The main issue which keeps me on the far ledge of Christianity, or any other faith for that matter, is that their connection with mankind and the divine has borders, their relationship has limits. Christians can connect with other Christians, even with varying denominations, but have trouble connecting with Muslims, and so on and so forth. Loyalty to your tribe and to your beliefs supersede compassion and connection with your neighbor.
A God Sized Puzzle
One final thought I would add is that like the story of the Sheep and the Goats the determining factor of one's fate is not affirming the correct doctrinal beliefs, believing the right religions, or even accepting Jesus as Lord. It is something far more simple: Failing to take care of those who need your help. That, I think, is the real lesson of this story. Those of us who choose to ignore the beggars at our own gates (which could be all of modern America, where most of us could care less that thousands of our fellow human beings starve to death on a daily basis) will one day come to understand a thing or two about "reversal of fortunes", and its safe to assume it won't be a pleasant experience.
The Unitarian Christian Universalist
Clergy typically are no longer the most educated members of a community, which was at one point often the case. And this has, for many, shattered the mythological image in two ways.
First, when pastors speak authoritatively on issues that they are not experts in. This happens quite a lot in some churches, be it on science, or politics, or the arts. And when it does, it easily drives away those who work in or study those areas, because the image they were presented has been shattered. They were sold a mythology of pastoral authority; only realize that that emperor has no clothes.
The other, potentially more damaging, way that mythology is shattered occurs when members of the church learn for themselves. Some churches, thank God, encourage this and want to walk alongside the congregants as they grow and learn. Others I have found are interested in increasing the knowledge of their congregations only in so far as their development stays “in line” with the leadership.
Inquisitive minds are only given one side of the debate and told its right, no need to read the other (many books written against emerging churches take this approach). But, when given an all or nothing answer to so many questions, these inquisitive people take advantage of the massive access they now have to information of all sorts. And they often come to realize it was never so simple and that the ideas they were sold actually are looking quite weak.
New Ways Forward
I am still trying to make sense of this famous story. I am still trying to understand the "God" of Job. Job’s God making deals with Satan doesn't at all fit my own understanding of who God is. To say that Job was an historical character that really experienced all that the book says is something I cannot believe. If there is anything at all to be learned from this story, it has to be found at a deeper level of interpretation. There are no pat answers to be found here from God for the conservative interpreter of Job.
We saw the evolution of “Logos Christology” in the writings of Justin Martyr, who believed that Jesus was not literally God but only a type of divine super-being created by the Father and through whom He created the world. We saw this belief was held in various forms by most second- and third-century Christians, including prominent theologians such as Theophilus, Hippolytus, Irenaeus, Origen, Methodius and Tertullian. Christology continued to develop through a variety of successive heresies (Sabellianism, Patripassianism, Arianism, Homoiousianism, etc.)
We saw Trinitarianism began to take shape at the Council of Nicaea in AD325, in an era when Christianity became politicised under the reign of Constantine. We saw this initial Trinitarian definition was incomplete, being gradually refined by successive councils over the next 120 years. We saw even in the late 4th Century there was no consensus on the deity of Christ or the Holy Spirit, and prominent Trinitarian scholars were accused of tritheism. Does this sound like the faith once preached by the apostles?
Historically, doctrine always develops from the minimal to the complex, evolving as it is exposed to new influences and adapting in response to perceived heresies. Thus, the simplest doctrinal statements are more likely to be the earliest and most authentic. It is therefore significant that the earliest Christian creedal statements are Unitarian. They begin with simple, Biblical formulae:
Ephesians 4:4-6, “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you too were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all”
Later post-Biblical era Christians employed identical language to express an identical theology. The Didache (a late first-century church manual) contains a summary of key beliefs including salvation by grace, the need for repentance, the ritual of baptism, the Eucharistic meal, the identity of Jesus Christ, the Second Advent, and the resurrection of the dead. These are supported by copious quotations from the NT, demonstrating that the apostolic writings were in wide circulation and upheld as the benchmark of orthodoxy. Yet there is no mention of three persons in the Godhead; there is no suggestion that Jesus is God.
Parchment and Pen