My Understanding of Christianity

I have been asked more than once, including recently, what my understanding of Christianity is. I thought I would share an excerpt from a message I sent to someone who asked me that very recently, since others might find it interesting. Here’s what I wrote:

I find it as hard to define “Christianity” in any absolute doctrinal terms as I find it to define “religion” and “monotheism” and other terms as a scholar. It seems like every term that human beings use, we use in different or multifaceted ways.

Lately, I am more troubled by my failure to really do something to lessen injustice in the world than my lack of clarity on doctrinal matters. And I suspect that one reason why, as human beings, we have historically focused so much attention on trying to please God by describing him accurately is that, however difficult that may be to do, it is still less demanding of us than loving our enemies, feeding the hungry, and setting the captives free.

That is not to say that what we believe is completely unimportant. But it seems to me that the call to actually follow Jesus can be viewed as more central to the definition of Christianity than anything else. And so for all the challenges, or perhaps impossibility, of coming up with the perfect description of him, I suspect that it may be more Christian to actually follow in practice a Jesus we do not completely understand, than to get as close as possible to understanding a Jesus we don’t really follow.

  • Anonymous

    I agree, James. Our actions are much more important.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13483419817200339955 Paul D.

    "I suspect that it may be more Christian to actually follow in practice a Jesus we do not completely understand, than to get as close as possible to understanding a Jesus we don't really follow."In a nutshell.

  • http://afeatheradrift.wordpress.com Sherry Peyton

    Your remarks come at an important time for me, as I too have realized that perhaps I spend a bit too much time in doctrinal matters and not enough in living out the call. I've turned in a more mystical spiritual direction as of late, and find that I am again moving along the path. I guess that the Spirit directs us as needed, if we but listen. Blessings James.

  • http://yoomoot.com/cojadate/wrote/ Nicolas

    First off, since this is the first time I've commented on your blog, may I say that I really appreciate all your blog posts. Ruthlessly lucid thinking on religion from someone who doesn't have a massive ideological axe to grind is always wonderful to take in.I like your take on Christianity here, but would suggest that the significance of "the call to follow Jesus" is very much about doctrine.The best way I can explain my thinking is by describing my own relationship with Christianity and ethics in general. I don't need religion or belief in the supernatural to understand that Jesus, as portrayed in the gospels, lived a radically good life, espoused radically humane and beneficial principles, and that, if I wanted to dedicate my life to the welfare of humanity, I should follow those principles.The problem is that I don't want to dedicate my life to the welfare of humanity. It's sad and shameful, but I don't care sufficiently about strangers and enemies to want to genuinely follow Jesus' principles. For example, if I were genuinely following Jesus I don't see how I could justify going to the cinema when I could give my money to combat starvation, extreme poverty or life-threatening diseases instead. Maybe Jesus would occasionally have gone to the cinema for the sake of having fellowship with cinema-goers, but in general he surely wouldn't spent money on such frivolities when that money could do so much to help the suffering.Being the self-centred person I am, I'd rather put myself and my friends first, and give a little of my leftovers to help suffering strangers, because that makes me feel "good enough". No-one I know expects people to make radical sacrifices for strangers, so I don't expect it of myself either. If I truly believed that Jesus' message came from God, I *would* make much greater sacrifices for strangers and enemies, and not put myself first so much. I know this because I used to have a real faith in Christianity, and I was more conscientious during that period.So although the call to follow Jesus is far more central to Christianity than doctrine, the power of that call is hugely affected by doctrine, at least for self-centred people like me!

  • http://jrdkirk.com J. R. Daniel Kirk

    Outstanding post, James!

  • daniel o

    AMEN!!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04335917715944481443 Gary

    So called Counsel of Perfection, Matt 19:21 "If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor…and come, follow me". Followed shortly be Matt 19:24 "easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of god". Jesus knew humans pretty well, and must have had a good sense of humor. Ideal vs reality for humans.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00681934865643964687 JSA

    "I suspect that it may be more Christian to actually follow in practice a Jesus we do not completely understand, than to get as close as possible to understanding a Jesus we don't really follow."I think there is a bit of a false dilemma being posed here. It needn't be a binary choice between "following Jesus" and "completely understanding" Jesus.First, there is a minimal level of understanding of Jesus that is required before efforts to help the poor in Christ's name are anything but counterproductive. Second, once you are past this very small doctrinal hump, then helping the poor is how you learn to understand Jesus more completely. This is exactly what Jesus is saying in Matthew 25:40 and 26:11. If you want to experience Jesus, go lift up the hopeless and helpless."really do something to lessen injustice in the world"Thankfully, Jesus didn't command us to achieve a net change in the overall level of poverty or justice in the world. He just commanded us to love the last, the lost, and the least, personally. We're told to be like the good Samaritan, who helped the hurting person directly. We are not to be like the priest and the Levite, who probably reasoned that their prompt service at synagogue was going to accrue indirectly to a much greater net improvement in the moral client, versus direct help of a single worthless man.I think that's part of why there is this emphasis on widows, orphans, and prisoners. They are people who are going to have the lowest net capability to pass on the help that you give them. If you wanted to really "scale" your charity, and make sure to have the "largest net impact", you would help people with much better future prospects — young unmarried ladies with good breeding potential, kids with powerful parents, and rich people who were temporarily in danger. As far as I can tell, Jesus wasn't a proponent of "scaling out" charity.

  • Anonymous

    This post is silly, it is just a way for James to avoid answering the question and feel like he is taking the moral high ground. We all certainly understand that social justice is important, I hope we all are doing things in our lives to help the poor and needy. But, James if you are going to blog on things like the Bible, Jesus, the resurrection, and faith, people are going to want to know what you think and believe, if you do not want to say that is fine, but don't demean your readers by telling us that justice, not doctrine, is the important thing here, when that is not what your entire blog is about! Also, James, I do not want to come off as mean-spirited, I do enjoy your blog and read your posts quite regularly and I have learned a lot. Its just that your insights are generally much better than this.

  • http://www.freeratio.org Toto

    There are Buddhists, Muslims, atheists, and others who feed the hungry and fight injustice. Is there any point to Christianity then? Would Christians do better to dissolve their churches and seminaries and make common cause with others who want to do good, and jettison the baggage of so much that is counterproductive in Christian history?Toto

  • Anonymous

    What is Christianity?Not “what Jesus believed.” It isn't true that evil demons haunt the soul and can be exorcised. Granted, there's metaphorical truth here. But psychiatric medicine, with all its pretensions and limitations, can do better. It isn't true that God will come to us and transform our world. Granted, that the last shall be first has its attractions, as does the notion of a God-ruled world where even the fall of a sparrow matters. Granted further that for a first-century Jewish prophet, it was no stretch to hold that the kingdom was at hand or even that one would be its viceroy. But suppose one has a modicum of skepticism about God's interventionism and some appreciation of how it may be arbitrary to praise God for the good things of life and give him a pass as to the bad ones. Then one knows that God, if He's there at all, is well hidden, if not distant at any rate hard to discern in the darkness. Perhaps Christianity is what Paul believed—the foregoing, coupled with the notions Jesus had risen from the dead and would soon return to lead the Kingdom he had proclaimed. Suppose we would all do better to intensify our efforts to do justice and succor the afflicted. What would motivate us to do so? Those who write ads and letters for Oxfam and Human Rights Watch know—they seek to elicit our sympathy for starving children and violated women. They tug right at our heartstrings, put a human face on suffering. They don't, and since the Enlightenment they need not, cite scripture or doctrine. A good deal of what comes our way from the pulpit, far from eliciting sympathy for others, is intended to instill fear and arouse hatred. A good deal of the rest is a distraction from human betterment and a misdirection of resources toward spreading superstitious beliefs. Some does tell us “Jesus/God would have you do justice and succor the afflicted.” Of what added value are the first four words of this admonition? What is Christianity if not a farrago of false beliefs and a distraction or worse from justice and beneficence?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00681934865643964687 JSA

    @toto, @anon – Obviously James doesn't think that feeding the poor is all there is to it. What I hear him saying is that he's going to focus on loving Christ by loving the downtrodden, and he's going to ignore all of the jackasses who keep trying to bait him into saying something they can accuse of being heresy.It's his house, and if he wants to focus on the topics that interest him, that's his prerogative. There is certainly no obligation for anyone to allow his own personal blog to become a platform for tendentious douchebags to challenge everyone else's orthodoxy. You can get your own blog, and use it to hold James McGrath accountable. You can call out false teachers along with their pictures, like this site does. Use exciting headlines, like "J.Vernon McGee is a Dead False Teacher". I'm sure people would read it.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12509596389764649667 Jay

    While what James says is beautiful, like Toto, says it doesn't really answer the question why James is CHRISTian as in contrast to for example Buddhist or Jewish.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09248241050776947372 Rev Tony B

    "I suspect that it may be more Christian to actually follow in practice a Jesus we do not completely understand, than to get as close as possible to understanding a Jesus we don't really follow."Spot on. That deserves to be more widely heard. I'll pass it on…

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00681934865643964687 JSA

    "While what James says is beautiful, like Toto, says it doesn't really answer the question why James is CHRISTian"Very good point, Jay. James also conveniently avoids addressing the questions about whether or not he cheated on his taxes, is a natural-born citizen, or beats his wife.

  • http://yoomoot.com/cojadate/wrote/ Nicolas

    @Anonymous:'Some does tell us “Jesus/God would have you do justice and succor the afflicted.” Of what added value are the first four words of this admonition?'The added value comes from the fact that empathy alone is rarely enough to radically orient our lives toward helping strangers and enemies. Sometimes we feel sympathy for strangers and want to spend time and money on helping them, sometimes we really don't, and we're more concerned with saving up for our future, spending some money on a good night out, achieving the pinnacle of our profession, relaxing on an exotic holiday or a myriad of other perfectly normal things that would lead us to spend our time and money on something other than serving others. Sometimes we feel like being honest with others, sometimes we prefer to make life more convenient for ourselves with a few white lies. Sometimes we take care never to snap at others and deal with our bad moods, sometimes we unfairly take bad moods out on other people and it makes us feel better. Sometimes we feel like befriending the outcast and the misfit, sometimes we feel more like ignoring them or joining in with their mockery. Sometimes we feel like spending time with those in need, sometimes we'd rather spend time with happy, amusing people who we know will make us happy and amused.However, if you believe that there is a moral order to the universe, that the most noble path for a human to walk is the one of service to others, and you make a solemn and sincere decision to walk down that path and put it above all other things, then feelings of sympathy are going to be given greater priority than other feelings. Even when you're not feeling sympathetic, you'll still have a belief that you should be feeling and at least should be acting sympathetically.Humans are a bundle of conflicting motivations and personalities. With a committed, conscious dedication to a life of service to others, the "service to others" ethos is more likely to win out over the other motivations.I speak as someone is NOT trying to imitate Christ's dedicated service to others, but who did used to try. Without God, I find no reason to dedicate my life to any particular way of life. Without dedication to a particular way of life, all I have left are my feelings. My feelings are rarely anything like as radically, recklessly, noble-hearted as Jesus' are meant to have been. I don't think most other people's are either.

  • http://yoomoot.com/cojadate/wrote/ Nicolas

    @Toto and @Jay:I know your questions were directed at James, but I hope you don't mind if I throw my controversial two cents in:As far as I know (and please correct me if I'm wrong), only Christianity has consistently made all the following claims:1) People should dedicate their whole lives to Love. They should worship nothing but Love. Compromise and "good enough" is unacceptable.2) People should love others as themselves (as opposed to the weaker idea that "people should avoid doing to others what they wouldn't want done to themselves").3) Absolutely ALL moral principles are based on the above two principles. If a principle conflicts with the above two principles, it is not a true moral principle.4) People should love their enemies.I believe its possible to interpret Judaism, Islam and Buddhism in such a way that they accord with the above claims, but I don't think they make the above claims anything like as explicitly as Christianity does.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    JS, are you suggesting that I will need to make the long form of my birth certificate available in order to have this post taken seriously? :-)The same person whose question prompted this post asked me why one should follow someone who was wrong about the end of the world coming within the generation to which he spoke. My answer to that would be the same as my answer to many of the questions offered here, explicitly or implicitly. The short answer is that whenever we submit to an authority or follow a leader, we ourselves choose that authority. We cannot somehow shift responsibility outside of ourselves. And in the case of Jesus, I don't think the question will ev be anything other than whether one finds his teaching, his example and his person compelling and attractive. The answer might depend on the way Jesus has been depicted, the literature one has read, whether the sources one is exposed to a historians, Gospels or creeds. But I think ultimately the question is the same, and boils down to hearing a call and either being attracted or repulsed by it. And in some cases, the call may well rightly be deemed repulsive. In others, we are called to self-sacrifice and are repulsed not by unattractive dogma but by our own self interest. But as for the question of why I am a Christian, it is because I had a life-Changing experience mediated to me through Christianity. But there is no reason to think that Jesus would not have said to Buddhists as he also said to Jews, that they are not far from the kingdom of God. None of the people Jesus spoke to in the Gospels were "Christians."

  • Anonymous

    James. great points!GakuseiDon

  • Daniel

    Very nice!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13036816926421936940 Edward T. Babinski

    James, So everyone who does anything kind for their neighbor or their enemy is really a "Christian" but they don't know it? Or maybe they are a Buddhist and don't know it? Or maybe they are a humanist and don't know it? Etc. etc.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13036816926421936940 Edward T. Babinski

    James, Can you describe your life-changing experience? Maybe you've done so in a previous blog post? I have a long piece over at the Secular Web titled, "The Uniqueness of the Christian Experience" that you might want to read.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09826280552590911315 Alethinon61

    Hi James,FYI, since you referred to my question I should clarify that it wasn't my intent to have you define Christianity; I was asking you to explain what the claim "I'm a Christian" means to you and what your message would be if you were to decide to become a modern-day Apostle Paul. Your answer is pretty much "I don't know, so it may be best to simply follow Jesus." Well, o.k., but whose Jesus do you suggest that we follow? Given your commitment to ischolartry and the lack of scholarly consensus about what Jesus' footprints looked like and whether they can be traced, there's the possibility that you've merely substituted one ambiguous phrase with another, isn't it?~Kaz

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09826280552590911315 Alethinon61

    Sorry, replace "isn't it?" with "isn't there?"

  • Anonymous

    I follow Jesus, even though he was mistaken about the end of the world because he wrong for the right reasons. He wanted God to bring good news to the poor and hold the bad people responsible. Jesus' dream is everybody's dream or at least it should be. And if he was deluded in thinking that than at least his delusion was a healthy one. So despite him being mistaken he exactly wasn't "wrong" per se. Though if I were a modern day Paul who went out on several missions to somewhere like Africa or Asia my message would probably be something like this, "If you hearken to Christ call to 'follow him' you will enter into the full human experience. Despite what some may have told you, simply following Christ will not magically make your problems go away. The apostles still experienced tribulation in his fellowship and finally so did he. But what following Christ means [for me] is being able to transform the lives of others and ourselves for the better. We must live as though the Kingdom of God were near [at least ethically]."I don't really, I mean I'm not an eloquent speaker. Though neither was Paul.Brian

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18033875369678939413 Bernard

    I always wondered why a minimalist Christian can still call himself a Christian. Because he considers Jesus as a sage and teacher?If it is the case, then you have to pick and chose among sayings, parables & discourses in the gospels, because many of those are obvious propaganda, not relevant in today world, emanation of a false prophet, absurdities, not socially workable or simply ugly (as anti-family). What you have left is a small corpus of ideas (mostly as one-liner type) which have been probably better expressed by others, such as Greek philosophers and Jewish scriptures (including apocrypha). And if many have been deleted, what are the chances the deemed authentic ones are from Jesus?Would that be enough to substantiate any religious faith? I do not think so.Of course, I would like to hear more about the life-changing experience of Dr. McGrath, which might be the main eason for his brand of Christianity.

  • Antonio Jerez

    As I have said before – the message James and other different liberal Christians have doesn´t work very well if you are going to use it for missionary purposes. You can´t go around in villages in Guatemala or Burundi saying that you should become a Christian but a lot what of what my guru and his earliest followers taught is false and I don´t even know for sure what their message really was. And since I really don´t know what my guru said and his earliest followers often contradict each other I feel perfectly free to contradict them myself. I don´t doubt for a moment that James has had a personal "experience" that makes him believe that Christianity is "true" despite him acknowledging that so much that comes in the package is obviusly untrue. I think James is close to the position the russian writer Dostoevsky once held; I believe in God despite so much in the world around me saying that he doesn´t exist…

  • Anonymous

    Anonymous 11:22 I think is to be commended for seeing (as, incidentally does also Maurice Casey) that Jesus’s mistake in timing does not really justify dismissing him. Far too many students of the Mark, Matthew, Paul, who should know better (N.T. Wright and Witherington among them)–should, and perhaps deep down do–distort the evidence to keep their comfort level high. But still, having undergone a life-changing experience only raises questions of veridicality, and standing alone is non-probative.

  • Anonymous

    I don't think liberal is the right label for me, I mean I take different positions depending on the issue in question. Unlike most liberals, I affirm that ritual is a crucial element in religion. As for what I can tell the poor in places like Africa or Asia. Besides, I think they would be more interested in the message of Jesus than they would in the question of whether or not demons exist or the possibility of miracles.Anyway shouldn't we make a distinction between culturally [and historically] conditioned beleifs over the truly timeless ones? The only reason Paul believed in a geocentric universe was because that was what the culture of the time believed. As for his idea's on radical love and concern for the other, that is something that you and I can both agree with, correct?Brian

  • Antonio Jerez

    To take things from a little philosophical angle. I have lately come more and more to question the mental sanity of a kind of god who has no better way to send instructions of behaviour to some creatures on a blue planet than through the mouth of a particular creature who is so far removed in time that it is often hard to grasp the meaning of what he may have actually wanted to say. It is hardly the creatures on the blue planets fault that they can´t agree about what a saying like "render to unto Ceasar the things which are Ceasars, and to God…" really means. The blame should be put on the one who is to remote and uninvolved in things to give us the proper context of things…

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Anonymous 2:02! Though I would have to thank Dale Allison and Albert Schweitzer [along with Thom Stark, and Panneberg] for shaping my view on a mistaken Jesus, I never read Maurice Casey in his entireity, though I plan too.Brian

  • Anonymous

    If you want to blame God for being a total screw up then you are in good company, you have people like Job and me! But more honestly, I don't have all the answers, though just because I don't have the words to articulate my new beliefs doesn't mean that I should abandon the whole project. Brian

  • Antonio Jerez

    Anonymous,you seem to leave out of the equation (just like James does most of the time) that much of the beliefs Jesus, Paul and the others held came to them through revelation. They thought that much of the cosmology they had inherited from their Jewish cultural environment had been verified to them through direct reveletion from God, angels, spirits or other entities. They weren´t saying that they were simple peasants who had to trust what the village priest told them. They claimed that they had seen the TRUTH directly from the source. Which is why I think the discussion becomes quite ridiculous when modern liberal Christians say that my religion is right anyway despite all those reveletions Jesus, Paul and the others had weren´t much of revelations anyway. Christianity is about a lot more than a set of ethics that are found in many other religions. It may be convenient for liberal Christians to divorce the revelations and the Cosmology that came from Jesus, Paul and the others from their purely ethical teachings but it can ultimately only be done discarding most of the gospel and replacing it with something that has little to do with Jesus, Paul and the others despite all the assurances that one may still be faithful to their inheritance.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    Kaz, the problem you mention definitely exists, but not only for some Christians. One doesn't have to be open to the application of historical-critical methods to be selective in what one does with the teaching attributed to Jesus in the Gospels. Jesus is supposed to have said that one cannot be his disciple without giving up all their possessions. And so if that is applied as the criterion, then I suspect that neither of us are Christians. And whether one accepts that Jesus was mistaken and sets aside his predictions about the kingdom dawning during that generation, or simply ignores them, or works hard to interpret them as meaning something other than they seem to, the end result is the same: Christians who don't accept some of the things Jesus is likely to have taught.Ed, here is a link to a recent post in which I talked about my experience.

  • Antonio Jerez

    Anonymous,the problem is not so much that God appears to be a screwup. The highly schizophrenic god appearing in the pages of the Bible is already a hopeless screwup. The problem is when you add additional things like Darwinism to the attributes of the Biblical god and don´t want to call the personality that emerges from that a screwup beyond redemption (aka Kenneth Miller). The god of Jesus at least made some sense with a Devil to put the blame on, but the god of Ken Miller makes no sense whatsoever. It doesn´t make sense theologically, nor philosophically,nor in any way I have been able to think of. But maybe a little bit of revelation can change that for a lost soul like me :)

  • Anonymous

    Again I don't know why all the emphasis on cosmology and revelation. A geocentric universe isn't really crucial for Christianity. Had Jesus or Paul been around know I'm sure they'd be more than happy to preach about a spherical heliocentric Earth. What was the religious value of a flat earth anyway? Why is it important to keep it? Lest we diverge from the "true" gospel?Brian

  • Anonymous

    I'm a Catholic Antonio and I think your soul is fine. But nobody said that painting a new picture of God would be easy. As for how do I reconcile two equally screwed up Gods? I don't know really, I mean both are just so bad :D. Now pushing the jokes aside, I would probably have a more Joban type God in which creation is thought of as a whole without paying absolute attention to one little species. The universe I would say is an impersonal force which explains evil. With that in mind, I guess that would explain several things. I mean just because earthquakes are bad for us doesn't mean that they are bad for other species or the Earth itself. Brian

  • Antonio Jerez

    Brian,in many religions you can´t divorce cosmology from ethics. One thing follows from the other. Why shouldn´t Christians divorce? Because according to Jesus God had meant Adam and Eve for each other. If Adam and Eve didn´t exist the conclusion Jesus draws doesn´t follow. The fact that many Christians nowadays don´t give a damn anyway about Adam or Eve or what Jesus might have thought is beside the point. Or take Buddhism. Is Buddhism without reicarnation Buddhism? I think the answer is obvious. Buddhist ethics follow from the doctrine of reincarnation and karma. If no karma and no reincarnation it all falls flat to the ground. Even if there really doesn´t exist any reincarnation or karma (very probable) Buddhist ethics may still be USEFUL and good for a society, but it doesn´t make Buddhism TRUE. Just as Christianity isn´t TRUE just because some of its ethics can be USEFUL. And you don´t go around calling somebody God, divine, Son of God, Son of Man, the Word, the Prophet etc etc just beacuse he had some USEFUL ethics. I think it takes more, but for many liberak Christians it obviously doesn´t…

  • Antonio Jerez

    Brian,and I am a former Catholic. I have had my share of "revelations" and encounters with God. It´s just that when I look today at those experiences with a lot more knowledge about things like comparative religion, psychology, brain science etc I think I can give those experiences a lot more mundane explanations than blaming it on spritual forces. I´ve also met enough believers and gurus from all religions around the globe to conclude (at least for the moment) that the supposedly miraculous isn´t that much miraculous after all.

  • Anonymous

    That's rather strange, though to tell you the truth I never had any mystical experiences or encounters with God. Though, I'm glad you are keeping an open mind, if that is what the phrase "at least for the moment" was intended to do.

  • Antonio Jerez

    Brian,I always try to keep an open mind. I know from personal experience that there are strange things happening in this universe. Should have been dead about a dozen times by now. I´ve fallen from mountains in the Himalayas, crashed several times with motorbikes, had a gun pointed at my head, been knifed… I believe there exists things like premonitions. The same hour my father died in Sweden I woke up in the middle of the night in a hotel room in Argentina and just KNEW that somebody had just died in my family. The thing is that I hadn´t called home to my parents for weeks and didn´t have a clue that my father was on his deathbed. But the fact that I´ve had a lot of strange experiences doesn´t make me conclude that Jesus is Lord of the Universe or that he has a benevolent Father in Heaven. One thing doesn´t follow automatically from the other. At least not for me. I wouldn´t say there is no god. It´s just that if he exists he is very, very different from Jesus God. And if he has planned this Universe the way he has and let things loose the way he has then I think it takes quite a leap of faith to call this kind of god good or benevolent.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06500628452135216019 Richard Beck

    Great post Dr. McGrath. And Amen.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    Thanks Richard!Antonio, are you familiar with Rudolf Bultmann's writings on demythologization? He completely agreed with you that the ancient Christian message is inextricably linked to the mythological worldview of the first century, and that that worldview is not merely a shell that can be peeled away to leave an ethical or spiritual core that is timeless. His answer was to reinterpret the message existentially. Whatever one thinks of his solution, I think he is right on target regarding the problem. And since no one today manages to completely adopt a first-century worldview, either Bultmann was right that the message can be reinterpreted or translated for our time, or otherwise there simply aren't any Christians in the traditional sense around any longer anyway.

  • Antonio Jerez

    James,of course I know Bultmann. I really don´t give much for his way of reinterpreting the gospel message ""existentially". Its just a convenient way of not dealing with the real problem. I´m sure Bultmann would have found a way of reading the book of Mormon "existentially" if he had found out that it was mostly a lot of pages filled with fairytales and failed prophecies. As far as I see it Bultmann, McGrath and all those "heritic" Christian fundamentalists are sitting in the same sinking boat for much the same reason: an unwillingness to face up to reality.

  • Antonio Jerez

    …I meant of course that we have to imagíne a mormon Bultmann reading the book of Mormon "existentially" :)

  • Anonymous

    “In the throes of adolescent anxiety, I had come to love music. That love had become intertwined with my belief in God, a belief that had not made a large difference in my life. In this state of rather superficial religious concern, I attended a Pentecostal service. It moved me so that moments afterwards when I threw myself on God’s tender mercies, a sense of peace washed over me. This experience of the moment has proven transformative; it has had enduring and profound effects on the direction my life has taken.”A fair account, I hope, of James McGrath’s experience. Is having had this experience a reason for being a Christian? If “being a Christian” means or includes “holding certain beliefs (about God, about Jesus) to be true,” one would have to say that its evidentiary value is negligible–feeble or non-existent. If “being a Christian” means “having a sense of identity that has come to be built around a Christ-infused sense of the deity and his embrace and acceptance of me,” then I suppose Mr. Allen in his way is onto something. McGrath’s integrity is at stake. He can’t very well say “my experience is reason and evidence for the truth of Christianity.” But then he doesn’t.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    Indeed, I have long since recognized that the experience I had does not provide evidence for claims that Christianity makes about past events or other matters. I think the only truth claim associated with Christianity (and it is not exclusive to Christianity by any means, although I used to think it was) that might be confirmed by it is the claim that an experience of this sort is possible. :)

  • Antonio Jerez

    Anonymous,I think James is intelligent enough to know that his own experience doesn´t count as evidence for "the truth of Christianity". It may be enough evidence for himself but not for outsiders. Which is why you also need som external evidence for the truth claims of a religion. At least is you are going to missionize. The problem for a religion like Christianity is that the more we know about the Universe and the way things really work the less the correlation between the external reality and the original claims made by early Christians. And I am not doubting that you and James have had some kind of lifechanging "experience". It´s just that zillions of people from all kind of religions and pseudoreligions claim to have had lifechanging "experiences" that convinced them that their religion is true. All "experiences" cannot possibly be "true" or "real". Once in a time I lived like that myself, but then I realized that inner experiences or feelings, no matter how "real" or true" they may feel is hardly a good way of sorting out truths from falsehoods (or maybe I should say imaginary things. There must also be some kind of correlation between what we see in the outer world and the kind of world that people like Jesus, Joseph Smith or Sai Baba proclaim. I´ve met a lot of religious gurus and their followers around the world. The most illuminating experience I´ve had about how gullible most humans are, and to what lenghts most humans are prepared to go to find TRUTH through instinct or some kind of heavenly illumination, was when I spent weeks with the disciples of a brittish "sage" called Paul Brunton. He has published a series of notebooks peppered with eternal "truths" that his adoring disciples take unquestionable like coming directly from God (or the World Soul that Brunton would rather call it). No matter how much arguments you gave Bruntons disciples that there wasn´t much correlation between his "reality" and the reality that we can grasp out there with our intellect, no matter what they would go on saying that it felt so true and their experience was so real that it must be true. My own experience tells me to beware of "illuminations", no matter how real they may feel. I´ve had them myself. If God wants to convince me about his existence he will have to find a better way of making himself known.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09826280552590911315 Alethinon61

    Hi James,At least you seem to recognize how effete your understanding the claim "I'm a Christian" seems to be at this stage of your life. I would suggest that a Christianity that lacks the ability to draw converts — which yours would seem to, IMO — is one that needs to be re-thought and reconstituted from the ground up. The Christian message should have the power to transform hearts. Yours would seem more likely to inspire a limp "yeah, so?" Are you satisfied with that? ~Kaz

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    Kaz, I certainly don't think that we should include or exclude things in Christian proclamation based on which are likely to get a certain kind of reaction. On the other hand, the fact that a group of Christians honestly acknowledges that they feel they cannot be certain about some things that other Christians claim to know for certain about is more likely to be viewed negatively by other Christians, while there are others who may in fact find it a refreshing change. A lot depends on where one is at. I don't think that the same sort of message will be effective in different historical and cultural contexts. And a historical survey suggests that the message proclaimed and the way it has been proclaimed have changed over the centuries.

  • Antonio Jerez

    James,the disturbing thing about the kind of Christianity procalimed by liberals like Bishop Spong, Funk, Crossan (and you, I suppose) is not that the WAY the message is proclaimed has changed. The problem is that the CONTENT of the message proclaimed has little correlation to the message originally proclaimed by Jesus, Paul and the others. Its like a modern merchant trying to market a product as Coca Cola despite the product he is trying to sell having almost none of the original ingredients left. Normally we call things like that false branding or false marketing.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    Antonio, presumably you remember Coca Cola itself changing it's recipe. For a while we had new Coke and old Coke, and then they offered Coca Cola Classic and many of us were unsure if it really was the taste we remembered from before the changes.No Christians today believe exactly what the earliest Christians did, and there has been persistent debate down the centuries about whether Christianity's emphases and message were faithful to that of Jesus. There is no one Christian "corporation" that can define "the real thing" (TM) by putting an official label on the bottle. If I didn't believe that what I adhere to deserves to be considered a form of Christianity, I would call it something else. But those who claim to have preserved unchanging truth have not done so in reality. At best, they maintain some of the same words as part of central emphases, but even unchanging words, in a different cultural, historical and linguistic context, mean something other than the same words would have in a different time and place. Those who recognize that change is inevitable and embrace it may or may not be in a better position, but it is certainly not any worse or inherently less "authentic" for that reason alone.

  • Antonio Jerez

    James,at least Coca Cola has had enough sense to give their new variants of Coca Cola new names – ie Coca Cola Light, Coca Cola Zero etc. And I think it isn´t false marketing from the Coca Cola company if the new Cola variants have preserved most of the original ingredients. A change of sugar for a synthetic variant is just one change in the cocktail. If its a crucial change or not is another matter (personally I think the light versions taste awful :)). The problem with almost all modern variants of Cristianity is that so many ingredients in the cocktail have changed that its a different drink altogether. Both conservatives and liberals are deluding themselves, although in different ways. The only question is whose delusion is the biggest.

  • Antonio Jerez

    James,another little reflection of mine. It is of course true that we don´t have the original recipe for that religious cocktail that Jesus blended together. We only have some pretty early variations of the cocktail with some additional ingredients added by people like Paul, Mattew and the others. But I think that despite the variations it is easy to see that the NT writers seem to have been reluctant to take away som crucial ingredients, ingredients that if lacking I am certain that Paul and the others wouldn´t have bothered to claim that they were disciples of Jesus of Nazareth.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    It sounds like maybe you are too young to remember the new Coke fiasco from the 80s…

  • Antonio Jerez

    No, I am actually old enough to remember the new Coke fiasco. But at least the companys failure cannot be blamed on false marketing. They were clear about the fact that they had changed the formula a bit. At least thats my recollection.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    Well, progressive Christianity has 'on the label' that it makes changes to the formula. And so you may not think that any form of Christianity is viable, but hopefully we at least get some credit for truth in advertising. :)

  • Antonio Jerez

    James,the question that you haven´t really answered so far is what kind of "ingredients" that you think are essential to a brew that may appropiately be called "Christian". Which "ingredients" cannot be removed or altered? I am not doubting one moment that that when it comes to ethics you are probably following pretty closely in the footsteps of Jesus. But a religion like Christianity is about more than ethics. Remove the cosmology and theology of Jesus from his ethics and we are really not talking about the religion of Jesus the Jew anymore. If you want a Darwinian kind of god on top of Jesus kind of god then you´d better search for a solution to the problem somewhere else. As I have said before – the fundmentalists at least have enough common sense to see that a Darwinian kind of god and Jesus god don´t make a good blend. And if you really want to take away key ingredients from the brew Jesus made you´d better become a Prophet yourself :)

  • Antonio Jerez

    James, I just can´t resist the temptation of a philosophical rumination regarding Christian ethics. Was Barak Obama following Jesus ethics when he apparently ordered the execution of Osama bin Laden? Did Jesus really forbid selfdefense? Some may say that Jesus´saying about "turning the other cheek" meant just that. I have my doubts, since the gospels tell that some of Jesus´disciples were armed when the soldiers came to arrest Jesus in Gethsemane. Be it as it may, what I think this example shows is the pure silliness of prophetic religions. Why bother about tying your own ethics and actions to a kind of god who cannot speak clearly? Maybe Barak Obama is following in the footsteps of Jesus, maybe not. Who knows?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    I don't think that other human beings have had insights which came unmediated and undistorted through their subconscious, and so I am obviously not going to make such claims about myself! But just because some people thought that the music that flowed out of them came from a supernatural muse or divine inspiration doesn't mean that we cannot appreciate the music, even if we think that those human beings were the true composers.

  • Antonio Jerez

    James,the only problem for you as a modern Christian is that most early Christians obviously believed (very probably including Jesus himself) that when Jesus was in the prophetic "mode" his thoughts were the true unmediated, undistorted thoughts of God himself. Now you and other "progressive" Christians want to change the rules of the game and claim that Jesus was after all no more than a fallible human, a kind of strange "halfprophet". You also want to discard the Devil, angels, demons and a lot of other stuff since Darwin and other scientists appear to be better teachers about the nature of Reality than the visionary at the beginning of Christianity who claimed to "see" things clearer than any human. I still think that due to the naure of the claims made by the first Christians it logically follows that if you want to take away early key elements of Jesus gospel and worldview you have to take on the prophetic mantle yourself. Get a vision from God himself like Peter when God taught him that the rules about unclean food had been changed. You hardly take away key elements of Jesus teaching by using simple reason or arguing that Darwin have taught us better. If not somebody has obviously misunderstood the the rules of the game and the nature of a prophetic religion based on revelation.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    Religion has always changed in light of advancements in our understanding of the world. I don't see any evidence that it is possible, much less desirable, to "play the same game" as in the past, to carry on with business as usual.Perhaps the key question is which is more faithful to the teaching of Jesus: The person who pretends that Jesus did not predict the end of the world during his generation, so that they can persuade themselves that he is someone whose revelations they can trust? Or the person who decides that, precisely because Jesus had an impact on our world in spite of being wrong about the end's arrival, that it is better to focus on the positive aspects of the way that he taught us to live and how he taught us to treat one another?

  • Antonio Jerez

    James,and I am still waiting for you to answer my primary question. Which elements in the mixture that that makes up Christianity/Christianities are not removable or open to change? When have a modern Christian strayed so far from the teachings of Jesus and his earliest followers that a late follower had better change the labeling altogether, rather than making minor adjustments to the name which ultimately won´t fool any outside observer who can see that almost none of the original ingredients is present in "progressive" Christianity.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    What does it need apart from a central place for Jesus/his teaching? It may not seem so to you, but I think that it is possible to conceive of something that can legitimately be called "Christianity" which calls people to love of enemies and yet recognizes that we do so in the context of an understanding of the universe very different than that of first century people, including Jesus himself. The question "What Would Jesus Do?" can be expanded to "What Would Jesus Believe?" and presumably the answer is "When it comes to matters of science, he'd believe what people believe today if he lived today, just as he offered no new scientific or cosmological information in his own time."

  • Antonio Jerez

    James,we are not discussing the fact that religions change all the time. I am questioning the intellectual honesty of people who argue that it really doesn´t matter what a guru like Jesus or Sai Baba said about themselves or the world, no matter how mistaken they may have been in their selfclaims. Your position seems to be that even if Jesus and Sai Baba have clearly stated what it means to be a guru, a later follower like you can claim that they were wrong about the nature of their guruship and many of their claims, but they are still true gurus, even God´s annointed guru in some mysterious way. With your redefintion of guruship almost any deluded cult leader can be called God´s Messiah, Son of God, Lord of the Universe etc etc. I´d love to meet you in another dimension and see how your "progressive" version of mormonism will look like :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    Part of the message of Christianity is the reinterpretation of Messiahship so that it entails suffering and self-sacrifice rather than conquest.

  • Antonio Jerez

    James,"When it comes to matters of science, he'd believe what people believe today if he lived today…" If things were as simple as that. One wonders why Jesus´ heavenly Father didn´t lead him to one of the pagan scientific geniuses in Alexandria who could have given him some useful lessons on have the world really works. Instead we got the teachings of a deluded, kindhearted Jewish carpenter who really taught us what goodness means but also led a large part of humanity astray on how to cure real illnesses. Last night a thaught came to my mind that a Pasteur has probably done more good for humanity than a thousand Jesuses….

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    I don't think he interfered with the progress of medical knowledge in his time. He helped people in the only way he could. I don't think we have to choose between Pasteur and Jesus. :)

  • Antonio Jerez

    Well,at least on that part (suffering self-sacrifice) you seem to be at one with Jesus own teachings. It´s just that "progressive" Christianity discards so much of Jesus own views about the nature of true Messiaship (taming the demons etc etc) that very little remains except "empty" repetions of ancient Creeds that have lost all original their meaning at Church services

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    Those of us who don't recite the creeds (instead of doing so with our fingers crossed) are perhaps doing better then?

  • Antonio Jerez

    James,don´t you really see how ridiculous that last argument of yours really is. It´s like saying that all the wellmeaning witchdoctors in Africa or the curanderos in Latin America don´t interfere with science. At least the harm the witchdoctors make is usually restricted to a small area since they normally don´t have disciples spreadings gospels about their miraculous powers through the world. That is why one should put a lot more blame on Jesus Father who really should have known better than teaching his Son (and us through Jesus) that with enough faith no poisinous snake can do a true believer any harm…

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    We'll leave late additions to the Gospel of Mark to the side for now. I don't think that those who practiced faith healing 2,000 years ago did harm, in the way that someone doing it today might. That's the whole point. Bringing about psychosomatic healing when there is no other remedy is different than telling people to not go to a doctor today. Not understanding human origin in terms of evolution when no one has made the necessary discoveries yet is different from rejecting it in spite of the discoveries.

  • Antonio Jerez

    PSread about some Christian snake churches in the US the other day on the internet. Didn´t know they existed. Obviously some kids have been killed during Church services when they tried to test the power of Jesus. Human folly obviously knows no bounds, but nobody is really to blame except those guys originally spread a peculiar gospel 2000 years ago.

  • Antonio Jerez

    James,maybe Jesus didn´t make much harm with his faith healings since the Jewish doctors of his time wouldn´t have had better cures to offer. But that doesn´t takes the blame of the Father of Jesus who according to traditional Christian doctrine "inspired" Jesus and the gospel writers to spread this kind of nonsense to the End of Time. There is no question about the fact that the gospel message and the kind of worldview that Christianity spread hindered the scientific study of medicine that had already started among greeks and romans in Antiquity. It took hundreds of years before we caught up with Galen again, and it is hardly because of the gospel of Christ.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    So your view is at Jesus was genuinely inspired with false information by God? I think there are more mundane explanations for why humans get things wrong.As for the snake handlers, I don't blame the person roughly 2,000 years ago who added that to Mark's Gospel, so much as the people who follow it today without using either common sense or textual criticism.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00681934865643964687 JSA

    These debates always seem to pose a false dilemma, though. When faced with a supposed conflict between modern knowledge and the old theology, the response is to either retreat to the past, or else change theology. But why must these be the only two choices? I don't think that Christ saw himself as doing either. The third way is to demonstrate that the new is a more perfect realization of the old.You know, all of that stuff about "I did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it".

  • Antonio Jerez

    JS,isn´t there a third and more sensible alternative? Stop trying to make a circle into a rectangle and covince onself and others that a circle is still a rectangle. Make up your own "theology" and stop trying to fit an ancient god into a Universe which has less and less space for him.

  • Antonio Jerez

    James,I don´t know if anybody is going to get you out of the cocondrum by textual criticism. Ultimately the buck stops at God or the Devil. And since my hunch is that you don´t believe in the Devil any more we will have to blame the God who has "inspired" the intellectual and theological mess called Christianity. Jesus "Christianity" was already a mess – "progressive christianity" is beyond redemption :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    You're talking to a Star Wars fan, don't forget. I don't think anyone or anything is beyond redemption – not Anakin Skywalker, not Progressive Christianity. :)

  • Antonio Jerez

    And James,if you want to combine common sense and Christianity I´d think you must find yourself another kind of religion. What you don´t seem to grasp is that common sense and revelation are often mutually incompatible, and my experience is that to people like Jesus and Paul revelation always trumps common sense, no matter if they live today or 2000 years ago. Don´t make yourself any illusions about the nature of man. Some things always stay the same :)

  • Antonio Jerez

    I knew you were a heretic! You are one of those damned Origenists who will roast in hellfire for all eternity :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00681934865643964687 JSA

    "Isn´t there a third and more sensible alternative? Stop trying to make a circle into a rectangle and covince onself and others that a circle is still a rectangle. Make up your own "theology" and stop trying to fit an ancient god into a Universe which has less and less space for him."Nietzsche would approve!In all honesty, I think that's the lazy approach, though. It's like looking at the fact that light seems to behave like particles, and also seems to behave like waves, and concluding "Screw it, I'm going to stop trying to make particles and waves resolve together! This is my signal to be a superman and boldly forge ahead a invent my own science!"

  • Anonymous

    I disbelieve in the devil and it isn't necesarrily for scientific reasons but rather because I've come to an age where I feel that the devil isn't evil enough for me. There are things that I've seen and heard in this world that convinced me that a devil isn't necessary to explain evil, for how can Satan possibly top creatures like us? Surely you can vibe with a comment like this, can you Atonio? Especially after you've explained to me that you were knived at one point in your life [which sounds painful actually...:(].Anywho JS Allen your reference to Nietzsche was wonderful though a bit ironic, wasn't he one of Christianity's most vicious critics? Brian

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09826280552590911315 Alethinon61

    "Kaz, I certainly don't think that we should include or exclude things in Christian proclamation based on which are likely to get a certain kind of reaction."I think that you've missed my point, James. What I'm trying to get you to wrestle with is the fact that the effete "Christianity" you favor seems to lack relevance. It seems incapable of transforming lives and hearts, or providing hope during life's most difficult times. Instead of filling us with refreshing waters that inspire faith in things hoped for it hands us a glass full of dust and says "Drink up, and stop complaining that your thirst isn't quenched." Your Christianity doesn't cohere with the notion of a God who loves us, and if there is no God who loves us then we're left with no answer for the atheist. If your brand of Christianity is true then it will ultimately die leaving no one who cares enough to deliver the eulogy.~Kaz

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    Kaz, some of us find this Christianity quenches our thirst, and some find that more conservative forms do not. So now what? We could try a competition to see whose message satisfies the spiritual thirst of a greater number of people – or we could simply acknowledge that the same single formulation doesn't address all people in a relevant and satisfying way regardless of culture, education, and other considerations.

  • Antonio Jerez

    Brian,if the Devil isn´t evil enough for you to believe in his existence, then I could say that the biblical God isn´t good enough for me to believe in his existence. I´ve met a lot of people around the globe who appear to be a lot more filled with goodness than Jesus´daddy. And some of those people are too good for their own good. And no, its actually quite surprising how little pain I felt when I got my arm cut up with a breadknive. Maybe it was because of the chock. Luckily the doctor managed to stitch me together very well. My arm is still working perfectly and I only have a scar to remind me of that unfortunate episode.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for your reply Antonio it was much appreciated. Though I tend to downplay God's negative traits I can understand how come you have choosen to turn my reasons for disbelief in a satanic figure against me. But I still believe in the existence evil and I still sympathize with Jesus desire to free Israel from it even if he was too optimistic to realize its source. Brian

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09826280552590911315 Alethinon61

    "Kaz, some of us find this Christianity quenches our thirst, and some find that more conservative forms do not. So now what? We could try a competition to see whose message satisfies the spiritual thirst of a greater number of people – or we could simply acknowledge that the same single formulation doesn't address all people in a relevant and satisfying way regardless of culture, education, and other considerations."Please explain how dust satisfies many people's thirst.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    You mix the Kool-Aid dust with water and it is refreshing.I think you are assuming your metaphor is literally true, or even that we are in agreement that it is metaphorically accurate.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09826280552590911315 Alethinon61

    "Kaz, some of us find this Christianity quenches our thirst, and some find that more conservative forms do not. So now what? We could try a competition to see whose message satisfies the spiritual thirst of a greater number of people – or we could simply acknowledge that the same single formulation doesn't address all people in a relevant and satisfying way regardless of culture, education, and other considerations."I doubt that there are very many people who really find the "Christianity" (whatever that means, in this case) that one is left with after one applies all you have said on your blog to be very satisfying. They may think it's more real and therefore have no other choice but to convince themselves that they appreciate it, but surely that's self delusional in many cases. That's one of the self-preservation mechanisms we humans employ, you know. Deep down, a person can hate his job, but since it's the only one he has at the moment he may tell himself that he's satisfied. He may even tell co-workers that it's a good job, that it's interesting, challenging, and that he feels fortunate to have it. He then finds a better job and suddenly when he speaks of the previous one he has nothing good to say, except, maybe, that it at least put bread on the table. IMO, the big problem with the Christianity that emerges when one combines everything that you've affirmed is that, if one is honest, one can't even content himself with the notion that it at least puts bread on the table. Aside from a few pithy maxims (and we have myriad sources of these), what does it offer you that you couldn't find elsewhere? ~Kaz

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    I suppose I should ask why it has to offer something that cannot be found elsewhere. If I am satisfied by eating at a particular restaurant here in my city, does that mean that someone cannot have their hunger satisfied by different food offered in a different restaurant elsewhere in the world? I think the question of whether a worldview satisfies, and the question of whether it alone satisfies, are distinct.For me, Christianity offers the notion that strength is displayed through service, and that forgiveness can be more powerful than conquest. That in itself would be something worth hanging on to and deeply satisfying even if everything else were taken away. There is obviously more I could say, but I assume that the genre I should stick to is blog comment rather than sermon. :-)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09826280552590911315 Alethinon61

    There you go, James. For you, Christianity is just another source of wisdom, but a source from which you must pick and choose carefully. As such it seems to me that it has been reshaped and redefined to the point where neither Christ nor any of his followers would recognize it.~Kaz

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    Kaz, you may be right. I don't know how one determines with certainty what Jesus would make of contemporary forms of Christianity. If one is referring to the historical Jesus and his earliest followers, transported through time directly into ours, I suspect that they wouldn't recognize most North-American Christianity as being the same religion as theirs. If the question is what form of Christianity best expresses principal emphases of Jesus' own teaching and outlook, then it becomes less clear how to answer, or whether there is only one answer to the question.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09826280552590911315 Alethinon61

    Good point, James, and lest you begin to peg me as nothing more than an intolerable blowhard, I'll let it end on that thoughtful note.~Kaz


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