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Does Christianity Have Any Real Meaning?


ritch81
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As a rookie I'm going to jump in feet first.I think the first question to be answered in this day and age of supposed enlightenment is the whether the label "Christian or Christianity" has any real meaning. I myself struggled with whether I'd become an Atheist or Agnostic. The latter came closest; I settled on "Orthodox Skeptic"; which basically interprets to me knowing that there had to be somebody or something to push the start button. Now what label you want to put on him is up to you. One thing is for certain...He ain't some kindly old, white bearded grandpa sitting on a marble throne listening 24/7 to choirs of angels singing his praises.

Christianity derives from Christ who was head and shoulders above any of the Elmer Gantry TV evangelists when it came to selling his program. But since we are now aware of the fact that we really don't know who he was or what his true agenda was, why do some many want to go right on crediting him with being all those things in the boy scout oath...you know...brave, clean, reverent, etc? We know that Christ was a man who put his pants on one leg at a time...like me an' you...so?

 

The first 5 posts moved here by JosephM(as Moderator} as inappropriate for the Progressive Christianity section that requires only those who identify as PC and asks the question posed which was "Just What is Progressive Christianity to you" and is not for debate..

Edited by JosephM
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Christianity derives from Christ who was head and shoulders above any of the Elmer Gantry TV evangelists when it came to selling his program. But since we are now aware of the fact that we really don't know who he was or what his true agenda was, why do some many want to go right on crediting him with being all those things in the boy scout oath...you know...brave, clean, reverent, etc? We know that Christ was a man who put his pants on one leg at a time...like me an' you...so?

 

Richard,

 

I am pleased to see that you jumped right in.

 

I would quibble at bit with the "know" statement about Jesus. I think "know" is much too strong. There are of course, different views about him by various scholars. I don't know exactly what you mean by "agenda," but IMO, there is a clear theme that comes through even with editing out what is likely to be later additions to the story.

 

Also, I suspect that he did have a strong sense of who he was. It is later writers who cloud the picture.

 

While we all "put our pants on one leg at a time" that doesn't mean that we are all equal in terms of intellect, morality, courage, leadership qualities, etc. I don't think just another Joe would have spawned such a reaction to his death.

 

George

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By agenda I refer to the fact that in Matthew 10:5 Wherein he tells his disciples to "Go nowhere among the Gentiles, enter no towns of the Samaritans but, go rather to the lost sheep of the House of Israel."

It doesn't appear that he was too much interested in anything other then bringing the fallen away Jews back to the traditional ways. He sure wasn't seeking the Gentile vote.

Referring back to Matt 10:23 he tells his disciples that "I have not come to bring peace but with a sword". So maybe he knew his agenda but didn't make it very clear to the disciples. (Me either)??

As to having a strong sense of who he was, again, Matt 10:23, "You will not have gone through all of the towns of Israel before the Son Of Man returns."

Now that sounds to me like He was not aware of who he was if he was predicting his return before the disciples had time to finish their preaching. (The last I heard he was still missing).

I have no doubt that he was brave, courageous, bold, moral and all that good stuff but let's not lose sight of the fact that he was a human being...a very persuasive human being, but still just another Joe...a pretty smart Joe. (There is a difference between smart and intelligent). What I'm trying to politely say is that I don't think I'd be inclined to buy a used car from him!

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It doesn't appear that he was too much interested in anything other then bringing the fallen away Jews back to the traditional ways. He sure wasn't seeking the Gentile vote. [...]

 

As to having a strong sense of who he was, again, Matt 10:23, "You will not have gone through all of the towns of Israel before the Son Of Man returns." Now that sounds to me like He was not aware of who he was if he was predicting his return before the disciples had time to finish their preaching. [. . .]

 

I have no doubt that he was brave, courageous, bold, moral and all that good stuff but let's not lose sight of the fact that he was a human being...a very persuasive human being, but still just another Joe...a pretty smart Joe. (There is a difference between smart and intelligent). What I'm trying to politely say is that I don't think I'd be inclined to buy a used car from him!

 

Yes, I agree that his mission (agenda) was primarily to the Jews.

 

I disagree with your assertion about his self doubt. There was a wide variety of views about exactly who he was after he was crucified. Bart Ehrman discusses this in great detail in Lost Christianities. However, any lack of clarity by Matthew, or any other Gospel writers, does not mean that Jesus had doubt about who he was.

 

"Brave, courageous, bold, moral" and you wouldn't buy a used car from him? Hmm.

 

George

Edited by GeorgeW
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As to having a strong sense of who he was, again, Matt 10:23, "You will not have gone through all of the towns of Israel before the Son Of Man returns."

Now that sounds to me like He was not aware of who he was if he was predicting his return before the disciples had time to finish their preaching. (The last I heard he was still missing).

I have no doubt that he was brave, courageous, bold, moral and all that good stuff but let's not lose sight of the fact that he was a human being...a very persuasive human being, but still just another Joe...a pretty smart Joe. (There is a difference between smart and intelligent). What I'm trying to politely say is that I don't think I'd be inclined to buy a used car from him!

 

Perhaps it was those who wrote parts of the NT, several decades after Jesus' death, that weren't aware of who he was (or at least didn't neccessarily accurately portray who Jesus thought he was). I've read good arguments for Jesus being an apocalyptic preacher, and when he didn't return 'in this generation' people began looking for new ways to translate their understanding of Jesus' message. So with the many different authors all putting their version forward of who Jesus was, I'm not suprised that 'Jesus' sounds confused.

Edited by PaulS
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.

 

I disagree with your assertion about his self doubt. There was a wide variety of views about exactly who he was after he was crucified. Bart Ehrman discusses this in great detail in Lost Christianities. However, any lack of clarity by Matthew, or any other Gospel writers, does not mean that Jesus had doubt about who he was.

George

 

Most people, even Christians, are entirely unaware, uneducated, about how any of the forms of Christianity or Christian doctrine came about, to come to us as we have them today. They are unaware that what got carried down was through the sifting and sorting and preferences of the few most politically/socially powerful and influential.

When I took Religious studies courses that got into history and development of Christianity and Christian doctrine, the professor's first lecture was to the effect that those in the class that are Christian are going to have every thing they'd been told about the origins and history of our religion and the church will be challenged, and explains their choice...stick with the course, and at the end of it, know more about Christianity, it's origins and the history of doctines and theology of the religion than 99.9% of their fellow Christians, including most of their pastors, or, head right on over to the admin office at the end of the class and drop the course.

 

Jenell

Edited by JenellYB
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I think there is a sense in which we have to look at Christianity as a whole if we are to answer 'Does Christianity have meaning?' The Judeo-Christian tradition emphasises a strong sense of history, linear time, and teleology, as well as an interplay of divine and human meaning, where neither are wholly separate from nor wholly identified with one another. These aspects I think have a lot of meaning and influence regardless of who Jesus really was or wasn't.

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That's what he thought to begin with, but the Syro-Phoenician woman made him reconsider enlarging his target audience, at least for a moment.

 

Dutch

 

And following that, at a later point, after Jesus's ascention, according to the accepted "authoritative scriptures" of the Christian religion, Jesus personally instructed the "after-the-fact" chosen discple/apostle, Saul aka Paul, to do just that, take the message of salvation to the gentiles.

 

Some have interpreted Saul/Paul's call and commision as the Divine appointing of the "replacement 12th disciple", to replace Judas, who betrayed and fell from among the orginal 12. There seemed some reason at the time why it was important there be 12, as the remaining 11 after Jesus' death thought there neded to be 12, and so undertook to elect among themselves the man Mathias to fill the vacancy left by Judas. However, there's really nothing convincing I can find related to that appointment of Mathias that held any 'divine sanction or authority' or even any authrority on part of the 11 to make that choice and appointment themselves....each of them had been personally chosen by Jesus himself. Beyond the appointment of Mathias by the 11, there is nothing much more about him in scripture, he seems not to have then done anything of note or importance. And, if we accept the call/conversion/commission experience of Saul/Paul, he too was personally chosen, called, and commissioned by Jesus (risen) himself.

 

Jenell

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I have just read an interesting sentence (in How to Read the Qur'an by Carl W. Ernst):

… the current notion that there are clearly defined religions known as Christianity, Judaism, and Islam is often accepted at face value, although indeed it remains problematic.
Interesting point to ponder!

 

Within my own local community it is often said that mainstream Christianity is a religion about Jesus as opposed to the religion that Jesus taught. Of course, we know little of what Jesus actually taught (refer to the publications of the Jesus Seminar) and even less of what he did, so is even this position valid?

 

There are more questions than answers, so there is much to contemplate. I call myself Christian and an ahteist at once because:

  • I endeavour to model my life on my understanding of Jesus’ life and teachings despite the lack of historical evidence.
  • I do not believe the existance of a theos, a physical being out there somewhere that created and controls the world.

From my point of view it is possible to be a Christian,a Jew, a Muslim, a Hindu or a Buddhist (especially a Buddhist) and an atheist at once. Religion and atheism are not mutually exclusive.

 

—Jim

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Ritch,

 

Since the democracy you live under depended on Christianity for its evolution I would say that it is meaningful.

 

Dutch

 

Dutch,

 

I don't know enough about American democracy (if that's what you're referring to, or is it democracy in general?) to debate this point, but didn't democracy commence pre-christianity (in about 500BCE in Athens) and doesn't the Amercian Constitution lack any reference to Jesus and/or Christianity whatsoever? How then did democracy 'depend' on Christinaity for its evolution?

 

Cheers

Paul

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Paul,

 

My references are Origins of Political Order by Francis Fukuyama and The Life and Death of Democracy by John Keane. I believe Keane is Australian.

 

Fukuyama says that three things are necessary for a stable modern liberal democracy. The state or ruler, a rule of law, and accountability of the government to the people. Religion, in our case Christianity, is almost always essential in the development of a agreed upon concept of law (not legislation). This understanding of what is right in society was particularly strong in Europe and was a modernizing force compared to the Brahmins and their varnas in India. This law - ideas about what is right, the idea that the ruler is accountable to the ruled, that the office holders do not possess the office but serve the office for limited time - was influenced by the disciplines that came out of the Holy Orders in the middle ages, The church helped provide the understanding that if ruler's do not rule well then there was a Divine right to overthrow them. John Locke, others and the Declaration of Independence say that good government is there to guarantee that the ruler is held accountable to the law, these ideas of what is right commonly held and derived from and facilitated by Christianity.

 

Now, today, in America, the evolution of governments has brought us to the point that the constitution is our law. Legislation and executive action are both held up and judged by the constitution. But we couldn't be here without Christianity.

 

Keane's book starts with an effort to find the beginnings of assembly democracy. The Athenians saw their gods as participants in their society. That Athens is seen as the birth place of democracy is incomplete, too simple, and fails to recognize all that came before, and fails to see that the experiment did not affect the future development of government as we are want to believe. Incomplete because it was more of a republic, incomplete because of limited franchise, incomplete because accountability was weak. Clearly not the first because the root word for democracy is not Greek but found in the Middle East much earlier. He tracks assembly democracy from the Middle East as it moved west until it was available as a possibility in the mind of the Greeks. He uses some precise ways of evaluating different governments and concludes there were no true democracies, with universal suffrage until the early 20th century.

 

Provocatively Keane writes on page 207-8

 

"Without Jesus, there would no representative government, or representative democracy, if by that is meant what many of its Christian progenitors meant: a new way of handling political power based on a lengthy list of practical principles, such as the right to resist tyranny; the civil right to petition for good government; popular elections; limited terms of office; and the abolition of monarchy, if need be by public execution."

 

I can provide more details if needed; I am taking lots of notes.

 

Dutch

 

 

.

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I can provide more details if needed; I am taking lots of notes.

 

 

Thanks for the democracy lesson, Dutch. Much appreciated, sincerely.

 

Of course it does help that you quote references from “one of the great intellectual exports from Australia". :)

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  • 2 weeks later...

Does Christianity have any real meaning?

 

Yes and no, depending on who you ask and in what context. For me it has been a process, working out what works for me. Currently I see Jesus Christ as the face of the Divine, the One consciousness, the comprehensible face of God and the conduit to God who is otherwise unknowable. Of course my Jesus has some attributes that I have and as such is relevant to me, because he is MY Jesus "When you look into the deep well for Jesus, you see yourself". In this way Christianity has meaning for me allegorically. Before, it was just a bunch of stories which if I am honest, never resonated with me as the truth. Now, it makes sense to me as I know I have a spark of the divine in me and through Christ I can eventually be at peace, in that One consciousness. Am I talking in riddles to myself again? :rolleyes:

 

:)

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If you are, they make sense to me, too. :)

 

It had become harder and harder to think of myself as a Christian. Honestly, deeply, I don't think i do at all anymore. I think that all that still holds any connection for me to that name, Christian, is I don't have any other term for how I still feel Jesus my treacher, Christ as the unifying consciousness within which I find my meaning in existence, and in any conversation with others, relating to any of those things, Christian seems to be the only term through which i can connect and engage those still caught within the confusion of that tradition. It is a strange experience for me among them, even in ordinary matters of Christian tradition, history of the church and Christian religion, doctrines, major theologies, because at the same time in that other sense I feel 'not one of them', I am at once also acutely aware that I actually know so much more about their religion than they do! And feel I have to keep that tucked away from their view, for they feel threatened by that, or, I touch 'sore points' where they beleive something actually quite foriegn or inaccurate about what they think they know about their religion or some doctrines as they've been taught. Most the practicing Christians I've around are very ignorant not only of church history, but Christian theology and doctrine, as well as actual scripture,other than snippets often quoted out of context so meaning is lost or perverted, casually expresing beleifs that are actually neither Christian nor biblical, even things set forth clearly and repeatedly in the bible as being 'false doctines.' But they believe they are quite strongly. Which raises an interesting dilema, am I the one "less Christian", or they?

 

Jenell

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  • 4 weeks later...

It depends what you mean by Christianity, which has a lot of different meanings to different people. In some circles, it's mostly about dogma, correct belief, "faith in" Jesus as a specifically theologically-defined being. That doesn't mean a lot to me.

 

But when I look at the words "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you," that's really powerful to me. That's an entire world-view right there. What do you make of that? Is it right? Is it an unrealistic, unworkable ideal? Is it the only thing that will, finally, work? Is it truth?

 

To me, how you engage with that, and with Jesus's view of God as "Abba" ("daddy"), will answer your question better than any ideas about a specific "agenda".

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  • 2 years later...

I wanted to put this in the What Does Progressive Christianity Thread Mean to You?

 

But it may fit in here better.

 

I was pondering PCism. Just reading the posts concerning PCism, for some it means a touchstone for walking one's path using the teachings of Jesus. Some it may extend to the teachings of the 'mythical' Christ. Most seem accepting of teachings from other traditions.

 

All this seems fair enough.

 

Now from what I have read ... what we confidently ascribe to the teachings of Jesus is fairly limited. Most of the teachings appear to have been added by later scribes to the teachings of Christ. For example John 10: 30 I and my Father are one. The blasphemy that got Christ crucified was added later, at least according some Bible scholars.

 

So what are the influences that Progressive Christians to sail under the flag of Progressive Christianity?

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For me personally it's most likely the attractiveness of the familiarity of the 'good bits' of Christianity I have experienced tempered with science and logic.

 

That said, I really don't call myself anything religious in nature outside of this forum. I'm just Paul usually.

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We should come to some agreement before, about what is necessary for a word in order to be appreciated as "real" and "meaningful". Obviously, world history show us that such an agreement is impossible, because what is considered meaningful by certain people and times can be easily evaluated as unmeaning by other people and other times; we can say "fortunately", because this guarantees pluralism, diversity and wealth in our world. So, the research about a real meaning of Christianity could easily transform itself in an investigation for imprisoning it into some universal definition. I think that PC can promote in the world not a "real meaning" of Christianity, but a constructive, a positively provocative way of interpreting it in different aspects of life, just as a musician brings into the world his own interpretation of a well known music piece and arouses positive interests in it.

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