Erasmus 1466-1526 Erasmus 1466-1526

Many of the origins of Protestant ideas come from this Dutch Renaissance figure and social critic.
Perhaps his key contribution was his urging the people of his time to think and reason for themselves.
He is often referred to as one of the greatest Christian humanists.
(which might be said to be the logical result of reasoned thought)
Another contribution of Erasmus was the publication of his Greek-Latin New Testament,
published in 1516, which Luther used primarily to translate the bible from its original Latin into German.
The ability of non-clerical laypeople to digest the actual content of the New Testament
helped spur the increasing popularity of the Reformation.

Erasmus also laid the foundation for the Reformation not only by the translation of the New Testament
but with the spread of his humanistic beliefs.
Led by Erasmus, other thinkers, as well as the masses of church followers
condemned the corruption of the Roman Church.
Erasmus contended that true religion depends on one’s inward devotion rather than the outward displays of ceremony.
By favoring the moral reform of the church and de-emphasizing the practice of didactic ritual,
Erasmus laid the groundwork for Luther.
Although Erasmus remained a Catholic throughout his life,
he never gave up the quest for widespread Church reform.
He has been referred to as the intellectual father of the Reformation;
in fact, historians have coined the phrase "Erasmus laid the egg that Luther hatched."

Martin Luther 1483-1546 Martin Luther 1483-1546

   Luther was the catalyst of the 16th-century Protestant Reformation.
Through his words and actions, Luther precipitated a movement that reformulated certain basic tenets of Christian belief
and resulted in the division of Western Christendom between Roman Catholicism and the new Protestant organisations.
His youthful studies gave him a thorough exposure to Scholasticism;
many years later, he spoke of Aristotle and William of Ockham as “his teachers.”

After joining the Augustinian order of momks and further studies, he became a teacher of scripture.
He clashed with a Dominican friar over the value of indulgences and
formulated Ninety-five Theses for mutual discussion, which were then circulated as far as Rome.
These maybe viewed as the basis for the new theology.
By 1518, Luther's ideas had moved on to a new concept of salvation,
saying that humans can not contribute anything to it.
It is purely a work of God.

What seems to characterize him more than anything else
is an almost childlike trust in God’s overarching forgiveness and acceptance.

After confrontation with a papal envoy over his views
Luther's were declared contrary to the teaching of the church.
He withdrew from the controversy, but others ready to draw him back.
In Liepzig, after a public debate in 1519, he was excommunicated in 1521.
His subsequent sentence, was delayed and then rejected by the secular authority.
He was called to defend his position to secular council in Worms.
He went into hiding and spent his time translating the Bible into German.
On his emergence, his influence was reduced, but
the movement for reform had gathered impetus
and had becoem a legal and political struggle as much as a relgious one.
By 1525 the Peasnt's War had spread calling for reform in church and state.
Luther’s role in the Reformation after 1525 was that
of theologian, adviser, and facilitator but not that of a man of action.

Isaac Newton 1643-1727 Isaac Newton 1643-1727

His 1687 publication of Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy established
the three laws of motion and the law of universal gravity.
(1) Every object in a state of uniform motion will remain in that state of motion
unless an external force acts on it;
(2) Force equals mass times acceleration: F=MA (3) For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

He was also a devout, if unorthodox, Christian.
He brought this same intellectual genius to bear in his analysis of Christianity
and he based his beliefs on his own studies of the Bible
along with the earliest Christian writers.

Based on his studies he rejected the doctrine of the Trinity as unbiblical.
He also concluded from that there had been an apostasy from the true Church of Christ,
and that at some future time there would be a restoration.

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John Locke (1632 - 1704) John Locke(1632 - 1704)

John Locke was a philosopher in an age of change and uncertainty.
Locke said Christian tolerance (“charity, meekness, and good-will in general”)
should be extended to all people, not just fellow Christians,
and those who fail in this regard fall short of being a true Christian.

If the Gospel and the apostles may be credited,
no man can be a Christian without charity and without that faith
which works, not by force, but by love.

Locke closed his essay by stating that Christians
seeking to advance the Christian Church through arms
do not belong to the Christian community.

"I must needs answer you freely that I esteem that toleration
to be the chief characteristic mark of the true Church."

Voltaire (1694 - 1778) Voltaire (1694 - 1778)

Voltaire was a Christian and thought that everyone had a right to religious freedom.
He was not a fan of the Bible and was vigorously against the Catholic Church.
He saw that it was in politics for its own gain
and was using fear tactics help suppress
the lower classes.

"It is characteristic of fanatics who read the holy scriptures to tell themselves:
God killed, so I must kill; Abraham lied, Jacob deceived, Rachel stole: so I must steal, deceive, lie.
But, wretch, you are neither Rachel, nor Jacob, nor Abraham, nor God;
you are just a mad fool, and the popes who forbade the reading of the Bible were wise."

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Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) Immanuel Kant (1724-1804)

Immanuel Kant defined Enlightenment as
human emergence from his self-incurred immaturity.

Rational religion is depicted as a "naked" (bare) body
and thus not an appropriate vehicle for conveying religious truths to the populace,
whilst historical religions are depicted as suitably "clothed".

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Jonathan Edwards(1703-1758) Jonathan Edwards(1703-1758)

Edwards theological genius lay in his ability to summarize effectively
the main thrusts of the Reformation and Puritanism and yet not merely to reiterate these,
but to apply them to crucial problems in his own century.
Edwards theology is rooted in Calvinism.
Many of his major works are simply applications of Calvins teaching
on Gods grace and sovereignty.
Edwards is undoubtedly the most powerful theologian
writing in the Reformed tradition before the twentieth century.

He was however a slave owner and had the usual narrow evangelical approach
to the application of religion.

Edwards development of Calvins emphasis on the work of the Spirit was simply
the summation of the Puritan attack on dead orthodoxy.
In stressing the need for the illumination of biblical truth
by "a divine and supernatural light,"
He would not have attributed the awakening impact of his sermons to any rhetoric of sensation,
but to the Spirits penetration beneath the surface convictions of human reason
to awaken a sense of the heart focused on the glory of the divine nature
and the excellence of Christ.

Edwards sees human nature trapped in its own semi-conscious rebellion against God,
expressing hatred toward him in every act.
Enlightenment rationalists thought they were conducting a disinterested search for truth.
Edwards told them they were evading the real God
by choosing to believe in a more manageable deity.
(interesting that he saw God as manageable!)

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John Wesley(1703 to 1791) John Wesley(1703 to 1791)

John, his brother Charles, Robert Kirkham, and William Morgan formed a religious study group
that was derisively called the Methodists because of their emphasis on methodical study.
They were also called the Holy Club, because of their frequent communion services
and for fasting two days a week. All very High Church!
In May 1738 his faith was transformed and became centred on salvation by faith alone.
Resistance to his ideas grew in the churches and, in 1739,
he was persuaded to take his ideas to the unchurched masses
thus forming the Methodist societies, led by lay people,
which from 1784 aoperated outside CofE control.

Wesley's mission was a powerful evangelical revival
in conflict with a nominal folk Christianity that infected much of eighteenth century England.
The substitutionary death of Christ was central to Methodist theology.
"Because God is perfectly holy, he cannot have fellowship with unrighteous, fallen people
who descended from the seed of Adam after the Fall (Gen 3:6).
Humans, as image bearers of God, lost fellowship with God,
but God provided for their salvation by condescending
in the form of the God-Man to atone for their sin.
God gave new spiritual life to all that repent of their sin
and trust in the finished work of the Son of God on the cross at Calvary.
Through this spiritual rebirth, God imputed the righteousness of Christ
and declared them justified before Him."

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Denis Diderot 1713-1784 Denis Diderot 1713-1784

Denis Diderot at age 13 he was tonsured and titled Abbe.
Continuing his studies in Paris, Diderot abandoned his faith
when exposed to science and freethought views,
evolving gradually from deist to atheist.

In his Essay on the Merits of Virtue (1745), Diderot noted:
"From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step."

Diderot anonymously wrote "Philosopical thoughts" in 1746,
which was ordered to be burned in public.
In it he wrote, "Skepticism is the first step toward truth."
After "An Essay on Blindness" was published in 1749,
Diderot spent three months in jail for atheism.
His Interpretation of Nature (1753) sets out the scientific method.
His treatises on aesthetics led him to be called the first art critic.
His novels include "La Religieuse" (published posthumously in 1796),
which took an unstinting look at the sexually corrupting forces of monasticism and fanaticism.

From 1745 to 1772, he served as chief editor of the "Encyclopedie",
one of the principal works of the Age of Enlightenment.

See also Thoughts on Religion dated 1770
He wrote
The religion of Jesus Christ, announced by the ignorant, made the first Christians.
The same religion, preached by savants and learned doctors, only makes unbelievers today.

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Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778

Jean-Jacque Rousseau was a French speaking Genevan philosopher
Having converted to Roman Catholicism early in life, he returned to the austere Calvinism of his native Geneva.
Rousseau maintained the religious philosophy of John Calvin, as a modern lawgiver, throughout the remainder of his life.
His views on religion presented in his works of philosophy, however, are not those of either Catholicism orCalvinism.
Rousseau's strong endorsement of religious toleration, as expounded by the Savoyard vicar in Emile,
was interpreted as advocating indifferentism, a heresy, and led to the condemnation of the book.
His assertion in The Social Contract that true followers of Jesus would not make good citizens
may have been another reason for Rousseau's condemnation in Geneva.
Unlike many of the more radical Enlightenment philosophers, Rousseau affirmed the necessity of religion.
But he repudiated the doctrine of original sin, which plays so large a part in Calvinism.
In the 18th century, many deists viewed God merely as an abstract and impersonal creator of the universe,
which they likened to a giant machine. Rousseau's deism differed from the usual kind in its intense emotionality.
He saw the presence of God in his creation, including mankind, which, apart from the harmful influence of society,
is good, because God is good.
Rousseau's attribution of a spiritual value to the beauty of nature anticipates
the attitudes of 19th-century Romanticism towards nature and religion.

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Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834) Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834)

He was a German Reformed theologian, philosopher, and biblical scholar
known for his attempt to reconcile the criticisms of the Enlightenment with traditional Protestant Christianity.
He also became influential in the evolution of higher criticism.
Because of his profound effect on subsequent Christian thought,
he is often called the Father of Modern Liberal Theology.

On Religion:
Sought to reach Christianity's "cultured critics"
Believed Christianity was despised because it was misunderstood

Assent to orthodoxy/dogma
Argued that Christianity was:
Positive, Historically situated, Based on divine revelation
Essence of Religion not found in:
Supernatural Dogma, Churchly practices, Ritual
Central to every human being is the "feeling of absolute dependence"
Revelation is neither objective nor is it authoritative;
rather, the center of religion is the universal human faculty of experience.
Christianity offers the highest form of this experience

The Christian Faith
Liberal Protestant Systematic Theology published in 1821
First major Protestant work since John Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion
Made distinctly Reformed doctrines and distinctly Lutheran doctrines palatable to one another, but at a great price
He accomplished this by deliteralizing all supernatural elements and radically redefined terms
Religious talk simply becomes a discussion on religious experience.

Promoted a form of pantheism/panentheism (God=World)
Accepted Kant's distinction between the noumena and the phenomena
Since the transcendent realm is off limits to our knowledge, then God must be immanent
God, therefore, is located within the realm of human experience, particularly within the human consciousness
The feeling of absolute dependence is a universal experience found in all human beings
As one examines one's own finite existence, one becomes aware of one's dependency on God
God is the concept that clarifies one's absolute dependence, and human absolute dependence on the infinite shows God.
Revelation/Bible is not an inspired in the traditional sense.

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George William Hegel (1770-1831) George William Hegel (1770-1831)

Hegel was the last of the great philosophical system builders of modern times.
His work, following upon that of Immanuel Kant, Johann Gottlieb Fichte, and Friedrich Schelling,
thus marks the pinnacle of classical German philosophy.
As an absolute idealist inspired by Christian insights
and grounded in his mastery of a fantastic fund of concrete knowledge,
Hegel found a place for everything logical, natural, human, and divine
in a scheme that repeatedly swung from thesis to antithesis and back again.
His influence has been fertile in the reactions that he precipitated:
in Søren Kierkegaard, the Danish existentialist; in the Marxists, who turned to social action; in the logical positivists;
and in G.E. Moore and Bertrand Russell, both pioneering figures in British analytic philosophy.

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Kierkegaard(1813-1855) Kierkegaard(1813-1855)

Kierkegaard's theological work focuses on Christian ethics, the institution of the Church,
the differences between purely objective proofs of Christianity,
the infinite qualitative distinction between man and God and
the individual's subjective relationship to
the God-Man Jesus the Christ, through faith.

Much of his work deals with Christian love.
He was extremely critical of the doctrine and practice of Christianity
as a state-controlled religion as was the case of the Church of Denmark.

His psychological work explored the emotions and feelings of individuals when faced with life choices.
In contrast to Jean-Paul Sartre and the atheistic existentialism paradigm,
Kierkegaard focused on Christian existentialism.

"Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards."
"People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought, which they seldom use."
"The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays."
"Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced."
"There are two ways to be fooled.
One is to believe what isn't true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true."
"The Bible is very easy to understand.
But Christians pretend to be unable to understand it
because we know very well that the minute we understand,
we are obliged to act accordingly."

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Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)

Friedrich Nietzsche was a German philosopher of the late 19th century
who challenged the foundations of Christianity and traditional morality.
He was interested in the enhancement of individual and cultural health,
and believed in life, creativity, power, and down-to-earth realities, rather than those situated in a world beyond.
Central to his philosophy is the idea of life-affirmation,
which involves an honest questioning of all doctrines that drain life’s expansive energies,
however socially prevalent and morally entrenched those views might be.
Often referred to as one of the first existentialist philosophers along with Søren Kierkegaard (1813–1855),
Nietzsche’s revitalizing philosophy has inspired leading figures in all walks of cultural life,
including dancers, poets, novelists, painters, psychologists, philosophers, sociologists and social revolutionaries.

Nietzsche became especially influential in French philosophical circles during the 1960s&45;1980s,
when his God is dead declaration, his perspectivism, and his emphasis upon power
as the real motivator and explanation for people's actions revealed new ways
to challenge established authority and launch effective social critique.
In the English-speaking world, his unfortunate association with the Nazis kept him
from serious philosophical consideration until the 1950s and 60s,
when landmark works such as Walter Kaufmann's, "Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist" (1950)
and Arthur C. Danto's, " Nietzsche as Philosopher " (1965), paved the way for a more open-minded discussion.

Paul Tillich(1886-1965) Paul Tillich (1886-1965)

His work, following on that of Immanuel Kant, Johann Gottlieb Fichte, and F.W. Schelling,
marks the pinnacle of post-Kantian German idealism.
Inspired by Christian insights and possessing a fantastic fund of concrete knowledge,
Hegel found a place for everything—logical, natural, human, and divine in a dialectical scheme that repeatedly swung
from thesis to antithesis and back again to a higher and richer synthesis.
His panoramic system engaged philosophy in the consideration of all the problems of history and culture.
It deprived all the implicated elements and problems of their autonomy, reducing them to symbolic manifestations of the one process,
that of the Absolute Spirit’s quest for and conquest of its own self.
His influence has been as fertile in the critical reactions he precipitated as in his positive impact.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945)

His promising academic and ecclesiastical career was
knocked off course by the Nazi ascent to power on 30 January 1933.
He was a determined opponent of the regime from its first days.
Two days after Hitler was installed as Chancellor,
Bonhoeffer delivered a radio address in which he attacked Hitler
and warned Germany against slipping into an idolatrous cult of the Führer.
His broadcast was abruptly cut off,
In April 1933, Bonhoeffer raised the first voice for church resistance
to Hitler's persecution of Jews, declaring that the church must not simply
"bandage the victims under the wheel, but jam a spoke in the wheel itself." His other quotations:
" If I sit next to a madman as he drives a car into a group of innocent bystanders,
I can't, as a Christian, simply wait for the catastrophe,
then comfort the wounded and bury the dead.
I must try to wrestle the steering wheel out of the hands of the driver."
"Silence in the face of evil is evil itself."
"Your life as a Christian should make non believers question their disbelief in God."
"Being a Christan is less about cautiously avoiding sin than about
courageously and actively doing God's will."
Paul van Buren(1924-1998) Paul van Buren(1924-1998)

Van Buren attended Harvard College, from which he graduated with a bachelor's degree in government, in 1948.
He then attended the Episcopal Theological School, and received a bachelor's in sacred theology in 1951.
It was after this that he was ordained as an Episcopal priest in the Diocese of Massachusetts.
He received a Th.D. in theology in 1957 from the University of Basel in Switzerland studying under Karl Barth.
He wrote a number of books including "The Secular Meaning of the Gospel".

He built a faith focused on ethical behavior around the historical Jesus of Nazareth,
asking whether the Christian message can make sense in the world we are living in today.
He was trying to find an utterly nontranscendent way of interpreting the Gospel;
a way in which sense could be made of it.
He is seen as a founder member of the Death of God movement.

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William Hamilton (1924-2012) William Hamilton (1924-2012)

A seminary professor and the author of "The New Essence of Chrsitianity".
Published 1961
No other information!

Thomas Altizer (1927-2018) Thomas Altizer (1927-2018)

The idea that God was dead had been around for centuries,
most prominently with Nietzsche in the late 1800s,
but after World War II and the Holocaust, it re-emerged in the United States
Dr. Altizer and others questioned whether a benevolent God could exist.

The subject burst out of the ivory tower in 1966, when a stark Time magazine cover pointedly asked:
"Is God Dead?"
The article focused mostly on how science and secularism were supplanting religion,
but in a country where 97 percent of adults said they believed in God,
it touched off a ferocious backlash, both against the magazine
and against Dr. Altizer, who was more visible than the others,
spoke to the press and had a certain theatrical flair.

"God is dead," he asserted with finality in a documentary
produced for National Educational Television after the Time article came out.
"This God is no longer present, is no longer manifest, is no longer real."

His theology was esoteric and not easily understood,
leaving most people, including many clergy,
to react viscerally to its basic premise.

Confusing matters was that the few theologians in his intellectual circle
(including William Hamilton, Paul M. Van Buren and Rabbi Richard Rubenstein)
did not agree among themselves on how God had died, why he had died or what his death meant.
They were essentially writing God out of the picture, but they did not consider themselves atheists;
Dr. Altizer called himself a Christian atheist, further muddying the waters.

He was said to be one of the country’s most hated, misunderstood,
radical and prophetic voices of the past century,
but what no one considered was that his prophetic voice
was substantially, if not materially, true>

Bishop John Selby Spong (1931-2021) Bishop John Selby Spong (1931-2021)

Spong was a liberal Christian theologian, commentator,
and author who called for a fundamental rethinking of Christian belief
away from theism and traditional doctrines.
He was known for his progressive and controversial views on Christianity,
including his rejection of traditional Christian doctrines.

In A New Christianity for a New World, Spong argued for a fundamental rethinking of Christian belief
away from Theism and outlined his ideas for doctrinal changes within Christianity in the modern world.
In "Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism," Spong challenged the literal interpretation of the Bible
and argued for a more nuanced approach to scripture; he also argued that St. Paul was homosexual.
In "Why Christianity Must Change or Die" Spong contended that Christianity must adapt to the changing world
or risk becoming irrelevant.

Spong's influence on the theological debate can be seen in the work of other theologians,
such as Marcus Borg, John Dominic Crossan, and Karen Armstrong,
who also challenged traditional Christian beliefs and called for a more inclusive and progressive faith.

Karen Armstrong (born 1944) Karen Armstrong (born 1944)

Karen Armstrong OBE FRSL is a British author and commentator of Irish Catholic descent.
She became a nun at an early age, but came to doubt the precepts of religion.
Eventually she left the religious life and turned her back on faith issues.
However she still maintained an active interest in the search for God.
Now reknown for her books on comparative religion,
her work focuses on commonalities of the major religions,
such as the importance of compassion and the Golden Rule.

In A History of God: The 4,000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity and Islam (1993),
she traces the evolution of the three major monotheistic traditions from their beginnings in the Middle East
up to the present day and also discusses Hinduism and Buddhism.

In The Great Transformation: The Beginning of Our Religious Traditions (2006)
she continues the themes covered in A History of God and examines the emergence and codification
of the world's great religions during the so-called Axial ages.

Armstrong is a fellow of the Jesus Seminar,
the group of scholars and laypeople which attempts to investigate the historical foundations of Christianity.
She has written numerous articles for The Guardian and for other publications.

Armstrong says she has been particularly inspired by the Jewish emphasis on practice as well as faith:
"I say that religion isn't about believing things. It's about what you do. It's ethical alchemy.
It's about behaving in a way that changes you, that gives you intimations of holiness and sacredness.

She maintains that religious fundamentalism is not just a response to,
but is a product of contemporary culture and for this reason concludes that:
"We urgently need to make compassion a clear, luminous and dynamic force in our polarized world.
Rooted in a principled determination to transcend selfishness,
compassion can break down political, dogmatic, ideological and religious boundaries.
Born of our deep interdependence, compassion is essential to human relationships and to a fulfilled humanity.
It is the path to enlightenment, and indispensable to the creation of a just economy and a peaceful global community."

MARCUS BORG (1942-2015) MARCUS BORG (1942-2015

Borg was a leader in the Jesus Seminar, which worked to construct the life of Jesus through historical critical methods.
They looked at ancient texts and voted on the relative authenticity of about 500 statements and events concerning Jesus.
The seminar portrayed Jesus as a Jewish wise man and faith healer who traveled the countryside,
dining with and healing people whom Jewish dogma and social norms treated as outsiders.
Jesus was a prophet who preached about the possibility of liberation from injustice.

Not all theologians and religious scholars agree with the seminar’s approach and findings.
Yet others passionately agreed and many Christians credit Borg and others such scholars with reviving their faith.

Borg had been national chair of the Historical Jesus Section of the Society of Biblical Literature
and co-chair of its International New Testament Program Committee and president of the Anglican Association of Biblical Scholars.
“Adult theological re-education at the congregational level is an urgent need within American churches today
It is essential to Christian formation. And from my own experience and from a number of studies,
I know that it has been a source of re-vitalization in hundreds of congregations around the country.”

He was the author of 21 books, including Jesus: A New Vision (1987)
and the best-seller Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time (1994);
The God We Never Knew (1997);
The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions (1999);
Reading the Bible Again for the First Time (2001),
and The Heart of Christianity (2003).

His latest books are
Convictions: How I Learned What Matters Most (2014)
Speaking Christian (2011); Putting Away Childish Things (a novel – 2010);
Jesus: Uncovering the Life, Teachings and Relevance of a Religious Revolutionary (2006);
Conversations with Scripture: Mark (2009);
and three books co-authored with John Dominic Crossan,
The Last Week (2006), The First Christmas (2007), and The First Paul (2009).
He is the co-author with N. T. Wright of The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions.

He called God “real and a mystery,” in Convictions and asked his readers to
“Imagine that Christianity is about loving God.
Imagine that it’s not about the self and its concerns,
about ‘what’s in it for me,’ whether that be a blessed afterlife or prosperity in this life.”