Many Christians take what I call a minimalist, reductionist approach to their faith. Perhaps you have run into such Christians. Ask them about their beliefs, and they respond, I am a “Jesus Plus Nothing” Christian! By saying this, such people avoid defending their beliefs, reducing Christianity to “Jesus.” In their minds, Christianity is all about having a personal relationship with the Son of God. Me and Jesus, best friends forever!
Evangelicals, in particular, are under increasing pressure to defend their beliefs and practices. Thanks to the Internet, Evangelicals can no longer hide behind cliches such as “The Bible Says” or “Thus Saith the Lord.” Not wanting or able to defend their beliefs, “Jesus Plus Nothing” Christians choose to focus on subjective claims such as personal testimonies of saving faith. However, are these believers really “Jesus Plus Nothing” Christians? Of course not.
The moment Christians say that they have a personal relationship with Jesus, they are making objective theological and historical claims. While such people try to avoid theological discussions, one can’t say “Jesus Plus Nothing” without having foundational theological beliefs. Claiming to be a Christian requires accepting certain Biblical claims: the deity of Christ, the incarnation of Jesus, Jesus’ virgin birth, Jesus’ miracles, Jesus’ death on the cross, Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, Jesus’ ascension into Heaven, and Jesus’ promised return to earth someday. Can one be a Christian and not believe these things? Can one be a Christian without believing the Bible is to some degree or the other the Word of God?
It seems clear, at least to me, that it is intellectually and theologically impossible to be a “Jesus Plus Nothing” Christian. And I suspect that believers who claim to be “Jesus Plus Nothing” Christians know that there is more to their faith than making a minimalist claim about Jesus.
Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.
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I have never heard of a “Jesus plus Nothing” Christian. Like you said, there’s a lot tied up in the “Jesus” part that frankly can vary person to person. Some Christians are into the feed the hungry/clothe the poor Jesus, while others are into a heterosexual American Republican misogynistic racist Jesus. How are we supposed to know which Jesus these folks represent?
In my comment on “Blood Washing the Past,” I mentioned that I took a formal logic course long, long ago, And math was my worst subject. So, I may be wrong, but I’m inclined to think that “nothing” is “zero”, wouldn’t Jesus + Nothing equal Jesus? How could it be anyting else, including belief or faith?
Actually, I’d never heard the “Jesus plus nothing” term until I read this post, but I have encountered such people, including a few of my students. When I ask them to defend their position on a topic, they quote a Bible verse. When I ask them how that verse rationalizes their opinion, they fall back on “the Bible is the Word of God; it doesn’t need anyting else.”
Obstacle–You make a great point. Kurt Vonnegut once remarked that he had no use for Christianity, but he admired “the Jesus of the Sermon on the Mount.”
Yeah. Can’t be a Christian without some kind of nod to the Bible.
this is why i know i am still trying to dump christianity. not easy to do surrounded in the bible belt. i know these claims and rituals are silly and superstitious. my kids and. dh still nominal believers but live like they don’t believe. it’s been a long process but i know it all makes no sense. i still admire the teachings of christ such as love and peacefulness, but those are not popular here in the bible belt.
“Jesus plus nothing……..”. I’m put in mind of something mentioned in Jeff Sharkey’s book about a creepy Fascist Christian cult, ” The Family, or ” K Street “, and Doug Come led this group a long time. He has a Pilgrim background as his pedigree too. He often intoned ” it’s all about Jesus plus nothing.” By all accounts a real bastard, this Coe. He hobnobbed with dictators and hosted them at the Prayer Breakfasts for many years. It sounds like people are copying his phrase about the nothingburger Jesus !
I think I see your point – although I am old enough and experienced enough to doubt my intellect.
We are captives of a faith based to a great extent on history.
I’m okay if there was no virgin birth.
I would be untroubled by the idea that there was no census mandated by Augustus, or no astrologers from the east, or no slaughter of the innocents.
My faith does not depend on water having turned to wine. If I became convinced that Jesus did not walk on water, that he surfed on a piece of driftwood, or knew where the rocks were, or simply called out to the fishermen from dry land, I would be unconcerned.
But my faith would be shattered if it was proven to me that Jesus died running from Gethsemane with a Roman spear in his back.
If that is what you’re getting at, I am with you.
So, Burr, you are saying that you don’t believe in the myth of the virgin birth, the other myths surrounding Jesus’ birth, the myths of the miracles Jesus is supposed to have wrought, but you draw the line at the myth of Jesus’ death and resurrection? Hmmm. Isn’t it the virgin birth and the miracles that help give Jesus his supposed divinity? If you take away the virgin birth, you have a man born of a woman and another man. Doesn’t this fly in the face of what makes Jesus holy?
I think it’s almost impossible to reconcile the teachings of Paul if we are to consign Genesis to a fable. From Paul’s explanation, the fall of Adam is linked to the reason and purpose of the sacrifice of Jesus from what I can see, not to mention that Jesus refers to the flood. I should say if you want to disregard it, you have to do a lot of work to explain Paul discussing Adam or a lot of effort to ignore it.
What a funkyed up way of saying that they have totally devalued said self’s being, that said self cannot do anything of moral and worldly value, that said self’s personal inner worth is equal to a menstrual cloth ( baptist favorite), that said self is a worm in god’s sight (another baptist favorite) , that said self has hit god’s royal bottom bottom and then miraculously finds the light of jesus and said self has suddenly become this beautiful blooming spiritual being that will eventually be given anything and all, to the chagrin of the rest of humanity. I don’t have to throw up yet but I need to seriously detox now. What nonsense to get consumed by.
Yep. I spent years believing I was a worthless piece of shit. I still have low self-esteem, as does my wife. This belief lingers despite intensive counseling. 😢😢
I’m sorry to hear that, Bruce. My self esteem is okay, but around the age of 40 I looked at myself and decided to accept myself, flaws and all. It made it easier to love others. You and Polly are pretty awesome and I hope you can realize you are a good person, helping your fellow man, and that is what matters. (Along with, of course, the love of our dear ones etc.)
Thank you for your insight. You do pose an interesting question.
Reviewing my own post, I can see that I implied what I did not intend. I do believe in those miracles, but they are not central to my belief in Jesus as God incarnate. And I confess I just like the idea of God coming to earth to share the experience of living as human.
I suppose the virgin birth and other miracles support the divinity of Jesus, but I don’t see that it depends on them. You may reasonably see my lack of perception as akin to that of a fish not understanding the concept of water, but there you have it.
I have written at greater length about my reasons for faith, but I’d rather not link to it. I do not wish to be seen as proselytizing on a site run by someone I deeply admire.
I have mentioned before that, although Bruce is younger than am I, he reminds me a great deal of my late father. I hope that is seen as a compliment. During my life, I have known perhaps five truly great men. My dad was three of them.