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Ken Collins’ Website

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The Problem That Christianity Solves

 

We humans are the only animals that consciously know in advance that we must ultimately die, and because we also possess the natural instinct of self-preservation, we live in constant tension between the realization of death and the desire to continue existing—even when our existence is not immediately at stake. Thus we are estranged from our own mortality, which leads us to ponder the significance of our individual lives and the many dimensions of human life in general. That contemplation gives rise to religion and philosophy. Perhaps because we humans are the only animals estranged from death, we are the only religious animals.

All human religions are predicated on dealing with this estrangement. What differs among the various religions are the details: the nature of the estrangement, the identity of the entity from which we are estranged, and the remedy. From this we could build a taxonomy of religions. For instance we could posit, among others, the following categories:

In the case of the ancient Hebrews, the estrangement is from a monotheistic personal God who is also creator, proprietor, and custodian of the universe. The story of the Garden of Eden explains how archetypal ancestors brought about death and estrangement for themselves and their descendants by disobeying God. Thus the nature of the estrangement is disobedience, and the remedy is reconciliation and obedience. The estrangement is mitigated through ritual practices, which have to be repeated, because obedience is not perfect. It leaves the remedy for death a matter of hope and speculation. By the time of the first century, there were lively, but unofficial teachings regarding heaven, hell, resurrection, and judgment, which Judaism no longer dogmatically affirms.

Christology as the Fundamental Christian Doctrine

Christianity, building upon the platform erected by Judaism, accepts its scenario and notes three problems:

In this context, Christianity advances Jesus Christ as a mediator who can effect a permanent reconciliation by finally and completely meeting all ritual obligations, who can resolve the problem of death by conquering it Himself, and who can address the universal predicament of the entire human race. Since Christian theology puts Jesus in the role of a mediator between the human race and God, Jesus Himself is the remedy to the estrangement and Christology is foundational. Therefore, Christology is the most fundamental of Christian doctrines, and one of its most fundamental tasks is to examine Jesus’ qualifications to perform His role as mediator.