“Ultimately I see Christianity and my belief as a Christian as a doctrine of grace, and not of condemnation. “
I am so sorry it took me so long to post this one! Life can be a little crazy sometimes, but that’s what makes it fun. I’ve been so excited to share this interview with you for so long, so I’m glad I’m finally able to post it!
I have known Knox since 6th grade. We went to the same private Christian school in Atlanta, and we also went to the same church, so I saw him a lot at Youth Group (where I, in my angsty teenage way, would sit seething at being forced to go) and we both went on a mission trip to Kentucky (where I actually got to know him a little better). At school, we had similar circles of friends and were in the same Peer Leadership group in the ninth grade (long story).
When I first met Knox, I kind of hated him. He is incredibly smart and talented. He was our boys’ valedictorian and one of our fastest runners. He can sing and play the trumpet. His handwriting is impeccable. Everybody loves him. But he corrected my pronunciation of the word “spontaneity” in the hallway in 7th grade, and I WAS NOT PLEASED.
Once I started getting to know him better, through Peer Leadership and the mission trip, I finally got over it. I discovered that he is his own toughest critic. And I realized that Knox wasn’t some mystical creature who knew how to do EVERYTHING, he is a person, and a good person at that.
Interviewing Knox was delightful. I wish I had recorded our entire conversation, but it was about two hours long. (The block quote below is from our broader conversation.) He is thoughtful and careful with his words, and was incredibly open and honest. Afterward, we watched some dragonflies flitting about the pond in my backyard for about twenty minutes, trying to figure out what they were doing. It was a quiet, peaceful moment. That kind of curiosity and his desire to understand the world around him are why I am grateful to know Knox.
Interview 8: Knox
“God is in the asymptotes.”
Me: We went to Methodist church together, but back then I was already agnostic, so I was probably kind of closed off…I would like to know where you put yourself on the spectrum of religious identity these days.
Knox: I identify as a Christian, but—since you mention that we went to a Methodist church together—I don’t necessarily identify as a Methodist. Technically I am still on the books as a Methodist, but starting in college, most of the churches I’ve attended have been churches where I worked. So those have included a very conservative Catholic church, a Cooperative Baptist church, an ELCA Lutheran church, a non-denominational university church, a non-denominational chapel, and two Episcopal churches.
Me: So all over the place!
Knox: So, pretty much all over the place. Participating in worship at so many different churches has been very informative for me, in terms of exposure to different traditions, and having a chance to consider the differences in theology among those denominations. I have found that I don’t necessarily identify with one denomination more strongly than another. I think the most important thing for my faith is identifying as a Christian, and I think Calvin was the one who talks about layers of doctrine—which is funny since I have not attended a Presbyterian church—but Calvin talks about layers of doctrine, and I’ve often thought about that myself. I think there are sort of core tenets that matter to me the most, and then the rest sort of gets less and less important. Obviously other people find some of those things very important, and those are why we have different denominations. Most recently I’ve had Episcopal leanings, partially from the churches where I’ve worked, and then some of my friends who are Episcopal seminarians, but while I was working at the Lutheran church I thought I might join the Lutheran church. [laughs] So I guess I’m a bit all over the map right now.
Me: That’s totally fair! I think it’s good to have shifting religious beliefs because that means you are constantly thinking about them. So what are the tenets that you mentioned? What, to you, is the most important part of your faith? What makes you define yourself as a Christian?
Knox: So to me, the central element of Christianity is my belief that Jesus was the Son of God and died for the forgiveness of mankind’s sins, and was resurrected. That to me, in a nutshell, is the core of Christianity. Now, beyond that, I think that also entails, then, that there is a God—these are the underpinning things—that there is a God, that God created the world. Obviously for different people that means different things; to me there’s no conflict between science and religion. And then I think as you expand out from that, largely, I think, I believe the Apostle’s Creed, which we grew up reciting every Sunday at our Methodist Church. I think that’s supposed to be a summary of our faith, and for me, that remains the summary of my faith. So that of course entails believing in the Holy Spirit, which I do…I do think believing in the Trinity is an important part of Christianity as well. Which of course forms one of the most fascinating paradoxes of our belief, that is something that…try as theologians have to find some way to rationalize it and make a logical understanding out of it, I think most people agree that that’s one of those things that you just have to, at some point, say, “This is what I believe, and it is a paradox,” and to me, that’s an important part of faith. While I don’t believe that my faith conflicts with my beliefs as a rational human being, I do think that there are aspects of my faith that…as the word suggests, you just have to take without proof. So then the question is, why do you believe those things? And I think I believe those things because of my experiences in the world. Paul talks, in Romans, the first chapter—and it’s also in other parts of the Bible as well—about what we call general revelation. And I think, as many people do, I’ve had numerous experiences in my life in which I feel that there’s something divine, something larger, active in my life. And then also, since I brought up science earlier, I think looking at the way our universe is structured and the marvels of everything from the beauty of nature to quantum physics, to me indicate some sort of intelligent presence. And for me that is God.