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A really simple question, the title says it all really. Just to provide some background as to what I'm on about:

I was raised Roman Catholic. As, I suspect, many of you know, the Catholics and Protestants have had their differences throughout history. Both "groups" consider themselves being Christians, but disagree on some of the interpretations of the Scripture.

However, as far as I know, none of the major Christian doctrines uses a Bible that contains more than the 4 Gospels (Mathew, John, Lucas and Mark). The Gospel of Thomas, for example, is left out.
The way I see it, throughout the history of Christianity, a selection of scriptures has been made to form the Bible as we know it today.

I'm not interested in sparking a historical debate on when these Gospels were written, who wrote them and what makes Gospel A suited for the Bible, and why Gospel B is not.
This fact just gives me the impression that various people and institutions, for whatever reasons, cherry-picked scriptures, in a way. Perhaps because the contents\, in particular of the Gospel according to Thomas, was deemed dangerous in its day.
If selecting, and cherry-picking was OK back then, why would I not be allowed to call myself a Christian, while at the same time disbelieving in parts of the Bible that I feel are dated, and in some cases proven wrong?

Note that with "proven wrong" I mean: I feel as though I have been presented with sufficient evidence to accept that what is written in the Bible is incorrect. If you don't feel the same way about these passages, then that is entirely up to you. Again, as with the subject of the various books of the Bible being historic accounts: I don't want to go into any of those things.

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closed as primarily opinion-based by David Stratton, Jayarathina Madharasan, Narnian, Flimzy, Dan Apr 28 at 20:13

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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You can call yourself whatever you want to. Is your question really about whether others will accept you as a Christian? –  Andrew Leach Apr 23 at 21:54
    
@AndrewLeach: Point taken, removed the question in bold. Yes, I guess that what I'm hoping to get an answer to here is: how much is being (considered) a Christian determined by your believing in the accounts of the Bible –  Elias Van Ootegem Apr 23 at 21:56
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You don't have to read the Bible at all. You just have to listen to whatever the Pope or your priest has to say about matters of faith and morals. No independent thinking whatsoever. :) –  Anonymous Apr 23 at 22:03
    
@Anonymous as you know, that was the status quo until education became available. Otherwise the bible would be read to people. Who knows if the readers read it correctly or expressed emphases such as to distort the word. I personally dislike pastors who cherry pick. However should he read the whole chapter? –  The Freemason Apr 24 at 1:57
    
Have you actually read the gospel of Thomas? Its ludicrous. And it was probably written as late as the 4th century anyway. Should we be forced on penalty of eternal torment to accept every book that some yahoo decided to write and call a gospel? Even centuries later? –  david brainerd Apr 24 at 3:04

6 Answers 6

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Christanity != The Bible

The Bible isn't Christianity. Christianity is about believing in Jesus (and all that it entails). We learn about Christianity from the Bible, but we really learn about Christianity from other Christians. This is the primary mode of the transmission for the faith.

John 13:35 (NASB)
By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.

Christianity was around for decades before any of the books of the New Testament were written. Christianity existed before them, and would exist even if they had never been written, because Christianity is all about the work of God through Jesus to redeem us. Christianity doesn't depend on the Bible, nor is it defined by the Bible, because Christianity is defined by Jesus.

The books of the Bible were chosen by Christians because they accurately described the faith.

The Bible was compiled by early Christians as a reliable reference that was sufficient for our needs. They were not cherry picking based on their whims. They chose books based on reasonable criteria, and most Christians since have accepted their decision because they were in a far better position to know about authorship and doctrinal coherency than we are hundreds and thousands of years later. Most Christians that place emphasis on the Bible accept their decision (or one that came much closer to it than it came to us) and do not really consider altering the canon. The original group that established the canon chose documents that were consistent with Christian doctrine as they knew it. In a sense, Christianity established the Bible, though it still claims divine origin for the material in it.

Conclusion: Yes, Theoretically

All this said, you could conceivably reject (all or part of) the Bible and still be a Christian because Christianity does not hang on the Bible itself. It hangs on belief in Jesus.

However, how would you know what Christianity actually is? Who was Jesus? What did he teach? What did the early church believe and practice? All these things are recorded in the Bible and have been preserved for our benefit. The vast majority of Christians from whom you would learn about Christianity use the Bible as an authoritative reference. On what basis would you reject what they assert to be true? I don't know what in the Bible you would have good reason to reject. How would you be certain that you were correct about such a rejection? What is your source of authority for such a conclusion? It seems like it would be very difficult to make a good logical argument for modifying the canon.

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First off: +1 for the answer, good stuff. Though I promised myself not to get into all of this, a part of the Bible that I cannot believe as being "a true account", is Genesis. Nor do I believe Jesus actually resurrected. Most of the alleged miracles are, to me at least, metaphors. As are the Revelations. To read them as being real predictions just seems absurd to me. It does not make sense: an all-knowing God shouldn't need to test our Faith, because all-knowing implies he already knows what the outcome of any test would be; hence I don't believe in Hell. Just some examples –  Elias Van Ootegem Apr 24 at 7:46
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@EliasVanOotegem Ask yourself why do you want to keep any part of the bible at all? Your OP and comment here indicate that you consider your opinion to be authoritative over scripture - in that case why should you care what constitutes scripture? God doesn't need to test our faith true, the bible (including the maligned book of Genesis) indicates He does it for our benefit and the benefit of others. –  bruised reed Apr 24 at 12:39
    
@bruisedreed: I don't consider my opinion to be authorative over scripture. But as some of you may have guessed by now: I'm an atheist. That's why I keep repeating that I'm not here to argue or discuss what is true or false. I'm here to ask a couple of questions, so I can understand why people believe in what they believe, and how they regard the scriptures. I, being a non-believer, can't understand why people believe what I see as a demonstrable fallacy. But instead of mocking you, like some do, I want to at least try and understand these things. –  Elias Van Ootegem Apr 24 at 12:47
    
Just an example: I've been told countless times that bad people go to Hell. But then, some stories in the Bible (mainly Old Testament) seem to glorify the killing of enemies, which is, IMO, contradictory with the ten commandments (thou shalt not kill - there's no except there), or the bit about turning the other cheek. Christianity, like all religion just seems to me to be riddled with contradictions. I find it fascinating and confusing how people can subscribe to these teachings, seemingly without questioning at least some aspects of this doctrine... –  Elias Van Ootegem Apr 24 at 12:51
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@EliasVanOotegem Thanks for further explaining your perspective, and yes, there are many things in the bible that Christians find perplexing. Hopefully this site gives you some evidence that there are a lot of Christians that think critically about many aspects of their faith. Perhaps you can ask some more specific focussed questions about some of the other issues you have. (maybe after checking that similar questions haven't already been covered) –  bruised reed Apr 24 at 13:25

On what basis would someone answer this question? You say that you don't want to get into debating specific issues on logic or documentary or historical evidence. And you don't accept the whole Bible as inspired.

So on what basis can we discuss the question? I could quote a Bible verse that says that you should believe the whole Bible -- like 2 Tim 3:16 -- but then you could just say that you don't believe that verse. I could point to historical or documentary evidence that backs up the traditional canon -- but you rule out that conversation.

I don't see how you can rule out any discussion of evidence or logic or inspiration, and then expect to get an answer that means anything.

OF COURSE the canon of scripture excludes some books. As opposed to what? Declaring that every book ever written is inspired scripture? Sorry, but I don't accept Greek myths or Harry Potter as inspired scripture. Just because some books were included and others not doesn't of itself prove that the councils that selected these books "cherry-picked" those that they considered "not dangerous". That would be one possible theory of how they made their selections. But in fact a look at the historical record finds no evidence to support such a theory. They selected books based primarily on the authority of the authors -- where they written by apostles or people associated with the apostles? You could fairly debate any given selection. Like, you might say that they dismissed book X as probably not being written by the claimed author while you think it really was. But they didn't pick books based on what had teachings they agreed with. That's just not how it happened.

How much of traditional, orthodox Christianity can you reject and still be a Christian? By any criteria that's a hard question to answer. How much of Karl Marx can you reject and still be a communist? If you said you agreed with 99% of what Karl Marx wrote, I suppose communists would still consider you one of them. What if you only agreed with 5%? I'd say probably not. But what if it was the most crucial 5%, a few key teachings?

I think the most important question is, How wrong can you be and God still decide that you meet the requirements to be saved?

It might be more productive to discuss these issues on which you think that the Bible is wrong. Maybe it's you who is mistaken and God who is right after all. But I suppose that discussion isn't allowed on this site.

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I think you misunderstood my question. I don't want to discuss the authenticity of the Gospels, simply because I don't know enough about the research that has been conducted in this area. I do know, however, that the selection of Gospels was not a purely spiritual matter. Social/political factors did play a part. I do also know enough to say that the true identity of the writers of the Gospels isn't as clear cut as you seem to claim here. Perhaps it's worth another question... will post link here if I get round to it. –  Elias Van Ootegem Apr 24 at 7:37
    
I didn't say it was clear cut, if by that you mean there was 100% certainty for the books selected and 0% chance for the books not selected. Scholars had to weigh the evidence and come to what they considered reasonable conclusions. That's what I meant by the statement that you might disagree with them about some of their conclusions, I meant on documentary and historical grounds. If you want to claim that folks lied about their reasons when they said it was on documentary grounds and really they were politically motivated, I don't know how anyone today could prove you wrong. But nor do ... –  Jay Apr 24 at 14:15
    
... I see how anyone could prove you right. –  Jay Apr 24 at 14:15
    
thanks for the trouble of reading through my question, and the effort of trying to provide me with an answer. I guess that last bit (about either position being hard/impossible to (dis)prove) means that I'll have to deal with that. I am rather reluctant to change positions unless I am offered good reasons to do so. If that's not really possible, I'll have to stand my ground on this one. Regardless, I sincerely thank you for trying to shed some light on the matter. –  Elias Van Ootegem Apr 24 at 14:40

Revelation 22:19

And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.

Your salvation, as a believer, does not come from man or what he may think of you. It comes from the God of the bible, whose promises are from Genesis to Revelation.

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This is a simple (but I hope, profound) answer:

No - being a Christian necessarily means following Christ - He becomes your great exemplar for life practices - and since he didn't renounce any part of the Bible, a 'Christian' shouldn't either.

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Well, perhaps Jesus not renouncing the Bible has something to do with him being Jewish, and the Bible not actually being written and all. Even though he doesn't explicitly renounces the Torah, he does argue with the scholars, he does speak out against certain interpretations and at the last supper does mention a new bond with humanity... –  Elias Van Ootegem Apr 25 at 7:38
    
@EliasVanOotegem The way I see it, His careful handling of the Torah to refute error and imbalance, indicates His acceptance and high regard of it. –  bruised reed Apr 25 at 12:37
    
Possibly. I'm not questioning His regard for it, but as to the acceptance: He did go against the grain in some respects. Perhaps He trod carefully because He knew a charge of blasphemy wouldn't be a trivial matter, too. But that's just a stab in the dark, we can't be certain about the "true motives" Jesus had. Anyway, thanks for your answer and the dialog in previous comments, too –  Elias Van Ootegem Apr 25 at 12:44
    
@EliasVanOotegem You're welcome! Further to my previous comment, I think an important indicator as to Jesus' view of scripture is to see the nuanced way he related to the Pharisees and Sadduccees. In some ways the Pharisees were similar to fundamentalist Christians today - doctrinal purists and sticklers to the letter of the scriptures (and accepting as Canon what constitutes the Protestant Old Testament): Jesus' approach to them was to upbraid their inconsistancy, hypocrisy and tendency towards imbalance (majoring on minors). The Sadduccees, were more like the mainline/liberal churches... –  bruised reed Apr 25 at 13:04
    
@EliasVanOotegem ...of today. Guardians of tradition, reverencing the Torah above other scriptures to the point at downplaying doctrines (like the resurrection) that are not explicit there but are elsewhere. His response was to tell them they are wrong - proving it from their pet scriptures - and subtly aligning himself with the Pharasaic acceptance of other scriptures. –  bruised reed Apr 25 at 13:07

It is not so much as believing in the accounts of the Bible, as it is not living in denial. For the stages of Grief teach us that from denial we enter into anger and depression, yet with acceptance we return to peace. Also it is hard to understand how Genesis is true, So I suggest watching "The Genesis Code" It shows how both Science and Genesis are in agreement.

Our all-knowing God needs to test our Faith, even though all-knowing implies he already knows what the outcome of any test would be, because we have the knowledge of Good and Evil and therefore fall to pride and anxiety.

Hell translated from the old testament meant grave, and in the new testament, meant grave / crematory with the exception of the term Tartarus which was to be viewed from a spiritual angle. The fact that the death penalty is in existence is proof that bad people go the grave / crematory.

It is hard to believe that Jesus actually resurrected. It only took one cell in your body to make all of you (research reproduction).

Sin separates us from reality (Now = an instance of God) and we miss truths that are occurring around us that cause us condemnation. Example a wife saying, I just told you about this yesterday. Or crossing a street without knowing the truth about where the cars are and how fast they are going. Ever watch "Dumb Ways to Die"?

So the teachings of Jesus completely ends all family arguments. An amazing value all to itself.

For a fun study Google mental health problems with the word anxiety. For all anxiety is a lack of faith, and that is why faith is so precious and is demanded of us now.

Therefore life has been given to use through the Holy Attitude.

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The Genesis Code: watched a trailer, and it annoyed me: they mention Darwin aside Genesis. Darwin didn't say anything about the origin of life, merely explained the diversity of life. If God tests us, knowing the outcome, just so we can fall to pride and anxiety, he's a sadist, in my book. The death penalty is man-made, man-inflicted. All people die, capital punishment merely speeds up the process, how does it prove the existance of God? If anything, it's evidence of man playing God (control over life and death). Anxiety = lack of faith? Being hit by a car = result of sin? Jesus ends family –  Elias Van Ootegem Apr 25 at 13:26
    
arguments? Are you kidding, I personally experienced the opposite, really. All in all: even friends of mine who do believe don't agree with you on most of what you're saying here. Sorry, I don't mean to be rude or insulting, and I appreciate your trying to answer my question, but I'm afraid I have to say your answer doesn't speak to me –  Elias Van Ootegem Apr 25 at 13:29
    
He told us NOT to eat the fruits of the knowledge of good and evil knowing that the outcome would be pride and anxiety. Yet WE did, that does not make him a sadist. Faith counteracts the result of the fruit of knowledge of good and evil. I like how you said that the death penalty was man playing God. For that specifically was why the command was their in the first place. To show us that we could not do that. Yet everything has an opposite and equal reaction therefore if you do not fulfill the reaction. Then where then is the reaction stored? Therefore, God now owns capital punishment. –  Only he is good. Apr 26 at 0:15
    
Yet to understand how Jesus ends all family arguments is a teaching to itself, and also the main teaching that was to be told to the world. Yet very few Christians understand it, because many are hung up on creation in 6 days, and who Cain married, and how many fit on Noah's boat, and why Homosexuals got to hell, and Hell itself, and eye for an eye, and turn the other cheek. Yet If I told you the way to end all family arguments, to what ends would you go to learn this? How much would you pay to never have an argument with your wife again? To get your parents or kids to stop fighting? –  Only he is good. Apr 26 at 0:20
    
For a hint since you are a computer programmer, the attributes of God are like attributes to a class descriptor for standard human emotions. Then taking the strongest natural demand, and then taking advantage of it. As an example: Since pride is the main natural development, how would a smart person like you use that knowledge to grab an advantage? And if an advantage can be grasped by the natural mans pride, then pride becomes the weakness. For if I can "USE YOU" because you "greatly desire pride". Then the more based on pride you become the strong I get. So how can I raise desire for pride? –  Only he is good. Apr 26 at 0:34

If you renounce a part of the Bible, just because you don't like or understand that part, and continue in this manner, you'll be left with no Bible and made up beliefs about a Jesus you don't know.

¹⁹And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll. ²⁰He who testifies to these things says, "Yes, I am coming soon." Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. - Revelation 22 NIV

If you'd want to argue that this only pertains the scroll of Revelation, make sure that you don't take away any other scriptures that resonates together with it.

A reminder:

"Did God really say?" - satan - from Genesis 3: 2 NIV

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