What We Believe
God: Substance Over Labels
We believe that the defining and universal characteristics of God–as the entity of inestimable power and wisdom and love from whence all things originate and upon which all things converge–are more important than any label, name, gender, or human attribute that can be attached to God. In our view, it is folly for humans–as limited as we are–to speak with any authority beyond an error-prone guess about the systems and rules under which any entity embodying these characteristics operates. Our minds cannot contain more than a nebulous definition of something so great, and our languages cannot describe it. We encourage speculation and even debate, but we also caution against strong statements that would attempt to create a definition of God in the image of our agendas or personal biases: we try not to say words like “must”, “cannot”, “always”, or “never” when we talk about God. We also believe that God’s glory is self-sufficient, that nothing we can do can add to or subtract from it, and that God has no need nor desire for us, beyond that we strive to progress in the way of peace, charity, and harmony with each other and our surroundings, and thus communion with God. We believe that the notion of God creating people with the potential for sin and then punishing them for the actions to which the manner of their creation predisposed them is false.
Jesus: Conduit of Practical Salvation
It is our view that modern Christianity has tended to reduce the role of Jesus to an insurance policy against eternal damnation in hell, where hell is a separate, literal, and distinct plane of existence for the punishment of those who don’t choose (or aren’t chosen by) God to be saved. We reject this “penal substitution” model of Jesus’ atonement, along with this definition of hell. Instead, we take the simple and elegant view–held by the early church in the first four hundred years after Jesus’ death–that Jesus’ life and ministry provides a template that, to the degree it is followed, will shield the faithful from an earthly hell consisting of isolation from those who surround us and isolation from the love of God–a love we reject of our own volition when we conduct our lives in a manner incompatible with Jesus’ teachings. To us, salvation is a practical process focused on our earthly lives, while the afterlife–which we cannot see, but only muse about–is irrelevant. Likewise, the divinity of Jesus is a concept orthogonal to salvation: while we don’t reject or condemn it, we don’t believe that professing it is a prerequisite to salvation or entering into full communion with God.
We believe that Jesus’ ministry demands a movement that is as much political and social as it is spiritual. That is, we believe that the thrust of Jesus’ ministry was to create an earthly kingdom where peace, charity, and harmony are the rule–with no exceptions or qualifications–and that the fruit of this kingdom is eternal communion with God.
We believe that God universally practices peace, charity, and harmony. Thus, if any afterlife exists, we don’t believe that it comes with an entrance exam.
Holy Spirit: Conduit of Truth
In our way of thinking, the simple and obvious purpose of the Holy Spirit is as a divine conscience and sense of discernment, giving us a view into the truth–that is, whether or not our actions are consistent with the teachings of Jesus.
Human Purpose: Growth Towards Peace
We consider the purpose of humanity as an opportunity to learn and grow towards peace and harmony with each other, and as a natural outgrowth of this effort, to enter into full communion with God. Judgment, condemnation, exclusivity, and most especially violence are antithetical to this purpose. We believe that anything in the bible or other texts that advocate actions antithetical to the radical peace of Jesus are entirely false, and that those who advocate such things are false prophets. This leads to our sole dogma: we strongly believe that it is heresy to claim that any action that opposes peace and harmony can ever have the blessing of God, or harmony with the teachings of Jesus. Though this view can be considered dogmatic, we emphasize that it is antithetical to our views to judge, condemn, or exclude even those who persistently advocate at the top of their lungs ideas which we find abhorrent. Thus, any one person’s journey towards communion with God is entirely his or her own: we don’t believe we have the authority or wisdom to tell anyone whether or not their trajectory is acceptable. That is the role of the connection between the individual and the Holy Spirit, and we believe there is no earthly intercessor.
Bible: Fallible Authorship, Useful Background
We see the bible as a collection of separate and distinct works, written by humans and compiled by humans, exposing every extreme of divine wisdom and human vice. In our view, the words of Jesus provide the benchmark against which we must judge the applicability of everything else the bible contains. We don’t believe that human beings have the breadth or depth of wisdom to compile a collection of texts and label them as true, untrue, valid, invalid, divine, or human. We do not draw distinctions between “special revelation” and “general revelation”, nor do we believe that revelations of the same caliber and weight as the old and new testaments ever ended. We believe that the Holy Spirit–not the bible, and not human beings–is the ultimate authority through which truth is revealed and falsehood exposed.
We believe that the church is universal, open to everyone, and is a community and not a building. A pastor is not a leader, not an intercessor, and not a judge: the priesthood died on the cross, and in personal communion with Jesus, we are all pastors in his universal church. Its commission is simple: to spread peace, charity, and harmony to every corner of the world.
We believe that other religions can and often do expose the same truths of Jesus as those explicitly labeled “Christian”. As we reject penal substitution as a means of atonement and hell as a plane of existence distinct from our own, the condition of the immortal soul in the afterlife–if such a condition exists–does not depend on the particular labels to which truth is attached. Our message is consistent here: peace, charity, and harmony engender communion with each other and God, while violence, selfishness, and discord prevent it. Every religious movement we know of contains elements of both.