A few months back I became very interested in how Christianity has evolved into the Dogma it is today. Doctrinal issues and personal interpretations to the side, it’s just easy for one to be confused by what we call Christianity. In a world where charismatic preachers double as motivational speakers and over 45,000 denominations claim authenticity how can we definitively describe what defines a Christian.
Followers of Christ?
A body of a spirit filled congregation?
Those who observe tradition?
These are all adjectives that don’t actually define Christianity. They certainly don’t cut to the heart of what Christ taught. The mystical elements seem to have fallen by the wayside as the masses seek something outside of themselves.
A mythic man in the sky peering down and casting judgement on the world isn’t exactly canon but here we are. Sprinkle in a few groups that bark the loudest and we get lumped in with fear mongers who loathe homosexuals and premarital sex on one end and a feel good hippie Jesus loving those full of sin on the other.
Of course, there’s nothing inherently wrong with how people interpret scriptures it just all feels lacking to me.
I figured somewhere in the 5,800 manuscripts of the New Testament and the 10,000 or so variations of the Old Testament lies a pure land doctrine that strikes at the heart of Gods Wisdom. Prosperity preachers and Evangelicals in the modern era look a lot like the Pharisees and Sadducee’s. Both parties are well versed in the 19,000 some odd manuscripts in Coptic, Syriac, Aramaic, etc. I mean these guys spent years studying the history and know far more about it then they let onto and we’re somehow stuck listening to some tired ass sermon with a political agenda.
Why do some Christians refute science instead of seeing allegory in the Creation Epoch.?
Why does any hint at metaphysics seems to scare some people and send them running?
Why do the rest of us get lumped into a group and labeled “closed minded” or “ignorant” as a result?
Fly Republican Jesus into Jerusalem on a bald eagle and no one takes God seriously anymore. It’s become this satirical movement completely out of touch with humanity. It’s like we’ve become to busy judging others for the splints in their eyes while we have a huge board blinding our own.
But how did we get here?
CHRISTIANITY IS A BRAND
Last year, Americans spent over 700 million- yes million- on religious texts. Half of the churches people stumble into are occupied by coffee shops, couple’s councilors, preachers in thousand dollar suits- I’m joking, their shoes cost a thousand half the time.
The world is a business. It always has been. While it may seem unfortunate to people who have read Christs words it definitely isn’t surprising to see this trend in the church.
Besides, we all give gladly to those we feel need it. Whether it be handing money to the homeless or putting it into the coffer at church most Christians – and people for that matter- are more than happy to follow Mosaic Law. 10% seems reasonable.
As a result, many churches run charities or offer services to members of the congregation who struggle
Each denomination has its own brand. Anyone who’s looked into seminary schools quickly realizes each denomination has a very specific set of scriptures they want ingrained into their students. Whether it be Liberty University’s Southern Baptist or the Dallas Theological Society, each one has a specific doctrine they play up.
Words like Orthodoxy- those who hold to the right beliefs- and heretics- one who practices religious heresy- are commonplace.
Now as someone who has been called a heretic, a Gnostic, a blasphemer, a New Ager, Occultist and pretty much every form of slander one can find to label those of us who don’t exactly fit in the official brands of Christian I felt it was important to dig to the roots of Christianity. 15 books later all I can say with any certainty is this isn’t a new phenomenon.
In fact, before we even had a canon called the Bible there was still a ton of philosophies surrounding Christs teaching. Some books made it into the library we call the Bible and others didn’t. Founders like Origen who were considered authorities in their day were later labeled heretics. Guys like Meister Eckhart would have been publicly executed if it weren’t for their political affiliation with the Dominican Friars.
MYSTICISM HAS NEVER HAD MASS APPEAL. IT’S ALWAYS BEEN ON THE FRINGE OF RELIGIOUS THOUGHT.
Over the next few weeks we’ll discuss the political climate of Judea under Roman occupation. We’ll discuss the groups of Jewish leadership and how they tied into the New Testament. We’ll talk about Greek Philosophy and what it meant to the Roman Empire. We’ll discuss how Rome treated the various schools of religious dogma and some of the egalitarian practices they had. We’ll take an in depth look at the pre-Nicaea brands of Christianity and some of the Christian philosophers of the day. We’ll look into how Jewish beliefs and Greek thinking shaped the way the early church.
Somewhere in that hall of confusion we should land on one simple truth- any time God is being discussed our personal ideas tend to shape how we interpret it all. We’ll dig deep into why human beings splinter into groups and can look at one set of texts so differently.
Maybe we’ll learn to respect each other’s perspectives even when we disagree. Maybe we’ll see that we’re not all that different. Who knows how this will unfold.
Honestly, my only job is to write out a loose outline of how we ended up here. Whatever the reader does with that information is completely up them.
Thanks for coming to my TedTalk.