I empathize with non-fundamentalists/non-evangelical Christians and other non-Biblical literalist people of faith who tackle challenging the core beliefs of self-described "staunch Christians" (fundamentalists especially). Boy, oh boy, do I know what they are up against! I grew up in the heart of the Bible belt (North Texas, central Louisiana) and wrestled pretty much continuously with what was in many instances what can at best charitably called “Flat Earth” thinking. I also learned from the get-go that anything one introduces that truly rattles a true believer's cage will not earn you one iota of respect but, rather, in most instances merely invites charges of being deluded or blinded by Satan, a demon or demons, or some such other worldly Grendel ...or of being in league with he, it or them -- or the Antichrist -- or all of the above. With this said, most of the diehard fundamentalists & evangelicals I knew were actually nice, even charming folks who were very giving and truly concerned with the well being of those in their orbit and beyond. However, it has to be said that both they and pretty much most mainstream Christians adhere to a species of faith that is alien to anything the Jesus they lay claim to would recognize much less endorse. The rabbis of his day were forever questioning articles of faith, playing devil's advocate, and using provocative, sometimes seemingly contradictory remarks to get their compatriots to think a point out. Humor suffused their comments too -- something lost on most Christians in the pews as they often take seriously comments in the Bible that were intended to be sarcastic or humorous or both. One thing that virtually no legitimate rabbi ever articulated was the kind of "blind faith", "true believer", "God said it and that settles it" literalism that passes as creed and dogma among so many Christian souls today. Sadly, some of the champions of this sort of black-white thinking among the leading lights of televangelism violated what they professed, some many times over – and (as the old adage goes) “before God and the whole world”. How ironic, yes?!? (Or were they falling victim to something well known in the realm of psychology: Try hard not to think about or do something – and the temptation to think about or do it will increase many-fold).
There is something ironic, too, about the fact that most self-described devout Christians I have kibitzed with down through the years have been quick to give lip service to either wanting to zero in on and follow the original faith of the apostles and disciples (70 elders), or else believed they’d found and were living it, yet did not realize that their beliefs and practices were in many instances diametrically opposite of those embraced, espoused and lived out by those who knew Jesus best and thus what he taught and practiced -- his own brothers including James the Just.
With this said, it must be conceded that a great deal of the historical, archeological and interpretive work that has fleshed out James’s role as first Mebakker/archbishop/overseer of the early “Jesus Movement” has come out in the past decade or two. But even so, one would expect – hope – to see some widespread, major shifts in the articulated beliefs and practices of many mainstream Christians. This does not seem to be the case though there does seem to be a greater move to “recover” the Jewish Jesus – that is, the very Orthodox Jewish nature of Jesus’ teachings, beliefs and practices.
Thankfully, clerics such as Lutheran minister Jeffrey J. Bϋtz and scholars such as Dr. James D. Tabor have made consensus findings about James and the early “Jesus Movement” known through their superb books such as Bϋtz’s The Brother of Jesus and the Lost Teachings of Christianity and Dr. Tabor’s The Jesus Dynasty: The Hidden History of Jesus, His Royal Family, and the Birth of Christianity. Perhaps these books and those that will surely follow will see increasing numbers of Christians move beyond defective beliefs and creeds into the realm of a Torah-centric faith (Messianic God-fearers or its equivalent).
A longtime friend of mine and Messianic God-fearer recently (June 2013) emailed me that he was meeting with a local fundamentalist Christian minister and planned on introducing him to many of the books, concepts and lines of reasoning posted to this website. My reply follows below and is shared in the hopes that seekers after the faith and practices of the original followers of Rabbi Yehoshua/Yeshua/Jesus will find something that informs and enriches their own quest:
Good luck with getting a fundamentalist minister to budge from his mountain of dogmas and doctrines. What most of these guys call open-minded conversation about the scriptures, the nature and office of messiah, and such actually amounts to a forum for them to practice their apologetics. I've yet to hear of a genuine "true believer" walking away from his or her brand of faith and embracing anything remotely close to the original beliefs and practices of James the Just and the original apostles (minus Saul of Tarsus aka "St. Paul"). To their way of thinking this would be an abandonment of the "true faith" they embraced originally and thus a form of treason against Jesus and God.
On my end: I spent this past weekend studying the life of the only non-Jew to be declared a messiah in the Hebrew Scriptures, namely Cyrus the Great of Persia. About 100 years after this fascinating leader cashed in his chips a historian named Xenophon wrote a book about his deeds, his virtues and the ethical precepts that made him a phenomenal leader and moral example. This book was edited by Larry Hendrick and is sold on Amazon bearing the title "Cyrus the Great -- The Arts of Leadership & War". What is intriguing to me is that in the scriptures HaShem anointed Cyrus -- who would later liberate the Jews from their Babylonian captivity -- and "made all his ways straight". In-a-word God wrote the Torah into the life and work & deeds of Cyrus and it shows big time IMO. So much so it makes a lie of Lord Acton's truism about "absolute power corrupting absolutely". In Cyrus's case it emphatically did not. Secularists will say there had to be an exception -- upbringing & natural odds which surely figured in this -- but I lean to the Biblical spin that states the Almighty intervened and got & kept Cyrus on the right course.
For God fearers, I think having Cyrus as an example to emulate is (ahem) gggggreat -- a Gentile messiah is surely an encouragement and an admonition to all non-Jews especially Noahide God fearers.
More about Summer Cloud
Summer Cloud is an American Indian (Tribal member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma) who, though reared in the Southern Baptist faith, realized early on that many of the so-called sacred dogmas, creeds and beliefs he had been taught were at serious variance with the findings of historical researchers, Biblical scholars, Biblical archeologists, physical anthropologists, geologists and more. As you might expect, a boy who openly argued for modifying or throwing out beliefs and claims that had been invalidated was not especially popular among his conservative Protestant peers much less the leaders of the Southern Baptist church he attended. In time his critical thinking mindset propelled him on a quest for an expression of faith that both incorporated and reflected the findings of science and scholarship. In 1980 he became a Roman Catholic (Charismatic) and in 2015 he became a lay monk in the transdemoninational Knights of Prayer Monastic Order (Full monk in 2017) as well as a monk in several other religious communities & monastic organizations which are part of the New Monasticism movement. In 2017 he took the name "Brother Anthony of the Resurrection".
Dr. Payne has been a Mensan since 1985.