Spiritual Awakening 3 – The Gap in Christianity

Most of the New Testament was written by a guy named Paul.  Paul had worked for the Jewish version of the Spanish Inquisition, finding heretics who followed Jesus and organizing their killing.  On the road to another city, he saw a great light and heard a voice that said, “PAUL, WHY DO YOU PERSECUTE ME?”  Those with him saw the light, but did not hear the voice.

So, he converted.  And he trucked around Greece and the surrounding area, preaching Jesus.  He had a great convincer:  when someone wanted to know Jesus, he would “baptize them in the Holy Spirit.”  That is, he’d put his hand out and — *pbt!* — put the Holy Ghost into them.  And they’d feel it.

And he used this as a weapon, too.  When a fortune-teller was bothering him, he’d (*pbt!*) put the Holy Ghost into them, and they’d fall down twitching.

Most of the New Testament is corporate email from this guy to the different synagogues he visited.  And generally it’s tedious policy stuff:  “Look, I know you guys are modern, cosmopolitan Greeks, but if you’re going to call yourselves Christian you have to give up on the fornicating.”  “I know your women are modern, Greek women, but you just can’t let them speak in church.”  –And so on.

This is the stuff that was kept:  the corporate emails.  What people were doing as religious practice was not kept.

But, we have two hints:  one is that Paul writes, “Put on the new man.”  — and that’s pretty much it, besides the scholarship that tells us that the new man was (note:  was) a creature that grew inside the Christian, fetus-like.

The other hint is that Paul writes saying, Look, if you want to be saved, there are two criteria:

  1. You must accept Christ as your personal savior; and
  2. You must believe Christ was physically resurrected.

–now, this is very important.  Because, as you can see, there’s nothing here about loving your neighbor as yourself.  There’s nothing about turning the other cheek.  This is a major revision of doctrine.

Up until this, it seemed that Christians had the expectation that they would love even their enemies, wholeheartedly, as Christ preached; that they would love God and love humanity (which is the same thing).  And a major benchmark in determining their progress was the new man experience — an experience common enough that Paul had to answer the question, “Hey, I’ve got this creature of pure love growing in my heart.  What do I do with it?”

But Paul also had to answer the converse question:  “I’ve been working at it and working at it, but I’m still not having the new man experience.  What if I die?”  To which he replies — don’t worry about it; as long as you have heterodox beliefs, you’re saved.

And from that point, Christianity stopped being Christ’s teaching.  Undoubtedly this made Christianity more accessible:  loving your enemy is hard.  And the assurance that you’ll be saved even if you can’t love your enemy is comforting.

Conversely, although I had deviant beliefs, which most Christian churches would consider heretical, I did develop a new man — which was once considered a benchmark in Christian spiritual development, and which is very rare these days.  It’s rare because people follow Paul’s doctrine, and not Christ’s.

Published on September 21, 2010 at 9:53 am  Comments (2)  

2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I’d love to know how you came to the conclusion that the “new man” is some kind of being that grows within you! Ephesians 4 and Colossians 3, the main passages that talk about the “new man” are both about putting aside sinful behaviours about “putting on” the clothes of righteousness. See especially Colossians 3:9-17. For sure it says that we must put on a heart of compassion etc, but the clothing metaphor suggests it must be a very public and visible thing! But it’s a metaphor, not an actual thing that grows inside us. I can’t see how that makes sense… we’re to “put it on” remember, not grow it inside us!

    Most of Paul’s letters follow a similar pattern: first he starts with God and focus on the importance of what Jesus has accomplished, and second he applies it to the readers’ lives instructing them to live as God desires them too. The reason why there’s nothing about loving our neighbours in the first part is that loving our neighbours is not part of the Gospel. If we love our neighbours but are not totally dependent on Jesus for salvation we will not be saved. Romans 1-3 says this most clearly. (I don’t believe it is a revision of Jesus’s message either. While Jesus did prescribe a standard it is impossible high, and he always stressed that we trust God to do what he has promised, save us, as well.) But it’s always there in the second half of the letters, love being an appropriate response of gratitude to God for what he did.

  2. Interesting… we will be working with Cambodian Christians

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