The Mind of the Christian Independent (Part 01) – Overall Philosophy

According to the site statistics Word Press affords me as the administrator of this weblog, I have noticed a steady increase of interest in my writings. More people are viewing this site than ever before, which is really exciting! The most popular post in the past six months has been this one, where I explained the basic reasons I could no longer identify myself as an evangelical Christian. For those of you reading this blog who believe that evangelical Christians are the only true Christians, I presume your opinion to be that I have fallen away from my faith (and it would be the only logical deduction from your perspective). Nothing could be further from the truth, however. While that blog gave a rough sketch of what I no longer am, it did not set forth what I have become in the faith. I had promised at the inauguration of this blog to expound more clearly on what my personal position encompasses and so, with the recent increase in the number of visitors to this site, I feel that now would be an opportune moment to fulfill that promise. I would like to spell out as succinctly as possible in two articles what I mean when I say that I am a Christian Independent so that you, my readers, will be aware of [1] my personal philosophy and [2] the way I approach the pursuit of truth.

A Quick Story

My spiritual journey has been one from apathy to the extremes of fundamentalism to a “kinder, gentler” evangelicalism, to the position I now call Christian Independent. I have experienced many things in my 30 years of life, have read hundreds of books, been involved in countless theological debates, have struggled with many personal issues in the process, and have counseled others through many of their own. I have always been the type that asked questions and wondered why things were the way they were. For many years, I harbored questions and doubts about topics relating to Christianity and the world in general that I did not feel safe enough to explore. It was in the spring of 2006 that these private thoughts, long buried in the deepest parts of my heart, would forcibly enter my consciousness to begin demanding answers.

It was in April of that year when I endured the loss of a person very dear to me. She was the source of much joy throughout my childhood and young adult years. I enjoyed a close relationship with her until the time of her passing that I will forever cherish. The problem was, according to my theology at the time, she was not “saved.” As you will read about in the upcoming series, entitled “Happily Ever After”, this was a breaking point for me in my relationship with God. I could not take a life of repression anymore (over many things). I decided to face my doubts and questions head on and deal with them.

My greatest fear in that effort was that I would find out what I had always believed was not really true. And, in some ways, my fear proved to be real. In others, my studies reaffirmed core truths I had always rested in. After several years of research and through various evolutions of theology, my conscience would no longer allow me to identify as an evangelical. And so, like I mentioned in the footnote of the aforementioned article, it was not simply my distaste for the popular message often found in conservative circles, but authentic alterations in creed that made it incumbent upon me to disidentify with my childhood faith. This decision grieved me deeply, but I had decided from the start to determine how deep the rabbit hole truly went.

My discoveries throughout those months revealed the numerous misconceptions I had of other faith traditions within Christianity. I was refreshed in hearing others’ beliefs “from the horse’s mouth” so-to-speak. I found that a great variety exists in God’s church on a number of issues and this has been the case throughout church history. I learned that many ideas I had formerly thought to be “biblical truth” were actually beliefs that had been around for only a couple of centuries. They were birthed in the context of the cultural and theological controversies of mid-nineteenth and early twentieth century America. In light of these revelations, I determined the need to revisit and reexamine the basic beliefs on which I had constructed my entire worldview. I needed a new foundation on which to build my theology and life. The Christian Independent is the name I gave to this new approach. The synthesis of the beliefs I retained from the old system that I knew to be true with the new data I had encountered in my studies allowed me to regain my hold on reality in the midst of great philosophical and existential confusion. So here’s the Christian Independent position in its simplicity.

Basic Presuppositions (Overall Philosophy)

We all have basic beliefs, many of which we are consciously unaware, that form the basis of all our other thinking. These are called presuppositions, or that which you suppose beforehand, that is, before thinking about anything else. Everyone, without exception, has them. There is no such thing as a person who is completely objective or unbiased in their appraisal of life and truth, their claims to the contrary notwithstanding. The reality is that we all were raised a certain way and unconsciously accepted many of the beliefs of those who cared for us, our families, friends, and the culture at large. If you want to see how blind you are to your own personal assumptions, then sit and have a conversation with a person who grew up in a different culture than you. You will probably think they are weird for thinking as they do. Don’t worry, they think same about you! You see, it’s not that they’re weird; they’re just different and that is not a bad thing (unless you are so insecure that you are threatened by other people who don’t believe the exact same thing you do).

Presuppositions (also called first truths) are the basis upon which we formulate our particular, subjective perception of reality. I learned through studies in philosophy that there are certain statements which are self-evident truths, meaning they don’t need any outside evidence to support them because the statement is evidence to itself. The most basic truth is called the law of non-contradiction. This law states that no two contradictory statements can both be true in the same time and in the same sense. It cannot be that I exist and that I do not exist at the same time. One is true and the other is false. It cannot be that I am a six foot dark-haired male and that I am a four foot blond female at the same time. Simply put, contradictions don’t exist. It is from this starting point that I began my journey, as it is the foundational assumption of all human thought. From there, I made the insightful observation that I did, in fact, exist as a contingent being. Since I have not always existed, then something else must have caused me and you can follow that long line of causes all the way back in time until you come to a point where something or someone must exist that has always existed; something or someone not caused by anything else which began the whole process that resulted in me being here today. That someone is the person we call God (and he must be a person and not an “it”, because personhood does not arise from nonpersonhood).

The next question I had to ask was: ‘What kind of God exists?’ (Notice that I’m arriving at these conclusions through the basic rules of thought apart from using the Bible. Beliefs about the Bible could only be determined after I had decided what I believed on these basic issues) Due to the brevity of this article, I cannot recount my entire thought process here. I will share it more in depth in the future if people are interested to know more of the specifics. Basically, I concluded that if God was the greatest possible being that could exist, then he would have to be a loving God as I failed to comprehend how one could conceive the nature of the greatest possible being as anything but pure love and goodness. I then asked myself which religions taught something to this effect and found there to be several. The decided issue that makes Christianity stand out from among them is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. I believe there is solid historical evidence and reasoning to support the fact that Christ was a real person who lived and taught in Israel two thousand years ago, that he was crucified by the Roman and Jewish authorities of the day, and that he was resurrected from the dead on the third day after his death just as he had predicted, thus proving his claim to be the incarnation of the living God. The way I look at it is like this: if you can pull off your own resurrection, I’ll listen to anything you have to say too!

In 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 the apostle Paul records what scholars believe to be an early creed of Christianity. It presents in simple form the believers’ foundational beliefs about Christ’s death and resurrection”

“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.”

Following that, Paul establishes why this belief was passed on “as of first importance” when he says a few verses later: “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith” (vv. 13-14). Christianity stands or falls on the resurrection of Jesus. If he rose, then He is who He says He is. If he did not, then He’s no different than any other religious teacher that ever walked the earth or, if anything, he’s worse – a fraud who sought to religiously manipulate people or a psycho who thought himself to be the Son of God. I have concluded that the evidence strongly supports His resurrection.

Remember our law of non-contradiction? Well, if it is true that Jesus Christ has proven Himself to be God incarnate by rising from the dead, then any religious belief that claims he did not is necessarily false. I know this might hurt people’s feelings, but that is the nature of reality. When something is true, the opposite is false. We all intuitively know this to be the case whenever we suspect someone of lying. We assume that if a statement is true, then its opposite if false. Specifically, we know that when the facts say one thing and the person claims the opposite, they cannot both be right. It is our intuitive knowledge that contradictions don’t exist that allows us to sniff out a liar. As a matter of fact, without this fundamental law of logic, there would be no such thing as lying and life itself would be unmanageable. And it is precisely because I simultaneously believe in this law and the resurrection of Christ that I consider myself a Christian.

In summary then:

1. The law of non-contradiction is self-evident. To claim the law of non-contradiction is false, you have to assume the opposite to be true. Yet in doing so you are using the very law of non-contradiction you claim does not exist!

2. I exist now, but have not always existed in the past; something else must have caused me.

3. All things which had a beginning need a cause and so the line of causation regresses into the past until you must have something which always existed and, thus, does not need a cause – something that started the whole process of cause and effect. This “uncaused cause” is what we call God.

4. If God is the greatest possible being, then He must be a God of love.

5. Jesus Christ, claiming to be God incarnate, embodied this picture of God as love when He lived his life 2000 years ago.

6. Jesus proved He was God incarnate when he rose from the dead.

7. Therefore, Jesus Christ Is my God. I am a Christian.

I may be criticized because I am not going into detail about each one of these propositions (for example, I have barely alluded to the ontological argument used in proposition #4), however, this article is only meant to give you an outline of my philosophical orientation, not a dissertational apologetic for the Christian faith. If you would like more specifics as to my reasoning process through all this, I will happily provide them to you if you contact me. In the next article I will discuss my personal approach to discovering the truth and the rubric by which I evaluate whether something is true.

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7 thoughts on “The Mind of the Christian Independent (Part 01) – Overall Philosophy

  1. Its interesting to see how you got here. I’d kinda like to know if you relied on the Word of God at all during this process to inform your thinking even though you said at one point you weren’t. I don’t think we can get there by logical alone.

    • Bill, sorry for the delayed response. You’re right, logic alone won’t get us there. That would be the worst of rationalism. However, it is true that anything we believe should be rational. Check out part two which I posted a couple days ago for the role of the Bible in this process. This post was to establish first truths from which to start my thinking.

  2. Hi Jordan…pretty cool stuff although i don’t totally get the point of why the law of noncontradiction is important…is it only because it helps set christ apart or was there some other reason? And BTW I thought the universalism series was coming next? Just asking 🙂

    • Also, sorry to you for the delay. The law of noncontradiction is important because it is the foundation of all other thinking. It’s what makes reasoning possible about anything in the world. If contradictions could exist, there would be no such thing as truth. If there was no such thing as truth, then this entire paragraph I’m writing here would be meaningless since you could not know if it were representative of reality or not. Yes, the law of noncontradiction would make it necessary logically that if Christ is the second person of the Trinity then all religious claims to the contary would be false. However, be careful not to make the mistake some Christians do of thinking that each religious system is an all or none entity. Christianity has much in common with other religions though there are the obvious differences.

      And yes, the universalism series will be starting soon. I started writing it and then didn’t like the way it came out, so I’m re-editing things. Haven’t had a lot of time with school, but that’s ending in the next week so hopefully I’ll get the first installment up before next quarter begins.

  3. You may be interested in this post with regards to point four:

    I think a lot about the kind of god I could believe in, and what her characteristics are, and why I’m no longer a Christian.

    I come to this:

    The god I imagine, the true one, the ‘fount of all being,’ is a wild limitless overflowing thing of life, joy, and love. A thing totally unconstrained and unpredictable. Has to be. Nothing less. As wild as Pan – god of the earth and forest and ocean as much as god of the sky and the stars. A being of sweet, terrible life. Something like the god whose back Moses is shown a glimpse of, up on that mountain.

    Unfortunately, YHWH falls a little short of the ideal. He comes close at times, true – and party-Jesus doing wine-tricks is a glimpse of the ultimate truth – but ultimately YHWH is constrained by ‘rules,’ or ‘justice,’ or hand-waving about ‘the way things are.’ C.S. Lewis has Aslan speak of a ‘deep magic’ that cannot be undone or avoided; the penal substitutionists (and the satisfactionists) speak of some code or law that even YHWH must honour – and, therefore, that we also must yield to if YHWH is to save us. (I guess god did manage to create a rock so big even he can’t lift it?)

    Even further – YHWH gets upset at the things people do. And not just for their sake, either (which would be permissible.) He gets offended! And jealous! He punishes people for doing obviously good things, because they contravene his arbitrary moral code! He endorses – encourages! – mass slaughter and pillage of people outside the chosen few.

    I can imagine a god greater.

    Of course, the flaw in the ontological argument is the assumption that imagining something means it must exist. I hold no such assumption. Nonetheless.

    Any god who falls short of the best I can imagine is a god not worth worshipping.

    http://problemattic.net/2010/03/whoosh

  4. Also you might care to read The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins… Brings you far more up to date with current theological thinking. I was once where you are now, having been where you had been, but I’ve moved on further to become an atheist now as I have found that to be the most logical position.

  5. Ruby, sorry it’s taken me awhile to get back to you. I like your thoughts on what God should be. You are using the ontological argument to imagine how wonderful God should be. I too have a lot of problems with the way God is portrayed in the Old Testament. I just think that the Israelites thought those things and didn’t have a full understanding of a God of love that we meet in Jesus. Regarding Richard Dawkins, I see him as a fundamentalist on the opposite end of the spectrum. The logical fallacies of his thinking are too numerable to list here. I can respect atheistic mainstream scientists as long as they are willing to acknowledge the same thing I do as a theist – that the evidence can be interpreted either way fairly. Ultimately, it comes down to faith and that faith will be determined ultimately by what we believe to be the more statistically likely possibility (or at least it should – unfortunately, in this case, emotional experiences from our past tend to make the determination). You’re a thinker and I like that. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts and I hope to see you around more often! 🙂

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