The Invention of Christianity . . .

There is an old joke that goes “On the sixth day God created man in his image, and on the seventh, man returned the compliment.”  Or take the traditional explanation for the Septuagint (an early Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament from around the time of Christ). The story goes that basically 70 Hebrew scholars went into 70 separate rooms and came out with the exact same translation (some versions use 72 scholars).

Some likewise have stories of Jesus as a boy running around creating birds from clay pigeons, even though turning water into wine at about age 30 is considered His first miracle (John 40.46).  There is one story that had Joseph making a bed that was too short, and as a boy, Jesus lengthened it.  I quipped to my seminary professor, that today we would lay hands on the person and lengthen or shorten the owner’s legs to fit the bed instead!

So why do we do it?  Why do we invent reasons/stories to support or deny our belief system when in reality, we do not want to admit to others that we do not know something?  I recently was playing a round of Frisbee golf with a Charismatic youth leader who proclaimed that he did not like CS Lewis or JRR Tolkien because they thought they could invent a better story than the Bible so they just made up their own.  Needless to say I was flabbergasted at his lack of knowledge regarding their history, as well as his ignorance of the theology of either of the two men.  They challenged each other to influence the world of literature by writing fictional stories that upheld their theology, unlike many fiction writers who sought to deconstruct the Christian faith through stories. 

And to this day it bugs many Lord of the Rings enthusiasts, as admitted by Tolkien, that the Lord of the Rings is primarily a Catholic/Christian story.  Considering it was the 20th Century’s second most read book, second only to the Bible, he succeeded in his goal to influence others. I could clearly understand that the youth leader may have had problems with their theology, but the one thing Lewis and Tolkien both had in common and held highly, was their commitment to the authenticity of scripture and the Christian faith. The unspoken theology is that we are lesser Christians or people of faith if we answer, “I don’t know.So as to cover over our perceived ignorance, we invent things and hope our hearers don’t catch on.  Or if we are caught in our ignorance, we begin to pull scripture out of context to justify our made up stories.

Hopefully by this point one can see I am NOT arguing that Christianity is an invention, but we invent things as being Christian, when they have no basis in reality, to cover our lack of insight.

I once had a personal conversation with John Wimber, one of the founders of the Vineyard Movement, (I admit I only did so twice in my life and did not know him personally).  While you may disagree with his theology, he gave me a personal word that was semi prophetic and semi observational.  When I asked him for clarification, he poured forth great words of great wisdom, “I don’t know.”  He would say things such as “I am just a fat man on my way to heaven.”  And much to the chagrin of fundamentalists, someone once asked him how he prepared for his evening meetings. Expecting an answer of spending much time in prayer and Bible study he just quipped, “I drink a diet coke and watch the news.”  Not that he neglected either of the above, prayer and study, but he refused to elevate himself to the point of being more in the know than others.  When someone once approached him and said they would like to sit under him in ministry for a while, he said something to the effect, “You wouldn’t want to sit under me, I weigh too much.”  His self-deprecation was quite refreshing in complete contrast of those who wanted to appear to be spiritual by having some private line to Jesus not available to others.

Even Moses did not want others to see he was not as spiritual as he appeared:

  • 2 Corinthians 3:13 NASB95 – 13 and [are] not like Moses, [who] used to put a veil over his face so that the sons of Israel would not look intently at the end of what was fading away.

Proverbs reads:

  • Proverbs 27:1-2 NASB95 – 1 Do not boast about tomorrow, For you do not know what a day may bring forth. 2 Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; A stranger, and not your own lips.

We like to show how smart we are.  In our efforts at times to show how smart we are, we are in reality showing how foolish we are.  For others may not be able to counter what we say at the time, but in their hearts, they know we just laid upon them was a made up story.

I always like the ending to the movie Mask of Zorro (1998), whereby Anthony Hopkins proclaims to the antagonist that his daughter has now realized that she was kidnapped as a baby and that villain was not the real father. He simply states “She knows.”  He did not have to prove it. It was self-evident at that point by the villain’s actions to cover over the crimes he was committing, what the real truth was.

There was a 70’s American TV show called Barney Miller.  And that show produced a spin off series staring Abe Vigoda called Fish (his nickname in the TV series). In the spin off, he was raising several foster children.  In one episode, one of them was having self esteem issues.  Fish had to teach him something to the effect of “There will always be people older and smarter than you, and younger and cuter than you.”   It was ok to be who you were.  Likewise, scripture reminds us:

  • Romans 12:3 NASB95 – 3 For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.
  • Hebrews 11:1 KJV – 1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

As we saw in our last blog that:

  • John 20:27-29 NASB95 – 27 Then He said to Thomas, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.” 28 Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed [are] they who did not see, and [yet] believed.”

It is ok to not know.  But it is never OK to just make something up so that we may appear to be smart. So instead of trying to be smart and inventing a story that is not true, try being loving instead. Loving is always the smart thing to.

So as always, love much my friends . . .

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