14 April 2006

On Abandoning Orthodoxy

Interesting story in the Christian Science Monitor today about how -- of all things -- a Unitarian minister is making use of the recently publicized Gospel of Judas. According to the article,
Across the country, observers say, the Gospel of Judas is striking a chord with progressive Christians. Not so much for its heretical theology, but as an ancient symbol of their modern mission to update what defines faithfulness. It's an approach that's winning approval from scholars, who say Christianity has always attracted diverse beliefs.

I guess what I find most disturbing about this trend is the sweeping under the rug of historical Christianity's openly and self-consciously orthodox approach to doctrine and biblical interpretation.

For as long as Christians have called themselves Christians, they have sought to define what biblical truth is. They saw anything outside of this truth is either false (Judaism's refusal to acknowledge Christ, for example) or, ven worse, heresy (faulty doctrine... of which the Coptic Gospel of Judas is a great example). The heretics often received the greatest punishments. Why? Because they had something close enough to the Christian orthodox truth to draw people away from the faith.

Rev. Jayne Oasin, an Episcopal social justice officer quoted in the article, highlights the chief conflict quite effectively when she says, "to consider there to be only one truth is to me a form of oppression." It really is a question of how big your truth is going to be -- are you going to include all religious ideas in truth, or just the Christian ones, or just the monotheistic ones, or just the morally aware ones? And then the question becomes, "what happens when multiple 'truths' contradict eah other?"

The bigger question: is only one thing true? Because if truth is not at least somewhat exclusive, then Christ was lying when he claimed to be the only way to God in John 14. Thus, modern Christianity is faced with something of a dilemma: we can choose either to deny the truth of vastly diverse viewpoints like those of the Episcopal and Unitarian churches, or we can choose to deny the truth of the words of Christ in the gospels and, by extension, the validity of the entire New Testament.

This article talks about how many leaders embrace the gospel of Judas as yet another expression of Christianity's diversity. The funniest part of the whole thing is that, as recently as the seventeenth century, most Christian countries would have burned them for doing so.

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