House Rules and The Limits of Agnosticism, By A Christian Agnostic

I sometimes like to describe myself as a Christian Agnostic.

Actually, that’s not true, I hate to describe myself that way, because it sounds so damned pretentious it makes me want to throw up. It sounds like exactly the kind of mealy-mouthed spinelessness I always hear from people who describe themselves as “spiritual-but-not-religious,” which is the pop culture Excuse Of The Decade for having an opinion on religion without actually knowing shit about it.

“God’s” House Rules

Nevertheless, Christian Agnostic describes a lot of what I believe about the God of the Bible. Because too many Christians like to relate to God through what I can only describe as the “house rules” of Christianity. You know how house rules work: it’s how we modify games to make them more fun for us. Like putting all the Monopoly money from Chance and Community Chest in the center and then giving it to the guy who lands on Free Parking. Which is awesome for games — usually. Until you get that one guy who doesn’t understand that it isn’t his house. Then it’s more appropriately called, “Making Shit Up I Happen To Like As I Go Along.” That’s also known as cheating. And people love to do it to religion: They make up rules based on their own culture. Or they extrapolate beyond the bounds of what God actually said. My favorite excuse for this in the Evangelical Church goes: “We should never see how close we can come to sinning.” And while there’s a core of truth in there, I find that 99% of the time this is code for, “If you don’t accept this rule I’ve made that’s more restrictive than the rule God made, you’re not really a follower of Christ.” This is bullshit now, and we know it is, because Jesus called the Pharisees out on it 2000 years ago (Matthew 12).

We can only know of God what God tells us, and since that’s so, we need to be very sure He did tell it to us. Otherwise, we are stopping people from following Christ because of our own self-serving conviction that unless they are as good as we are (snort!), they are not worthy of Him. So let’s be very careful what we say we know, as Paul did, when he was determined to know nothing but Christ, and Him crucified (I Cor. 2:2).

Agnosticism… And Its Limits

Yet when you clear away all the house rules, we do believe, if we believe anything, that God told us something in the person of Christ. We believe God sent us salvation through Christ, and that Christ spoke truth when he said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life: no man cometh to the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). If Jesus is worth following, then He spoke the truth. And if He spoke truth, we are obligated to believe Him. And this is where we start to hit the limits of Christian Agnosticism. I hit it in a conversation.

It was a talk with a person I generally respect, which made it hard. We were discussing the spirit of this passage. Note that Christ said, “no man cometh to the Father, but by me.” He does not say how a man comes to the Father by him. Only that by Christ a man must come. And we expressed the hope that Christ may, in His power and mercy, save even those who dies without ever hearing His name, so that they too could know Him. I don’t see any promise in Scripture that it can happen, but I don’t see an absolute bar to it. I wouldn’t bet an eternal soul on it, but I hope that chance is there. More, I feel that Jesus’ command to love my fellow-man as myself requires that I hope that chance is there. That every person may choose to come to Jesus, and through Him, to God. And that is the limit of our knowledge.

But then my friend went further. Said that we don’t know even that. He claimed that perhaps, people did not even need to come to Christ, or God, because, you know, you never know. Maybe we don’t have to choose between God and not-God. And that’s where I had to part company with his reasoning, and the argument. Because, you see, while the limit of our knowledge is the beginning of our ignorance, it works the other way, too: The limit of our ignorance is also the beginning of our knowledge.

So you do not get to say that we don’t know what we were told about God any more than you get to say that we do know what we weren’t told. You cannot have that both ways. Once we believe we have a revelation (and if we don’t then this whole argument is damned — and I mean that with theological exactitude — silly) we must live by that faith. If we do not, we do not choose to live OR have faith. That’s what faith means. And that’s why standing up for Christ is so important. It may be that a person who dies not knowing Christ may be saved by Him. It is certain, however, that a living person who places faith in Christ will be saved.

Our knowledge is limited. Our lack of knowledge is also limited. Pretending otherwise — either way — is dishonest, and we should never expect that to have a reward.

From Somewhere In Orbit

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