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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I’ve been wanting to write about Christianity and my relationship to it for some time, but it’s such an enormous subject I’ve not known how to begin. While I stopped attending church about seven years ago, Christianity has always remained fascinating to me. But I have struggled to answer one question. What place should Christianity have in my life, or what should my relationship to it be?

When I stopped attending church it was not due to doubts about the existence of God or the reliability of the Bible. It was a question of relevance. Why do I attend church? What I am here? What is the point of this? I had no answer to that question. At best church seemed to be a sort of social club, one that I wasn’t part of, even if I attended every week.

But what about Christianity itself? Does it have any relevance to me? It seems this question comes down to the person of Jesus. Who was he? What did he say and what did he do?

CS Lewis claimed that Jesus as he said he was the Son of God was one of three things a liar, a lunatic, or the Lord. It seems to me there are at least three other possibilities that need to be considered. First is that Jesus never actually said what Christians think he did. Jesus as divine is seen most strongly in the gospel of John, but much less so in Mark for example. The second possibility is that Jesus did not actually exist as a real person, and is instead a literary or mythological figure. Finally there is the question of exoteric and esoteric meanings. Many of the various writings that make up the Bible are clearly not history texts, and were not necessarily intended to be taken literally. This should be obvious as Jesus used parables as part of his teaching. So even if the Bible accurately records what Jesus said, we don’t necessarily know what he meant by that.

Did Jesus create Christianity, or did Christianity create Jesus? Or perhaps both. Where did Christianity come from? It’s been claimed that Christianity was invented by the Romans as a way to pacify the troublesome and rebellious Jewish population. Others say that Christianity was just a repackaging of earlier religions. If Jesus really existed, did he even intend to form a new religion? Did his followers understand his teaching?

Actually it’s not even accurate to speak of Christianity but rather of Christianities. The four canonical gospels disagree with one another not only on technical detail, but matters of interpretation. And of course the numerous non orthodox or gnostic scriptures gives wildly different interpretations and understandings of Jesus and his message.

What would Christianity have been without the influence of Constantine? Would a canon ever have been created? Could different schools of Christianity have lived together in peace, even if they disagreed? Would there have been less emphasis on right belief and more on right action?

The history of Christianity is at best a mixed bag. From an oppressed group, to a servant of empire, to perhaps the empire itself, it is again the servant of empire. Christianity on the whole is pro war, and pro capitalism despite clear teachings in the Bible opposing those things. It is far more concerned with holding correct beliefs, often contradicted by the Bible, than with correct actions which is the core of Jesus teachings. The American version of Christianity is the worst of all worlds, being anti intellectual, anti aesthetic, and anti spiritual, rejecting just about everything that could have any value or meaning in Christianity.

So just what does Christianity mean to me? What is my relationship to it? I still don’t know. I am increasingly fascinated with the person of Jesus. I don’t know if he existed or not. But that does’t seem to matter.

I’m encouraged by writers such as Cynthia Bourgeault and Robin Meyers who are trying to recapture the essence of Christianity both as internal change through spiritual experience, and changing the world by external expressions of love. They represent a Christianity that I can find hope and meaning in.

Not long ago I read a book by the Dalai Lama where he recommends that people remain in their own faith tradition rather than joining a new religion. On the whole I agree with this advice. Indeed to a great extend it is the study of other religions that has helped me find the essence of Christianity. Christianity is quite broad in its traditions, texts, and practices. A lot of its history has been buried, often the best and most important parts. While I am dissatisfied, even disgusted by mainstream Christianity, today I am finding meaning in it that I did not when I attended church twice a week and went to Christian school.
 

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I also don't go to church. I thought to myself - church is boring, church is difficult to get to and no-one in my family likes it.
From the bible, I think that church is just a building. Meet other christians for sure, but it doesn't have to be on Sunday or in and around a church. Ultimately, if God is present he is present in you, not a draughty stone building.

For me, it wasn't until in my own head I completely rejected mainstream, organised christianity that I found a much deeper and more meaningful understanding of God and Jesus.
 

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Here are my personal two cents. Make of it what you will.

When I stopped attending church it was not due to doubts about the existence of God or the reliability of the Bible. It was a question of relevance. Why do I attend church? What I am here? What is the point of this? I had no answer to that question. At best church seemed to be a sort of social club, one that I wasn’t part of, even if I attended every week.
I found myself in the same dilemma, but I decided to attend church anyway, not to appease my family or community, but due to personal integrity. I would be a hypocrite not to go, if this is what I truly believe in.

The second possibility is that Jesus did not actually exist as a real person, and is instead a literary or mythological figure.
Let me make one thing perfectly clear: There are no credible historians who attempt to explain the indelible influence that Jesus of Nazareth had on history by positing that he didn't exist. The only people who write about this thesis have dubious credentials themselves. These are the historical conspiracy theorists, and people who hate Christianity. There generally aren't to many others. Even Bart Ehrman, who has made a living out of deconstructing the New Testament, wrote a book affirming that yes, Jesus did indeed exist.

Finally there is the question of exoteric and esoteric meanings. Many of the various writings that make up the Bible are clearly not history texts, and were not necessarily intended to be taken literally. This should be obvious as Jesus used parables as part of his teaching. So even if the Bible accurately records what Jesus said, we don’t necessarily know what he meant by that.
Very true, but the canon of scripture solidified under Constantine had more or less already been established since the early 2nd century. Still, some conspiracy theorists like to use this event to posit that Christian dogma was completely made up here. They claim we can't know anything at all about the historical Jesus or the origins of Christianity, claiming that Jesus' words and intentions were edited by the early church, etc. and they ALWAYS proceed to tell us what 'really' happened anyway. Humble, these people are not.

One inexplicably popular modern trend is to reconstruct Jesus as some sort of Eastern guru who apparently intended his teachings about being the son of God to be interpreted in a pantheistic sense. We are god, or we are all sons and daughters of god, as if this makes any sense whatsoever in the context of Judaism or is at all historically possible. And further to that, it makes Jesus the worst teacher in history, because it would mean that he utterly failed to get his message across to anybody ever until a few enlightened individuals from the 20th and 21st centuries happened to re-interpret his teachings the correct way.

Either these people need to have their heads soaked in ice water or I do.

Anyway, C. S. Lewis's trilemma, though not airtight, is still valid because it forces us to confront exactly what Jesus said and meant. It was controversial and challenging then, and it is now. Admittedly, it can be expanded into a quintilemma, but the first option (Jesus is Lord) is still the most likely of these five. I've explained above why the fourth is bunk, though the fifth remains popular today, and is the easiest one to escape through:

1.Lord
2. Liar
3. Lunatic
4. Guru
5. Myth

It’s been claimed that Christianity was invented by the Romans as a way to pacify the troublesome and rebellious Jewish population.
By whom? I doubt it's anyone with valid credentials. Christianity spread more successfully to the gentiles, not the jews.

What would Christianity have been without the influence of Constantine? Would a canon ever have been created? Could different schools of Christianity have lived together in peace, even if they disagreed? Would there have been less emphasis on right belief and more on right action?
Actually, eliminating heresies was vitally important during the early stages of Christianity's development, and I'm not looking at this from a cynic's point of view, but simply from the point of view of a practical theologian. A faith without definition is like a body without skin. The gnostic branch of Christianity, for instance (which was certainly NOT the original branch), shunned dealing with the outside world and turned itself inward, with less concern for the charity and social concern which forms much of the basis of Christian practice. A new religion requires consistency, not plurality.

The history of Christianity is at best a mixed bag.
At worst the history of Christianity is a mixed bag. At best it's the backbone of Western Civilization itself. Christianity gave the Western world it's concepts of tolerance, charity, education,welfare, economics, international law, and the genesis of western science through natural theology. The notion that the western world's transition from ancient to medieval philosophy represented a regression, or that the middle ages were a period of intellectual and scientific stagnation, is a myth that has been thoroughly refuted by modern scholarship, yet it still persists today.

From an oppressed group, to a servant of empire, to perhaps the empire itself, it is again the servant of empire. Christianity on the whole is pro war, and pro capitalism despite clear teachings in the Bible opposing those things. It is far more concerned with holding correct beliefs, often contradicted by the Bible, than with correct actions which is the core of Jesus teachings. The American version of Christianity is the worst of all worlds, being anti intellectual, anti aesthetic, and anti spiritual, rejecting just about everything that could have any value or meaning in Christianity.
I actually find eclectic modern spiritualities to be anti-intellectual and even anti-spiritual, but maybe that's just me. Because Christianity is rooted in elevated Aristotlean logic, it must be concerned with absolute truth claims. And this was a GOOD thing for intellectual progress. Augustine, Aquinas, Abelard, Occham, and countless other great Christian thinkers built upon the best of what the ancients had to offer, and helped to make the world what it is today.

So just what does Christianity mean to me? What is my relationship to it? I still don’t know. I am increasingly fascinated with the person of Jesus. I don’t know if he existed or not. But that doesn’t seem to matter.
It matters immensely. Not only did he exist, he was the most important person in history. Positing a purely fictional Jesus creates so many more problems than it solves, both historically and spiritually. A fictional Jesus is only about as effective at treating spiritual problems as fictional vaccine is at treating real diseases.

Not long ago I read a book by the Dalai Lama where he recommends that people remain in their own faith tradition rather than joining a new religion. On the whole I agree with this advice. Indeed to a great extend it is the study of other religions that has helped me find the essence of Christianity. Christianity is quite broad in its traditions, texts, and practices. A lot of its history has been buried, often the best and most important parts. While I am dissatisfied, even disgusted by mainstream Christianity, today I am finding meaning in it that I did not when I attended church twice a week and went to Christian school.
Overall, I'm not sure what to make of your post. While I admire anyone who cares enough to engage in a soul-searching journey for truth, a part of it comes across as spiritually snobbish, so to speak. You seem rather certain of your superiority to the majority of practicing Christians in the USA. But like it or not, they are your spiritual brethren, further branches of the same body.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
@Uncouth Angel

While the view that Jesus is a mythical figure is a minority view, it does seem to be growing in its support. Robert Price is one scholar who holds that Jesus was a mythical figure. I've haven't read Ehrman's latest book, but I have read some quite brutal reviews of it.

Alternative interpretations of Jesus teaching did not only originate in the 20th century. Numerous gospels appeared very early in Christian history. Crusades and Inquisitions violently suppressed people of different (non orthodox) views. Most of these people of different views were either killed or renounced their beliefs to save their lives. Protestants, originally non orthodox, gained enough political and military power to become orthodox. Other groups who failed to gain this power, were wiped out. The social and cultural conditions have changed today to the point where non orthodox views can appear in relative safety. I have no doubt that there are those in the church who would bring back the inquisition and crusades if they were able.

That may have been the intent of CS Lewis, but I'm not sure if his question actually does that. Are we really confronting what Jesus said and meant, or are we confronting orthodox doctrine and theology created hundreds of years later? Is it at least possible that if you got Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, or their authors all into the same room that they would disagree with one another on who Jesus was and what he meant? Even if Jesus was the Son of God, cannot the Church has gotten things wrong?

I find it interesting that you find a mythical Jesus to be powerless yet have a quote of Joseph Campbell as your signature. Isn't the meaning of myth something that is so powerful, so meaningful, that it is beyond questions of specific facts, dates, and places?

I don't intend to come across as snobbish, though it may be inevitable that I am interpreted that way. I am very critical of Christianity in general and American Christianity in particular. My original post only scratched the surface of the reasons for that.

But my goal is not to condemn but to ask a question. What relevance does Christianity have to me, and by extension to society as a whole? Is Christianity serving mankind? Is it helping us solve our problems, and grow toward our potential? If the answer is no, then Christianity should not continue.

While the history of Christianity is indeed mixed, I believe that its history, traditions, and wisdom are valuable and can be meaningful today, though to differing degrees to different people.

I was talking to some Mormon missionaries recently and I was just struck when one said that Jesus was his savior. What does that mean? Savior from what? Is mankind so helpless, so incompetent that we need to be saved? Doesn't that kind of thinking put us in a position of dependency and weakness, ready to be manipulated and controlled by others?

That kind of approach to religion whether one is saved or damned, orthodox or heretic, is not how I understand Christianity, and I see that type of thinking as a barrier to peace, freedom, and solving the world's problems. But I am encouraged that another type of Christianity, one less concerned with belief, and more concerned with action, is starting to emerge. This Christianity has always been there, in the gnostics, in the mystics, and even in the mainstream, but often this has been suppressed. There is perhaps a sort of Occupy Christianity taking place today and I have hope that it will be successful.
 

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@Listener - The reason why mankind so desperately needs a savior is simply this: we are broken. Doesn't every hateful word spoken, every death of a loved one, every shattered relationship point back to this fact? We are self-centered at heart; there is no denying it. Where did this come from? I suppose you could consider it to be a simple translation of self-preservation into the modern world, but isn't it possible that something is actually wrong with the world, that it's not all it was meant to be?

Why do gorgeous sunsets and beautiful forests have such a powerful draw? Why do the myths speak to our hearts? Because somewhere, deep inside every human being, is the realization that we were meant for something more, that the world was once better, and we long for it. Myths speak to the heart. And by myth I don't just mean the ancient Greek stories about Troy or the Minotaur or the travels of Odysseus, or the old Egyptian stories. I mean any story that reaches deep down and grasps at something within us. Lord of the Rings; why was it so popular? It spoke deeper truths than we realize.

I assume you know the creation story of Christianity: God creates the world, he creates plants and animals, then man, then woman. Before all of that, however, he created the angels, and one of them (Satan) betrayed him, along with a third of all the angels. And so he had to banish them to Earth. Satan tempts Eve with the offer of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and she must choose between that and God. She chooses to disobey God. Likewise, Adam is faced with a choice: to join his wife in disobedience, or to stay with God? He chooses woman. And so something shifted within us. We betrayed God's trust, and so we were cut off from him. After a few thousand years, he decides to send a man to Earth, the son of a carpenter and a woman who became pregnant before marriage, who grew up to be one of the most influential men in all of history, no matter what else may or may not be true.

One book I would recommend regarding Jesus is Beautiful Outlaw by John Eldredge. It helps to shine the light on the personality of Jesus, something that isn't immediately clear if you're not looking for it. For me, this has definitely helped to see Jesus in a different light. In some ways, he was more human than anyone else. He's the only human being in all of history who was never "broken", like all the rest of us inherently are. The good bit is, through Jesus's death and return to life, God has offered us a way to become what we were meant to be. Our brokenness still hangs around, of course, but let me tell you...it's amazing once you start seeing Christianity not as a set of rules to cling to or a crutch, but as a chance to be free of our hateful and selfish natural tendencies and become truly alive. Even if this whole Christianity thing isn't true, the journey has been incredible. The amount of change I have felt in myself is staggering. By all rights I shouldn't be the person that I am, and definitely I admit that it's not my doing.

I believe that Christianity is, indeed, capable of solving our inherent human flaws, albeit slowly. SLOWLY being the operative word. It's a process that takes some time. But, deep down, if you realize that the works of Jesus, and the point of the Ten Commandments, and God himself, are all about love, then everything else comes into focus. Sure, it seem counterintuitive to treat people with love even when you feel like punching them in the face, but that's what Jesus did. And it's also the most caring thing to do. Imagine if everyone fully adopted the selfless principles of love, and that alone; there would be an immense change throughout the world. Why? My belief is that it's what we were intended for. Mankind once had full access to God, in person, and anything less will never satisfy the deep longings ingrained within us. Even woman cannot come anywhere close.

In any case, you have to admit that Jesus was one of the most intense catalysts for change the world has ever seen. I seriously doubt if a myth could be capable of that.
 

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@Listener, while I could easily disagree with you on a few points, I appreciate your struggle with Christianity and the person of Jesus. I have found over and over again that it is worth struggling over and that our doubts are part of a healthy process to grow and to find truth for what it is.

I have been involved with the church my entire life. For a while, like most people, I went along with the beliefs of my parents. I inherited it, in a way. You get to a certain point and you start to think about things for yourself, which I did, and I accepted it as something I believed to be truth.

That's not to say that I haven't had my own struggles trying to figure this stuff out. I have become somewhat critical of the established institution of the modern mainstream orthodox church, and lately I tend to disagree more with other Christians than I do with non-Christians. I don't hate my brothers and sisters, but I do have to be honest and recognize things are not what they should be. I don't think we have this completely right, and I feel maybe we have been missing the point (the intent of Jesus himself) for centuries. The truth of the matter is humans are not perfect, and anything we try to organize ourselves is not going to be quite there. That is why I believe that the church as a whole needs to go through a shift where it places Jesus back into the position of authority. Unfortunately, we are so engrained in religion and tradition that this is very difficult.

Jesus ran into this same thing. Just by being who he was, he challenged the existing structure and encountered much resistance. He essentially taught that the Jewish law was futile, that following all the rules and regulations was not going to be good enough. Everyone fails (sins, misses the mark). This, according to my understanding of the Bible, is THE problem with humanity. Since none of us can maintain this unattainable checklist of holiness, something different had to be done. The law was good, but it wasn't good enough.

Jesus came to remind us of the overarching principle of Love. When our priority is to love each other, and not miss the point following a bunch of rules, then the rules will take care of themselves. First and foremost, you love God, and you love others, and as long as you are following those, it covers all the laws.

And I suppose you have heard this before, but what makes Jesus the savior is that he took on all of our shortcomings and paid for them once and for all. Now we are in a place where we are "right with God," even if we screw a few things up. I find a beauty in how inclusive and gracious that is.

The church to me is a group of believers, not anything to do with buildings and the like. Back in the book of Acts, the early church was all about community, hanging out all the time, eating together, meeting in each other's houses, sharing resources. It wasn't a once a week "social club," but an actual, active community.

A couple of books come to mind that I would like to recommend. "The End of Religion" by Bruxy Cavey, and "Pagan Christianity" by Frank Viola and George Barna. Cavey's book really explores the rebellious nature of Jesus in the interest of promoting the spiritual principle of Love, and the emphasis on the relationship aspect of Christianity. The Viola/Barna book is a worthwhile deconstruction of everything the modern church does and a call to look closer at our roots and the genuine intent of Jesus for the church.

Thanks for sharing with us.
 

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@Listener

I'm spiritual but not religious. I'm faithful but not religious. Do you see what I mean? I, myself, am a faithful Catholic because I really feel a deep relationship with God. I feel His existence. He has helped in times that things would never be possible without His help. Though I don't always, indeed a lot of times agree with the Old Testament, I have a hundred percentage faith in believing 'Love your neighbour as you love yourself'. Though I haven't read all of the Gospels, I know what are the stories and the morals behind. You think someone might have invented Jesus as a character in the Bible? If that's true, I truly admire that person as a writer because I've never read a character that has such a good heart and deep personality. Anyways, I don't think it's a matter of concern, what I believe is that whether you have established a true relationship with God, not just following the rules literally but with a true heart.

I know a lot of people out there don't believe in God, giving all different kinds of reasonings. No matter what, I'm a bit sorry for them for missing a chance to have such a beautiful, spiritual journey with the companion of God. I have once felt empty when I have distanced from God, and that emptiness was not fulfilled by going to the Church. Rather, I read the Bible and have sort of new interpretations of what I should be doing. Strange thing is, when my path is diverted, God always brings me back, and it has been years already.

One more thing is that, I haven't been to church for a long time. I know it's bad but I can't help but find it boring. However, I do find other ways to praise and maintain relatioship with God. Peace.
 

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Sorry just wanted to comment on this;

Where did this come from? I suppose you could consider it to be a simple translation of survival-of-the-fittest into the modern world, but isn't it possible that something is actually wrong with the world, that it's not all it was meant to be?
The term survival of the fittest doesn't mean individual survival it means the survival of genes. Mammals (and subsequently humans) are a social species, and so social cooperation is also a trait conducive to survival of genes, and the species. If the majority of humans behaved like sociopaths we'd be extinct. Altruism and social cooperation can be found in other species.

 

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Sorry just wanted to comment on this;



The term survival of the fittest doesn't mean individual survival it means the survival of genes. Mammals (and subsequently humans) are a social species, and so social cooperation is also a trait conducive to survival of genes, and the species. If the majority of humans behaved like sociopaths we'd be extinct. Altruism can be found in other species.
Sorry, I meant self-preservation; the fact that we're always out to save our own skin rather than others', for the most part. Of course, as in anything, there are exceptions to the rule, but our natural tendency is to be selfish. 'Scuse the confusion of terms. I'm not a scientist. :p
 

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@WanderingThoughts

I'm not a scientist either.

I disagree, I think we have an innate disposition towards self-interest and social cooperation. We are a social species, and we are born (unless we are born neurological sociopaths) with inclinations towards social cooperation, but we also have inclinations towards self-interest (which is understandable, if we weren't also inclined to that we wouldn't take care of our own survival needs).

And IMO and IME people spend their lifetime trying to balance the 2. IME happy people, who are comfortable with themselves are the more inclined to treat others with dignity - and unhappy people with low self-worth at their core are more likely to behave like dicks.
 

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@Uncouth Angel

And further to that, it makes Jesus the worst teacher in history, because it would mean that he utterly failed to get his message across to anybody ever until a few enlightened individuals from the 20th and 21st centuries happened to re-interpret his teachings the correct way.
Or are we the worst students in history who threw their master onto a cross? It is easy to make from a man's teachings what you want if he is no longer around.

Do you deny that in our existence the Church has used its immense power for self gain?

Furthermore, I would love it if you have some sources for some of the things you stated, because I am always interesting in learning more, Christianity and religion intrigue me.


Overall, I'm not sure what to make of your post. While I admire anyone who cares enough to engage in a soul-searching journey for truth, a part of it comes across as spiritually snobbish, so to speak. You seem rather certain of your superiority to the majority of practicing Christians in the USA. But like it or not, they are your spiritual brethren, further branches of the same body.
This is somewhat snobbish in its own way.

Listener seems to actually think about what Christianity means to him, and in which ways he can best practice his faith. That someone is a Christian, does not mean they are a good person and in this way, it doesn't matter if they are spiritual brethren as we are all born the same and we can be vastly different even within one religion.

The open warfare that spews forth from religion such as the crusades, are no longer visibly present in our current society. But they are still present, and in some ways things have not changed at all. Question should be asked, feet will be stepped on in the process.

@Listener

I was talking to some Mormon missionaries recently and I was just struck when one said that Jesus was his savior. What does that mean? Savior from what? Is mankind so helpless, so incompetent that we need to be saved? Doesn't that kind of thinking put us in a position of dependency and weakness, ready to be manipulated and controlled by others?
Fear is the ultimate indoctrination. And there is a lot of it in religion, and I wonder if that has always been the case. I can't believe Jesus was spreading fear.

The part which I quoted here, is to me an ignorant man. And I find those people very dangerous in the wyay that they think, or better said, their lack of thinking. Thinking like you are doing right now, thinking outside the box.

It tires me so much that any feelings or thought I have, or any action I take can't be my own. That everything that I do has to be accounted to a God or a Savior. That all our customs, that we have here today, are accounted to a God or a Savior. Every civilization has their own God, but I see all that we are today as natural progress. We are humans and we learn, and we do so by mistake, you would think. Except, the same mistakes are repeated over and over and over, and this I account to a God. Our savior died a long time ago and what he intended, he took with him.

@WanderingThoughts

The reason why mankind so desperately needs a savior is simply this: we are broken. Doesn't every hateful word spoken, every death of a loved one, every shattered relationship point back to this fact? We are self-centered at heart; there is no denying it.
So, using your own words, would it be so hard to think that the ancient texts could have been tempered with for the self gain of whoever wielded them?
 

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So, using your own words, would it be so hard to think that the ancient texts could have been tempered with for the self gain of whoever wielded them?
This is certainly possible. However, it is a widely held belief that God has, through one way or another, prevented such modifications from either being made or from being publicized and masqueraded as truth. I'm sure there have been attempts throughout history that were stopped by Christians, or simply rejected. I wouldn't discount the possibility.

Of course, if you don't believe God even exists, or that he doesn't care about his words remaining true and accessible, then this explanation is basically meaningless. Think what you will.

As for the whole business of the Church using its power for its own gain, well...sh*t happens. People are evil and power-hungry. Selfish. That's just how things are, and it's never going to change. There's bad apples in every barrel. It's just a shame that the most publicized and far-reaching of these are the most iconic representations of Christianity that the world sees, because, although there are many Christians like that, we're not ALL like that (to that extent, anyway). Would that things were otherwise. :sad:
 
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This is certainly possible. However, it is a widely held belief that God has, through one way or another, prevented such modifications from either being made or from being publicized and masqueraded as truth. I'm sure there have been attempts throughout history that were stopped by Christians, or simply rejected. I wouldn't discount the possibility.

Of course, if you don't believe God even exists, or that he doesn't care about his words remaining true and accessible, then this explanation is basically meaningless. Think what you will.

As for the whole business of the Church using its power for its own gain, well...sh*t happens. People are evil and power-hungry. Selfish. That's just how things are, and it's never going to change. There's bad apples in every barrel. It's just a shame that the most publicized and far-reaching of these are the most iconic representations of Christianity that the world sees, because, although there many Christians like that, we're not ALL like that (to that extent, anyway). Would that things were otherwise. :sad:
What I tried to say with the part about the Church, if you acknowledge that, is why so many people still put so much faith into the Church, as when actually looking at them in a critical manner, they are not needed. I believe in the good that religion can bring, but it has so often brought us the opposite.

Do you think that if somehow people unchained themselves from the Church, but still held true to the very core (values) of that which Christianity stands for, which I will plainly put here as love, we would reach the enlightenment we have all been waiting for all this time?

Of course, not every minister in a Church, for example is a bad person, far from that, I want you to think about the top, those who really control the empire, for a lack of a better word. The Church has such tremendous power and influence over people, and even the world, I somehow feel that they hold back that which good Christians are strafing for, cause if they would find it, they would no longer need the Church?

I guess most problems I have with religion actually come from the Church, which I also use as a very general term here, instead of the religion itself..
 

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@Pom87 - Yes, exactly! This is what frustrates me so much about the Church as an institution. They've essentially done what the Pharisees 2000 years ago had done with Judaism: they turned it into a club for the best and brightest, as long as they followed the rules, and they did it to make them feel good about themselves and control the people.

I believe the definition of "church" should be brought back to what it used to mean when it first began: a community of people who cared for one another, shared resources, and in general lived in God and love, selflessly and communally. In this modern age, I think small church groups (those that aren't simply Bible study groups or accountability groups, but actual, tight-knit groups of close friends) are closest to what the Church should actually be. I will admit that there are some benefits to the institutionalized version that's most prominent at the moment, but when prestige and power become an issue, it's stopped working.

Besides, Jesus didn't spend his life as a Pharisee. He spent it in close interaction with people, loving them, teaching them truth, not rules, and setting people free from the chains of both sin and religion. Who did he tangle with the most? The Pharisees. I really wonder what the modern Church would think of Jesus if he came back again these days. Would they criticize him? Would he drive them to the point where they would find a way to get rid of him? He doesn't exactly fit into the calm, civilized form of Christianity that exists today. They'd hate him, I'm pretty sure. People keep finding ways to put God in a box, no matter what.
 

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I think a lot of people confuse Christianity with conservative American politics, which isn't really true...
It's kind of disgusting that people would rather change their religion than their politics, but that makes me think, how religious are they anyways?

Jesus was liberal after all... He challenged the status quo and I'm pretty sure he didn't hate gays or overpopularize the military. Welfare is biblically supported I think, so who is more wrong, the liberal or the conservative Christian?

Seperate your religion and politics people!!
Just because I think premarital sex is morally wrong doesn't mean I think it should be illegal!

Christianity at its core is a very very good thing, and in some ways, maybe churches are bad for Christianity, because when they get involved, that's when things go to hell...

(oh and for clarification, I definitely believe Jesus was the son of God, I think that's the definition of being Christian)
 

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@Uncouth Angel While the view that Jesus is a mythical figure is a minority view, it does seem to be growing in its support. Robert Price is one scholar who holds that Jesus was a mythical figure. I've haven't read Ehrman's latest book, but I have read some quite brutal reviews of it.
It has been gaining in popularity, but not academic support. Robert Price is highly suspect (and Doherty is flat-out laughable), as are most of the people on the Jesus Seminar. The best among them is John Dominic Crossan.

Many Jesus mythers don't seem to understand what "Historical evidence" actually means.
Applying the same rigorous standards to the Bible that we apply to historical documents that aren't religious texts actually makes our understanding of history look worse, not better. Everything we know about Alexander was written some 300 years after his time, and the various sources disagree about the details of his life. The New Testament gospels were written within a 40 to 70 year timespan from the events they describe (and internal evidence strongly suggestst that they were adapted from older sources now lost to us). And we have more copies of than we do of Caesar's Annals. That doesn't prove anything, of course, but as far as the standards for determining historical accuracy go, that's pretty damn good.

That may have been the intent of CS Lewis, but I'm not sure if his question actually does that. Are we really confronting what Jesus said and meant, or are we confronting orthodox doctrine and theology created hundreds of years later?

The earliest extant manuscripts of Luke and Matthew date to around the year AD 200., Mark to about 250., John around 125-160. And these are the manuscripts we have, not the dates they were likely composed (which would have been much earlier). All before the Council of Nicea.


Is it at least possible that if you got Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, or their authors all into the same room that they would disagree with one another on who Jesus was and what he meant? Even if Jesus was the Son of God, cannot the Church has gotten things wrong?
Absolutely, but that doesn't mean anything goes! I certainly don't find many alternate interpretations of Jesus (i.e. liar, lunatic, mythical christ, eastern guru) to be plausible at all. Least of all, I don't think the early church fathers were wrong about his existence! There are a few other passing secular references to Jesus, namely Tacitus and Josephus.

I find it interesting that you find a mythical Jesus to be powerless yet have a quote of Joseph Campbell as your signature. Isn't the meaning of myth something that is so powerful, so meaningful, that it is beyond questions of specific facts, dates, and places?
I actually disagree with much of what Joseph Campbell said, since his interpretation of theology is quite reductive to Jungian psychology. His interpretation of myth, on the other hand, is interesting, and I find his words intoxicating, especially on the perennial role of the artist in society, which is what I think the quotation in my signature is really about.

@Uncouth Angel
Or are we the worst students in history who threw their master onto a cross? It is easy to make from a man's teachings what you want if he is no longer around.

No matter how preposterous, like Jesus the guru or Jesus the Nazi. All the evidence suggests that we have in the New Testament, on the other hand, is as close to his original teachings as we can get.

Do you deny that in our existence the Church has used its immense power for self gain?
No, but that in no way effects the truth value of the dogma. In fact, the hypocrisy of certain church rulers actually ensured the preservation of dogma, since they didn't alter anything to suit their selfish purposes.

Furthermore, I would love it if you have some sources for some of the things you stated, because I am always interesting in learning more, Christianity and religion intrigue me.
This is such a broad topic, but let me see . . .

I sometimes enjoy the apologetics at Tekton Education and Apologetics Ministries. James Patrick Holding. Tektonitron apologetics Encyclopedia. answering Bible difficulties and Bible contradictions, since Holding does a good job of dispelling some of the more ridiculous claims made about Christianity's origins, but he isn't always right.

I am also a huge fan of Catholic philosopher Peter Kreeft, who teaches at Boston College and frequently lectures on Christianity, philosophy, Aristotle, etc. His website is here:

The Official Peter Kreeft Site

Unfortunately, his lectures are no longer free, but some of his essays are. Fortunately, however, you can listen to many of them online at youtube if you just type in "Peter Kreeft" in the search engine.

My favorite books by him are Making Sense out of Suffering (which is about the Problem of Evil) and Between Heaven and Hell, which is a philosophical dialogue between C. S. Lewis, John F. Kennedy, and Aldous Huxley, since all three men died on the same day, and their views on religion are contrasted.

 
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@Uncouth Angel

You're right that our understanding of history is not as clear as textbooks would like us to believe. That makes it a rather weak foundation for a religion to rely upon. If Christianity were to fall apart if it could be proved that Jesus is a mythical figure, or that James Tabor is right, and that his tomb has been found, then to me it's a worthless religion.

About Constantine, I'm not suggesting Christianity was one thing one day, and then became a totally different thing after Nicea. But it did change. Yes, proto orthodox ideas existed before Constantine. But so did other views. It was the force of the state, not reasoned arguments, that eliminated these alternative movements.

The two authors I mentioned that I found encouraging Robin Meyers (a member of the Jesus Seminar), and Cynthia Bourgeault do not question the existence of the historical Jesus. I find historical Jesus studies interesting, even important, but not essential.

What is essential is not doctrine but action. What is the church actually doing? Is it working to end war and poverty? Is it deepening people's spiritual experience?
 
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