See also a Review of the Heliand: The Saxon Gospel
Communicating the Gospel According to Each kind
The truth of Christianity is universal and objective, yet the Gospel of Christ is best understood through one’s subjective experience and relative cultural mores. Culture consists of the norms and folkways which develop amongst peoples of common ancestry as a means to define and understand their existence. However, culture itself is not a completely thorough means to understanding the interactive nature of the supernatural, metaphysical, and physical. Through the light of Christ, one can comprehend order out of chaos, clarity out of confusion. Since the Fall, mankind’s understanding of the world has become warped, which is why there is a plethora of religions and cults, yet many of them have common truths and narratives that are echoes of the Christian Truth.
Yet in light of that, how one understands, interprets, and expresses Christianity is quite subjective. God diversified mankind into various races and tongues, and with that comes different cultural narratives which will absorb other Christian emphases and express the faith in different ways according to various ethnic narratives.
So long as the core, universal doctrines of Christianity are not violated, which leads to heresy or apostasy, how different cultures decide to approach Jesus is by and large not a major concern. Therefore if we are to fulfill the Great Commission to spread the good news and baptize the nations in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, then Christians will be forced to specify the Gospel message to the unique understandings of the consumer. Hence, the message and person of Jesus Christ must be tailored to meet the primitive understandings of various cultures.
Caucasians, Africans, and Orientals, the three racial branches descending from Noah’s sons, Japheth, Ham, and Shem respectively, have all come to develop their own approach to understanding “the Origin,” i.e. the Divine, the Holy Trinity, or the Truth. God created the plethora of biological diversity we see in the world, and He communicates to each group in the language and the mores they will understand. The narrative of each ethnos is different, and therefore the ways and means of communicating the Gospel message will be tailored to meet the mores of each racial group and each sub-racial (ethnic) group. Furthermore, it is also not limited to how God will work to receive each nation, but also how man will come to receive God. The historical and evolutionary narratives of each ethnos have brought us to the point of viewing the world though ethnocentric lenses. The folkish narratives of the various ethne of the world give a glimpse into the heart of creation and source of this diversity in the Creator.
The Greek Jesus
The fist type of “Jesus” that we encounter in Christianity is the “Greek Jesus.” Jesus Christ interpreted and applied to the Greek peoples is the first type one encounters when reading the Gospels; the other is the “Hebrew Jesus.” The Gospel according to Saint Mark is where the mission of Jesus is first interpreted into specifically Greek terms. The Gospel of Mark is written unlike the other three, for St. Mark was writing exclusively to a Greek/Gentile audience. Hence his Gospel message does not contain long genealogies which would make little sense to a European audience, but is very matter-of-fact, establishing the primacy of Christ’s ministry to the fallen world. Jesus to the Greeks is not a God of law-fulfillment, as He would be to the Hebrews; rather, the Gospel displays central theological messages, especially his Divine power.
It is important to note here that once Christ is accepted by the Greeks, He is no longer envisioned as a fulfillment of the Hebrew law. He is of course accepted as such, but in order to meet with Greek culture and Greek understanding, Jesus is presented as a completion of the Greek philosophical question of the Agnostos Theos, the “unknown God.”
The Greek people are infamous for their many gods and mythologies, but for centuries before the advent of Christ, much of Greek philosophy had been in contention with Greek polytheism over the question of monotheism, polytheism, and atheism. Aristotle had articulated the concept of the “unmoved mover,” and other notable Greek philosophers had challenged the existence and legitimacy of the gods. In addition to swearing allegiance to the known gods, the Greeks also had an altar to the Agnostos Theos as a placeholder for whatever unknown deities could be in existence but had not yet been revealed.
According to the accounts in Acts 17:22-31, St. Paul had opened up this debate, maintaining that the Christ-God became the fulfillment of Agnostos Theos, giving the Greeks the completion and fulfillment of their years of unanswered philosophical and deistic questions. For with the Christ-God, what was once unknown is now known, and therefore the traits and behaviors of the unknown, of ignorance, have come to be replaced with traits and behaviors of the known.
From this point forward, as the Greek people began to abandon their ancient pagan practices of ignorance and accept the revealed Truth, the Christ-God became the fulfillment of the philosophical mission of the Greek people. This is why is was so easy for St. Thomas Aquinas to synthesize Greek philosophy with the Catholic faith, because it was a process that already began in the first generation of Greek evangelism, when the Greeks began to seek Christ as the fulfillment to their philosophical tradition.
The Roman Jesus
Once Christianity had begun to take root inside the Roman Empire, Christianity and the structure and nature of the church also began to adapt to the Roman view of the Christ-God. Unlike the Greeks, who looked at the Christ in a similar manner as the Hebrews would have, both groups being conquered peoples, the Romans were able to look upon the Christ in His capacity as King and Ruler.
After Constantine’s famous Edict of Milan (313 AD), Christianity became not only a tolerated faith, but the establishment faith of the Roman Empire as paganism began to recede both socially and politically. Hence, with the new establishment of the church and its hierarchy in political symphony with the Roman government, Jesus Christ then became elevated, an exalted figure. Hence from this point, Jesus Christ was no longer viewed as the co-laborer of the poor, the wisest of philosophers, or even the greatest lawgiver. Rather, Christ was then exalted into royalty, where his attributes qualifying Him as “King of kings” were so established that even Caesar had to bow before His sovereignty as “Lord of lords.”
From a supernatural perspective, the Romans began to interpret the Christ as superior to the old gods, as He had broken their power after His death and resurrection. The social, political, and military plagues under which the Roman Empire suffered during the fourth and fifth centuries were evidence of the weak and failing power of the gods.
In Roman society, the state was viewed as a divine manifestation. The gods no longer capable of maintaining this power, therefore a new supernatural protector was needed, one that could justify the legitimacy of the Caesars. No longer were Jupiter and Mars protecting the empire or upholding its majesty and divine grandeur as had happened in the past. Rather Jesus Christ, Saint Peter, and Saint Paul spoke for Christians to remain loyal to the legitimacy of Roman rulers; it was then natural for the Caesars to justify their legitimacy via the religion of the Christ-God.
An additional change which occurred within Christianity as a result of this social shift, however, was the glorification of the church. No longer were Christians forced to worship in the sludge of the catacombs; they instead now enjoyed an exalted position as the saviors of the Roman Empire. Therefore church buildings, clergy, and ecclesial symbols transition from a humble nature to the glorious majesty of the Roman Empire, which was now Christendom. The artistic depictions of Christ transition away from the humble shepherd to the royal robes of the Caesars while wielding swords of power and ruling over the greatest of emperors. This leads, in the long term, into a political shift, where the Roman merging of religion and statecraft erodes, exchanged for the political partnership of the church in symphony with the civil state. In the West, this would manifest itself in the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches, where secular monarchs would share power with the ecclesiastical establishment. Yet in the East, this did not take as strong of root, as the Byzantine emperor more or less continued the tradition of God-emperor.
With the state now working with the Christian Church instead of against it and the Christ-God now acting as the “Imperator of Imperators,” the state had the legal right to enforce and protect the Holy Faith and true doctrine. With Caesar sitting on the throne by God’s grace, the Caesar became the agent of God. Therefore the eras of the ecumenical councils began to occur where the emperor could call the meeting, order and chair it, and oversee the enforcement of correct doctrine.
This may seem to many Christians, especially Protestants, as somewhat disconcerting, a distasteful political intrusion into theological affairs. Yet there should be little concern to true believers. It has been well documented that despite this “Constantinian shift” in understanding the nature and role of Jesus Christ and His church, the ancient and orthodox doctrines of the Faith have been upheld in their original format. Moreover, it was though the power and might of the Caesars in convening the ecumenical councils that blasphemous heresies such as Gnosticism and Arianism were finally squashed.
This very Roman interpretation of Jesus Christ as the overlord and protector of the imperium continued on in Europe after the collapse of the Roman Empire. Successive monarchs in great empires such as France, Spain, Britain, and Germany have all recycled this image of the Christ-God sanctifying the forward march of the empire and the respective ethnic group. Given this context in Europe, along with the Genesis 9:27 prophecy that the sons of Japheth would spread wide throughout the world, it would be correct to acknowledge that the European peoples have fallen in accordance with God’s providential plan. Perhaps we did not always apply His message correctly, but we nonetheless did receive the full blessing proper to God’s people for a time to accomplish a specific mission, namely to bring the “blessings of Japheth” (i.e. the Gospel of Jesus Christ) to the farthest ends of the world.
North America, South America, black Africa and much of the Orient are now either Christian or becoming Christianized, thanks to the world of European missionaries fulfilling their ancient calling and recognizing that it was God leading the Niña, Pinta, and Santa Maria across the Atlantic to the new world for God, King, and Country.
The Saxon Jesus
Despite the key differences between the Greek and Roman Jesus, there was still great unity in both cultures, seeing the Christ-God not only as a deity of universal majesty who transcended the old gods, but also as a God of reason. His message flowed in a consistent pattern that represented a right ordering in the universe which the old gods could not match. But once the Gospel message came to the Germanic lands of central and northern Europe along with the British Isles, this message no longer held the same weight.
One of the first key facts to understand when deciphering “Saxon Christianity” is environmental. The Latin lands of Roman Rite Christianity were lush and fertile, with vast amounts of wealth and trade. It was as if the Christ-God had deemed that He should conquer Rome first to gain their economic vibrancy and then turn to the hard, cold woodlands of Northern Europe. In one letter that Saint Boniface (the patron saint of Germany) wrote to the pope:
. . . whilst the Christians are allowed to possess the countries that are rich in oil and wine and other commodities [God] has left to the heathens only the frozen lands of the North . . . frequently to be reminded of the supremacy of the Christian world.1
The harsh reality of Nordic life, mixed with a strong folklore of magic, fatalism, and harsh, uncompromising gods who allowed only proven warriors into paradise, was a sharp contrast with the more environmentally comfortable and philosophically oriented Mediterranean world.
Christianity’s story in Rome was one of endurance. One previously had to suffer for Christ, renounce the world, and pray for the salvation of the emperor. Yet now with the conquest of the Empire by the message of the Christ-God, the power and might of Rome’s legacy could be used to liberate the heathen north. To put it in context, contrary to many secularist and pagan reinterpretations, the heathen north was anything but benign, hardly victims of an evil, imperial Christianity. For centuries, Germanic tribes had harassed the Roman Empire, specifically in Gaul. As well, the Roman Empire had just been torn a part by a dozen different Germanic tribes, all fighting in the names of their heathen gods, many of whom still possessed a strategic threat to Christian kingdoms in the south. Angles, Saxons, and Jutes colonized Britain, Franks occupied Gaul, and later on the Northmen were on the march pillaging Christian England, France, and Germania.
Since the partitioning of the western Roman Empire in 476 AD until the end of the Viking Age around 1066, Europe was embroiled in a hot civil war between Christian and pagan for nearly 600 years. Hence, when Christianity started making its way north, the Gospel message of the Roman Christ-God needed to be adapted to Norse concepts and mores. In order to reach the Saxon peoples, the more Greco-Hebrew/Mediterranean attributes of Jesus, such as wisdom, mercy, love, and philosophy had to be tempered and the more “masculine” attributes and sides of His mission and Passion had to compensate. To the Germanic peoples, Jesus was not here to bring justice to an unjust world or to reconcile difficult philosophical problems, as St. Paul had done in Athens. Rather the Germanic peoples needed a more powerful chieftain. For the Greeks, it was enough to inform them that the Christ-God was a fairer and more just deity than their old gods or various philosophies. But for the Scandinavians and Germanic tribes, they needed to be shown that this new God was more powerful, stronger, more courageous than the old gods.
In Scandinavian and similar forms of paganism, it was sufficient enough to often syncretize various cults and pagan beliefs. Many began to practice a pagan-Christianity in worshiping the Christ-God alongside Odin and Thor, but in order to squash this heresy, the Christ-God had to be absolutely stronger. Thus we receive the picture of Jesus Christ as a conquering Hero who fights for His tribe – the saints and church – the glorious Chieftain anointed from heaven. To be part of His warband is to be one of his warrior-companions, fighting gloriously with Him until the Last Judgment, a Christian Ragnarök.
Germanic Christianity here, then, is extremely hierarchical. God the Father’s supremacy is asserted over Jesus Christ, the “God-child” who has authority over us, His loyal band of warrior companions. This hierarchy is built by the God-King out of love for mankind to give us the strength and unity in the Church needed to triumph against Satan and his band of evil warriors who seek to slaughter our souls.
Many pagans will claim that this version of Germanic Christianity is proof that European Christianity – the Christianity we all practice – is nothing more than a syncretized hybrid of Norse paganism and biblical Christianity. They’ll point to things such as relics, Christmas trees, and food to the dead as evidence of this syncretism, yet it is all still folly on their part. The church may have adopted dates, locations, and even cultic practices with sacred objects, but the goal was to make the faith more palatable to these pagans who had a difficult time understanding the nature of an east-Mediterranean religion.
Given the universal nature of Christianity, it is inevitable that local customs will be adopted into the faith, yet the question is: Do these local customs destroy the integrity of the original faith? And the answer here in European Christianity is no. The orthodox theology that has been routinely and consistently upheld – the foundational truths of monotheism, trinitarianism, and the necessity of repentance and belief in Christ – is still purely upheld, and that is key. That is the core message of Jesus Christ, not the language in which we worship, nor the practice of honoring Christ’s birth with a tree on December 25th.
The conversion of Scandinavia and northern Germany was an orthodox conquest. Unlike in the previous centuries in which the Germanic Goths converted to Arianism or many Germanic peoples began to worship Thor, Odin, and Jesus simultaneously, which the church suppressed, here the orthodox faith was upheld. Inside Germanic Christianity, the orthodox Faith was presented, convincing the ancient Germanic peoples to convert to Christianity, and the truth was protected and upheld. Even though the cultural expression of Northern Christianity would be different from that of the Greco-Slavic east or the Latin South, the ancient Faith was still upheld, established, and bound together through the universal jurisdiction of the universal church. Even after the Reformation had taken off, Nordic Reformers still made sure to emphasize that their interpretations of the Faith were in keeping with the ancient church fathers and the Bible. No longer was paganism a point of social contention or influence that could corrupt or remove the Faith from its ancient foundations.
Despite the charges of many pagans, pre-Christian Scandinavian mythological teaching shares many commonalities with Christianity. Such Scandinavian virtues as courage, fidelity, honor, strength, and warriorhood are also common principles found in Scripture. The difference, however, is that with Christianity’s encounter with Scandinavian virtues, Christianity tempers and reconveys these values into a more honorable and dignified form.
The American Jesus
At the risk of sounding facetious, it is necessary to understand the Americanized version of the Christ. Given the civic foundations and nature of America, Jesus is generally detached from any organic, cultural identity. Nonetheless, over the years, portraits of Jesus Christ have remained depicting Him as a white man, and the power of the Christian God is still generally accepted among Christians in America as having a key hand in founding America.
Regardless of the various cultural expressions of European Christianity to which the Gospel had to be adapted, the various forms of European Christianity that have emerged – whether they be Catholic, Orthodox, Reformed, Lutheran, or Anglican – have all subscribed to the same universal doctrines and tenets of the ancient faith, most specifically the seven ecumenical councils. American Christianity takes a notable and significant departure from this consistent historical trend. Unlike European Christianity that is bound through a common European culture, history, and customs, American Christianity was uniquely synthesized with the Enlightenment and even the specific goal of repudiating ancient European traditions, customs, and behaviors that were viewed as archaic, repressive, and backwards. The American Founders set sail with the specific mission in mind to start a new civilization in the New World; and with Christianity being the central religion of the New World, yet severed from the Old, it was inevitable that in the long term, American Christianity would wind up manifesting itself differently than its European counterparts.
Yet despite this syncretism between Jesus Christ as the traditional Americana is a new theology that is emerging that has radically overturned the nature and character of Jesus. Perhaps it is a consequence of egalitarianism or a consequence of simple modernity and commercialism, but Jesus Christ in modern America is a “homeboy,” nowhere approaching a genuine authority figure. Unlike ancient Anglo-Saxons who regarded Jesus Christ as the warrior-chief, or ancient Romans who regarded Him as the Lord of divine glory and power, or even many Hebrews who accepted Him as the Messiah of the Old Testament, modern Americans perhaps have the most irreverent approach to Jesus Christ. To them, Jesus is both subconsciously and culturally treated and marketed more as a buddy, friend, companion, and all around “good guy” that American Christianity hardly treats Him as the King of kings and Lord of lords. The natural outflow of American egalitarianism requires this: it cannot accept a God-King. Americans do not understand the nature and beauty of hierarchy, even as it applies to religion. Their soft and tolerant culture emphasizes the tender sides of Christianity, while utterly neglecting the violence, hierarchies, hard justices, and even justified hatred that exist throughout the Bible and the history of Christianity.
Therefore it is easy to see why Jesus can be commercialized on t-shirts, shoes, and memes with no reverence as in the society of equality, reverence need not be paid, there being no hierarchy. Jesus may have done great deeds, but considering he is subconsciously understood as a friend here to give you a boost, rather than a physical manifestation of the God-King of the universe, it is no wonder modern that American Christians do not sally forth as their Anglo-Saxon predecessors did to fight for the Holy Faith.
If Christianity is to revive itself in the West, it is only going to come though a rediscovery of the valor of Christ. The contemporary American Jesus does not call the Christian to marshal his inner strength and take back lost lands and souls. The American Christ in his buddy-buddy nature affects the souls of men to be complacent and simply absorb the peace of Jesus while sacrificing very little. It is actually a very narcissistic and extremely limited view of Christ’s message. It is no wonder that thousands of American Christians become Mormon, Muslim, or pagan in an attempt to discover and live out a life of fulfillment and meaning.
The European Christ that we encounter in the Heliand and in the histories of the ancient Church is the Christ we need to come to know. Only a vigorous, masculine Christianity can move the souls of Western men and women to utterly reject modernity and fight back for the salvation of their nations. It is the white man’s addiction to materialism which inhibits a revival of masculine, virtuous Christianity, and only the anti-materialist message of Jesus Christ can liberate the white man from this world. A Christianity like the modern one practiced by America will easily fall to the rugged vigor of Islam and the die-hard commitment of secular atheists to destroy Christianity.
It is time for the white man to rediscover the Christ of His ancestors, the one who took Western Civilization from the grasp of the heathen and saved it from the invasions of the Saracens, Moors, and Turks. It he can rediscover the Christ of his ancestors, then we can stop the demographic time-bomb, defeat the secular atheists, and prevent the Islamicization of the West.
Read Part 2: African Jesus
- Boniface, Letter 15 ↩