My Personal Beliefs by Roger W. Gardner

Roger W. Gardner

My Personal Beliefs

believe in a Higher Power whom, for lack of a better name, I call God.
My belief in God is both intuitive and pragmatic. Intuitive in the
sense of its feeling right and proper, like a beautiful equation, while
the alternative option seems to me awkward and incomplete.

believe in a God engaged in human affairs. I do not believe God helps
me find a parking space. However, I believe that the only convincing
explanation for certain epiphanies in my life have come from this
higher source.

My belief in God is also pragmatic; I believe in
the logic of a Prime Mover, and in the efficacy of prayer. I believe
that prayer — that is, the act of praying itself, humbling oneself
before a superior power and asking for help, is beneficial both
intellectually and spiritually. It is a sharing of the burden of
mortality, and offers us a vestige of hope.

The Historiocity of Jesus Christ

believe that Jesus of Nazereth, called the Christ, existed. I believe
this fact has been adequately confirmed by historical triangulation
from the writings of Josephus, Tacitus and Dio Cassius — special
weight being given to Tacitus’ offhand references, given their derisive
and demeaning tone.

I believe in the essential factual elements
of the Gospel of the New Testament, from the approximate date (though
off by 4 to 6 years) of Christ’s birth, through his last 2 or 3 years,
up to and including his crucification.

I do not believe in the
Immaculate Conception, the miracle of the loaves, walking on water,
etc, or, most importantly, in the Ressurection; all of which I consider
to be later constructs in an elaborate process of deification.

despite heavy censorship which most assuredy took place in the 4th and
5th centuries, I believe that in general the extant records of Jesus’
teachings and sayings are essentially accurate, and certainly worthy of
the founding of a great religion. It is in this sense that I consider
myself to be a Christian.

There were, it must be remembered,
many purported Messiahs during this period of Judaic history. This
Jewish longing for a strong Messiah Warrior King (such as King David)
came as a natural response to their having been conquered and
subjugated, in turn, by the Babylonians, the Persians, the Egyptians,
and now the Romans. In this respect, Jesus the Nazarene proved to be a
disappointment to many Jews — in particular to Judas Iscariot. Rather
than being given a Messiah Warrior King, who would lead them to victory
in battle against their hated Roman foe, they were presented with a man
of tolerance and peace. A gentle man, who believed himself to be the
Son of God — not the jealous, vengeful God of the Old Testament, but a
kind and loving God.

Five centuries after Jesus’ death the Arab
world would get their own Messiah Warrior King, and we are still
dealing with the unhappy consequences of that fateful event.

the fire and brimstone prophets of the Old Testament, Jesus only
sparingly deals with sin, never the dark concept of Original Sin; but
rather he openly embraces the prostitute, the Roman Centurian, even the
onerous tax-collector.

I believe that Jesus, called the Christ,
believed himself to be the Son of God, and that those surrounding him
believed the same. I believe the actual degree of Christ’s divinity is
unknowable, whereas his effect on mankind is vast and quantifiable.

faith is belief without proof, then my faith in the historiosity of the
New Testament is qualified. The character of Jesus is, to me, the most
intriguing and mysterious in history. His life and his teachings have
forever changed the course of the Western World.

Although Jesus
most assuredly represented an existential threat to the conservative
Jewish religious establishment of Jerusalem, most particularly the
Elders of the Sanhedrin, it appears the Romans had the final say in his
execution for sedition. It was therefore a civil/political decision,
well within the bounds of Roman jurisdiction, and thus, despite
centuries of traditional anti-semitic rantings, does not constitute a
“Blood Libel” on the Jews.

The Importance of Saint Paul

obviously centered on the figure of Jesus Christ, in fact it seems that
the entire foundation of the Universal Catholic Church rests squarely
on the solid shoulders of the inimitable Saul of Tarsus (Saint Paul).
Indeed, it can be said with some degree of certainty that without the
efforts of Saint Paul, Christianity would most likely have eventually
dwindled away, becoming just another strange Middle Eastern cult.
Regardless of the significant contributions of Saint Jerome, Saint
Augustine, et al, it was Saint Paul who was primarily responsible for
the birth of the Christian Church, An indefatiguigable proselytizer and
a profoundly original theologian — he was not, however, above bending
the rules (e.g. that all Christians must be converted Jews), if this
would bring in new Christians from the vast untapped resources of the
gentile Graeco-Roman world. It was the formidable brain of Paul that
first formulated the whole concept of Redemption — that Christ had
died on the cross not as a common criminal, but in order to redeem our
sins, thus turning his inglorious end by crucifiction into a divine act
of monumental martyrdom. The importance of Saint Paul to the course of
Western/Christian history cannot be overstated. It was Saint Paul who
organized the foundations of the Universal Church, created its dogma
and its heirachy. By the time of Paul’s death, in 64 AD, the nascent
Catholic Church was already becoming a viable, well-structured
corporation, subject to the personal and political aspirtions of it

The Jewish Christians

Meanwhile, in Jerusalem,
the so-called “original Jewish-Christians”, under the leadership of
Jesus’ brother, James the Just, continued on in stubborn isolation for
a few decades before disappearing from the pages of history.

is worth noting that these newly converted Christians sought to get
along with the Roman authorities, and were eager to distance themselves
from their troublesome Jewish cousins. As Christianity grew, this split
between the Jewish-Christians, the gentile Christians, and the Jews
became ever wider. This in part expains why the writers of the Gospels
were reluctant to put the blame for Jesus’ execution on the Romans,
placing it intead on the Jews.

East vs. West

One of the
most pivotal events in Western history must surely have been the now
rather obscure Iconoclastic Controversy of the mid-8th century. For it
was over this theological rift that the the Eastern [Orthodox] Church,
centered in Constantinople began its inevitable split from the Western
Catholic Church, centered on the Pope in Rome. The major bone of
contention was over the interpretation of the use of “graven images”,
that is whether or not realistic portraiture depicting indentifiable
characters — most especially, God, Jesus Christ or the Virgin Mary —
constituted a heresy. Constantinople declared all such artwork to be
heretical and banned its production, and the later Islamic World
followed suit. On the other hand, the Church of Rome decided the
contrary position, not only accepting naturalistic art as being
non-heretical, but warmly embracing it, eventually becoming its primary

The Middle Eastern and the Graeco-Roman Western
world had gone their separate ways. In the West the arts and sciences
flourished, and the spirit of discovery — when not threatening the
foundation of the church itself — was nurtured and encouraged. Thus
the successful growth of an open, liberal, progressive culture denoted
the character of the West, while the Middle Eastern, later Islamic
world, would focus their arts, however beautiful, exclusively on rigid,
formulaic, mostly geometric motifs. Restricted by religious law,
discovery and innovation were discouraged, in favor of strict adherence
to tradition. While the West prospered and grew, albeit somewhat
sporadically, the Middle East tended to stagnate and fall behind. As
the West moved on, continually expanding its intellectual and artistic
frontiers, culminating in the glories of the Rennaisance and, later, in
the Age of Enlightenment, the Arab/Islamic world languished, virtually
unchanged from the 7th century. No Rennaisance. No Reformation. No Age
of Enlightenment — the closest thing to a Reformation in Islam being,
arguably, the 18th century Wahabbi Movement, which only succeeded in
turning in on itself, further alienating Islam from the constantly
evolving West, where innovation was not only encouraged, but generously

Church and State

Perhaps the next most
determinate events in Western Christian History were the beginnings in
the 11h century of the ongoing battles between church and state,
between the Pope in Rome and various emperors and kings. Although the
results of these contests were never entirely conclusive, the end
product would be a stalemate, and a tentative agreement on their
separate spheres of authority, spiritual and temporal. This imperfect
balance between church and state has generally served Western
Civilization quite well.

However, problems develop when a
religion, such as Islam, is overtly and aggressively politically
motivated, but protected from objective scrutiny by its religious
shield. Thus Islam can spread its evil tentacles into our Western
society, its sanctity assured by our own Constitution. Unless and until
we find a way around this self-imposed barrier and begin treating
Islamism as just one more “ism”, such as Communism of Fascism, we will
continue losing ground in this veritable Clash of Civilizations.


contrast to the militant hubris of the confirmed atheist, or the
condescending self-righteous fervor of the born-again-Christian, I
humbly accept the fact that many of my carefully considered
conclusions, put forth in this small essay, could be completely
mistaken. However, they represent an honest expression of my thoughts
at this time.

Finally, I beleive that faith in a kind and loving
God is a gift. The degree to which one accepts the literal narrative of
the New Testament, whether one embraces minimalism or maximalism, is of
course a matter of personal choice.