Christian History

There are many similarities between the teachings of Buddha and Jesus

parallel buddha and jesus

Some 500 years before Jesus Christ, the Gautama Buddha, a prince who is considered the founder of Buddhism taught many doctrines that were very similar to what Jesus would teach five centuries later.

Numerous scholars have noted the undeniable similarities in teaching and doctrines between Jesus and Buddha, for example, the eminent New Testament scholar, Dr. Marcus Borg (who happens to be a liberal Christian himself) wrote “Jesus and Buddha: The Parallel Sayings” which aggregates hundreds of similarities in the teachings of Jesus and Buddha.

This certainly doesn’t mean the two are the same religion, but does this indicate that Jesus borrowed or stole ideas from Buddha? While there is some historical evidence that ideas from Buddhism reached Judea (and the western world) being brought back from Alexander the Great’s conquests, and some historians like Jerry H. Bentley argue that Buddhism influenced Christianity, this is not the consensus view.

In the end, this indicates that it’s very likely that kind/pacifist teachings and doctrines independently developed all around the world.


There are many movements who believed Jesus was coming in their lifetime, like the Millerites

millerite meeting2There were hundreds of millions of people, who earnestly believed the Second Coming was happening in their lifetime. Some of these believed this with such firmness, they gave up their lives, sold everything, and waited for an event that never materialized. One example of this is the Millerite movement of the 19th century.

The Millerites were a Christian group that believed the Second Coming would happen in 1844. At its peak their movement was 30,000 – 100,000 strong. When the Second Coming did not happen as predicted, an event aptly called “The Great Disappointment”, many left the movement, while others reinterpreted the prophecies and founded the Seventh Day Adventist church.

This historical incident has served as a great illustrator of the psychological phenomenon called “cognitive dissonance reduction,” which is the act of reducing tension between beliefs (ex: “Jesus will come in 1844”) and evidence (ex: “Jesus did not come in 1844”) by introducing some new idea (ex: “Jesus did return, but it was an invisible event, to be interpreted differently”).

While it’s difficult for some to imagine how this group could believe something as incredulous, one must note that they believed this with a great deal of devotion, and suffered immense emotional difficulty coming to grips with reality. One can only read letters by Millerites of the Great Disappointment, to see the stringent emotional grief. As in the case of the letter from Henry Emmons, member of the Millerites movement

“I waited all Tuesday and dear Jesus did not come; I waited all the forenoon of Wednesday, and was well in body as I ever was, but after 12 o’clock I began to feel faint, and before dark I needed someone to help me up to my chamber, as my natural Strength was leaving me very fast, and I lay prostrate for 2 days without any pain – sick with disappointment.”

Charles Darwin was not an angry, evil, God-hating, atheist

Charles-Darwin-1-480x634When I was younger, I was a staunch young earth creationist who feverishly hated Charles Darwin. I considered him a liar, fraud, and an angry atheist. I even created a website, called “Darwin’s Deception.” Yet real story of Charles Darwin shows that he was not a villain, in fact, I would gladly call him a friend.

Darwin grew up in a religious family, went to religious schools, and even studied theology in college with the intent of being a Christian minister. He learned and accepted Creationism in his studies, and decided to take an excursion to “study God’s creation” and chronicle the evidences of God in nature. He was so immersed in Christianity that during his voyage, he would frequently quote Bible passages to the ill-mannered sailors, in hopes of leading them to repent.

During his studies of nature, he began to see that the real world did not reflect theology; there was bad design in nature, where he expected the perfect handiwork of a Creator, there was so much senseless and horrific suffering, where he expected a loving God who took care of his creation. This eventually culminated in Darwin abandoning his traditional Christian views, though he never became an atheist..

The pivotal moment in his life was his young daughter became seriously ill, and after many desperate prayers, she died. This sorrow crushed Darwin’s heart, and the hope in a God who answers prayers died in Darwin’s heart. Nonetheless for many years he continued giving alms to the poor, donating money to the church, and walking his family to their Sunday service, during which he would walk a beaten trail outdoors and contemplate the world around him.

Rather than being the angry, spiteful, God-hating atheist I expected, Darwin was a kind, humble, quiet man, whom rarely replied to the many attacks on his character; it was even said “dear Darwin never could nor would defend himself.” (1)

The discovery of the New World shook orthodox Christianity with difficult questions

columbus-discovers-new-world“Columbus’s voyages caused almost as much change in Europe as in the Americas… Perhaps the most far-reaching impact of Columbus’s findings was on European Christianity.

In 1492 all of Europe was in the grip of the Catholic Church. As Larousse puts it, before America, “Europe was virtually incapable of self-criticism.” After America, Europe’s religious uniformity was ruptured. For how were these new peoples to be explained? They were not mentioned in the Bible. [my note: in fact it took a hundred afer the discovery of the new world for Pope Paul III to publish a document (Sublimis Deus) that stated the Native Americans had souls.]

The Indians simply did not fit within orthodox Christianity’s explanation of the moral universe. Moreover, unlike the Muslims, who might be written off as “damned infidels,” Indians had not rejected Christianity, they had just never encountered it. Were they doomed to hell?

Even the animals of America posed a religious challenge. According to the Bible, at the dawn of creation all animals lived in the Garden of Eden. Later, two of each species entered Noah’s ark and ended up on Mt. Ararat. Since Eden and Mt. Ararat were both in the Middle East, where could these new American species have come from? Such questions shook orthodox Catholicism and contributed to the Protestant Reformation, which began in 1517.”

Catholic historian/sociologist James W. Loewen, in Lies My Teacher Told Me


Conservative Christians waged the first “war on Christmas”

The American Puritans, a group of conservative Protestant Christians who were very dominant in Americas early history (and can be considered spiritual precursors to today’s Evangelicals) banned the celebration of Christmas in the 17th century.

Here is the actual law:

“Such festivals [are] superstitiously kept… to the great dishonor of God and offense of others: it is therefore ordered by this court… that whosoever shall be found observing any such day as Christmas or the like, by feasting, or any other way, every such person, so offending, shall pay… five shilling as a fine.” (1)

Here is an ancient public notice that calls Christmas a “satanical practice.”


The Puritans in America were not alone, for example, a leading Puritan in England, “Oliver Cromwell preached against “the heathen traditions” of Christmas carols, decorated trees and any joyful expression that desecrated “that sacred event” (2)

The celebration of Christmas we are used to is rather new. Then “in 1851, Pastor Henry Schwan of Cleveland OH appears to have been the person responsible for decorating the first Christmas tree in an American church. His parishioners condemned the idea as a Pagan practice; some even threatened the pastor with harm” (2)

Some early Christians believed the magical Phoenix was a real bird

Some early Christians believed some pretty weird things.

The First Epistle of Clement gives us an example. It was written around the same time as Revelation and was widely received in the early church, even being included in some early Bibles (Codex Alexandrius) and listed as a book of the Bible in an early canon list (Canon 85, in the Apostolic Canons).

In this epistle the author articulates that he believes the magical Phoenix to be a real bird.

“Let us consider that wonderful sign which takes place in Eastern lands, that is, in Arabia and the countries round about. There is a certain bird which is called a phoenix. This is the only one of its kind, and lives five hundred years. And when the time of its dissolution draws near that it must die, it builds itself a nest of frankincense, and myrrh, and other spices, into which, when the time is fulfilled, it enters and dies. But as the flesh decays a certain kind of worm is produced, which, being nourished by the juices of the dead bird, brings forth feathers. Then, when it has acquired strength, it takes up that nest in which are the bones of its parent” (1)

Halloween has been rebranded and celebrated by Christians over a thousand years

Halloween has been rebranded and celebrated by Christians over a thousand years, though certainly many traditions have changed.

“In the 7th century AD, Pope Boniface IV established “All Saints’ Day” … in the following century, perhaps in an effort to supplant the pagan holiday with a Christian observance, it was moved to November 1. The evening before All Saints’ Day became a holy, or *hallowed eve* and thus Halloween.”

This likely happened because Christian missionaries often re-branded ancient pagan holidays to better spread their message.

There is even a letter sent Pope Gregory I in the 6th century, in which he suggested that existing places of non-Christian worship be adopted and consecrated to serve a Christian purpose which is evidence this was a common Christian method, for quite some time now.

(Though I know people who think only this current generation of Christians “compromises” by “taking things from the world” and “trying to make it Christian.”)

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