Monday, 18 June 2018

Tolkien, Lewis and the hopes for Albion Awakening

To back-up and emphasize my previous post; here is an inspiring excerpt from William Wildblood's most recent posting at Albion Awakening.

By clarifying what the three co-bloggers - myself, William and John Fitzgerald - are hoping to do; William brings-out the nature and task of being a Christian in the modern West - the state of being an 'exile', and what can be done about it:


If there were patrons of Albion Awakening, in the sense of guiding lights, they might well be C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien with an honourable mention, particularly in Bruce Charlton's case, of Owen Barfield. 

The stories of Lewis and Tolkien were an inspiration to us when growing up, as they have been to countless others in a world starved of spirituality and real imagination. In my case I know, and in the case of my co-conspirators here I suspect, they were a real lifeline to something beyond the mundane, and their power has not diminished with age or familiarity. 

The more time goes by, the more respect I have for them and their extraordinary achievements, all the greater for being made against the flow of contemporary thought. Now, it is interesting to note that all three of these men were Christians but they were different sorts of Christians. Tolkien was Catholic, Lewis was Anglican and Barfield, while a follower of the anthroposophist Rudolph Steiner, was certainly orientated to the full reality of Christ. 

Funnily enough, this is reflected in the three of us in that John Fitzgerald was born and raised Catholic, Bruce Charlton is a Christian who leans towards Mormon theology, and I was raised in the Church of England and now don't have any official affiliation but am definitely Christian in that I acknowledge Jesus Christ as supreme Lord and Saviour. 

Some may regard a Christian universalism of this sort as a weakness but I see it as a potential strength insofar as it can actually enable one to go more deeply into the vastness of spiritual truth. I have argued about this many times and don't want to go into it here. Suffice it to say that it is neither the much and justly derided pick and mix version of religion nor is it an 'anything goes' attitude. 

The fullest truth is in Christ but official Christianity does not contain everything of Christ. It is, of course, quite enough for salvation (if observed properly) but it does not exhaust the wholeness of truth. 

Moreover, there are solid grounds for thinking that the Christianity of the past, based predominantly on faith, is no longer adequate and that we now need to seek a more direct insight into the nature of things. This does not deny the past but moves it forward, and I will go into it a little more further on in the post. 

Anyway, the point is that the three of us involved in this blog are all Christian but differ in externals, and probably in some beliefs as well, just like the Inklings mentioned above. Obviously I am not comparing us to them but it might be fair to say that we are standing on their shoulders and trying to follow in their footsteps if you'll forgive the rather clumsy mixed metaphors there. 

Quite frankly, the world is in such a sorry spiritual state at the moment that it is time for anyone who can to put his or her hands to the pumps. We write for those who see the disastrous spiritual condition of the modern world and often feel isolated or that there is nothing that can be done about it. 

We write to support such people and, at the same time, ourselves since it is a truism that getting stuff down on paper helps the writer himself to understand it better. That's true in my case certainly. The world can be a very lonely place for anyone who sees through its falseness and knows that what it calls good is often anything but. 

I think of people like that, among whom I number myself, as exiles, and exiles who are often not even sure if their dreams of home are real. One of the purposes of this blog is to affirm, categorically and without ambiguity, that these dreams are not fantasies or wishful thinking but solid and real intuitions of truth. 

As I say, all three of us here value the Christianity of the past but at the same time believe that, as it stands, it is no longer enough for the future. Times change, consciousness evolves and we are not the same now as we were in the Middle Ages. The roots of our religion remain the same but there needs to be new growth from those roots. 

We are now called upon to realise some of the inner truths of religion directly and for ourselves. This is not a matter of redesigning the basic picture but of making it more real by adding depth and perspective, maybe even some extra dimensions that will bring it to greater life. 

The fundamental truths are the same but we should now be going more deeply into them...

Read the whole thing...

Sunday, 17 June 2018

The once and future Christianity - by William Wildblood

Don't miss a new essay entitled 'Mere Christians' by William Wildblood at the Albion Awakening blog.

This has depth and breadth; it is inspiring and en-couraging... just superb!

Over the past few years I have come to regard William as a Christian writer unsurpassed, in my experience, by anyone today.

And he keeps getting better...

The Brown Swamp, those vast tracts of insignificant times - Life Not of the golden thread

I have written previously about the 'golden thread' that highlights certain times, places and events of my life - running back as far as I can remember. But the opposite side of that coin is the vast tracts of forgotten times in my life. The many things that happened that I remember about - but which feel-unreal and made very little lasting impact... this can amount to the bulk of many years of some situations, places, people...

I can remember that such things happened, but not feel what it was like; things that may have been psychologically overwhelming at the time, or of great duration, or unusual... but which did not link up with anything real.

This really is the obverse of the golden thread - where the moments may have seemed insignificant at the time, apparently ephemeral - maybe even things I thought very briefly, momentary insights or flashes of self-awareness... yet which have taken-on a mythic weight and permanence.

SO: the golden thread is myth, it is archetype, it is really-real - whereas most of life, including most of the most 'impressive' things in life (socially regarded as significant, quantitatively most dominant) are... the opposite of myth... just stuff, arbitrary, time-filling; unsuccessful attempts to live but in fact dishonest, contrived.

Such a lot of this stuff! Such a Brown Swamp! And such futile efforts expended! And such self-dishonesty of evaluation to cover the insignificance that was - in truth - the real experience... There was certainly, always, a part of me that realised I was thrashing around and failing - merely filling-time, occupying mind; that I was trying to manufacture-on-demand something that could only be discovered and known.

How badly I misinterpreted things. I thought my alienation was caused by dullness of circumstance, by being trapped in mundane and restricted situations - and that if-only I could change the circumstance and situations, then life would become real - which is to say mythic.

But in fact the problem was metaphysical - that I was constantly in-denial-of the reality of the real, of the insights of intuition, of the importance of that which I knew important - I was (mostly - except in golden thread moments) trying to live by external criteria, get my meaning from circumstances and my satisfaction from approval.

In sum, the Brown Swamp - its size, pervasiveness, the way it swallowed-up so much of Life; this was a consequence of an almost continuous denial of the reality of the real, of my own capacity to know the real, of the permanence and objectivity of significance; and this was at root a denial of God.

(All that was supposedly-real was felt to be unreal; and that which was experienced as real was categorised as merely personal and ephemeral.)

This is not about 'happiness'. At least on the surface, happiness can be dissociated from meaning - indeed it nearly-always is, for more people and most of the time. I was often happy.

But happiness without meaning or purpose or permanence or the reality of relationships... well that is alienation, and that is what I mean by the Brown Swamp; and that was me, and I think it is 'normal' - and that it is entailed by genuine unbelief in God.

Belief in Jesus is a separate thing. It is unbelief in God, in deity; in the sense of creator, that entails alienation; entails that apparent meanings and purposes in living are subjective and evanescent delusions merely; entails that life is necessarily a Brown Swamp.

And therefore my experience of the golden thread was a consequence of my failures in atheism; it was a negative attainment; those times and situations of unconscious belief and faith: intuited reality not-effectively-denied...

Saturday, 16 June 2018

First photograph of genius - JRR Tolkien, aged 22, analysed...

... over at The Notion Club Papers blog...

The most basic Christian assumption

- and it is an assumption - is that God is wholly Good, and loves us as children, and wants for us to grow to be like Jesus.

But how do you 'know' that God is Good, and loves us? Most people look for evidence about this - but there can be no evidence - for or against - because what counts as evidence depends on whether we believe God is Good or not.

(If God was evil, then any apparent-evidence might be there to deceive us.)

We cannot interpret this world, cannot detect or evaluate evidence, unless we have already decided whether this world is A Creation of God, and whether that God is Good/ loves-us etc. All of this makes a difference to everything...

How can we know? Well, how can we know anything? ... Here the weasel world is 'how' and the expectation that there is a Method - and the further expectation that the Method can be validated by evidence etc.

So, the situation seems, to the modern mind, hopeless.

But the matter of how we can know about God, about the reality, the nature, the plans and hopes of God is resolved simply by recognising that this is some-thing we must know directly.

There can be no Method. We must know in such a way that that knowing is foundational to all else, because that is the kind of thing we are discussing.

If the modern world teaches anything, it is that when God is subtracted it makes a difference.

(We tend to blame The New Left for hollowing-out, politicising, and subverting and inverting all social institutions - but that was already done by atheism. Government, the law, schools, colleges, hospitals, the police and military, the media are all hollow and instrumental and evil when God is excised from their hearts. But that is not something to be proven by evidence - it is something we know, directly.)

Modern Man behaves as if the only thing he knows directly is that nothing-can be known directly - we merely need to recognise that self-refuting contradiction; and to approach Reality with the spirit of wanting to know.

And we need to start with first things - instead of asking secondary or tertiary questions about reality. The question of God is the first question; and soon after comes the nature of God including our relationship to God.

This knowing-directly isn't some tortured and drawn-out complex philosophical process or scheme - quite the opposite. We moderns are already-embroiled in a complex philosophical scheme which has so confused and muddled us that the one thing we cannot see is the obvious; the one priority we cannot recognise is the vital.

There s a sense in which the human soul always does recognise God, and God's goodness and love for us - but there are many reasons why this knowledge is suppressed, forgotten and overwritten. Ultimate priorities yield to everyday expediencies, realities yield to wishes and fears... this is common observation. Then we accuse others (project) this; and the tangle becomes impossible to unravel.

The only act or choice that can go past the tangle, is to recognise direct knowledge (aka. intuition) as valid, as the basis of everything; and then all else can and will follow - for reasons that can only-then become apparent.

We all began, as children, with direct but unconscious knowledge of everything we needed to know; and the beginning of our task as adults is 'merely' to know consciously what we used to know unconsciously.

Quick, simple, attainable... 

And what of Jesus? Where does Jesus come into this scheme? Surely Jesus needs specific  revelations of scripture, tradition, church authority etc? Well, no. Jesus needs an understanding of the need for Jesus; and as adults this needs to be an explicit understanding. As children, and at the time of Jesus's life, the need for a Saviour was perfectly well-understood - although the identity and nature of the Saviour was a matter of massive disagreement... We have lost that understanding of need, and need to rediscover the truth of it; each for himself or herself, by direct knowing.


Friday, 15 June 2018

Albion and the 'Collective Conscious'

In a post over at Albion Awakening, I introduce the vital concept of the 'Collective Conscious', as a modification of the Jungian idea of Collective Un-Conscious; and as a way of explaining the place and nature of the really-real; as contrasted with the un-reality - the illusions, deceptions and delusions - of normal, everyday, modern life.

Thursday, 14 June 2018

New William Arkle website

William Arkle's son, Nick, has just launched a very well-produced website of his father's work.

Take a look!...

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Are some people 'born evil' (more than others)?

All the evidence, for what its worth, would say yes - some people are born more-Good than others; some people are, as far back as you go, apparently... well, evil.

In other words, there is a difference between individuals. 

But how far back does this difference go? The answer partly depends on how far back we go.

If we each go back eternally, in some primordial essence, then does this Good-evil differential go back to eternity? Do we begin morally different? Or do we all start out exactly the same and the difference arises over time? 

This is not a matter of 'evidence'; it is a matter of metaphysics - it is a primary assumption; and it can be validated only by intuition (and the validity of intuition in turn depends on its being the thinking of our divine self - that-within-us which is divine).

If we assume Men are entirely created by God (from nothing/ ex nihilo) and we all start exactly the same; then, because God is Good, this leads to the problem/ paradox of why God would make evil in the world, and men corruptible by it?

If we assume Men are entirely created by God (from nothing/ ex nihilo) and we all start different in terms of degree of Good and Evil; then this leads to the problem/ paradix of why a Good God would make some people more-evil (or more corruptible) than others - and thus more prone to damnation. 

But if (as I believe) we all start different, and we have always (in some primordial form) existed co-eternally with God (and therefore, in this independence-from God have the existential basis of genuine free will or agency) - then this difference in Good-evil was already-there before God made us his children.

...Then we can see that the problem of evil is built-in, and evil was not made by God, nor was evil deliberately made possible by God (almost equally problematic).

So, God's creative endevaor is therefore to deal-with the already-existing situation of the reality of evil, and of differential evil; in entities already-with the basis of free agency; while encouraging us to choose first salvation (and thereby join God's family); and then choose theosis (and thereby work towards participation in God's creation).

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Explaining the 'mechanism' of salvation and the necessity of Jesus (from the Fourth Gospel)

The beginning of the Fourth Gospel tells us that it was Jesus, The Word, who made this world; and it is this work of creation which enabled Jesus (and only Jesus) to be our saviour.


Having made this world; Jesus was then incarnated-into the world he had created; that is, he was incarnated from his creation, using the stuff of his own creation. This world has that primal and fundamental unity - of being created by Jesus - everything is inter-related and mutually-affecting, by kinship of shared origin.

So we too are all incarnated from this world, from the creation of Jesus. 

When Jesus died and was resurrected; this was the death and resurrection of the creator of this world, Jesus's mortal body and his resurrected body were both of this world (which Jesus himself had made).

We are incarnate from this world, Jesus became incarnate from this world (which he had made); we and Jesus are both Men; and therefore Jesus's death and resurrection had universal significance for Men. 

This it was, that made it possible for other Men to follow Jesus into resurrected life everlasting; and why only Jesus is our saviour.


Why then do we need to have faith in Jesus? Why doesn't salvation just-happen?

Because there are two things Jesus gave us; the first is 'physical' resurrection to eternal life, the second is 'dwelling' in Heaven (life 'everlasting', and life qualitatively greater - not merely unending existence...).

Resurrection just-happens, and it happens to all men. Instead of remaining as a severed soul - as was the case for all Men before Jesus; since the resurrection of Jesus, all Men (including those from before the time of Jesus) are resurrected.

Resurrection is not a choice - it 'just happens' - it is something like a change in physical reality; a change in what happens to the soul after death.


But Heaven is a choice, a decision, an act, an opt-in - and salvation therefore happens only through faith - that is love, trust of Jesus.

To understand this requires recalling the fate of the soul after the death of the body, and before the resurrection of Jesus - the soul was a witless, demented thing of little intelligence, little memory, little judgement, no free will... incapable of helping itself...

(This, at least, is how both the ancient Hebrews (with Sheol) and ancient Greeks (with Hades) regarded life after death - and other variants may be understood similarly. The soul after death was a damaged, incomplete, incapable thing - eternal life was merely eternal existence.)

I regard the Good Shepherd parable as providing the key to understanding salvation - which is that while the soul is always resurrected, resurrected Man cannot find his own way to Heaven.

The resurrected soul must be led to Heaven; that is, Man must choose to follow the guidance of the Good Shepherd. This following is not imposed, it is chosen.  

This was made newly possible by Jesus because the resurrected soul has greater capability than the discarnate souls destined for Sheol/ Hades; the resurrected soul has sufficient capability to recognise Jesus, to know him; it has the capacity and necessity to choose whether to follow the Good Shepherd, or not.

Why would the resurrected soul follow the Good Shepherd to Heaven, except that the soul loved and trusted the Good Shepherd?

That is the need for faith.


Thus Jesus was necessary to our salvation, only Jesus could give us salvation, only faith in Jesus can lead us to salvation.


What is Christian conversion like?

Conversion is like a teenager's decision to stay-within the family from-which he has just psychologically detached-himself.

Monday, 11 June 2018

The contradictions of modern life

By William Wildblood at Albion Awakening:

Edited excerpt:

Today we live a very contradictory existence. 

On the one hand, our beliefs are formed by materialism and our lives are largely lived as though that were true. This effectively requires that our sense of self be an illusion and any morals we might have arbitrary since one set cannot be better than another in any ultimate sense according to this doctrine. 

All morals are merely functional, for utilitarian purposes only, which means they rest on nothing substantial and the only requirement is to appear to obey them not to actually do so. 

But, on the other hand, we still live as if our self were real as well as those of others. The very idea of love, which we can't quite bring ourselves to renounce, insists that this be so. 

Surely we can't have it both ways? Either materialism is true in which case we, as real individual selves with some actual substance, aren't true, or our individuality is real in which case there must be a non-material basis to life. And, if that is so, there has to be a God since something cannot come from nothing nor can things give rise to themselves or the lesser to the greater. 

Moreover, we live as though free will were real but the philosophical basis of our culture, materialism, if true, would mean it was not. We would just be passive objects formed and impelled to action by mechanical or chemical but certainly external forces. Even the erudite philosophers who deny free will don't actually live as though they had none. Contradictions all over the place. No wonder we live in confused and chaotic times...

Read the whole thing...

The original cause of The Problem with the 1977 Silmarillion...

...Is described over at The Notion Club Papers.

Spiritual individualism

At present the two main lines are mainstream, modern materialist individualism; or a traditionalist communal-ism.

The first regards man as merely biological, a member of a species created by natural selection - but atomised into hedonic individuals, pursuing gratification.

Traditional religion has been almost wholly about fitting each individual into a pre-determined and simple scheme; subordinating the individual to the group. (Identity is considered as a type, not an individual.)

I think the truth is probably neither of these - the reality of the situation is probably spiritual, nor materialist, individualism.

Much of the success of modernity is because it seems to chime with the innate individualism of modern Man - but this promised destination is then twisted and perverted, and turned against itself - by the incoherent nonsense that is materialism as a metaphysical assumption.

However, it is possible to regard Man as intrinsically individual, in the sense of each being different from the beginning, from his or her origin; and each having an unique spiritual and eternal destiny. Then, this situation of primal individualism is made cohesive and creative by love; by the fact of sexual difference, in the pre-mortal spiritual state; of complementary men and women eternally real) and by families.

So there are primordial individuals, and then there is the opt-in system of love, from God. (Those who don't opt-in are not a part of cohesion - they have chosen existential isolation.)

New Testament Christianity is saturated with the language of family, and this is not an accidental nor optional thing; but a fundamental and literal reality. But it has been the early and progressive abandonment of relational family-language and its replacement by abstract physics-language (under the influence of pagan Greek and Roman philosophy and scholarship) that has been responsible for so much confusion, so much error.

The destined future for the followers of Jesus is one of individual men and women within families, eternally - but current ways of thinking, current metaphysical assumptions, make it almost impossible even to think this.

Instead we lapse towards the destructiveness of materialism, or the anti-individualism of traditional Christianity; neither of which is the path God wants for us, neither of which is a path which (if totally honest) anybody wants for himself, or herself - because both entail destruction of the self, the distinctive soul.

The future is to embrace individualism - but spiritual individualism, within a set of Christian metaphysical assumptions. 

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Mini-review of Tolkien and the Great War, by John Garth (2003) - specifically, the audio-book version

At The Notion Club Papers...

Metaphors of Heaven: nation or family?

In yesterday's post, I argued that the Fourth Gospel tells us that our salvation is straightforward (quick, simple - believe, love, follow Jesus); and the difficult thing for us to do in mortal life, is to struggle for higher consciousness; more specifically to struggle for a divine consciousness - that is, a consciousness aligned with God's motivations.

It may be asked why? It may be asked - what is the effect our our struggling for higher consciousness - how does it cash-out in an eternal timescale? What difference does it make whether I attain a higher consciousness or not?

Crudely: what's in it for me?

It is a fair question that needs answering. We need some idea of how this struggle in mortal life relates to what happens in life everlasting. On Earth and in Heaven.

What, then, is Heaven like - how can we begin to understand it?

Heaven is more like a family than a nation.

There is a tendency to regard post-mortal life as being structured on the lines of a traditional society; as a hierarchy, as a formal-structure with appointed duties... Something like the societies of Medieval Western Europe - with a King, Princes, Earls, and Nobles; gentry such as merchants and professionals, craftsmen and peasants... Or, the idea may be more like the medieval Roman church, with Pope, Cardinals, Bishops, priests and monks...

The idea implicit is that in Heaven there are certain, relatively few, jobs - roles; and we are each appointed to serve in one or another of them; and these jobs are linked hierarchically and as specialised functions.

But if Heaven is more like a family, an ideal-imagined extended family that occupies its own world - a family that coheres by love and is motivated by participation in God's work of creation - then each child born into the family has an unique, unpredictable destiny. Nobody knows how the child will 'turn-out', and the grown-up child will 'contribute' to the family in some unique way.

The child is not shaped-into a predetermined job; in a family ideally the child and the family interact to take account and benefit from what the child is and what he becomes. Each niche is unique (or, can be).

By this account of the nature of Heaven, mortal life is meant to make us each become more our-selves - not to fit-into pre-determined niches.

Salvation corresponds to the basic orientation, the desire to be in the family, to live for the family, to pursue the goals of the family... and beyond that, the striving for higher consciousness is like growing-up, becoming more adult; which is more aware, more conscious, more purposive more free - because one who is unconscious and passive is not free.

Note: Back beyond the above account is a further layer, or depth - which is that we each begin as an unique being. There is an assumption that all people begin as spiritually-identical; but I am suggesting that the opposite is true. In the beginning there were no two the same. This universe is one in which every person (probably, every entity) is unique, ultimately - and the Christian principle of cohesion, is love between non-identical, un-like things; which develop to become more themselves... Since we are to be gods (Sons and Daughters of God) the entire dynamic process being 'powered' by the fundamental and structuring complementarity of man and woman. We should set-aside ideas of sameness of origin, or sameness as a goal; we never were nor can be nor are meant-to-be the same as anybody or anything else - and glory entails the development of individuality within that power of love and directed by the eternal delight of participation in creation .


Saturday, 9 June 2018

Striving for 'higher consciousness' (theosis) is a teaching of the Fourth Gospel

Why is it so difficult for us to attain a higher form of consciousness? Why is success so rare and brief? 

The reason is that the higher consciousness is a divine form of consciousness, and to participate in it we must be in-accord-with divine creation... and not many people are.

Especially given that we must consciously be in accord with divine creation - and also aware of it, and actively choosing it from our true selves (our souls).  (This cannot be something unconscious or passive - because the divine is always conscious, always active and purposive.)

Many traditionalists find this line of thinking to be un-Christian, if not anti-Christian; so it is necessary to link it with Jesus. The best source on Jesus is the Fourth Gospel.

In the Fourth Gospel, aside from Jesus himself, the best example of a God-aligned Man is the author of the Gospel, the beloved disciple himself - if we agree that the author is the resurrected Lazarus. The Gospel itself is the product of exactly the kind of divine consciousness that we seek.

A serious question - though - is to do with mortal versus post-mortal life. Clearly we can look-forward to a divine consciousness if we are believers in Jesus as the Son of God and the Good Shepherd who (if we will follow) will lead us to life eternal, with divine qualities that are 'symbolically' depicted throughout the Fourth Gospel.

But why suppose that we ought to aim at divine consciousness in mortal life?  And why suppose that our failure to do would be responsible for the most extreme sins of modern life, as Rudolf Steiner recognised in a great prophetic statement of a century ago.

Well, perhaps because that is a theme throughout the Fourth Gospel, a Second Message; if that is what is implied by (for example) the conversation with Nicodemus about being born-again, or the conversation with the Samaritan woman about living water, or the discussion after feeding the five thousand about labouring for that meat which endureth into everlasting life.

It seems that there is a core/ minimal requirement for salvation: believing that Jesus is the Son of God and loving, therefore having faith, in him; so we may follow him through death to Heavenly life everlasting.

This core message is about salvation, and refers to our state after death and resurrection - but it is not about what we should do in this mortal life. Salvation is attainable by anyone who has these core convictions (believes-in and believes-on Jesus), and only by them. However, this gives no guidance for our worldly-motivations during this earthly existence. 

However, there is also this Second Message - focused not on salvation but on theosis, on divinisation or sanctification - and this second message is about what we should work-for and strive-for during mortal life. What should motivate us. The answer is that we should strive to attain a new way of thinking and being that is aligned with the divine.

In other words, we ought-to strive for a higher consciousness, by aligning our thinking with the divine and by participating in the work of creation, even before death and during earthly mortality.

And if or when we do not strive for higher consciousness - there will be bad consequences (as we see all around us).


What makes music 'spiritual' or 'sacred'?

William Wildblood explores the issues...

Thursday, 7 June 2018

What Tolkien meant by The Machine...

 Some of Melko/ Morgoth's machines invading Gondolin, as imagined by TheGreatMC at DeviantArt

Explained over at The Notion Club Papers...

Why has the Fourth Gospel been historically downgraded?

It seems that almost everything rests on assumptions... When reading, and indeed when originally making, the New Testament, our assumptions concerning relative authority, make a really Big difference to what we get from it.

Given that the Fourth Gospel is, by its own account, written by the disciple whom Jesus loved; it ought to have priority over all other parts of the New Testament. At the very least, and given it begins with the beginning of creation, it surely ought to be the First Gospel: first in position, first in composition, and first in authority due to its authorship.

However, if the Fourth Gospel had been placed first in position and authority, it would have framed the rest of the New Testament in ways that are very different from how Christianity evolved over the next many hundreds of years. As it is, the Gospels open with the three 'Synoptics' - Matthew, Mark and Luke - which are similar in structure and doctrine; that is, the accounts of Jesus open with the genealogy of Jesus leading back to the ancient prophets of the Old testament, and a version of the Nativity story. 

Why are the Synoptics put first in sequence and in authority, when they do not even claim to be eye-witness accounts; and indeed have internal evidence of being compilations? - When by comparison the Fourth Gospel is a wonder of integration, harmony and unity!

(Except for Chapter 21, which seems to have been added some time after the death of Simon Peter; said to be in the early 60s AD.) 

Unless we really disbelieve the claims of the Fourth Gospel - in which case it should not be in the Bible at all, since it is clearly dishonest - then it should be First.

Instead, the Synoptics are de facto given priority, by the simple means of claiming to regard all the Gospels as equal - or, indeed, especially among Confessional Protestants, inferior in authority to the Pauline Epistles.

Since the Fourth Gospel is qualitatively different from the Synoptics (and Paul's Epistles) in content, emphasis and several significant features; when it is regarded as 'equal' in authority, it is simply out-voted!

This means that, in actual practice (and for many hundreds of years), the Fourth Gospel (which ought-to-be First in priority) has-been and is merely fitted-into the other Gospels and/ or the Pauline Epistles; and any differences are explained-away.

This is simply a fact; the question is whether it is justified.

And that hinges on our understanding of what happened in the early 'post-apostolic' era of the Christian church - and to what extent it was divinely inspired, and to what extent it was human, flawed and corrupt.

Do we trust that the early and dominant theologians and church leaders were fundamentally correct? - I don't.

Do we trust that God inspired at least some translations of scripture to be sufficiently true? - I do: wrt the Septuagint, the Vulgate, Luther's and the 'King James'; which I regard as all equivalently valid (although not identical). 

By these assumptions, we can trust and use scripture (in these four versions), overall; and we can (as I do here) use scripture as evidence against the compilers and interpreters of The Bible.

You may not believe my assumptions are correct - and I cannot argue for them with 'evidence', since they are assumptions - but this procedure is coherent and reasonable.


What set John the Baptist above all the other Hebrew prophets?

The prominence which Jesus gives to John the Baptist requires specific explanation. After all, he is put on a level with, or perhaps even above, Moses, Abraham, Jacob and all the other greats; yet by the usual understanding, that status seems hard to justify.

What exactly, did John the Baptist do that was so important and can stand comparison, indeed excel, the remarkable achievements of the ancient Hebrew prophets?

It would be expected that we would be told exactly what that achievement was, and indeed we are. We are told what John did, and its effect - he was The Baptist, and he baptised Jesus, and this was the act that put him above all other prophets.

As we are told John was supremely important, the baptism of Jesus by John must itself have been supremely important. Well, we are told in the Fourth Gospel that the (divine) Spirit came and rested and stayed upon Jesus. Since we were not told anything about Jesus's earlier life in the Fourth Gospel; implicitly, this marks the exact moment when Jesus became what he finally was, and without this he would not have been who he was.

In the Fourth Gospel, there is no 'origins' Nativity story, no genealogy of Jesus, no information concerning Jesus's childhood (nothing about Jesus being related to John the Baptist). John's Baptism is apparently the sole and sufficient explanation of Jesus becoming fully the Son of God.

Of course Jesus was already the Lamb of God, even before he was baptised, and was recognised as such... by John the Baptist.

Therefore, the Fourth Gospel is telling us that it was John the Baptist who first recognised that Jesus was the Messiah, and on baptising him was aware of the Spirit descending upon him and staying upon him.

We tend to assume that none of this was essential to the work of Jesus; but we are probably wrong to do this. At least in the Bible, God does things by Men. Perhaps if one man fails, then God may find another - but decisions and events have permanent significance.

It seems that the weight of the divine plan of salvation rested upon the shoulders of John the Baptist; and that he was needed as the specific person who was worthy and able, to recognise and baptise Jesus, in the decisive event which began the ministry of Jesus.

Since the author of the Fourth Gospel gives no other 'reason' for Jesus's status; the recognition and Baptism by John may count as the single most important event in the mortal life of Jesus.

If that is so; the prominence of John the Baptist in the Fourth and Synoptic Gospels is easily understandable.

John Fitzgerald reviews and recommends a new journal: Jesus the Imagination

...Over at Albion Awakening.