Does the Christian hierarchy really believe in Christianity?

It seems an odd question but let me explain. Most of the major branches of Christianity now, from the Pope, Archbishop of Canterbury, etc on down, seem to be ecumenical in their practices. They do not actively encourage the conversion of Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and so on nor do they send out priests to proselytize among foreign nations (at least not major foreign nations). The subtext of all this appears to be that all religions worship the same God and it is immaterial how they choose to do that.

If the above is true, and I may well be wrong about it, then the conclusions to be drawn from it are inescapable and quite shocking: they do not believe Jesus is necessary for salvation, nor that he is the sole path towards God, nor that his crucifixion and resurrection were essential to mankind’s forgiveness by the deity as there were and are other ways to save one’s soul.

I find it hard to understand how ecumenism, the bringing together of all faiths, can be reconciled with the core beliefs of Christianity. Either the Christian doctrines are true and Jesus is essential to salvation or they are not true and he isn’t, he was simply one of the holy men through the ages who can point the way to Heaven. This of course applies equally to Islam. What need Mohammed if others can do the same job? (Admittedly Islam is in no way as subject to this way of thinking as Christianity; most Muslims are convinced that their guy alone has all the answers, as indeed any true believer should be).

I’m an atheist but this really puzzles me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for faiths coming together in fellow-feeling and understanding and I certainly don’t think they should be trying to convert each other but like I said, I’m an atheist and to me it’s all bullshit anyway. What I don’t get is how someone who really believes in his religion can think like this. I can only conclude that the Christian powers that be either have no belief at all in what they preach and consider peace on earth more important than religious credos (and I agree with that) or they haven’t given this any thought at all. I don’t think the latter is true which leaves the former. In their heart of hearts they don’t believe Christianity is true. (And for the record I don’t think this would apply to the majority of the Christian laity whose simple faith remains steadfast).

I’m very willing to be shown where I’m wrong here, I’d just like to understand the Christian leadership’s thinking here.

Your first misunderstanding: that there’s a single Christian position on anything. Christianity doesn’t work like that. Hell, religion as a sociocultural phenomenon in general doesn’t work like that. Religious traditions aren’t monolithic, and there’s no Platonic normative form of a religion because it literally doesn’t exist outside of the consciousness of those who profess belief in it, and those who profess belief are never in agreement all of the time.

It could be as simple as “We tried that; it didn’t work.” That is, they believe, with some justification, that actively going out and trying to convert members of other faiths does more harm than good.

FWIW, this is not a new observation. CS Lewis was mocking what he saw as apostasy among the Church of England hierarchy 75 years ago.

Yes, they do. The Catholics, for example, have a number of foreign missionary groups active today (here, here, and here, to name three).

There are certainly Christian churches / sects which still do engage in that sort of active evangelism / proselytization, particularly fundamentalist churches and the Mormon church. More “middle of the road” churches, like the Catholic and Anglican church, certainly also still have missions, though their focus is often more on social work than on active conversion.

I think there is more than a couple dozen grains of truth to the allegations in the OP. Religious authorities within Judaism are allegedly / apparently a bit more overt about it (he says, on his authority as a non-Jew who has seen rabbis depicted in movies & TV shows written and produced by Jewish folks): “Yes, it says that in the Torah. It also says a lot of other things that reflected our understandings from thousands of years ago. You think applying that literally and mindlessly to people in today’s situation is a good idea? You think that’s what God wants?” But, then, Judaism is less geared towards thinking the process is closed.

I do think some Christian leadership folks think in similar terms: that the important thing is to try to shepherd the people of the world towards a state of peace and kind treatment of each other, and not to get all caught up in the overweening importance of theological specificities because they probably don’t matter to the extent that Christians from a prior era thought they did.

But that’s not the only thing going on. I also think some Christian leadership folks are thinking in terms of the proper humility: that one is not God, but rather a lowly servant called to the profession, and that since one is not God, one should not go forth acting like one is certain and infallible and hence in a position to judge others who do not believe as we do. Instead, one is to direct one’s feelings of certainty towards having inner faith in one’s beliefs and let the wisdom of one’s beliefs do its own shining, luring folks in by light rather than heat, if you will.

Reciprocally, I think that it is among those most intolerant and most belligerently sure of themselves about the absolute truth of what they “believe” that you find the Chirstians who don’t actually believe a bit of this shit. They’ve just found it a useful zone in which to play the charlatan, and they amass wealth and power doing it.

Depends on what you mean exactly here. The Catholic church at least doesn’t hold anymore that a personal faith in Jesus is necessary for your individual salvation. It still holds, however, that Jesus was necessary for this salvation.

Buh-what now? On what basis do you think “most Muslims” are unlike most Christians?

I suspect for the Roman Catholic Church simply lack of manpower combined with the increasing age of the priest/missionary population may be the primary reason there are less large scale missions to proselytize among non-Christian nations. Another is the ramifications of such activities in places where the civil authorities are not favorable to missionaries. The friars that colonized Central and South America had an empire behind them. Protestant missionaries in Africa and India were strongest during the eras when the sun never sat on the British Empire.

Eucumenism can be seen as a sign of strong faith rather than weak. It’s essentially creating a free market of religious beliefs where different beliefs can be compared and the strongest beliefs gain converts. Only people who feel their religious beliefs can survive this competition would be willing to expose their beliefs to it. People whose faith is weak would instead work to isolate and protect their beliefs.

I can attest that sects of Christianity other than Catholicism also actively try to convert. Some by establishing missions, some by doing good works, some by sponsorship of children and so on. The notion, by the way, that good works is not an effort at conversion is flawed. Good works may be done with no attempt at direct conversion, but certainly there is the hope that the example will be inspirational. All too often, you’ll find that good works are conditional upon at least putting up with efforts at conversion. That free meal comes with a prayer and sermon.

No no no no no.

While Muslims consider Muhammed to have been the last of the line, all prophets are co-equal in Islam. Accordingly, Muhammed forbade his followers from calling him greater than earlier prophets (Moses, Jonah, Jesus, etc.).

The first sentence is certainly true. I’m not at all certain about the second. I’m trying unsuccessfully to find statistics on the number of Christians in Africa in 1960, but my general understanding is that Christianity in Africa has expanded tremendously since 1960 (i.e. in the post independence era), as has Islam. There are a bunch of countries for which “older” statistics (from the 1970s) indicate that “indigenous religions” were still the majority, but there’s no country for which that is true today with the exception of Togo.

The OP appears to have missed the existence of Domund (dunnow what’s is official name in English: a day the RCC dedicates to missionary work worldwide, with all money collected on that day specifically earmarked for missionary work), the amount of missionary work done by hundreds of Christian denominations, or the changes in the religious map of many countries (for example, the growth of Evangelical churches in Latin America or of Christianity in multiple African countries).

There is a difference between “respect the beliefs of others” and “we’re not trying to convert anybody”. We are, we’re just going about it more politely and with less weapons at our backs than at other times.

The whole first paragraph is akin to asking “why does English not match subject and verb”. It does; the question is starting from wrong premises.

Because that’s not THE core belief of Christianity. It’s what the Fundies scream loudest about (and therefore many think is true)
If you sin, you go to hell; if you believe in Jesus, you avoid Hell.

At it’s core, it’s based on one single verse (the only path is through me) and atonement theology (sin can only be washed off with blood, mankind’s sin is so big that only the sacrifice of a perfect being, Jesus, was good enough for atonment).

This idea has been challenged by many theologicans in the past century, as being cruel, as being a wrong Interpretation of Old (Hebrew) Testament, and making God cruel, petty and powerless (God has to obey his own rules, because … rules are rules; but that means he isn’t all powerful).

However, instead of cherry-picking one text, those who read the Bible in context*, will see that the one time Jesus talks about sorting People for heaven and hell (the parable of sheep and goats), it’s not about what People believe, but what they do (you fed the hungry and clothed the naked, that was me, so welcome; you didn’t, so go away). Most of the other parables have this consistent thread of “Love everybody by helping them”.

*Fundies Claim to read the Bible literally and that that is the only correct way. What it actually means in reality is “I declare this Interpretation my Pastor has told to be the only valid way of reading, if you don’t agree, you are wrong”.

Esp. combined with the Story of the Young man who came up and said “Rabbi = Teacher, I Keep all the commandemnts, am I good?” And Jesus said “Give all your Money to the poor.” So thinking Christianity is about “How do I save myself from hell?” is wrong, it should be about “How do I Show love for everybody by helping People?”

Obviously, given how many different Christian churches there are - big divisions like Orthodox, Roman Catholic and protestants, and the many sub-Groups inside protestants - it Shows that the Bible can be interpreted many many ways.

So a lot of People say “We are pretty convinced we are right; but we can’t be sure because all the other similar Groups also are convinced. We can most of us agree, however, that doing good deeds to other People is a Good Thing that all Christians should do. (Fundies think that good deeds means telling others they will go to Hell; normal protestants and Catholics think it means soup kitchens and hospitals in 3rd world etc.)”

Because many People in different positions of power in Church have realized that the old-style of Mission by force was not a good idea (and didn’t work well), many Groups have now gone back to the two-style prong of

  • doing General charity for People regardless of their Affiliation, because helping your neighbour is a Good Thing (3rd world, soup kitchens…)
  • explicit missionary work. This may be done alongside charity work: if a Nun or priest from a religious order runs a School or Hospital in Africa, he doesn’t ask what People believe, but maybe if People see what they are doing, they will ask about this Religion (by their fruits you will recognize if the tree is good or bad). Or just the Catholic Church using Money from Western countries to pay for Training of priests from Africa, because before converting, you Need to understand and explain your Religion.

In Western Europe, there has been practical ecumen at the local Level at least Since Vaticanum II (a great council in the 1960s of the Roman Catholic Church which opened and modernized a lot), sometimes even in the 1950s. Because on the Level of your parish church, People aren’t interested in the Details of the theological difference between whether the bread is transubstiated during Mass or not; the Problems of a parish are having helpers to visit old People and caring for the sick, organizing book markets to get Money for charity purposes, running a kindergarten, and so on. So if two communities, both suffering from less attendance, struggle with the same Problems, it makes a lot of sense to pool resources, starting with talking each other, to doing practical things together.
And yes, a strong belief is that you can open your ears and eyes and look at other religions without falling away, because your own faith is right. If just the contact with another Religion makes you fall away, then your faith wasn’t very solid to begin with. (Which is often the case when Religion is more about Tradition of Christmas and Easter, light on instruction and no deep discussion or thinking.)

conversly, the Fundies who are most afraid of anything different coming into their bubble loose most People once they start to think critically and notice how wobbly the whole illogical theory is, but are told at the same time to not think and that everything makes sense.
If you do take a look at other religions, notice their strengths and weaknesses, and have been (as proper Protestant Approach is!) encouraged before to study your Bible and theology with a critical eye and how a thousands of years old text in a Translation applies to your life today - then you will come back stronger to your own faith.

Actually, a lot of divisions are political both in their origin (Western vs Eastern Roman Empire; Anglican church…) and in their essence (once you go over the actual theology with a fine-toothed comb, a lot of the differences turn out to be of canon or custom, not actual theology). A true-believer Opus Dei member has more in common with a true-believer Presbyterian than with anybody who’s ever stopped at Taizé.

No one believes in Christianity, not just the hierarchy.

John the Baptist died over his objection to a divorce. Jesus consistently states that divorce is a no go unless the woman was unfaithful. If there’s one religious belief that we can be certain that the real, historical Jesus held, it would be anti-divorce. Your average Christian is fine with divorce and divorce is legal in your average Christian country, and male infidelity is probably the leading factor, not female.

The Bible explicitly demands that abortions be performed when a woman may have been impregnated out of wedlock (Numbers 5:11-31). Outside of that, there’s no particular mentions pro- nor con- to abortion by the OT, Jesus, nor Paul. And yet, your average Christian is vaguely “opposed” to abortion and strongly religious countries (e.g. Ireland, Poland) outlaw or attempt to outlaw abortion.

Jesus explicitly endorses the OT commandment that, if your son is rebellious, you must take him into town and have the townfolk stone him to death. …Not a lot of support in Christian nations.

There are a lot of people who believe something, but that something is Christianity in name only. It stopped matching the Bible within centuries of Jesus’ death, if not earlier.

In a local church hierarchy, I have found that they get a lot more spiritual, things that they would not let the layperson get involved in often and if so in a very limited sense. I don’t know about regional or the top level.

The OT Jews didn’t have any reliable abortifacients, and the passage you cite is an ordeal test for adultery and makes no mention of pregnancy.

Could you cite the passage where Jesus endorses that particular passage, explicitly? I assume it isn’t Luke 15:11-32 or Matthew 21:28-31.