Christian monotheism and Pagan polytheism: Can they be reconciled?

In case any of you are wondering how I reconcile Christian monotheism with Pagan polytheism, here’s a brief if somewhat incomplete explanation of how I understand deity.
In essence, I differentiate between an uncreated One, who is the source of all life, and many created ones, who influence life in all its many aspects. Whether these created ones, these intermediaries, are knowns as gods or angels or spirits or otherwise is of secondary concern to me. I tend to think in more functional terms, recognising that many of these functions tend to translate across cultures even if the names don’t.
So, do I worship these created ones? No, I reserve worship for the uncreated One alone. However, I do consider them worthy of respect, and although their influence is limited in both space and time and in relation to the uncreated One it is still considerable. So I pay my respects where appropriate.
So, how do I understand Jesus in relation to deity? I recognise Jesus as the embodiment of the uncreated One – not in his masculinity, for the uncreated One is the source of all gender, but in his unconditional love and faithfulness which he demonstrated when he was amongst us, for that is the true character of the uncreated One.
As for the uncreated One, I get why the Jews were reluctant to name this one casually. Naming tends to limit and we are talking here of the limitless. If I use the word God or Deity or Spirit it is with the recognition that this word can confuse as much as enlighten.

Were the earliest followers of Jesus Jewish or Christian?

jewish-christianWere the early followers of Jesus Jews, not Christians? I have seen this question posed in a number of ways and I would like to suggest the question assumes a dichotomy which is largely false, or at least not so black and white as the question implies. For the truth is the bulk of the earliest followers of Jesus were BOTH Jewish AND Christian. And it is even more complicated than that, for by the time represented by the second diagram, which is when the bulk of the New Testament was written, the Jewish Christians included both Aramaic speakers and Greek speakers within their ranks. Indeed the evidence suggests that the bulk of the New Testament texts were written by multilingual Jewish Christians with mixed audiences in mind. They were servant-leaders who served as bridges between Pagan-born Christians (who’s numbers were increasing) and Jewish-born Christians (who understood the culture of Jesus from the inside). “But the Christian label didn’t come into existence till later!” I hear some say. True enough. Before we get too carried away though remember this: Christ and Messiah mean the same thing. So we could as easily speaking of people who acted as bridges between Messianic Jews and Messianic Pagans who both centred their hopes and way of life on the Messiah, Jesus.

Did the prophet Jesus consider any food forbidden?

Many have suggested to me that Jesus advocated the same food laws as Mohammed and Moses. The gospel of Mark, however, tells another story:


The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus and saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.)

So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with defiled hands?”

He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:

“‘These people honour me with their lips,
    but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
    their teachings are merely human rules.’

You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.”

And he continued, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! For Moses said, ‘Honour your father and mother,’ and, ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is Corban (that is, devoted to God)—  then you no longer let them do anything for their father or mother. Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”

Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.”

After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. “Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.)

He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”

John the Baptist, African Style

John the Baptist – Jesus Mafa

This painting illustrates the beginning of the Jesus story, where John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, warning the people of Judea and Jerusalem that God was coming soon. John was said to wear clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, in the way of the prophet Elijah.

Jesus Mafa paintings like this one were produced in a collaboration between Mafa Christians communities in northern Cameroon and French missionaries in the 1970s.

Is there a more Christian way to debate abortion?

“The irony of the abortion debate, as it now stands in our church and society, is that it frames these two groups, women and children, as enemies of one another … The Christian response to abortion must reframe the issue to focus on responsibility rather than rights. The pro-choice/pro-life debate presently pits the right of the mother to choose against the right of the fetus to live. The Christian response, on the other hand, centers on the responsibility of the whole Christian community to care for the least of these.”

Mystical Poetry by Hildegard of Bingen

God’s Word is in all creation

No creature has meaning

without the Word of God.

God’s Word is in all creation, visible and invisible.

The Word is living, being,

spirit, all verdant

all creativity.

This Word flashes out in

every creature.

This is how the spirit is in

the flesh – the Word is indivisible from God.

– Hildegard of Bingen