I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes; yea, Father, for such was thy gracious will.
Christendom is the realm of contradictions. It is the place where those who speak in the name of the Lord contradict the word of the Lord, and where those who act in the name of the Lord contradict the deeds of the Lord. This results in a general mental disposition that accedes to unrealistic fantasies when thinking of Jesus and his times. For example, according to a popular Christmas carol, "O Little Town of Bethlehem," the little town of Bethlehem is quiet and peaceful throughout the night. The silent stars drift across the sky while the villagers rest in deep and dreamless sleep. The angels keep the quiet peace while watching through the night; then, as morning stars, sing out praises to God and peace to men on earth. It is the night of the savior's birth. Such is the fantasy of Christendom.
Here is the reality, according to the testimony of the gospels: The tyrant, king Herod, was enraged because the wise men had deceived him. He sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were not more than two years old. This was to insure that he would destroy the infant messiah (Matthew 2:16). Jeremiah foretold this awful crime when he wrote, "A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they were no more (Jeremiah 31:15) ." This happened to Bethlehem and its children because Jesus had been born there!
The birth of Jesus in Bethlehem therefore cast a dark shadow of terror, death, and grief over the town and its whole territory. Can you imagine the horror of Herod's soldiers pounding on doors, searching, dragging out mothers clutching infant sons? Snatching the infants out of the wailing mother's arms and putting them to the sword before their eyes?
Silent stars? Dreamless sleep? This is typical of the contradictions of Christendom. There are so many, so gross and inexcusable, that anyone who reads the Gospels with an open mind must conclude that the whole of Christendom is a contradiction.
Bethlehem may have been quiet and peaceful on the night Jesus was born. The slaughter was later. Still, the contradiction stands because the carol depicts Bethlehem as a place greatly blessed by the saviour's birth. It suggests that peace and quietness will follow the infant and spread throughout the earth -- that he is to bring peace not only to Bethlehem, but to all the world. Well, we have seen the consequences for poor Bethlehem and, for two millinea, we have been witnessing the consequences for the world.
Mary is another example of contradiction. She foretold that "All generations will call me Blessed," (Luke 1:48) and Christendom has fulfilled her prophecy by placing her upon a pedestal of joy and exultation. Everywhere one hears her called "The Blessed Virgin" or "blessed among women," but the picture takes on a different hue when you put yourself in her shoes. First, there was a tense situation when she became pregnant out of wedlock. She was, according to the law, subject to death by stoning (Deuteronomy 22:13-21). Who knows how she managed to survive? Later, after the birth of Jesus, her husband took them on the hard journey to Egypt. They trudged across hundreds of miles of desert with no more justification than a dream (Matthew 2:13-15). There, during many months of hardship, they dwelt in the midst of strangers speaking a strange tongue. Then it repeated . . . another dream and another journey, from Egypt all the way back to Nazareth in Galilee (Matthew 2:19-22).
Mary probably had never heard of the massacre at Bethlehem, and I visualize their return to home and kindred as a very mixed blessing. The long trek is ending as they pass the gates of Nazareth and approach the home of Mary's parents. Someone has just rushed ahead of them with the good news of their arrival, and her mother bursts out of the door to meet them. Running to Mary and embracing her, she weeps for joy and cries out, "Oh, Mary! How happy I am! We though you had all perished in the slaughter of the innocents!"
"Slaughter? Mother, what slaughter?"
"Mary, where have you been? Have you not heard how Herod put all the baby boys of Bethlehem to the sword because he thought the Messiah had been born there?"
Mary stiffened. She pushed her mother away as a look of agony and shock passed across her young face. She turned her head slowly toward Joseph, who was holding the boy in his arms. The child was so safe, so secure. There was a long silence. Then, a low moan began to issue from her mouth. Misery and grief took hold of her and she fell face down to the ground and clawed at the earth. Suddenly, all the sorrow of the mothers of Ramah exploded in Mary's heart. She cried out, repeatedly, "My God, Oh, my God, why have you chosen me? My God, Oh, my God, why have you chosen me?"
Perhaps it was thus that the prophesy of Simeon began to be fulfilled, which he spoke to Mary saying, " . . . and a sword will pierce through your soul also (Luke 2:35)."
The Bethlehem contradiction is bad; the Mary contradiction is worse; worse yet is the Jesus contradiction. The Jesus of Christendom is a direct contradiction of the Jesus of history. If the Apostles and other early founders of the church, knowing Jesus well, had deliberately proclaimed a Jesus having exactly opposite characteristics, the Jesus of Christendom would not have been a greater contradiction than the one now proclaimed. This Jesus, the Jesus of Christendom, applies his perfect love to bring peace to the earth and to heal relationships -- for example, to mend broken homes; but what did the Jesus of history say?
Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division; for henceforth in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against her mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law (Luke 12:51-53).Again, the Jesus of history called upon the prophet Hosea to support him in teaching that God requires mercy and not sacrifice. Christendom presents a Jesus who makes himself a sacrifice to God. The "Christians" everywhere call their male progenitor "Father", and certain churchmen, who claim to represent Christ on earth, encourage their parishoners to call them the same. What did the Jesus of history say about this? Call no man on earth "Father," for you have one Father, even God (Matthew 23:9).The Jesus of history taught that all righteousness springs from the hatred of life (John 12:25). The clerics, who are the experts in such matters, praise a Jesus who would have us love life. They extol, in funeral orations, the departed sister or brother because she or he "loved life," but to the Jesus of history, this is condemnation.
This last contradiction, the "life contradiction," is fundamental to all the others. The "attitude to life" is the key to the comprehension of the Word of Christ and, paradoxically, also the stumbling block to acknowledgment and acceptance of the Truth. It is therefore one of the major themes of this book, which focuses on the Jesus of history and consequently exposes the "Christendom Contradiction."
The Jesus of history can be known. The quest of the historical Jesus begins and ends with the consideration of his words -- the very words of Jesus of Nazareth. There is no other way to know him. Only by abiding in his utterances is it possible to see him face-to-face. He himself said it:
If you abide in my words, you will know the truth (John 8:31,32).Therefore, the book begins with a chapter devoted to examining the utterances of Jesus and, in particular, what Jesus said about what Jesus said. The later chapters are also founded on his utterances with little consideration given to other sources. His words are so simple and plain that no other sources are necessary. I am . . . the Truth (John 14:6).
Chapters 2 - 6 focus on relationships and identity, beginning with close personal family relationships and then extending out to the nation and to the world. I have examined these first because his teachings about relatives and relationships are fundamental to his message. On this subject also the light of Jesus' words and example readily exposes the "Christendom Contradiction." These chapters will prompt questions that begin to be answered in the next chapters (chapters 7 and 8), dealing with Life and Will. There we discover why Jesus' utterances on relationships and identity are so radical.
The later chapters (Chapters 9-13) examine some major doctrines of Christendom, including salvation, the Kingdom of God, eschatology, and ethics. There one sees how all things come together to form a consistent whole only in the light of Jesus' doctrine of the hatred of life. This imparts meaning and purpose, not only to the ministry of Jesus, but, through him, to the whole world and our lives in the world. The final chapter (Chapter 14) deals with the general application of the Principles of Christ to the living of life in this world.
The key utterances of the Lord, those that are fundamental to his message, are the ones the clerics are prone to call "the hard sayings." These are the words that, according to the mentors of my youth, are "better left alone." This goes a long way toward explaining the contradictory nature of Christendom, with its complex ethical and theological formulations. When one takes the backbone from a body, one must inevitably resort to cumbersome external support structures. The "flying buttresses" of Christendom's cathedrals symbolize this most appropriately.
Churchmen have therefore neglected these "keys to the kingdom" that are also the keys to the comprehension of his Truth. They call them "hard sayings" because they are offensive. They offend because we are sinners, and the essential nature of our sin forestalls serious consideration of their portent. Only after you have dealt with your sinfulness can you consider the hard sayings. I hope that you have done this and that their presentation in the pages that follow will not offend you.
I fervently hope you will agree with me, for I firmly believe what I have written, being fully persuaded that it is the Truth. Yet your response to my words is not really important. It is your response to the words of Jesus that is important for your eternal salvation. Hear him:
If I tell you the truth, why do you not believe me? He who is of God hears the words of God; the reason you do not hear them is that you are not of God (John 8:46-47).Freedom is one of the results of receiving the message of Jesus. It is only through dwelling on his words that anyone can know the truth that "shall make you free." This freedom is so profound that it is beyond words. I have mentioned it herein often, but no one can possibly describe or define it adequately. For me, it is enough to exult inwardly in it, to be amazed at its beauty and its glory and its liberating power. This book is also my effort to share this freedom with you. Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death (John 8:51).
There are two facets to freedom that I mention here because I hope that you will find yourself realizing them as you read. One is the revelation of the purpose of life and of the universe that serves as its container. The other is liberation from the largely oppressive threats and anxieties that characterize life in this world -- especially those that emanate from death to that life. The despair that fills the faces of many elderly people can, in your case, be exchanged for the joyful, eager expectancy characteristic of any young scholar contemplating graduation. The approach of death should inspire in you joyful anticipation, not morbid dread.
It is precisely as Jesus said:
If you abide in my word, you shall know the truth, and the truth will make you free (John 8:31-32).The primary interpretative tools have been science and common sense. By "common sense," I mean the sense that acknowledges that a lord, or commander, expects his words to be heard and taken seriously, and his instructions to be obeyed. According to common sense, a teacher is truly a teacher only when the students listen and respond appropriately. To say one is your teacher or lord while you ignore his or her words defies all common sense. So, if I say that Jesus is my teacher and lord, the statement is sensible only if I receive his words and obey his commandments. To ignore his words would render my assertions of his lordship contrary to common sense.
Science is another matter. It is the leading edge of the attack on ignorance. In particular, I mean the attack on ignorance about the fundamental nature of the universe. No world view can be tenable that is formulated without reference to the attributes of the natural world. For example, only in this Twentieth Century has cosmology parted the curtain of darkness to enlighten our perception of the origin and destiny of the material order. This, in turn, enlightens our perceptions of its purpose. It has shown convincingly that the cosmos has both a beginning and an end, fully compatible with the biblical revelation. This cosmos, once highly ordered and compact, has, since the beginning, been accelerating toward random disorder and dissolution. We have evolved to our present state due to a local "order enhancement," which came at the expense of greater disorder in the environs, in accord with the Second Law of Thermodynamics. This also confirms the biblical testimony to the ultimate futility of this age (Matthew 6:19, 24:35).
Science has also focused on the fundamental nature of human personality so that here, too, some light has penetrated a previously dark window. Now we can perceive the individual as legitimately motivated by the pursuit of happiness, the will to power, the lust for unending (eternal) life and the thirst for glory. We also can see how the creative process has harnessed that individual incongruously to the futile cosmic order that is his or her temporal home. The result is history -- a perpetual frustration that issues in despair, greed, war, crime, tyranny and oppression. It has just enough gratification to fuel the incessant, but hopeless, drive for a temporal fulfillment. It promises, but does not deliver.
Now, in the dawning of this new, scientific understanding of ourselves and the world we inhabit, we have all we need to derive the true significance of our existence. But there are so many pitfalls! There are so many lies, deceptions, delusions, and false messiahs! We are exposed to them from infancy so that our understanding is darkened and confused. How can we ever chart our course around these shoals to arrive at the goal of true understanding?
We need a wayshower, a pioneer, whose testimony and example confirms us in rectitude and corrects us in error. Such a guide is not just helpful, he is necessary. It is human to err, and it is also human to persist in error. Therefore we require an authority to over-rule us and by whom we may prove all things. It is my contention that only Jesus of Nazareth can fill that position. This, again, is a contention formed by the tools of common sense and science. The testimony of Jesus meets all tests, being thoroughly consistent with the nature of man and the cosmos. He thus affirms his cosmos, as his cosmos affirms its lord and creator. The Psalmist said it well when he wrote, "The heavens are telling the glory of God, and the firmament displays his handwork (Psalm 19:1)."
Some have sought to formulate world views from purely human investigations, rejecting the deity as a lingering, primitive superstition. Others have attempted the opposite, by acknowledging only divine revelation as authoritative for Truth. But what if God, desiring both to make his glory known and to glorify his children, has ordered reality so that no one can realize the Truth apart from the application of human reason to divine revelation? What if God has revealed himself in Christ such that only through Christ can we correctly interpret the results of our science? It is not sensible to suppose that we can grasp a true view of the cosmos without reference to its Lord and Master. Neither is it sensible to suppose that we, the creatures, can draw a true picture of the creator without reference to the creation that reveals him. Therefore science and religion, knowledge and faith, are co-workers in the building of understanding, and in the writing of this book.
I make no claims to unique divine revelations or inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Neither do I disclaim divine revelation, for I believe that the Holy Spirit acts through the normal tools of human reason that are available to almost everyone, and these are the tools I have used. I do disclaim any supernatural visions, insights, or hotlines to God. The claim of such special gifts is the device of deceivers who have founded many of today's religious institutions. My view is that if people have not responded to the plain and simple words of Jesus, they have no basis whatever for the conception of Truth. His words are plain and simple! They are so simple that anyone can understand them, if they will, without the need of any special teaching or inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The Father has spoken through the Son; if one refuses to hear his words so plainly discerned in the Gospels, why should the Holy Spirit impose doctrine by supernatural means?
No, we do not require visions, visits of angels, or any supernatural revelation other than the one provided long ago when the only begotten Son of God became incarnate and spoke words of God to men. We do not need superior intellect, higher education or seminary degrees. What do we need? A copy of the Gospels containing the Words of our Lord, our fair share of common sense, coupled with the love of Truth, and a disposition to believe.
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