Russell and Duenes

When You Are No Longer a Christian, You Have Duty to Stop Making a Living as One

with 2 comments

I have an acquaintance who has abandoned every crucial doctrine of apostolic Christianity. He no longer believes in the trustworthiness and reliability of the Scriptures, nor does he believe the Scriptures are in any way inspired by God. He thinks the New Testament is nothing more than fabricated Jewish commentary on the Old Testament, written with the intention of creating a novel religious community. Jesus was nothing more than a Jewish “wisdom teacher,” with no divine nature, and he was killed, buried in a shallow grave, and is still there. His death on the cross, if it happened, saved no one, because it was not a sacrifice properly offered up to God. The resurrection, in his mind, is a hoax, so of course he has jettisoned belief in biblical ethics on a whole host of issues, most notably in approving sexual behavior the Bible clearly calls sin.

But this isn’t the most disgruntling thing he has done. Had he rejected such doctrines, and decided that, having done so, he is no longer a Christian, and therefore can no longer remain a Christian minister with any integrity, then he would at least be honorable in following the implications of his convictions. But he has not done this. When I last had contact with him, he remained a “minister” in the PCUSA denomination and passed himself off as such. Under the cloak of being a Christian, he attempted to inculcate his false beliefs to people, such as myself, who he knew still held to orthodox Christianity. He is free to do this, of course, but it is no virtue to do it while one claims to be a minister of Christ.

This fact was brought home to me by something that C.S. Lewis wrote,

I insist that wherever you draw the lines, bounding lines must exist, beyond which your doctrine will cease to be Anglican or to be Christian: and I suggest also that the lines come a great deal sooner than many modern priests think. I think it is your duty to fix the lines clearly in your own minds: and if you wish to go beyond them you must change your profession. This is your duty not specially as Christians or as priests, but as honest men. There is a danger here of clergy developing a special professional conscience which obscures the very plain moral issue.

Men who have passed beyond these boundary lines in either direction are apt to protest that they have come to their unorthodox opinions honestly.  In defence of those opinions they are prepared to suffer obloquy and to forfeit professional advancement. Thus they come to feel like martyrs. But this simply misses the point which so gravely scandalizes the layman. We never doubted that the unorthodox opinions were honestly held: what we complain of is your continuing your ministry after you have come to hold them. We always knew that a man who makes his living as a paid agent of the Conservative Party may honestly change his views and honestly become a Communist. What we deny is that he can honestly continue to be a Conservative agent and to receive money from one party while he supports the policy of another. (God in the Dock, “Christian Apologetics”)

Having been a Bible teacher at a Bible-believing Christian school, I know the danger of thinking that I can have a “special professional conscience” at work, while believing something else in my personal life. It is indeed a burden, and one that I did not take lightly. I wanted to have integrity about my beliefs, but I understood that, if one day my beliefs crossed a certain boundary, I would need to find another line of profession. And this remains true even though I am no longer employed as a Bible teacher. The fact that we have so many within Christendom who no longer hold to the “faith that was once-for-all delivered to the saints,” while continuing to serve in the church as if they did, is a cancer and a scourge. We do well to heed Lewis’ words, frightful as they may be.


Written by Michael Duenes

November 10, 2011 at 1:08 pm

2 Responses

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  1. Apparently the [imaginary creature] known as the devil is forever tempting people. For example, probably the devil tempted Joe Paterno, and now he is no longer the head of Penn State’s church of football.

    When your blog is silent, I assume you are hitting the law books assiduously. But as a [very lowly] demon, I am tempted to tempt you to read my heresies and nihilistic rants. However, we have our (very religious) Lutheran neighbors coming over for dinner, so I will temp and disturb you on another day. Get back to studying for now.

    For now, I will say that not only do I think (like your acquaintance) that religious belief (including evangelical Christianity) is something created by humans, it’s time for us to invent a better religion. Get to work on it.


    November 10, 2011 at 4:02 pm

    • I wonder, Modesty, if you have the courage to face up to the implications of your atheism when it comes to the PSU scandal, which, on atheistic assumptions, really can’t be considered a scandal. Since there is no God, on your view of things, then there is no justice in front in anyone, which means that there’s nothing wrong with what Sandusky, Paterno, and co. did right now. I have a basis for moral and spiritual indignation over it, whether it was caused by the devil or not. But what could be your basis for saying such actions are wrong? Are you willing to look into the gaping maw of atheism and realize that Sandusky is just a product of evolution, doing what molecules do at his temperature and consistency, and when he dies (and everyone else) there will be nothing but everlasting silence? No one will ever be “put straight” or be “shown the error of his ways.” Thus, if there is no justice in front of anyone, then there can be nothing wrong with what Sandusky did, and could he have gotten away with it til he died, that would have been just fine. He would have lived consistently with the necessary implications of atheism (even if you and other atheists want to disavow those implications). Christianity gives me a standard by which to see my sin and the sin of others, and to know that justice IS in front of us all, and that all wrongs will be put right, either by everlasting punishment for unrepentant sinners or by the blood of Jesus Christ for repentant sinners. But if there’s no God, there’s no basis for indignation. People just do what they do, and then nothing.


      russell and duenes

      November 12, 2011 at 10:37 am

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