Why I am an Agnostic Christian

I have been asked, of late, by a number of people whose opinions I value, why I refer to myself at times as an “agnostic Christian.” Some have expressed concern with my answer, and I therefore feel a need to clarify. This post will be the first of several relating to my thoughts and studies of late on a number of spiritual issues that have been troubling me for some time now.

To begin with, I have been told that the term is an oxymoron – that it contains two terms that cannot be reconciled. I disagree. I find it more of a paradox – two terms that seem to be irreconcilable, but which, under closer examination, make perfect sense.

Why then do I call myself an “agnostic Christian”? To answer that, I need to break the term down. The latter part is the easy one. I call myself a “Christian” because I believe Jesus Christ – the same Jesus whose name appears in early first-century Roman records from the province of Judea – was more than the great teacher many thought him to be at the time. I believe, as did his closest friends, that he was God incarnate, who was born as a gift for his creation, mankind, died to absolve us of the guilt brought onto us by our sin and that of our progenitor, Adam, and rose from the dead in victory over the physical death that is Adam’s curse. I rely on this same Jesus . . . on his life, his death, and his resurrection . . . for absolution of my own sin, and for the promise of eternal relationship with him.

The question of why I call myself an “agnostic” is a bit more difficult to explain. At its root, the word agnostic is derived from the Greek word gnosis – or knowledge – and the prefix a – indicating a lack thereof. Thus, an agnostic is quite literally one who does not know.

This, I find, describes me more by the day. I was enamored, recently, of a bumper sticker I saw, that said, “don’t believe everything you think.” This saying fits me to a tee. I find with each passing day that more and more of what I think is wrong. Therefore, while I hold my beliefs (any beliefs) firmly until they have been disproven, I am always open to that happening. Given how much of what I once thought has been shown to be wrong, I live assuming that much of what I still believe is probably wrong as well.

So by that most basic of definitions, I am, quite literally, an agnostic Christian. I believe in the existence of absolute truth, but not necessarily in the assertion that I have grasped it completely – or that I ever will, though I will never stop searching.

The problem then becomes the fact that this word “agnostic” has been used for centuries to describe one who does not believe the existence of God can be proven.

It might shock some who know me well to hear that I agree.

You see, Paul’s letter to the Romans says that, at present, we “see through a glass darkly” and that the time when we shall see “face to face” is still in the future. To my mind, the instant I assert that I “know�”. . . or even that I can “know” . . . that God exists, there is no place for faith in my relationship with God – and faith is an essential . . . the essential . . . ingredient in a true relationship with him.

If I assert that I “know God exists,” this assumes that I know exactly who I am talking about when I speak of Him – that is, that I know his attributes, his character, his form and behavior.

Needless to say, I don’t. If I did, the request he makes of me to trust him, to commune with him, and to love him would be a simple task. If I made that claim of God, it would mean that I know him better than I know my wife, my family, my dearest friends. While I hold God as my most important relationship, I wouldn’t dare to presume that much.

So the simple truth is that I don’t know if God exists. It is enough for me to believe that He does. That, to me, is the faith He asks of me.

11 thoughts on “Why I am an Agnostic Christian”

  1. Yes. Yes. and Yes!

    You said:

    “You see, Paul’s letter to the Romans says that, at present, we “see through a glass darkly” and that the time when we shall see “face to face” is still in the future. To my mind, the instant I assert that I “know” . . . or even that I can “know” . . . that God exists, there is no place for faith in my relationship with God – and faith is an essential . . . the essential . . . ingredient in a true relationship with him.”

    We are surrounded by so many Christians who are caught up in their quest to “get it” … whether it be understanding, insight, overcomming of sin, knowledge of Him, and so on. Our faith rests not in our ability to “get it”. Our faith rests in His power to give it (as He sees fit), and to rely on Him as our all in all. Abide.

    Quote:
    “God is never known incidentally or accidentally.  He is known in that He makes Himself known.” — Bernard Ramm

    The older I get, the more I see the term “believers” as the most subtle of oxymorons. Here I am, a “believer”, and yet sometimes I think the only real sin the I commit each day is the failure to BELIEVE … to truly trust His love for me so that I’m not out seeking my own (all other sin flows from there). To come to Him, not because it is the Christian thing to do, but because the Good News really is THAT GOOD … knock your socks of good … and I am going to get to heaven someday and understand clearly how it was right in front of me the whole time while I was so busy trying “get it” based on sight.

    Immediately the father of the child cried out, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)

    Another (fun) quote:
    “Some people will never learn anything, for this reason, because they understand everything too soon.” –Alexander Pope

  2. Excellent thoughts, Stephen! I really jived with what you said about “getting it.” You’re right, far too often we make the Christian life about that instead of about just leaning on Christ. In fact I think just leaning on Christ is something we’ve even managed to make into a “to-do” statement, something we need to “get” and figure out. Lord, help us!

  3. I was calling myself an agnostic Christian today on my way to “church”. I happened upon your blog from a link from available light. You said exactly what I have been thinking for some time. Faith is required, because I can never know for sure. Thank you.

  4. We have a lot in common. I see the posts are old but I’m hoping you will still get this.

    I’m a former Bible church minister who went prodigal for 25 years and has just returned to Christianity. I was an outspoken agnostic for that time period, so I have been both agnostic and Christian and would be an agnostic Christian by your definition above.

    Dr. Norman Geisler, the noted Christian apologist and my former apologetics professor differentiated between “soft” and “hard” agnosticism. The hard agnostic is this guy:

    “The problem then becomes the fact that this word �agnostic� has been used for centuries to describe one who does not believe the existence of God can be proven.”

    The soft agnostic literally does not know because he/she is still discovering and weighing evidence.

    I hope you’re doing well.

  5. Wow! I was wondering if the word “agnostic Christian” exists. I googled the term and then I found your site.
    I took a long time for me to realize that “I know that I know that I do not know Christ”. I mean, I now have realized that I only know a set of dogma, doctrines, rituals, etc (

  6. Great post! I’ve thought this of myself ever since I responded to the love of Christ. Sometimes I use the reverse “Christian Agnostic,” which is, by the way, the title of an excellent book that you might enjoy by Leslie D. Weatherhead.

    I think it’s very dangerous for a Christian to think they know absolutely.

    Stay strong, brother.

  7. Kerrin, first of all, I want to make an apology to you personally. When I saw the title, my preconceived ideas “kicked in”. I could have disregarded your explanation, and just assumed you were trying to “sit on the fence” and would fall off, to continue the metaphor, because I thought to be an “agnostic Christian” was a contradiction in terms. However, given your description of what one is, we all must be!! How can anyone say they have all the answers? How arrogant would that be?
    Now that I’ve stepped away from the institutionalized church, what is and has always been essential is my relationship with God. It is an adventure to continually discover a different aspect of His character.
    He is the meaning to my existence!! I trust Him with my life. He doesn’t have to prove His existence to me, so that I can accept it intellectually. That He loves me is more than enough for me, and He knows me better than I will ever know myself.
    God bless you, my brother, my courageous brother.

  8. I am also an agnostic Christian. I am fascinated at the number of other believers who embrace this path of learning, unlearning, knowing, and contemplating the mysteries of our faith. Thank you for sharing this. =)

  9. Wow. This is totally me. Especially the bit about believing in the existence of absolute.truth, but not that I have necessarily grasped that truth – and yet I will keep searching. That’s exactly where I am right now.

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