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What is fundamental?
by Rev. Howard Ray Carey

Long ago the Hebrews (Jews) divided their Bible (from which the Christian Old Testament is derived) into three main parts: 1) the law, found in Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy; 2) the prophets; and 3) the writings. Of all these books, the law was considered to be the most sacred and the most binding.

So when Jesus was asked to name the most important commandment, He called up two quotations from their law, the first from Deuteronomy and the second, which was almost lost among minor regulations, from Leviticus, and replied: ''You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'' (Matt. 22:37-9)

Here He gives us that which is most basic to any religion, no matter the label. Not a set of beliefs to be parroted, but a whole-souled commitment to love of God and man, which of course is expressed in service. The fact that He considered this commitment of love to be basic or fundamental is underscored by His next statement: ''On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.'' (Matt. 22:40)

This is something vital, something from within, and from the heart ---- in sharp contrast to the brittle set of imposed doctrines set forth by fundamentalists as the essential basis of religion. Back in the early days of this century a group who prided themselves as being the true fundamentalists came up with the following five doctrines as the basic truths which a person must accept in order to be saved from hell: the virgin birth; the physical resurrection of Christ; the infallibility of the scriptures; the substitutional atonement of Christ, paying the price for our sins; and the physical second coming of Christ. Later, leaders added other doctrines ---- such as the final judgment day, when the true believers are to be admitted to heaven and the rest banished to a fiery hell of everlasting torment.

Now, someone may comment that even if we agree that whole-souled love is the basic essential in religion (and life), we still have to deal with human belief systems. That is true, and the quality of beliefs we adopt will depend largely on what our life commitment is. If we are living out a life of true love and service, no one is going to convince us that God is going to consign anyone to eternal punishment in hell fire. On the other hand, if we are separative and self centered, we might swallow some imposed dogmas without hesitation, accepting them as necessary for our individual Soul's salvation.

But having enumerated some central fundamentalist dogmas, we owe it to you to comment briefly on them, not as essentials, but as doctrines with which many have conjured. Though it may be surprising that an adherent of the Ageless Wisdom should take these doctrines at all seriously, there is, in fact, an element of truth in some of them. Take, for instance, the doctrine of the physical resurrection of Christ.

Our understanding is that the Christ, who had overshadowed Jesus and had spoken through Him during His Ministry, did indeed assist him in raising up His crucified body as a genuine physical form ---- but with new spiritual powers. So it was, after all, a physical resurrection.

Then consider the physical second coming of Christ. While many so-called liberal ministers and others have dismissed this idea completely, the fundamentalists hold strictly to it, though they may have strange ideas about His coming to us riding on a cloud, after destructive blasts from what they call the anti-Christ. But if we follow the Messages from the Christ through Benjamin Creme (and from his Master), we learn that the Christ has returned: He has created an indestructible physical body, through which He now works, here, on the physical plane. So the physical resurrection has taken place, but in a far different way than the fundamentalists imagine.

Not so much can be said for their other doctrines. The doctrine of the virgin birth may have deep meaning in symbolizing the first great initiation within us, in our heart center. (See previous chapter on Christmas of the Soul.) The teaching about the inerrancy or infallibility of the Bible is obviously false. And it is difficult to see how anyone who thinks could believe that someone dying on a cross in our stead could wipe away all our sins and buy our ticket to heaven.

We may be able to see, however, why some biblical literalists would fall for such ideas. For they have accepted the idea that, since the fall of Adam, humanity has been so depraved and so sinful that a 'just' God would be required to send us all to hell. But God found an 'out', the logic goes, in the strategy of sending His (supposedly) only son, the only sinless one, to pay the price for us on a cross.

Nonetheless, if we are true to our calling, we love our fundamentalist brothers and sisters. And if we have some understanding of their beliefs, we may possibly be able to help some of them. So turning again to what we find to be essential, we see that the Christ is now emphasizing the same principles He gave us through Jesus long ago: ''My dear children, I would like to show you that to love God and to love man are the same; as we love our brothers so do we manifest our love of God. Theoretically you know this, but, My dear friends, the practice of Love is essential, for by Love alone will this Earth be sustained... God may be known by many names: I call him Love. I call him also Justice. Both Love and Justice are the foundation of our life.'' (Message No. 38)

As we read and reread these Messages, we see how wonderfully the Christ spells out what is to be our life of service ---- through love and sharing, brotherhood and justice. So let us do our best to get on with our part in the great work.

This article is a chapter from The Joy of Christ's Coming This book by the late Rev. Howard Ray Carey was published by Share International Foundation in 1988. It is not currently available in hard copy form. Copyright © Share International Foundation.  Biblical quotations are taken from the Revised Standard version unless otherwise indicated. 

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First published April 1999, Last modified: 15-Oct-2005