Monday, July 04, 2005

Christ The Catalyst

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On another site, a member who is not Christian asked me to explain why, if the notion that all men are sinful and in need of a Savior was taken away, this would not collapse the foundations of Christ upon itself. Upon further thought, I would like to expand both the question and the answer.

The world has certainly changed, culturally, since that strange itinerant preacher made His way among the men and women of 1st-Century Judea, teaching and setting an example still talked about, if at odds, today. Not only because most 1st-world people are far more familiar with alternative religions and philosophies, but because the group condition for Christians has changed, and changed, and changed again. What I mean by that is, what was at first a small and much-persecuted group of believers, whose faith alone kept them intact in the first 200 years of their existence, found itself accepted and then suddenly supported as the favored state religion. From there, Christianity’s leaders soared to new heights of power and wealth, but this tore them away from the common touch of the early Church fathers. By the turn of the Millennium, the Church had stratified to a caste system, which in practical terms means that the average Christian, once again, had to depend on his faith to survive in a world of powers which cared not a whit for him.

This condition changed again as different kingdoms rose and fell, now the Romans, now the Huns, now the Muslims invading from the south, now the Crusade to push them back, then another to “reclaim” the Holy Lands, for purposes of merit only to men born to power. Small wonder that the Church denied individuals the right to own and read their own Bibles; the teachings of Christ found little support in the actions and doctrines of the Holy Roman Empire. This does not mean, by the way, that the Roman Catholic Church was the source or origin of this evil; many European villages depended on their parish priests in many ways, and at the level of the common man, the Church was a very good thing, noble at times. And the truth of the corrupting influence of power and wealth was in place long before the first Christian church.

All these things might well convince non-Christians that indeed there is nothing new under the sun, as for the most part, Christians have not often acted in a distinctly better example to Humanity than people of other beliefs. Also, the inability of the Christian Church as a whole to speak in unity on points of Doctrine does not suggest the Church has perfect wisdom. As a result, there is much confusion about what good it does to be Christian, or even why we choose the Way of Christ. This article attempts to address those points.

Let’s start with God. On the one hand, it appears that we mortal creatures cannot really understand our Immortal Creator. On the other, it seems reasonable to me that our loving Father wants us to know Him as well as we can. Assuming the Bible stories in Genesis are correct, the first humans had direct personal contact with God. Other faiths teach direct contact with God, and some of them I find quite believable. And it makes perfect sense to me. I have never found it reasonable to pray to a go-between for my most intimate needs, nor do I believe I have received holy blessings through a distribution center. Not that I reject priests and ministers; The LORD uses angels, after all, so there is a purpose for agents at different levels, but I begin with the belief that God reaches us directly. If you want to consider the distinction between the perfect Holiness of God, the love which has compassion for each of us, the truth which resides within us at the core, and the freedom we all possess to choose the course of our souls.

One element to God’s will is the composite effect of History. That is, each generation receives its share of blessings, along with its share of trials. It’s impossible, I think, for any human to explain why something particularly good or bad happens to a particular person or group at a particular place or time, but it seems clear to me that if we accept the proposition of a caring Lord, that there would be a purpose beyond the apparent. One critical dimension is the transition from the mortal and temporary, to the eternal and absolute. Trite as it sounds, Death is not the end, nor should a person be weighed solely on what is visible on the surface. The trick comes in finding the deeper meaning, and I do not think God disparages anyone willing to try that road.

So, with all that, what’s the value and plan for Christianity? It comes down to a closer look at the way Christ acted and taught. Jesus did His work for the most part by speaking to people one to one, by teaching case by case, and His miracles were primarily for individuals. Consider His healing - it would have been easier by far for Jesus to heal counties at a time. Instead, He reached out to individuals, whether healing, teaching, or setting the perfect example.

I’m still working on this thought, but it reinforces the precious nature of Christ’s love, to realize that He lived and worked and died and was resurrected for us all. One by one, by plan.

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