Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Liberal Christianity

Hello, I'm back! I haven't written for several months now, I have been extremely busy changing jobs and trying to get my music happening (which I can safely say is going quite well!) I'm hoping that this year I can keep the writing going, without any major breaks like I had around Christmas. My last Post (on Apologetics), was rushed I admit, and I'm either going to rework it soon, or post a part 2 to go over alot of the same information.

Now, alot of people ask me why I am so hard on Christians. And I think that's a fair question to ask, so I thought I might try and clarify my position. I certainly believe that Christianity does alot of good, both for individuals, and for society as a whole. When someone referrs to "Christian Morals", generally they're referring to the Golden Rule "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you", and striving for modesty, truthfulness, sincerity, purity, compassion, forgiveness etc. Spiritual principles such as the existence of an Absolute Being (God) and, similarly the existence of a Spirit and/or Soul within every individual, gives hope and context to life and all it's trials. Similarly, the belief that life continues after death, and that the way we live our lives are important is a strong motivating factor. Ultimately, the example given of Christ of how to live, and the promise that we too can strive to live in such a way is in my mind the essence of true spirituality. This is all great from where I'm standing.

At the level of the community, Churches do an immense amount of good. Churches facilitate Soup kitchens, small groups for fellowship, a variety of short courses to help with a wide variety of issues from family problems, to addictions etc, and generally provide an uplifting atmosphere for the anyone to experience. I do not doubt that many people have genuine Spiritual experiences as Christians. I have seen it myself, the transcendent peace and love, and the direct intervention that often occurs in the outer life of a believer. But the thing is, I see these same things happening to non-Christians as well.

Unfortunately, the thing is, that technically, Christian Theology is exclusivistic, it claims itself to be the only true Religion, and that therefore all others are false. And it makes horrendous statements about the eternal destiny of those that reject it's tenants. Now, many people respond to me that not all Christians are like that. Many Christians just take the good and leave the bad. Not all Christians are getting in your face and talking about Satan, Hell and all that. So, the question is, where does this leave the more liberal members of the faith.

First off, I have an immense amount of respect for liberal Christians, I find them to have very similar beliefs to myself in many ways. As a child that grew up in a Christian household, I instinctively wanted to be able to separate the Spirituality from the Religion, that is to say, separating the positive active principles and practices from the negative beliefs and doctrines.

So, the question is this: Is Liberal Christianity a genuine choice, a solid position and philosophy?

Now, the reason why I consider this to be an important question is that the Conservative ranks consider their own position to be solid and criticize others they perceive as soft. Also, many non-religious minded people similarly criticize New Age as being soft. So, for the purpose of this work, I perceive it as being important to maintain a solid position. I do not personally think that a lack of knowledge in any way condemns an individual, or takes away from their worth as a Spiritual being, but it is necessary for this work to try and clearly define boundaries of belief.

So, is a Liberal Christian really a Christian? Is being a Christian defined as following the guidelines of moral, ethical & spiritual principles as put forth in the Bible, in particular the New Testament, or is it firstly and formerly defined as a literal believer of Jesus Christ, His death & resurrection, and ultimately the substitutory atonement as outlined by orthodox theology? As I have learned from countless discussions with Christians, the second element is essential to Christianity, and the first is seen as a natural progression from the first. Any attempt to have the first element, without the second, results in a philosophy which may be Spiritual, but is ultimately not Christian.

OK, so what's wrong with a Christian believing in substitutory atonement, but being liberal towards people of other faiths? What's wrong is that the concept of substitutory atonement implies that a person is "lost" without it, and that there is only one way to achieve it (ie Jesus).

Therefore, by definition, this docrtrine is intrinsically incompatible with a liberal approach to non-Christians.

If you reduce the story of Jesus life, death and resurrection to a symbolic myth, than you have Gnostic Christianity, which, properly understood is essentially Perennial Philosophy (quick note, there are alot of myths and warped understanding of Gnosticism around, I will write on this very soon.), totally compatible with New Age and Eastern Mysticism. And, as I think that if you truly examine Christian Apologetics, then there is no reason to believe in the literal story of the Gospels, I think liberal Christians should consider identifying themselves more with Gnosticism and New Age, then Christianity.

It is my belief that the arguments used to support Fundamentalist Religion can all be refuted, and we will be left with a truly beautiful & solid Universal Spiritual Philosophy. As always, I welcome discussion.

Take care,
God Bless,
Hari Om,
Jim Clark

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