In the 19th century, many Christians were deeply troubled by Darwin. They accepted his theories as facts that disproved the Bible’s claim to be inspired and inerrant. But they weren’t ready to slough off Christian ethics. Or even (in many cases) quit their jobs as prominent pastors and try to make an honest living. They quailed at the ruthless atheist socialism of Marx and Engels, and the harsh “social Darwinist” movement that hoped to speed up the “survival of the fittest.”
So these men of little faith hearkened to the deeply biased methods of “Higher” biblical criticism. Pretending to be a “science,” it weeds out the miraculous and supernatural parts of the Gospel. What it leaves behind is an ethical core, derived from cherry-picking stories of Jesus’ actions and precepts. That core, they could pretend, is really the “essence” of Christianity.
Never mind all those metaphysical claims (Our Lord’s divinity) or so-called miracles (His resurrection). And certainly pay no attention to apostolic traditions, Church doctrinal councils, or historic Christian practice.
The Ten Disenchantments
No, the “real” Christianity is … well not a creed. It’s more of an emotive stance, which distills from the life of Jesus a few simplistic precepts. Since they replace supernatural faith itself, I’ll call them the Ten Disenchantments.
- Outsiders are always right.
- The underdog deserves to win, every time.
- Making judgments about people is evil, and it means you’re a hypocrite.
- Religious observance is empty ritual, only valid for building a sense of community among the disadvantaged.
- Rebels and dissenters are always prophetic and deserve our attention.
- Sexual sins are mild peccadilloes, and those who condemn them are much worse sinners themselves.
- Every hierarchy is wicked.
- All inequality is the fruit of exploitation.
- Suffering has no value whatsoever, and it’s our first duty to stomp it out, whatever the cost.
- A neurotic, extreme unselfishness, which no person (much less nation) can really practice, is nonetheless the Christian ideal.
Now this not really a comprehensive ethical system. Nor is it a fair and representative reading of Jesus’ words and actions. If it were, then He would not have been the Messiah, since the above list is utterly incompatible with the Old Testament.