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Do the differences matter?


It's been several years now that I've identified with Christian Deism or, more recently, Liberal Protestantism. Recently I have been exploring some new church communities, as that community and structure was missing from my life. I have also been trying to approach the subject with an open mind -- that said, I am a scientist, and there are some parts of science I don't think I can ever give up.

To me, the differences between my views and those of a more mainstream Christian aren't particularly huge, but it seems they are for some Christians, and I'm curious as to why...

Does it matter whether our souls pre-existed, versus God simply having knowledge of who we are or would become -- He is omniscient, isn't He? And, none of us seem to remember our pre-existence, anyways.

Does it matter if the Bible is inerrant or to be taken literally? Is it not trustworthy otherwise? Is God's love and character not otherwise known? If science were to disprove one part of the Bible, that would not stop me from believing the inspiration of the rest.

Does it matter whether the universe was created as a perfect place, or whether it was created as we observe it -- perfect in a physical, mechanical way, but still far from fair? I believe humans are responsible for many, perhaps most of the ailments and transgressions we perceive as evil today, but I don't think we had anything to do with the tornadoes or volcanic eruptions that devastated Midwest and South Pacific wildlife thousands of years ago...

Does it matter whether God is directly involved in the physical affairs of the universe, or whether He is indirectly involved through our spirits? In other words, what if God just performs miracles in the spiritual world, which is then connected to the physical world? I like to quote Abraham Lincoln in saying, "Let us not pray that God is on our side... but, let us pray that we are on God's side." If we act on behalf of God's will, or align our will to His, then in some small way aren't we instruments of God, bringing His will into the physical universe? Does it have to be that God is involved outside of this?

Does it matter whether the atonement was one of moral influence or penal substitution, or other?

Does it matter if we fully understand and agree on complex ideas such as the Trinity? As I see it, Jesus led a perfect life, and was God's chosen, beloved Son to whom we should listen. And if Jesus was perfect, and was therefore a perfect manifestation of God's will, then I see Jesus as inseparable from God, although God is still greater. I understand this to differ slightly from the most understandings of the Trinity, but then I also understand that many struggle with the concept of the Trinity.

I also note that when Jesus was asked, "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" His answer was, at two different points in the Bible, paraphrased: "Sell all you have and follow me," and "Love the Lord your God with everything you have, and love your neighbor as yourself." By those measures, I still fall short, and that, as I believe, is where forgiveness and grace save us.

So, do these other things matter? Why am I often perceived as a sort of outcast, or even threat, to more mainline or conservative Christians?

Thank you in advance!