After Church – Basics of Christianity (Philosophically!)

Often, I find it beneficial to think of familiar things in different ways. What if this were different, or maybe that? There’s room for failure in this regard, but that’s part of the fun. In many cases, the extrapolation doesn’t work or it just misses some element that’s absolutely necessary. Still, haven’t you ever had that eureka moment while doing a task completely unrelated to what you were supposed to be doing? Yeah, I’m sure you have (even if you won’t admit it). That’s your brain rejiggering (somehow this is a word) and figuring things out much better than your conscious mind ever could.

Christianity Basics

In that regard, we disagree often on what constitutes the “basics” of Christianity.If there’s anything the Church needs now, unity looks like our greatest barrier to doing anything. To resolve this gap, we probably need to understand exactly what we believe. How does one explicate the very basics of Christianity? What can all theistic Christians agree in regards to their beliefs? By proceeding from the simplest ideas and constructing this belief system from the bottom, the inconspicuous negative contingencies of such an exercise (one used throughout two thousand years of Western Christianity) will become clear. Or maybe not. But this is going to be much more in-depth and philosophical than your usual “back to basics” approach. Bear with me.

Christianity is, in some sense, a system of beliefs revolving around God, traditionally understood as an incorporeal person (Although this certainly isn’t true of all Christian belief, it has been the norm – hence, its inclusion here.) who exists both within and outside the domain of common human interaction. This entity has a will and a personality – hence, its interactivity. God creates things, bringing them into existence. Furthermore, this entity acts within what is commonly referred to as creation, the place where God’s actions become manifest, and the place where God’s will and personality find expression (if this expression does not become explicitly manifested in creation).

This definition certainly restricts what constitutes Christianity, notably any tradition that does not ascribe belief to metaphysical (By this is meant non-physical; it does not refer to systemic metaphysics) entities – these are sets of practices, ethics, and moral, rather than religions. Traditionally, it has been understood that Christianity’s structure works as follows:

1. God exists.
2. Therefore, X.

Wherein X equals any number of beliefs, ranging from those of metaphysics, ethics, etc. If God is not held as properly basic, then Christianity has a different definition then the traditional one. This is not entailing some logical connection, but stating what is the case. Since belief in God must be held with absolute certainty, one cannot believe anything else within metaphysical Christianity without it. Thus, God’s existence remains the basis for
everything else.

Christianity, however, would remain a simple religion without quantification – what is “God”. particularly? Other than “God” beings the designator for an entity, does it mean anything? Why would God’s mere existence motivate a structure of beliefs and practices? Because, as aptly said by too many Christian authors to list,

1. God is love.

That, for most of the New Testament authors, describes the beginning and the end, the Alpha and Omega, of God and God’s actions in the world. 1 John 4:8, for example, states

The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

God, in essence, finds its definition in a tautology; what God does is love because God is love, and love is God, all in their maximal quality. God’s defining characteristic also represents itself. Thus, to discover what “love” is, one must examine God, and to examine God, God’s actions remain the best barometer for discovering what God is. That information is contained in the Bible, God’s Word and Scripture. God, as “love” incarnate, acts out that love, specifically agape love.

Agape love, as a form of action, places value upon the object being loved regardless of that object’s status, positive attributes, or anything else that could be considered a redeeming quality. This divine love has absolutely no external motivation other than a (intentional) revelation of God’s character to the world at large. Agape love, thus, is offered to all creation equally, transforming those who accept it in the process to obtain that same love themselves.

It is also because God is love that God is, in fact. good. This entails a description of God’s nature as working for the well-being and flourishing of the universe, and by default human beings as well. The created universe, in effect, is constantly upheld and God providentially guides this universe towards the desirable (whatever that desire of the person God might be) state of affairs.

However, limiting Christianity to God, the theistic component alone, is never sufficient; as humans hold these beliefs, they are also an integral part of the belief system. In traditional Christian belief, human beings fund themselves in a state of entropy, death, and destruction.This state is known as sin, but at times it is a state desired by the human beings themselves, if for no other reason than they (believe they) are the masters of their own destiny. The Garden of Eden displays what modern humans would call a rebellious tendency in the human, even to the greatest authority figure possible. It is rebellion and pride that characterize sin.

As such, humans are mired in what could be called an \undesirable state”, the universe as fallen. God, seeing this problem, creates (as he/she/it does often) a solution in the form of salvation and deliverance through the sacrificial suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, generally considered to be the Son of God by the Biblical writers and hence, God as a Father. Explications of what Jesus’ death and resurrection actually do, however, are vague. Atonement theology, however, seems to be a pretty well defined and broadly believed version, hence its inclusion here.

That salvation takes place by declaring Christ as Lord, which follows with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit; as well, this constitutes the eventual reformation of humans fi rst, then the rest of all creation, to God’s desirable state. Of course, there are variations on what each theologians has written/considered in regards to these, but they are in general a summation of traditional Christian belief.

Maybe!

About Zachery Oliver

Zachery Oliver, MTS, is the lead writer for Theology Gaming, a blog focused on the integration of games and theological issues. He can be reached at viewtifulzfo at gmail dot com or on Theology Gaming’s Facebook Page.