Wednesday 12 July 2023

Christianity is Not about strange people, somewhere else, long ago

Perhaps because I have a strong sense of identity, I have nearly always been resistant to the cultural aspects of Christianity. 

As a very young child I was averse to the arid Middle Eastern setting of Bible stories, and felt a strong counter loyalty to my verdant West Country landscape and people.

I retain an intermittent hostility to the whole practice of making "being a Christian" into the attempt to focus my thinking on strange people, somewhere else, and long ago.

I don't like the endless and recurrent practice of dwelling on Jesus stories, ancient Hebrew stories; nor of regarding Medieval society as a model to be emulated.

In this sense, I retain the impulse toward that private and spontaneous "neo paganism" of my childhood and teens. 

Christianity has been primarily cultural in ways that I dislike, and which are killing the faith in a world where the culture is now essentially Satanic.

I seek a Christian faith and practice which breaks away from this historical and geographic cultural core. And stops being focused on other people.

What is needed is immediate and lived and experiential. Personal and divine. Happening here, now, to me and those I love - to my place, my country; and my mythic roots.

We ought to be able to get the idea of what is needed for salvation and Christian living... get the idea from whatever source, or none (none except our own inner experiences) ... 

And Then... live in the present with an eye to eternity.


Stephen Macdonald said...

I recently surveyed the latest scholarship around the Bible and learned that the consensus (outside of evangelical circles) is that only about 5 of the Pauline epistles were actually written by Paul circa AD 50-70. It is now believed that the synoptic gospels are pseudepigrapha written by unknown authors (not the apostles for whom they are named today) around AD 70-100. The fourth gospel was, according to these scholars, likely written around 100 AD, again not by anyone who actually met Jesus.

Now, I have no firm position on any of this since lack the training to critically evaluate such scholarship. Even if these scholars are correct in their assessment of the provenance and chronology of the books of the Bible, I don't believe this necessarily changes their religious / metaphysical significance.

The upshot is that I find myself turning toward the Person of Jesus "directly". I'll certainly never abandon the Bible as vitally important to understanding Him, but neither will I obsess over passages that have been culturally "cherry picked".

Dr. Charlton captures in this blog something new. The outlines (at least for me) are still hazy, but growing crisper each day. What is this new thing? Perhaps the deepest relationship humanity has yet had with Jesus Christ.

agraves said...

Bruce, "live in the present with an eye toward eternity". Completely agree. Have you noticed that reading and studying scripture of any religion has not produced anyone as capable as the founder? Buddhism has not produced another Buddha, Islam has not produced another Muhammad, same for Christianity and numerous others. The study of the Vedas has not produced someone who could create another Veda. In fact I would say the study of the scriptures is evidence of our lack of intuitive spirituality, with such study leading to handcuffing our native consciousness.

Bruce Charlton said...

@WW Could you refrain from psycho analyzing the blogger; and instead make your (interesting!) comment a general point!

@Stephen Good comment. I try to ignore Biblical scholarship because it argues from false (often childishly inept!) premises, thus cannot help but be wrong.

@ Good point.

whiteknight32be said...

"To live in the present with an eye toward eternity", yes I do agree with that as well.

Another way I interpret this is "to die daily". Another way to decribe this is "to make a recapitulation list". Several authors (Carlos Castaneda for instance) write about the "how to do this". Basically it is a life review, but done on a daily basis.
The recapitulation would then consist of a life review, while still alive.

By doing that we keep an eye toward eternity. We always can evaluate what we have done, this lifetime, and learn as much from it as we can.

william arthurs said...

Maybe Jesus' original cover-story (or "legend" as they are called) has served its purpose?

I just started writing, a few days ago, a little essay for my Bible study, to be entitled "Is the question What is the relationship between the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith? a historical question?" If not, what sort of question is it?

What passes for scholarship has indeed consistently treated this as a historical question.

Yet surely our faith in the "Christ of faith" could never amount to a reasonable conjecture that would plug the gaps in the historical record/ biblical criticism/ archaeology etc.

william arthurs said...

I only just thought of the passage below, which has a wider implication if we place a broad construction upon the term 'images'. Austin Farrer, in his Glass of Vision (1948), suggests

"When we pray, we must begin by conceiving God in full and vigorous images, but we must go on to acknowledge the inadequacy of them and to adhere nakedly to the imageless truth of God. The crucifixion of the images in which God is first shown to us is a necessity of prayer because it is a necessity of life. The promise of God's dealing with us through grace can be set before us in nothing but images, for we have not yet experienced the reality.

"When we proceed to live the promises out, the images are crucified by the reality, slowly and progressively, never completely, and not always without pain: yet the reality is better than the images. Jesus Christ clothed himself in all the images of messianic promise, and in living them out, crucified them: but the crucified reality is better than the figures of prophecy.

"This is very God and life eternal, whereby the children of God are delivered from idols."

One could well argue that the hitherto-standard-accepted geographic/ historical/ cultural mediation of Christianity does need to suffer and die for us.

Bruce Charlton said...

@William A - There's *something* in the general point made, taken in a 'soft and flexible' sense; although I regard that kind of crucifixion language as being rooted in false theology (and a mistaken idealization of asceticism), and a false understanding of the nature of God. I also think Farrer is fundamentally mistaken in equating spiritual progress with increasing abstraction - something nearer the opposite is correct. To me, these are misconceptions that Romantic Christianity would do well to understand and replace with more valid assumptions.