The title of Chapter 1 gives us three foci, of which we will explore in order of importance. Today’s post will focus on “the problem:”
The decline of Christianity, religion of the West, bespeaks the decline of faith in the Pauline interpretation of Jesus’ meaning to mankind…
Jawaharal Nehru states: “Essentially, our problems are those of civilization itself. Religion gave a certain moral and spiritual discipline; it also tried to perpetuate superstition and social usages. Indeed, those superstitions and social usages enmeshed and overwhelmed the real spirit of religion. Disillusionment followed.”
The pace of Christianity’s decline, in terms of declining beliefs in its tenets, accelerates. J.B. Priestly writes: “…if we all joined a Christian Church tomorrow the fundamental situation would be unchanged, because no church existing today has the power – and we could not give it this power by joining it – to undo what has been done…the symbols no longer work, and they cannot be made to work by effort on a conscious level…No matter what is willed by consciousness, that which belongs to the depths can only be restored in the depths.” (emphasis mine)
The depths, huh? Well then, can psychology help?
Today, psychologists explore and interpret the depths of man, but thus far psychology serves only to present again in professional terms the notion of original sin…man is victim of primordial sex drives incorporated in his being when he is expelled from the paradise of the womb.
(Psychology) cannot defend man against the dehumanizing collectives, or restore in his depths the hope that declines as religion declines – indeed, the human problem is compounded by psychologists theories, and man must seek defense against them.
Freud and those who followed in this field opened Pandora’s box, but they also presented humanity with vital knowledge, which must be dealt with now, just as nuclear power must be dealt with now – and just as the vacuum created by the decline of religion must be dealt with now, for in Priestly’s words, “it is doubtful if our society can last much longer without religion…”
Harold believes that for Christianity to thrive, it must look past the Pauline interpretation which has dominated the past 2000 years, and try to make sense of Jesus’ words in the light of today’s knowledge and understanding. As a fan of Paul rightly understood I have a bit of a problem with this, but let’s let Harold have his say…
In orthodox theology, St. Paul’s compelling interpretation of Jesus is highlighted against the background of the disciples messages, obscuring much of their content. The pre-eminence of Pauline doctrine precludes the idea that there could be another valid concept of Jesus and His mission. But in the four Gospels another view of Him is precisely drawn, a view as natural and different from the Pauline concept as non-Euclidian geometry is natural and different from Euclid’s. Since the advent of the Bible, which drew together fragments of His picture, this answer to the question of Jesus has lain before men’s eyes. It is an answer St. Paul could not give. In the early days of Christianity only a hint of it could be discerned, and was discerned by Saul of Tarsus – his mighty work is not to be decried. Nor could this answer been given by those who followed and through the ages developed the Christian religion. Indeed, not until the twentieth century, when the writings of Darwin, Freud, Einstein and many other scientists had been circulated throughout the world, and science had suffered it’s great revolution, and mathematicians had been freed of the limitations of Greek thought, could the concepts of Jesus to be offered in this study evolve as His own words, works, and drama are measured against the data now available.
After reading the book, it is my understanding that Harold’s problem with Paul doesn’t rest so much on Paul’s actual doctrine, but rather what the Church teaches regarding Paul and it’s understanding of his message. But Harold will still take us into uncharted, ripe territory, and if he had to bypass his understanding of Paul in order to do so, I am certainly willing to forgive him. The fruit is delicious!
Harold leaves us on a positive note concerning our present problem:
The problems confronting man in the twentieth century are colossal, but opportunity looms equally large: “…the present situation is a new one, in which new facts and new knowledge are available over new fields to an unprecedented extent, and could be distilled to provide us with the truth that alone can set us free.” – Julian Huxley
In the next post we will explore the crucial questions, and then move on to the objective of the book. Until then, peace…