The history of Christianity and the return of Jesus (from an agnostic POV)


#1

This was an interesting read from another forum that I frequent. I’m curious to see what everyone here has to say about it.

I realize that this post will ruffle some feathers, especially among the deeply religious on this board, so I post this with the greatest respect to those people. This post does not take a stance on the divinity of Christ, and it is not meant to be anti-semitic. However, it is written from a liberal point-of-view.

Anyway, regardless of whether Jesus was divine or not, we can conclude several facts about his life. (These are related to the bible but are not directly taken to the bible, rather they were presented by Marcus Borg in his book “Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time”.)

  1. Jesus was a deeply religious character who preached about God.
  2. He had the ability to inspire people to follow his teachings.
  3. A large part of his message was the need to revise moral issues of that time in the area he preached, which was dominated by Jews.

Israel, at that time, was mostly ruled by the Jewish elite. A large part of the law back then was the set of “purity laws” that were in place. These laws, mostly taken from the book of Leviticus in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament). Much of these purity laws were based on the written words “Be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15-16). This sort of holiness became interpreted by the church as a strict requirement to be “pure” and “holy”.

Just before the time of Christ, it came to be that these purity laws were used to oppress women, the poor and the lame. The wealthy were considered to be “pure”, men were considered to be pure, and such. Women, the poor and the disabled were considered to be “impure”. Why? The church back then believed that the poor were so because they were not favoured by God, and hence became so. The fact that women were impure comes from The Fall of Man. Hence, the poor, women and the disabled were heavily oppressed by the Jewish ruling elite at that time.

Jesus’ message was primarily about equality and the love of God, and hence found the greatest audience among the poor. The ruling elite would have none of Jesus because his message did not suit their faith, and even moreso, did not suit their interests. Jesus was firmly in the left wing, while the Jewish had been in the right wing. The early Christian movement was also a left-wing movement, characterized by an idealogy of equality and rapid progression. Jesus was not particularly concerned with morality; he was after social reform. The Jewish church, on the other hand, was interested in morality.

While Jesus was obviously responsible for Christianity, much of its rapid spread was due to Paul of Tarsus. It is important to note that Paul’s teachings were focused towards the Gentiles, not Jews. Hence, instead of reforming the status quo, Christianity became a separate movement, creating a rift between Christians and Jews. The ones who followed Jesus were those who would benefit from his message, while the wealthier side stuck to their current religion and rejected the claims to divinity of Jesus and his teachings. By the 3rd century Constantine I began unofficially sponsoring Christianity, which contributed to its rapid growth.

Nowadays, Christianity has moved far away from its original state. It is completely removed from the left wing, and most Christians (especially fundamentalists) sit in the right wing. While some churches do spend much time advocating social programs, most churches use their political pull to enforce moral issues, trying to prevent the legalization of abortion, same-sex marriage, and occasionally, equal treatment for women. Similarly, most poor people have become athiest. Christianity is far more common among the upper class than in the lower class.

We are in a similar situation as we were two thousand years ago. Christians are awaiting the coming of the Messiah, just as Jews were back then. But there is a problem. Even if Jesus returns and delivers the same message as he did, it will be at odds with what the bulk of the Christian population would want to believe and it would go against their interests. Because we will probably have no way of verifying whether this newcomer is in fact the Messiah or not, the same thing is going to happen again. The majority of the Christian populace will reject him, and instead of reforming Christianity, a new religious movement made up of former non-believers will be started.


#2

[quote=RichSpidizzy]This was an interesting read from another forum that I frequent. I’m curious to see what everyone here has to say about it.
[/quote]

Who posted this?

It appears to be a revisionist view of history.

Let’s look at Jesus shall we.

He was a good teacher? Ok, what did he teach? About the poor? Yes. About equality? In what way? Was he a feminist? No. Did he teach about morals? Yes. Did he teach he was divine? Yes!

I know some scholars claim that he in fact did not teach that he was divine, that this was added later by the Christian community. But this is rejected by most biblical scholars as revisionist and does not make sense historically. For most Gentiles would view a true God/man as a philosophical contradiction, while Jews would view it as blasphamy. For early Christians to come up with this beleif on their own would be absurd.

So, Jesus did in fact teaches this. Why then would liberals see him as a good teacher? Borg would say that Jesus is not divine is the way most Christian say he is. He would say that Jesus was some sort of Shaman. That he was in touch with the divine in a special way like a Shaman is in touch with the divine.

C.S. Lewis put this to bed when he said that Jesus was either a liar, a lunatic, or Lord. If Jesus said he was divine and was not then he’s a liar. If he said he was divine and was not then he’s crazy. If he said he was divine and he is, then he is Lord. There is no other way.

Peace


#3

Very interesting thread. The Jewish elite’s idea of morality was engulfed by relativism. Jesus put an end to that, and look where we are now! :frowning:


#4

The writer makes a number of assertions that he does not support with evidence. Here are just a few (I don’t have a great deal of time, but these stick out):

“Jesus was firmly in the left wing, while the Jewish had been in the right wing.”

This is such a screwed-up point of view I hardly know what to say: to reduce the Son of God to a political activist is beyond belief. Jesus transcends “left” or “right”, even while those designations tend to mean different things in different times. A good, orthodox Catholic can be either liberal or conservative on a number of issues. If the writer wants to maintain his position, I would ask him to show proof. Christianity is more than “left” or “right”—it’s not “either/or”.

“While some churches do spend much time advocating social programs, most churches use their political pull to enforce moral issues, trying to prevent the legalization of abortion, same-sex marriage, and occasionally, equal treatment for women.”

The writer needs to give evidence to support this view. Of course, he can’t, which is why he doesn’t provide it. The facts speak otherwise: practicing Christians do give to charity, indeed much more than their secular neighbors. The writer is equating “support for the poor” with “supporting social programs”. Those on the left tend to do that (how convenient), but it is not un-Christian to prefer to give to charities directly instead of supporting government programs, many of which actually increase poverty by disrupting or destroying family bonds.

“Similarly, most poor people have become athiest. Christianity is far more common among the upper class than in the lower class.”

This isn’t what I have heard–quite the opposite, actually. Ask for proof.

“Even if Jesus returns and delivers the same message as he did, it will be at odds with what the bulk of the Christian population would want to believe and it would go against their interests.”

This is ludicrous. Jesus’ message is not “at odds” with what Christians believe. Granted, I think that Protestants have jettisoned important aspects of the Faith in varying degrees, and some have latched onto false doctrines, but what this writer claims is not supported by facts.


#5

When Jesus comes back, He will vindicate His Church, that what the Church taught was right.

The post by Rich seems a lot like what some “scholars” are advocating, especially John Dominic Crossan. The problem with that is that it does not take into account the historical context.

Jesus lived in Palestine 2,000 years ago in the context of a 2nd temple Judaism. He was a Jew who would debate scholars and other rabbis, which is very normal for Jews. Many Jews debated there too. There is a debated, for example, of what is considered as “work” on the Sabbath. For example, when Jesus and his disciples were picking grain, the Pharisees (I think) told him that he was wrong. But Jesus said no and even quoted an Old Testament passage to support his claim. Jesus simply had a different interpretation of what some of the Jews were saying.

Now, Jesus was also claiming that the “kingdom of God” is at hand. The phrase “kingdom of God” has an eschatological meaning, a meaning which means that Yahweh will liberate Israel and the whole comos. Jesus started a messianic movement, which was not really unique in the first century since there were many who were proclaiming to be messiahs as well. We can also say that He claimed to be higher than the angels. He said, “No one knows the hour. Man does not know the hour, not even the angels in heaven, NOR the Son.” He makes a scale from man to angel and then into the Son.

Finally, a final factor that must be said is that the Christian movement began as a resurrection movement. It is through the death and resurrection of Jesus that Yahweh will liberate the world. This was not simply a man who was a moral figure, but an eschatological figure, proclaiming himself as the mediator between man and Yahweh: “No one knows the Father except the Son and whoever he wishes to reveal Him.”

The followers of Jesus (as well as Jesus himself) interpreted Jewish texts like Isaiah in a way that was not conceived of in the first century. No one thought of a suffering and rising messiah. Why would they interpret such things if it never really happened? When a person started a messianic movement and died, the movement would have probably faded away or they would have found another messianic figure to follow. But the Chrisitan movement grew and it did not fade away. That’s because they truly believed that God raised Jesus from the dead.


#6

there are so many things wrong with this post but the one taht bothers me the most is that Jesus did not teach morality! Wow! now I don’t believe there can be a person out there who would ever make such an outrages statement, There are numerious acounts on which Jesus taught morality. It seems to me that this person is just trying to ruffle some feathers, I would not even give him the pleasure of a reply.


#7

Uh, he forgot to mention the miracles Jesus performed.


#8

the post you quoted mis-states Jewish belief at the time of Christ and now, mis-states Jesus’ teaching and mission, and mis-states the history of the early Church. I’d say toss it and spend your time on good Catholic websites.


#9

[quote=dennisknapp] Was he a feminist? No.
[/quote]

I agree that he was not a feminists in the modern sense but he did preach that women and men can both worship before God at the same time. He also accepted the poor and the lame. This was radical for it’s time.

[quote=Anonymous] Jesus’ message was primarily about equality and the love of God, and hence found the greatest audience among the poor.
[/quote]

I would revise this to “God loves eveyone equally.” He didn’t call both genders to be apostles but there were both among his disciples.

[quote=Anonymous] While Jesus was obviously responsible for Christianity, much of its rapid spread was due to Paul of Tarsus.
[/quote]

I would not agree completely. Paul was enormously influential of course, but there was extensive evangelizing in Asia Minor and Northern Africa that he didn’t evangelize directly. These areas were subsequently overwhelmed by Muslim expansion in later centuries. So I would revise the statement to: “areas where Christianity has remained dominant was influenced by the direct evangelization of Paul.”

[quote=Sherlock]This is such a screwed-up point of view I hardly know what to say: to reduce the Son of God to a political activist is beyond belief. Jesus transcends “left” or “right”, even while those designations tend to mean different things in different times. A good, orthodox Catholic can be either liberal or conservative on a number of issues. If the writer wants to maintain his position, I would ask him to show proof. Christianity is more than “left” or “right”—it’s not “either/or”.
[/quote]

I believe it would be more charitable to say “I believe this view point to be misguided,” Otherwise, I agree completely with your statement.

[quote=Sherlock] The facts speak otherwise: practicing Christians do give to charity, indeed much more than their secular neighbors. The writer is equating “support for the poor” with “supporting social programs”. Those on the left tend to do that (how convenient), but it is not un-Christian to prefer to give to charities directly instead of supporting government programs, many of which actually increase poverty by disrupting or destroying family bonds.
[/quote]

It would be interesting to find statistics to support either conclusion. I agree that churchgoers would more likely support their local church and secularists might support planned parenthood and secular, liberal arts performances. I’d like to see how the groups some down on support he poor though.

[quote=Anonymous] Similarly, most poor people have become athiest. Christianity is far more common among the upper class than in the lower class
[/quote]

I don’t believe any socioeconomic group has a majority of atheists. I the US, atheists/agnostics account for 20% of the total population at most. They are vocal though. I agree that Christianity is most popular among the poor. The Catholic Church is doing best in the Third World while the US and epically Europe has become increasingly secularized.

[quote=Anonymous] While some churches do spend much time advocating social programs, most churches use their political pull to enforce moral issues, trying to prevent the legalization of abortion, same-sex marriage, and occasionally, equal treatment for women.
[/quote]

That’s not the teaching of the RCC. There was a good link to a statement by Denver’s Archbiship on a different thread a couple of days ago. In the statement he said:

*Some of you may remember that a year ago I was part of a rally on the Capitol steps to protect state funding for the poor and homeless. But you didn’t read about it in the Rocky or the Denver Post, because they didn’t cover it. *

*Last September, just a few weeks before the election, I preached a homily to 5,000 people at Red Rocks, and I had them repeat out loud three times that if we forget the poor, we’ll go to hell. That’s one of the principles of Catholic social teaching. If we forget the poor, God will forget us. By our indifference, we will damn ourselves. But you didn’t read about that in the press either, because – again – nobody covered it. *

It shows that the press will cover the contentious moral issues but less contentious issues don’t get the same coverage. This is one of the reasons the teachings of the RCC are not known/understood by the general public.

The full statement is here.

Peace.


#10

Doesn’t every generation attribute to Jesus Christ the fads and fashions of the day?

We unfortunately are on the tail end of the “tie-dye kum-ba-ya” Jesus.

The post at the start of this thread is pretty much a parody of modern liberalism.

The tide is going the other way, thankfully.


#11

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