Christianity without Christ

“The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.” G.K. Chesterton

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; leave Me, you who practice lawlessness.’ Mt 7:21-23

How do we come to know the Will of God? Many would say by reading the Word of God or the Bible. Carrying that further than just reading, some would encourage those who desire to be Christ-like should practice Lectio Divina which is Sacred Reading of the Word of God.

Lectio Divina is a traditional monastic practice of scriptural reading, meditation and prayer intended to promote communion with God and to increase the knowledge of God’s word.

Lectio Divina has four separate steps: read; meditate; pray; contemplate. This is something that Jesus would most likely do. “And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days. Lk 4:1-2 “Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness (desert) for prayer. Lk 5:16

Like many of his Biblical ancestors, Jesus would have spent time trying to do the Will of God. He would have been interested in the work and words of John the Baptist, a man that was attracting a huge following since he spoke of the Messiah, the one who would bring God’s salvation to Israel and establish the Kingdom of God on earth.

SO Jesus came to John and was baptized and then something happened that would change his life forever.

After he was baptized a voice came from heaven (God),“You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” Lk 3:22

N.B Although Jesus is called the “Son of God” we also find this term applied to other humans and angels. Indeed, from a study of Scripture we find that the term “son of God” is applied to the angels,[Job 2:1] Israel, [Hosea 11:1] to David, [2 Sam 7:13-16], Solomon [1 Chronicles 28:6] and to those who make peace, and Christians. [Mt 5:9]

SO, Jesus must have been surprised and maybe even confused. “Why me? What am I to do? Is this the Will of God?”

(Remember, Jesus was a human)
“He emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself…” Philippians 2:5–8

“And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry. Lk 4:1-2

Let’s reflect on Luke’s description of the Temptation of Jesus.

The Temptation of Jesus

“And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry. 

The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” (POWER)

And Jesus answered him,

 “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’” 

And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will.  If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.”  (FORTUNE)

And Jesus answered him, “It is written,

“‘You shall worship the Lord your God,
    and him only shall you serve.’”

And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,’and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’” (FAME)

And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 

 And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.

SO really, Jesus was tempted to accept POWER, FAME and FORTUNE and use them to do the will of God since he was designated as a “Son of God“, someone who was designated to act as God’s representative and spokesperson in this world.

Let’s speculate.

Most scripture scholars and many theologians claim that”Satan” or the”devil” was a personification of evil. We could say that today, given what we theorize about the human psyche, the human ego might be tempted to consider itself greater than it is.

If Jesus was “human”, then as such, he had an ego-a sense of self, or a sense of self-esteem or self-importance which could mean that Jesus was tempted to become somewhat egotistical,which is a characteristic of those having an inflated idea of their own importance. Could this have happened to David and Solomon as well?

Obviously, all this is not adhering to the “Christian” or Catholic interpretation of these events but we can speculate can’t we. After all, Jesus never referred to himself as God. Son of God was a term applied to certain humans and angels as I mentioned above.

More speculation.

Did Jesus intend to start another religion? If he did, what would it look like? Since he rejected Power, Fame, and Fortune at the Great Temptation, the “new” religion would have been simple, humble and more like a servant then like a king.

When sent his disciples to do the work of the Will of God “he told them: “Take nothing for the journey–no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that town.” Lk 9:3-4

It certainly wouldn’t be a religion of Power, Fame, and Fortune! But thanks to Constantine (313 AD) and the other Catholic emperors of Europe, the “Good News” became creeds, councils, persecutions and even crusades against infidels and more. The simplicity of “the Way”, as Christianity was first called, became housed in the great cathedrals, castles, and monasteries, and eventually spread through preaching that was interpreted by mostly men who never knew Jesus personally, and are now referred to as “Fathers” of the Church. When you research their writings you will discover little about Jesus’s teachings and more about who he was as a person of the Trinity.

Was “The Way” of Jesus replaced for the security of the Roman Empire? The Power, Fame, and Fortune that Jesus rebuked, replaced the persecutions and witness of the early followers of Jesus. Read Acts 2 to grasp the life and beliefs of the early Church.

The structure of the Roman Catholic Church was modeled after that of the Roman Empire which was “baptized” by the elders ((πρεσβυτέρους- presbyters) and overseers(ἐπισκόπους- bishops) of the early communities (gatherings- Ekklisía or Churches.

The Roman senators were replaced by the hierarchy of bishops and cardinals now known as the Curia which comprises the administrative institutions of the Roman Catholic Church.

The head priest of the Roman state religion was the Pontifex Maximus, or the greatest of the college of pontifices. While an obviously important and prominent position within the ranks of the Roman system, the Pontifex Maximus was not considered a magistrate comparable to a Consul, Praetor, etc.

A distinctly religious office under the early Roman Republic, it gradually became politicized until, beginning with Augustus, it was subsumed into the position of emperor in the Roman imperial period. Subsequent emperors were styled pontifex maximus 

The word pontifex and its derivative “pontiff” became terms used for Christian bishops, including the Bishop of Rome, and the title of pontifex maximus was applied to the Roman Catholic Church for the pope as its chief bishop and appears on buildings, monuments and coins of popes of Renaissance and modern times. 

SO, once the Roman Catholic Church became a powerful entity, Kings and Queens of the various Catholic countries were appointed and/or approved by the Pope or Pontiff, who as God’s authority, anointed those rulers which made them God’s rulers on earth.

A far cry from the simplicity of Jesus’ expectations of and instructions to his disciples. To further support this conclusion, we must refer to the Sermon on the mount in Matthew 5 and the warning against hypocrisy in Matthew 23.

One must also refer to other denominations of Christianity, some of which, also appear to ignore the teachings and instructions of Jesus.

The Eastern Orthodox Church, also called the Orthodox Church, is another denomination of Christianity which seems to ignore the lifestyle and instruction of Jesus.

Many evangelical Churches in America are an antithesis to Jesus’ “Way”.

The prosperity gospel is an umbrella term for a group of ideas — popular among charismatic preachers in the evangelical tradition — that equate Christian faith with material, and particularly financial, success. It has a long history in American culture, with figures like Osteen and Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, glamorous, flashily-dressed televangelists whose Disneyland-meets-Bethlehem Christian theme park, Heritage USA, was once the third-most-visited site in America.”

 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. 1 Tm 6:10

“The origins of the American prosperity gospel to the tradition of New Thought, a nineteenth-century spiritual movement popular with decidedly unorthodox thinkers like Ralph Waldo Emerson and William James. Practitioners of New Thought, not all of whom identified as Christian, generally held the divinity of the individual human being and the priority of mind over matter. In other words, if you could correctly channel your mental energy, you could harness its material results. New Thought, also known as the “mind cure,” took many forms: from interest in the occult to splinter-Christian denominations like Christian Science to the development of the “talking cure” at the root of psychotherapy.” For more go to: The prosperity gospel, explained: Why Joel Osteen believes that prayer can make you rich – Vox

Finally, we could ask, “which denomination would meet Jesus’ expectations?” Actually, none would since Jesus was Jewish,and was a “son of the Law, “bar mitzvah”, as every Jew is traditionally. Jesus never intended to start another religion. He never ordained disciples or the apostles. Rather he commissioned or “sent” them.

There are many ministries or functions referred to in the New Testament. Paul mentions them in the first letter to the Corinthians, and in the letters to the Romans, the Ephesians, and the Galatians.

One of the best summaries of what Jesus did intend is found in the book by Gary Wills, What Jesus Meant. What Jesus Meant: Wills, Garry: 9780143038801: Books

As Wills points out in his book, “None knew better what Jesus meant than St. Paul when he wrote”:

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;  it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part,  but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.  When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” 1 Cor 13:1-13

About Dr. Ernie Sherretta, D. Min.

Retired Director of Religious Education for the Catholic Church since 2014, granted a B.A. in Philosophy from St. Charles Seminary, an M.A. in Religious Studies from St. Charles Seminary, an M.A. in Counseling Psychology from Immaculata University, and a Doctor of Ministry from the Lutheran Theological Seminary. Spiritual Well-Being Counselor
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1 Response to Christianity without Christ

  1. Germinr says:

    What a beautiful bible study! IT’s so beautifully written and filled with pictures! I absolutely love the way that you have written this blog post. Thank you for sharing!


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