Jesus in the Gospels warns us that wrong religious teachings can be recognized by the evils they bring. He says:
“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.” (MT 7:15-20)
Christianity is based in a very long book called the Bible. The entire Christian Bible, composed of ancient Jewish and early Christian writings, is considered by Christians somewhat magically to be the Inspired Word of God. Given the way the books of the Bible were assembled by the early Church, this seems to me to be a dubious claim. Who are we to be putting words into God’s mouth? I once asked a fundamentalist friend how he could be so sure that a canon put together by a committee in the equivalent of smoke-filled rooms was absolutely all inspired by God. He told me confidently that God had worked through all the participants in those synods. No doubt! His answer reminded me of what had been said by a priest of a religion whose certain belief was that the world rides on the back of a turtle. When asked what the turtle was standing on, the priest had said confidently, “It’s turtles all the way down.”
In the same way, the Christian Bible is said to be God’s Word all the way down. And this seems to me to be the fatal flaw of modern Christianity.
I have read the whole Bible from cover to cover perhaps a dozen times. For decades I would read two or three pages every night, beginning with Genesis and going through to Revelation. Then I would go back to Matthew and read the New Testament through a second time before I began again with Genesis. It is this exercise of having actually read the Bible repeatedly that makes me confident that the entire Bible could not possibly be the Inspired Word of a loving and internally consistent God. Or even of a sane and rational God.
The fact that the Christian Bible doesn’t hold together as a coherent unit is a problem that Christianity could have addressed by declaring as a fundamental tenet that the Gospel words of Jesus are primary. Where there is a conflict – and there are many! – the teachings of Jesus should control. But perhaps because the Inspired Word of God cannot be seen to have inconsistencies, and because the teachings of Jesus are post-legal and require a lifelong personal commitment, Christians have solved what should have been a big problem by making the teachings of Jesus in the Gospels no more than suggestions about how we should live. To Christians, Jesus is not their Teacher, but instead Jesus is the Lamb of God, sacrificed to redeem us from God’s judgment for our sins.
This distortion at the root of the Christian tree has stunted its growth in peculiar ways:
I would argue that the religion that was founded in the name of Jesus bears so little relationship to what he taught that it is time either to change it radically or to begin to call it something else.
The greatest proof that Christians are wrong in building their religion around the whole Christian Bible is that – as our beloved Teacher warns us – Christianity today bears some terrible fruit:
I am sorry to be so blunt. I still fondly remember all the comforts of that old-time religion that for most of my life was good enough for me. But I have come to understand that for us to be comfortable in a religion that we believe gives us personal salvation while we ignore the Gospel words of Jesus that the afterlife evidence now show us are true, we betray God. And we cheat our fellow man. Until Christianity reforms itself and begins to follow Jesus – and only Jesus! – we continue to delay the heaven on earth that is possible only when we live by God’s truth.
Lovingly, patiently, Jesus still calls to us. “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations… teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (MT 28:19)
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