by Dr. D ~ March 31st, 2015
Can an atheist actually be a Christian? Sounds ridiculous, but here’s the report of a Presbyterian USA minister who does not believe in God but is actually offended by those who question whether he’s really a Christian. From the Christian News:
BEAVERTON, Ore. – A Presbyterian USA minister in Oregon who says that he doesn’t believe in God—and doesn’t require his members to believe either—remarked in a recent article that he is offended by those who assert that he is not a Christian. …John Shuck of Beaverton’s Southminster Presbyterian Church…
Shuck first came out as an unbeliever in 2011, generating controversy as to how one could serve as a minister and not believe in the Bible.
“The concept of ‘God’ is a product of myth-making and ‘God’ is no longer credible as a personal, supernatural being,” he wrote in a blog post on his site “Shuck and Jive.” “Jesus may have been historical, but most of the stories about Him in the Bible and elsewhere are legends.”
Shuck reiterated his unbelief in his article “I’m a Presbyterian Minister Who Doesn’t Believe in God” on Tuesday, as he asserted that “[b]elief-less Christianity is thriving.”
“We all have been trained to think that Christianity is about believing things,” he wrote. “Its symbols and artifacts (God, Bible, Jesus, Heaven, etc) must be accepted in a certain way. And when times change and these beliefs are no longer credible, the choices we are left with are either rejection or fundamentalism.”
But Shuck says that although he rejects the Bible as being literal, and denies the existence of Heaven and Hell, he takes offense when people tell him that he’s not a Christian.
Response: Can an atheist actually be a Christian? John Shuck apparently believes so. I guess it all depends upon your definition of ‘Christian.’ After all, famous atheist Dr. Richard Dawkins has referred to himself as a ‘Cultural Christian’ on numerous occasions.
One can call themselves anything they like but it doesn’t necessarily make it so. In this case, pastor Shuck rejects the very foundation of Christianity which is built upon faith in God, Jesus Christ, and the Bible. Yet the Presbyterian USA denomination still recognizes him as an ordained minister.
It is my take and experience that there are many liberal mainline ministers that have similar views as Shuck without going so far as denying any belief in God. Nevertheless, many reject the major doctrines of Christianity and still maintain valid denominational credentials and positions. There is nothing that Shuck says that I didn’t hear from time to time in the mainline seminary I went to 30 years ago. This is so common in ‘mainline’ circles that it seems to validate what use to be considered ‘heretical’ teaching as acceptable and normal. What you end up with is a bunch of church folks who think that anything goes and now according to Shuck even atheism can fit under the umbrella of modern ‘Christianity.’
From my perspective, ministers and churches which deny the major beliefs and doctrines of the faith end up being nothing more than activist organizations or social clubs with names that may continue to reflect a historical connection to Christianity, like the YMCA, but in reality have become something very different.
What is a ‘Christian’ anyway? Followers of Jesus started being called ‘Christians’ early on (Acts 11:26) to differentiate them from other believers of the Jewish faith. The Christians believed that Jesus was the ‘Christ’: Greek for the ‘Anointed One of God’ -the Jewish Messiah. But if one doesn’t even believe in the God of the Bible than how can that name even apply.
Today many believe that they are Christians if they are members of a church or were raised in a family that celebrated Christmas or Easter. Since John Shuck is a recognized minister in the Presbyterian USA denomination he would seem to qualify to carry the name on this minimal cultural level along with Dr. Richard Dawkins who was baptized as an Anglican.
Nevertheless I find it hard to understand how one who rejects all of the traditional beliefs and major doctrines of the historical Christian faith and even the stated doctrines of his own denomination would even want to continue to masquerade as a ‘Christian’ leader. Preaching, praying, and administering rites and symbolic ordinances that he no longer even believes in.
Such a one should never be surprised or offended if his identity and commitment to the name of Christ is questioned. Particularly when he freely admits that, while he concedes that there might have been a historical Jesus, he doesn’t even believe in such a thing as a ‘Christ’ –the Anointed One of God. *Top