Christianity’s Next Reformation — Part 1, What’s Wrong with Christianity?
This follows on from an introduction, which you may want to read before proceeding. I was inspired to write it following the appearance of an article by Keith Michael. The focus of this article will be to summarise what he considers to be wrong with Christianity.
Before I do that, it is worth bringing to readers’ attention a response I received to the introduction. There I distinguished between three groups of would-be Christian reformers, and I placed Keith Michael in the group of those who think that the Christianity that has been handed down to us is deeply in error, and that we should therefore return to an even earlier version of what it could and should have been.
It seems that this category has more groups in it than I had realised. The very knowledgeable Jack Preston King responded: “It’s worth noting that not only all Christian reformers, but pretty much all reformers in every religion, make this claim. Luther considered his reformation a return to the ‘original Christianity’ Catholicism had strayed from, not something new. The Baptist Church claims to descend from ‘real Christians’ that predate the Catholic Church, which of course got it all wrong. Mormons claim to have restored the true/original teachings of Christ that Catholics and Protestants have both bastardized. Modern Wicca, created in the 1950s by Gerald Gardner, claims an unbroken lineage to pre-Christian pagan Europe. The vast majority of reformers seem to feel compelled to root their new revelations in claims of past authenticity. None of those claims hold up historically, though”.
Michael, given the extent of his research and the depth of his conviction, would undoubtedly dispute that last claim in relation to his hoped for Reformation. Two points are worth noting, however. Not all these groups can be correct in their belief in their own authenticity, so that in general it is reasonable to be suspicious of such claims. More importantly, there is a common theme that the Catholic Church and Protestantism have between them created a false religion, which is also the accusation of Keith Michael. That will be my focus here. He outlines his argument in his article, at the end of which he offers a free copy of his book, where he goes into detail. Readers can consult these for his full arguments if interested, so here I’ll just summarise his main points and add some comments.
One of his principal complaints is that the modern churches and Christian teachers tell various lies in order to keep the faith going. He has presumably had personal experience of this. My own situation is that I am prepared to call myself a Christian, albeit a very unconventional one that many Christians would not recognise as such. However, I have arrived at that position from personal experience; I’ve never been involved with any Christian group, so have never been exposed to their attempts to persuade me of their version of Christian ‘truth’ — the various ‘lies’ that Michael refers to. On the contrary, I have read much scholarly literature around the subject, and am therefore already aware of the truth of his accusations. I’ll mention three principal ones.
Firstly, the Christianity that has been handed down to us is the creation of the Roman Catholic Church, in league with Emperor Constantine, who wanted a single religion to unify his empire. I believe that this is historically beyond dispute (I’ve written about that here). Christianity could have been otherwise, and Michael describes this Christianity as “falsehoods and man-made traditions”. Therefore, “it’s the organizations and institutions… its people and leadership, that are at the root of the problem”. (This is an important distinction between Christianity and Christendom, which has been the theme of another recent Medium article by Pastor Matthew Best.)
Michael further believes that this problem was compounded when Protestantism rejected the Christendom of the Catholic Church, but retained its Christianity — thus the beliefs and the theology. This also appears to me to be historically accurate.
Secondly, he completely rejects any suggestion that the Bible is “the Word of God”, “inerrant”, “infallible”, or “wholly inspired”, so that for him it is clearly man-made. He details the arguments about which books could have been included but weren’t, how there have already been major changes to the original. He concludes: “This Bible is what it is: a collection of historical religious writings of the opinions, views, and interactions of the men who wrote its books and then later assembled those various books into a collection. The Bible is not GOD in book form. GOD did not assemble the Bible, Pagan (Gentile) men of the Church in Rome did. The belief that assumes or dictates that GOD assembled the Bible is a man-made and therefore errant tradition that has no basis in fact”. It is hard to disagree with such a conclusion.
He is especially critical of Martin Luther, who amended and reorganised the Bible. In the light of all this he wants to make substantial changes of his own, in order to return Christianity to its pristine form.
He sums up all these points forcefully here: “Is the Bible really the inerrant, infallible and wholly inspired tome we are told to believe by our Church leadership? Or are we simply believing in more man-made Church ‘holy tradition’ inherited from a lying Catholic Church and then a Protestant Church too indoctrinated by its own Mother Church to see the original errors in their fullest scope?”
Thirdly, he believes that Paul, rather than Jesus, is the founder of Christianity: “You could honestly say that Christianity as we know it is the exclusive invention of Paul — not Jesus”. Evidence for this is that “Paul was the original author of the ‘New Covenant’; a concept that was not found in any of the other gospels or non-Pauline writings”. This suggestion is something that should make Christians very uncomfortable, one of the ‘truths’ that the various churches have tried to cover up. It is a claim, however, that I have come across frequently in scholarly literature, one that can be argued seriously, and one which I am happy to subscribe to.
He singles out Paul as the villain of the piece because he has corrupted the original teachings, and has created a “Mithraic version of Jesus”. He therefore thinks that Paul’s Epistles should be dropped from the Bible.
His overall conclusion is therefore that Christianity as we know it has been infected by pagan traditions, so that he wants to return to a purer Hebraic version: “Did the Church’s Pagan (meaning Gentile) anti-Semitic leadership simply assemble a Bible that played more into the hearts and minds of Pagan (again Gentile) Romans than it did with the Hebraic Jewish crowds that Jesus and the Apostles were actually a part of?”.
In a nutshell he believes that, under the influence of Paul’s teachings, the Roman Catholic Church has created a Mithraic Christianity, derived from ‘pagan’ Mystery traditions, and therefore looks forward to a return to a historically truer version of Christianity, a Hebraic one. This is essentially the same position as that of the Jews (Michael quotes Hyam Maccoby, whose The Mythmaker: Paul and the Invention of Christianity is a savage attack), and Muslims (see, for example, The Mysteries of Jesus by Ruqaiyyah Waris Maqsood).
I am willing to accept, at least at a surface level, that Paul rather than Jesus is the creator of Christianity. I may differ, however, from Keith Michael on how we should interpret this ‘fact’.
Based on Michael’s analysis, disturbing conclusions for Christians are firstly that Jesus could not have been God incarnate:
- “A truly Jewish Jesus would NEVER have ascribed himself as GOD”.
- “The historical Jesus was a man. Before Paul’s Mithraic version of Jesus appeared, that’s exactly who and what Jesus was… The biggest problem Christian believers are going to have with Reformation, a Second Reformation, is that for forever, they have been taught by a Pagan Church to pray to, love, adore, worship, and sing praises to — a god named ‘Jesus’”.
Secondly, although I don’t think he says so directly, I assume that he doesn’t believe in the resurrection of (a dead) Jesus, since that is something no human could accomplish.
I further assume that, because he wants to return to a pure Hebraic version of Christianity stripped of its pagan elements, he believes that the Jews were truly God’s chosen people.
These are all interesting matters for debate, as we consider a further Reformation of Christianity.
I hope you have enjoyed this article. I have written in the past about other topics, including spirituality, metaphysics, psychology, science, Christianity, politics and astrology. All these articles are on Medium, but the simplest way to see a guide to them is to visit my website (click here and here). All but the most recent can be found there.