Religious Dogma / Rethinking Christianity

Rethinking Christianity

Icon depicting the First Council of Nicaea.

Icon depicting the First Council of Nicaea. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Many of the posts I write are categorized in my blog category, “Rethinking Christianity”. These writings are due to my curiosity about how Christianity became the theology that it is and what would it have been if it had not be influenced by the Greeks (Hellenization), Paul (Pauline Christianity) and Constantine (pagan infusions). Would it have even survived if it had remained the teachings of a first century Jewish rabbi in early Palestine? Many scholars believe that it would not have flourished, especially without the intervention of Paul, and would have faded into history as just another short lived fringe cult of Judaism. Which always brings to my mind the question of how then Jesus became recognized in other religions. Is it just that followers of other religions are simply showing respect to Christians by recognizing their Holy Man? If so, then it is a one sided courtesy because Christians certainly do not recognize the Holy Men of other religions, except as misguided pawns of satan.

The history of Christianity is no longer privileged information kept in elite inner circles of theologians and academics. The origins of Christianity are now on public display for anyone who chooses to research and learn about it. We can read masses of information on the internet, in books, and hear startling disclosures during lectures and conferences. The truth of Christianity is that it is not a sanctified covenant established by God through Christ, taught to us by the disciples who followed Jesus, and divinely maintained by the selection of God-ordained men teaching the gospel truth. It is a religion born of Hellenistic influence, division between apostles and restructured paganism by the ancient Roman Empire. Many others who discover what I have decide to close the door and walk away. Others make it a mission to debunk it. I chose to rethink it; to attempt to understand what Christianity would have been, as it was in the beginning, before Constantine, before Paul and from the mind of Jesus.

In rethinking Christianity certain questions arise: What is sin? What is the meaning of baptism? Is hell real? Is Satan real? Was Jesus God? What is salvation? Why did Jesus have to die? What is the purpose of spirituality and the quest to know God?

These are fear inducing questions for most indoctrinated Christians. I understand why. Breaking the grip of a deeply ingrained hell doctrine is just too terror paralyzing for many to attempt. It was hard for me in the beginning. There were always thoughts that if I was embarking onto a wrong path my soul was imperiled. What helped me to step past those thoughts was reading bible scriptures that instructed the faithful to search out the truth. But once I started I could not stop, and before long I realized that I could not define myself as a Christian, of any degree, casual or devout.

Once something is known it can’t become unknown. I have drifted through periods of agnosticism, in and out of progressive and liberal theologies and finally into an expanding acceptance of mysticism and being spiritual but not religious. But still, I have a curiosity about Jesus and Christianity, and whether or not there was a message taught by a first century sage that became buried beneath the foundation of a religion.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. (Romans 12:2)


15 thoughts on “Rethinking Christianity

  1. Thanks for the personal insights. Of course, the divinity of Jesus was the result of a vote at the Council of Nicaea. I wonder what would have happened if the vote had gone the other way?

    • That is an interesting question that I wonder about also. I tend to think that if Jesus had not been deified and left to history as a wise and holy man much of the hate towards others would be less present since Christians would not have as much basis to perceive themselves as exclusively endowed. But since Jesus was deified, doctrines and text manipulations had to be formed to continue to perpetuate his deity and therefore promoting the belief that Christians hold that they alone are chosen and righteous.

      Your writings have enhanced my understanding of Christian history and I appreciate that you are writing posts which may encourage others to start their own research and consider what and why they believe.

  2. Hmm, I had always wagered from your blog that you still stuck within the general chrisitian umbrella theologically. If not, what keeps you coming back and what is that core idea you’re musing on?

    Have you checked out Daoism btw? Some scholars seem to point to a higher than normal Jesus connection there, though Ive somewhat felt it a stretch. Still the question of was the scope of Jesus’s more immediate impact is interesting. It would appear giant, and yet the “historical” texts seem oddly quite quiet on him.

  3. I was raised in a Christian home so I am sure that Christianity still tints my point of view in some degree, but I consider myself connected to the traditional Christian religion only as a student of the teachings of Jesus. I still consider him to be a powerful and influential figure in spirituality. In fact, more so now than I ever did before as a Christian.

    I think the teachings of “the way” in Taoism, “enlightenment” in Buddhism and “kingdom of God” in Christianity are interesting similar. I suppose the core upon which I muse is that in spirituality there is a oneness, not segregation. The bible has a great deal of mysticism that Christians are taught to ignore. Some of my posts are intended as a gentle prod to Christians to lay aside their doctrines for a moment and consider the origins of their beliefs, or as in atheism that bolstering logic and reasoning alone is missing the intuition that drives the human spirit, and will eventually grow dark and bitter. Looking back over my blog after your comment, I see that some of my posts are reactive to the dueling philosophies of Christians and atheists. Perhaps it is time I start writing more on my changed perspective with spirituality.

    • For seekers such as yourself, there is inevitably a point at which one leaves religion behind in order to fully embrace one’s evolving self.

    • You sounds like me in some ways. Sometimes I just waver over on to the materialist field (though I strongly dislike it, there is a festering bitterness potential there indeed). I’ll dare you though to come up with a name for yourself if you can hah. Of course there’s no reason to have to, but trying to helped me stumbled over some useful terminology and philosophic threads. I might go with “ietsist” for now, maybe you can join the crew.

      • I had to google “ietsist”, and agree that I could refer to myself as a “somethinger”. Really, a label just doesn’t seem to fit me either. I usually, for simplicity, just call myself spiritual but not religious, but that is yet another term growing to represent many vast and varying viewpoints. I recently saw where a fundamentalist called himself SBNR because he didn’t agree with the doctrines outside of his church and felt like his church had found the true way. Ha, ha. It all just makes me laugh sometimes. Silly humans!

  4. Good post! I come from a very different background, having been raised by an atheistic agnostic. Yet I have come to many of the same conclusions you have. Jesus was an important prophet and purveyor of spiritual truth, but his message has been largely distorted by organized Christianity. Moreover, I believe that the spiritual basis of all religions lies in a common source, which we glimpse only dimly and occasionally. And we humans (or most of us) feel a need to connect with that source.

    • I find it very interesting that we, having come from such different backgrounds, have arrived at much of the same conclusions about spirituality. I agree that humans seem to have an innate “longing” to connect with a source beyond our understanding and that we dimly glimpse the presence of that source on occasion. I suppose that is what motivates me to keep looking and openly considering all possibilities.

  5. I have to disagree, based on my own formal university studies in history, ancient anthropology, philosophy and religion. Sorry 😦 I like most of your posts and the spirit of love and unity is a good thing which I appreciate when you write of it.

    But lately I am finding much with which I disagree, based mostly on your references to “scholarship”. I don’t align with Christianity (the modern popular christian culture) either, but I don’t think all of your points here hold water in the halls of peer reviewed scholarship.

    I don’t know what you actually read, but some of your comments sound very much like the sensationalist pop writings found in local book stores, which real scholars actually reject (there’s a reason those sensationalist books are sold in pop book stores rather than as university texts). 🙂 They tend to be more about marketing, propaganda and big bucks because humans gravitate toward sensationalism and everyone likes to think they know more than they really do. The stuff accepted by scholars is actually more “boring” and not so sensational because it hardly ever points to conspiracy, deliberate deceit, and so forth as sensationalist propagandists claim.

    Sorry about that. I hate expressing disagreement because it can be misconstrued as being divisionist. But I just wanted to express my thoughts nonetheless.

  6. It is ok if we have different points of view. Since I am not subscribed to a dogma that I need to defend, I honestly appreciate opposing viewpoints that give me something outside of my own thoughts to consider.

    My formal education is not in the sciences or religion (Business, Psychology, Sociology). So I am sure your education has given you a particular insight that I am not privy too. But I do read a lot of philosophical, historical and religious works. I generally do not read the type of sensationalized material that you reference, but have on occasion read some if the subject matter is interesting to me. Not any one work by itself causes me to form a conclusion, but rather I form my conclusions after reading quite a lot of material and comparing it to similar and opposing bodies of thought. As for new writings I try to read material written by biblical scholars and historians with credentials. I admit I have ventured away from reading works written as apologetics which defend traditional dogma because it is usually the same arguments of which I have already determined that I agree or disagree with.

    I realize that many are not going to agree with what I express. I am respectful to everyone’s point of view and am open to discussion as long as it doesn’t become a personal attack on my right to interpret and express my own point of view, or that of anyone else to do the same. 🙂

  7. Thanks for your gracious reply. As I said, I hate disagreeing because some people don’t take it well, and some people assume it is anti-peace. I also have formal education in Psychology on top of my other education (a good thing about Australia is that tertiary education is accessible… for the time being).

    I don’t have a problem with freedom of speech and “God-forbid” I attack anybody personally! It’s just that I think if any of us wish to use our freedom of speech to attack what others hold dear, then we ought to either stick to that which we know by adequate education or from reputable peer reviewed works, so that the sting of attack at least comes with verifiable weight, or we use our freedom responsibly by remaining silent on matters where we aren’t as informed as would be required for such an attack.

    There’s obviously no problem with us all having different views, but it would be remiss of me to attack any view based on here-say and pop culture books rather than on real, verified, scholarly work. I choose to hold a certain view, and that view differs from yours and many others. I do not believe what you believe, but out of respect and recognising my limited understanding of the basis and history of your philosophy I will remain silent on that aspect. I just feel the world would be a better place if we focussed on common ground and peace making, rather than on finding often mythological bases for fault finding in one another.

    I do not call myself a christian in the sense of what many people stereo type christians as, but I do believe in the unique deity of Christ, because from years of personal searching and harassing my history lecturers, I have been able to make this choice on what I feel are good grounds. In fact, all the studies I have undertaken have been driven by my spiritual search, and they have led me to a faith in Christ and in the Biblical texts written about him.

    I have no intention of attacking you personally or of belittling your philosophy/spirituality. To the contrary I intend on finding our common ground and on encouraging you in what is meaningful to you, putting aside those things about which we both may find fault in one another.

    My view on freedom is that it shows we are most free when we can rein in our rights for the sake of respecting others instead of just using our freedom to say whatever we want regardless of evidence or the affect of our words. Going on instinct (self driven need) is not freedom. Choosing to set self aside for another is freedom indeed because it is not just freedom from oppression, but freedom from self’s power to undermine us. Therefore true freedom of speech manifests itself in the wisdom to remain silent instead of attacking, and to instead use our words for peace and unity when opportunity arises. There are many, many things we could all find that separate our beliefs from another, but dwelling on them, over-reaching in targeting them, and speaking when we lack adequate knowledge, fuels conflict. I want to see our world and all our traditions live in peace together.

    That’s my view anyhow. This is not an attack on you. I respect you greatly. I only chose to speak out this time because I felt your words caused me personal anguish, especially knowing that based on my formal education, there is a large deal of secular scholarship (not merely religious apologetics) which challenges your claims; so much in fact that it outweighs the books written by those few who report unverifiable stories of religious conspiracy etc. If I didn’t know, based on my own education, about the weight of scholarship which goes agaisnt what you wrote I would have remained silent on the matter. I don’t know if I make any sense there but I am not writing this to provoke a ‘war’ but to just respond in kind to your gracious reply.

    Peace and blessings to you. May your ongoing journey bring you peace within, and between yourself and those with whom you interact. Peace to all.

    Take care

    • I am distressed that my writing caused you any measure of personal anguish and regret that happened. I also know from comments and emails that other readers find my writing helpful which allows me some relief in knowing that my writing can equally disturb and upset others. I agree with you that people should try to peacefully coexist, even with our vast and varying beliefs and opinions, and to use some measure of restraint when expressing our thoughts to minimize anger and hurt feelings in others. While I post some of my personal perspectives, I do not post them all and for that reason.
      Please do not allow anything that I write to distress you. Scroll past it with the understanding that I, like you, am not writing in this blog to persuade others to align with my thinking, but rather to share my spiritual struggles with loosing and re-finding my faith.

  8. p.s. what I write in my own blog is not written to influence or teach others what to think about my faith or about any other faith. I use my blog as my personal (but public) diary/journal of my own times of reading and reflecting on various spiritual texts (currently that happens to be a new testament document). I do not wish to use my blog to belittle another religion.

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