On the Need for a New Form of Christianity

On the Need for a New Form of Christianity

Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 37
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-5452-4.ch001


The chapter lays a foundation for all remaining chapters by describing the two sources that will be relied on when the central pillars or themes of the Christian paradigm are examined critically: biblical research and critical thinking. In addition, the strengths and weakness of two alternative approaches to Christianity are discussed: The Traditional (magisterial) Paradigm and an alternative paradigm proposed by a group of biblical scholars known as the Jesus Seminar. Combined with troubling survey data regarding level of support for the Traditional Paradigm, this discussion reveals the need for a new form of Christianity that is called Evolved Christianity.
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In writing this book, the old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” often came to mind. Is Christianity broken or not? On the one hand, a recent Pew Forum Survey showed that only 40% of young adults in the U.S. who self-identify as Christians reported that they attended religious services on a weekly basis (Pew Research Forum, 2015). As low as that sounds, religious attendance for European Christians is three to four times lower than in the U.S (Manchin, 2004). In addition, the aforementioned Pew survey found that 58% of both mainline Protestants and Catholics in the U.S. believe that there is a need to revise some of the core beliefs of Christianity. Against these troubling statistics, there are the more promising findings that 60%-80% of adults in Europe and the U.S. still self-identify as Christian, and Christianity is growing at a rapid pace in Africa, Central America, South America, and Asia (Jenkins, 2002). Thus, any suggestion that Christianity is on the verge of extinction (e.g., Spong, 1998) is a bit hyperbolic. Nevertheless, in this book, I will be making the case that there is a need for a new and improved form of Christianity based on (a) a careful consideration of the results of several kinds of research and (b) the application of critical thinking to both apologetic and revisionist arguments that have been advanced over many years.

Of course, I would not be the first to argue for the need for change. A thorough examination of the history of Christianity reveals that most of its core premises have been challenged at one time or another. For example, against the proposition that Jesus of Nazareth was both fully divine and fully human, various disputants have proposed that he was only divine or only human because of the apparent logical incompatibility of human and divine characteristics. Other critics have wondered whether it is really necessary to believe that during the Eucharist, bread and wine actually change into Jesus’s body and blood. Still others focused on such things as (a) the seeming incompatibility of Christianity’s monotheistic and Trinitarian beliefs (e.g., doesn’t belief in three divine beings mean that Christianity is not monotheistic?), (b) the alleged purpose of Jesus’s death (e.g., did He really die to atone for the sins of Adam and Eve?), and(c) the reality of His miracles and resurrection.

Some of the aforementioned challenges can be labeled argumentative in nature (e.g., the logical incompatibility of human and divine characteristics) while others can be labeled as more evidentiary (e.g., the reality of the Resurrection). By argumentative it is meant ‘not appealing to evidence or data but rather to logic or rational argument.’ By evidentiary, it is meant ‘appealing to evidence.’ Over the centuries, leaders of the Christian church (i.e., bishops) tried vigorously to repel early and later argumentative challenges through various means including excommunication, exile, and votes taken at Ecumenical Councils such as Chalcedon, Nicea, and Trent. The fact that most of the original pillars of Christianity have not been modified appreciably by the hierarchy of mainstream Christian Churches is a testimony to the apparent effectiveness of these measures (but the key term here is “apparent”; I will qualify this assessment at the end of this chapter). See Table 2 at the end of this chapter for the list of the pillars of the Traditional Paradigm that will be discussed in Chapters 2 to 4.

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