From comments I made at a discussion at TitusOneNine, lightly edited:
Many traditionalists insist that we can truly claim to be a Christian only if we assent to the Nicene Creed, which is a particular set of factual assertions from 1,700 years ago about God, his creation, and his works. That, I submit, seriously degrades the title of "Christian."
To be a Christian is not at all the same as being, let’s say, a Keynesian or a Darwinian or a Freudian or a Marxist or a Newtonian. If I initially agreed with Keynes about economics, but then my views were later to change, then indeed I might no longer be a Keynesian by virtue of changing my mind.
But no matter what my particular views about theology might be, I can definitely be a Christian.
The Dominical Algorithm
To be a Christian, I claim, is simply to follow Jesus’s teachings about a basic approach to life, an algorithm if you will:
- Put God above all else — this of course is simply the Great Commandment of Torah, reiterated by Jesus the Jewish reformer in stories recounted in all three Synoptic Gospels (Matt. 22:34-40, Mark 12:28-34, and Luke 10:25-37).
- Seek the best for your neighbors — all of them — as you would for yourself. This again is from Torah, and again was reiterated by Jesus (see ibid).
- Face the facts, no matter what they turn out to be — "He who has ears, let him hear" (e.g., Matt. 11.15). "For this people's heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. ... But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear" (Matt. 13.15-17).
- When the facts indicate that your life is off course, then do what you need to do to correct the situation — this is metanoia, a change of mind and heart and life (usually translated "repentance").
I believe there's a good case to be made, with reasonable persuasiveness even if not conclusively, that when people follow this "dominical algorithm" for life, they do their (infinitesimal) bit as one of God’s laborers in his continuing creation of the universe, as part of his cosmic construction crew.
We can’t know with certainty that being part of the crew will pay off. But it’s a reasonably good bet. By all indications, in the very long term this divine construction project is going to turn out unimaginably well. It would seem to be better to have tried to do one’s bit, than not.
But How is This Different From ...."
Some will say, wait a minute, under this definition, a Jew could be a Christian. That's correct; I think a pious Jew could indeed rightly call him- or herself a Christian. Jesus — who was himself a Jew, of course — didn’t seem to be trying to start a new religion. The one he already had seemed to suit him just fine. He called on his co-religionists to be better Jews, not to adopt some new faith.
(True, Jesus may also have thought he was the Anointed One, who would imminently return to earth to free Israel from oppression, usher in the LORD's divine reign, and restore the LORD's chosen people to their rightful place in his service. If Jesus did think that, history seems to have proved him wrong.)
Can Traditionalist Christians Still Fit In?
I wish I could understand why so many traditionalists are reluctant to worship God together with those of us who hold different views about God and his works, solely for that reason.
I can’t stress enough: God is what he is — recall that scholars think the Hebrew YHWH meant something like I AM WHAT I AM or possibly I WILL BE WHAT I WILL BE — and he has done what he has done.
Still, there are different viewpoints about just what God is and what he has done. None of the different viewpoints seems to be persuasive enough to convince those holding other viewpoints.
That being the case, it would behoove us to continue to worship and work together, in the sure and certain hope that someday, in his own good time, the Spirit will guide us into all truth.