Saturday, October 29, 2011

Rev. Howard Bess: Explaining Wayward Christianity

By the Rev. Howard Bess , Consortium News, October 28, 2011
The core crisis of Christianity is how could a religion based on the teachings of Jesus, who called for peace through love and generosity to the poor – and who disdained the rich – have grown so tolerant of war, greed and inequality. The Rev. Howard Bess traces this conundrum to the Church’s early days.

Paul was Christianity’s first theologian, with his writings making up about half of the entire New Testament. Indeed, though Paul did not become a believer until years after Jesus’s crucifixion, Paul wrote before any of the four gospels describing Jesus’s life and teachings were committed to the written word.

Thus, Paul – more than anyone else – set the standard for what is required to be a Christian. And, in the 10thchapter of his letter to the Romans, he wrote these words: “If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Paul, the Apostle

So, being a Christian was for Paul a matter of head and heart, not actions. By his standard, there is no amount of good deeds that can bring salvation. It is a matter of belief and belief only.

Paul’s standard has been challenged by some Christians over the centuries – and the New Testament’s Book of James stresses the value of good works – but never has Paul’s “head and heart” standard been dislodged as a central tenet of Christianity.

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