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.
“Someone quipped that my congregation is BYOG: Bring Your Own God. I use that and invite people to ‘bring their own God’—or none at all,” wrote John Shuck of Beaverton’s Southminster Presbyterian Church in a guest post for Patheos last week. “While the symbol ‘God’ is part of our cultural tradition, you can take it or leave it or redefine it to your liking.”
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.
“[E]ven though I hold those beliefs, I am still a proud minister. But I don’t appreciate being told that I’m not truly a Christian,” he stated. “Many liberal or progressive Christians have already let go or de-emphasized belief in Heaven, that the Bible is literally true, that Jesus is supernatural, and that Christianity is the only way. Yet they still practice what they call Christianity.”
However, others state that Shuck’s assertion that one can be a Christian without faith in the saving power of Christ is faulty, and that his words make evident that he does not understand what it means to be a Christian.
“Mr. Schuck proves that he knows very little about Christianity,” Andrew Rappaport of Striving for Eternity Ministries in Jackson, N.J. told Christian News Network. “He talks about ‘belief-less Christianity’ thriving. But what defines a Christian is specifically stated as a belief that Jesus Christ as God (Romans 10:9–10). Therefore, it is impossible to have a belief-less Christianity.”
“To have someone who can claim to be a minister and redefine Christianity against its proper definition is no different than attempting to redefine marriage as possible between the same sex,” he continued. “God defines marriage as being between man and woman, and God defines Christianity based on belief.”
Rappaport said that he believes that Shuck has an ulterior motive in remaining a minister while asserting that one can be a Christian apart from following Christ.
“What you see here is nothing more than someone who wants to infiltrate the Church in an attempt to destroy it,” Rappaport stated. “The two things that he does not understand is, first, the Church will not be destroyed, and second, his whole argument that God does not exist is based on intelligence, logic, ability to reason and morality—all of which require the God that he denies, because immaterial things are not the product of chemical reactions; they require God.”