It has been half a millennium almost to the day since Martin Luther issued his Ninety-Five Theses that attacked some of Christianity worst excesses. Whether he actually nailed his Theses to the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg, Germany, is unclear; but just the publication of his complaints began what is known as the Protestant Reformation.
What Martin Luther began was a great step forward. It pruned away some of the most appalling practices of the overbearing Church hierarchy, from the sale of indulgences as tickets out of hell through the refusal to allow Christians to read the Bible in their mother tongues. It helped, but it didn’t go far enough. So even centuries after the Reformation, the religion that nominally follows Jesus remains steeped in irrelevant dogmas while it all but ignores His Gospel teachings.
Among my whole life’s biggest surprises was my first read-through of Liberating Jesus. I had no time to read while the Master was using my hands to write: the whole book was written in fourteen days. So it was only when I was left with the finished book that I understood how radical it was! And I was appalled. Was it possible that Christianity had been so altogether wrong about everything from its earliest days, but still the Lord had let well-meaning Christians live in error for two thousand years?
Apparently it was possible. Both testimony from those we used to think were dead and the Gospel words of Jesus themselves abundantly confirm that most of what Christianity preaches is contrary to what is true. Here are the core dogmas of mainstream Christianity that turn out to be wrong in light of the Gospel words of Jesus and in light of what the dead now tell us:
It ought to come as a relief to Christians to learn that God loves us perfectly and never judges us. Yet most of the Christians I have heard from about Liberating Jesus are not relieved by its message, but instead they are annoyed to be told that the death of Jesus is not a spiritual shortcut. Jesus actually does require that His followers take His Gospel teachings seriously!
I find this attitude confounding. Liberating Jesus isn’t out on a limb, but rather it simply restates what Jesus tells us straightforwardly in the Gospels. But the problem is that despite the fact that the Bible is available in countless languages, very few Christians actually read it. Even fewer take the Gospel teachings of Jesus as seriously as He means them to be taken. Most Christians seem not even to know nor care that their religion and their Bible would be foreign to the living Jesus! Instead, too often Christians will go after the superficial emotional highs of their religion, and not seek the spiritual work and the deeper rewards that come from actually following the Master.
We tend to think of faith as a virtue. Faith means believing in something, which seems to be better than believing in nothing. For most of my life I thought faith was a virtue, but now I am coming to understand that what Christians call faith is comforting pap, a diversion from any real pursuit of the truth, and the single biggest obstacle that Jesus faces in bringing His teachings to the world.
So it’s time for a second Christian Reformation. And this time, for the sake of a world that desperately needs what the Lord came to teach us, let’s really work to get this right!
Martin Luther – photo credit: rs-foto <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/50402151@N00/4768475053″>Dresden_2010_07_ 091</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a>
Translating the Bible in 1532 – photo credit: Roy’s World <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/44586788@N00/23934666583″>Translating the Bible in the year 1532</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a>