The Non-Negotiables of Christianity

It’s pretty often

that I get accused

of rejecting

the “non-negotiables” of Christianity.

The Virgin Birth.

The Bodily Resurrection.

The Miracles of Christ.

Atonement.

The inerrancy of Scripture.

The  masculinity of God.

But I don’t think

these are the “non-negotiables”

of Christianity.

I think the non-negotiables are

more tangible.

Unconditional love of others.

A preferential option for the poor.

Respect for all life.

Mercy in all situations.

Acceptance.

Liberation.

Equality.

A rejection of power

and money

and social status.

Why aren’t these things

non-negotiable?

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15 thoughts on “The Non-Negotiables of Christianity

  1. “Why aren’t these things non-negotiable?”

    Because they are subjective and not always equally applied. For example, what is considered poor? If am a Christian who has power, money and social status with which I can use to spread the Gospel, should I still reject it? Define respect, mercy, acceptance, liberation, equality and love.

    Many times, when Christians use those words they mean an earthly definition and not a Godly one.

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  2. Stalwart Sam

    Schmidt brings up a really practical point.

    I’ll expound, and hope he doesn’t mind.

    The religion you speak of, Justin, is a very weak religion. It is the building of a house on a foundation of sand. How do you know you’re helping anyone if you do not understand the nature of reality? The why?

    Most religions offer some form of love and justice, but those definitions differ wildly. Buddha abandoned his family for asceticism. Is this love? Muhammad declared that infidels deserved to death if they did pay a special tax or convert. Is this justice? How do you know? If you claim that they are wrong, what gives you that moral authority? What truth do you offer that is better than theirs?

    God is love, but if you do not know God, how can you know love?

    That is why the Resurrection is non-negotiable. Is it the ultimate symbol of God’s love to us. To throw it away, is to reject God’s sacrifice and reject Love itself.

    Another viewpoint from the spiritual.

    Your defenses are wide open. You have no helmet of salvation, no belt of truth, no breastplate of righteousness, no shield of faith, and no sword of the Spirit. AKA, you have no defense against demons or evil. You’re in danger. You’re in the same spot as the sons of Sceva.

    Finally, when we refuse God’s truth, it has real-world repercussions.

    From the field of sociology, here is one truth affirmed again and again. Whenever a denomination rejects Jesus and embraces sin, it starts dying. Despite opening its doors and the leadership positions to homosexuals, the Episcopal Church did not grow. It has been dying ever since.

    In fact, there’s a bell-shaped graph for this reaction, courtesy of Rodney Stark, a veteran sociologist of religion. The fastest-growing churches/denominations are the ones who are the Strict ones, the ones living in a high degree of tension with the surrounding culture. These have more stringent beliefs than your typical Conservative denomination, which is also growing, just not as fast. (Think Southern Baptist.)

    Isn’t that weird? The stricter faith leads to stronger growth? You’d think that relaxing the standards would do that, but no, it has the opposite effect.

    Moderate denominations actually start losing members. In this kind of denomination, God is still personal, but is relegated to only Sunday. The faith is compartmentalized, so it doesn’t affect much outside the church.

    As bad as that is, when a denomination goes liberal, the membership loss accelerates. These are the denominations who still believe in a loving God, but reject Hell, eternal judgement. Someone like Rob Bell is typical of this corrupting belief. These denominations live in low degree of tension with the surrounding culture, but why wouldn’t they? They do not challenge Sin.

    Sadly, this is the path many denominations take. To go from honoring God and maintaining a solid theology, to watering it down and, eventually, to the grave. Thankfully, as a denomination dies, another one will grow to take its place so that the Truth is never lost. Ironically, this is why many sociologists have been predicting for centuries that religion is dying out because they have tunnel vision on the dying churches, ignoring the new growing ones.

    So, there. I have given you three reasons why the non-negotiables of Christianity are truly non-negotiable. One theological/practical, one spiritual, and one sociological.

    Sincerely,
    Stalwart Sam

    P.S. Here’s the general outline of this bell-shaped curve. Can’t draw a bell, so I’m giving you the terms to fill in a blank one, should you desire.

    {Theoretical Model of Religious Economics}

    [Level of Interpretation]
    (Hi-loss) (Lo-Loss) (Lo-growth) (Hi-growth)
    Ultra-Liberal ~ Liberal ~ Moderate (Top tip of the Bell) Conservative ~ Strict ~ Ultra-Strict

    Very Low ————————————————————————————- Very High

    [Degree of Tension with surrounding society]

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    1. balefiremhael

      “God is love, but if you do not know God, how can you know love?”

      It’s easy, it’s called I am human. I know love and there is no evidence to suggest there is a god or that he loves me.

      “That is why the Resurrection is non-negotiable. Is it the ultimate symbol of God’s love to us. To throw it away, is to reject God’s sacrifice and reject Love itself.”

      The two are not mutually exclusive. Since A) you can’t demonstrate god made a sacrifice, since sacrifice involves loss, and what did god lose? Let’s even say for sake of argument that Jesus was a real person and that he died in the manner of the bible, it still would not prove he was the son of god. And his death lost god what? His death was to forgive the sins of man, why would god need to go through all the trouble in the first place, if he is omnipotent he could just forgive.

      “Your defenses are wide open. You have no helmet of salvation, no belt of truth, no breastplate of righteousness, no shield of faith, and no sword of the Spirit. AKA, you have no defense against demons or evil. You’re in danger. You’re in the same spot as the sons of Sceva.”

      Truth is found in evidence of reality and the fundamental laws of nature, you don’t need faith if you have evidence and science. Since there is no such thing as demons, evil spirits etc no one is in danger of them.

      “Finally, when we refuse God’s truth, it has real-world repercussions.”

      Like what? I reject god, I reject the Holy Ghost, I reject religion. I reject superstition. I live in middle class America, have a loving family, a good job, a rewarding life intellectually. I don’t see a down side here. So the fact that it can happen with myself and many others indicates that your statement is not true in all cases.

      “From the field of sociology, here is one truth affirmed again and again. Whenever a denomination rejects Jesus and embraces sin, it starts dying. Despite opening its doors and the leadership positions to homosexuals, the Episcopal Church did not grow. It has been dying ever since.”

      Really? Denmark, Japan, Netherlands, Australia, all have large portions of the population that are atheist/agnostic/non-religious and they rate highest in education, general life satisfaction, lowest in poverty and crime.

      “As bad as that is, when a denomination goes liberal, the membership loss accelerates. These are the denominations who still believe in a loving God, but reject Hell, eternal judgement. Someone like Rob Bell is typical of this corrupting belief. These denominations live in low degree of tension with the surrounding culture, but why wouldn’t they? They do not challenge Sin.”

      That’s because when you go liberal and start actually thinking for yourself you realize you don’t need the crutch of religion and so you are not shackled to the tyranny of intellectual and spiritual hypocrisy, thus you stop going to church.

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      1. Stalwart Sam

        balefire,

        I have little reason to believe your post represents a serious argument, but I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt. Focusing on the sociology, you ignored one simple fact that puts a hole in your counter-theory: the denominations that are growing are the more spiritual/religious. In other words, as the liberal denominations die out, instead of seeing a raise in atheism, we see a rise in new conservative/strict denominations. Thus, your theory that liberal denominations lead to an increase of atheism is not supported by the evidence.

        As a historian, I find your charge of ‘tyranny of intellectual’ to be inconsistent with the evidence. Evidence A being that most of the oldest and renowned American and European universities were created by Christians for the purpose of studying Theology, Law, Science and so on (Oxford, Harvard, Vienna, etc). Some of the most famous scientists were devout Christians (Newton, Mendel, Kepler). Thus, your charge that Christianity stifles intellectual development is guilty of ignorance.

        This phrase “spiritual hypocrisy” doesn’t make any sense to me. Could you expound?

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      2. balefiremhael

        Ok, I think from your response to mine there is a difference of what we are talking about. First I understand your sociological conclusion that the denominations can be more conservative since they have an increase in zeal they spend more efforts proselytizing and they force more activity within their organization (Lannaccone, Olson & Stark, 1995). I was more leaning toward the aspect of as we see more impact of liberal society we see an increase in secularism and a decrease in religious affiliation (Pewforum.org, 2015). So my point was in response to your comments about rejection of Jesus having a negative effect, to which I disagreed with you, and cited that there are many countries that have a much higher atheist/agnostic/not-affiliated population that enjoy many improved social aspects.

        It is not ignorance to make the claim of the church stifling education and science. While the people you mentioned might have been Christians many scientist during the enlightenment were or were deists. Just because they accepted Christianity doesn’t mean that their science was derived from their religion. Newton was also an alchemist so he clearly had a streak of nonsense beliefs. Galileo was a Catholic, and the church tried him for heresy for his work. Giordano Bruno a priest who was also an astronomer and mathematician was burned for having contrary beliefs to the church. The church and apologists today spend millions of dollars a year combatting the teaching of evolution in schools, even going so far as to invent their own pseudo-science “intelligent design” and then insisting that it be taught as a competing theory. The Christian religion continues to impede any research into stem cells despite the lives it saves.
        The fact that the church may have started the universities, and other charities that is irrelevant and is a confusion of correlation with causation, just because Christians did scientific work and founded centers of learning does not mean that science and education stem from Christianity. In either case it is irrelevant to the fact that that the church has been a negative influence in education and scientific progress.
        Lastly the spiritual hypocrisy of the Christian religion is in the idea that God is love, and that he loves us, which I see as hypocritical for a loving god to allow 70% of the world’s population (5.1 Billion) to go to hell, just because they don’t believe in Jesus, or just because a person was born on the wrong continent in the wrong family.

        http://www.pewforum.org/2015/05/12/americas-changing-religious-landscape/
        Lannaccone, L. R., Olson, D. A., & Stark, R. (1995). Religious Resources and Church Growth. Social Forces, 74(2), 705-731.

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      3. I want to address your hypocrisy comment.

        What is your definition of ‘Love’? Before I attempt to correct your attempt to paint God or Christians as hypocrites, how you define this is important.

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      4. balefiremhael

        Love is giving to others those things that you would want them to give you if you were in their situation — and it’s doing so even if they can’t pay you back. In fact, it’s doing so especially if they can’t pay you back. Love is respect for others. It’s mercy. It’s charity. Love is understanding and compassion another person despite their faults. So please explain to me, how a God who you would say created man, and has the power to stop suffering, and has the power to just let us be human, would condemn people to hell just because we don’t believe in your bible? Especially when there are 7.3 Billion people and only 2.2 billion are Christians. If I loved my son as you say god loves us, I would never condemn him to hell just because he doesn’t follow what is arguably a flawed and conflicting book. You would say I will burn in hell for all eternity in agony and pain because I didn’t accept a flawed philosophy. How is that love?

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      5. I have found that many describe love in a way that they don’t actually live. As you have described, an altruistic, empathy driven emotion in which the full needs of others are recognized, embraced and fully attended too. This notion of love is actually not love, but instead appeasement. Why? Because the goal with the love that you propose is to satisfy the givers need for approval by giving others what they want. While no payment is requested/demanded, the payment received is in the form of praise by either the recipient or witnesses. When praise is either not given or rescinded the resolution is that the act was not loving. In truth, love has nothing to do with appeasement. It is about giving another what they need, regardless if they want it. Conversely, by withholding things harmful, even when desired. Both of these instances, challenge your description of love. Compassion, mercy, respect and charity all fall under the same umbrella. They can all be distributed justly in a way in which the receiver dislikes, but it is still loving. When this description is applied to the love of God, we see he is far more loving than non-Christians understand.

        Does a God who created man have a right to expect a certain level of obedience? Why has he given us the option, rather than simply make us unable to disobey? I don’t know. Could it be that mindless robots responding to commands is pointless? Maybe, the two of us will get a chance to ask him.

        Again, as with the description of love, the description of suffering is one in which easy definitions fail to grasp the whole meaning. For instance, much of man’s suffering is self imposed. The only answer would be making a person who lacked the ability to make choices. While you might be able to remove some environmental factors, a man of his own doing can still destroy relationships, etc. So, if God is so wrong, how would you change man’s propensity for self destruction?

        Living in the present puts us at a disadvantage. If God is evil for allowing suffering, you then need to question why suffering can have positive effects for either the sufferer or those who witness. To use a cliche, “Whatever doesn’t kill you, only makes you stronger”. We have that in our lexicon because we have seen people come out of suffering better than they went in. Obviously, you can provide examples of the worst suffering man has ever endured and demand me to point out where God was in those instance. I don’t have an answer for that; however, that doesn’t make him culpable simply because we, from our perspective in time, can’t see the reason.

        Finally, God has never promised that life on the earth is where our best times will be. God’s goal, rather, is that people find faith in Christ and join him in heaven for eternity. The excuses for rejecting Christ are endless and you can even claim God is unfair to punish that rejection; yet, the options are there for everyone to see. We all have this need to find that thing greater than us, we have all been given the same internal sense of right and wrong, he sent his son to walk this planet and die in our place, and he has preserved his word through the ravages of time; all so that you and I can join him for eternity. If a person chooses to reject God, why is God to blame?

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      6. balefiremhael

        First, just wanted to thank the two of you for the interesting dialog. 
        I am going to skip to your 4th paragraph, as that is where I can see more of a difference in my thinking.  First, while I agree that some, suffering can teach us a lesion and we can grow from the experience, I would hypothesize that the real suffering that people go through around the world, debilitating diseases, starvation, extreme poverty, lack of clean water, constant wars over territory are not the type of suffering that people get over and become better for it.   You are right, it is difficult to find or see any reason for this. But my point is slightly different than you are addressing. Let’s take an African village for instance.  The people are suffering of extreme poverty and lack of clean water and food, the predominant religion in many parts of Africa is Islam.  So my point is, that born in this situation there is no choice, they lack the access to any type of education and don’t have a long life expectancy.  So as you say God’s goal is that people find faith in Christ and join him in heaven.  These people never rejected Christ, they simply had no choice or even knew there was an option.  Thus I was trying to indicate that I see a disconnect in the theological argument that an all loving, all powerful god would by arbitrary decree send these people to hell for the crime of not being born in a Christian country with any access to even know there were non-negotiable beliefs to get into heaven. 
        So you are right it is difficult to blame god if such a being exists for choices we can make, but the real point is that many or the majority of the planet may not have that choice to make.  So if 5.3 Billion people are not Christian lest us just assume that the majority have not made a conscious choice as I have through education.  So through no fault of their own and no real choice in the matter they will go to hell according to the non-negotiable beliefs one must have.
        If I have no choice but to be Muslim being born in Afghanistan how can we justify with Christian doctrine that these people just deserve to go to hell? So if the humans don’t have a choice in accepting Christ, doesn’t God therefore have a choice to send them to hell?

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      7. This is not a pleasant question to address. More importantly, the answer is based on both Biblical text and faith. The answer revolves around whether or not God is just. The simple answer is that it is a matter of perspective. The harder answer is, yes, they do go to hell.

        The Bible makes three absolute statements about this. 1) We have all sinned against God and deserve his punishment. 2) Christ came and gave his life as a sacrifice for all sins. 3) The only way to heaven is through faith in Jesus Christ.

        Based on this, one must conclude that a sinner who does not have faith in Christ, regardless of circumstances is damned. They would be correct. Christ said the only way to the Father is through him John 14:6.

        So, do people have an excuse? First, we are all sinners and because of sin we are separated from God. However, Paul writes in Romans 1 & 2 that all men have been given the opportunity to witness God. He first appeals to the natural knowledge of God. That God has revealed himself in the wonders around us. Second, Paul, points out that God has instilled in us a conscience that tells us right from wrong. This leaves none with an the ability to charge that God wasn’t present for them to witness. God, through Paul, explains that no one is left with an excuse Romans 1:20.

        Is this just? From the perspective of an individual with no knowledge beyond his/her own experience, it might seem unjust for these people to be judged. Their reaction is less about equal justice, but about a perception of fairness. Unfortunately, using that logic, everyone’s experience must be identical or one might have an unfair (dis)advantage. You could demand any number of signs or testimonies of God to be presented; however, people will always find ways to reject them Psalm 78:32. Paul when speaking to the Athenians, puts it like this in Acts 17:

        26From one man he made very nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. 27God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. 28For in him we live and move and have our being. As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring’.

        We all owe our existence to God. He has placed us all in a place where we have an opportunity to reach out to him. He has promised that the list of the saved will include people from all nations Revelations 7:9.

        This then brings us to faith. If you reject God, the Bible and the deity of Christ; you have no reason to accept this answer. I, however, believe that in love, God has revealed himself to all people. Not because he is obligated to, but because of grace. We must always remember that it is us who rebels against him.

        I will make one addendum to this. Those who are not capable of processing the existence of God or those infants who may have died prior to being baptized, will find God’s Mercy. In Romans 1:18, Paul speaks specifically of those who ‘suppress the truth’. If the mental faculties are retarded, ill formed, or unformed; I believe God’s mercy does interject and save those people, incapable of comprehending him. Furthermore, we have instances in which God’s faithful understand they will see their infants again 2Samuel 12:23, Jesus speaks of the the faith of children Luke 18:15-17.

        Finally, in Matthew 20:1-16 we see Jesus speaking about those receiving the gift of God’s grace, “So the last will be first and first will be last.” By reading the entire parable, we see that God’s grace is his to dispense and that as a gift, how he dispenses it is up to him. However, if you read the rest of scripture it might be unequal, but it is always just.

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    2. Thanks, Stalwart. You did expand on some of me thoughts.

      There are two additional consequences to the ideology which Justin is proposing.

      1) What he has listed are what the Bible calls fruits of faith. If you wish to make them non-negotiable, they are no longer fruits of faith; but instead, deeds that must be done in order to have faith. Justin turns Christianity into a form of works righteousness allowing the mortal to gain immortality through what is done. That is contrary to all Biblical principle. Man by his own can not make himself right with God.

      2) At the time of this post, there are two non-Christians posting which defend Justin in the face of Christian (Stalwart and myself) scrutiny. When we soften the word of God, we don’t allow more people access to Christ. Rather we expose people to a false religion and create the very real opportunity for further distortion of God’s word. The non-Christians posting are not doing so because they have found Christ in some new form, but because they have found a weak spot by which they can introduce doubt.

      Justin, assuming he lives his life with these as non-negotiable doctrines, has stopped worshiping the True God and has begun worshiping himself. It takes the form of, ‘Look what I can do for God.’ It has been my complaint with nearly all his blogs and why I feel Progressive Christianity is more plague than cure in our society.

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  3. Religion is created by humans who are essentially not only flawed but very subjective. All that you speak of is open to interpretation. We all have different ways of “measuring” these things.

    Getting a consensus on the definitions of these things would be nigh on impossible.

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  4. Mary

    To me, it looks like your list of non-negotiables for Christianity is very similar to the list I would write if asked to come up with a list of non-negotiables for decent (and dare I say secular) humanity. Those are all important values, but they share very little with the Christianity I have experienced (that is, the one that’s all about sin, judgment, punishment, and being holier than the guy next to you).

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    1. Mary, I think you are rights: they are similar to the Christianity most people are presented with in modern day America. Luckily, there is a better, and more authentic, Christianity out there, that is not based on those things.

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  5. Pingback: Year in Review: Top Posts of 2015 | Justin DaMetz

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