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Why I Am Not A Christian

I just now – fifteen minutes ago – came to realize with the most crystal clarity I have ever had why I cannot call myself a Christian.   Of course, as most of you know, I have not called myself a Christian publicly for a very long time, twenty years or so I suppose.  But a number of people tell me that they think at heart I’m a Christian, and I sometimes think of myself as a Christian agnostic/atheist.  Their thinking, and mine, has been that if I do my best to follow the teachings of Jesus, in some respect I’m a Christian, even if I don’t believe that Jesus was the son of God, or that he was raised from the dead, or that… or even that God exists.  In fact I don’t believe all these things.  But can’t I be a Christian in a different sense, one who follows Jesus’ teachings?

Fifteen minutes ago I realized with startling clarity why I don’t think so.

This afternoon in my undergraduate course on the New Testament I was …

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Me and Jesus
Why Do Good People Suffer? A Blast from the Past

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Comments

  1. Avatar
    dankoh  March 12, 2017

    I am a bit puzzled why you did not include Paul in your discussion of the imminent end of the world. Unlike Jesus, whose words were only recorded two generations later and subject to argument over whether he really said them, Paui’s writings were kept and, some at least, are judged authentic. And Paul is very heavily pushing the idea that he expects to be alive when the end of the world happens. (1 Thess. 4:15)

    Of course, he didn’t make it. Nor has it happened yet (though it seems to me right now that certain self-anointed apocalypticists have taken power in an effort to make sure it does happen). I just finished Augustine’s City of God, which as I see it is in large part an attempt to address this delay. Or rather to use that delay as a way of explaining why bad things happen to good Christians in this world. I wonder if you see it that way.

    • Bart
      Bart  March 13, 2017

      No need to be puzzled. Of course I think Paul thought the end was imminent. He says so!

  2. Avatar
    stevenpounders  March 14, 2017

    Hi Bart

    Just thought I should point out that in your quotation from Mark:

    “Truly I tell you, some of you standing here will not taste before you see the kingdom of God come in power.”

    You left out the key word – “death”.

    Really enjoyed this post!

    • Bart
      Bart  March 16, 2017

      Right! Kind of an important word in the sentence. I didn’t mean cinnamon!

  3. Avatar
    sheila0405  April 17, 2017

    I’m late to this party. I can’t seem to stay on top of my many blogs. Based on the writings of early church fathers, this notion of an apocalyptic end of the earth and Jesus as ruler seems to have begun by Jesus. It bothered me a lot. If Jesus was God in the flesh, how is it he was so wrong? I was threatened with hell for doubting Jesus. So I was unable to extricate myself from Christianity until I was 60. Now I see the concept of a triune god as illogical. I am not grieved that I am no longer a believer. I am grieved about decades of a wasted amount of time when I could have better appreciated the only life I have. I appreciated the post.

    • Avatar
      HistoricalChristianity  April 18, 2017

      Your reading is too narrow. The apocalyptic worldview predated Jesus. The idea of Jesus as agent of apocalypse showed up at the very end of the first century, decades after his death. Paul doesn’t speak of him that way. You’re talking about ideas that are late additions to Christianity. Even gospel texts seeking to portray Jesus as seeking a role as a messiah show that role as accomplishing only a politically independent Israel, free of political control by Rome. That was to be right here on earth. Only toward the end of the first century, when it became undeniably obvious that it didn’t happen, did people spiritualize it, saying it would happen in an afterlife.

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