christian.  But I can’t.   Before explaining, let me stress that I do not think that someone has to believe in the physical resurrection of Jesus to be a Christian, or the divinity of Christ, or the virgin birth, or … well, or most of anything else about Christ, theologically.

Others – especially lots of Christians — would disagree with me on that.  Many Christians think that you are not really a Christian unless you pass a kind of theological litmus test.  I don’t think so.  I know Christians who don’t believe any of these things.   BUT, they do at least believe in God and they think that in some sense Jesus reveals God.  For some Jesus is God incarnate.  For others Jesus shows what God is like.  For others Jesus’ ethical teachings reveal how God wants people to live.  For others, even more vaguely, Jesus shows the best way to be.

But for me personally – again, I don’t impose this view on anyone, and each person, as far as I’m concerned, is free to have their own opinions on the matter – for me personally, I think anyone who wants to call themselves Christian ought at the very least to (1) believe there is some kind of God in the world (a superior divine being of some kind) and (2) think that Jesus somehow reveals that God or makes access to that God possible or … or anything else that makes Jesus important in relationship to that God.

My difficulty is that I do not believe any such God exists.  I don’t believe there is anything like a superior divine being in the world/universe/multiverse.   I don’t think there are any spiritual essences of any kind in the world, non-material beings of any sort.  I don’t think we ourselves can exist as spiritual, non-material beings.  I think that all there is, is somehow either matter or completely tied to matter.  We are here, yes, by time-matter-and-chance.   Our soul doesn’t exist apart from our body and our mind doesn’t exist apart from our body.  And no other soul or mind does either.

I absolutely do think that the core of the Christian teaching about how one should live for others is how I personally want to model my life.  If that makes me a Christian in someone else’s mind, I have no trouble with that.  But I am reluctant to call myself Christian because I think it does injustice to others who think that if you’re agnostic or atheist, you are more or less disqualified.   (I have played with the idea of calling myself a Christian atheist, and I actually like that label.  But only if the term atheist is consistently part of it!)

 

QUESTION

A blog such as yours couldn’t just drop out of the sky. Share with us sometime how the idea germinated in your mind, and the necessary planning and procedures that led up to it. Thanks!

 

RESPONSE

Actually, the idea was given to me by a friend who happens to be a member now of the blog.  I was going to give his name, but since I haven’t asked his permission, I think maybe I shouldn’t.  He’s a UNC alum who has traveled on some of my alumni trips with me.  I think it was on one of those trips, late at night, at a bar with a couple of other friends, he sprang the idea on me of having a blog that would charge money.

I didn’t know what he meant.  How can you charge money for a blog?  He replied: Just have a membership fee.  You could make tons of money, he said.   I don’t need any more money, I replied.  He thought for a second and said: you could give the money to charity.  Hmm.. Now *that’s* an interesting idea.

We talked briefly about how it would work, and then ordered some more drinks…..

I thought about the idea for a while.  Then a longer while.  Then for a couple of years.  Seemed like it would be a ton of work.  Then I broached the idea with Steven Ray, my computer assistant who, at the time, had redesigned my personal website for me.  We talked options.  On and off for months.  Finally I decided I would like to bite the bullet, and just do it.

It was a lot of work to get it up and going.  OK, Steven did most of the work.  But still.  I had to start a tax-exempt organization, the Bart Ehrman Foundation.  We had to figure out how to set it up, technologically.  I had to figure how I would do it in terms of posts, topics, organization, and so on.  The problem was that we really didn’t have any models for this kind of thing.  A blog with 5-6 posts a week, each of a thousand words?  That charges money?  Really?   How long would I have anything to say?  A year or two?  How much money would we raise?  Maybe $20k a year?  Would it be worth my time and effort?  Who would pay Steven for his work (this is part of his day job, after all)?  How would the monies be distributed?  To what charities?  There were hundreds of issues that had to be resolved.

But we came up with answers.  They may not be the best answers, but the blog does seem to work.  I post 5-6 times a week.  I rarely find myself typing up a new post that is the same as some other post I’ve done already a few years ago (though I do now do the “Blast from the Past” every week or two).  And we’re raising a lot of money.  Frankly, we are behind what we raised last year, and I’m not sure what to do about that, but we are indeed raising a lot of money.  By next year our overall total amount raised will be over $400k.  A lot of money.  All going to good causes.

So that’s the short story of how it started.  Thanks to all of you for helping make it happen!  Please spread the word!

IF YOU DON”T BELONG TO THE BLOG YET, JOIN!!!  It costs about two bucks a month, and for that you get TONS of good stuff.  All money’s go to charity!  You’ll be helping yourself, helping your neighbor, and helping the universe as we know it!!

 


Jesus and Paul on Heaven and Hell
The Invention of the Afterlife: Request for Ideas!

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Comments

  1. Avatar
    VaulDogWarrior  October 8, 2016

    You have in the past referred to yourself as an agnostic. Does that mean you have now moved further along and would now refer to yourself as an atheist?

    • Bart
      Bart  October 9, 2016

      I consider myself both. I talk about this in some blog posts: just search “atheist” and you’ll find them.

      • Avatar
        trudy  October 20, 2016

        Thank you so much for ” Why Don’t I Call Myself a Christian?” – this is exactly the question I’ve had for myself ever since I took your course on The New Testament (via cassettes) a long time ago. You changed my thinking about almost everything I learned as a Catholic. It was not an easy thing to do, for sure! Since reading this Blog I now know how I fit into a category happily.
        Thanks, thanks and more thanks!

  2. Liam Foley
    Liam Foley  October 8, 2016

    Great post. I may not have a question but I’d like to share my views. I don’t like labels personally. 25 years ago I began practicing Buddhism and there is no requirement to believe in a deity. I do think of myself as a Theistic-Agnostic. While I may agree with atheists on many, many things I have not ruled out that there is “something” beyond the material world. I don’t know…there may be nothing more than the material world…I don’t think we can know for sure.

    However, I do believe certain types of deities can be ruled out for a lack of evidence and I believe God as defined by the Judaeo-Christian religion doesn’t exist. I do find much in the teachings of a very human Jesus about Love, Compassion and service to others that I also want to live by. If being a Christian means following the teachings of Jesus then I would consider myself a Christian…but I would not tell people that because many Christians have a very narrow definition of what it means to be a Christian. I do not believe in atonement theology and it strikes me as very odd the notion that an all knowing and loving deity would lack empathy and understanding of our human condition and would render salvation as coming to believe specific things about Jesus; it turns being a Christian into a kind of theological litmus test as you said.

    I do have a sense of spirituality and I have my own view of salvation. To me spirituality is how I connect and relate to my own self, those in my life and those people I encounter and to nature. To me my spirituality is about showing Love, Compassion and kindness and salvation to me means healing those places in myself where showing Love, Kindness and Compassion is difficult. Spirituality to me means healing, growing and maturing both psychologically and emotionally.

    Great blog post!!

    • Avatar
      quiringwalt@gmail.com  October 9, 2016

      I’m with you 100%.
      Love,
      Walter

    • Robert
      Robert  October 16, 2016

      “However, I do believe certain types of deities can be ruled out for a lack of evidence and I believe God as defined by the Judaeo-Christian religion doesn’t exist.”

      Interestingly, some of the more important Christian theolgians, eg, Thomas Aquinas, take the position that God cannot be defined.

  3. Benjamin
    Benjamin  October 8, 2016

    This first question is central to my being, an ontological problem that plagued me after I lost my faith. In many similar ways, most of us who are raised fundamentalists find it difficult to join the enemies, eg those irreverent, epicurean lifestyle of atheists. For one, I do not drink, dance or commit adultery (define by sleeping around) freely as they do. Wow…wow…wow, now my fundamentalist is coming out. Kiddin here, but seriously, I find it difficult to associate with those whose lifestyle differs from mine. I do not watch football, drink micro-brew, or eat a lot or steaks. So far, I envy those with an Ashley Madison account, but I don’t have one. I live a boring and straight forward life. If I buy something, I will pay for it, and I refrain from cheating my clients/customers/patients. Indeed, I was taught to emulate the central teaching of Christian faith, to look for a kingdom or utopia, to forgive our debtors, and to love others as myself, etc.

    When I came to realize that I cannot change and I am the way I am. I am that I am. I call my self a non-theistic Christian. This is a solution after struggling with the idea to become a full atheist, and to join the American Atheist organizations. I still see those people within the church as brothers and sisters. It is just I no longer share with some of their crazy stuff on rapture, or the doctrine of hell, or trinity. But I am not going to convert to other faiths, eg, Buddhism, Islam, or American Atheism. I live my life with a reverence to the physical world, if any, I am closer to animism of the past, and I revere all living things. I grow organic food and raise a family. The earth is my faith. When I die, I would like to be returned to the ground, the way Christ did, he turned to dust and rotted in the earth. So here I am, also revere the holy teaching of Christ, to love others and to take no thought of tomorrow, and try to forgive our debtors. These are the central tenants of my Christian faith which I retain. After I was on the peak of Nihilistic Atheism, and the purely projection of the material world, I found a way, set forth by the Lord Lloyd Geering of New Zealand. His book, Christianity without God is very helpful to me. So I call myself a Christian, a non-theistic Christian. I no longer retains the supernatural aspect of it, or a three tier universe, but where I am and how I live, I live for the respect of the son of God, of him that died and rotted and decayed and sought corruption. For in that he said, My God My God, why have you forsaken me? God did forsake him, and he died in agony, a young man whose life was cut short, his teaching I revere and try to live closer to it, and call everyone a liar. For it also says in that Fat Book, “Let God be true and everyone a liar.” Indeed, everyone is a liar, but the earth remains the same, and it is eternal (olam).

    What do you think, O Lord Ehrman of God?

    • Bart
      Bart  October 9, 2016

      You clearly find pleasure in things other than what I do, and vice versa. I completely agree that stressing a personally meaningful life is highly important — and that was a view I simply could not articulate (to myself or others) when I thought the entire point was giving one’s life for others.

    • Avatar
      webattorney  October 10, 2016

      Very eloquently written.

    • talmoore
      talmoore  October 10, 2016

      I’m not totally sure what you think “atheism” means, but it certainly isn’t just another religion. Being an atheist simply means you don’t believe a God exists. That’s it. It doesn’t mean anything else. It doesn’t mean one has to be a nihilist. We have a word for nihilism; it’s called Nihilism. It doesn’t mean one has to be selfish. We have a word for ideological selfishness; it’s called Egoism. And it doesn’t mean one has to be “unchristian”. The problem, it seems, is that we tend to get stuck on the meaning of the adjective “christian”, which actually has acquired two distinct colloquial usages: 1) a person who follows the tenets of the Christian religion; namely, belief that Jesus was the Christ/Messiah, who brings salvation to humanity; 2) being a morally upstanding person. When we start equivocating on these different uses of the term, we run into a lot of trouble. Dr. Ehrman, and plenty of other atheists, may no longer fall under the first definition, but they still very much fall within the second.

  4. Pattycake1974
    Pattycake1974  October 8, 2016

    I don’t refer to myself as a Christian anymore, but when someone asks me if I’m a Christisn, it makes me uncomfortable because I know what’s expected as an answer. I must have some sort of involuntary reaction on my face or through my body language because the next question is “Are you an atheist then?” My reply is always, “Uhhhh…um, well,….” That leads to the other person becoming frustrated and impatient. It’s a tight rope to walk in my world.

  5. talmoore
    talmoore  October 8, 2016

    Dr. Ehrman, I have a similar experience with the Jew label. I’m pretty much a Jew whether I want to be or not. If I were to go to my family and tell them I was no longer a Jew, they would say, shut up, you were born to a Jewish mother, so you’re a Jew! Not only was I born to a Jewish mother, I was born to an *Israeli* Jewish mother, in Jerusalem itself! So I guess I’m one of those hybrid types (the kind you see a lot in New York and Los Angeles), the so-called “cultural Jew”, who doesn’t belief any of religious stuff, but engages in traditional events — bar mitzvahs, seders, sukkot, shul, etc. — because it’s simply part of the culture. Like you, I don’t believe in God, or souls, or angels, or devils, or ghost, or…anything supernatural at all. I’m as thorough-going a materialist atheist as one can possibly be. And yet, if the Nazis were to take over, you bet your butt they’re putting me onto the cattle car.

  6. Avatar
    RonaldTaska  October 8, 2016

    The charity involved in this blog demonstrates your ethical principles.

    I have opted for calling myself, and you as well, “25th chapter of Matthew Christians” because of what that chapter teaches us about ethics in the parable of the sheep and the goats.

    The God question is obviously more difficult. It’s hard to understand how this amazing universe could just “big bang” from nothing and it’s even harder to understand how God could come from nothing. So like Bogart. in “The “African Queen,” “you pays your money and you takes your choice.” That’s the way it is…..

    I used to carry a “B.C.” comic strip in my wallet. The main character in the strip is puzzled about the Big Bang theory and states “And they claim the creation story in Genesis is farfetched.”

  7. Avatar
    clipper9422@yahoo.com  October 8, 2016

    I’ve always found its ethics to be the most plausible part of Christianity and the last part of it I would leave behind. However, the primacy of love for purely secular ethics now seems to me to be an unexamined assumption. I think there are plenty of reasons to be moral in the absence of religious belief. But I’m less sure that a really strong emphasis on selflessness and altruism makes sense-as opposed to, say, self-actualization. When I was a religious believer I found that I could rather easily accept the primacy of love–but I didn’t consider any other options because love was also what my religion required. It was a good enough fit for me.
    My question is whether you re-examined your commitment to Christian ethics when you were no longer a Christian.

    • Bart
      Bart  October 9, 2016

      I completely agree that stressing a personally meaningful life is highly important — and that was a view I simply could not articulate (to myself or others) when I thought the entire point was giving one’s life for others.

  8. Avatar
    clipper9422@yahoo.com  October 8, 2016

    I find Jesus, as portrayed in the Gospels and also after applying the historical-critical method, to be a very attractive and admirable person. I’m especially moved by his willingness to identify with society’s outsiders and those on the margins. I’m also moved by his willingness to forgive. And of course the golden rule and love commandment are a great basis for ethics.

    However, I don’t see him as the complete human ideal. He didn’t seem to have a sense of humor, he didn’t have sexual intimacy, he always seemed to be scolding his disciples for not understanding rather than patiently explaining things to them, he was harsh with his Jewish opponents, and he was always commanding people to believe in him, usually without giving them much reason to. He didn’t seem to especially value intellect and wisdom. Although his compassion was certainly evident in his healings, another reason for the healings seemed to be to display his power. And people almost always had to ask to be healed. And finally, at least on occasion, he threatened people with hell–sometimes just for not believing in him.

    Although all of them had flaws, the following people seem to me to be closer to being complete human ideals than Jesus: Socrates, Francis of Assisi, Erasmus, Thomas Moore, Jefferson, Lincoln, Schweitzer, Ghandi, Martin Luther King, and, at least for sentimental reasons, John and Robert Kennedy. I’ve also read some good things about Captain Cook, the explorer and navigator.

    I’d be interested in any comments you might have about the accuracy of my description of Jesus. I’m also wondering if you could recommend any books about Jesus that evaluate him as a person in a balanced, objective, and realistic way, without being burdened by piety. I’ve looked but have found mostly hatchet jobs that go to the other extreme of portraying him as very badly flawed.

    • Bart
      Bart  October 9, 2016

      Interesting reflections on Jesus! For a historical understanding not driven by piety, see my book Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium.

    • Avatar
      Kirktrumb59  October 11, 2016

      Clearly a belated response following a 3 day weekend.
      Sir or Madam: Yes, Jefferson, Lincoln, etc. were not flawless, like the rest of us. But Thomas More? More than “flawed.” If you disagreed with him when he was in power, i.e., defied his definition of Christianity, and he knew about it, uh oh, YOU paid for it, plenty severely. An absolutist every bit as invidious as Luther (whom More loathed) and Calvin. His downfall: clashed (defied) with an absolutist much more powerful than he (More) was.

  9. Avatar
    Tempo1936  October 8, 2016

    I agree that it is not the core belief of Christian teachings that one should live for others. Human nature is to follow our own self interest to ensure our survival and make life comfortable as possible. Getting to heaven is the most important aspect of Christianity to most Christians which is not thinking of others first.

    • Avatar
      webattorney  October 10, 2016

      I doubt most Christians would believe in Christianity if they could not go to heaven. Lol When you get down to it, it’s all about self-interest or self-preservation. At least, an argument could be made.

  10. Avatar
    Kazibwe Edris  October 9, 2016

    is it possible that jesus was baptised after the wilderness experience?
    if that were the case it makes sense why john the b would baptise him because of all the temptations he was put through.
    i wonder if this chronology is possible

    • Bart
      Bart  October 9, 2016

      It’s possible. My sense is that hte wilderness experience is legendary, not historical.

  11. Avatar
    Samuel Riad  October 9, 2016

    “Our soul doesn’t exist apart from our body and our mind doesn’t exist apart from our body. And no other soul or mind does either.”
    Do you believe in redness as in “Apples are red?” How is this immaterial, ineffable ‘redness’ be reduced to chemical reactions or electric signals in nerve cells?
    I ask these questions because I think it is a good coincidence that I read your post right after ordering Dr. Danie Dennett’s book “Consciousness Explained.” Philosophers have a name for things like redness and pain; they call them ‘qualia’. Dennnett solves the problem by arguing that qulia don’t exist. I understand he is a very smart man and I am impatient to see if he would be able to convince me that pain doesn’t exist!

    https://www.facebook.com/TheGospelofLie/

    • Bart
      Bart  October 9, 2016

      I’m no philosopher! But my sense is that “redness” does not exist apart from things (like apples) that are red, just as pain does not exist without bodies to instantiate it.

    • talmoore
      talmoore  October 9, 2016

      What philosophers and cognitive scientists mean by qualia is the *sense* of something, that is, the subjective experience of redness, for example. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t an objective redness. What we, as human beings, define as “red” falls within an empirically quantifiable frequency range of the electro-magnetic spectrum. But what is unquantifiable is the subjective experience of “redness,” which is its qualia. We can say the same for abstract experiences such as the feeling of love. The actual subjective experience of love may seem ineffable, but there is a definite set of mental states, body chemistry and behaviors that encompass “love” in the objective sense, which is separate (yet empirically observable) from the subjective experience of love itself.

  12. Avatar
    barrios160679  October 9, 2016

    Panentheism? Pantheism?

  13. Avatar
    Wilusa  October 9, 2016

    1. I fully agree with you that people should decide for themselves whether they think of themselves as Christians – no set criteria. But personally, I can’t imagine wanting to be considered a Christian. I think of the historical Jesus as a religious fanatic I would have disliked. And I think people have been encouraged to demean *themselves* – however unknowingly – when they make such a fuss over a person, no better than they, who really existed. Better to worship an abstraction, like a Sun-god, than an actual person!

    Whenever someone makes a wrong assumption that I’m a Catholic, I just say – in a casual way – that I was raised Catholic, but I’m not a member of any religion now. It’s rarely necessary to go beyond that.

    2. I’m so thankful that you did make all the effort necessary to establish this blog! And contributions may pick up now that people have made most of their intended *political* donations. (I’d like to tell my Party that they would have gotten more from me if they’d sent one e-mail a week, rather than dozens every day!)

  14. Avatar
    jrkovan  October 9, 2016

    I have a hard time understanding ‘falling out of Christianity’ to becoming an Agnostic or Atheist.

    Let’s start as follows. Before Calvary, all Christians would believe that Judaism was the true revelation of G-d manifest in the Jewish scriptures – that G-d revealed himself to approximately 3 million men, women, and children. It seems illogical to me that when a Christian stops ‘believing’ in the veracity of the New Testament, that they then automatically by default to “I don’t believe in anything”. The New Testament was essentially ‘glued’ on to the Jewish scriptures. Logically, doesn’t it make more sense for a former Christian to apply the same logic that led them out of Christianity to similarly dismiss Judaism and the claims of the Jewish Scriptures (which was the foundation of Christianity)?

    Taking it a step further, from a theological perspective, both Christianity and Judaism can be false. Christianity cannot be true and Judaism false, as the foundation of Christianity is the ‘Old Testament’, whereas Judaism can be true and Christianity can be false.

    It just seems very convenient to say “okay, now that I don’t accept Christianity as a divine religion due to the fact that there is no one originally preserved manuscript” (for the logical reason that if G-d wanted to reveal a message, couldn’t he similarly preserve that one message), that one does not apply the same principles to the other set of scriptures before dismissing them as being man made as well.

    Food for thought (or not).

    • Bart
      Bart  October 10, 2016

      I did not stop being a Christian because of the problems found in the Bible. I discuss the real reason in my book God’s Problem.

  15. TWood
    TWood  October 9, 2016

    Interesting how you define some who don’t believe in the resurrection as Christians. Among the critical scholars who you know, is there a big percentage of Christians like this?

  16. Avatar
    leo.b@cox.net  October 9, 2016

    If I believe in something that isn’t true or something that I cannot prove, but because of that belief, I love others, do good works, and forgive those who offend me, is it important that what I believe be true?

    • Bart
      Bart  October 10, 2016

      It depends whom you ask!

      • Avatar
        leo.b@cox.net  October 11, 2016

        I guess that goes back to the eternal question: what is truth?

  17. Avatar
    webattorney  October 10, 2016

    If I have to define myself in a religious sense, I am a Christian/Islam/any decent religion sympathizing agnostic/atheist. I sincerely hope there will be more atheist sympathizing Christians so we can get along better. I just hate the feeling I get from Christians that they are superior to me spiritually (or I am misguided) when I actually think the reverse is true. Lol

  18. Avatar
    David  October 11, 2016

    Gretta Vosper is a United Church minister here in Canada, and is currently being defrocked because she’s openly athiest. She’s been a minister for over 25 years and her congregation supports her. Here’s the story: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/programs/metromorning/united-church-1.3754549 . She has an interesting take on things, and doesn’t think she should lose her job.

  19. Avatar
    Rogers  October 12, 2016

    Religions (in the West) have historically been all about having correct theological doctrine in order to be right with God. These days, and certainly amplified by now several decades of Near Death Experience studies (since the 70s), the Western view is now giving sway to a spirituality that is centric on inward transformation of self in relation to everything (every one) else. It’s the emphasis on the old Luke 17:21 perspective, essentially.

    A major theme emmergent from NDE accounts is that religious theology/doctrine is kind of irrelevant (unless it is conducive to the self spiritual/inward development). Athesist have profound, life altering NDE experiences just as do people with prior relgious belief. (This is also the same fundamental message from the Christian mystic Emanual Swedenborg as well – i.e., relax about the religion thing.)

    IOW, Bart, it doesn’t matter one iota that you are an atheist or agnostic – you are about your own constant self transformation through your myriad life pursuits – and by your own admission have an interest in pursing postive moral and ethical teachings. And in my book your publicizing your scholarship understandings to the public at large (which acts as a kind of corrective to the negative tendencies of religion in the West), you are very busy doing the work of the angels. 🙂

    Is it okay to have an intense life vocational interest in Christianity, not believe in God, etc., and yet be called a Christian? In my world view that makes a great deal of sense – if one is comfortable as self identifying as such. But labels are in the end just labels.

  20. Avatar
    Helmut  October 14, 2016

    I solve the problem of labels in two ways.
    My emphasis in my adult life has been to concentrate on being a good human being. I think it was Albert Camus who said, “There may be no guilty people but there must be responsible ones.”
    In slightly less serious moments, I refer to myself as a self-excommunicated Baptist.

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