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Problems of Humanity - Chapter V - The Problem of the Churches
I. The Failure of the Churches

Let us remember: Christ has not failed. It is the human element which has failed and which has thwarted His intentions, and prostituted the truth which He presented. Theology, dogma, doctrine, materialism, politics and money have created a vast dark cloud between the churches and God; they have shut out the true vision of God's love, and it is to this vision of a loving reality and to a vital recognition of its implications that we must return.

Is there any chance that a renewal of the faith as it was in Christ will return? Are there enough men of vision in the churches to save the day - a vision of [125] meeting the need of man and not a vision of the growth and aggrandizement of the churches? Such men do exist in every religious organization, but they are deplorably few. Even if united (which seems as yet sadly impossible because of doctrinal differences), they present a somewhat futile group versus the organized power, the materialistic splendor, the vested interests and the fanatical determination of the reactionary ecclesiastics of all faiths. It is usually the struggling minority (in this case the spiritually-minded few) who guard the true vision and finally bring it into being; they are the ones who walk the torrid, unhappy streets with agonizing humanity and who, therefore, recognize in an acute sense the need for the regeneration of the churches.

Our religious platforms, our pulpits, and our religious periodicals and magazines are full of appeals for men to turn again to God and to find in religion a way out of the present chaotic conditions. Yet, humanity has never before been so spiritually inclined or so consciously and definitely oriented to the spiritual values and to the need for spiritual revaluations and realizations. The appeals going out should be made to the church leaders and to the ecclesiastics of all faiths and to church workers everywhere; it is they who should return to the simplicity of the faith as it is in Christ. It is they who need regeneration. Men are everywhere demanding light. Who is to give it to them?

There are two major factors which are responsible for the failure of the churches:

  1. Narrow theological interpretations of the Scriptures.
  2. Material and political ambitions.

In every land down the ages men have sought to foist their personal, religious interpretations of truth, of [126] the Scriptures and of God upon the mass of men. They have taken the Bibles of the world and have attempted to explain them, passing the ideas they find through the filter of their own minds and brains and in the process inevitably stepping down the meaning. Not content with this, their followers have forced these man-evolved interpretations upon the unthinking and the ignorant. Every religion - Buddhism, Hinduism in its many aspects, Mohammedanism and Christianity - has produced a flock of outstanding minds who have sought (usually quite sincerely) to understand what God is supposed to have said, who have formulated doctrines and dogmas on this basis of what they thought God meant and their words and ideas have, therefore, become religious law and the irrefutable truths of countless millions. In the last analysis, what have you? The ideas of some human mind - interpreted in terms of his period, tradition and background - about what God said in some Scripture which has been subjected during the centuries to the difficulties and the mistakes incident to constant translation - a translation often based on oral teaching.

The doctrine of the verbal inspiration of the Scriptures of the world (deemed particularly applicable to the Christian Bible) is today completely exploded and with it the infallibility of interpretation; all the world Scriptures are now seen to be based on poor translations and no part of them - after thousands of years of translation - is as it originally was, if it ever existed as an original manuscript and was not in reality some man's recollection of what was said. At the same time, it must be remembered that the general trend and the basic teaching, as well as the significance of the symbols, is usually correct, though again, symbolism itself must be subjected to modern translation and not to the misinterpretation of ignorance. The point is that dogmas [127] and doctrines, theology and dogmatic affirmations, do not necessarily indicate the truth as it exists in the mind of God, with Whose mind the majority of dogmatic interpreters claim familiarity. Theology is simply what men think is in the mind of God.

The more ancient the Scripture, the greater, necessarily, the distortion. The doctrine of a vengeful God, the doctrine of retribution in some mythical hell, the teaching that God only loves those who interpret Him in terms of some particular school of theological thought, the symbolism of the blood sacrifice, the appropriation of the Cross as a Christian symbol, the teaching about the Virgin Birth and the picture of an angry Deity only appeased by death are the unhappy results of man's own thinking, of his own lower nature, of his sectarian isolationism (fostered by the Jewish Old Testament, but not generally found in the Oriental faiths) and of his sense of fear, inherited from the animal side of his nature - all these are fostered and inculcated by theology but not by Christ, or the Buddha or Shri Krishna.

The little minds of men at their past and present stages of evolution cannot today and never have comprehended the mind and the purposes of the One in Whom we live and move and have our being; they have interpreted God in terms of themselves; therefore when men unthinkingly accept a dogma, they are only accepting the point of view of some other fallible human being, and are not accepting a divine truth at all. It is this truth that theological seminaries must begin to teach, training their men to think for themselves and to remember that the key to truth lies in the unifying power of Comparative Religion. Only those principles and truths which are universally recognized and which find their place in every religion are truly necessary to salvation. The secondary and controversial line of [128] presented truths is usually unnecessary or significant only in so far as it buttresses the primary and essential truth.

It is this distorted presentation of truth which has led humanity to the formulation of a body of doctrines about which Christ apparently knew nothing. Christ cared only that men should recognize that God is love, that all men are the children of the one Father and, therefore, brothers; that man's spirit is eternal and that there is no death; He longed that the Christ within every man (the innate Christ consciousness which makes us one with each other and with Christ) should flower forth in all its glory; He taught that service was the keynote of the spiritual life and that the will of God would be revealed. These are not the points about which the mass of commentators have written. They have discussed ad nauseam how far Christ was divine and how far He was human, the nature of the Virgin Birth, the function of St. Paul as a teacher of Christian truth, the nature of hell, salvation through blood, and the authenticity and historicity of the Bible.

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