The Essence of Christianity

Chapters:
1. The Riddle of Man’s Being
2. The Creation of Man
3. The Loss of Paradise
4. A Godless World
5. When the Time Had Fully Come
6. The Son of God and the Son of Man
7. The Mystery of the Powerless God
8. The Healing Power of the Christ
9. Christendom
10. History and Mysticism
11. Apocalyptic Prospect

Chapter 1: The Riddle of Man’s Being

The nature of Christianity is inseparable from the question of man’s own nature. Modern awareness feels this question weighing ever more heavily: ‘What is man all about?’ Human existence is no longer seen as clear-cut and obvious but is called into question. It has actually become questionable. Is there any meaning at all in being ‘human’?

How often do we see the miraculous promise of early childhood collapse and perish in the empty routine of the adult world -a promise unfulfilled, unredeemed. Moreover, we can observe how the power of human thought resulted in the awful realities of poison gas and the atom bomb, while undirected emotional power wanders into greed and hatred. We witness daily the tragedies resulting from our inability to live together in peace at every level: peoples, races, classes, neighbours, families, marriages, and even, ultimately, the individual’s struggle in living with himself. Indeed, all of us have experienced that sudden sigh within – perhaps on a walk in the country – which announces the thought: ‘How beautiful the world would be without people!’ Yet, put differently, this amounts to saying: ‘How beautiful the world would be without its crowning creation!’ This paradoxical statement brings us face to face with the whole troublesome riddle of man’s existence. What kind of peculiar creature is it who, on the one hand, is such a miracle of divine creation, and yet can be more malevolent and horrible than the wildest beast? Is there not obviously something wrong with man?

How are we to make sense of all these contradictions?

It is our very labouring with this burdensome riddle which offers us the maturity to recognize and accept Christianity. As modern men we are able to look at Christianity afresh and with the best intellectual conscience. That we are able to do so, and to see in it the great, decisive concern of humanity, we owe to anthroposophy (wisdom of man), the body of knowledge made available by Rudolf Steiner.

Although Christianity entered the pages of history only at a specific historical moment, it must be seen in a broad human context. Thus from its inception, Christianity included in its view of the world the wisdom of past ages as preserved in the Old Testament. Let us first direct our attention to this prehistory of Christianity.