In order to ascertain the nature of Christianity today, it is necessary to bear in mind the distinction between knowledge which is arrived at by observation and deduction, and knowledge which is revealed to man through no power of his own. Deductive knowledge is always changing in the light of fresh observations and new experience. It therefore lacks certainty. Revealed knowledge is from God.
In every revealed message, there is a metaphysical aspect and a physical. The metaphysical teaches the nature of the Divine Unity. The physical provides a code of behavior. Revealed knowledge has always been brought by a messenger who embodied it. The way he lives is the message. To behave as the messenger did is to have knowledge of the message, and in this knowledge is certainty.
Christianity today is said to be based on revealed knowledge, but none of the Bible contains the message of Jesus intact, and exactly as it was revealed to him, peace be upon him. There is hardly any record of his code of behavior. The books in the New Testament do not even contain eye-witness accounts of his sayings and actions. They were written by people who derived their knowledge second-hand. These records are not comprehensive and have never been satisfactorily authenticated. Everything which Jesus said and did which has not been recorded has been lost forever.
Those who seek to verify what is in the New Testament claim that even if by no means comprehensive, it is at least accurate. However, it is significant that all the oldest surviving manuscripts of the New Testament, from which all the present translations of the Bible derive, were written after the Council of Nicea, The Codex Sinaiticus and the Codex Vaticanus date from the late 4th or 5th century, and the Codex Alexandrius from the 5th century AD. As a result of the Council of Nicea, nearly three hundred other accounts of the life of Jesus, many of them eye-witness accounts, were systematically destroyed. As we have seen, the events leading up to the Council of Nicea indicate that the Pauline Church had every reason to change the contents of the four Gospels which survived.
Clearly, the manuscripts of the New Testament which were writ ten after the Council of Nicea are different from the manuscripts which existed before the Council. It is significant that publication of some of the Dead Sea Scrolls, when they do not verify the post-Nicene manuscripts, have been withheld.
The unreliability of the officially accepted Gospels appears to be admitted by the Church itself: The metaphysics of Christianity today are not even based on what is in the Gospels.
The established Church is founded on the doctrines of Original Sin, of the Atonement and Redemption of Sins, of the divinity of Jesus, of the divinity of the Holy Ghost, of Trinity, and of the New Covenant. None of these doctrines are to be found within the Gospels. They were neither explained nor taught by Jesus. They were the fruits of Paul's innovations, combined with the influence of Greek culture and philosophy, and compounded by the speculation of latter-day European Christians who did not know what they were talking about.
Paul never personally experienced either the company or the direct transmission of knowledge from Jesus. Before his 'con version', he vigorously persecuted the followers of Jesus, and after it he was largely responsible for abandoning the code of behavior of Jesus when he took 'Christianity' to the non Jews of Greece and beyond. The figure of 'Christ' whom he claimed taught him his new doctrine is an imagination. His rejection of the Law of Moses - to which he nevertheless continued to refer whenever it suited him - is without divine sanction, and his teaching is based on an event which never took place, the supposed death and resurrection of Jesus.
Despite their extremely doubtful origins, the doctrines of the established Trinitarian Church form an integral part of the social conditioning of anyone who is given a 'Christian education'. Although many have rejected some or all of these doctrines, the magic they exercise is such that those who give them credibility are lead by their logic to believe in the notorious principle: 'Outside the Church, no salvation.' The Church's metaphysical construct is this:
The doctrine of the Atonement and Redemption of 5ins says that Christ who was of God took on human form and became Jesus, who then died for all believers to atone for all their sins. The Church accordingly guarantees forgiveness of sins and salvation on the Day of Judgement, for any one who believes in 'Christ' and who follows the guidance of the Church. Further, it is believed that this contract is available to all people until the end of the world. The natural consequences of this belief are these:
Firstly, it implies that believing Christians are not responsible for their actions in this world and that they will not he held to account for them after their deaths - for whatever they do in this world, they believe that they will nevertheless be redeemed by 'Christ's sacrifice' - while all those who are not believing Christians will he automatically doomed to eternal damnation in Hell, no matter how good the lives they have led.
However, this does not mean a life of joy on earth for all believing Christians. Their belief in the doctrine of Original Sin, which states that because of the fall of Adam, all men are born sinful, means that while they are alive it follows that their condition is one of unworthiness and incompleteness. This tragic view of life is reflected in the following statement of J. G. Vos, a Christian, in which he compares Islam and Christianity:
“There is nothing in Islam to lead a man to say, 'Oh wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?' or, 'I know that in me; that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing.' A religion with reasonable attainable objectives ... does not give the sinner the anguish of a guilty conscience nor the frustration of trying without success to attain in practical living the requirements of an absolute moral standard. In brief, Islam makes a man feel good, while Christianity necessarily first, and often thereafter, makes a man feel bad. The religion of the broken heart is Christianity, not Islam.”
Secondly, belief in the doctrine of the Atonement and Redemption of Sins only leads to confusion when believing Christians attempt to reconcile the other teachings God has revealed to man with their own belief. The doctrine clearly implies that 'Christ's sacrifice' and 'message' are unique and final, and that therefore believing Christians cannot accept the teachings of other Prophets.
At the same time, they cannot deny the truth which they inevitably find within them. Thus, for example, believing Christians are obliged to reject Judaism, and yet accept the Old Testament, which as we have seen is at least partially derived from the teachings which Moses brought to the Jews. Thus believing Christians find themselves in the impossible position of having to accept two contradictory beliefs simultaneously - as this passage shows:
“There are elements of relative good in the non-Christian faiths. While the call for separation from false religions is certainly Biblical, and the demonic character of pagan religions is taught in Scripture ... still it is also true that elements of limited relative good exist in these religions. While it is true that they are demonic in character, it is also true (and Scriptural) that they are products of man's distorted interpretation of God's revelation in nature. Even though they may be works of the devil, still they are not simply works of the devil, but partly products of God's common grace and partly products of sinful man's abuse of God's revelation in nature.”
It is significant that Vos does not mention all the 'distorted interpretation' which the New Testament is known to have undergone.
Attempts to avoid the dilemma of simultaneous acceptance and rejection of non-Christian faiths has been made by arguing that some Christians 'discern in them the influence of the 'cosmic Christ' who, as the eternal Logos or revealer of the Godhead, is the 'light that enlightens every man.' This view was summed up by William Temple when he wrote:
“By the word of God - that is to say, Jesus Christ - Isaiah and Plato, Zoroaster, Buddha, and Confucius uttered and wrote such truths as they declared. There is only one Divine Light, and every man in his own measure is enlightened by it.”
The reasoning in this passage relies on the assumption that the ,one Divine Light' and 'Christ' are one and the same. Since 'Christ' is an imagination, the doctrine fails, and the dilemma remains. It can only be avoided by resorting to what George Orwell called ,doublethink'. He defined it thus:
“Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs simultaneously, and accepting both of them. The party intellectual knows that he is playing tricks with reality, but by the exercise of doublethink he also satisfies himself that reality is not violated.”
Doublethink lies at the root of believing Christians' fundamental assumption that 'Christ' is God. It is around this assumption that the controversy of the two natures of Jesus has continued to rage for centuries. One moment he is human. The next moment he is divine. First he is Jesus, then he is Christ. It is only by the exercise of doublethink that a person can hold these two contradictory beliefs simultaneously. It is only by the exercise of doublethink that belief in the illusory doctrine of Trinity can be maintained.
Article VII of the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England begins: 'The Old Testament is not contrary to the New ...' As Milton has so clearly shown, the Old Testament is full of passages affirming the Oneness of Gad. There is not one passage which describes the Divine Reality in any of the terms used by believing Christians to describe the doctrine of Trinity. The act of affirming what is in the Old Testament - and in fact the Gospels for that matter - and at the same time affirming belief in the doctrine of Trinity, is probably the greatest illustration of the exercise of doublethink within Christianity today.
The logic of the established Church's metaphysic, based on doctrines which were not taught by Jesus, obscures not only the nature of Jesus, but also the Divine Unity. Thus the metaphysic of Christianity today is totally opposed to the metaphysic which was originally taught by Jesus.
The physical aspect of what Jesus brought, his code of behavior, is today irrecoverably lost. To live as Jesus lived is to understand his message, yet there is virtually no existing record of how Jesus behaved. And what little knowledge exists is often ignored. The most fundamental daily act of Jesus was that of worship of the Creator, the whole purpose for which man was created. Yet it is evident that no Christian today makes the same acts of worship which Jesus made. Jesus was educated in the synagogue in Jerusalem from the age of twelve. He preached in the synagogue. He used to keep the synagogue clean.
No Christian today can be found performing any of these actions. How many Christians have even been circumcised in the manner that Jesus was? Jesus usually prayed in the synagogue. He prayed at appointed times each day, in the morning, at mid-day, and in the evening. He used to wash with water before he prayed. The exact form of his prayer is no longer practiced, but it is known that it was based on the prayer which Moses was given, and that it probably included the positions of standing, bowing, prostrating and sitting.
Jesus said that he had come to uphold the Law of Moses and not to destroy it one jot or one tittle.
The services now held in today's churches were developed long after Jesus had disappeared. Many of them come directly from the pagan Graeco Roman mythological rites. The prayers they use are not the prayers which Jesus made. The hymns they sing are not the praises which Jesus sung. Believing Christians today worship God as they think best, not as He originally commanded Jesus and his true followers.
Due to the innovations of Paul and his followers, there is no revealed teaching left as to what to eat and what not to eat. Any one given a 'Christian education' today eats what he or she feels like. Yet Jesus and his true followers only ate kosher meat and were forbidden to eat pig's flesh. Most believing Christians today are unaware of the fact that the food which God has forbidden them to eat, such as pork and blood, is forbidden because it is not good for them. Instead they believe that these ' dietary requirements' belong to another age before fridges were invented, and that 'Christian' scientists in white coats know best.
The last meal Jesus is known to have eaten before his disappearance was the Passover meal. No Christian today celebrates this long-standing Jewish tradition to which Jesus so meticulously held. It is no longer known in what manner Jesus ate and drank, who he would eat with and who he would not eat with, where he would eat and where he would not eat, when he would eat and when he would not eat. Jesus fasted, but again it is not known how, where and when he fasted. His science of fasting has been lost, There is no record of the food he liked especially, and the food of which he was not particularly fond.
Jesus did not marry while he was on earth, but he did not forbid marriage. There is no passage in the Gospels which states that a follower of Jesus must take a vow of celibacy. Nor is there any authority for the establishment of single-sex communities such as monasteries or convents, although these could owe their origin to communities such as the Essenes. The early followers of Jesus who were married followed the code of behavior within marriage which Moses brought. Their example is no longer emulated by believing Christians today, and the current breakdown and collapse of the family structure in the Christian West today demonstrates the lack of effective guidance as regards behavior within a Christian marriage of how a man should behave towards a woman, and a woman towards a man.
This has been exacerbated by many of the official Churches' current permissive attitudes towards extra marital sex, homosexuality and lesbianism all of which are forbidden by the teachings of all the Prophets, including Moses, Jesus and Muhammad, may the blessings and peace of God be on them and on whoever follows their example.
Extracting moral principles from the Gospels and trying to live in accordance with them is not the same as acting in a certain manner because it is known that Jesus acted that way in that situation. One course of action is the fruit of deductive knowledge, the other course of action is based on revealed knowledge. Only the former can he changed and manipulated; the latter cannot it can only be ignored.
There is neither any written record, nor any living existentially transmitted human record, of how Jesus walked, of how he sat, of how he stood, of how he kept himself dean, of how he went to the toilet, of how he went to sleep, of how he woke up, of how he greeted people, of how he was with old people, of how he was with young people, of how he was with old women, of how he was with young women, of how he was with strangers, of how he was with guests, of how he was with his enemies, of how he conducted his transactions in the market place, of how he travelled, of what he was allowed to do and of what he was not allowed to do.
The records of Jesus' message as revealed to him by God are incomplete and inaccurate. The doctrines on which Christianity today is based are not to be found within these records. The record of how Jesus acted is almost non-existent, and what little is known is virtually ignored. Yet the institution of the Church, in whatever form, has always claimed to be the interpreter and guardian of Jesus' message.
The Church was not instituted by Jesus. He did not establish a hierarchy of priests to act as mediators between God and man. Yet the established Pauline church, from very early on, always taught Christians to believe that their salvation was assured if they acted and believed as the Church told them. From where did the Church derive its authority?
This claim for authority, in its most extreme form, is to be found in the Roman Catholic Church's doctrine of papal infallibility. Cardinal Heenan has summed it up in these words:
“This secret of this wonderful unity of our Church is Christ's promise that the Church will never fail to teach the truth, Once we know what the Church teaches we accept it. For we know it must be true ... All Catholic priests teach the same doctrine because they all obey the Vicar of Christ. The ward 'vicar' means 'one who takes the place of another.'
The Pope is the Vicar of Christ because he takes the place of Christ as Head of the Church on earth. The Church remains one because all her members believe the same Faith. They believe it because the Church cannot teach what is false. This is what we mean when we say that the Church is infallible. Christ promised to guide his Church, One of the ways Christ chose to guide the Church was by leaving his Vicar on earth to speak for him, That is why we say the Pope is infallible. He is the Head of the infallible Church. God could not allow him to lead it into error.”
It is significant that Cardinal Heenan talks only of 'Christ', and not of Jesus. He does not refer to the Gospels to support his claims because there is in fact nothing in the Gospels to support them!
The dogma of papal infallibility has often proved awkward, and especially in retrospect. For, as we have already seen, if all the Popes were infallible, then why was Pope Honorius anathematised? Does the relatively recent papal encyclical which states that the Jews were not responsible for the supposed crucifixion of Jesus mean that all the preceding Popes who were of the opinion that the Jews were responsible were not infallible after all? And since Jesus was in fact not crucified at all, does this not mean that all the Popes who have believed that he was crucified were not infallible at all?
Many Roman Catholics today have rejected the validity of 'Christ's promise that the Church will never fail to teach the truth,' which is not to be found in any of the Gospels: The great gap between Church teaching and practice, to give some examples of contemporary attitudes, troubled Cincinnati's Archbishop Joseph L. Bernadin, who said in an interview in V.S. Catholic:
“Sa many consider themselves good Catholics, even though their beliefs and practices seem to conflict with the official teaching in the Church. This is almost a new concept of what it means to be a Catholic today ... Once it became legitimate (in 1966) to eat meat on Friday one could doubt the authority of the Pope, practice birth control, leave the priesthood and get married or indeed do anything else one wanted to.
The practice of abstaining from meat on Friday, meant to emulate Jesus's fasting and to commemorate the day on which he was supposed to have been crucified, eventually became a Church commandment and for centuries served as a kind of Roman Catholic badge.
And: “Vatican II, (the Second Vatican Council of 1962), amazed me,' wrote author, Doris Grumbach, in the Critic, 'because it raised the possibility of more answers than one, of gray areas, of a private world of conscience and behavior. But like all places in human experience of rigour and rule, once the window was opened, everything came under question. No constants remained, no absolutes, and the Church became for me a debatable question. I still ding to the Gospels, to Christ and some of his followers as central to my life, but the institution no longer seems important to me. I no longer live in it.”
The investment and exercise of considerable authority in the established Trinitarian Church, if not its complete infallibility, never the less still remains. It is evident, all these centuries later, even within the Churches which have long rejected the authority of the Pope over them. However, the validity of any form of religious authority is today being doubted and rejected on a scale that has never been known before. In the words of George Harrison:
“When you're young you get taken to church by your parents and you get pushed into religion at school. They're trying to put something into your mind. Obviously because nobody goes to church and nobody believes in God. Why? Because they haven't interpreted the Bible as it was intended. I didn't really believe in God as l' d been taught it. It was just like something out of a science fiction novel. You're taught just to have faith, you don't have to worry about it, just believe what we're telling you.”
Between the two poles of complete acceptance and complete rejection of the established Church's reliability as the guardians of the message of Jesus, there lies every shade of opinions as to what it is to be a believing Christian. Wilfred Cantwell Smith writes:
“There is so much diversity and clash, so much chaos, in the Christian Church today that the old ideal of a unified or systematic Christian truth has gone. For this, the ecumenical movement is too late. What has happened is that the Christian world has moved into that situation of open variety, of optional alternatives. It would seem no longer possible for anyone to be told or even to imagine that he can be told, what it means or should mean, formally and generically, to be a Christian. He must decide for himself - and only for himself.”
This conclusion implies that there are as many versions of Christianity today as there are Christians, and that the role of the Church, as an institution which is the guardian of Jesus's message, has largely ceased to exist:
A graduate student at UCLA. asked: 'What is the point of a Church if it's always up to my own conscience?' However, the Church remains an integral part of Western culture today, and the relationship between the two is an interesting one.
Vast amounts of literature have been written in the West during the last few centuries, in the attempt to understand the nature of existence. They provide a catalogue of all the possible avenues of thought a person's mind will pursue when he or she does not have the certainty of revealed knowledge to live and understand his or her life by. Some writers such as Pascal have realised that the mind is a limited tool, and that the heart is the centre of their being, and the container of real knowledge:
“The heart has its reasons which are unknown to reason ... It is the heart which is aware of God and not reason. This is what faith is: God perceived intuitively by the heart, not by reason.”
In the attempt to gain access to the heart many have rejected Christianity and experimented with other means:
“Mystical experience is said to lead to real knowledge of 'the truth' about the universe. This truth is inexpressible in words, but it can be felt. The medium can be music, drugs, meditation…”
These alternative approaches to understanding Reality have been adapted by people in the West on a vast scale, often only as a means of self-gratification, rather than as part of a serious attempt to find out what life is all about.
The Trinitarian Church has greatly accommodated itself to these new trends in the culture of the West. In their attempts to keep the churches full, some priests have introduced pop-groups and discotheques into their routine to attract young people. Concerts, exhibitions and jumble-sales cater for more conservative tastes. Charitable concerns help establish a sense of purpose for those who indulge in them. These attempts to 'modernise' the established Church and keep it 'up to date' are in keeping with the Pauline Church's long standing tradition of compromise by all means. If it cannot pass on the message of Jesus, it must at least provide a 'useful social function'.
This process of compromise, especially during the present century, has resulted both in the continued absorption of the Church into the culture, and of the re-absorption of the culture into this changing structure of the Church. It is a two way process which has endlessly been alternating since Paul and his followers set it in motion.
Many people have 'returned to Christianity' as a result of their experience with music, drugs and meditation. They tend either to completely reject these experiences, and adopt a puritanical form of Christianity, or else they incorporate their new way of life into their own updated version of Christianity. Both these trends cover up the prophethood of Jesus. He is either exalted as God or regarded as no more than a charismatic cult figure, a 'Jesus Christ Superstar' who meant well, but was misunderstood.
The continuing identification of the established Trinitarian Church with the culture of the West and the two-way assimilation process between the two is c1earlyapparent simply by observing how people live today: With the exception of those who have withdrawn into monasteries and convents to remember God, the lifestyle of those who call themselves Christians often closely resembles the lifestyles of those who claim to be agnostics, humanists or atheists. Their beliefs may be different, but their general behavior is the same.
The laws which exist in the 'Christian' countries of the West today - the laws governing birth and death, the formation and dissolution of marriage, the rights over property within and outside marriage, or in the event of divorce or death, adoption and guardianship, commerce and industry and all the rest are not to be found in the Gospels. The laws which define what constitutes criminal behavior and the various penalties for such behavior, are no longer derived from the Bible. Murderers are no longer executed, for example, and adulterers are no longer stoned to death. Some laws, such as those which legalise usury in all its forms, flatly contradict what has in fact always been forbidden by God.
Most of these laws are not laws which have been revealed to man by God. They are the fruits of deductive knowledge. They are either inherited from the Roman system of law, or are based on the common practice of people over a long period of time, or are statutes formulated and amended whenever it is considered necessary in accordance with the democratic method, which is alleged to be the bequest of the ancient Greeks. No one in today's courts of law can refer to the Gospels as a binding authority in his or her dealings with another person, and have their submissions or representations based on them judicially accepted. A person may swear to tell the truth on the Bible but it must remain tightly shut!
The Christianity of today is inseparable from the culture of the West, which has now been successfully exported virtually through out the world. The established Christian Church and the State are at one with each other and support each other. And the individuals who work within their respective institutions do not live as Jesus lived, however much some of them may wish that they were.
The spiritual impoverishment of Christianity today is due to the inescapable fact that the believing Christians of today lack a science of social behavior, based on that which was originally embodied by Jesus and his true followers and that lack has left them at a loss in this life and unprepared for what happens after death. As Wilfred Cantwell Smith writes:
“To say that Christianity is true is to say nothing significant; the only question that concerns either God or me, or my neighbour is whether my Christianity is true, and whether yours is. And to that question, a truly cosmic one, in my case the only valid answer is a sorrowful 'not very ...”
It is scarcely surprising, in the light of all this, that as the churches of the world are emptying, the mosques of Islam are filling up, for in this age, as for the last fourteen centuries, the knowledge about Jesus to which only the Muslims have access, is far more accurate and far more reliable than any of the perversions of the original teachings of and accounts about Jesus which still exist today and which are all that today's believing Christians, whether Unitarian or Trinitarian, have, and in this age, as for the last fourteen centuries, the only way to truly follow Jesus, Prophet of Islam, is by following the way of Islam, the way of the Prophet Muhammad, may the blessings and peace of God be on him and on all the Prophets of God, and on all their true followers, until ... the Last Day.