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Jack of Spades

Decline of Christianity in the West

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7 minutes ago, Burl said:

Bill, please use a good translation and post the passages you are imagining and we can discuss them.  You keep throwing up rough approximations and loose interpretations.  The exact wording is crucial.

Back to your recollection about what someone once told you about the Trinitarian doctrine that does not hold when limited to only first grade arithmetic.  What rationale would people have for establishing such a doctrine circa 300 A.D.?  Surely it was not an effort to increase belief.  

Burl, actually the exact wording is not that crucial, as Jesus wrote nothing. All we have of his teachings is what 2nd or 3rd generations followers after his death wrote down i.e. hearsay. Nevertheless, tell me which translation YOU would like me to use and I'll be more than happy to post those passages. However, you should also know that if you reply with something like, "Well, I (Burl) know what it SAYS, but what it MEANS is XYZ..", our conversation will come to a halt. Though Jesus was a Jew, most Christians have very little idea of what first century Judaism was like and how Jesus' own listeners might have interpreted what he is claimed to have said. But I'd still be happy to share the verses with you.

The rational of the Church in establishing the doctrine of the Trinity was to unite Christians who were, by that time, worshipping Jesus as God. Christianity had a big problem. Judaism, from whence it came, was fiercely monotheistic -- one God and only one God. But people were worshipping Jesus as God (as they do nowadays) and the Church had to find a way to synthesize this into the Christian religion. Hence the doctrine of the Trinity that splits God into 3 separate people with 3 separate wills and 3 separate minds. The Jews never considered God's spirit to be a separate person of the Godhead. Rather, they considered the spirit to be God's active, creative force or influence on earth. And they certainly never considered the messiah to be "God himself." Rather, the messiah was to be God's agent on earth to bring in the kingdom. But the Church split God into 3 different people and pronounced, "To understand the Trinity is to lose one's mind; to reject the Trinity is to lose one's soul." Another fine example of the Church creating and enforcing a doctrine that Jesus himself never taught.

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20 hours ago, BillM said:

Take the doctrine of the Trinity. Even a child can tell you that 1+1+1 does not equal 1, that it equals 3. It is not a matter of intellectualism, it is a matter of truth.

 

This proclamation of victory over traditional Christian world view is rather premature, as the claimed absurdity is not true even mathematically. It would be if there were only linear sets of numbers. Think of a clock for example, how much the time is after you add 12h + 12h + 12h? By this logic the clock would show 36:00. Is it a matter of truth or perhaps sometimes a matter of context too? (For the record, I'm not that much into rationalist apologetics but that particular example wasn't exactly a shining victory for anti-religionism by even it's own rules.)

 

Thinking of religions as mere ancient peoples attempted truth-claims about the natural world (aka Reductionism) is a somewhat propagandistic anti-religion philoshophical tool and it completely misses the point that in some cases, the founders and pioneers of the religions themselves were well aware of the rational dilemmas of their teachings. f.e. Paul calling his own teachings "foolishness" as opposed to the wisdom of Greek philosophers. The ancient people were surprisingly smart and knew surprisingly lot about the world at times. So the "religion is only ancient peoples truth-claims" is indeed reducing religion into something it in fact by any credible measurement of historicity, is not. Yes, it might include such truth-claims, such as creation myths, but that isn't the whole essence of religion, not even in the heads of the people who found them.

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Burl,

 

These are from the NASB, one of the most literal word-for-word translations today: 

 

“But whenever they persecute you in one city, flee to the next; for truly I say to you, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes.” – Matt 10:23

 “Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.” – Matt 16:28

 “Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door. Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. – Matt 24:32-34

 “So you also, when you see these things happening, recognize that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all things take place.” - Luke 21:31,32
The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. – Rom 13:12

And to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come. – 1 Thess 1:10

Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour. – 1 John 2:18

Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near. – Rev 1:3

And he said to me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near.” – Rev 22:10

 

It is clear from these passages (and plenty more) that Jesus predicted his immediate return and the early Church expected him to. All of the language points to Jesus’ coming back at that final hour to end the age and establish the kingdom of God on earth. This was the Jewish expectation. For them, there could be no kingdom without the king. The messiah was God’s agent to sit upon David’s throne in Jerusalem to rule the earth. Any claimed-messiah who got killed or refused to take the throne (as Jesus did) was, for the Jews, simply not the messiah. How could you have a new presidential administration without the president?

 

Faced with the reality that Jesus did NOT return as he promised, the early Church turned the Jewish expectation for God’s literal kingdom ON EARTH (as Jesus prayed) into a “spiritual kingdom” in heaven. This is why the Jews do not accept Jesus as the messiah. He didn’t fulfill the messianic promises for Israel.

 

So he certainly wasn’t infallible and inerrant. He wasn’t the Jewish messiah. He got it wrong. He didn’t return “quickly, soon, in that generation, before his hearers died” or during any of the other adjectives that described that God’s promised kingdom was about to start. And Christians continue to wait for him 2000 years later, proclaiming that it could happen any day now.

 

Please see my next post.

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Nothing in my post above is intended to insult the person of Jesus. We are all human. We all make mistakes. Personally, I have no problem whatsoever with people who want to refer to Jesus as the Christ as in, "anointed by God." I believe he was anointed by God. I believe he made the most of his religion and tried to impact it and the world around him for the better. I believed he rekindled something in Judaism that was lost or about to be lost. But I simply don't believe he was the Jewish messiah. He failed to fulfill the Jewish prophecies of what the messiah would do. If you doubt the validity of the predictions in the Old Testament, read Mary's Magnificat. Jesus didn't dethrone anyone. He didn't help Israel at all, at least on a national level. John the Baptist was so convinced that Jesus was the Promised One that John was sure that Jesus was going to destroy all of God's enemies, burning them up. Didn't happen.

So either the Jews SERIOUSLY mistranslated their own scriptures and SERIOUSLY misunderstood who messiah was to be and what messiah was to do, or Jesus was not the Jewish messiah. Again, this doesn't mean that Jesus of Nazareth was not anointed by God, that he was not a spirit-filled man. Nicodemus called Jesus a teacher and said that no one could do what Jesus did unless God was with him. I agree. But having God WITH you doesn't MAKE you God. And failing to fulfill the cherished predictions of your faith doesn't mean that your followers should "spiritualize" everything you taught.

I'm a humanist who admires Jesus for what he did and tried to do to improve his people's conditions. He met them where they were and encouraged them to live lives of compassion. And while I agree that God was with him and, as Paul says, in him, I don't agree that Jesus was literally "God in a man suit" as the doctrine of the Trinity insists. Neither was he the Jewish messiah. I don't worship him as God and, sorry, but I don't expect him to return to set up God's kingdom on earth. Maybe, perhaps, God's kingdom is little more than a "spiritual reality." Maybe Jesus was telling the truth (as he understood it) when he said, "My kingdom is not of THIS world." But, as John Dominic Crossan says, "Heaven is in great shape -- earth is where the problems are." We need God down here. I'm still waiting.

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Of course it may not be the fault of Jesus that he did not return within a generation. In that he may well have never made that prophecy. It could be that later scribes made that prediction on his behalf.

If so what was the motivation of these later scribes? Or was it simply "Chinese" whispers in action? And yet today we try and paint a metaphorical reality on to approved translations of texts or at least some of them from two millennia ago. 

 

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3 hours ago, Burl said:

The word salvation has an English definition.  Healing is related, but healing is not salvation nor is wholeness or anything except salvation.  People can have individual opinions but not individual definitions.

To be saved is to be healed of sin and ..........made whole. Although it can be said that Jesus saves, he shows the Way (to be saved) and it must be actualized - when one does this they are being healed from the selfishness that damages them. It works, it is valid and it does not violated the belief - actually it explains how it works.

3 hours ago, Burl said:

Bill, please use a good translation and post the passages you are imagining and we can discuss them.  You keep throwing up rough approximations and loose interpretations.  The exact wording is crucial.

Back to your recollection about what someone once told you about the Trinitarian doctrine that does not hold when limited to only first grade arithmetic.  What rationale would people have for establishing such a doctrine circa 300 A.D.?  Surely it was not an effort to increase belief.  

Today understanding string theory, multiple dimensions and double-slit experiments are a standard part of the undergraduate physics curriculum.  50 years ago the church considered Trinitarianism an unknowable mystery.  Today our knowledge of the physical world has improved so much that a third century conception of a first century religious history fits nicely into established scientific theory.

Please explain the nice fit - theTrinity seems be something people profess but very, very few can explain it or fit it nicely into anything.

 

7 hours ago, BillM said:

Back on topic: I think another reason that Christianity is declining in the West is because Westerners are, to some extent verifying truth claims according to whether or not they stand up to real life. While I like many of the teachings of Jesus, allow me to highlight a few examples where what he said just comes up short as truth.

1. He said that he would return within the lifetime of his hearers, in that generation. Didn't happen. He didn't return and setup the kingdom as the Hebrew scriptures said he would. This is why most Jews don't consider him to be the messiah. He didn't fulfill all the messianic prophesies.

2. He said that if you believed in him, you would never die. Wrong. Every one of Jesus' disciples died. And so have all believers since his day.

3. He said his followers would do greater works than he did. I see no evidence for this.

4. He said he would be with his followers always. How is this so? Where is the evidence for this promise, especially considering the evil things his followers (the Church) has done in the last 2000 years.

Again, I like Jesus. But he was far from inerrant and infallible. He probably did experience God as a powerful presence in his life. But this didn't make him perfect. And he made a lot of promises that, sad to say, simply didn't come true. This doesn't mean that he is not, in some sense, worthy of being followed. But I would certainly never worship him as God.

Although it may be correct that Christianity is declining and also that some in the West look to verify the truth of Christian claims, there is a difference between listing claims that are taken literally and easily dismissed and looking more deeply at the meaning of those claims. And the deeper meanings are not mere modern constructs but could go back to the historical Jesus. 

1. If Jesus (and I think he did given the popularity of this belief during his lifetime which he seems to accept) believed in the literal establishment of the Kingdom by God in the lifetime of some of his followers, he was wrong. Not really an issue since he was a man of his time, and, like all of us, capable of mistakes.

2. this is taken too literally and too physically: if one believes (follows his way) they will not 'die' but live fully in God (shown in the belief in his resurrection). Similar language is found in the sacrament of baptism; the death to sin (symbolized by being dunked in the water) and rising (being pulled from the water) into the life of Christ.

3. There are more of us, covering more of the earth and its people and also time has not ended: too soon to judge. Plus I always took this as a message of hope and encouragement that his followers would do this (but Christianity also believes in free choice).

4. Again, never a problem with this one: Jesus is the Way  - it is this Way or the Way of Jesus (or Jesus) who is always 'here' - available to be incarnated by those who follow. 

He was fallible and could err if he was a man like other men (supernatural theism sometimes/ most times overlooked this); his experience of and obedience to God did not make him perfect (error free), it made himTruly Human, i.e. the perfect human being - image and son of God.

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4 hours ago, BillM said:

Burl, actually the exact wording is not that crucial, as Jesus wrote nothing. All we have of his teachings is what 2nd or 3rd generations followers after his death wrote down i.e. hearsay. Nevertheless, tell me which translation YOU would like me to use and I'll be more than happy to post those passages. However, you should also know that if you reply with something like, "Well, I (Burl) know what it SAYS, but what it MEANS is XYZ..", our conversation will come to a halt. Though Jesus was a Jew, most Christians have very little idea of what first century Judaism was like and how Jesus' own listeners might have interpreted what he is claimed to have said. But I'd still be happy to share the verses with you.

The rational of the Church in establishing the doctrine of the Trinity was to unite Christians who were, by that time, worshipping Jesus as God. Christianity had a big problem. Judaism, from whence it came, was fiercely monotheistic -- one God and only one God. But people were worshipping Jesus as God (as they do nowadays) and the Church had to find a way to synthesize this into the Christian religion. Hence the doctrine of the Trinity that splits God into 3 separate people with 3 separate wills and 3 separate minds. The Jews never considered God's spirit to be a separate person of the Godhead. Rather, they considered the spirit to be God's active, creative force or influence on earth. And they certainly never considered the messiah to be "God himself." Rather, the messiah was to be God's agent on earth to bring in the kingdom. But the Church split God into 3 different people and pronounced, "To understand the Trinity is to lose one's mind; to reject the Trinity is to lose one's soul." Another fine example of the Church creating and enforcing a doctrine that Jesus himself never taught.

There are not any people in the Trinity, much less three.  The Greek word used in the doctrine is personas, which refer to a theatrical masks  or an actor's roles.  The Trinity are of the same ousious, or substance which is used in the Aristotelian logical sense of substantia.

This argument of "the church splitting God into three different people" is simply not factual.  I agree that the church typically does not explain it well.  One must really go after the subject understand it or be left with the low info Sunday School version.

The three personas expressed by God all share the same divine will, but each persona appropriates certain primary attributes.  All attributes are shared by all personas, but the aspect of omniscience is primarily attributed to the Father, wisdom to the Son and love to the Holy Spirit.

Edited by Burl

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4 hours ago, BillM said:

Burl, actually the exact wording is not that crucial, as Jesus wrote nothing. All we have of his teachings is what 2nd or 3rd generations followers after his death wrote down i.e. hearsay. Nevertheless, tell me which translation YOU would like me to use and I'll be more than happy to post those passages. However, you should also know that if you reply with something like, "Well, I (Burl) know what it SAYS, but what it MEANS is XYZ..", our conversation will come to a halt. Though Jesus was a Jew, most Christians have very little idea of what first century Judaism was like and how Jesus' own listeners might have interpreted what he is claimed to have said. But I'd still be happy to share the verses with you.

The rational of the Church in establishing the doctrine of the Trinity was to unite Christians who were, by that time, worshipping Jesus as God. Christianity had a big problem. Judaism, from whence it came, was fiercely monotheistic -- one God and only one God. But people were worshipping Jesus as God (as they do nowadays) and the Church had to find a way to synthesize this into the Christian religion. Hence the doctrine of the Trinity that splits God into 3 separate people with 3 separate wills and 3 separate minds. The Jews never considered God's spirit to be a separate person of the Godhead. Rather, they considered the spirit to be God's active, creative force or influence on earth. And they certainly never considered the messiah to be "God himself." Rather, the messiah was to be God's agent on earth to bring in the kingdom. But the Church split God into 3 different people and pronounced, "To understand the Trinity is to lose one's mind; to reject the Trinity is to lose one's soul." Another fine example of the Church creating and enforcing a doctrine that Jesus himself never taught.

Think there is more to it than cited above.

There were various modes or ways of God written about in the OT. God is shown as experienced in different ways, i.e. modes by his people: King, Ruler, Creator; word that creates, word that speaks in a bush and that calls through angels and men; wind, breath, spirit that moves across creation. Jewish Christians knew this and given their belief that they encountered God in the man Jesus in a unique way, they were driven to grapple with this experience in light of their beliefs and broaden their understanding of God. This continued as there was debate (if I remember correctly) about Jesus being God but not the Father in Heaven and then we have the influence of Greek philosophy as a means to further talk about this experience, this belief and try to say something definitive for the 'universal' Church. 

The didn't split God,they tried, given Jesus, to broaden how they thought and spoke about God. Having said this, there is no denial that things got crazy and damage was done down to today.

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34 minutes ago, Burl said:

There are not any people in the Trinity, much less three.  The Greek word used in the doctrine is personas, which refer to a theatrical masks  or an actor's roles.  The Trinity are of the same ousious, or substance which is used in the Aristotelian logical sense of substantia.

This argument of "the church splitting God into three different people" is simply not factual.  I agree that the church typically does not explain it well.  One must really go after the subject understand it or be left with the low info Sunday School version.

The three personas expressed by God all share the same divine will, but each persona appropriates certain primary attributes.  All attributes are shared by all personas, but the aspect of omniscience is primarily attributed to the Father, wisdom to the Son and love to the Holy Spirit.

Nicely done. These are the 3 ways or modes by which God acts in creation and is 'experienced'  by those who believe.

An analogy (don't all attack at once): I am One but I am experienced in the world in different ways by different people with whom I interact: my ways (modes, 'masks') are son, brother, friend, student, husband, father, teacher, coach and on and on. I am one but experienced in different ways by those in my life. So, too, God is one yet acts and is 'experienced' in different ways.

I agree with what Burl has written but that language is not ours anymore so I use the language of eternal modes or ways of God to get a handle on Trinity.

 

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My point really isn't to argue against the Trinity. That doctrine, no matter how we talk about it, narrows God down, not to a wide variety of ways to speak of God, but to the definition of 3 persons, all said to be God. This is, IMO, clearly polytheism, but, for me, it still comes down to flogging a dead horse because it is still supernatural theism, which I don't hold to. 'Nuff said on my part about that. 

My point is that Christianity puts forth doctrines and dogmas that don't make sense and then tells people that they must believe what makes no sense or go to hell. Unitarian Christians have, in the past, been burned at the stake for not holding to the doctrine of the Trinity. If I were a theist, I think Unitarianism would be more in concert with what Jesus , as a Jew, believed about God. But I would never, ever burn a Trinitarian  at the stake for disagreeing with me.

There are plenty of Christian doctrines that don't make sense (Original Sin, Substitutionary Atonement, the Rapture, Hell, the Virgin Birth) that Christianity says MUST be believed in order to become or stay a Christian. So if people are interested in considering Jesus of Nazareth, they must check their brains at the door of the Church in order to have faith. The sad result is that Christians are called "believers", not "thinkers." Don't think, just believe what you are told or what you read. And then the Church wonders why it loses members. 

Edited by BillM

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11 hours ago, BillM said:

My point really isn't to argue against the Trinity. That doctrine, no matter how we talk about it, narrows God down, not to a wide variety of ways to speak of God, but to the definition of 3 persons, all said to be God. This is, IMO, clearly polytheism, but, for me, it still comes down to flogging a dead horse because it is still supernatural theism, which I don't hold to. 'Nuff said on my part about that. 

My point is that Christianity puts forth doctrines and dogmas that don't make sense and then tells people that they must believe what makes no sense or go to hell. Unitarian Christians have, in the past, been burned at the stake for not holding to the doctrine of the Trinity. If I were a theist, I think Unitarianism would be more in concert with what Jesus , as a Jew, believed about God. But I would never, ever burn a Trinitarian  at the stake for disagreeing with me.

There are plenty of Christian doctrines that don't make sense (Original Sin, Substitutionary Atonement, the Rapture, Hell, the Virgin Birth) that Christianity says MUST be believed in order to become or stay a Christian. So if people are interested in considering Jesus of Nazareth, they must check their brains at the door of the Church in order to have faith. The sad result is that Christians are called "believers", not "thinkers." Don't think, just believe what you are told or what you read. And then the Church wonders why it loses members. 

I read Gregory Baum's 'Man Becoming' years ago and it was an amazing take on trinity which, for me, totally broadened the way to think and speak of God. 

The original idea of Trinity was meant to broaden the understanding of God, but once it became 'set doctrine' that was professed without understanding, it became a problem. Theologians, like Baum, opened it up again. I have to disagree (but see why you would say it) that it is polytheism and still supernatural theism. Baum writes about the Word that 'echoes' and calls through creation and, specifically, humanity to us: it calls, challenges, judges us and if heard leads to life. Examples, your mother yelling 'No' at the top of her lungs when you were a kid. Or 'eat your veggies,' 'don't hit your brother,'  'kiss your grandmother' and on and on. The word can also resonate in a book, a song, in conversation. His argument is that any of these occasions, take a book, can cause you to look at yourself in a new light, to reconsider something you had previously dismissed, to have a lightbulb go off (so to speak). You are judged, you are challenged, you 'hear' something - and you move forward, you become more. Or you ignore the possibility. The Word of God in the Bible presents a moment of chaos (think of Jesus and 'let he who is without sin cast the first stone."): listen and move one way, perhaps to reconsider, perhaps you become different from that point on - or ignore the Word, and lose yourself. Baum's argument is incarnational: the Word does not call from the sky, it is not divorced from humanity; the Word is ever-present, it is in, with and through creation/humanity calling us to be more, to Life. 

But imagine a conversation in which you are challenged to change, you can hear but to do something about it - takes courage. When you were corrected by your mother, when you were judged, told you were wrong when you did something as a kid, it was also your mother (representative of those people in your life) who hugged you and was 'with you' as you grew and faced life's challenges. The courage to respond to the Word, the courage to Be, to move forward, to own your life also is incarnational. Love empowers you, gives you the courage to respond - this is the Spirit (think about the 'stories' of the descend of the Spirit on the disciples and what they were able to do) ever- present 'in' creation. 

With Baum (and others) the modes or persons (old fashion term I really don't use much because it leads to confusion) of God are shown to be the furthest thing from theism: there is no god in the sky, God is in creation, the transcendent (simply More) in and through creation: creates, calls/challenges and encourages us to Live.

I was so impressed by Baum when I first read him, I got the school to buy hundreds of his book as the text for seniors in a Catholic High School. High school kids reading what could have been used in an undergrad or even a grad level course. Some struggled to get their heads around it but others sat there, nodding their heads, saying, 'Of course, that makes sense." I would probably be excommunicated if I tried to do this today. 

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I must ask you, Bill, why are you so insistent on propounding on what you do NOT believe instead of what you DO believe?

What is to be gained by insulting my beliefs with your low information understanding of Christianity?

If you are sincerely interested in my beliefs I am happy to educate you, but insulting my beliefs insults me personally.

I imagine there are a thousand and one things you do NOT believe.  Please change to what you DO believe.  That is what is interesting.

Edited by Burl

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Burl, if you want to know what I DO believe, read my post on "Turning 58" under the "Personal Stories and Journeys" section. But I would respectfully suggest that you are NOT your beliefs. We are human beings, not human beliefs. Our beliefs can and do change if we grow. But we remain. What defines us is not what we believe, but what we are, what we do. To each his or her own, but I no longer hold tightly to my beliefs. I give myself the freedom to change them as I come into new information and experiences. I know nothing for sure. I can give reasons for what I believe and why, but I don't claim absolute knowledge on anything. Why? Because I, too, am a human being, not a collection of beliefs. I'm sorry if you see questioning orthodox Christian beliefs as a personal attack upon you. That is not my intent. But this thread was asking why Christianity is declining in the West and I do think it is because 3rd or 4th century understandings of the faith are becoming less and less relevant to modern people.

Edited by BillM
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13 hours ago, BillM said:

My point really isn't to argue against the Trinity. That doctrine, no matter how we talk about it, narrows God down, not to a wide variety of ways to speak of God, but to the definition of 3 persons, all said to be God. This is, IMO, clearly polytheism, but, for me, it still comes down to flogging a dead horse because it is still supernatural theism, which I don't hold to. 'Nuff said on my part about that. 

My point is that Christianity puts forth doctrines and dogmas that don't make sense and then tells people that they must believe what makes no sense or go to hell. Unitarian Christians have, in the past, been burned at the stake for not holding to the doctrine of the Trinity. If I were a theist, I think Unitarianism would be more in concert with what Jesus , as a Jew, believed about God. But I would never, ever burn a Trinitarian  at the stake for disagreeing with me.

There are plenty of Christian doctrines that don't make sense (Original Sin, Substitutionary Atonement, the Rapture, Hell, the Virgin Birth) that Christianity says MUST be believed in order to become or stay a Christian. So if people are interested in considering Jesus of Nazareth, they must check their brains at the door of the Church in order to have faith. The sad result is that Christians are called "believers", not "thinkers." Don't think, just believe what you are told or what you read. And then the Church wonders why it loses members. 

Bill,

I look upon the doctrines and dogmas that don't make sense a bit differently. I know about the battles and the political influence that affected some church councils but, on the whole, these were men, who 'believed' and tried to protect the faith and, at the same time, clarify Christian belief. Like all men, some were saints, some in it for themselves, some scared beyond their wits and on an on. Did some, then and later go too far? To me the answer is obvious on individual, group and country levels.Were mistakes made, were grave sins committed? Is the Pope Catholic? And, I believe it goes on today in various degrees.

Some doctrines don't make much sense, but others, especially if updated hold true.

Original sin: I do not accept a long lost paradise but the idea that we are born into a world of sin that can influence us, seems obvious. And it seems obvious that man chose self over love/God. Thus the need for salvation. In Christianity, man can't save himself and referring back to Baum and the way God is always incarnate in creation, it is this "other,' this 'more,' incarnate in others, that calls man to a new awareness and gives him the courage to be.

I do not agree with substitutionary atonement but I get the ancient notion - although it wasn't the only rationale given for the 'why' of the death of Jesus.

Rapture - I don't even know where that came from. Revelations?? Too many read it literally as a prophecy of what will come: don't think we Catholics believed in the Rapture?? 

Hell: I don't buy that it is eternal but that it is 'real;" if man need love, needs to be loving in order to be truly Human and if one decides agains love, there is no other way to be Human, there is nothing (hell).  The Good News is that, as shown in the Prodigal Son, God waits for all time (even beyond death), calling, encouraging until each of his prodigal sons and daughters turns back. So, hell real but not eternal.

Virgin birth: it has been accepted as literal, haven't thought on it much but would have to go back to see if scholars agree that it was intended to be 'history.'

I do not dispute what some of us had to believe to become or stay Christians but I don't fully agree that all don't make sense - especially if explained 'better.' But this is the crux of the matter: Christianity must be re-told to speak to and be good news to every new generation.

Rather than check your brains, there are other options but some probably mean saying No and going from there. Christians will always be believers - but some are believers with brains.

I do agree that this retelling is not happening in the mainline churches and so members continue to check out. Just wanted to try to show that what the Churches profess is not all there is to Christianity.

 

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Thormas, I'm not a trained theologian, so I certainly can't address what Christianity, as a whole, believes about certain things. All I can do is to share my own experiences, training, and indoctrination in the kinds of Christianity that I was in for the last 40 years (mainly Baptist, Southern Baptist, Calvinist, Pentecostal, Assembly of God, and now United Methodist). So while my experiences may be narrow and, according to Burl, a "low information understanding of Christianity", I am not pulling things out of my...well, you know. I'm sharing the doctrines that I was indoctrinated with and how they were interpreted to me in my Christian background. I don't use Koine Greek to define these terms. I just put the meaning where the rubber meets the road, the common understanding that comes, not from sitting in the ivory towers of formal Christian adult education and training, but from sitting in the pews for a really long time.

To me, Original Sin meant: "You are born into this world a sinner, separated from God, an evil creation. Without salvation, you will, by default, die and go to hell."

Substitutionary Atonement: "Jesus took the wrath of God on your behalf. He was your substitute. You are responsible for the death of Jesus in order to buy your salvation. But it doesn't apply unless you believe it applies. If you don't, then, of course, you go to hell."

Rapture: (Comes from 1 Thessalonians) "Jesus will appear at any time to "catch away" the Christians before all hell breaks loose on earth." 

Hell: "A literal, real place (probably inside the Earth) where non-Christians go." In my background, even Catholics were said to go there. I detest this doctrine with everything in me and I don't give a damn if Jesus did teach it.

Virgin birth: Jesus never taught it. Never mentioned it. Even the apostle Paul doesn't mention it. He only says that Jesus was "born of a woman." If it is true, neither Jesus nor Paul found it important enough to mention. But Christianity finds it necessary and crucial to the salvation formula.

Your Quote: "Christianity must be re-told to speak to and be good news to every new generation." Yes, I agree. But some interpret this as that the old doctrines must be upheld at all costs. I believe that PC is an effort to retell Christianity to our generation. What PCs know gets communicated fairly well in seminaries. But I don't think it is making it down to the pews.    

 

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One reason for the decline of Christianity is the sin of egoism.  People simply believe what they want to and ignore posted warning signs.  

 

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In my early adulthood I got involved with a Charismatic Christian revival movement, and got a fine taste of what it looks like when a Christian movement is capable of beating the odds, expanding fast, getting new converts and activating the layman. It was a hands-on, all-in, very practical version of Christianity, and the feeling was that of involvement. They didn't re-invent the religion, just practiced it with a lot more intensity than usually is the case. It was Charismatic Christianity 101, like tongues, falling, laughing, lots of prayer etc. and of course attracted a lot of controversy. I still smile when I think about it, even though it was 15 years ago for me, it's my personal "Those were the days" - thing. 

 

In my opinion, that revival movement was a lot more at odds with the mainstream culture than any run-of-the-mill church was, but it was the one thriving. I am personally skeptical about being in step with the modern world being the magic trick for success. When you try to tune a complex machine, you might end up breaking it beyond repair. Sometimes diving deeper, and perfecting the original machines capabilities is the most workable option there is available. Or alternatively, burn it all down and start from the scratch, if too big of a redo is needed for it to be impractical to use the old model.

 

I haven't yet personally figured out which one of those I would prefer. Part of me wants to go all-in with somewhat classic version of Christian religion, and the other part wants to forget about it and start over. I am still undecided, I gotta figure some personal beliefs out first, before I can figure out the tradition I want to practice, I guess...

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2 hours ago, BillM said:

Thormas, I'm not a trained theologian, so I certainly can't address what Christianity, as a whole, believes about certain things. All I can do is to share my own experiences, training, and indoctrination in the kinds of Christianity that I was in for the last 40 years (mainly Baptist, Southern Baptist, Calvinist, Pentecostal, Assembly of God, and now United Methodist). So while my experiences may be narrow and, according to Burl, a "low information understanding of Christianity", I am not pulling things out of my...well, you know. I'm sharing the doctrines that I was indoctrinated with and how they were interpreted to me in my Christian background. I don't use Koine Greek to define these terms. I just put the meaning where the rubber meets the road, the common understanding that comes, not from sitting in the ivory towers of formal Christian adult education and training, but from sitting in the pews for a really long time.

To me, Original Sin meant: "You are born into this world a sinner, separated from God, an evil creation. Without salvation, you will, by default, die and go to hell."

Substitutionary Atonement: "Jesus took the wrath of God on your behalf. He was your substitute. You are responsible for the death of Jesus in order to buy your salvation. But it doesn't apply unless you believe it applies. If you don't, then, of course, you go to hell."

Rapture: (Comes from 1 Thessalonians) "Jesus will appear at any time to "catch away" the Christians before all hell breaks loose on earth." 

Hell: "A literal, real place (probably inside the Earth) where non-Christians go." In my background, even Catholics were said to go there. I detest this doctrine with everything in me and I don't give a damn if Jesus did teach it.

Virgin birth: Jesus never taught it. Never mentioned it. Even the apostle Paul doesn't mention it. He only says that Jesus was "born of a woman." If it is true, neither Jesus nor Paul found it important enough to mention. But Christianity finds it necessary and crucial to the salvation formula.

Your Quote: "Christianity must be re-told to speak to and be good news to every new generation." Yes, I agree. But some interpret this as that the old doctrines must be upheld at all costs. I believe that PC is an effort to retell Christianity to our generation. What PCs know gets communicated fairly well in seminaries. But I don't think it is making it down to the pews.    

 

I totally get the understandings listed above - and we were fed some of this too. For example, I loved being a little kid, confessing to the Monsignor that I had disobeyed my parents (not sure it was any real disobedience at that age) and he asked, 'don't you love your mommy and daddy?" He was, at least at that time, a bit of an ######. I also had the 'pleasure' of being a teacher and one of my childhood priests ( different one) was a teacher I had to evaluate as I was the Chairperson. I tried to gently explain his kids were bored, not paying attention and seemed to not care. A 'fun' discussion. Then there was yet another Monsignor who we went to in preparation for marriage and, my wife, being raise Protestant, was ignored. Well, I am Irish and I have a temper but I restrained myself, debated his theology and took my bride to be by the hand and walked out. So, I have been there with not only the beliefs but the actions/attitudes of some.

I get what you said about the re-telling and I agree that it does not get down to those in the pews. I was educated in a Catholic seminary (not in preparations to be a priest - I didn't like to wear black and I liked girls, so that wasn't going to work as a career :+}) by some amazingly brilliant and open guys (mostly priests) but I saw fellow students and later some of these priests in schools and parishes back to business as usual. And the beat goes on..........

Edited by thormas

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9 minutes ago, Jack of Spades said:

In my opinion, that revival movement was a lot more at odds with the mainstream culture than any run-of-the-mill church was, but it was the one thriving. I am personally skeptical about being in step with the modern world being the magic trick for success. When you try to tune a complex machine, you might end up breaking it beyond repair. Sometimes diving deeper, and perfecting the original machines capabilities is the most workable option there is available. Or alternatively, burn it all down and start from the scratch, if too big of a redo is needed for it to be impractical to use the old model.

I haven't yet personally figured out which one of those I would prefer. Part of me wants to go all-in with somewhat classic version of Christian religion, and the other part wants to forget about it and start over. I am still undecided, I gotta figure some personal beliefs out first, before I can figure out the tradition I want to practice, I guess...

Just to be clear, I don't mean thoughtlessly forgoing beliefs because of the mainstream culture but I do think it is imperative to be cognizant of and use that culture, its worldview and its philosophies as vehicles to explain Christianity - if not, most can't and don't hear it. This is what the early church did as it moved into the wider world, it is (and has been) time for an 'update.' I have tried to give examples of this with the Trinity, original sin and even how Jesus can be god and man.

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52 minutes ago, Burl said:

One reason for the decline of Christianity is the sin of egoism.  People simply believe what they want to and ignore posted warning signs.  

 

Sometimes, as in the video, people just don't pay attention. However, there are times, like driving a car in England, when one must 'adapt to the new' circumstances; and, other times, like reading the signs while driving a car in Germany, when 'one needs a translator' to proceed and reach the destination.

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14 minutes ago, thormas said:

Just to be clear, I don't mean thoughtlessly forgoing beliefs because of the mainstream culture but I do think it is imperative to be cognizant of and use that culture, its worldview and its philosophies as vehicles to explain Christianity - if not, most can't and don't hear it. This is what the early church did as it moved into the wider world

 

What you say is true, but if this explanation moves too far from the common sense meanings of the stuff in the Bible, there comes a situation where the theologians and the grassroot people who read the Bible by themselves, get disconnected from each others. The result will be a "theological peasant revolution" - and my sympathies will largely be with the "peasants". They would rightfully feel that the theologians are twisting the Bible, not explaining it.

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1 minute ago, Jack of Spades said:

What you say is true, but if this explanation moves too far from the common sense meanings of the stuff in the Bible, there comes a situation where the theologians and the grassroot people who read the Bible by themselves, get disconnected from each others. The result will be a "theological peasant revolution" - and my sympathies will largely be with the "peasants". They would rightfully feel that the theologians are twisting the Bible, not explaining it.

I don't disagree but the effort must be (and is being) made. Also, 'common sense meanings' might be totally off base and need adjustments. Not sure about the peasant revolution but theologians I have read (Baum, Hick, Macquarrie and others) are believers and take incredible pains to explain and provide insight. In a revolution, I'd probably leave the area but if I stayed, I'd lean toward the theologians because some of the peasants are just plain off the wall (I emphasize some).

 

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1 hour ago, Burl said:

One reason for the decline of Christianity is the sin of egoism.  People simply believe what they want to and ignore posted warning signs.  

 

Oh perhaps it was just faith?

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1 minute ago, thormas said:

I don't disagree but the effort must be (and is being) made. Also, 'common sense meanings' might be totally off base and need adjustments. Not sure about the peasant revolution but theologians I have read (Baum, Hick, Macquarrie and others) are believers and take incredible pains to explain and provide insight. In a revolution, I'd probably leave the area but if I stayed, I'd lean toward the theologians because some of the peasants are just plain off the wall (I emphasize some).

 

As an ex-Charismatic Christian, I admit having a bias against theologians. My formative years were spent in an environment where the accepted view on theologians was that of the bad shepherds who wanted to extinguish the fires of revival, the nitpickers who wanted to force everyone to use meaningless, theologically correct phrases instead of speaking from the heart about the life-changing works of the Holy Spirit in their lives, the lazy club of elitists who had little interest in actually spreading the Word, and the vain worldly intellectuals, protecting jealously their worldly academic reputation from anything that would be inappropriate for their prestige in their universities, instead of daringly embracing the cross of Jesus and being mocked for it.

 

Nowadays I of course realize that such view on theologians is hopelessly simplistic, and was as much a product of the revival movements arrogant self-perception as the true original form of Christianity, as it was a product of actual reality of how theologians are like in real life. Theologians are as diverse group of people as any. But yet, even so, I can't help feeling a little bit like such propagandistic stereotypes might occasionally have a dose of truth to them.

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