Christianity or Churchianity: Finding the Lost Message of Christ

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The time has come to re-think the message of Christianity. In my latest book, "Christianity or Churchianity: Finding the Lost Message of Christ," we shall endeavor to find the true meaning of Love and Compassion as displayed in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Embark on a spiritual journey that will lead us to our home, the spiritual Garden of Eden. This is the truth as best we can discover it by re-examining the actual words that were attributed to Jesus Christ, and these are the words that have been ignored and distorted from the beginning by most of our Christian institutions. Our journey will reveal a message about Peace, Hope and Love. And we shall not find any words of judgement or condemnation in His message of Love. With their creation of creeds, doctrines and dogmatism, our Christian Churches have rendered the message of Jesus Christ as mythological, condemnatory and ineffectually remote. Their creation of creeds and doctrines have resulted in the division, disputation and bloodshed seen throughout our human history. “Christianity or Churchianity: Finding the Lost Message of Christ” is the real story of unconditional love that Jesus Christ shared with us, and, as such, this is not the message that harmonizes with the orthodoxy of institutional Christianity. You may find the author on FaceBook listed as J. Craig Woods and you may tweet him at Twitter.com using @authorjcwoods

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Friday, January 7, 2011

This book is now available!
2014-03-28 - "Christianity or Churchianity: Finding the Lost Message of Christ" is now released, and it may be ordered at your local bookstore. It can also be purchased at online book retailers. Below is a link to Amazon.com but you may also find the book at Word Branch Publishing, etc. For a sneek preview, I have included a portion of the Introduction from the new book below. Please check it out.
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2011.01.01

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INTRODUCTION: 

Our Christian religion was created by men. Because this statement is pointing out the obvious, it might seem unnecessary to include it here. However, it is possible that it needs to be clearly stated at the outset of our journey into the truth about Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ did not write a single word of print, and in all gospel accounts, we will not find any examples of Jesus Christ issuing creeds and doctrines. Men are solely responsible for the creation of church creeds, doctrines and dogmas. If our Christian religion is failing to have a positive impact upon our society, it is because the Christian religion ignored the most important element in the teachings of Jesus Christ. In their creation of church doctrine and dogma, the early Church was unwilling to emphasize the love and compassion as found in the actual Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ spent His life teaching a ministry of love and forgiveness. If the message of love is absent from our church’s doctrines and dogmas, we need to study the history of our Christian institutions so that we may better understand the reasons for this omission. If individuals, who consider themselves Christians, are unable to express unconditional love and compassion for all living creatures, we need to understand the reasons for this omission too.

 

We are now experiencing the introduction of many so-called Christian beliefs and values into our everyday life. These beliefs and values are being introduced into our politics and culture. Therefore, they are affecting us in our everyday life. Through the process of government legislation, these religious beliefs are being instituted by so-called political action groups that claim to reflect true Christian values. These so-called Christian groups are fervently attempting to change our society by exerting powerful influence on our elected officials and on our governmental policies. We need to know if these beliefs and values are really consistent with what Jesus of Nazareth taught. We also need to understand why the early church leaders were unable to capture the truth as expressed in the words of Jesus Christ. And the best method for conducting our investigation is to re-visit the actual words of Jesus Christ, as recorded in the Christian gospels, both canonical and non-canonical gospels. We must learn to extricate our thinking from all preconceived notions and dogmatic constructs.

 

However, it is with a certain degree of trepidation that I write a book about the ministry of Jesus Christ and His spiritual message for humanity. Undertaking this journey is, indeed, fraught with many perils for both myself and the reader. But I feel it is worth the risk for us to re-examine the message of Jesus Christ, especially as it relates to our current societal problems. If we are willing to honestly open our eyes and take a penetrating look at our world, we shall immediately discern the importance of how an understanding of a message of hope, love and compassion, as in the message taught by Jesus Christ, will be our only salvation. We live in a world beset by many problems, and most of these problems are of our own creation. If we have created these problems, we can solve them. And the message of Christ offers us the solution we need for improving our human condition by providing us with the instructions for the spiritual development of humanity.

 

His teaching is both spiritual and practical. But if we are to understand what Jesus Christ was—and is—teaching us, we will need to take a new and courageous look at what His message really means for us today. In our renewed pursuit to understand His message, we shall strive to extricate our thinking from the orthodoxy that permeates conventional thinking about the message of Jesus Christ. Long before men created the Christian creeds and doctrines of the early church, the man known to us as Jesus of Nazareth lived amongst the people of His day. His mission was to teach a ministry of love without judgment and condemnation. In reading the gospels, we will not find any examples of Jesus Christ creating the creeds and doctrines that are now central to the Christian theology practiced by our modern Christian institutions. There is no condemnation in the message of Jesus Christ. The spiritual message of Christ is all about unconditional love, and this love is all inclusive. This is the love that the Creator (God) has for man—and this divine love was made manifest by the appearance of the Christ Spirit in our human (physical) world. Unfortunately, by focusing on the creation of doctrine and dogma, our Christian institutions are missing the essential message of love and compassion as found in the actual message of Jesus Christ.

 

This current work constitutes a major revision to my previous book, How The Churches Got It Wrong. In this new book, I have pursued the same basic premise, but I have revised every chapter by changing the structure and by adding new material. I was able to learn much in writing my previous book. For one thing, I have learned that I must be very careful in choosing a title. The title must reflect the essence of the book, but I must be careful not to turn people away by what I have chosen. For this current work, I have chosen the provocative title, Christianity or Churchianity: Finding The Lost Message Of Christ, in the hope that we may learn about a message of Love, and how this message will transform our life. Unfortunately, institutional Christianity has been unable to capture the message of unconditional love as taught by Jesus Christ.  Consequently, our Christian institutions have been unable to exert a significant impact upon the prevention of man’s inhumanity to man. In fact, some of these institutions have been the source of brutally inhumane behavior.

 

We will witness this omission of unconditional love—as reflected in our need to settle our international differences by fomenting the many wars fought throughout the centuries—all around us. This same lack of love is also seen in our pervasive famines and worldwide poverty. Contrary to manifesting a message of love, we have seen some of the greatest examples of moral transgressions in countries that claim to be Christian societies. It is very sad to think that most of our Christian institutions are ostracizing those who live with alternative lifestyles based on their gender and sexual preferences. Where is the inclusion of love as taught by Jesus of Nazareth? These Christian institutions are unwilling to follow the examples set by Jesus Christ. In the Gospel of John, it clearly states that judgment and condemnation are unacceptable behaviors: “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. (John 3:17)

 

In addition, the Roman Church, which held sway over the western world for about fifteen-hundred years, has been one of the most persistent violators of the principles espoused by Jesus Christ. In seeking to establish their ecclesiastical authority over all other societal institutions, the Roman Church ignored the simple words of love and compassion spoken by the man from Galilee. And this very same omission of love and compassion, as found in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, has also occurred in the other Christian institutions such as in the Protestant and Evangelical movements. Because of the greed and corruption in the Roman Church, the Protestants would separate from the Church of Rome during the sixteenth century, but, unfortunately, they would also carry out their own brutal policy of torture and subjugation. When it comes to our need to create a Christian institution, it appears that the goal of unconditional love and compassion for all, as expressed in the life of Jesus of Nazareth, is conspicuously absent.

 

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is about how we are to love God and love one another. It is a message of peace, hope and love and, as such, it is not a message of judgment and condemnation. But the early Church opted for the creation of institutional authority and worldly power. The early Church leaders would literally go from being persecuted to being the persecutors. Consequently, the message of love taught by Jesus of Nazareth has been unable to take root in our society. By writing this book, I sincerely hope that I will, in some small measure, assist in correcting this egregious error. Mohandas Gandhi once asked why Christians “are so unlike your Christ?” To find a reasonable answer to his query, we will need to make a thorough investigation into the institutions that claim to espouse the message of Jesus Christ. Because our Christian institutions have overlooked the message of love and compassion in their distorted interpretation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we will need to search for the truth that has been buried under verbal abstractions.

 

Our Christian institutions have been mainly interested in material acquisition, instead of the salvation of humanity through unconditional love. Unfortunately, their distortions have significantly influenced our perceptions of Christianity. In their misguided efforts, these institutions have created belief systems that most people believe are antagonistic to their lifestyle. If ever a spiritual journey was needed, it is now that we should undertake our most important journey. It will be our spiritual journey to discover the truth about our human existence as taught by Jesus Christ and others. While traveling on our journey, we shall also learn how we can begin to develop our love for all our brothers and sisters.

 

I would also hasten to add that my understanding of the Christ message, as expressed in this book, is not a new understanding. The message of Christ was a new Gospel for humanity at the time when Jesus Christ expressed it two thousand years ago. Since the time of Jesus Christ, there have been various individuals who have made great progress in understanding His message—and this understanding will form the basis for this book. Unfortunately, their voices have been unable to rise above the din of orthodoxy. I am not quite sure why I think this current work will fare any better, but with the many problems we are now experiencing, I feel the time is right for us to re-visit the message that Jesus Christ brought to earth. My extensive research into the history of Christianity and my background in the formal academic studies of world religions, psychology and philosophy has provided me with a unique ability to offer a comparative view of Christian theology. I have spent a number of years in the pursuit of understanding the history and development of Christian theology—and I have studied the various philosophical schools that have exerted their influence on the development of Christianity such as Platonism. As a matter of fact, a few of the Church Fathers, including Saint Augustine and Origen, were avid students of Plato’s philosophy, which would have a major influence on their views about the message of Jesus Christ.

 

The message of Christ offers us the truth we need for our tumultuous times, but this truth has been largely ignored and, subsequently, lost. If we are to pursue our spiritual development, our materialistic pursuits must eventually be supplanted by spiritual learning, and the message of Jesus Christ provides us with the instructions for learning the spiritual purpose for our human existence. While our technological gadgets provide us with a false sense of security, our souls languish in a place of spiritual desolation. And with technology about to overtake our humanity, we must at last return to our true purpose: the care and development of our spiritual being. My sincere desire is for this book to be of assistance to all seekers who are interested in finding the spiritual path to truth. I wrote this book so that we could search for the truth as we journey together. In the final analysis, only the person who is willing to take this journey will be in the position to render their judgment on how helpful this book has been for seeking truth in his or her life.

 

First and foremost, this is a philosophical book about unconditional love. In our journey, we will explore the unlimited potential of having a loving attitude, as expressed in the message of Jesus Christ. As most of us know, Jesus Christ never wrote down a single word of His message, and he did not create the Christian theology now practiced by most Christians. In addition, the Christian Gospels were written many decades after His death. The narrative contained within the gospels was originally passed on in the oral tradition until it was expressed on the written page many years after the death of Jesus Christ and the death of His Disciples. As such, we may not conclude that the gospels are infallible. The gospel accounts are not eye-witness accounts. They are not historical accounts. They are statements of faith. However, these accounts of Jesus Christ are all we have to go on. They do provide us with a second-hand account of His life and His message, and they will help us in understanding His ministry of love. And, also, because of a discovery in the twentieth century, we will now be able to utilize other Christian Gospels for our understanding of His ministry. These Christian Gospels are a wealth of new information, but they were excluded from the New Testament Bible Canon for reasons we shall explore later in our journey.

 

 With these recently found Christian Gospels and the New Testament Gospels, we will be able to glean the essence in the message that Jesus of Nazareth was disseminating to the people. And these books will provide us with a substantial understanding of His love-based ministry. As we shall see, the central theme in all the gospels is a message of love: loving God and loving one another. There are no examples or quotes in which we will find Jesus Christ creating church doctrines or dogma. It was the early Church leaders who performed the task of creating our Christian theology, and this task was completed many years after the death of Jesus Christ. In so doing, these men laid down the foundation for modern Christianity. We will explore how the Christian theology was created by the early church leaders at councils convened by Roman Emperors. We shall learn how the politics of power and personality played a central role in the formulation of doctrine and dogma.

 

 Although the central theme in the message of Jesus Christ is all about love, we will need to develop a new understanding of how Jesus Christ envisioned the concept of love. There is probably no concept that has greater misunderstanding than the concept of Love. In our journey, we will obtain an understanding of how the word love is used in the gospels. To do this, we will investigate the language used in writing the New Testament, specifically the New Testament Gospels.

 

Originally written in Greek, the New Testament writers actually used three different Greek words for the concept of love, and their usage depends on the context in which these words are found. Most of our English translations use the single English word “love” in translating the Greek words used for love in the Biblical Gospels. In the gospels, the most common Greek word used for love, which has been translated as our English word love, is the Greek word “agape.” In understanding the message of love in the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth, it will be important to understand the meaning of the Greek term “agape.” Agape is the highest form of love. It is unconditional and self-sacrificing love for a person or object because we realize this person or object is very precious to us. Agape is unselfish and unconditional love, and its meaning is nearer in meaning to our English word altruism.

 

The type of love alluded to by Jesus of Nazareth is the highest expression of love. To a certain degree, the love expressed by Jesus Christ cannot be defined. It is the love that characterizes God’s relationship with humanity, and like the concept of God, it is an inexpressible idea. The meaning of love, as used by Jesus Christ in his Gospel of Truth, also has a dynamic nature to it. Our ability to understand this kind of love will evolve as we evolve. The potential for this kind of love (agape) is unlimited. When true Christianity is founded on this quality of love, we will have no need for anything else because this love is the Power of God. This will be Christianity without any creeds or doctrines, only love will prevail. This belief in the power of love reminds me of the John Lennon song Imagine: “Imagine all the people living life in peace.” In the journey that we are about to undertake, it will be our goal to travel as far as possible in comprehending the ultimate expression of love. We will have no need for doctrines or creeds. It is my sincere hope that we will realize our goal of finding God’s Love. Consequentially, we will find a deeper spiritual basis for living together and for loving one another.

 

 

 

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

As a Baby Boomer, I was a young man during our turbulent 1960’s, and that experience has been instrumental in shaping my development as a person. After fully exploring the youth culture of the 1960’s, I enlisted in the U.S. Navy in the early 1970’s, and lived in Japan for several years. After my discharge from the Navy, I attended the University of California on the GI Bill where I had a dual major in psychology and philosophy. Upon completion of my academic studies, I worked within the mental health field for a number of years. My early interests were mainly centered on the health of the human being.

      With the decline in our mental health system during the 1980’s, mainly due to funding cuts, I made a career change, moving from the mental health of the individual to the technological health of our computers. I entered this technical world by becoming a participant in the Information Technology sector. In this capacity, I worked for some of our largest corporations. For the last twenty years, I have worked as a UNIX system engineer, setting up the servers that function as the computers running our World Wide Web. In addition to the technical knowledge that I have gleaned, this experience has provided me with a keen understanding about Corporate America.

      Although I was born and raised in California, I now currently reside near Dallas, Texas. At this stage of my life, my thoughts are returning to the most important aspect of our human existence: our spiritual growth. I have accomplished many of the goals that I have set for myself but now the only accomplishment that really matters to me, as a human being, is the accomplishment that I can take with me after I depart from our physical world.

 

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