Gospel #2: A Modern Book Review of the Gospel Story
Copyright 2011, John Manimas Medeiros
Is there a second or alternative Gospel message? Christian scholars and historians, and certainly Christian clergy, are expected to say "No." There is one historical Gospel message, and that message is the story of Jesus Christ and his teaching that humankind is saved from its sins -- or flaws -- by the grace of the Holy Spirit and by his ministry, suffering and death. This interpretation of what the Gospel is, though accepted virtually worldwide, is subject to rational challenge and other interpretations. Consider for example the fact that most Christian theologians claim that an individual cannot be saved unless they become a member of a Christian church or "the Body of Christ." While this interpretation of "salvation by membership" is widely accepted, the Gospel says in several passages and parables that the individual is saved by their conduct and not by membership in any institution or organization.
My viewpoint of the Gospels is similar to Temple Grandin's view on the world. In part because she is autistic, she sees things that other people don't see. She learned how to persuade people to look at the "pictures" that she saw with her capacity for perception, a capacity that enables her to see details, very important details, that ordinary people miss. According to the film story of her life, where Claire Danes plays the role of Professor Grandin, Temple Grandin has a very special mother who taught doctors and teachers that Temple was "different but not less." Early in her life, Ms. Grandin became concerned with how animals were treated, in particular horses and cows. Later in life, while working with the men who ran a cattle feed lot, she said "What's bad for cows is bad for business." She invented and built better ways to handle the cows during the period of feed lot care and during the process of slaughtering. I have something in common with Ms. Grandin. I also am very concerned with how animals are treated and I want animals to be treated with more respect. Specifically, the animals I am most concerned with are but humans. Humans are technological animals, and they need to be treated with more respect. One could say that is the message that I see in the Gospel story that others don't see. The book I have written, and struggle to introduce to the world as important for human survival, and for "business," is entitled The Primacy of Stewardship. This book is like a lengthy book review of the Gospel story. However, following here is the continuation of a book review of more appropriate length. The book being reviewed, just in case you got confused on that issue, is "The New Testament Gospel." The theme of that Gospel story -- whatever one believes to be the source of that story -- is that survival of the good steward is survival of the fittest. The theme of this book review is that science and religion need to be friends or they will kill one another and all of us in the process.
Not everyone agrees that Jesus was teaching only morality, or that the main theme of the Gospel message is only about spiritual salvation: that good people will go to Heaven after they die and bad people will go to Hell after they die. An independent student of the Gospel message, John Manimas, who applies both the social and physical sciences to interpreting the Gospel message, argues that the kingdom of heaven discussed by Jesus is the kingdom of life in the universe, and that the many parables about both the kingdom of heaven and about good servants and bad servants actually comprise a mildly coded message or metaphor that says: the evolutionary process will select humans to survive and thrive if they are good stewards, but humans will be destroyed -- by both their own flaws and by other natural processes -- if they are bad stewards.
In this viewpoint, the Gospel message is a scientific message intended to tell humans what they need to know about their place in the universe and is not simply a moral lesson or a teaching of moral philosophy. The comparison of good stewardship with bad stewardship is not in reality about moral choice, but is the description of a physical law of the real, physical universe. The definition of stewardship as discussed in the Gospel is not a narrow concept, certainly not about giving charity or financial support to any church or other organization, but encompasses the broadest possible definition, and refers specifically to stewardship of the planet Earth, which is the life supporting system that is necessary for survival of the human species. It is both scientifically sensible and religiously sensible to say that the Earth is entrusted to us -- it is in our hands. The relationship of the human species to the planet is that humans are the appointed caretakers of life on Earth. The human "ego-steward" of the Old Testament, who possesses the Earth as a gift from God to be exploited and consumed, is redefined in the New Testament as the "eco-steward" who is assigned the task, by Nature, of taking care of the Earth as a living household to be maintained and protected. This interpretation of the Gospel message is based on interdisciplinary study that addresses the challenge to reconcile religion with science. This alternative or second Gospel message can be considered by a reasonable person to be a rational response to the question: "What is the Gospel message really, if it is a scientific message rather than moral philosophy?"
The scholarly sources for such an "alternative" Gospel are not restricted and include works in history, religion, psychology, brain development, learning, sociology, physical science, mathematics and even efforts to describe the existence or historical influence of intelligent extra-terrestrial beings. The value of this alternative viewpoint of the Gospel message is that it responds seriously to the common rejection of the Gospel as being a description of a fictional person and an unrealistic moral standard that no human can apply in real life. If the Gospel is telling us how we must behave in order to survive and fulfill our role as the caretakers of life on Earth, the endless debate about moral behavior is changed into a scientific debate about what we, the human species, need to do.
Following below is a very brief bibliography that suggests the different disciplines one can explore in order to reframe the Gospel message as a scientific message:
Understanding Physics, by Isaac Asimov (1993)
The Story of Psychology, by Morton Hunt (1993)
The Descent of Woman, by Elaine Morgan (1972)
The Aquatic Ape, by Elaine Morgan (1982)
Beyond Freedom and Dignity, by B. F. Skinner (1971)
The Galileo Connection, by Charles Hummel (1986)
The Passover Plot, by Hugh Schonfield (1965)
What the Buddha Taught, by Walpola Rahula (1974)
The Sufis, by Idries Shah (1971)
Rescuing the Bible From Fundamentalism, by John Shelby Spong (1991)
Christianity Must Change of Die, by John Shelby Spong (1998)
Living Buddha, Living Christ, by Thich Nhat Hanh (1995)
Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind: Alien Abductions, UFOs, and the Conference at MIT, by C. D. B. Bryan (1995)
Other works that introduce the serious student to the reconciliation of science and religion include the works of Erich von Daniken, such as Chariots of the Gods? Also most useful for a beginner would be Forbidden History or Forbidden Religion, as well as the broad range of works that describe the world's major religions, which invariably teach that humans have an obligation to take care of the people and property (Earth) in their care.
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