Then I saw barnacles attach themselves to the pillars. In the case of Christianity, I saw the barnacles representing many false teachings put forward by perhaps well-meaning people, but people nevertheless who did not fully comprehend the clear, strong pillar originally placed among us.
For example, I saw St. Augustine's fantasy of original sin, which amazingly got incorporated into the "theology" of the "church." I don't suppose he took to heart the beginnings where it was said that God made many references to the goodness of the creation. God's stamp of approval was upon creation. After all, it came forth from God. Then, of course, there had never been in Judaism or The Way that became known as Christianity any idea of original sin taught. This was a pure invention, perhaps a mistranslation.
Another barnacle example I think was the Council of Nicaea and the work of Athanasius and Constantine which culminated in "the creed." What they said Christians were to believe is of historical interest, but hardly believable that they in the 4th century could categorically state what Jesus meant and what God meant. Surprisingly, it is still recited regularly. Of course, there is the work of the council to determine which of the existing writings would be given the seal of approval, and which should be destroyed. As if they knew so much, they could make such drastic decisions. Fortunately, some of the works they thought they destroyed have been turning up in various places, giving us an expanded peek into the diversity of understandings already at play in the 4th century.
One more barnacle I'll mention came from Anselm about 1,000 years ago. He came up with the "theology" of substitutionary atonement. He declared that Jesus was a substitute for us and our sins. The idea divided into various theories, I'll note just one here from Wikipedia:
The widest held substitutionary theory in the West is the penal substitution model. Both the penal theory and Anselm's satisfaction theory hold that only human beings can rightfully repay the debt to God's honour [Anselm], or to God's justice [penal substitution]) which was incurred through their wilful disobedience to God. Since only God can make the satisfaction necessary to repay it, rather than merely forgiving humanity, God sent the God-man, Jesus Christ, to fulfill both these conditions. Christ is a sacrifice by God on behalf of humanity, taking humanity’s debt for sin upon himself, and propitiating God’s wrath.This theory makes the Infinite God blood-thirsty, angry like the worst of us humans, and One who engages in child abuse. It is absurd. Jesus died a gorry death (as did thousands at the hands of the Romans), and that satisfied some horrid deity.
This theory does not require us to become like Christ, to deeply work on ourselves, to be transformed, to play our part in bringing the Kingdom of God here and now (Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done; the Kingdom of God is within you). It simply requires us to believe our sins are already taken care of because God demanded Jesus pay. Ewwww, you've got to be kidding.
Peeling off just these three barnacles gives us a glimpse at the pillar that has been there all along, waiting for us to come to our senses and turn to the original meanings. It is said by many scholars that the parables are the closest to the words of Jesus because stories are easy to remember, especially those with profound meanings. Remember, the Gospels were written between 68 and 120 c.e., long after the events occurred. I challenge you to go to the New Testament ( I like The Message translation) and read Jesus' parables, just the parables one or two days this week. Imagine you are sitting before Jesus and he tells you these stories. Let yourself feel them and know what they mean to you and your spiritual journey. Go directly to the pillar before the barnacles attached and covered it.
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