The Individual is the backbone of Christianity
The Socio-Individualistic point of view is the
backbone of Christianity.
following are extracts from:
‘The Philosophy of Jesus’
The work was first published in 1945 the contributors
were not theologians but it was their purpose to uncover the philosophy of
Jesus by removing the phrases and interpretations by which the theologians have
obscured it – much as Jesus attempted to purify the ancient Jewish law –and present
it, to the best of our ability, ‘pure and simple.’
cannot be too clearly stated in modern language, or over emphasized that the
socio-individualistic point of view is the backbone of the philosophy of Jesus.
It has been quite misinterpreted by many nominal
Christians and by nearly all the churches everywhere.
Jesus quite realised that man (as Aristotle clearly
stated) is a social animal- that is living naturally in a community.
realised, further, that half the interest and sparkle of man’s early life is
afforded by the variation shown in different nations and communities.
But he stressed that would seem to any impartial person
the obvious truth that the combination of true individualism with social and
national harmony can only exist under the banner of equality of opportunity-‘from
each according to his ability; to each according to his need.
to say, this doctrine of spiritual and moral equality does not imply that all
men are equally tall, or equally strong, or equally gifted with talents of
it does imply that every man has an equal right to ‘life, liberty, and the
pursuit of happiness.’
is this doctrine an invention of philosophers: a mere reasoned human
theory. Natural rights are truly
natural rights-inherent and inherited products of unconscious growth.
origin is biological. The hold of the
principle of equality, with the tolerance and mutual respect inevitably
associated with it, on the mind of early man, so soon as he began to gather
into larger than family groups, was absolutely necessary to tribal survival.
This explains how fundamental in the mind of nearly
every one this true doctrine of equality is.
All our notions of justice and equity are based on it. All our ideas of honour, good faith, and the
sacredness of mutual contract would be meaningless if this underlying equality
were not a reality.
Bearing all this in mind, we see that the Jesus of the
gospels is indeed the truest of democrats.
A note that runs through all his teaching is the liberty of the individual:
the power of
men and women to separate themselves the grain from the chaff and to judge
their own conduct- not of others-by standards which he invited them to examine
. . . The peculiar work of Jesus may be
defined as the clearing away of perversions of the ancient beliefs and ideals,
and the return to the fundamentals which underlay them; to give, as Professor
Weinel puts it, a new ideal and a new belief in God- the purest ideal and
the loftiest belief.
this,’ Professor Weinel asks, ‘be actually proved? It can be proved on genuinely historical
grounds, if we simply place the work and character of Jesus in contrast with
the development of religion, which preceded him.
From such an historical standpoint we have
only to take the sayings and parables of Jesus as a whole, and place this side
by side with the Judaism, which he found in existence, in order to see that he
brought to its completion a process of development, which culminated in him.
gospel is the full accomplishment of moral religion. He made an end of all the obscurity of the religion of law, in
that he found the nature of the Good, not in the law and its consequences, but
in the inner disposition itself, and in that alone.
What God forbids is not, in the first instance, murder
and adultery, but hatred and every impure inclination; not perjury alone, but
oath-taking in general, because Jesus condemns untruthfulness as that which
gives the occasion to oaths, whether true or false.
this completion of morality in the inner disposition follows a second result;
the requirement of God is something astonishingly simple, namely, love and purity-purity
understood as freedom from covetousness and from deceit; as that resistance to
temptation and complete sincerity which puts all calumny away with a smile,
instead of seeking revenge and the punishment of the offended.’
is the culmination of the line of development traced by the Jewish prophets and
the Greek philosophers alike; and ends in a morality entirely inward, at unity
from all outside motive, it is purely moral.
Its incarnation in terms of humanity differentiates it from those ways
of salvation found, far earlier, by Plato in the West and Buddha in the
both of these wise men the world is a scene of sorrow, and flight from the
world the only means of escape. To
quote Professor Weinel again: ‘The
salvation that Buddha offers is the last step upon this road. He bids man deliver himself by extinguishing
the will to live, by becoming free from desire, because he has seen into the
nothingness of everything in the world.
The holy calm of the soul, which has left behind all desire, all love
and hate-this alone is the redemption of the world. Jesus and Buddha are the two saviours who compete today for
the souls of men.’ Buddha the negative;
Jesus the positive.
we have said, the character of Jesus was outstandingly free from the
self-preservative instinct. Salvation
for oneself alone meant nothing to him.
His humanity, or humanness, made his appeal to his fellow –man,
and his sharing of their natural desires and impulses showed him how to voice
Christianity is the religion or philosophy which Jesus the young carpenter of Nazareth,
taught and lived, not, to quote Jean Reville, ‘the one which, afterwards, his
disciples built around his person and work.’ Even
further removed is it from the religion and code of conduct most commonly,
though not quite universally, taught in the religious textbooks, the Church
schools, and the official churches of the greater part of Europe.
Earnest Barker, speaking at a Church Congress some ten years ago [1935-the period
of the rise of the Dictatorships in Europe] said:
‘For myself, I cannot feel that it is a high
political duty, today, for the private citizen who has the opportunity and the
cultivate by his personal action the cause of the mutual understanding of
‘I dearly want us to
maintain, intact and undiminished, our own national way of life.’
But I cannot, in modesty, seek to make it the
universal way, or proceed to consider other nations entirely by the criterion of
their agreement with that way. That
would be an ideology, which might readily run into bellicosity. ‘
higher duty is to understand other nations as what they are in themselves, and
what they may come to be if they develop their own best elements-to understand
that, and, having done so, to cultivate what is common (the best is always
common) for the sake of the peace, the concert, and the unity of Europe.'
words were spoken in 1935-four years later the world was at war again in the 20th
in this work]…The basis of democracy is the control by individuals
or groups, of those things that specially concern them. It is founded on a theory, which all
experience goes to verify, that in the long run no one will look after a man’s
true interests so well as himself.
the Jewish law nor the teaching of Jesus sets a higher standard of social
conduct than that a man should
‘love his neighbour as himself.’
is the very antithesis of the mastery of one man and another; for it is a
rationalization of the Christian doctrine that all men are equal.
who has once understood and accepted the Christian doctrine of equality is
perforce a democrat, with all that it implies.
Jesus himself gave us a clear notion of what is meant by
this equality, which is of the very essence of civilization, when he said:
disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. It is enough for the disciple that he be as
his master, and the servant of the lord.’
‘You know that they are accounted to rule over the
Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority
upon them. So shall it not be among you,
but whosoever will be great among you shall be your minister: and whosoever of
you be the chief, shall be servant of all… I say to you, the servant is not
greater than the lord; neither is he that is sent greater than he that sent
‘And he stretched forth his hand towards his disciples,
and said, Behold my mother and my brethren.
For whosoever shall do the will of my father, which is in heaven, the
same is my brother, and sister, and mother.
twenty centuries those elements of the human soul which seek, consciously or unconsciously’
to build a sanctuary for these innate feelings of sacredness, have found a
framework in the recorded life and teachings of Jesus. J. Middleton Murry, writing twenty
years ago  said:
do not think it possible for those who believe that Jesus was a man of like
passions with themselves to avoid offending those who believe he was wholly
divine. But I do believe that those to
God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” is the most poignant cry in history, a confession
of final failure wrung from the lips of the rarest spirit that ever inhabited a
human body- are less reverent to religion than are those to whom such words are
No such belief or disbelief can take one iota from the
value of the teaching of the Jewish youth who, himself, claimed no more than
universal son-ship of a universal Father.
Religion is a
way of life-a ‘philosophy,’ as indeed it was to Plato and to Socrates.
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