1. Any attempt to rediscover the partly lost spiritual depths of Christianity must, of course, start with the teachings, life and significance of Jesus Christ himself and the early Christians - including their "apocalyptic" traits, instead of only picking out that which suits a given theology. It is also important to take the variety of the early Christians seriously, just as the evangelists****** did, in order to show the more comprehensive role of Christ.*
2. The Old Church of the following centuries was characterized by the authority of the extensive tracts of the "Fathers of the Church". With the help of the Greek language and their learnedness they were able to make early Christian traditions much clearer for Europeans. They still knew a lot about older writings which are missing today. During this era there were also a lot of controversies concerning what corresponded to true Christianity and what did not. Many of these findings, which were ignored later, are worthy of new appraisal - especially in comparison with their origins. Furthermore, there were also Christians who didn’t primarily seek their salvation through a Church, but through the individual access to God in prayer or meditation - e.g. in Egypt, cf. the finds of Naq Hammadi. In the "mystical theology" of today's Orthodox Churches some of it is well preserved.
3. Medieval scholasticism and canonical work led to a theological systemization through argument, counter-argument and conclusions - which one could call a philosophy of religion. The authority of the "Fathers of the Church" was still accepted, but only as far as they were in accordance with these thoughts. Although scholasticism produced a lot of useful food for thought at that time, the often one-sided absolutism and therefore exclusive intellectual logic was alarming and should be distinguished from the actual religious dimension. So beliefs were preserved in the form of doctrines or dogmas, but this also tempted people to follow inquisitorial practices. The creativity of today's spiritual seekers and mystics shows us that sometimes the same intellectual method could lead to other conclusions too and that real spiritual growth requires a consciousness, which is more flexible, more comprehensive, and less hardened. The strict scholastic method is still an important starting point for today's systematic theology, especially in Catholicism. But there is also a certain openness for other or ecumenical approaches (.e.g. Yves Congar). Indeed, the purpose cannot be a one-sided criticism of one of the theological schools. At an early stage of the work on the main text of "Ways of Christ", possible structures were considered. Only one possibility remained and that was to use the sequence of the "Steps of Jesus" taken from the Gospels themselves! There is also an archetypal sequence of stages of possible human development and areas of consciousness in relation to the surrounding world. But this is a new, interdisciplinary approach.
4. Once enough church tradition had been added to the origins, the efforts of
the Reformation followed, in order to clearly take the biblical origins
as the basis again. But they were limited in this endeavour because they
themselves were children of their times and knew little about the spiritual and
mystical movements in the early history of Christianity. They also abandoned
some basically valuable traditions, - such as the Adoration of Mary. Only
individuals like the German Protestant theologian J. V. Andreae published deeper
experiences, which might be called "Christian esoteric" ones;
disguised as a dream or novel for reasons of safety. Even Protestant Churches
were not always as tolerant as one might think. So it is not easy to recognize
the Christian nature of these experiences.
The Counter-Reformation, religious wars, etc. did the rest. But the various theological approaches were still similar in many points. Where one can find even within Protestant Churches separate denominations like the Lutheran and the Reformed ones, this separation is only valid for theological discussions and no longer supported by the members themselves (at least in Germany**.
5. The Age of new philosophy, Enlightenment, rationalism and (natural)
science which followed did not result in a theology of spiritual experience
complementary to the old intellectual systematic theology either. On the
contrary, an increasing number of historical-critical (historiocritical)
theologians began to orient themselves to the new intellectual and one-sided
materialistic science of that time. Theology started to become a comparative
study of literature and linguistic research - which was not necessarily a
mistake, but one-sided.
There is no reason not to consider the type of literature, but then as fittingly as possible instead of schematically, such as our page on the so-called Gospel of Philip. It is also repeatedly necessary to compare the statements of the scriptures with the circumstances of those times – and it is important not to immediately belittle what was written at the time when seen from the modern-day zeitgeist. The connection with the emerging congregation can also shed light on the meaning, but this does not have to lead to limiting the view to external, purely human events, in which God no longer directly appears, although he was the most important for mankind. The fact that a message was definitely given to certain people does not at all mean there was no universal meaning. It is important for us today to look for the significance of the tradition; however the full content will only become clear to us if we take the plausibility of what was promised seriously, even for the people of today, or at least attempt to do so.
In contrast to the development of critical theology, contemporary exponents of the old systematic theology saw themselves again as a kind of centre of actual theology, around which the newer fields of research might group themselves. Their ability, however, to fulfil this integrative role was questionable. Surely it would be legitimate to relate the manifold scientific discoveries to theological teachings - as long as it does not lead to new scientific dogmas. But consequently one would expect this to take place today too. In most cases this did not happen. This would mean considering the emerging new world view and paradigm, stemming from the new scientific schools of quantum physics, quantum biology, new geophysics, astrophysics and especially new borderline sciences like parapsychology - which don't back up the old materialism. It is useless to adapt today's theology to a scientific world view of the 19th century!***
In contrast to the tendencies of rationalism, new revivalist movements have also come into existence since the 19th century, leading to many new Protestant Free Churches. They did not, however, find it necessary to examine scientific development to see whether it matches up with their current beliefs. They promote biblical beliefs. In most cases they would not call this "theology" at all, but it is indeed a certain kind of theological interpretation (exegesis) of the Bible.
6. So in the 20th century many efforts were made to add facets of theology
which had not previously been given enough consideration, but still without the
mystical and spiritual dimension - at least recognized as necessary by Karl
Rahner. Such trials in the Catholic and Protestant worlds were good for parts
of the society, because they addressed the real problems of the people:
e.g. Karl Barth; the political theology and the theology of liberation
in the Third World and the theology of creation ****), feminist theology.
Some schools, such as the "Entmythologisierungstheologie" (theology
of demythologization) of Bultmann did more harm than good, almost
reducing the belief to a rationalistic world view - although they state
correctly that Faith does not need scientific objectivication. Drewermann
then tried an exegesis of the Gospels with depth psychology. This might be a
bridge for leaving the world of a materialistic world view without a soul, but
depth psychology is not yet the real spiritual dimension of the Bible and so it
is of no use to play these areas off against each other, as it happened.
Until now, problems between fundamentalism and relativism have dominated the discussion.
Apart from that, the so called "Jesus disclosure stories" outside of theological circles over the last few years have been detrimental to the present discussion.
7. Till now, there has not been anything resembling a "post-modern" theology of the 21st century. Renewing the spiritual possibilities of Christianity - keeping the old depth of faith and social watchfulness as well requires a more comprehensive change in consciousness*****. Spiritual precision and differentiated ways of looking at society and the world are called for here, instead of only administrating and perpetuating the old fields of theological research and scientific study of religion: a way to "full" Christianity without the fragmentation of today. This is where "Ways of Christ" comes in.
consciously accepted not only that "source Q", which researchers found
within it. (It only contained sayings of Jesus before the Passion, with ethics
beyond many social conventions, often connected, e.g. with the Sermon on the
Mount. The similar and so also authentic sayings of the "Gospel of
Thomas" shows that - depending on the preachers and the audience - further
sayings of Jesus were in circulation. At first, only a few disciples were able
to go along with the last steps in the life of Jesus - starting with raising
Lazarus from the dead - and so represent it authentically. Nevertheless it was
revealed to the seekers.
**) At the present time, e.g. in Germany, there are attempts to clear up this situation. Furthermore, concerning the different Churches see also our page "The 7 Churches (of the Revelation) and today's Churches"
***) See also our extra page "Science and the belief in God".
****** Jesus, the disciples and theology.
There are "theologies" within the New Testament. But the writers must have combined it consciously. They felt for the fact, that Jesus has had many "sides". One needs several theological viewpoints to understand him.
He taught the social awareness of liberal or liberation theology too – and he taught the strict (individual) ethical guidelines of rather conservative theologians (but not formal and not based on the power of the state.)
He also had the spiritual attitude of Christian mystics or esoteric Christians (compare the mystical theology of the eastern Orthodox Church) - and, nevertheless, he wanted the Disciples to manage their life in the physical world (which is the main topic of most current theologians and missions, especially the Protestant ones).
Jesus showed a "supernatural" relation to God, (from baptism up to the Cross & Resurrection, noticed for instance in the meditative review of John the Disciple and his Disciples.); that can not be explained by the intellectual consciousness of theologians like Bultmann – nevertheless Jesus had to go through human stages of life, which are understood by natural sciences.
Some incidents can be understood by deep psychology of our time, some are spiritual beyond psychology.
Many viewpoints are almost lost, since big parts of the original Early Christianity were persecuted as "heretic", (becoming mixed with real misuses of Religion.) They all were one-sided, but not more one-sided than any existing church.
This one-sidedness is not automatically negative. The constructive parts of all that attempts would be o.k.- if they would not think, that they are the only ones who are right, and that the other ones would be completely wrong.
****** The Gospels and theologies.
Gospels – and for instance that part of the Gospel of Mark, named
"Q"– represent different viewpoints. So they are written for
groups of people with different background. Mark was important (for
instance) for the analytical mind of the Romans and for translations into
the roman languages. But Prof. Morton Smith named a "secret
part" of that Gospel, stemming from Peter, used for a few experienced
people only, containing the Lazarus story and so on. The austrian mystic
Lorber says, Mark was - as a boy - an appreciated messenger between the
Disciples. So he would have known exactly, what was going on. He
shows approaches of a theologian, with the central question "who is
The "Gospel of Philippus" (apocryphic) is no Gospel, but an Early Christian "contribution to a discussion" with several movements, having its viewpoint between them. (It is no gnostic paper, as some may assume.) The "Gospel of Tom" (apocryphic) is no Gospel, but a collection of sayings of Jesus - at least most of it authentical -, including some wordings dedicated to spiritually interested people…
Different peoples were able to work out different aspects better.
the different methods of research are all useful, if applied
together (interdisciplinarily). However, if one tries to built up theology
on one science only (like linguistic research or
"Formgeschichte" or archeological research), the result
becomes partially false. Additional meditative methods are necessary.
An annotation to the churches' doctrine of the triune nature of God.
See also the list of additional theological literature.
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topics and main text.