Editor’s Note: In a recent essay, Rev. Howard Bess observed that the deviation between Jesus’s teaching of forgiveness and the Christian Church’s emphasis on penance and punishment may have derived from the fact that apostle Paul may never have known of the Sermon on the Mount, because Jesus’s teachings were not written down until years later.

After our publication of Bess’s essay, scientist and author Gary Novak submitted an article that examines the theological aspects of Christianity’s early crossroads that put the Church onto a course that Jesus might well not have recognized:

The examples of Jesus's life taught what solving problems means. He fed the hungry and healed the sick, saying this is what people must do. Today, of course, we must use technology rather than supernatural powers, but the moral standard is the same. In using technology, we must acquire knowledge and apply rationality to the problems of human suffering. 

Jesus, like the great prophets before him, focused on knowledge and rationality. He taught people to look and listen, seek and find and produce understanding and honest judgment from the evidence. Isn't this exactly what science is supposed to be doing?

So why do some Christians find a conflict between science and religion?
They focus on Paul's theology and ignore the contradiction with Jesus's teaching. Paul's theology is all about the supernatural and ethereal. Something magical was done on the cross which created a justification for the selected persons who choose to become Christians.

Whatever that magical event means, it doesn't feed the hungry or heal the sick. Yet the adherents to Paul's theology not only ignore Jesus's admonishments, they now often are the ones who oppose social programs for meeting the needs of the needy.

Some theologians go to great trouble explaining how there is no theological conflict between Paul's writings and those of the four Gospels. But when we look at the applications, we see two different results.

Many Christian evangelicals and fundamentalists promote a highly conservative social agenda opposing social programs for the needy. And they promote Paul's theology to the total exclusion of Jesus's teaching based on solving social problems.

Paul taught a theology based on sacrifice to God, while Jesus said it is mercy that God wants, not sacrifice.

And, if sacrifice is a good thing, it must be self-sacrifice, not sacrificing someone else and a thing for one's own benefit. But the later is exactly what sacrifice meant in the pre-Christian religions including the transitional period leading up to Christianity.

Sacrifice at least meant burning an animal carcass on an altar. In some cultures it meant murdering one's own children to please the demons who might make the corn grow or win the wars.

The religion of sacrifice began very early in human history; and it was the same on all continents. The demons demanded sacrifice as a show of allegiance. In the most remote cultures, sacrifice meant murdering people on an altar. In the more "civilized" societies, less extreme forms of sacrifice were allowed, which might be as trivial and burning incense to the gods.

This was the same religion of sacrifice which entered the pre-Christian Jewish religion upon which Paul based his theology. Some great Jewish prophets spoke out against the practice of sacrifice, saying God had no use for the blood and smoke of burnt animal carcasses, but to no avail.

And Paul based his theology on the religion of sacrifice claiming that Jesus's death was itself payment for the sins of mankind. 

The two theologies – one of Jesus and the other of the apostle Paul – create opposite paths in life. Paul’s theology of sacrifice attempts to make another pay the price for problems. Jesus’s theology of socialized morality attempts to solve human problems through personal responsibility, constructiveness, knowledge and rationality.

Gary Novak has more on this theological issue at:  http://nov33.com/rel/index.html

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