This commentary from Brian Pitts is a quite extrordinary follow-up to the commentary we published yesterday by Graham English [LINK. See the editor's post on the forum HERE explaining some of the serendipity.] What Brian Pitts is proposing is a quite fundamental return to some of the core theological ideas in Catholicism and Christianity in ways that may make many nervous. The commentary today is but the introduction to a nearly 5,000 word essay taking a series of iconic theological ideas of scripture and subjecting them to fresh scrutiny in light of some of the changed insights that are forced on humankind by modern scholarship and science. Strap on your seatbelts and be prepared for an exhilarating ride.
Christianity is at a stage where it needs to re-visit its original core beliefs...
Is it true that Yeshua of Nazareth was the "Anointed One" (i.e. the promised Messiah King introduced by the prophecy of Nathan) and also the unnamed "Servant" who was "led like a lamb to the slaughter" as predicted in Isaiah 53.
These ideas stick in the claw of many people today as being totally out of date, impossible and stupid. A Creator who created the universe is dismissed as the belief of a post-Neanderthal period unworthy of modern human scientific intelligence. I am a science lover, who watches closely the search for the Higgs Bosun at Cern and the contents of the universe from the amazing array of scientific spacecraft that peer into space from within our solar system.
In our endeavor to probe the galactic mysteries of the cosmos, our attention is directed towards the micro-mysteries of subatomic particles, because it is clear that within the atom and its particles and forces lies a clue to what is happening in the starry sky above.
Christianity is at a stage where it needs to re-visit its original core beliefs that made it what it was in the first century AD, and supposedly continues to be today. However with good reason, all of its beliefs are suddenly up for grabs. All of its age-old teachings are being questioned and some are rejected for good reason. This is a healthy state of affairs and an opportunity not to be ignored. But how can we decide what is essential to it? Can the microcosm of its beginnings decipher something of its macrocosm?
The makeup of the atom strangely holds the key to the makeup of the universe. It is only since the atom was cracked that astronomers began to understand the cosmos. Neutron stars, the atomic processes that take place in the birth and death of stars. Research of atomic particles present the same anomalies that astronomers find in the universe.
The hunt for the Higgs Bosun is a hunt for where the atom gets its mass. But it is also tied up with mysteries about gravity and the acceleration of the expansion of universe. The atom has revealed the answers to previous cosmological questions, and today Cern is looking to the behaviour of atomic particles to hopefully find clues to the larger questions of the universe.
Original Christian belief arose from Tanakh' prophecies and their fulfilment in Yeshua of Nazareth. This is the microcosm, the 'atomic particles' if you like of original Christian belief.
The question has to be asked: "Should not the truth and authenticity of any Christian doctrine be consistent with its essential original teaching? Can we use the core beliefs of the first century about Yeshua of Nazareth as a yardstick for the measure of essential Christian belief and sift out the rubbish accumulated since 33AD?"
Right now I have an opportunity to take to the tip trailer loads of accumulated treasures of yesteryear. I have to decide and let go of electric motors and switch gear, scrap steel, electronic and mechanical parts, spares, and things I saved for a rainy day in the future. With the trash also goes all kinds of dreams, ideas, and maybes that have sat in my brain for years. It is time to get real. It will never happen. I am running out of road. Decisions like these come at a cost for me. I have to let go, load up the dreams and take them to the tip. Life changes. All of us can point to traumas of the past, marriage breakdown, death of a child, loss of a job, mental breakdown resulting in instant poverty and homelessness. These tip trips are a drop in the bucket, and when the rubbish has all been left behind in the rear vision mirror, a great sense of freedom, rid of rubbish, no more stupid dreams drive with me on the way back home. The tip brings a wonderful feeling.
Sorting out the shed in my mind...
So let's get back to sorting out the shed in my mind-full of beliefs. My criterion is that if a doctrine is in conflict with the originals then it should be chucked out. If it does not touch the core, it is peripheral and non-essential, however it may have been useful in a particular culture for a certain time. Of course there will always be a need for organisational and moral teachings that arise from unforeseen circumstances, but even here they must not be contrary to New Testament teaching and belief.
Before the 4th century AD, Christianity's explosion of multiple Christological heresies clearly demonstrate that its original reliance on and connection to Yeshua Messiah had virtually disappeared, and was replaced with Greek rationalism and philosophical notions. Theology has basically continued down this path until today. These end years of my life have been absorbed in a re-look, a re-think and examination of the first beginnings;
What can we learn from some modern evidence: the Dead Sea Scrolls?
The first message about a future contest against evil...
The overwhelming expectation and belief that became evident from to discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls of Qumran is the belief of the people who originally composed the scrolls in a massive imminent showdown between the forces of good and evil on earth. Their expectations were ironically fulfilled by the invasion and destruction of their monastery by Roman armies around 70 AD.
Some ancient (BC) scrolls of the Jewish Tanakh, occasionally spike with unusual ideas in their script. These are usually out of context, given in unusual circumstances and places, and go far beyond the capability of human empirical observation at that time. When they can pop up inside a myth they become even more curious, because they relate to future human activity. The validity of both the source and content of such predictions relies on whether or not they eventuate.
The oldest messages were vague and generalised. After Eve ate the forbidden fruit in the mythological Garden of Eden, the Being who walked in the garden in the evening said to the serpent who was with her: "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you (serpent) will strike his heel.”
It is an isolated statement with no precedent; a mere blimp on the radar. But it is curious, and worth putting aside for another day. This Genesis scroll possibly only reached its final form around 500BC. This was no reporter's account surrounding the mysterious endowment of intelligence on homo sapiens, and its rise to prominence on earth about 60,000 years ago. But the statement is a curiosity, like the first hunch about water on Enceladus (the sixth largest moon of Saturn).
To be continued...
What are your thoughts on this commentary?