Friday, March 25, 2011

On the Road to Damascus

I'm supposed to be on a golfing vacation, but my hip has broken down and I can't play. I'm limping my way back home and doing plenty of thinking to pass the time.
by Charlie Leck

I have always thought there are two versions of Christianity. I'm not going to get into theological debates about this because those of very fundamentalist faith are not going to accept these notions; however, to me, as one who doesn't approach scripture from a literal perspective, the notion makes sense.

This is more an argument of history and literary analysis than it is one of theology. In technical terms the two versions could be called (1) Pre-Pauline and/or Early Gospel, while the other could be called (2) Pauline or Altered Gospel.

I brought along on this trip to the South a copy of Tom Robbins' book, Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates. I'd read it sometime ago and wrote about it here. The work has fairly haunted me since I finished that first reading. It has a rich, rich vocabulary to which I didn't give fair attention. Many of the creamy, hot-chocolate topped words he uses in the account deserve more consideration than I gave them. More, however, the book also contains some very interesting theological thinking; and one thought was especially interesting to me and bolstered a concept about Christianity I've carried around in my back pocket for a long, long time. Here's how Robbins opens one of his chapters.
"Damascus is said to be the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world.

"It was on the road to Damascus (then already six thousand yeas old) that the apostle Paul (formerly Saul) suffered an epileptic seizure. Pounded to his knees by the relentless strobe of the sun, an egg-white mousse of spittle sudsing from his baked lips, Paul imagined he heard the big boom-boom voice of God (formerly Yahweh) admonishing him to scorn sensuality, snub women, and subdue nature, instructions that he subsequently incorporated into the foundation of the early Church (what came to be called Christianity was really Paulinism)."
In fact, the writings of Paul -- a man who had never met the Nazarene named Jesus -- became the backbone and foundation of the early church (though there is pretty clear evidence that some of Paul's original letters and plenty of the gospels were tampered with here and there to provide authority for the standing and importance of the institutional church.

The notion, for example, that salvation is exclusive only to those who recognize the Great Church and accept the Christ that it represents is a concept invented some years after the death of the kind and loving man who was put to death on the cross.


  1. That certainly is an interesting concept. Typical for one who does not accept scripture and the true word of God. Anyone can explain away anything he wants if he puts his mind to it. We do have free will to accept or reject and it feels so much better when it can be justified. My personal relationship is real and the need to be hostile is not there. Always good to stay open and search.

  2. Lynn, It's difficult in a multi-faith and multi-cultural world to accept Christian scripture as the exclusive word of God in any literal sense. I do believe that scripture is man's attempt to explain God and our relationship to him. If the blog here sounds hostile, I'm sorry. I didn't mean it to be. There just seems to be strong evidence that the early Church altered some of the original New Testament documents to defend its exclusive authority. I think it is very wrong to think Christians have any more claim to salvation than people of any other faith -- I used Ghandi as an example a couple of weeks ago.

  3. I was referring to the author of the book you quoted. The institutional church is not the true church as you probably well know. A true Christian does not need to defend or judge what God in the end will do and does. The message of love is the heart of scripture and grace to forgive all our failings. I think we over analyze too often for our own ends.