If you were to take Jesus out of Christianity, would Christianity still stand? Would the teachings of Jesus, as distinct from the person of Jesus, still make Christianity the same religion that it is? Before looking at Christianity, let us consider 3 other major world religions.
Other Major World Religions
It is true that all major world religions place a high reverence for an individual or individuals. However, as much as they may admire a person(s), the teachings themselves about God(s), life, death, morality, and spirituality are what really carry each of the other major world religions. Let’s look at just 3 here…
1. Islam. Muhammad (570-632 AD) is the founder of Islam and is believed to be the last prophet of God by Muslims. That which Muhammad taught can be read about in the Qurʾān as well as some other writings. Muslims will tell you that Muhammad taught many good things and had a high value for morality and ethics (although others might suggest otherwise). However, Muhammad was a man & not God (Surah 18:110). He could not intercede for people with Allah (Surah 9:80). Consider if only Muhammad’s teachings existed with no knowledge of Muhammad himself (as found in The Life of Muhammad, etc.) What would they be left with? Muslims would still have all the major teachings of Islam (The Five Pillars of Islam) and the prophet Muhammad would simply disappear into history while Islam continued forward (the only difference being that they could not bestow peace and blessings upon Muhammad).
2. Buddhism. Siddhartha Gautama (563-483 BC) is the founder of the West’s favourite religion, Buddhism. Gautama later became known as “the Buddha.” He taught things such as the idea of nirvana, enlightenment, and rebirth. People admire his teachings to cease all desires because desiring leads to suffering. There is no ultimate or permanent reality. His teachings can be found in the Pali Canon (Tripitaka) and numerous Mahayana sutras. We do not have a whole lot of details on Siddhartha Gautama’s life, so this is an example of a religion that is contingent upon what he taught rather than who he was. There are different types of Buddhism, and Tibetan Buddhism is led by the 14th Dalai Lama. Without Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha) or the Dalai Lama, Buddhism as a structure would still stand.
3. Judaism. Abraham (a.k.a. Abram) is officially recognized as the founder of Judaism. The teachings of Judaism can be found in the Tanakh (containing the same books found in the Christian Old Testament) & the Talmud (a collection of rabbinical writings that interpret, explain, and apply the Torah scriptures). The major teachings of Judaism consist of obedience to God and following the Law of God to atone for sin. There are 613 Laws of YHWH known as the Mitzvot. They place a major emphasis on the covenant that God made with Abraham to promise him a land with descendants as many as the stars in the sky (Genesis 12:1-3; Genesis 15:5, 7-21). Suppose we knew nothing the major figure of Judaism such as: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, or David. If we knew nothing of them while only having the contents of the covenant and the 613 Laws, Judaism would still have followers continuing to be obedient to God’s commands.
What About Christianity?
Jesus of Nazareth is the founder of the Christian religion. We know very little about the early life of Jesus; however, we know a great deal about His last 3 years and, more specifically, His last week of His life. The things which Jesus taught can be found in the New Testament of the Christian Bible. He taught things like “love God and love your neighbour” (Matthew 22:34-40; Mark 12:28-34; Luke 10:27-28). He taught to love your enemies (Matthew 5:43-48; Luke 6:27-36). The more controversial teachings of Jesus were those that concerned Himself.
Jesus taught that no one can go to the Father except through Him (John 14:6). He taught that He and the Father were one (John 10:30). He claimed to be God in the flesh (John 1:1, 14). He said that He has existed since before Abraham who lived thousands of years earlier (John 8:58). Indeed, the very reason that Jesus was put on trial and killed by the Jews/Romans was because of His very claims to be God & the Jews did not like that (John 10:30-33; Matthew 26:57-68; Mark 14:53-65). They did not kill Jesus for teaching things “love your enemies” and “treat others the way you would want to be treated.”
Taking Christ Out of Christianity
As we’ve done with 3 major world religions thus far, let us think of what Christianity would look like without Christ. If Jesus was taken out of the picture, there would be no way to enter Heaven. Additionally, when Christians speak of worshipping God, they do not just mean the Father; rather, they also insist on worship of Jesus & the Holy Spirit who are co-equally God (known as Trinity). If Jesus of Nazareth did not die and rise again, there is no forgiveness for the sins of Christians. I do not deny that Christianity without Jesus would have many good and moral teachings; however, it would not have the very center object of its faith, Jesus.
Christianity without Christ would not be able to survive as other major world religions could.
I leave with some rather whimsical words I once heard from a man named Andy Bannister. He said: “If you take Christ out of Christian, all you’re left with is Ian… and Ian cannot save you!”
– Tyson Bradley