Stories of the origins of Christianity and the myths of Jesus are an ongoing fascination.
There are two competing visions of Jesus, well articulated in this post from Medium (limited free access).
There is the Jesus of Faith, which was created by the Roman Church when it became an institution linked to political power through the Emperor Constantine. Personal salvation comes through faith.
Then there is the Jesus of Wisdom, understood by many early Christians, suppressed as heretics by Church dogma, leading to inquisitions and crusades. This Jesus was rediscovered through the Gospel of Thomas, found in 1945 at Nag Hammadi, probably of earlier origin than the canonical gospels. Personal revelation comes through seeking within. This ‘gnostic’ Jesus shows the spiritual possibilities of a Christianity that was and could have been.Read More »
As a teenager, I read William James’s book The Varieties of Religious Experience, and was quite enthralled, coming as I did from a strong scientific education with a lukewarm smattering of Methodism. So I was delighted to read the following James quote from Alister McGrath in his book Enriching our Vision of Reality. It is the best definition I’ve seen of that elusive word ‘faith’.
“Faith means belief in something concerning which doubt is still theoretically possible… Faith is synonymous with working hypothesis.”
This is not faith as dogma, which is a common association used to denigrate. It is faith ‘sensitive to reason, experimental in nature, and therefore susceptible to revision.’
McGrath’ s context is in the bringing together of science and Christian theology, but we could apply his reasoning to any religion, different sciences, and other ways of looking at the world, such as astrology.
His point is that both science and religion are ways in which we strive to understand the mystery of life. Both develop hypotheses to live by, but are subject to change where they do not correspond with lived reality. Both use story/metaphor/analogy to point the way; science adds the use of mathematical models, where it can. Perhaps it is this wonderful use of mathematics that encourages the common misperception that everything can be rationally described, but this is clearly not the case – as was concluded by, among others, Einstein, Newton and Darwin. There is always the mystery beyond…
In particular, materialists can lay no claim to a privileged context. Their faith in materialism and objective knowledge is as much a working hypothesis as is the Christian doctrine of the trinity. The so-called New Atheists are simply asserting their particular faith.