Following my previous post, I wanted to offer some thoughts surrounding what I perceive as the three plateaus of Christianity. This is an important topic for me due to the fact that Christianity has received a lot of flak from reputable (yet misguided) thinkers for many years.
And in a lot of cases, the arguments against Christianity (and religion in general) are only applicable to one of the plateaus, Traditional Christianity (which I shall expound on later), for the obvious reason that it is the most commonly heard of.
Therefore, as an attempt at making clear distinctions and providing context for the arguments to be more specific, here is an outline of what I see as the Three Ascending Plateaus of Christianity.
A Brief Explanation
Before I dive into the core of my idea’s, I want to explain a bit about the language I am using in describing what I perceive as three “versions” of Christianity currently online in the world. I use the word “plateau” because it most aptly describes a point in a climb where everything levels off and also provides a place to stop a journey.
As you will see, these three “plateaus” mark different points in the evolutionary climb of our understanding of this particular spirituality, as it has been revealed through the life of Jesus and the gnostic revelations which have occurred later on in history (to this day).
There will be certain words I use to describe these particular plateau’s which may or may not conflict with definitions and/or idea’s as they have been used by other thinkers. I will attempt to make the needed clarifications throughout.
And finally, the observations which are made here specifically about Christianity, are equally applicable to any religion or spiritual tradition.
The Contours of Development
The procession of human experience began with a great deal less complexity, sophistication, depth, and meaning then it does today. The reason for this is because everything about human beings grows, develops, expands, evolves, and emerges. The human condition is a literally petri-dish of potential.
Over the millennia, humanity has evolved from humble beginnings to a tipping point of growth some consider to be a “do or die” moment in our history. We have amassed a trove of experience, knowledge, and wisdom during the course of our presence on this planet.
And just as it is so on the individual level, sometimes we come across knowledge or have a particular experience that we don’t fully understand at the moment. It isn’t until many years later that we have a ‘revelation’ which illuminates the true depth of meaning of some particular knowledge or experience.
This is no less true for many of the revealed religions which have been formed around ancient wisdom on our planet. There have been amazing revelations provided to humanity from some brilliant minds and souls who’ve walked the soil of the earth. Knowledge and wisdom of such depth and veritas, that at the time of its emergence, humanity was not fully prepared to embody it.
I believe that this is the case with Christianity, as well as many of the religions on our planet. Though for the purposes of this article, Christianity will be the focus.
Now, why would Truth be revealed to a people not yet ready to understand it?
It is certainly not because of cruelty, or poor logistics on the part of the revelators. There has seemed to be an appearance of individual[s] whom breach into the higher strata’s of consciousness and spirituality, a quantum leap if you will, and attempt to share their discoveries with the rest of us. The case usually is that the rest of us are simply not far enough along our individual paths of evolution to fully understand what is being shared.
Each of us, beginning at ‘Square One’, proceed through a systemic matrix of development, proceeding along the lines laid out by our temporal and cultural influences in which we exist. This matrix guides us through the development of our minds, our behaviors, and our value/meaning recognizing capacities into higher and more holistic altitudes.
We develop more inclusive, more encompassing worldviews and paradigms which we use to traverse our lives toward more sophisticated and meaningful goals. Christianity is one of those particular matrices which emerged for the development of western civilization (apparently), and humanity as a whole (alongside the other religions/philosophies of the earth, respective to their temporal and cultural heritage).
It is believed by many leading-edge thinkers that humanity has breached into an even higher altitude of consciousness, known as Integral or 2nd-Tier, in which the capacity for world-centric attitudes, meta-modern worldviews, and truly holistic paradigms to emerge and be embodied.
A quick word about these plateaus.
The following is a description of the altitudes of consciousness human beings report from and live within (however momentarily or permanently). Therefore the various descriptions given to Christianity will reveal the depth of the tradition as well as reflect the minds of those who practice it.
Therefore in most cases, criticisms of Christianity (or religion for that matter) are misdirected thoughts about the PEOPLE WHO PRACTICE THE RELIGION, rather than the religion itself.
Now what does this all have to do with Christianity, and the debate which exists and has existed for some time now between it and Atheism? Well, let us take a look.
The Traditional Plateau
Whenever you hear about Christianity in the mainstream, you are hearing it described and practiced from a “Traditional” altitude of development. That is to say, Christianity practiced from a 1st-Tier, ethnocentric center of gravity.
At this plateau, Christians tend to be more narrow-minded and tribally exclusive. The more fundamental Christians lean towards bigotry, literalism, and have little to no interest in the verifiable evidence provided by science (such as the theory of evolution, the big bang, etc..).
Traditional Christians accept the Bible as the word of God, though some denominations are more lenient on that idea. A traditional Christian almost always recognizes Jesus as God incarnate, the holy Son of God on High, sent to the Earth to die for the sins of humanity so that we may have an opportunity to regain favor in the eyes of the Lord and be saved from his wrath.
If you were born and raised in a household and community where these ideas were accepted by the majority, it would be difficult to think outside of this box, without some kind of outside influence or experience which put into question the truth behind these ideas. So for the most part, Christians of this caliber are rarely willing to step outside the boundaries of their beliefs.
As someone who was always on the outside looking in in reference to Christianity, it always seemed that traditional Christianity was always more concerned with the worship of Jesus and God, then living a life centered around what Jesus had taught. And for me, that was always a point of contention when taking Christians (and their belief-system) seriously.
With all this said, it’s no surprise that anyone who has developed beyond the Traditional altitude of consciousness would find fault and error in a theology which is practiced in such a spiritually shallow and morally inconsistent manner. This is my point of contention, however, when it comes to arguments directed against Christianity as a whole.
Much of an atheists criticism against religion actually belongs pointed towards the people practicing the religion, rather than the religion itself. The shortcomings of a religion can always be found in its adherents lack of understanding, discipline, and depth. In extreme cases, a severally damaged mind uses the banners of a religion as a means to act out their sickness in what they considered to be an organized, and purposeful way.
At the traditional plateau, a person either decides to evolve their beliefs or to remain staunchly idle. Either way, this level of development, while a step up from its predecessor, is a mere scene in a much more beautiful, encompassing, and Divine production.
The Progressive Plateau
As the world experienced an “Enlightenment” during the 18th century, a new altitude of consciousness was now able to come online. Shortly after, in the mid 19th century, we have the appearance of the Modernist, a consciousness that gave birth to civil rights, secularism, and the propagation of scientific ideas and theories taking place of long-standing religious truths.
In contrast, the modernist altitude was short-lived without contention compared to the pre-modern altitude which preceded it. In response to the shortcomings of modernism, post-modernism and “the Progressive Movement” came online.
Now, how has the “Progressive” attitude influenced paradigms and theologies such as Christianity?
In a wonderful book by Marcus Borg called “The Heart of Christianity”, some of the fundamental differences between Traditional Christianity and Progressive Christianity are made, and I highly recommend you read his work if this is a topic you’d like to research further.
To reduce the enormity of explanation I will convey these differences with a simple idea. Succinctly, Progressive Christianity approaches and redefines the faith with a bottom-up approach. That is, Christian theology is re-examined from a progressive standpoint. The traditional framework pitted against progressive ideals and socially progressive mores.
As an example, A Progressive Christian would be more tolerant of homosexuality within the church, where a traditional Christian would be far less accepting. In most cases, a progressive Christian would be more lenient on the point that the Bible was the infallible word of God, where a traditional Christianity is more apt to accept literalism.
All in all, The plateau of Progressive Christianity, I feel, opens a space for the tradition to be practiced and experienced in a far more authentic way. By authentic I mean more true to the teachings of Jesus and more resonate with the wisdom of the revealed Truths put forth by the many great souls who came after.
Progressive Christianity allows a foothold into a much deeper and ‘real’ experience of the Kingdom of God, seen more as a mystical experience of the imminence of God’s Reality rather than a literal kingdom or specific place where “god” abides. The focus is on the Love of Christ rather than the Supremacy of Jesus as Lord.
The Progressive Plateau has also allowed many other areas of human experience and activity to come online, which has led to even greater development in areas like politics, psychology, education, and so on. With that being said, the Progressive matrix is not the end of the line, but just as Traditionalism did before it, provided a context for something even more inclusive and evolved to emerge.
As far as I can tell, the leading edge of Christian thought and practice is a mystical, non-dualistic development in human spirituality. Unlike the Progressive Plateau which developed the tradition from a bottom-up schema, the Emergent Plateau evolves the tradition with a Top-Down approach. The difference between the two lies more in causation then anything else.
For instance, in Progressive Christianity, the shifts of the tradition occur to meet the changes in society. As society develops more tolerance, the religious traditions will either match pace or begin to deteriorate. Also, at the heart of religion the aim is to solve a problem, and as the complexity of the problems in society shift, so does the way in which these traditions attempt to respond.
Emergent Christianity far more resembles the roots of the Christian faith, going back to the original discoveries made by Jesus and his ancestors who, through contemplation, meditation, and eventually enlightenment, were able to share with humanity the Truth of existence and the potentials inherent within.
In the 21st century (and beyond), Emergent Christianity takes on a much different form then its traditional counterpart. The two are not at odds, mainly because the Emergent plateau, being centered in 2nd Tier altitudes of consciousness, recognizes the holism inherent in every stage of development.
What makes Emergent Christianity radical is that it does not see tradition as something set in stone, but is actually more like a single note in a symphony of ever-expanding and ever-revealing Truth. And as humanity continues to evolve, our collective capacity to understand and embody revealed Truth also emerges.
Through the development of the Mind, we ascend into greater and more inclusive altitudes of consciousness, allowing us to deepen our understanding of revealed Truth, and the ever-present Reality of Spirit.
In subsequent articles, I will tackle Emergent Christianity more succinctly, but for now, what has been offered should prove sufficient for greater understanding.