Conclusion Regarding Christian Doctrines1
I am well aware that in questioning orthodox teaching — the dogmas of the Trinity and the Godhead of Jesus, the divine origins of priestly castes, the necessity of a pyramid-shaped hierarchy, the theory of Atonement, the infallibility of the New Testament documents, and Christianity’s absolutist claim to be the only true way to God –I may be denounced as heretical. I can only point out that it is impossible to “prove” from the Bible that Jesus Christ was committed to any such doctrines himself; nor did the earliest disciples hold them all to be true. To state it bluntly, if these creedal tenets are considered the sole criteria, then, as I said at the outset, Jesus was not a Christian. It is obvious from our sources that — insofar as we can talk about his religion — Jesus remained a practising Jew all his days; he was a devout “son of the covenant”. The religion about Jesus, which developed later, was what became orthodox Christianity. It is my conviction that this development ended in a serious distortion of who he was and what he came to do. The earliest Christians, scholars agree, confessed but one simple creed: Jesus is Lord (or Jesus Christ is Lord). This did not mean “Jesus is God” — they knew better — but “Jesus is master of my life; I owe my obedience to his teaching about God, his example, his way.” That is precisely what being a Christian means to me. So I cling to my membership within the Christian fold, whatever some may say. As Jesus once taught, we must not judge others lest we ourselves be judged. This kind of discipleship judges none to be heretics, none to be outside God’s plan of wholeness or “salvation” for humanity. It lies wholly open to the vision of God’s truth in all the world’s great religions and to His “light” in the life of every person. It stands firmly on the saving of Jesus that belonging to the Kingdom is not a matter of piously using the “right” words or rituals, but of humbly seeking to do the will of God.
The torments and divisions the world suffers today are in scandalous measure the result, however unwitting, of the intolerance and self-righteousness of man-made orthodox Christian positions. This book is a plea to let these go, to hear him, and to follow him afresh in that “newness of life” which is always wrought by love — for Christ’s sake.
Jesus said: “This is my commandment, that you love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love has no man [person] than this that one lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends, if you keep my commandments.” (John 15:12-14)
- Tom Harpur, For Christ’s Sake, pp. 124-125 [↩]