We have to ask if there’s a problem that there are so many versions of Christianity, and though changes in Christian thinking show a clear evolution, is it consistently after the same thing?
What I find among Western thinkers in regard to religion, particularly Christianity, is the idea that there ought to be one true religion, and, if Christianity were true, there’d only be one version of it.
But, I think this is simply about poor expectations than about God or Christ or even scripture. I don’t think we have that expectation of any other field of inquiry or concern; not in Science, not in Ethics, not in what it means to live in a civil society, etc.. So, why is there this expectation of Christianity? Why should it be one static idea or invalid or false altogether?
Other than the idea coming from Protestant charlatans “calling themselves the priests of Jesus”, we ought not buy what they’re selling even if it is agreeing so that we can then reject it.
So, yes, in Christianity, there are two things that exist as part of any Christan community’s thinking. First is the idea that Jesus is concerned about human well-being, and second is that Christ atones; though no community is guaranteed to agree about what atonement even is or how it’s achieved. That’s it. There are no other ubiquitous beliefs in Christianity.
To my way of thinking in my association with the label “Christian”, we’re here to figure out humanity, not divinity and that the idea of Jesus (every construction of it) is necessary for the Christian to do that. It doesn’t mean we all need to “believe in Jesus” and it doesn’t do anything but imply that the story has to change as our self-understanding changes.
For the Christian, Jesus is an icon of humanity and divinity and the idea that at least in him, the two are one (perhaps that ours is too but just a poorer reflection or that we’re oblivious to this fact and Jesus is our consciousness-raiser).
For at least this Christan, salvation is still through Christ, but where Christ is that same symbol of ultimate humanity, such that “redemption” is universal rather than credal. Participation in goodness (which the Christian ontologically equates to God) is exactly atonement. “Christ” is “the only way to be in the world”; the only way to experience our fullest sense of humanity, and divinity.
Like it or not, who Jesus is in our minds has always been more relative to us than to him, and it is in him whom we’re supposed to put our faith; in other words, he whom we are to be influenced and pursuaded by.
Just a thought.
“The ancient ideas about salvation … do not in themselves place us under any critique, except in so far as, in their own way, they posit the criterion of Jesus as final source of salvation. Anyone who fails to see this distinction is proposing not Jesus Christ but one particular bit of religious culture as the norm of Christian faith — and ceases to be faith in Jesus of Nazareth … In him we find final salvation, well-being. This is the fundamental creed of primitive Christianity.”
(Edward Schillebeeckx, ‘Jesus: An Experiment In Christology’, pg. 23.)