I am sometimes asked why, seeing that I am a Christian, I don’t “go to church.” The question is understandable, but the answer is quite simple. I don’t go to church because I am in disagreement with core doctrines of almost all Christian churches. Most importantly, I reject the doctrine of the trinity, the doctrine of “hell” as everlasting torment, and the doctrine that God is all-determining (Calvinism). Granted, the last-named doctrine is held by a minority of churches; however, almost all Christian churches hold to the first two doctrines, especially the trinity. And this is why I do not go to church. If my disagreements were limited to less weighty doctrines, that would be one thing. But they are not. As indicated, my disagreements with almost all Christian churches are on fundamental, core points. This makes it an issue of conscience for me. I cannot in good conscience support doctrines like the trinity, “hell” as everlasting torment, and an all-determining God. And to join as a member or even to attend the meetings of churches that hold to any or all of these doctrines, for me, would be to support these doctrines.
In the case of the doctrine of the trinity, it would be to support a doctrine that has been established from the beginning (i.e., since the fourth century) by the persecution of Christians who opposed it, Christians like the scholar and reformer Michael Servetus burned at the stake by Protestants in Geneva led by John Calvin. Moreover, it would be to support a doctrine that has created, down to the present day, an impassible barrier to the reception of Christianity by both Jews and Muslims (thousands of both groups have also been murdered, to say nothing of other persecution, by trinitarian Christians for refusal to accept this doctrine of the trinity). In the case of the other two doctrines, “hell” as everlasting torment and an all-determining God, it would be to support what I regard as the two worst doctrines that have been created by the minds of men. It would be to support two doctrines that turn the Father of Jesus, the God of infinite goodness and love, into a monster of infinite proportion. In short, it would be to support two doctrines that defame God and Jesus, and two doctrines that have and still terrorize innumerable people.
In fact, because these doctrines (especially the trinity and “hell” as everlasting torment) have become so associated in popular consciousness with Christianity, I find it difficult to tell someone I am a Christian without further ado. For I do not wish even in this way to possibly lend support to these doctrines. Especially with those who are not Christians, I am careful about this, for I do not wish to unintentionally turn them away from the original, uncorrupted Christianity of Jesus and his apostles. Likewise with Christians who have been troubled, even terrorized in the case of the doctrines of “hell” as everlasting torment and the doctrine of an all-determining God, I am very careful to explain that while I am a “Christian” in the original sense of the term, that is, in the sense of a follower of Jesus as the Christ (Messiah), I am not a Christian in the sense of what is now taken for granted as Christianity: belief in the trinity especially, but also belief in “hell” as everlasting torment and to a much lesser extent (thankfully) belief in God as all-determining.
So this is why, even though I am a Christian, I do not go to church. Having said this, however, I should make two further points. First, I actually do “go to church.” I “go to church” every Sunday (Lord’s Day) morning when I gather with my wife and brother-in-law to study the scriptures and to encourage one another in our mutual faith in God and Jesus. As Jesus explained, “Where two or three have gathered together in my name, I am there in their midst” (Matthew 18.20). This may not constitute what most Christians think of as “church”, but according to these words of Jesus, it does in fact constitute “church.” (This will perhaps seem less strange to others if they know that the term “church” is derived from the Greek term “ekklesia” which simply means “gathering.” This is the term used in the Greek New Testament documents and translated in our English versions as “church.”) Second, I wish to say that I do not judge Christians who attend, even join, churches that hold to any or all of the three doctrines I have named. This includes Christians who reject any or all of these doctrines as I do but still choose to attend, even join, churches holding to these doctrines.