Friday, December 24, 2010

How "mere" can Christianity be before it ceases to be Christian?

Carl Trueman calls attention to a very interesting article in The Spectator. Bruce Anderson, an atheist, makes some insightful claims about Christianity which suggest that he understands the Christian faith far more than theological liberals.

Anderson writes:
"We unbelievers are entitled to regard the Bible as magnificent literature. More is demanded from the faithful. Yet these days, even some soi-disant Christians would claim that the miraculous elements of the New Testament are only metaphors. To me, that is agnostic slop. Faith is more than literature. Faith is an epiphany of abasement, ardour and rigour, in the hope of grace, redemption and joy. But there is an entrance fee. “If you do not believe in the literal truth of the Incarnation and the Resurrection, you are not a Christian”." [my emphasis]
Trueman comments:
Reading this, I found my mind wandering back just over a decade. As the new, young, and very naive editor of Themelios, I had just lost my first subscriber, a self-identifying evangelical academic at a Welsh university, who had written me a letter to say that, after being a faithful subscriber to the journal since its inception he was, `with heavy heart,' canceling his subscription. The problem? I was, he said, `narrowing the bounds of Christianity beyond charity and common sense.' Specifically, I had written an editorial in which I claimed that those who denied the resurrection could not be Christians. I responded to said academic with a very gentle and respectful letter, apologising if I had transgressed in tone, and asking him where I had deviated from Paul's teaching, as I had no wish to teach error in the pages of the journal. Suffice it to say, I never heard back: it was apparently a worthwhile use of his time to accuse me of lack of charity and false teaching, but not to teach me a better way as this gentleman understood it.

Given the choice of dinner with that gentleman or Bruce Anderson, I would have to ask, `Is that a question?' Mr Anderson understands the New Testament in a way that that evangelical theologian, for all of his life spent studying the faith, does not; and, indeed, to update the scenario, Anderson grasps Christianity in a manner which also seems beyond those who hold to that specious antithesis that 'Christianity is a way of life, not a set of doctrines.' Yes, doctrine divides and excludes; and Anderson knows that that is central to the message of Christianity, unpleasant as that may appear.

It was Nietzsche who declared that what is now decisive against Christianity is our taste, no longer our reasons. What he did not realise was that he was prophetically speaking about Christians at least as much as atheists.

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