Christianity claims it is unbelievable without God to help

If that is true, then Christianity is not a philosophy or a religion! For it is the only teaching about God which claims to be unknowable and totally unbelievable unless God works on the thinker, and brings about his or her conviction of the truth of this teaching. Christianity formally anathematizes the idea that it could be believed on the basis of argument, rational conviction or experience. From quite early on, Christian dogma said it is a heresy to claim that one can prove the salvific truth of Christianity to someone on purely rational or experiential grounds. Christianity ruled out the notion that it is simply a true philosophy (it cannot be demonstrated through reason alone) or a true religion (one cannot be convinced of its value solely by practice or experience). Christianity dogmatically defines faith as a gift of God, and it holds that its own teachings cannot be believed without this gift.

St. Paul strongly and repeatedly affirmed that he did not believe in the truth of God’s work in Jesus Christ on his own volition, on his own willpower, or because his own reasoning taught him to do so. He spoke of himself as a splintered self, who could not do or think as he wished to do, and whose actual deeds and thoughts ran counter to what he wished he could do. Paul wrote ‘midrash’ or interpretations of the Genesis story about the serpent, Eve, Adam and a certain tempting but forbidden fruit. Paul’s midrash of Gen. 3 turned that story into a ‘fall’ story, in which the human race, represented by Adam, is banished from Eden forever as a result of breaking God’s command not to eat the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

Paul underwent the terrifying experience of liberation by Christ. His visions of the resurrected Christ taught him to believe that Christ alone had defeated death and the devil. This led him to a conviction that, on the one hand, the human race before Christ had been enslaved to sin, death and the devil, and, on the other hand, that only through participation in Christ’s victory over death and sin could human beings be freed from the powers of darkness. Paul’s interpretation of Gen. 3 turned it into a story about ‘original sin’ and ‘original death’: Paul believed himself and all human beings to be ‘fallen’ because of his charismatic experience of the risen Christ. Christ’s victory was so dazzling that it exposed the depths of human blindness and simultaneously revealed that the darkness into which humanity had fallen had been breached.

Paul’s teaching that Christ had brought light into creaturely darkness and overcome the demonic powers was central to the Christians in the catacombs. This is attested by the dozens of ancient paintings of Jonah leaping out of the whale, which symbolically represent Christ’s defeat of death. But Paul’s teaching that we cannot achieve anything without Christ was not especially emphasized in the catacombs. It is true that baptism was always represented in the early Church as an ‘illumination’ and that Christ was pictured as a healer and a bringer of light or enlightenment. Early Christianity presented itself as the ‘true philosophy’, the best and most religious way of life on offer.

< Prev   CONTENTS   Source   Next >