People I love and respect are committed to Christianity as it exists today. And so I’m relieved that they’ve acclimated to me and won’t take this personally… because it needs to be said:
Modern Christianity is something Jesus would condemn.
And yes, “condemn” is the right word. Do you remember all those passages where Jesus rails against the religious “hypocrites” of his own time? Well, he’d be doing the same if he were here now.
Let’s take these three lines as a warm-up:
Jesus never mentioned the virgin birth.
Jesus never mentioned original sin.
None of these doctrines originated with Jesus. All of them were religious additions… later additions. Jesus never taught them.
Does This Offend You?
I am openly driving a wedge between Jesus and “Christianity” here, and I’m not going to apologize for it. My sympathies lie with Jesus rather than Christianity. If this offends anyone, I dare suggest that they consider their priorities.
The truth is that Jesus was more radical than religious people have ever been able to accept. How many of his original “disciples,” after all, were from a religious background? They were mostly fishermen and construction workers.
How strange, then, that within a century or two, intellectuals would take over entirely. And they did: Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Ambrose, Clement of Alexandria, Cyprian of Carthage, and Augustine were all professional intellectuals before they encountered Christianity. They changed a great many things.
We do, however, have records of average believers in the early days. We haven’t space for details here, but you can find them in several issues of our subscription letter. And what we find in those records looks nothing like modern Christianity. We see people devoted to good works rather than incessant talking. And we see no Bible devotion. In fact, the first mention of reading anything like a Bible reading in a meeting comes at 155 AD (several generations after Jesus), and calls the passages “memoirs.” Whether church people like that or not, it’s a fact.
“But the Apostles Taught Jesus’s Way”
Sorry, they didn’t. They were good men, and they tried. But they didn’t understand Jesus very well (lots of evidence for that), and they soon fought among themselves. And here’s a very telling fact:
In the New Testament, Jesus is noted as expressing “compassion” in six separate incidents and weeping over a death in a seventh. In a striking contrast, such actions are never attributed to any of “the apostles.”
The Way of Salvation
Christianity offers “salvation” to people based upon keeping sacraments, membership in a group, appeals to “accept his Word,” admonishment to “surrender to him,” and so on. Jesus’s teachings, however, are wildly different:
No one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.
Every plant which my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up.
All that the Father gives me will come to me.
In all of these cases, internal enlightenment is the only path to salvation. Either you get something from the Father, or you don’t. And that’s it. End of discussion.
This passage makes the same point:
You are blessed… because flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father….
We also see this in the earliest followers. At about 130 AD, an old man – old enough to have known some of the very first believers – tells a young man this:
Pray that, above all things, the gates of light may be opened to you; for these things cannot be perceived or understood by all, but only by the man to whom God and his anointed have imparted wisdom.
It would be hard to overstress the implications of this teaching. And it’s incompatible with the doctrines of the churches.
One Final Point
There’s much more to be said on this (again, see the subscription letters), but I can summarize this way:
All that matters to Jesus is the real, the essential. He flatly rejects the value of form, ritual, and symbolism. Everything hinges on actual substance and on nothing else.
Jesus declares authority to be worthless. He declares tradition to be worthless. He declares acts of devotion to be worthless. The only thing that matters is what you are. No exceptions; no wiggle room. And if what you are isn’t sufficient, then change your mind (that’s the actual meaning of repent) and get busy fixing it.
Perhaps that’s still too radical for mankind to bear, but it is what he taught.
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A book that generates comments like these, from actual readers, might be worth your time:
I just finished reading The Breaking Dawn and found it to be one of the most thought-provoking, amazing books I have ever read… It will be hard to read another book now that I’ve read this book… I want everyone to read it.
Such a tour de force, so many ideas. And I am amazed at the courage to write such a book, that challenges so many people’s conceptions.
There were so many points where it was hard to read, I was so choked up.
Holy moly! I was familiar with most of the themes presented in A Lodging of Wayfaring Men, but I am still trying to wrap my head around the concepts you presented at the end of this one.
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