Friday, August 25, 2006

The Fundamental Claims of Christianity

As usual, I've been listening to atheist podcasts. The more I listen to these things, the more I come to see that (for lack of a better term) 'evangelical atheists' seem to think that the creation / evolution debate is the most effective way of destroying a Christian's faith. It seems that they see creation by God as one of the fundamental claims of Christianty. And by that I mean it is a claim that, if disproved, would cause a Christian's belief structure to collapse.

I don't think that creation (in the six-days, man-directly-from-dust sense of the word) is a fundamental claim of Christianity at all. In fact, I call myself a Christian without believing either of those two elements of creation. I don't even believe in guided evolution.

But if that isn't a fundamental to Christianity, what is?

What are the fundamental claims of Christianity?

Well, I keep coming back to the thought that I am a Christian. The fundamental claims of Christianity are (in my view) the fundamental claims of Christ and the fundamental claims about Christ. I think these are:
  • The Kingdom of God is near. This is the heart of the ministy of Jesus as presented in the gospels of Matthew, Mark & Luke. This is what Jesus himself preached and what he taught his disciples to preach before his crucifiction - the Gospel of the Kingdom.
  • Jesus is alive. This is the heart of the ministry of the early Church. Jesus is alive, he has conquered death and he is able to be the mediator between you and God the Father.
  • God can live in you. The Holy Spirit is fundamental to the teaching of the early church. The claim is that God can live in you and with you and change you into the person you have the potential to be. This is also (in my view) fundamental in that this, of all the claims, is the one you can test for youself. If you can experience God in your being, you can have faith in the other claims. If there is no evidence of the Holy Spirit, you cannot be sure that any of the other claims are true.
  • You can live after death. This is a claim of many (though not all) religions. The Christian claim is that Jesus (and only Jesus) provides The Way to the Father, the only way to 'heaven' or 'paradise' or 'the Kingdom of God' or whatever you want to call it.
In my opinion, any claim beyond that is not necessarily fundamental to Christianity. The creation thing is not fundamental - you can follow Jesus without believing it. In fact, if I can slip into utter heresy for a minute, my faith in Jesus wouldn't be destroyed if it was proved to me that some other deity had created the universe and our God only came along at a later stage. If God can live in me now, enhancing my quality of life, and if I can be assured of life after death, does it matter if the God that can do that built things? Not to me.

But what do you lot think?

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