Scholar lecturing Sunday on early church
November 14, 2010 6:11 AM
The Rev. Robin Meyers yearns for a return to early Christianity and predicts a revival of the faith. . . Meyers, senior pastor of Mayflower Congregation in Oklahoma City will be at First Congregational Church downtown today to give a free lecture during services and lead a workshop. The lecture is titled “Jesus: Galilean Sage or Supernatural Savior?” It’s the “or,” rather than an “and,” that causes some fuss.
Most Christians believe Jesus was both human and divine. But Meyers told me, “We have to demote Jesus, strip away the supernatural that got layered on by the church and culminated in the creeds.” Meyers, 58, is a professor of philosophy at Oklahoma City University, and author of six books, most recently “Saving Jesus from the Church: How to Stop Worshiping Christ and Start Following Jesus.”
Since the 19th century, scholars have discovered that other gospels existed in first-century Palestine besides the canonized books Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Meyers says that era was a combustible time in which competing groups formed allegiances around their favorite gospel.
But Meyers goes further than most scholars by drawing similarities between then and now. The period of the “early church was just as fragmented and contentious as today,” Meyers said. “Our theological debates haven’t brought the kingdom any closer.”
But there is a silver lining. The early Christians overcame their divisions to embrace what they held in common, such as love of Jesus and helping the poor, Meyers said. “They had not commonality of beliefs but commonality of spirit.” He says this is what Christianity can become.
Nothing here is truly newsworthy. The classical Liberal version of (something like) Christianity is on display here in microcosm, and it has been around a long time. Jesus was just a man. The church of the second century or later dreamed up ‘the Christ’ idea and imposed it on the simple, primitive Christian faith. And if we would just stop debating theology, we could all be united, just ‘love Jesus’ and help the poor.
We could probably also sing that old Coke jingle, “I’d like to teach the world to sing, in perfect harmony . . .” while holding hands on some hilltop.
What I have always wondered about this classical Liberal version of (something like) Christianity is this: what about some merely human Jewish guy from the first century is supposed to make me want to be a mellow fellow who helps the poor? So some fellow named Joshua (or Jesus, pick you favorite) thought people should help the poor. It would not be surprising that many first-century Jewish males were named Joshua, or that one of them liked the idea of helping the poor – so what?
And since, according to this kind of Liberalism, there were many competing and conflicting ‘gospels’, why should we think that the ‘help the poor’ parts are any more likely to be accurate than the other parts that Liberals always want to disregard?
What is a bit alarming is that it has become increasingly common among Christians and churches who do not overtly profess this versions of ‘Christianity’ to hear statements like this: “Let’s not debate theology. Let’s just love Jesus and help the poor. Then we will all be united and all will be right with the world.”
Those who think Jesus was just a witty first century Jewish rabbi have no good reason to follow him. There were other witty Jewish rabbis. And as one of them said, “If the dead are not raised, "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die." (1 Corinthians 15:32)
If the dead are not raised, then stop wasting your time talking about Christianity. Go do something – anything – you want to do, and let ancient dead Jewish rabbis quietly inhabit the dustbin of history.