The church’s one foundation
Is Jesus Christ her Lord;
She is his new creation
By water and the Word.
From heaven he came and sought her
To be his holy bride;
With his own blood he bought her,
And for her life he died.
– Samuel John Stone (1839-1900) from “The Church’s One Foundation” (1866)
It astonishes me to realize that no Christian reformer ever has thought to go all the way back to The Way of Jesus and start a fresh movement based upon His teachings alone. Surely the history has always been there! Those Roman Catacombs with their millions of burials entirely free of crosses have always been available to provide the evidence that a non-fear-based Christian theology was possible. And even as late as Miss Corwin’s day, and the time of those who taught Miss Corwin, there were scholars who thought as Jesus thought. But still, we have had only Protestant reformations that have tweaked, but never have very much changed the fear-based Roman religion that was built on the bloody wreckage of The Way that Jesus so hopefully began.
My favorite modern theologian is my fellow Texan, Keith Giles, who writes an excellent blog that I follow at Patheos.com. Sometimes I will suspect that Keith and I might be on the same page on some issue, and I’ll be reading and thinking, “Preach it, Keith!” But he is a trained Christian minister, so he uses the whole Bible, while I am a tagalong of the first Apostles that Jesus charged with His Great Commission.
And so, in theory at least, I have never heard of the Apostle Paul. You know Paul, that resolute fellow who began as a persecutor of the followers of Jesus, but who saw the light (quite literally) soon after Jesus’s crucifixion? Paul was a relative latecomer who barely made it into the Christian Bible by writing all those earnest letters to the first churches planted at Corinth and elsewhere. And I am just some spiritual hobbyist that Jesus has very lately recruited when He took it into His hallowed head to go modern and teach twenty-first-century folks through an educational website.
We each meet with our own spirit guides on most nights. And I have been telling my Thomas of late that I am still altogether clueless about what I am supposed to be doing with this website that he and Jesus want me to create. Thomas has been telling me that I should just do some videos based on Liberating Jesus. And, no worries. Once I get into it, Jesus will guide me. But I still feel stupid about doing this, so they have been working with me at night. A few mornings ago, I woke up with my own voice reciting in my mind what I think they mean to be the intro to Jesus’s website. I was saying something like, “Before the Crusades and the Inquisitions. Before the martyrs and the saints. Before Saint Paul and the Apostles, and before Christianity was even a religion, there was Jesus, the Man. Please join me as we sit at His feet and hear what Jesus has to say.” I thought, Hey, that sounds like a pretty good start!
For at least as long as I have been doing my Seek Reality podcast, I have been receiving emails from disaffected Christians. Nearly all of these folks were cradle-Christians who shared more or less my history. They were devout in childhood, and for much of their lives they attended churches where the pews were full. Still sincere as adults, they began to question dogmas like original sin and transubstantiation and a lot of other Christian ideas that frankly don’t make sense at all, and that have no basis in the teachings of Jesus. And as Catholics, especially, these people found that their questions weren’t getting intelligent answers. Indisputably, and despite the feeling that they were growing ever closer to the Jesus they had loved since childhood, these people – every one of them – were coming to reject the religion they had been following for their entire lives. And they were writing almost identical emails. Often literally word for word.
I have had hundreds of such emails, and I could answer them only by agreeing with the writers. I used to suggest they find Unity churches, but Unity has become more and more ossified into mostly studying the words of the Founding Fillmores and their friends, which is the last thing Charles and Myrtle Fillmore would have wanted. Of late, all I can do is to send these people PDFs of Liberating Jesus. In truth, until Jesus has a website of His own, there is no place where I can send them because every form of Christianity is, as a friend of mine disdainfully puts it, at best some form of “Paulianity.” Last Wednesday night I was interviewed by a wonderful radio host who used the same term, and who actually had just read both The Fun of Dying and Liberating Jesus. Which was a refreshing change, since most interviewers hardly bother to even open the books. I’m sure I had heard that term before, but I don’t get out much. And I do feel for Paul. Like me, he had had an experience of light. Like me, he was close to people who knew Jesus, but he was not in their inner circle. But still, he tried his best. And he did channel some wonderful passages, especially 1Cor 13. He was close, but in the end no cigar for Paul.
I seem to be meeting with Jesus and Thomas on many nights now as the planning for the Lord’s website takes shape, although Thomas won’t allow me to remember these meetings. Jesus really does want to tell His own story, so He can separate Himself from the Roman Christian Jesus that seems to be fixed in people’s minds. But He is willing to allow His story to be given just as a link. His teachings are to be the focus. Thomas tells me that when the Lord was on earth as Jesus, He was always keenly interested in knowing what the people were saying about Him, which is not surprising when you know His actual story. And Thomas in that lifetime was a random civilian and not an official disciple, so he could come and go anonymously as Jesus’s spy among the populace. A little of this actually made it into the canonical Gospels. For example:
“Now when Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah, or one of the other prophets.” He said to them, ‘But who do you yourselves say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God’” (MT 16:13-16).
Two points should be made here. The first, of course, is that this is yet another reference to reincarnation that slipped past the First Nicaean Councilors’ efforts to remove all such references from the Bible as they assembled it. Clearly Jesus was talking about reincarnation, as were His disciples. And second, what follows is the most blatant piece of anachronistic nonsense that was added to the Gospels by First Nicaea. This is what the Roman church-builders would have dearly loved for Jesus to have said during His lifetime. He never said it, so they simply made it up three hundred years later:
“‘And I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven’” (MT 16:18-19).
It is clear that Jesus never said any of this. For one thing, “Petros,” would be a pun for “rock” in Greek, but Jesus spoke Aramaic. There was no idea of a “church” in Jesus’s day. Jesus never referred to “Hades,” nor to the gates of Hades. Jesus referred to the kingdom of heaven as an internal concept, and not as something physical that would have had keys. And He certainly would not have felt able to personally empower any human being to bind or to loose anything in heaven! But, so it goes. When you are a fourth-century Roman councilor, and your boss is a Roman Emperor, you try very hard to do your part.
The teachings of Jesus are masterful in their power. One thing that we are discussing in these nightly meetings that I am not being allowed to remember beyond keeping the barest gist of some of them is the fact that Jesus’s teachings have multiple levels of depth, and this is true of even His simplest statements. On the surface, a child can understand them. Take, for example, “Why do you call me good? God alone is good” (LK 18:19). Or, “Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (MT 18:3). Both are easy statements for even a child to read and to find understandable. And yet in fact, each statement is spiritually so profound that a study group could spend hours discussing each of them and never exhaust the possibilities. A lot of what Jesus says is like that, and most of His sayings are in addition interrelated.
I have done very little studying of any religion other than Christianity, so a recent Patheos article about the Buddha’s wife caught my eye. Effectively, it suggests that enlightenment for a Buddhist comes from being closeted away from people and away from human life, which is astonishing, considering the fact that we enter these earth-lives specifically in order to experience the spiritual stresses of human life, and to use them to push against in order to grow spiritually. In fact, Jesus spent the first part of His life studying how best to use the stresses of human life to better effect our spiritual growth, and then He designed His teachings to make the best use of our everyday stressors to elevate our consciousness vibrations. Ever since I read that article, I have been thinking about that difference – meditating on it – and wondering. How is it possible that you might choose to either more deeply engage with the world, or to withdraw from it altogether, and still arrive at the same more spiritually elevated place?
When Jesus walked the earth two thousand years ago, He was such a very young man! He died away from this world at only thirty-three, and as I read over His teachings again, I am reminded of how very young in earth-years He was. And yet, how wise. For His earth-years, He was extraordinarily wise. He had studied humankind so closely and with such a specific purpose in mind that by the time He was thirty years old, He had figured out the primary role of Consciousness… or else He had learned it directly from God. And He used His knowledge of how Consciousness works to create teachings which can raise human consciousness vibrations with amazing efficiency. Had the Romans not gotten in the way, the kingdom of God would have overspread the earth long since.
But then, of course, came the stamping-out of the followers of The Way of Jesus, and then the Crusades and the Inquisitions, and millions of people were made to suffer and die for their crime of following Jesus. My Thomas has become concerned that I might want to slack off on working soon, my being on the older side after all, so he has made sure to tell me about the tortures especially, the hot irons and the slow-broken limbs, the parents made to watch their children being tortured and murdered one by one. And Jesus Himself personally tended to the most damaged of the sufferers in His rehabilitation gardens that filled the afterlife during those awful times. After death we never sleep, so there were whole centuries when Jesus quite literally did nothing else but lovingly care for screaming and suffering people. And since Thomas was His close confidante through all of that, my own spirit guide has been able to assure me that the Lord never has said a single unkind word, not even against the torturers. And Thomas has laid all of this on me just so I won’t slack off now. No, I get it. I do. Jesus abundantly deserves His own website. I am completely inadequate to the task, but since He has asked me to do it, I will try.
Jesus came to a younger, more innocent world two thousand years ago. And since then, there can be no question that He has dealt with the very worst fruits of humankind. Toward the end of His earthly life, His followers said to Him, “‘We know that You know all things, and that You have no need for anyone to question You; this is why we believe that You came forth from God.’ ‘Do you now believe?’ Jesus replied. ‘A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me. I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world’” (JN 16:30-33). Between the day when He spoke those words and now, Jesus has endured more personal pain in healing the awful pain of others than any of us can imagine. He has indeed overcome the world! And soon, He will return in what will be an unexpected sort of Second Coming. Although in truth, of course, He never really left.
Elect from every nation,
Yet one o’er all the earth;
Her charter of salvation,
One Lord, one faith, one birth;
One holy name she blesses,
Partakes one holy food,
And to one hope she presses,
With every grace endued.
– Samuel John Stone (1839-1900) from “The Church’s One Foundation” (1866)