“You are more likely to be right about what you affirm than what you deny.” I don’t know who said that, but I remember reading it several years ago, and I’ve always recognized its truth. Nonetheless, I’m starting to think this week about what I don’t believe, since we’re about to start talking about just this subject in the Thinking and Believing Sunday School class at Christ UMC.
Why such a silly subject? Well, because I think that deciding what they didn’t believe is how Christians in the early church began the process of figuring out what they did believe–and that this is how God wanted things to work. Here’s why I say that: The New Testament bears a rich and deep witness to God’s encounter with humankind in Jesus. It’s full of great stories, juicy gossip, and and helpful advice. What it doesn’t have is a theological playbook, a step-by-step instruction manual to all the finer points about what Christians are to think about God, Jesus, the church, the world, and the like.
“So what’s the big deal?” you ask. “Why not just let things slide?” Well, the early church did just that, until some folks came along and used this openness to claim some things about God that just didn’t ring true. Some of these folks claimed that God didn’t create the world, that Jesus didn’t have a real body, that the church was only for perfect people (“one sin and yer outta there!”), and similar things that just didn’t seem to jibe with the gospel as the New Testament presented it. So it was left up to the rest of us to say, in effect, “Um, I’m sorry, but I just can’t believe that.” In the process, we came up with a clearer idea of what we actually do believe–which in my book is a good thing.
So, that’s what we’ll be doing for the next few weeks. I’d like to invite you to think between now and Sunday (and no, I haven’t given you a lot of time for this assignment) to consider what you don’t believe about God. If you’re really hoping to win the gold star, then jot a few of your thoughts down and bring them with you. Here are a few of mine:
I don’t believe that God has a body.
I especially don’t believe that God is an old, bearded white guy.
I don’t believe that God causes suffering.
I don’t believe that God has a specific will for every moment of my life.
I don’t believe that God likes my political party better than the other one.
I don’t believe that God thought the duckbilled platypus through very thoroughly.