Yes, I identify myself as a Christian, but I could just as well identify as a Hindu, Taoist or Buddhist. When it comes to Christian dogmas, I have a problem with certain things. My “dirty little secret” is:
I don’t believe in justification by faith. Or at least I don’t believe it the way it’s normally presented.
How much of the doctrine was just made up by St. Paul? I can certainly see where it comes from – based on Old Testament (Hebrew) texts and all. But to me, it makes God out to be angry and vengeful (as in the Hebrew texts): Someone had to die to atone for our sins. So God sent his Son to die for us. All we have to do is believe, and we’re automatically “saved” – we automatically go to heaven when we die. I can’t buy that.
Here’s why I can’t buy it: I don’t believe that any impure soul can be in the presence of the totally pure and holy God. When we sin and confess our sin to God, I believe we are forgiven, BUT we still have to suffer the natural consequences of our mistakes. We suffer the consequences in this life or another life (purgatory in the Christian tradition or reincarnation in Eastern traditions – I believe in both). Ultimately, we DO get to heaven, yes – but not as quickly and automatically as we’d like to assume.
So here’s my belief: When I die, I’m either going to purgatory to be fully cleansed of my sins, or I’m going to be reborn into this world to finish working out my karma. I’m okay with this. Believe me, I’d love to just die as a saint and be ushered directly into the presence of God! I DO think that can happen (and does happen) for some people, but probably not for me.
I think Jesus died on the cross to teach us that self-sacrifice is the way to become “perfect” in love, and ultimately, we will be judged on how well we have loved in our lives. I also think the cross represents the wholeness (holiness) that is attained when we unite the material world with the spiritual world. Jesus showed us by example how to do this. Now, we have to DO it.
Churches will be successful when they figure out how to help each individual member find God, maintain an intimate relationship with God – and translate that loving relationship into whatever “works” are appropriate for each person. This, in my opinion, has nothing whatsoever to do with dogma and theological beliefs. Each member can believe many different things, but still journey together as a group.
Let us not be afraid to open our minds and listen to each other. We’re all in this together. The goal is union with God. It’s okay to drop whatever gets in the way of that union.