Is Jesus Worth Saving?

Disclaimer: as I’m covering a really tough subject, this post is really long, approaching the length of some of my undergraduate upper-level term papers. I’ve generally written shorter posts, but I’ve decided to lengthen my writing to give me more time to be thorough.

A Perplexing Problem

Despite maintaining Christian beliefs, I have wondered of late whether or not religion can ever avoid a natural proclivity toward evil. Before even asking if Jesus can “save” me, the question is, “Should I save Jesus?” That is, should I or anyone bother to salvage the idea of Jesus from its longstanding tendency toward cultural dominance to the exclusion and even subversion of outsiders? Not that I believe this is what Jesus taught, but this is how people use him. So, should I save Jesus? My answer for now is “I don’t know.” Jesus or really any god as a concept introduces so many problems that interfere dramatically with daily living, especially when people try to follow divine revelation, as I have outlined recently. When people suppose that some idea is the product of divine revelation, that idea is now incorrigible. People take this idea, close themselves off to reality, and do stupid, hateful things — things that they would never do in their right minds were it not for supposed divine revelation.

To compound all of that, the flow of time continually obscures the meanings of religious texts. Even though I know much of Genesis is myth and not historical narrative, maintaining this knowledge requires continual investment into generation after generation of scholars, not to mention educating churchgoers about developments in scholarship in spite of the fundamentalists who pervert learning with their boundaries on belief in spite of evidence leading outside those bounds.

So if we intend to save Jesus, he had damn well better be worth it.

This might all sound like a build-up to a dramatic conclusion where I tout the Big J’s wonderful attributes and consider this case closed. It’s not, and I hope any skeptics reading this find my ultimate conclusions less than cliche. I genuinely have a hard time answering this question. While I have been ruminating on this subject for a while, things changed when I read Zach Hoag’s post Three Reasons You’re Not Too Smart for Orthodoxy. The article brought to my attention serious problems with the usual methods of relating to our beliefs as Christians.

I lamented to Zach in the article’s comments that I did not share his optimism about the role of orthodoxy in the church. My critique was that even if we were to resolve the gay marriage debate and finally accept differences in sexuality and gender identity, there would very likely be another major culture crisis in 50 years’ time, and Christianity would fall flat on its face once more. I contended that without reinvisioning our relationship with belief altogether, Christianity will continually support injustice through its inflexibility.

As a result of Zach’s post, I began to wonder what it would be like to have what I call “sustainable orthodoxy,” where our beliefs compel us to progress past our current mistakes rather than chain us to how things have always been. Hopefully, by the end of this piece, I will have at least a rough outline of what it will require, though the feasibility of these requirements may still be up in the air.

On top of all this, atheist blogger and philosopher Dan Fincke wrote a post only a short while ago entitled Opposing the Jesus Meme. His stance on this has been to oppose even the rehabilitation of Jesus into anything positive, claiming that doing so only contributes to the “aura of holiness” which serves to support all the abusive and debilitating practices typically found in Christian circles. Supposing that Christians did in fact attempt to salvage Jesus, they may just wind up lending credibility to the ideas which they oppose.

When you add it all up, things really look poor, even if there is truth in the traditions surrounding Jesus’ teachings. Would the world be better off if we left the Jesus meme to die? Let me attempt a Jesus’ (rather than Devil’s) Advocate argument just to see where it lands us.

I will break this down into a few key segments. Two questions need answering: first, whether Jesus has anything to offer in the first place; and second, whether what Jesus has to offer is unique enough to risk lending credibility to spiritually abusive forms of Christianity. Having answered these, the question becomes what to do as a result.

1. Does Jesus offer anything at all?

This depends almost entirely on one’s interpretation of Jesus’ life and teachings, with much of the rest of your view on Christianity flowing out of this. As I see it, there are two primary interpretations, each with their various subtypes and nuances (I am aware that not all varieties of Christian belief will fit nicely into these two categories, but I have attempted to make them sufficiently broad to describe most commonly-held approaches to Christian belief).

The first interpretation considers Jesus as capping off the sacrificial system established by God in the Old Testament. Jesus came and completed a centuries-long process, sacrificing himself on the cross as a substitution for the death we should have endured. This is what I will call the conservative outlook on Christianity. It tends to view the Bible as a systematic revelation from God, where Jesus needs to fit nicely into place like the final piece of a jigsaw puzzle.

This is the interpretation which leads to all the aforementioned problems, because viewing religion as a systematized and final answer to life’s problems precludes the need for further investigation. There is a reason conservatives receive criticism for being prejudiced, and that is because conservative religion is prejudiced by its very nature. To be prejudiced is to assume one understands an issue prior to ever encountering it, which is exactly the structure of conservative belief.

The second interpretation views Jesus as a subversion or reinterpretation the systems established in the Old Testament. In as much as Jesus may have been a historical figure, he is also a mythical reinvisioning of the Jewish story which began (mythically) in Adam. Thus, we have the genealogies in the gospels tying us back to that myth and putting an unexpected twist on what it all means. The Jews wanted a political Messiah, and though Jesus was certainly political, he was not just for the Jews. Jesus took the Jews’ narrative of being a chosen people whom God would save from captivity, and he made that the story of humanity. This what I will call the progressive outlook.

This second outlook, I believe, has many metaphysical and ethical implications which are strikingly important, not to mention that I believe it is significantly more honest about the inconsistencies between the Old and New Testaments. Not only does this view preserve at least a modicum of intellectual integrity which conservative Christianity seems to lack, it also gives us two of the most important principles outlined in my previous post: cultural mediocrity and the importance of virtue over having the right beliefs.

These two principles are, I believe, readily discernible just from examining the world around us, but that is something of the point. Jesus came to dispel our artificial systems of exclusion to encourage us toward a more natural way of living. Whatever Jesus may have revealed, which is mostly unknown but can be inferred from trends within Christian tradition, it was not special revelation only knowable through God; it was a reorientation to the world which has always been there around us.

This being well and good, one might ask what supports the second view as the right view of Christianity instead of a reflection of liberal Protestant sentiment. Here, I will argue that the trajectory of the early church, at its inception, was toward inclusion. The sorts of things Jesus seems to have taught are, by my reading, very inclusive, but the early church certainly did not take inclusion as far as it could. In fact, as soon as it got the chance, it deliberately took a turn for exclusion, instead (I’m looking at you, Constantine).

Still, I count it as no accident that fairly inclusive sects have arisen throughout Christian history. While Christian hegemony in Rome set in very quickly, several of the Eastern Orthodox traditions remained very inclusive and nonjudgmental, today’s Russian Orthodox Church notwithstanding. Then, of course, sects like the Anabaptists, Quakers, and others have a long history of trending toward inclusivism.

Thus, I have no qualm about suggesting that Christianity, when it divests itself of the need to maintain political power, is inherently inclusive. What today’s progressive Christianity suggests about inclusion is, I believe, a next step in parsing out the implications of inclusion. And we take these steps because of the example set by Jesus, not because he gave us special knowledge, but because he helped us move past our prejudices to see what has always been in front of us.

It follows that atheism shares many causes with progressive Christianity, because both try to divest themselves of unnecessary prejudices in order to see the world as it is. Prima facie, it might seem the primary difference between the two is, obviously, God, but here God functions in such a way as to support an ethic and epistemology almost identical to that of an atheist. So while God is still a significant difference, the primary difference here is, in fact, the organized community and powerful vocabulary which Christianity provides through the church. In the ideal case, the church should foster ethics and sound reasoning, with participation in the church community building these virtues. Sadly, this is oftentimes not the case, which brings me to my second question.

2. Is what Jesus offers unique enough to merit saving?

In reality, the church ends up being a vehicle for many abusive tendencies and irrational ways of thought. So, if we can have what Jesus offers while avoiding the trappings of a culture which is prone to abuse, then all the better, right? Should we all go be secular humanists? Maybe. There is a lot here to consider.

First off, I believe virtue stems from participation in a community. Only to the extent that we feel we belong to a group do we reorient ourselves and our desires to fit into that group. Individualism by itself is, I believe, a great evil, alienating people from one another and ending with the complete dissolution of meaningful ethical choices. Philosophically speaking, my thoughts run alongside Alisdair MacIntyre, for any who care (i.e. virtue is an excellence relevant to a given society, not a timeless and immutable principle).

For example, consider science as a profession. Within the context of individualism and narrow-focused self-interestedness, it makes very little sense to be a scientist: you likely won’t make loads of money, you’ll have to study very hard to be any good at it, and much of your work could be fairly tedious. But within a community, you understand that your work contributes something worthwhile to the society, and thus you have a sense of accomplishment and belonging. The work is worthwhile because it helps people whom you value.

Though many churches do not, in fact, value science, the pulpit already exists a powerful platform which, used well, could transform and revitalize culture. This is, essentially, what Neil deGrasse Tyson has done through his reboot of the Cosmos series, using his place in the spotlight to draw people into the wonder of science not strictly as an academic activity but as a human activity. This sort of thing is precisely what we need and also what the church is so well equipped to do if it could only set its values straight. Because after the Cosmos series ends, Neil will resume his usual activities, and while he and others may make occasional public appearances, there will be little else to invite people into the science community.

Excellence in scientific study is one among many virtues the church could very well promote if it could pull its head out of conservativism with its apologetics and exclusivism. This is not just what the church could do but also what it should do if it wishes to adhere to the inclusivist and life-affirming trends which birthed it.

The problem in all of this is that even if we do experience a period of revitalization and renewal of virtue, we could very well relapse into religious fundamentalism at a later time. There is little to guarantee long-term renewal, especially given that inclusivism largely died within Christianity almost immediately. How can we expect Christianity not to repeat its own mistakes if we do not change its intrinsic structure? Is the Christian message unique enough to merit the risk of relapse, even if we should repair the damage today?

Here, I am at a loss to answer either way. On the one hand, I think Christian inclusivism is exactly what the world needs. Most of my thoughts on ethics today consist of inclusion and cooperation versus exclusion and othering, which is how I read the Gospel. Whatever mistakes Christianity may have made, we do not have to bind ourselves to those mistakes and may in fact admit and move past them. We need people in the world who champion such inclusion.

On the other hand, with Christianity’s history, it would be extremely easy for someone 100 years from now to dredge up Christian fundamentalism and revive it under the pretense that he/she has rediscovered “true” faith. Cue the crowds, the manipulation under spiritual pretenses, etc. We would have another Mark Driscoll or John Piper (or worse, a Fred Phelps) reincarnated for the 22nd century.

The Way Forward

Instead of answering affirmatively that yes, Christianity is worth saving, I will instead suggest some things that would need to happen for this to be the case. First of all, we need to increase the level of historical literacy within lay Christianity, establishing this not only as a thing some churches do but an integral part of Christian tradition. Every new church group that emerges these days believes that they are doing things exactly as Christians did it in some mythical time of the Good Ol’ Days, pretending their distinctively western, post-Englightenment views of the Bible and faith are the True Christian views. If you spread the facts, people will eventually disabuse themselves of such notions. There is a reason we don’t have to shoot down flat earth theory or geocentrism with each passing generation: people know enough not to give these views any consideration.

Additionally, those participating in the revitalization must state explicitly that inclusivism is key to Christianity. In the Gospels, this message comes in the form of various stories which shatter common Jewish expectations of being the Chosen People, showing that God loves and cares for all people in spite of their religious backgrounds. That message often flies right by contemporary readers. Today, we must re-express that sentiment in more intelligible terms for our cultures. We need new parables and new statements that affirm the fundamental importance of inclusivism.

This may require an explicit statement of separation from religious conservativism in order to prevent any sense of legitimacy from bleeding out of progressivism. This, of course, could be a tricky venture and would need for there to be some sort of way to avoid the pitfalls of the ever-splintering Protestantism. This could be fairly easy given the acceptance of cultural differences within more progressive churches — what would be an irreconcilable split in a conservative church could easily be a difference of opinion or taste elsewhere. Still, one would need to be mindful of such a thing.

Lastly, we need to reorient Christian epistemology away from its dependence on special revelation for making judgments about the world. As long as we are looking to our Bibles to understand the world rather than engaging with the world directly, we are using the Bible improperly, and we will continue to have these same problems. The Bible must inspire us to correct injustice in the world (see my post about the Bible as an icon); it cannot tell us the exhaustive list of all that is good and bad in an ever-changing environment.

If all of these things together can happen, then Christianity is worth rescuing by my count. It could be a dynamic and powerful force for good. If these things are impossible, then let Christianity die as a cultural force. The point of life for a Christian progressive is not to hold to the right beliefs but to live seeking goodness. If Christianity can’t do this, then let someone else take up the mantle for championing truth, love, and justice. If Christ must die again to bring the same restoration he sought at the first, then so be it. God will be dead, and Christians will have killed him.

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About Chris Attaway

Raised in the digital wilderness of the pre-Internet 2.0 era, Chris Attaway is a true gamer and Internet citizen. After a stint studying computer science, his life got flipped turned upside down, and he ended up studying philosophy to help him sort out his life. Now the black sheep in a family of engineers, he has set out to get his footing in the world of freelance journalism. With interests ranging from gaming and technology to LGBT rights, race and politics, Chris is a diverse and skilled writer who always tries to give a fair shake to his subjects.
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28 Responses to Is Jesus Worth Saving?

  1. Shira says:

    I am deeply moved by this post, Chris. As a non-Christian, I don’t think I have anything of value to contribute, but I hope you will get the kind of thoughtful and supportive comments this kind of writing deserves! All the best.

  2. NotInAnyWayArthur says:

    So I mean this is all well and good and contemplative and stuff, but, as far as I have ever seen, Christianity is bundled with claims about the reality. (Jesus, is the son of God and also God and the Holy Spirit is also God, but they’re not each other and there’s Satan and Heaven and Hell and Angels and Demons etc etc). It’s a system of ethics third or fourth on the list after claim about how the universe is and other things.
    My reason for not being a Christian has NOTHING to do with morality (though my morality might have something to do with not being Christian). My reason for not being a Christian is because of the fact that I have never seen anything at all that would suggest what it says about the way the world works is true.
    The reasons you gave for being a Christian don’t seem to be valid reasons for being a Christian I guess is what I’m saying. Where does Jesus said some good things, but they might be corrupted by time, but there might be hope for them, but there might not be, etc etc etc have to do with whether or not you think Jesus is in fact who Christianity says he is.
    Even if you withdraw entirely from churches or internet Christianity or what have you and think the concept of Jesus is intrinsically detrimental to the world for some reason, if you think Jesus is the son of God and is God, then you ARE a Christian, if you don’t then you’re not.
    Unitarians are kind of a border case I guess.

    • You’re focusing on a different question than what this piece addresses. Whether Christianity is true (and what “true” means in this case) is a valid question, but the question in this article covers whether Christianity is worth saving at the risk of legitimizing fundamentalism.

      • NotInAnyWayArthur says:

        I guess I should have worded that as:
        It being actually the case has a bearing on whether or not it should be salvaged or disregarded. In general I am not a fan of obscurantism.

      • True, but the piece assumes a disagreement between atheists and Christians on that and tries to work on problems which we might actually be able to discuss more easily.

  3. kluttsjd says:

    So, nothing much to say about the heart of the post, but something did strike me. You seem, knowingly or unknowingly, to move fluidly and equivocally between three different terms. Specifically, what you deem is worth saving. First, it was “Is Jesus worth Saving?” then it seemed to be “Is Christianity worth Saving?” and finally, you brought it back (albeit in a new and unequal way) to “Is Christ worth saving?”
    I submit that these three things are not properly substitutionary.
    1) Jesus: Jesus is a first century galilean man who by all accounts had a self-understanding that included being an apocalyptic prophet in the line of Elijah, Isaiah, and the Baptist who was pronouncing an imminent eschaton. Along with this, it appears that Jesus also viewed himself was having a special relationship with YHWH. We can surmise this from the passages in which Jesus healed/exorcised without the intercession of the power of God or God’s name. While one may be able to drum up reasoning for many “messianic” miracles as post-passion interpolations, the sources seem in agreement at the very least that the historical Jesus was an iterant teacher/prophet who was known to perform healings and generally piss off the Roman-Jewish power structures.
    2) Christianity: A religion which follows in the way and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, but which was modified and grew as issues arose which Jesus did not deal with (cf. the problem of circumcision and the presence of gentile churches). This religion follows in the light and teaching of a man who they believed had a special relationship with God and pronounced Him as messiah.
    3) Christ: A title arising from the Church towards Jesus describing the belief that Jesus was the Jewish Messiah, but a title which Jesus never directly appropriated. (The closest he comes is “Son of Man” which can be related to the propecy of Dan 6).
    Which is your post purporting to save? Jesus, the man, Christianity the religion, or Christ the title? They aren’t the same, and they don’t all deserve or need the same treatment (if indeed they need treatment at all).

    • Right, good point, and I do use these terms loosely, mostly because they aren’t central to the formulations I’m making. If I had to pub down a single concept, it would be Christianity as a cultural construct. Is it worth it to salvage Christianity in order to prevent it from perpetuating evil, or should we abandon it for other traditions while seeking what is truly good?

      • kluttsjd says:

        Well then, we run into the shaky territory of term definitions. I suppose I would agree that there are quite a few areas of contemporary, popular, christ-based faiths which need retooling and re-examination. However, I wonder how hasty of a generalization it is to throw out the entire baby with the bathwater, so to speak.
        For example: how are we to define Christianity? Is it a fundamentally confessional and credal faith, or is it more cerebral and doctrinally driven? How much can one strip away before Christianity ceases to be Christianity? How much can be preserved?
        I suppose what I am really asking, is if you’re asking whether Christianity can, or ought to be saved, have you sufficiently answered the necessary preceding question, “what is Christianity?”

      • Well, that final question you ask is part of the point: is there any concept within the vast diversity of concepts with some kind of family resemblance to Christianity which is worth salvaging and purifying? The article hopefully laid out some of what those concepts might be.

  4. Heather G says:

    Chris,
    I admit to being disturbed by this piece at the onset, but I was able to momentarily suspend my sense of things being askew to take the journey with you as you so eloquently went from point A to B to C looking at things – to “stand outside” the faith as it were and analyze it – what is the offering of Jesus and Christianity, anyway, and how is it unique, and is it unique enough to value it?

    Yet at the end, I was back to being disturbed on some level. So now I’m turning around that disturbed part of myself and taking a look at it with you. My initial reaction here is – is Jesus real? If he’s real, then you can’t just brush Him off to one side because people might become fundamentalists, or because He doesn’t offer something that seems better than humanism, etc. So the first question I have is do you believe He is in this conversation? But then I realized that I just moved this whole discussion into the realm of epistemology and said essentially that “truth” is the most important thing here, and that’s not fair to the discussion you’re having here really. It does seem that if Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, that there is plenty of latitude for you to venture into asking questions about who He is as the Way, or the Life, without necessarily making “truth” the dominant facet of the conversation over the other two elements. Or – perhaps they can’t be separated like that.

    At the end of the day, if Jesus accepts us, warts and all, and saves us, warts and all – then perhaps we can but return the favor by accepting and saving Him and His testimony as valid and worthwhile, despite the fact that it might not immediately seem that going down that road always works out in the immediate social sense of our traversing in this world. After all, do we just use Him for what He’s good for, or do we on some level have any debt to Him as the one who reached out to us first? Yeah, that’s the evangelical in me – so sue me.

    🙂
    Heather

  5. Pingback: How Jesus Became God: Initial Ripples

  6. rogerwolsey says:

    “..some progressive Christians prefer to call themselves ‘followers of the Way of Jesus’ instead of ‘Christians.’ It helps keep the focus on what they think Jesus intended — off of Him and more on the Way and the God he was seeking to invite people to experience and follow.”
    p. 55, Kissing Fish: christianity for people who don’t like christianity
    That said, I prefer to call myself a Christian as I’m seeking to reclaim the word – and the religion – from the fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals who’ve effectively hijacked that word for the past 40 years.

    • rogerwolsey says:

      So, I’d very much say that Christianity is indeed worth saving. Here’s a practical application. Global climate change is a grave, real, and present danger that is impacting us now, and, if left unchecked, will gravely affect future generations. The largest religion on the planet is Christianity. If we can get more of our fellow Christians to come around to seeing taking care of our environment as part of faithful stewardship and worship of God, then that could have the greatest impact on addressing this problem possible. Religion comes from the Latin “religare” which means to “bind together.” Right now, we need to be bound together to save the planet. Peace.

      • What makes that a better alternative to something like secularism? Will we lend credence to fundamentalism if we take such an approach? There are lots of considerations which I think we must confront.

    • Allan B says:

      Read “Walking the way together” by Mark Phillips

  7. ahmsab1 says:

    Although I’m not a christian, I believe that as an abrahamic religion, the exclusive nature of christianity( the existence of some requirements which vary depending on whom you ask in order to call one’s self a christian) is there for a reason. All abrahamic religions are like that by nature, which is something very significant if you compare it at least to eastern religions which are very tolerant to the point where it is hard to define what is a hindu for example. This reason which I have just mentioned, and which I believe is central to those religions and from god himself, is not only as a test to non-believers in obtaining truth through these religions, but also to believers within those religions themselves. A test of their tolerance towards the religious freedoms in particular (among many others) of other humans from other faiths. This is why I believe the vessel-so to speak- or this main body of the religion, it’s central form must be perserved even if it’s for just this purpose only. I truly believe that it is a test from god to believers that we would be rendering useless if we were to discard the central form of the religion in it’s vast majority and let everyone search for the truth independantly.

    • Christianity, by my count, was an inclusive reinterpretation of Judaism, but, being steeped in Judaism, its exclusive traits carried over into the later cultures which would spawn from it, especially once Christianity gained cultural dominance in Rome. So I would disagree with you that the Abrahamic religions are necessarily exclusivist.

      Beyond that, I’m not sure where to critique your comment other than to ask what would lead you to these beliefs. I don’t mean offense, I just don’t see anything to support them.

      • ahmsab1 says:

        You have perhaps misunderstood what I meant by exclusive here, I did not mean in the jewish sense of choosen people, but in the sense that christianity requires believing in certain things for one to be called a christian, even if these differ depending on interpetation.I said applies to all abrahamic religions because even in judiasim as far as I know there is excommunication (spinoza comes to mind), and in islam it’s even clearer on those terms, even if like christianity they differ slightly depending on interpetation. You are probably right in this view lacking a logical thread which leads us to it, however this as a concept does exist for me as a muslim, god speaks of fake faith leading people astray due to them being obstinate and fanatical, unwilling to search for the truth, and this is where their own religion, or their form of religion comes as a test for them. As illogical as you may find this I would tell you that it is partially something I concluded from observing both religious fanaticism and piety in several religions, many downplay the importance of what system of faith one uses to reach god, but I still believe a central form in the abrahamic religion (which also come in succession) is important for that very purpose, because we would really become (in practice) like eastern religions otherwise, inclusive of anyone who puts the name tag without the core belief, and therfore render such a test unusable. Sorry for the long reply 🙂

  8. Ken Nichols says:

    Two things to share here.

    I see a seeming dichotomy here a paragraph apart.
    “Additionally, those participating in the revitalization must state explicitly that inclusivism is key to Christianity.”
    vs
    “This may require an explicit statement of separation from religious conservativism in order to prevent any sense of legitimacy from bleeding out of progressivism.”

    Seems to me that “an explicit statement of separation” amounts to exclusion. How can we claim to be inclusive and then purposefully exclude those we feel will not hold to our beliefs just so we can appear “legitimate”? Seems kind of hypocritical to me.

    Secondly, in this article (and others) it appears to me that you hold strongly to the view of Christianity as a cultural force for change – that Christians should talk and behave in a manner that somehow “convinces” people in our culture to act for the good of their world, both individually and collectively.

    But I don’t exactly see it that way. If anything, Jesus was COUNTER-cultural, separating himself both from Jewish cultural attitudes and Roman influences as well. He came to create a NEW Kingdom (culture) here on earth. One OUTSIDE of whatever culture people find themselves. Admission is open to the Kingdom, In fact, I would go so far to say that everyone is part of this Kingdom already, but they just don’t realize it yet (they either haven’t received, read or believe their “citizenship papers”.) But still, it IS a separate Kingdom. And to expect those who continue to remain “outside” of the Kingdom to behave in a manner in line with His Kingdom’s values (primarily acceptance and love for everyone), seems foolish and counterproductive to me.

    Yet both the church AND humanists continue to pursue the dream of changing cultural values from the OUTSIDE, through the use of rules (both governmental and religious) or reason (education and science), rather than what I believe to be God’s plan of changing individual PEOPLE from the INSIDE out by showing them who they can be in Christ — free from the guilt and shame that our self-defined sin brings us and, as a result, free to have a relationship with our creator who gives us a heart that will reflect His Kingdom’s cultural values in spite of our own repeated failures and shortcomings. For me, it’s not about trying to influence THIS culture by trying to connect or identify with it, but of becoming part of a NEW culture (a new way of thinking/worldview) that changes ME, which, in turn, as I continue to interact within my earthly culture, affects the general values of THAT as well, at least within my sphere of influence.

    The only way for earthly cultures to change drastically would be for the majority to become a part of His counter-culture. We know that’s not likely to happen though at the same time we sincerely desire it to be so. I think we feel like God’s method is too slow or inefficient, as it ONLY touches one person at a time, and so we go back to trying to “force” or “convince” collective people groups to change their behaviour. But history tells us that won’t work in the long run. It simply HAS to be one heart at a time.

    • avengah says:

      Outside a Christian context people don’t have guilt, shame or sin. Children born to fundies are indoctrinated to feel guilt and shame, as well as fear hell, and this is psychologically abusive. Most atheists are perfectly happy. We don’t feel this shame you talk about. It’s artificial.

      • Ken Nichols says:

        If you don’t feel any guilt or shame when you have wronged somebody or acted outside of acceptable societal standards, then you have bigger problems than a lack of faith in a deity. And fear of punishment is NOT psychological abuse. Until a child reaches an age of reasoning, it’s the most effective way to deter dangerous behaviours. But when a child can reason, then yes, fear is not the best motivator. Same for adults. As the Bible says, “Perfect love casts out fear”. And Christ is the embodiment of perfect love.

      • avengah says:

        I wasn’t talking about the natural guilt or shame you feel when you wrong someone. I meant the artificial guilt and shame caused by telling children they’re born in original sin and nothing they can do is good enough. Fear of punishment is fine, but not fear of hell. This is far more extreme and can cause children to have severe nightmares into adulthood, even once they’ve discarded most of the religious baggage that goes with it. Think about it: if someone actually believes he might be punished, that’s one thing. If he fears he might be thrown into hell for eternity for minor transgressions, this is what causes the nightmares.

        I don’t agree that Jesus is the perfect embodiment of love. There are examples of Jesus being intolerant and unpleasant in the Bible if you look for them. He threatened an entire village with hell simply because they didn’t care for his preaching. Then there’s that woman he wouldn’t help because she was of the wrong race or something.

      • Ken Nichols says:

        While I believe in the concept of original sin (of a sort), I don’t know of many people that would require anyone to feel GUILT for that. Original sin doesn’t send us to hell, it merely predisposes us to commit our OWN sins, which then of course, would result in the natural feelings of guilt and shame.

        However, yes, there ARE Christians who take the concept of original sin and hell WAY too far, but I think you are coloring a huge group with a narrow brush. You can believe in both of those things without damaging your children. Those beliefs aren’t INHERENTLY damaging, but they can be used by a bullying personality, just like anything can be. Asians are stereotyped as using pride in family as a excuse to “bully” their children into success at school. That can also be damaging, but having pride in your family is not a bad thing in and of itself.

        While fear is a motivator for good, it only brings an external good, not an internal good. I personally believe the love of Christ brings an internal good that is then shared externally with others.

        As for the events concerning Jesus, Jesus “cursed” the towns of Capernaum and Bethsaida because although many miracles were performed in those places by Him, they still refused to “repent”. Now we have to define some terms and make some assumptions to get at what’s happening. First of all, it was more of a warning to change than a “curse” per se. He merely told them that they had had more evidence than other places that had already repented, and they should do likewise. Obviously if they didn’t, they would be judged (as we all will be someday). Also, the word repent has been made to be all about sin, but it really means to change your mind — to believe something different than you used to. We can assume Christ was talking about belief in who He was (since that makes the most sense), but we really can’t be dogmatic about that. There were obviously some very stubborn people in those cities, is all we know. Even in the face of evidence of the power of Christ, they refused to believe it. Today we ENVY those people who had miracles performed right in front of them.

        The 2nd instance is when Jesus first refuses to heal the Canaanite women’s daughter. He says that He “was sent only for the lost sheep of Israel” and that “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” Both of these things sound pretty bad on the surface, but He was teaching a lesson to His disciples through this experience. He WAS sent primarily to Israel. He was their promised Messiah. His disciples KNEW this. What they didn’t know was that it wasn’t their HERITAGE that would save them, but faith alone. THAT was the lesson He taught them. When he made the “bread” comment, He was talking about His own words. He was saying that the Canaanites (Gentiles) as a whole would not listen to Him because they had no connection with Him (like the Jews did). When the women says that even “dogs” need the crumbs of their master, she was telling Him that even though she wasn’t a Jew, she knew He was of the true God. So, to show His disciples that it was FAITH that was of primary importance, He praised her and healed her daughter. She was the “first fruits” of the gospel made accessible to the Gentiles. It’s actually a powerful story that PROVES that Christ came for EVERYONE, not just the Jews.

        What else ya got? 😉

  9. Just finished. Well said. And I see why you said, ‘closest thing’ to answering the question, Why you still Christian, yo?

    To me, for people that don’t want to give up god, but do want to give up the systematic segregation of religious institutions, whatever their form, should turn to pantheism (or even secular Buddhism), for it offers the best conceptual field to play in. All is god. Nothing is god. Pantheism – nihilism. Same difference, really.

    In the pantheist’s line of abstraction, everything is seen as sacred, as a reflection of oneself – probably (all I know of pantheism comes from Spinoza and Einstein). And science, albeit with far less emotion, agrees with this sentiment. We are all, after all, just vibrational frequencies, passing in and out of everything else. To me, that’s pretty damned ‘spiritual’. It just leaves the door wide open for all ideas and debates to flourish, without the albatross that a supernaturally-backed dogma poses. I like your interpretation of Christianity. But I’m sure you’d be the first to admit that it is, of course, merely one interpretation of its ultimate guiding force, and not necessarily the correct one. (I’d say it’s 100% correct in the context of the modern world… which to me seems to suggest that Christianity isn’t necessary moving forward.)

    If all Christians thought like you do, I’d have no qualms with Christianity whatever.

  10. Kay Bishop says:

    Jesus IS God’s Son! Jesus is the ONLY way to God. Jesus died to redeem mankind. He loved the sinners, HATED the SIN, named the sin and provided forgiveness for them. Without Jesus, mankind has nothing. Man’s opinion, feelings, thoughts, conclusions don’t mean a thing when it comes to the Lord Jesus. This life is a vapor. It will be over before you know it, but as an eternal being you will live forever. Somewhere. Don’t bank your eternity on man’s philosophy of what he ‘thinks’ about Jesus. God love mankind and left a BOOK to read and learn of Him. The reason most people don’t ‘get it’ is because it is a spiritual book. A man with a dead spirit will try to reason it and understand it, but until he TRUSTS Jesus, he just can’t do it. It is in the heart of every man to worship. If a man doesn’t worship the true God, he will always be looking for peace. That is why addictions are so rampant. People have no peace because they are looking to their own selves when peace in the heart comes from God through the Lord Jesus. When I tell someone about Jesus, it is because I love them and know that Jesus is the only answer for them. Love.

    • Look, I get that you believe this stuff, and that’s fine, but you provide no one else with a reason to do so. Consequently, this is a warning for violating the comment policy. If this were still an active post, I would go ahead and delete your comment to avoid unnecessary rabbit trails.

      Please read the comment policy, particularly point 2 and its elaboration.

    • FiveCentFather says:

      I think I’m going to go down a rabbit trail here, Chris, but I just had to respond to one item Kay mentioned.

      Kay says, “God love mankind and left a BOOK to read and learn of Him.”

      Where does God (or Jesus) promise or talk about leaving us a “book” about Him to read and understand? Nowhere, because it didn’t happen.

      What Jesus promised (and God also in the OT) was the Spirit of truth to show us all truth and be the righteousness and truth “written on our hearts”.

      Man created the Bible out of our need to gather and quantify written information. And now we have USURPED the Spirit and attempt to control people with this BOOK, rather than letting the Spirit use everything at His disposal (which might seem “messy” to some people) to bring others to the light. Mainstream christianity demands they come “through the book” rather than through the Spirit. The Spirit is reduced to merely a side-effect of coming to know the truth in “the BOOK.”

      And we have done and continue to do a great disservice to the world because of our dependence on a quite probably flawed and endlessly interpreted book. Would that we would go back to the Spirit and beg Him for the truth, and follow HIM, instead of continuously searching for the truth in written words.

      Rant over.

      And if you want to delete this, Chris, that’s fine. I just had to get it off my chest. 🙂

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