Why Are Christians So Divided and In Conflict?
And What Will End the Conflict?
Jesus of Nazareth said that he came "not to bring peace, but division” (Luke 12:51), knowing that he ushered in an age of conflict and division. That is why he said: “I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)
Now, God the Great Spirit-Parent is eternal, of course, and has always been and always will be with us. However, Jesus said "I will be with you until the end of the age" for a reason, and he was not speaking as God.
In one sense Jesus was speaking as the Ancient One or "Ancient of Days" who is in heaven with God and who was "before Abraham," (which is why Jesus said "Before Abraham was, I am."). But, in another sense he was speaking as his own soul, as the Avatar who ushered in the passing age, knowing prophecy would not be fulfilled until the end of the age when humanity would finally be ready for and given the truth, about him, about the true purpose of religion, and about God.
That has been misunderstood because in certain versions of the Christian Bible, aeon, the word Jesus used for age, was translated to say "the end of the world." But the actual meaning of aeon is a certain period of time, as are the Sanskrit (and Hindu) words yuga and kalpa, and the Hebrew word olam, which actually means “a long or distant time.”
The authors (or copiers or translators or interpreters) of the epistles and books of the New Testament, the official Christian canon (Bible), apparently did not understand that, just as they did not understand certain other things that Jesus taught and said. Instead, during the first and second centuries after Jesus died and as the the texts of the New Testament were written, they thought that the "end" and a literal "second coming" of Jesus was imminent. They did not understand Jesus' prophecies about the coming of the next son of man, the counselor (see Prophecies Re: He Who Fulfills Them
), nor did they understand the concept of an aeon, age, or olam.
Granted, much of what we find in the New Testament is true. But, their understanding of prophecies was misguided. In fact, they thought it was the end of the world back then. They did not understand that Jesus spoke of the end of the age (which is now). And, because of that, some Christians ever since have not understood that the fulfillment of prophecy will not mean the end of the world.
As the article about The End of the Age
explains, that's what
Jesus was talking about, and it is nearing its end, which is why we have been witnessing all the signs Jesus said would herald the coming of the son of man, the prophesied judgment he delivers, and the big change that will bring a much brighter future.
The judgment and change is needed by all, but it is especially needed by Christians because Christianity began to be divided about six years after Jesus of Nazareth died. That's when Paul began to contend with James for the chief leadership role, despite the fact that Jesus had said that James should be the head of the church. That caused a sharp division among first century followers of Jesus, because by about 50 AD (CE) Paul's writings began to be accepted as the first "gospel truth" by certain churches, and they influenced later writings, especially those attributed to Mark, Matthew, Luke, and even John.
It is important to discuss how and why that happened, because today the divisions and conflicts are deeper than they have ever been, especially in America. For as Jesus predicted, while the good "sheep" are on one side as the son of man sees them, the hypocritical "goats" who make a show of being religious and masquerade as Christians are farther to the opposite side than ever before.
After all, Christians are supposed to be humble, loving, gentle, peaceful, meek, peaceful and harmless as doves, and abide by the golden rule to do unto others as we would have others do unto us, as Jesus of Nazareth advised.
Unfortunately, as Jesus prophesied, there is hypocritical, sanctimoniously proud and militant minority of zealots and extremists in America who claim
to be Christians but do the opposite as they fight for
theocratic political power and dominance. And they not only violate the golden rule and other core teachings of Jesus, they violate Article 6 and the 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, IRS tax codes, and the very clear intent of the Founding Fathers regarding religion.
Therefore, all Americans should be aware of why we are plagued by such conflict, and why the hypocrites justify themselves and actually believe they are "right" and obeying the "will of God."
First of all, since the death of Jesus of Nazareth there have been many differences of opinion about his life, mission and teachings, and there still are. In fact, the differences of conflicting opinions are perhaps even sharper now. But, Jesus knew that would be the case. And he knew that, as a mortal human being, he himself would not have the last word.
In fact, Jesus said that at the end of the age he ushered in things would change because someone would come to set the record straight, issue judgment, guide you to the truth, show you things to come, glorify him (Jesus) for what he really was, expose the false doctrines and dispel the myths about him, and actually bear his full testimony, which the world was not ready for two thousand years ago.
Jesus knew what would happen during the passing age, and he knew what would be happening now near the end of it. He foresaw the terrible tribulation, the wars, natural disasters, man-made disasters and the other terrible things, and he foresaw the horrible man-made conflicts, divisions, mistakes and wrongdoings that caused most of it.
Jesus knew it was predictable, because he knew that even though most of humanity would improve, advance and evolve in our understanding of eternal and universal truths, some people would be corrupted by greed, self-interest, self-importance and self-righteousness, and some would be so corrupted by egotism that they would feel entitled to rule, and they would fight and even kill for worldly wealth, power, and domain.
Jesus also knew and said that much of the conflict now would be caused by the “religious” hypocrites who would be claiming to “do many wonderful works in the name of the Lord,” when they actually “work iniquity” and do wrong. (Matthew 7:22)
That is why according to Matthew 25:32-46 Jesus also said the day would come at the end of the age when the good "sheep" would be praised and the hypocritical "goats" who claim to be religious would be exposed and rebuked by the one who bears the testimony of Jesus and issues the judgment promised by all the prophets.
The good "sheep," of course, are the people who abide by the golden rule — which is basically the Universal Divine Imperative at the core of all religions — and like all truly religious people they understand that it will be those who are humble, gentle, peaceful and meek who shall inherit the earth by treating all others, including the least of our brethren, kindly and fairly, as everyone wants to be treated.
The "goats," on the other hand, have been misled by spiritually blind, theocratic false shepherds and false prophets who have led their blind flocks astray. They've been doing it for centuries, even since the Protestant Reformation and the American Revolution, and since the 1950s and particularly since 1981 Theocrats have been very aggressive. They have even convinced many otherwise good Christians that "godless Secular Humanist have taken God out of America and out of our schools." Of course, that is a ploy, but they use it effectively to demonize progressive Christians and all others who will not march to the theocratic drum of the "wolves in sheep's clothing."
The "goats" and "wolves" are the hypocrites Jesus warned us of, because while they claim to serve the Lord, and while they make a show of being religious and think they are the "true Christians," they actually serve "Mammon." They regard material wealth as a measure of “goodness,” and they fight for theocratic political power and rulership, claiming God is on their side and against their “godless” enemies. But they are guilty of religious discrimination, theocratic imposition, and bigotry.
To fulfill the prophecy of Jesus, the modern son of man sets the "goats" on one side (to his left as he sees them, which is their right), and he sets the good sheep on the other side. In other words, the goats are on the "right side" of the political isle, while the good sheep are on the left, facing he who "holds the gavel."
He tells you that those on the proud and militant "religious right" are wrong (regardless of what religion they claim), while those on the political left are correct insofar and in as much as they are humble, gentle, kind, charitable and peaceful, and serve the interests of all the people -- especially the elderly, the widows and orphans, the poor, the disabled, the disadvantaged, and the least of our brethren.
In America the right-wing partisan politicians who boast of being Christians not only betray Jesus, they violate the intent of the Founding Fathers. By pushing a theocratic political agenda, the hypocrites are much like those most of the Founding Fathers fought against (as their own words reveal).
Today, thanks to a lot of modern research and scholarship that has continued and expanded upon what Thomas Jefferson and other Founding Fathers realized and shared, we can totally refute the claims of hypocritical Theocrats who claim to serve God.
Why is this important? Because hypocrites ignore the core spiritual message summed up in the golden rule, about universal love, humility, gentleness, peacefulness, compassion, generosity, charity, tolerance, forgiveness and pacifism.
Hypocrites cling to misleading patriarchal doctrines which ignore or contradict the actual teachings of Jesus and the preceding Hebrew prophets and sages --- and they follow and perpetuate false doctrines that have been used during the last sixteen centuries to justify “religious” military industrial empires in their quests for greater wealth, power, and domain.
That has been a problem in America since the beginning, and it flared during and at the end of the Spanish-American War. During the last 30 years it has gotten worse again because theocratic Christians have also been attempting to run the U.S. Military. Many belong to a group calling themselves "The Family," which includes Republican members of Congress and the right-wing Federalist Society, military personnel who call themselves "Believers in The Army of God," and many who identify with the right-wing Project for a New American Century (PNAC), which has a global religious military industrial imperial agenda.
Ostensibly, it was all to establish the U.S. as the greatest worldwide "Christian Superpower," even though it actually established a very powerful religious military industrial complex feigning religiosity. That has been obvious for a long time since it was learned how the Air Force Academy had been infiltrated and dominated by right-wing evangelical Christians. In addition, more recently a West Point Academy cadet wrote an article
to publicly announce his decision to quit the prestigious military academy just months before graduating to protest the illegal infusion of military procedures and events with evangelical fundamentalist Christian proselytizing — because all that not only betrays the intent of the Founding Fathers and the U.S. Constitution. It also violates long-standing traditions of religious equality and pluralism in the U.S. Military.
The Origin of the Doctrine of Preeminence and Superiority
Even though the Christian New Testament contains much eternal, universal truth, it also contains some gross exaggerations, errors, contradictions, false doctrines, and false references to Hebrew (“Old Testament”) scriptures, largely due to Paul's theology of Christian Apologetics. For that theology was based not only on the belief that Jesus of Nazareth was "The" prophesied Messiah of Judaism. It was also based on Paul’s belief that Christianity superseded Judaism, and that was to counter and dismiss Rabbinical and Talmudic Jews who understandably refuted the stories about Jesus that began to be spread after Paul began to distribute his epistles in 50 CE (AD).
During the first three decades after Jesus died there was a change in the attitude of some Christians toward Jews who naturally did not believe Jesus was the prophesied Messiah. And that was mostly because of the attitude and theology of Paul (Saul of Tarsus), because even though he had been anti-Christian, about five or six years after Jesus died, Paul thought he heard the voice of Jesus, so he converted and became a zealous missionary evangelist.
Moreover, even though the stories about Jesus were spread only by word of mouth for the first two decades after Jesus died, in 50 CE (AD) Paul became the first Christian writer to have his works widely spread and widely known and considered as gospel by Christians who accepted Paul's theology. (The next writer's work, the Gospel of Mark, was not finalized and distributed until about 73 CE. Matthew's followed in about 83 CE, and others came after that.)
Paul developed his theology for about 15 years prior to 50 CE by poring through the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible) looking for evidence that the story of Jesus fit the messianic prophecies of Judaism. Unfortunately, while Paul's epistles and books do contain much truth, not everything Paul wrote was true. He was quite correct, for instance, in pointing out the futility of looking for greener pastures as an escape, rather than recognizing and appreciating what you have, and in saying that "the weapons of the Lord are not carnal [or lethal], but they are mighty through God for pulling down strongholds [of military power]."
However, concerning the prophecies of the Hebrew Bible, Paul was especially presumptuous and wrong in certain significant instances. But, because Paul was the first to put his version of the story of Jesus into writing, his version became the most influential among certain groups of Christians.
That was mostly because in Paul’s epistles and in the book of Acts (of the apostles), it says that Paul witnessed a light from heaven shining all around him, and he heard the voice of Jesus asking why Paul was against him (because up to that time Paul had been a severe critic of the Christians.) According to Paul, his traveling companions also heard the voice, which told Paul he would be given instructions. Then it says that another disciple, Ananias, had a vision that Paul was “the chosen vessel” of Jesus, and later it says Paul received additional "visions" that gave him directions.
However, the full realization of God and the "kingdom of heaven" comes "not with observation in the world, but from within," as Jesus said. The Spirit of truth and the Divine Light come from within and are perceived and felt from within, and when that happens one can perceive that everything around is vibrating with Light. But Paul’s source of inspiration came not from within, but from without. Therefore, even though it surely must have been a profound experience if Paul “heard the voice of Jesus,” so profound that it caused him to devote the rest of his life doing what he thought served the Lord, Paul’s spiritual “epiphany” was not what he thought it was. It is doubtful that Paul “knew the mysteries of heaven” as some of the actual apostles of Jesus did (as is mentioned in Matthew 13:10-11). In fact, according to Acts 1:21-22, there were only 12 apostles, and Paul was not an apostle, even though in his epistles Paul emphasizes that he was.
In fact, even the original 12 apostles became split and in conflict. One whose work was later judged as "heretical" by the Pauline Christians (and was therefore excluded from the official Christian Bible) even wrote: "Some who do not understand mystery speak of things which they do not understand, but they will boast that the mystery of truth is theirs alone."
It is telling that Paul’s initial preaching to people in person wasn't very successful, and not many paid any attention to him until he began to produce his written works. Paul’s written words had far more weight, and he was eventually accepted by many as a Christians authority because his epistles were the first Christian writings to be “published” and widely distributed beginning in 50 CE, after a good number of years studying the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible) and arriving at his own interpretations and theological conclusions. That’s when he finalized and distributed his letters or epistles and was consequently widely accepted as a Christian authority even by some of the apostles, because they believed Paul had figured out how Jesus fulfilled Hebrew prophecies. That’s why Paul’s works influenced the later writings of some of the apostles, especially Mark, Matthew, and Luke.
Paul was thus successful in establishing the theology of Christian Apologetics which claims that Jesus of Nazareth, among other things, was born of a virgin (as Paul was the first to claim in 1 and 2 Corinthians), overcame death, and therefore freed the world from sin. That idea is based on the writings of Paul and the gospel writers who agreed with him. But it has obviously been proven to be erroneous. As Jesus foresaw, there is as much sin in the world now as there ever was, and some of Paul’s claims are based on an incorrect interpretation of the statements and prophecies in Judaic scriptures in the Hebrew Bible.
By the way, a number of brilliant thinkers like Thomas Jefferson realized that back in the late 1700s, even without the benefit of all the modern historical and archaeological evidence we have now (which is why Jefferson wrote that: "Paul was the first corruptor of the doctrines of Jesus.").
In spite of that, it was the story and doctrine in Paul's writing that influenced Mark, the next apostle to produce a gospel, then Luke, Matthew and even John, in his early writings.
However, the early Christians were in conflict because of differing opinions. While Paul and his group had their own ideas that were antagonistic toward Judaism, others understood the real and true foundation of Jesus' teachings. They understood that the golden rule was originally taught by the great Jewish Essene Sage, Hillel the Elder, whose teachings influenced Jesus and his family. They knew that was why Jesus was a martyr and pacifist, who advised us to judge not, lest we be so judged; turn the other cheek; resist not evil but love good; "render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s,” and love even our enemy.
Paul and his followers thought such advice was secondary to their doctrine that Christianity superseded Judaism and was destined to be the supreme and superior religion that must become dominant in the world in order to "save souls."
Unfortunately, Paul and others who adopted the idea that the blood of Jesus was shed to provide salvation did not understand why King David had written that salvation comes only from the Lord God and not from a son of man. They did not understand why Moses wrote that God is not a man, nor a son of man. They did not understand why Isaiah wrote that we should not liken God to any man, and they did not understand that the martyrdom of Jesus was really about his being a perfect example of a loving, forgiving, peaceful pacifist.
Paul’s doctrines, which became completely dominant by the fourth century, became in certain ways contrary to that in the sense that they caused Christians to believe that they had an "evangelical mandate" to essentially rule the world to “spread the word of God,” even if it meant living by the sword and killing to do it.
Many Christians have justified that by focusing on one sentence attributed to Jesus, but that is contradictory to his actual teachings and intent, and the truth must be told because the false doctrines that became part of the official church canon and summed up in the Nicene Creed in the fourth century have been used to claim that unless you profess that Jesus was "God Himself," the Holy One and Savior, you will suffer in hell for eternity.
That is simply not true, because as Isaiah wrote, only God is the Savior. Jesus himself knew what prophets like Isaiah had written, especially in Isaiah 40:18, 40:25, 42:8, and 46:5, that no man should be likened or compared to God, and that a Messiah is God’s servant. That’s why Jesus said things like "God is greater than I" (John 14:28) and “You have not heard God’s voice or seen God’s shape at any time.” (John 5:37) And even though Jesus realized his oneness with God, as we all can, he knew and said he was not God, but God’s servant.
Unfortunately, the doctrine of preeminence and superiority and its threat of hell and damnation has suited emperors and kings and military industrial imperialists since the fourth century. And in modern times it has enabled false shepherds and false prophets to establish a huge cult in the name of "Jesus Christ," unwittingly becoming as the blind leading the blind, totally unaware that the title of "Christ" is not a last name but a title meaning "anointed one."
The Early Christians, and the Division
Even though the leadership of the early Christian Church was divided into factions because of differing and conflicting doctrines, they all accepted Jesus as a spiritually anointed messenger of God.
As the impartial Jewish historian Flavius Josephus wrote, when Jesus was alive and teaching, multitudes of Jews and Greeks accepted him as such. Jewish and Greek Christians then accepted other Gentile converts, some of whom were evidently Buddhists and Hindus who recognized that Jesus was not merely a Jewish Mashiach (Messiah), but an inclusive teacher who could also be called a Buddhist Bodhistava and a Hindu Avatar. They understood the true nature of an enlightened one, upon whom Christhood, Buddhahood and Avatarhood is endowed by God.
The conflicts and divisions were over differences of opinion about how the words of Jesus should be interpreted, how the Christian religion should be organized, what books should be included in Christian canon, and how those scriptures should be interpreted. And, while the differences of opinion, conflicts and divisions have grown since early in the first century AD, they are even sharper now at the end of the age, just as Jesus foresaw and foretold.
Early on, the doctrine of preeminence and supremacy and drove a wedge between some Christians and Jews. As Paul’s epistles became more popular and Christian churches began to spread and grow, many Jews grew resentful of the Christians. Consequently, many Jews not only rejected the teachings of Jesus. They also ignored the teachings of the peaceful House of Hillel and were instead influenced by the antagonistic House of Shammai. And the tragic result was the First Jewish-Roman War (66–73 CE-AD), which brought a crushing defeat of the Jews and the destruction of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem.
Thus it was no coincidence that the Christian book known as the gospel of Mark was produced in 73 CE-AD, and it was followed during the next 27 years by the other writings that became official church canon. And by then the story had become much more authoritative and commanding than it was when Jesus was alive and teaching.
Now we should realize why what we find in the New Testament was written so long after Jesus died, after being developed and told by word of mouth for many decades. For witnesses and story tellers, after all, are inclined to differ in their description of the same events, and that is why the gospels contain different and contradictory testimony.
Students of theology will notice that the book of the apostle James contains nothing about the birth, life or death of Jesus, and it does not attempt to magnify Jesus into something he was not. In fact, James states very clearly that he was a servant of the Lord God, and a servant of the Lord Jesus. He distinguished between the two, knowing that Jesus was a lord and a host, not the Lord of lords and Lord of hosts. And James did not call Jesus the Savior, knowing that Isaiah wrote that besides God there is no Savior, and that a Messiah is not the Savior.
That is why the Gospel of Thomas (12) states that: “The disciples said to Jesus, ‘We know that you are going to leave us. Who will be our leader?’ Jesus said to them, ‘No matter where you are you are to go to James the Just ...’"
That was said in a Jewish-Christian context where James, Jesus' brother (also written about by an impartial historian, Flavius Josephus), was regarded as the natural leader of Jesus's disciples after the death of Jesus. And James was actually the leader of the Jerusalem church until about 50 CE (AD) when Paul, who somehow believed he was the “chosen vessel,” began to distribute his epistles and caused a rift, and gradually elevated Paul and Peter as the main evangelical missionaries that built the church that we know.
During that time, the group following James, along with a good number of Jewish Essenes who had become Christians, were denounced as "Judaizers" by Paul, because Paul felt his version of Christianity superseded Judaism. Paul did not understand that Jesus's mission was to reform and expand Judaism to make it more inclusive. And that was when the differences in belief and doctrine really pronounced the conflict, schism and division between Christians.
Paul and his group were convinced that they were right, though, and he made a sharp distinction between his idea of Christianity and what he called the "Jew's religion." And when Paul spread his ideas in letters to cities far and wide, to Alexandria, Antioch, Rome and beyond, his ideas began to be accepted as gospel truth.
Now, however, it is important to understand how and why Paul's ideas regarding the Hebrew Bible were not accurate in certain instances, and Paul assumed some things that were not true. He was also driven by the erroneous idea that there would be an "end of the world," and that it was imminent, and he thought he had to prepare people for it. He even claimed that Jesus "appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself."
That reveals gross misunderstanding of the prophecies of prophets like Isaiah that were not about Jesus, and a lack of understanding of the actual teachings of Jesus. Paul was ignorant of the fact that Jesus was a servant of God, and that Jesus spoke of the end of the age he ushered in, not the end of the ages (and certainly not the end of the world, as the article on The Future explains).
The groups led by James and Paul were certainly not the only Christian factions, but they were the two most influential players for a good while, and unfortunately the conflict and division grew even worse over time.
In 180 AD (CE) an influential Christian leader, Bishop Irenaeus, wrote a book lauding the epistles of Paul and the gospels of Mark, Luke, John and Matthew, along with a few other compatible works. But Irenaeus wanted the organized church to condemn the rest of the Christian writings and gospels as "heresies.”
That opinion grew to the point that in the fourth century, after Roman Emperor Constantine accepted Christianity, Pauline Christian Bishop Athanasius of Alexandria labeled and condemned the Gnostic Gospels as “heretical.” And Athanasius was instrumental in influencing the decision made during the Council of Laodicea in 364 A.D. when certain church leaders officially selected which texts would be included in the official church canon (bible).
That's probably why copies of the “Gnostic Gospels” were hidden in jars and buried, because the Gnostic Christians and the Essene Christians could foresee what might happen --- and did happen a bit later in 391 when the Pauline Christians who ruled began burning all “pagan” texts like those written by the Greek philosophers and all “heretical” texts like the Gnostic Gospels. That’s why 52 Gnostic Gospels were not discovered until 1945 in twelve leather-bound papyrus codices or manuscripts which had been buried in a sealed jar along with three Hermetic Greek works. They are now known as The Nag Hammadi Library.
Part of the reason for their rejection a suppression was probably that some of the Gnostic gospels suggest that Jesus had a special and intimate relationship with Mary Magdalene. The Gnostic Gospel of Philip, for example, says that Jesus kissed Mary, and loved her more than the apostles. Another text states that Jesus said Mary was the "apostle of apostles." And some of them reveal how and why early Christians were divided into different factions, critical of each other.
One of the texts of the Gnostic Christians states: "Some who do not understand mystery speak of things which they do not understand, but they will boast that the mystery of truth is theirs alone." He was speaking of imposters who established "empty" churches across the Roman Empire, led by influential and powerful leaders such as the infamous Bishop Irenaeus, who accused the Gnostic Christians of being heretics.
Some of the Gnostic Christians understood why Jesus of Nazareth had said that the true Christians would be persecuted. And they understood that it would be not only by the Romans and Jewish Chief Priests, but also by those claiming to be Christians. One of the Gnostics wrote: "We were hated and persecuted, not only by those who are ignorant, but also by those who think they are advancing the name of Christ, but were unknowingly empty [of the Holy Spirit], not knowing who they are."
Anyway, by the fourth century when the Romans under Emperor Constantine had accepted Paul's version of Christianity, it had become even more antagonistic to Rabbinic and Talmudic Judaism, and the influence of James and the Jewish Essene Christians and "Gnostic" Christians had been overshadowed by those influenced by Paul and his cohorts.
That’s one of the reasons why Christians have been divided and Christianity and Judaism have been at odds ever since. And even though fundamentalist Christians have to honor the Mosaic or Sinai Covenant, they still believe that Jews of the nation of Israel can only get to heaven by professing that Jesus was and is the Lord and Savior "Himself."
Paul's Idea of Christianity Gains Military Imperial Power
When the Roman Emperor Constantine accepted Paul's idea of Christianity in the fourth century, he wanted to consolidate "Christian" power and authority under one official church with one monarchial patriarch.
The first step was his Edict of Milan, which legalized Christianity throughout the Roman Empire. Then Constantine and a later successor Theodosius did what they could to consolidate political Christian power. Both Western Catholicism and Eastern Orthodox Christianity were based on Paul's idea of Christianity, but Roman Emperors Constantine and Theodosius managed to establish a very powerful and dominant Roman church.
When Christianity was established as the official religion of the Roman military empire, it established its own official canon and doctrines, as expressed in the Nicene Creed and in the approved texts chosen to be the official canon of the imperial church.
This happened gradually, however, in three steps. The first was the First Council of Nicea in 325 A.D., which came up with the Nicene Creed, settling a raging conflict about whether or not Jesus was the sole and actual incarnation of God (and of course the Nicene Creed claims he was).
The second step was the Council of Laodicea in 364 A.D., during which members decided which of the Christian gospels were to be accepted as official church canon and scriptures to be included in the Bible, and which were not -- working with copies and translations many times removed from the originals, along with the few fragments of the originals that remained by then.
After the Council of Laodicea, Roman Emperor Theodocius decreed that all "pagan" temples were to be destroyed, and that possession of any literature that was not approved by the Church was a criminal offense. Consequently, book burning started, and in 391 CE at the Great Library of Alexandria about 400,000 scrolls went up in flames -- (which is why the Jewish Essene-Christians hid their scrolls in large jars in caves near the Dead Sea).
When imperialist Christians ransacked the library at Alexandria they burned precious scrolls, which included the writings of great Greek scholars, philosophers, mathematicians, astronomers, and other scientists, because misguided, spiritually blind Christians condemned the scrolls as "pagan" and "ungodly."
Backed by Emperor Theodocius, Christian Archbishop Cyril led the Christian mobs. He even labeled a wonderful Greek woman leader, Hypatia, an amazingly brilliant philosopher, mathematician and astronomer, of being a "pagan witch." So Christians killed her, along with many Jews, Greeks and others who would not kneel to the writings of Paul and others authors of official canon and accept them as "the Word of God."
Now the modern son of man flatly says the Imperialist Christians were wrong then, and wrong now. He repeats the good words of Jesus, who said you will know Christians by their humble good works, not by their claim that they serve the Lord by judging, condemning, being destructive, and ruling living by the sword.
Tragically, that theocratic history has repeated itself many times since then. Even after the Protestant Reformation, Pauline Christians tended toward Theocracy, first in Europe and then in New England in America. The American Puritans were theocratic, and they hated the pluralistic views of the Founding Fathers regarding religion.
In that respect they followed the European model of Christianity, which has often been like a banner under which theocratic imperialists fight. In the 1930s and 1940s even Adolf Hitler claimed he was a Christian "doing God's will," and the Nazis burned books that didn’t agree with their political ideology. They even murdered Jews and others who wouldn’t accept Hitler as a divinely inspired servant of the Lord Jesus.
Today many right-wing "Christian fundamentalists" in America lean toward that kind of tyranny. But, that’s what happens when demagogues and zealots claim the mantle of "doing God’s will" as they judge and condemn those who won’t go along. And they justify themselves with the doctrine summarized by the Nicene Creed.
(Continued at About Christianity, Part 2 and 3, which discuss the view of America's Founders regarding religion; their recognition of the erroneous myths, doctrines and dogma that put Christianity on the wrong track; and the true purpose of Christianity.)