Jesus launched Christianity? This question leapt off the page at me; it embodies a prevalent philosophy that has been the source of endless (albeit understandable) confusion and misunderstanding for centuries. The article, titled: How did Jesus launch Christianity? by Keith Simon takes for granted that because Christianity is a religion about Jesus, that Jesus must have been its architect and its originator. This assumption is widely accepted in some quarters, but since the revealed information contained in The Urantia Book, most especially in Part IV, The Life and Teachings of Jesus, this is an error that cannot go unchallenged; in our blog below, we'll attempt to do just that. But first, here's a snippet or two from the article:
"Any historical account of Jesus must plausibly explain the history which no one denies: Jesus launched the world's largest religion.
"How did the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth start a world religion?
"Because he didn't stay dead."
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To be fair, it is important to understand that this article is a rebuttal to a previous editorial that evidently questioned Jesus' involvement in the establishment of the Christian Church as we do; nevertheless, the assumtion in the title gives more than enough fuel to light our fire and set the record straight!
Christianity is a mighty religion; we who are Urantia Book students are well-aware of the important role of the church in fostering and furthering the teachings and the mission of Jesus; it is even entirely understandable that one might assume that because the Christian church is the religion about Jesus, that he was instrumental in its establishment; further, that its establishment was one of his purposes in incarnating here on earth.
However, reading and understanding The Urantia Book regarding Jesus enlightens all who are sincerely looking for the truth regarding Jesus: Who he was, who he is, and the real purposes of his mission. It is always with great gratitude and humility that we take advantage of every opportunity that we get to share the truths about the Master that this wonderful book provides. And it is a revelation for everyone - no matter what denomionation you belong to, or even if you are not part of any church at all. Knowing who Jesus was and what his incarnation meant to the world is information that every person on earth should know. And The Urantia Book delivers.
If not a church, why DID Jesus come to us?
Jesus came to us for a number of reasons, but one of his primary goals was to establish - not a church - but the invisible kingdom of heaven in the hearts of mankind. Here are just a few examples of what he said regarding this part of his mission. These statement were made by Jesus in his initial introduction to the kingdom, delivered right after the arrest of John the Baptist
137:8.6 "I have come to proclaim the establishment of the Father's kingdom. And this kingdom shall include the worshiping souls of Jew and gentile, rich and poor, free and bond, for my Father is no respecter of persons; his love and his mercy are over all.
"I have come to preach the glad tidings of the kingdom. I have not come to add to the heavy burdens of those who would enter this kingdom. I proclaim the new and better way, and those who are able to enter the coming kingdom shall enjoy the divine rest. And whatever it shall cost you in the things of the world, no matter what price you may pay to enter the kingdom of heaven, you shall receive manyfold more of joy and spiritual progress in this world, and in the age to come eternal life.
"Entrance into the Father's kingdom waits not upon marching armies, upon overturned kingdoms of this world, nor upon the breaking of captive yokes. The kingdom of heaven is at hand, and all who enter therein shall find abundant liberty and joyous salvation.
"This kingdom is an everlasting dominion. Those who enter the kingdom shall ascend to my Father; they will certainly attain the right hand of his glory in Paradise. And all who enter the kingdom of heaven shall become the sons of God, and in the age to come so shall they ascend to the Father. And I have not come to call the would-be righteous but sinners and all who hunger and thirst for the righteousness of divine perfection.
"John came preaching repentance to prepare you for the kingdom; now have I come proclaiming faith, the gift of God, as the price of entrance into the kingdom of heaven. If you would but believe that my Father loves you with an infinite love, then you are in the kingdom of God."
Why else did Jesus say that he came?
139:6.5 "Let me repeat: I have come that my brethren in the flesh may have joy, gladness, and life more abundantly."
141:5.1 "I have come into the world to proclaim spiritual liberty to the end that mortals may be empowered to live individual lives of originality and freedom before God. I do not desire that social harmony and fraternal peace shall be purchased by the sacrifice of free personality and spiritual originality."
143:1.4 "I have come into this world to do the will of my Father and to reveal his loving character to all mankind. That, my brethren, is my mission. And this one thing I will do, regardless of the misunderstanding of my teachings by Jews or gentiles of this day or of another generation."
145:2.4 "I have come, not to reveal the Father to the children of Israel, but rather to bring this knowledge of God and the revelation of his love and mercy to the individual believer as a genuine personal experience. The prophets have all taught you that Yahweh cares for his people, that God loves Israel. But I have come among you to proclaim a greater truth, one which many of the later prophets also grasped, that God loves you—every one of you—as individuals. All these generations have you had a national or racial religion; now have I come to give you a personal religion."
The religion ABOUT Jesus vs the religion OF Jesus
In the quote immediately above, Jesus talks - not about a church - but about a "personal religion." Far from the traditional idea of religion as defined by Christianity (or any other church), the personal religion that Jesus gave to us was the religion that he himself practiced and taught. It has nothing to do with established earthly religion; instead it is the religion that is based on the Father-child relationship that all of us can enjoy with God.
Every individual carries within him/herself a fragment of the living God - a fragment that The Urantia Book calls the "Thought Adjuster." This spark of God - the "inner light" that illumines every soul is constantly trying to communicate with its host; trying to guide, to lead that person into a knowledge of God's will and the power to actually do that will. Becoming aware of that Presence, developing communication with that fragment and yielding to its leadings constitutes the most satisfying and effective religion that anyone can enjoy.
Read Urantia Book teachings about Personal Spiritual Experience and the Religion of Jesus
This religion of Jesus can be practiced by anyone; one need not belong to a church. One may certainly enjoy the social aspects of beonging to a church and fellowshipping with others of like mind, but membership in a church is not a requirtement for practicing the personal religion of spiritual experience.
How did the church become confused with the kingdom?
The following quotes are from: Paper 170, The Kingdom of Heaven. These are ideas regarding the kingdom vs the church:
170:5.7 The church, as a social outgrowth of the kingdom, would have been wholly natural and even desirable. The evil of the church was not its existence, but rather that it almost completely supplanted the Jesus concept of the kingdom. Paul's institutionalized church became a virtual substitute for the kingdom of heaven which Jesus had proclaimed.
170:5.8 But doubt not, this same kingdom of heaven which the Master taught exists within the heart of the believer, will yet be proclaimed to this Christian church, even as to all other religions, races, and nations on earth—even to every individual.
170:5.13 Jesus foresaw that a social organization, or church, would follow the progress of the true spiritual kingdom, and that is why he never opposed the apostles' practicing the rite of John's baptism. He taught that the truth-loving soul, the one who hungers and thirsts for righteousness, for God, is admitted by faith to the spiritual kingdom; at the same time the apostles taught that such a believer is admitted to the social organization of disciples by the outward rite of baptism.
170:5.14 When Jesus' immediate followers recognized their partial failure to realize his ideal of the establishment of the kingdom in the hearts of men by the spirit's domination and guidance of the individual believer, they set about to save his teaching from being wholly lost by substituting for the Master's ideal of the kingdom the gradual creation of a visible social organization, the Christian church. And when they had accomplished this program of substitution, in order to maintain consistency and to provide for the recognition of the Master's teaching regarding the fact of the kingdom, they proceeded to set the kingdom off into the future.
But the kingdom was then, and is, NOW, and the door of this kingdom of heaven is open to everyone - not only to those who belong to a church. Even the unchurched can fully enjoy being part of the kingdom of heaven, for it is a personal spiritual experience that transcends all organized and established religions.
And this is the truly good news of the kingdom that Jesus came to establish: that God is our Father, and that we are all brothers and sisters in the family of God; the kingdom represents that family relationship and is open to all of those who seek entrance. No church membership is required; only faith, and the willingness to love our Father and serve one another.
Paul - the real architect of the Christian church
170:5.18 The concept of Jesus is still alive in the advanced religions of the world. Paul's Christian church is the socialized and humanized shadow of what Jesus intended the kingdom of heaven to be—and what it most certainly will yet become. Paul and his successors partly transferred the issues of eternal life from the individual to the church. Christ thus became the head of the church rather than the elder brother of each individual believer in the Father's family of the kingdom. Paul and his contemporaries applied all of Jesus' spiritual implications regarding himself and the individual believer to the church as a group of believers; and in doing this, they struck a deathblow to Jesus' concept of the divine kingdom in the heart of the individual believer.
And so, for centuries, the Christian church has labored under great embarrassment because it dared to lay claim to those mysterious powers and privileges of the kingdom, powers and privileges which can be exercised and experienced only between Jesus and his spiritual believer brothers. And thus it becomes apparent that membership in the church does not necessarily mean fellowship in the kingdom; one is spiritual, the other mainly social.
Jesus was not a Christian; furthermore, the Christian church does not always represent Jesusonian values; even a Christian might be aware that, owing to the fact that there are so many sects and so much inconsistency within the church itself, that it is not something that Jesus created. If he had established it, it certainly would be more successful at attracting - and keeping - members. It would be living, dynamic and eternally creative, as he is, and as his personal religion is.
195:10.9 Many earnest persons who would gladly yield loyalty to the Christ of the gospel find it very difficult enthusiastically to support a church which exhibits so little of the spirit of his life and teachings, and which they have been erroneously taught he founded. Jesus did not found the so-called Christian church, but he has, in every manner consistent with his nature, fostered it as the best existent exponent of his lifework on earth.
If the Christian church would only dare to espouse the Master's program, thousands of apparently indifferent youths would rush forward to enlist in such a spiritual undertaking, and they would not hesitate to go all the way through with this great adventure.
Christianity is seriously confronted with the doom embodied in one of its own slogans: "A house divided against itself cannot stand." The non-Christian world will hardly capitulate to a sect-divided Christendom. The living Jesus is the only hope of a possible unification of Christianity. The true church—the Jesus brotherhood—is invisible, spiritual, and is characterized by unity, not necessarily by uniformity. Uniformity is the earmark of the physical world of mechanistic nature. Spiritual unity is the fruit of faith union with the living Jesus. The visible church should refuse longer to handicap the progress of the invisible and spiritual brotherhood of the kingdom of God. And this brotherhood is destined to become a living organism in contrast to an institutionalized social organization. It may well utilize such social organizations, but it must not be supplanted by them.
The Christian church is the cocoon - not yet the butterfly
170:5.22 Mistake not! there is in the teachings of Jesus an eternal nature which will not permit them forever to remain unfruitful in the hearts of thinking men. The kingdom as Jesus conceived it has to a large extent failed on earth; for the time being, an outward church has taken its place; but you should comprehend that this church is only the larval stage of the thwarted spiritual kingdom, which will carry it through this material age and over into a more spiritual dispensation where the Master's teachings may enjoy a fuller opportunity for development. Thus does the so-called Christian church become the cocoon in which the kingdom of Jesus' concept now slumbers. The kingdom of the divine brotherhood is still alive and will eventually and certainly come forth from this long submergence, just as surely as the butterfly eventually emerges as the beautiful unfolding of its less attractive creature of metamorphic development.
Again, our blog is not meant to beat up on Christianity. Many - probably the majority - of Urantia Book readers are from some sect of the Christian tradition. The Urantia Book calls Christianity a "mighty religion:"
195:10.18 But Christianity is a mighty religion, seeing that the commonplace disciples of a crucified carpenter set in motion those teachings which conquered the Roman world in three hundred years and then went on to triumph over the barbarians who overthrew Rome. This same Christianity conquered—absorbed and exalted—the whole stream of Hebrew theology and Greek philosophy. And then, when this Christian religion became comatose for more than a thousand years as a result of an overdose of mysteries and paganism, it resurrected itself and virtually reconquered the whole Western world. Christianity contains enough of Jesus' teachings to immortalize it.
The Christian church is undergoing a major crisis in these days of the 21st century. There are many in the churces today who wonder whether Jesus really did establish that church - they wonder who Jesus really was - they wonder whether they can find Jesus outside of the church - they wonder why the church is failing to minister. They wonder where they fit in...
To all of those wonderings, we offer this:
195:10.20 Christianity suffers under a great handicap because it has become identified in the minds of all the world as a part of the social system, the industrial life, and the moral standards of Western civilization; and thus has Christianity unwittingly seemed to sponsor a society which staggers under the guilt of tolerating science without idealism, politics without principles, wealth without work, pleasure without restraint, knowledge without character, power without conscience, and industry without morality.
The hope of modern Christianity is that it should cease to sponsor the social systems and industrial policies of Western civilization while it humbly bows itself before the cross it so valiantly extols, there to learn anew from Jesus of Nazareth the greatest truths mortal man can ever hear—the living gospel of the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man.
The best advice we might offer to a Christian is to read The Urantia Book; find out the religious life of Jesus and how he lived it; follow him, and do as he truly taught; become educated regarding Jesus' teachings about the kingdom; take your place in that heavenly kingdom right here on earth; take that newfound knowledge into the congregation and be the leaven of a new age in church life. Be part of the new resurgence of the kingdom of heaven!!! It belongs to all of us!