Agnostic Christians?

What the hey! I've worked hard today, why not one more blog while I sit and wait to start making dinner for my wife.

So, a question that's been bugging me is this: Is it possible to be an Agnostic Christian? I ask this because I've considered claiming that title for myself, though I probably won't, because doing so would inevitably be seen as an attempt to grab attention, or be misunderstood.

Stated another way, the question is simply whether Christianity should be seen primarily as a set of beliefs, or whether it is something else. For Anglicans, historically "Christian unity" has been defined by something other than belief--that is, common prayer, or liturgy--but the question is whether "Christian" might mean the same thing--that is, participation in certain rituals, commitment to a certain lifestyle, recognition of communion with others, etc. Is it possible to be a Christian simply by being committed to following the lifestyle of Christ (which very few people actually do)? Is it possible to be a Christian and simply not know what you believe? Or does faith have to be defined in rationalistic and dogmatic terms? For me, those are some of the key questions for a faith that tries to move past modernism (and not insignificant for someone who is currently working in ministry). These are also the questions that are determining, I think, the real conflict in the Anglican communion. (Though it is true that traditionally both "liberals" and "conservatives" tend to define faith in dogmatic terms--they just disagree on what dogma should be, and where it should come from).

Personally, it isn't the case that I don't believe in a lot of the teachings of historical Christianity, it's just that 1. I really don't know and 2. I really don't think you can know, if you're honest. So, isn't it logical to stop emphasizing belief so much, and start emphasizing practice and formation, as through traditional Christian disciplines? Can we exist on a continuum? Am I just asking these questions because I'm a middle child existing in a conflicted church who's sick of all the bickering?

The fun thing, in our polycultural world, is that there really isn't ultimately an answer to that question that will satisfy everyone. And so the arguing continues...


Anonymous said…
"Is it possible to be an agnostic Christian?" Sure, why not? Even though I bet most "more faithful than you" Christians will claim that it shouldn't carry the Christian label. There's all sorts of agnostics that lean more towards the 'probably not' side, so what's wrong with leaning more towards the 'probably' side, wrt the existence of god. Then again, any answer to this question probably depends a lot on where you draw lines in the culture <==> religion continuum, since they are highly connected and intertwined. If you think a lot of the good ideas for society that are in the Bible are more cultural than religious (as I do, for the most part) then I think the term "Agnostic Christian" is valid. Or maybe I'm just making this stuff up.

BTW, I saw you at Border's today. I kept looking at you and thinking "is that Tim? I wonder why he came back to Ohio? and why's he at this Borders? I see he's still got that beret he had in HS." But then you saw me looking at you and you made a face like "why's that creepy guy looking at me? I'm leaving".

Yes, I feel disgusted, dirty and embarrassed.

Anonymous said…
are you baiting a hook for me?
Kyle said…
Hm. I imagine it would only be interesting to be an "agnostic" Christian if you believed that "Christian" means "dogmatic enlightenment rationalism."

I prefer simply "Christian" because I know that it means something else entirely.

Isabel TD said…
An agnostic Christian... May someone who (by definition) is not shore of what he believes, be at the same time a Christian who (by definition) believes in Christ as our Lord?

I found this article because I was looking for the solving of an issue in some way related to yours: may an agnostic person participate in Communion? Well, if one considers that a huge part of being Christian is participating and believing in Communion, our questions are in much alike. So I hope my findings can be in some use…

In my research I bumped into some other interesting themes: may divorced people participate in Communion? Is it obligatory to go to the confessionary before the Communion? And should people who voted for Obama think twice before they go to Communion?!! ---There was a priest in South Carolina who defended that!!!!
The fact is, in all of this questions the Christian doctrine diverges. While some priests defend that the state of grace necessary to go to Communion is not within divorced people, or not within people who didn’t go to the confessionary, or even not within Obama electors(!); some other priests defend that Communion should never be forbidden… In resemblance to what happens regarding the important issue of the death penalty, the Christian doctrine diverges.

So, not finding a direct answer to my question and to many other questions, my conclusion is that there are no direct answers for foggy answers.
And turning back to foggy answer nÂș1: an agnostic - who (by definition) is not shore of what he believes, can at the same time be a Christian - who (by definition) believes in Christ as our Lord? seems a contradiction of terms, and if we follow the definitions properly I think the correct terms (depending on the point of view) should be “agnostic theist” or “agnostic with a Christian style of life” or a “Christian with doubts”.

But then again, your interrogation goes beyond definitions, in cloudy questions even the definitions can be argued and what in the end is far more important than aiming for the right term is the way you look at things, you feel things…
Concluding, in my (non absolute) opinion, if you see yourself as an “agnostic Christian” you are in title to be an “agnostic Christian” – even if some may tell you it’s a contradiction of terms.
David said…
I ran across your blog as I was searching for others who shared my faith/philosophy on life. I consider myself to be an agnostic Christian because Christianity is founded on faith, which by definition requires that we acknowledge we cannot know for sure. I like to differentiate myself from the "Christians" who require that all of society believe the way they do and critical and judgmental of all faiths and philosophies different from their own. Agnostic Christianity also allows me, as a scientist, to reconcile my faith with any scientific evidence or experience that may seem to be irreconcilable with Scripture. It also allows me to focus on loving and caring for all individuals and establishing the Kingdom of God on Earth rather than pre-occupying myself with salvation and the afterlife. I am still young and exploring this for myself but would love to talk.