Christians doubting Jesus: Part 1

Jesus-Teaching3As I wrote here, I am glad most Christians don’t believe what they confess to believe.  This post expands of things I am glad Christians don’t believe — namely, the mistaken teachings of Jesus.

In that earlier post I wrote that I am glad that most Christians don’t believe that: (1) the Bible is the best book, (2) Jesus is the only way to salvation and (3 & 4) miracles prayers work. But there is much more that I am glad Christians don’t really believe. I am glad most Christians don’t really believe many of Jesus’ supposed teachings.

Jesus_teaching4Interestingly, today I read a post entitled “Jesus Was Wrong” where Zack (the author) uses sarcasm to chastise his fellow Christians who don’t literally follow Jesus’ teachings. Well, it seems that Zack and I agree that most Christians don’t really believe — or certainly don’t act like it.  He is sad about it but I am happy.  Below is part of my [re-edited, more-polished] reply to Zack.


Funny, Zack, in my recent post, “Most Christians Don’t Believe“, I made a similar point to yours. And in a series of other posts, I explain some possible reasons Christians don’t believe and yet confess.  My explanation went something like this: When many Christians say they “believe”, they often mean something very different than the normal use of the word “believe” — they are often just sending a signal: “I belong”; “I’m a good person”; “I can be trusted”; “I’m normal like the rest of you.”; “I’m a member of the club.”  [Later I will post other things Christians may be doing when they say “I believe…”, rather than making a truth claim].

jesus-teaching-1But unlike you, Zach, I wasn’t sarcastic in my post. I am indeed sincerely glad for Christians who don’t believe much of what they confess.  You and I probably differ in several other important points too. For instance, I think Jesus was indeed wrong about several things. Below I offer three highly-related examples of Jesus’ wrong teachings: The End Times, Economics, and Family.

1. The End Times

Jesus got the timing wrong.  Jesus (or his authors) felt he would return or “the son of man” would come in their lifetimes and establish a righteous Kingdom where God would provide food, clothing and everything for his followers. Anyway, obvious Jesus, nor any “son-of-man”,  ever returned in their lifetimes.

Matt 24:29-35;  Matt 16:28; Luke 9:27;  Luke 21:25-33; John 21:22; Paul and the writer of Revelations believed the same.

2. Economics

Well, since Jesus felt God’s all-providing kingdom was imminent, he therefore felt that his followers should show they truly believed this by selling all their goods and giving everything they owned to the poor. Some may have listened indeed.  But Christianity survives because people stopped believing real soon.

Mark 10:21; Luke 18:22; Matthew 19:21

3. Family

Jesus encourages people to break up with their families. After all, Jesus was an unmarried itinerant preacher so he expected all his disciples to likewise desert their families.  Afterall, in the soon-coming kingdom, all believers would be related at a deeper level and class property families would disappear.  So he encouraged a show of such faith and give them up now.

Matt: 18:25 (It is not good to marry); Matt: 19:28 (abandon your family and more);  Matt: 23:9 (call no one your “Father”); Luke 14:26 (You must hate your family) and more.


Jesus_teaching2Being a former Christian exposed to many flavors of Christianity, I understand that theologians, conservative and liberal, have ways of spinning these three teachings of Jesus to mean something very different than what is obvious. They cleverly sterilized his teachings. I will not debate theology here. But they are right to do so. For if Christians really believed the straightforward meaning of Jesus’ teachings, Christianity would have died almost 2000 years ago. It is exactly because Christians don’t believe all of Jesus’ teachings that Christianity survives.  Some sects, over the millenniums, have taken these teaching seriously, but they are gone now.

Though I am very glad most the Christians I know don’t believe Jesus’ teachings on these points, like Zack and other Christians, I lament that more believers won’t take seriously Jesus’ teachings about forgiveness, love and tolerance. Mind you, those teachings aren’t unique to Jesus by any means, but I wish that even I followed those teachings more fully.


Filed under Philosophy & Religion

5 responses to “Christians doubting Jesus: Part 1

  1. Thanx, Luke.

    But please do elaborate. As a minister in a very liberal flavor of Christianity, do you feel these three teachings of Jesus are:

    (a) misinterpreted and actually have a very different meaning than the obvious

    (b) reported inaccurately by the gospel writers

    (c) are just wrong — even Jesus was wrong about things and these are three of them.

    (d) well, maybe a little of all three, a,b and c

    (e) The same teaching you describe as valuable, are also valuable to me, and I am also uncomfortable with these three apparent teachings but can’t really pin down why?

    I tried to fairly list the main options I can imagine. I tried to keep the options simple and straightforward. If you have an answer that does not match these, could you give a very short, simple, straightforward version of yours if possible?

  2. D.

    Background: All this is predicated on a view of the bible. I have a “low” view. It’s a collection of books written by various humans about God. So for me, I’d answer D. And largely it’s not a concern I spend too much time on. I used to in seminary. But in light of Campbell and Girard, we can tease out a meaning for us today in the midst of this. Not everything in the bible is prescriptive. We can learn from the mistakes of the writers as we still struggle with what they did: context, limitations of language and knowledge, and our own superstitions, prejudices and such.

  3. Thanx for the answer.
    Curious: What percent of your congregants would you say fall into each of the views? Well for them, I’d have to put more, probably, like:
    — I think the bible is basically accurate and those are teachings of Jesus.
    I’m sure you’ve got congregants that you push a bit. 😉

  4. When I first got here, I think the majority would have been b, thanks to their involvement with Cossan, Borg, and Ehrman. But now, majority is in D, including a minority (around 40%) who would say “Bible is the word of God” which wasn’t on your list. And all of them push me 😉

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