Monday, April 26, 2010

On Agnostic Christianity

The duck pond is being born again

For whatever reason, some questions seem too personal to ask, too private to be answered. Simple questions arising from idle curiosity, sometimes, like, “Did your girlfriend dump you or was it the other way ‘round?” or “Did you have a shower this morning?” or “How much money did you give to charity last year?” (I just answered this last one on my income tax form yesterday; I’m actually sure the Canadian Revenue Agency’s curiosity is not idle though.)

Or the question I’ve been asked several times in public places like airports or on busses: “Are you a born-again Christian?” Well I know these people are well-meaning enough; I remember how after my one and only “born-again” experience as a 12 year-old, the adults who declared me to be “born-again” impressed on me the duty to witness, to convince others to be “born-again.”

My first impulse, however, to being accosted so intimately by a stranger is to ask, “As opposed to what, a born-only-once Christian?” But that would be sarcastic. So I just say, “Yes, I am,” and he smiles and says, “Well praise the Lord,” and wanders off, and I wonder how one can be burdened for a another person’s soul without being the least bit interested in the person.

Most Christians, I think, would be better labelled agnostic Christians as opposed to born-again. The term exists although it’s seldom heard where I live. It means that although these Christians try to follow the pattern set by Christ and assume that he represents the Creator of all things somehow, they acknowledge that there is much about this that is unknown, and equally much that is unknowable. Agnostic Christians, therefore, have a very short creed:

· There exists a Creator who is the source for the universe and everything in it.
· Jesus Christ, is an important gateway to a relationship with the Creator.
· A cloud of witnesses and our experience of life on earth teach us that love, compassion and generosity are central to God’s will, a tenet reinforced by the record of Jesus’ teaching in the Gospels.
· It is right that we should pay homage to the Creator who gave us this brief moment of life and whose will it appears to be that we should preserve and enjoy the fruits of creation.

I’ve restated these tenets somewhat, of course.

Although less “evangelical” than the “born-agains” generally, Christians who acknowledge that much is unknowable are more likely to approach others as people rather than as projects. Agnostic Christians don’t presume to know the workings of the Creator in the big picture, nor in the microcosm of another person’s soul. They’re more apt to approach strangers on the “compassion and generosity” level, anticipating that the one who made the universe is the only one who can create newness and life.

What do you say when asked if you’ve been born again? Maybe you’re one of those who have drifted so far from the Creator that the metaphor fits. Most likely not. Try saying, “I’m not sure, but I’m definitely on the Creator’s side!” You probably can’t KNOW much more than that in any case.


  1. I'm not sure I would use the term agnostic in this sense as it's defined as the absense of committment to a belief in God. Your creed implies a definite belief in God, with the idea that we ultimately cannot know God's plan and requirements of us until perhaps we "meet him in person"(?) As for how our beliefs are communicated to others (ie Gospel)words are no substitute for genuine relationships, examples of compassion and offerings of love. I thought of you when I read this today:

  2. Cynthia;
    I agree completely that words are no substitute for genuine relationships. As regards the term "Agnostic Christianity, today's post might help understand where I'm coming from. Thanks for thinking critically; it's vital.