Term Paper: People and Many Churches

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¶ … people and many churches that want to dictate how a Christian thinks and that try to state that only people who share a very narrowly conscripted view of Jesus can be Christians. I find that view to be very arrogant, because it presumes knowledge of God's intentions that no human can ever really have. This view of Christianity has led me to seriously consider three different issues, within the context of Christianity. The first of those issues is the idea that Jesus had to be born to a virgin mother, as most branches of Christianity emphasize. The second issue is that Christians, by virtue of being saved, do not need to try to live moral lives. The third, and perhaps most important issue, concerns the extent of the authority of the Bible. All three of these issues have historical influence that goes outside of what one can find in the Bible, which must be considered when answering the questions. Moreover, my answers to those questions are outside of the narrowly conscripted realms traditionally delineated for Christians, but, in my view, make me more open to the ideals that I believe are in line with being a Christian.

Mary's Virginity

Perhaps the most universally known element of Christianity is the idea that Jesus was born to a virgin mother. The story of Mary, traveling with her fiancee/husband Joseph, to pay taxes, needing shelter, and having to give birth to Jesus in a manger, is familiar to most people, Christian or non-Christian, because it is the story that is emphasized at Christmas. However, it does not diminish Jesus to suggest that He was not the result of an immaculate conception. John Shelby Spong, a former Episcopalian Bishop wrote a very interesting book on Mary's virginity called Born of a Woman: A Bishop Rethinks the Birth of Jesus. Obviously, in this reflective essay, I cannot capture the essence of Spong's entire book, but, in it, he made some very strong points. The first point is that, with the ability to conceive and carry a child, God already created a miracle. The fact that a woman can carry a child is no less miraculous if that child is not immaculately conceived. Moreover, as Father to all people, God could have caused Mary to conceive by having a man enter her. If Mary had been impregnated as the result of rape or a consensual non-marital sexual encounter, she would have faced the same degree of social ostracism as she had for the Immaculate Conception, because most would not have believed her story at that time. The fact that Joseph stayed with her is significant and telling about the nature of the man God chose to be His Son's earthly father, but Joseph's character would have been magnificent regardless of how Jesus was conceived. Therefore, to support Jesus' divinity, it really is not necessary that Mary was a virgin at the time of his conception or that the conception was immaculate. However, for Jesus to gain popular support among the culture of that time, it was critical that Mary be a virgin. Roman myths spoke of virgin births, so that the idea of a god being born to a human woman was familiar, if that woman was a virgin. Furthermore, for Christianity to spread, especially during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, when women were viewed as either saints or sinners, to suggest that Christ was born to a mere woman would have been seen as questioning His divinity. However, from a doctrinal point-of-view, it seems ridiculous to suggest that God could not have created a Son in any woman, at any time, through any means. If God is all powerful, a virgin birth is an unnecessary detail.

Faith vs. Works

One of the other interesting things that I have heard Christians say is that Christianity is a religion of faith, not works, so that Christians do not have to be good people to go to Heaven. I think that is a very weak argument. For one to accept Jesus Christ as one's Savior, one has to accept that Jesus was the earthly embodiment of divine Holiness. Moreover, if one accepts that Jesus died for our sins, so that humans no longer had to engage in the small sacrifices ordered in the Old Testament, then one accepts the idea that all humans are sinners. However, the fact that all humans are sinners does not mean that all humans can be remorseless sinners and still expect Salvation. There is something very hypocritical and dishonest about claiming to believe in Jesus and continuing to act in a willfully sinful and evil manner. That is not to suggest that any Christian can ever attain earthly perfection, but it also means that people cannot throw in the towel, never try to improve themselves, act on every evil impulse that they might have, and still expect Salvation. It takes more than saying that one has accepted Jesus as one's Savior to be a Christian. In fact, there is a "like" button on Facebook that says, "Going to church no more makes you a Christian than standing in a garage makes you a car." The point of that quote is that being Christian is about accepting the idea of Jesus as moral perfection and striving to be Christ-like in one's own life, despite the knowledge that failure is inevitable. Anyone who does not strive to be a better person cannot have honestly accepted Christ as their Savior.

Biblical Authority

The third question about Christianity is the most difficult one to answer. Does the Bible have authority? Well, to answer that question, one would have to look at the type of authority the Bible does have. Take, for example, the Catholic Bible. It has authority. Of Christian religions, Catholicism is the most widely spread and Catholics tend to be very devout. Of course, Catholicism also has literally thousands of documents interpreting the Bible. It has omitted books that were traditionally used in the Bible. Furthermore, if defines and translates vs. In ways that differ from other versions of the Christian Bible. What about fundamentalists? Fundamentalists suggest that the answer to any religious question can be found by resorting to the pages of the Bible. However, that ignores the fact that there are outright contradictions in the Bible. When faced with conflicting information in the Bible, how can a person only resort to the Bible to find an answer? Moreover, the idea that the Bible is somehow infallible ignores the fact that it was written by men. Although I have frequently heard the argument that the Bible, because divinely inspired, is infallible, I actually have not found anything in the Bible suggesting that. Even the differing versions of the Gospels contain enough discrepancies to reveal the different perspectives of the authors. Moreover, even assuming that the original versions of each book in the Bible was infallible because directed by God, the Bible has been translated a number of different times. For example, the common conception is that apples were the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. However, Eden is expected to be somewhere in the Middle East, where apples are not indigenous. Where did the apple come from? Scholars tend to think that apple came from the fact that apple and evil are the same word in one of the base languages used for translation. When one thinks of how pervasive images of Eve with an apple are, despite the fact that the original vs. absolutely did not say apple, one can see how misinterpretations can lead to misinformation. Moreover, there are noticeable differences between the King James Bible and earlier versions, and Biblical scholars tend to agree that the King James Bible is more misogynistic than… [END OF PREVIEW]

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