The question to be addressed here is, How can a Realistic Idealist, who has no place in his/her philosophy for magic, or the supernatural, but sees everything in realistic terms, build on the foundation of a Judeo-Christian ethical system? The following paragraphs will explore this possibility.
The Realistic Christian believes in theRealistic view of Jesus Christ. He/she believes in the social value of the golden rule: "do unto others as you would have them do unto you". This includes: don't murder, don't commit adultery, don't steal, don't lie, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as yourself (Mat19:18-19). He/she also understands the psychological and social importance of "forgiveness" in conduct (Mat.5:38-39). This includes loving your enemies, forsaking retribution and granting forgiveness, never criticizing or condemning, but displaying compassion (Luke 6:27-37).
The Realistic Christian understands that if a belief in heaven and hell is required to enforce the message of love and compassion for most people, so be it; for, through identification with these people, he/she has a responsibility of stewardship that is taken seriously with love.
The Realistic Christian is not an anti-theist, and regards denigration of religion and God with repugnance. He/she understands that all the evils associated with the Christian movement, for instance, have been committed by the barbaric participants and were never promoted by the philosophy of Jesus Christ. He/she may go to church every Sunday or just a few times a year; for, they enjoy the ritual and social bonding. He/she supports charity.
The Realistic Christian reveres and loves the Bible as a book written by men with the best intentions. He/she is pleased that this literature has been considered Holy to have it passed to us virtually unaltered through the centuries so that we have an accurate record of the evolution of ideas between it's covers.
But on the question of God, the atheist is usually silent, agnostic, or spoken only to his friends and family. It is to these atheists that I am speaking. With all that I have said so far, and with the well being of your family and community and your stewardship at stake, one would not want to be ostracized as a hypocrite. But, just as Jesus has reinterpreted the Laws of Moses for greater understanding (Mat.5), so must we, once again, reinterpret the concept of God for better understanding.
God is, and has always been, Nature and/or Reality. As our ancestors evolved from an illiterate primate, they could not understand this. Since we "create", something "created" us. Originally all entities in Nature were seen as separate, so the concept of god started as many spirits, then came polytheism, monotheism and so forth. Concepts of spirits and Gods, at one time realistic, have always represented the forces we now see as one unified God, or Nature.
Because this is no longer a magical God above nature, we will rename it G*D so that it's association will not be lost. Life was created in Nature, by Nature, so G*D is still the Creator. As mammals we understand nurturing as a sign of love; so, because we have been nurtured through evolution into our existence, "evolution", itself is proof of G*D's love for you and me. Just the fact that love exists in us, and we are a part of Nature, is proof that love is from G*D. But the atheist Christian realizes the struggle to fight the evil, against life, in Nature as well.
Even though we are a part of Nature [G*D] and are thus divine, we are at the mercy of G*D's Laws. The Realistic Christian recognizes that sin is not punishment by God, but is behavior that has life threatening consequences due to Natural Laws such as infection, and social, family, or personal psychological damage; and, especially, damage to growing children. The Realist considers all "sin" in the light of knowledge.
Now, as Realistic Christians, we can dedicate ourselves to G*D, be humble before G*D's awesome majesty, and identify with G*D the Creator. All blessings do flow from G*D. We can gather the "lost souls" and offer them "salvation" through the Love and Compassion in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Many things are understood by the theist AND the Realist in this light. So, whether you Praise God Jesus Christ or just share the rejoicing and Love of Jesus Christ in your heart with your family and the world, there is common ground.
The Realistic JesusJesus' Life
It is hoped this essay will inspire a dispassionate interest, for some people, in the life of Jesus, the person. Some will find heresy in it's words, but none will find insult or unsubstantiated opinion. We will continue with the understanding that the special person Jesus existed somewhere beneath the myth and spiritualism. We will examine the textual evidence in the Gospels on the basis of 1) the physical life of Jesus, 2) the philosophy of Jesus, and 3) the metaphysical aspects of Jesus.
Jesus was probably born in Bethlehem into a religious family. Jesus was a scriptural prodigy (Luke 3:41-50). His younger brother, James, became a major figure in the Christian-Jewish Church and His cousin John was to become John The Baptist. There are some missing years of Jesus' life in the Gospels from the ages of 12 through 30. There are some suggestions (not in the Gospels) that these years might have been spent with Jesus' mentor, Joseph of Arimathea, near what is now Glasgow, England, where it is well established that Joseph made a fortune mining tin. When Jesus returned, he had a grass roots appeal. He kept company with all kinds of people. He was not used to following Jewish customs and was described as a "glutton", due to his disregard for lent, who ate and drank wine heartily (Mark 2:16-23). Jesus never relinquished the importance of dining with those who were important to him.
John the Baptist was Jesus' first promoter. People had been considering John to possibly be The Christ. But, recognizing Jesus' genius, he pointed them to his cousin. Jesus was inspired by the activity of his older cousin John the Baptist, and began His ministry, close by, baptizing people in the Jordan River wilderness (John 3:22). Here Jesus became familiar with the needs of the people and began to formulate his teachings. He learned to multiply his efforts by teaching disciples to do the baptizing for Him. This left Jesus free to take his ideas on the road (John 4:1-3). John elevated not only the ceremony of baptism which became a standard in both Judaism and Christianity, but also the idea that Jesus was the Messiah.
Jesus started with twelve disciples and began a program of preparation and instruction (Matt 10). He taught these men the basics of "healing" and "casting out demons". At one time, He had 70 disciples touring the countryside in pairs preparing the people for His scheduled arrivals in town after town (Luke 8 to 12) till he drew crowds of thousands. Jesus' ministry was the "bread of life" (John 6:27-30) and the "fish" were possibly His disciples. His supporters included the wife of Herod's financial officer, curiously. Jesus knew his audience was in Judaism, for this was the fertile ground of his philosophy (Mat 10:5,6), so he kept his ministry to the Jewish countryside.
As young people found interest in following Jesus, there was often rebellion against the beliefs of their parents (Mat 10:34-38). Angry and torn families were ready to take advantage of any opportunity to destroy Him. In Jesus' day it was imperative that one not speak out against the ruling Roman powers. The Pharisees would try to trick Jesus into making punishable statements opposing the Roman power by heckling from the crowd. Many hated Jesus and plotted to kill him (Mat 12:14,26:4,Lk 13:31,19:47). John the Baptist spoke out against the behavior of the Roman rulers on even a minor point and was thrown into prison. Jesus was devastated when, on the whim of Herod's wife, John was beheaded. Jesus was very careful to not speak against the Roman power. However, His growing reputation of being the Messiah, or the Son Of God, bordered on blasphemy, and Jesus knew this would anger His Jewish opposition. Jesus asked His disciples not to tell people He was the Messiah (Matt 16:20). Yet, as a result of the charge that Jesus was challenging Roman authority by claiming to be a Jewish King, the Messiah, Jesus was arrested. The Romans didn't know Him, He had to be pointed out. Jesus had spoken out against the Pharisees too often, and His enemies were influential. As a result of their relentless efforts, it is most likely that his crucifixion happened, just as described, much to His despair (Mat 27:46).
The Pharisees represented the overbearing burden of intricate and, in some instances, contradictory Judaic laws requiring much discussion and ritual. Acquiring money through religious practices had become and important aspect of the Synagogue. Judaism had become a religion for the elite of Israel. Jesus had a simple message to replace all this complexity. First was the Love Commandments (Mat 22:35-40). 1) Love God, and 2) Love others as thy self. The love commandments are also found in the Pentateuch: "Love thy neighbor as thy self" (Lev. 19:18) and "Love God" (Deut. 6:5), where they were incidental to other teachings. Jesus made them a primary requirement in his teachings. Second was the golden rule: "Do to others as you would have them do to you" (Matthew 7:12). There is a third love commandment found in John 13:34, "love each other as I have loved you".
Jesus was infuriated with the hypocrisy that surrounded the complex laws and ritualistic behavior of His time. He was angered by the money exchangers in the Synagogue. He criticized The Pharisees relentlessly. Jesus called them "snakes" (Matt 23:33) as had John The Baptist (Luke 3:7). Stronger indictments followed, especially in John 8:37-44, where Jesus accused them of belonging to a "Father" who is a lying, murdering, devil.
In Matthew 5-7, Jesus goes so far as to reevaluate the written Laws of Moses, the very foundation of Judaism. The sin of murder became murderous thoughts; Adultery became adulterous thoughts; Divorce for anything but fornication became forbidden; An eye for and eye became, "do not resist violence"; and, one was encouraged to love their enemy and pray for those who mistreat you; He encouraged people to settle their own differences instead of going to a judge; Religion was to be a private affair; and, for the most part, "don't worry, be happy", the Lord will provide.
Along with reverence for a deity, "The Father", and promoting humility, there was a reverence for people which gave increased validity to a social people. His simple philosophy helped each individual to identify with all the people. He taught that God's kingdom was greater than oneself and is among us (Luk 17:21). He taught that we should dedicate ourselves to the Love of The Father and people. Jesus also promised everlasting life after death (Matt. 10:20), and taught that the soul could survive the destruction of the body (John 5:28,29).
Jesus was a reluctant Messiah. In the beginning, when called by John the Baptist, Jesus asked, "what do you want?". Even though when asked if He were the Messiah, He said "yes" (Mat 27:11), He also instructed his disciples not to call him the "Messiah" (Matt 16:20). Jesus scoffed at the idea of being the Prince of Peace (Mat 10:34). Jesus refuted that the "Messiah" would be in the "line of King David" (Matt 22:42-45). God was said to have named Jesus His Son (Mat 3:17), and Jesus referred to God as "The Father"; but, in Jesus' eyes, God was everyone's Father (Mat 23:9,10). Jesus referred to Himself, over, and over, again as the "Son of Man". This was the term the Lord used to refer to Ezekiel. Perhaps Jesus emulated Ezekiel in some way.
It is only through the love and acceptance of Jesus Christ that one could realize eternal life in the Kingdom of God at the end of the world. The message of Love and Compassion has been apparently best received when couched in the Words of the Son of God, who was simultaneously God Himself, and who died and was resurrected for the salvation of humanity. This concept of the Christian movement was represented by Paul's Epistles. Paul saw his mission to be as important as The Christ's and traveled the known world marveling at this phenomenon. As long as Christianity held the central theme of Love and Compassion and forgiveness, what does it matter why people are Christian; or, for that matter, exactly what form of Christian they are? And It has taken many forms. Some forms have even lost the central theme.
To observe the life of Jesus without "magic", we can see that the "miracles" of his life have been inserted to cement the idea that He was the Messiah and the fulfillment of the expectations set forth centuries before. Healing, for instance, in those days, was fairly common. The psychology of this phenomenon has been demonstrated by modern day faith healers. All participants have something to gain in this activity. Casting out demons was practiced by many (Acts 19:13-16) including all 70 disciples. Resurrections have been reported in other religions. The Bible itself reports numerous resurrections (Mat 27:52,53). Walking on water and commanding the weather were both expectations set forth in the Old Testament. If Jesus could have walked on water, why would He ever have used a boat when delivering his sermons from the water (Lk5:1-3)?
Through Christianity, much of the world has received Love, Compassion and forgiveness as a central theme. Realistic Idealism hopes to expand on this with humanity's new gift: Knowledge and Understanding.
Philosophy Based on Evidence
Copyright© RFHall, 2000
New Testament, Christianity
Realistic Idealism, philosophy based on evidence index