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Jack of Spades

Decline of Christianity in the West

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A spin-off from the Theism-thread. Let's make this a thread of it's own for more input on the topic:

 

9 hours ago, thormas said:

Theism had value of course, but traditional theism, in its consideration of God, emphasized one 'side' or certain 'attributes' over others. John Macquarie coined the term 'Dialectical Theism" (he likes the term better than panentheism) and he does a fine job of always considering both sides in a consideration of God. Traditional theism overemphasized  transcendence over immanence, supernatural over natural, Jesus' divinity at the expense of his humanity etc. and that is proving a bit fatal for Christianity: numbers down, people defining themselves as spiritual not religious, cafeteria Catholics in the US, and of course progressive Christianity, Spong and others trying to suggest a change that reaches people in today's world (radically different from the world that gave birth to traditional theism). 

 

I would be more welcoming for the idea of re-inventing Christianity, if I saw it work in practice the way it's supposed to work. The reality in practice for kicking God out of the church doesn't seem to live up to the promise. The State Church in my country has pretty much done this, embraced the liberal, moralism-focused, humanistic, downtuned-in-supernatural - version of Christianity, and has done a lot to distance itself from more "judgy" branches of Christianity and yet that has done nothing to help the decline in numbers, the decline has continued steady.

 

Also, a necessary note, we are here talking about a phenomenon that is massive in scale, one that is a (maybe even "the") defining phenomenon of our time in the West, so trying to summarize it to be a result of any one factor risks being a grotesque oversimplification. Historically speaking, social and cultural changes of this scale are always very complex in detail, and tend to have many overlapping dimensions going on simultaneously within them. Personally, I have been interested in the phenomenon and studied it a bit and it seems to me that the standard reaction from Christians, when it's brought up, is the blame game. "It's the other team who's ruining this thing". I think such hijacking of the phenomenon for a propaganda weapon against some other versions of Christianity is not a particularly good approach. The statistical reality seems to be that to much of my dislike - may I add - it actually seems to be the more fundamentalist - leaning branches of Christianity that have survived the process better than the more liberal ones.

 

Historically, The United States decline of Christianity, that seemingly begun in 90's, is a curious phenomenon. In Europe, the churches used to be part of the old order, they were the trusted allies of the monarchies who ruled the continent for centuries, and when Europeans finally kicked the kings down from their thrones, their allies, the churches (perhaps deservedly) got their status damaged in the process too and apparently have never really recovered from the blow. On the other hand, Christianity in the United States never had this problem, due to it's historical lack of state religion, and for a long time it seemed to make an exception in the western world. But, that too is now changing, for reasons which remain a bit of a mystery to me. I have some theories, but they're little more than guesses.

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I do not see God and Christianity as anymore than 1 possible path to the expierencing of the Divine. I think Christianity will continue to decline as an exclusive religion and its survival ( in whatever form it takes) depends on a more pluralistic approach to an authentic religious experience.To me, Christianity itself is an invention of man and is only  a pointer to a connection to the spiritual realm and our very source of Life.

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FWIW, I very much agree with Joseph's comment above. I listen to a number of podcasts, from Christian to agnostic to atheist. All three philosophies say that the fundamentalist approach to Christianity is growing due to 1) the emphasis that "God is real", i.e. supernatural theism, and 2) the coherent (from the inside) package of ready-made answers. This is an appealing approach to religion for those who, no insult intended, don't want to do the hard work of figuring out one's own theology.

When I do go to church nowadays (not very often), it is to my wife's United Methodist church. The UMC is being torn apart right now over the issue of marrying and ordaining gays. As might be expected, there is a liberal element that says that the denomination needs to embrace new knowledge and social progress. But, as might be expected, there is also a very conservative element that wants to preserve the exclusivism of traditional Methodism and seeks, at all costs, to ensure the survival of the denomination, the religious tradition as-is. Evolution teaches us that survival is never based upon rigid non-change. Things survive only as they adapt to their surroundings. As Joseph has said, Christianity is an invention of man, of the early church, not even of Jesus himself. Current Barna research says that while 80% of American believe in God, only 8% of those believers hold to the most popular historical doctrines of Christianity i.e. the Creeds. And 30% of all Christianity clergy don't believe in Jesus' physical, bodily resurrection. And, yes, the numbers in the mainline churches are falling rapidly.

Though Spong feels that Christianity must change or die, I'm not, myself, concerned about preserving the religion. I suspect that people will always seek experiencing the Divine. I know they will always seek and build community. We are hard-wired that way. While I respect Progressive Christianity for trying to "throw out the bath water while keeping the baby", I'm not convinced that it will ultimately be successful. I suspect it will work for many who desire to still wear the label "Christian". I applaud that. If you are a Christian, live it out with as much authenticity as you can. But, yes, the decline of Christianity in the West is leading to many "Nones" or "Spiritual-but-not-Religious" and there is not yet, that I know of, any formal efforts to help these people explore post-Christianity or post-theism or to build new communities. 

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6 hours ago, JosephM said:

I do not see God and Christianity as anymore than 1 possible path to the expierencing of the Divine. I think Christianity will continue to decline as an exclusive religion and its survival ( in whatever form it takes) depends on a more pluralistic approach to an authentic religious experience.To me, Christianity itself is an invention of man and is only  a pointer to a connection to the spiritual realm and our very source of Life.

I agree that Christianity is one path of the Way. It has been the dominant western approach, with many born into it, many returning to it when they have kids (which is scary), many still interested enough to remain.  I agree that it could very well continue to decline but the original true insight still (and can in the future) speaks to many; it colors how they see the world. So I think it needs to be, not re-invented so much, as re-told so it 'makes sense' in a modern world (and then when the world changes in the future, it will need to be re-told again and again).

I understand the notion of "invention of man" but, this misses something (for me): it was born (as are all religions I suppose) out of man's need to understand and his natural inclination to reach beyond himself to more. It wasn't perfect (how could that ever be expected) but something of it resonates still for many, It is a pointer but it (like all religions) is more; it does not only point the (a) way, it is (a) the way. Much like it can be said Jesus does not merely point, he is or lives that which points (the pointing is the way).  And I think there is (for those interested and not all are which is fine) a responsibility and we have the capability to 'clarify' this particular way so it can at least be tried by those interested.

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I agree with you, also, Thormas. To me, if Christianity survives, it must be incarnational. The teachings and ways of Jesus must be "born again" into each generation, even into each person. It is not enough, IMO, for people to hold to old doctrines, dogmas, and creeds. When the way Christianity is told no longer makes sense to us, we find it irrelevant, non-cohesive, unhelpful, even inhumane.

The story of Christianity that I was told was this: "You, Bill, came into the world separated from God by your sin. Because of your sin, you will die and go to hell UNLESS you believe in Jesus. If you believe in Jesus' death on the cross for your sins and his resurrection (Paul's gospel, not Jesus' gospel), you will be forgiven and go to heaven when you die." 

In this scenario, God becomes a human sacrifice to himself because God can't forgive us or be in a relationship with us because of our sin. But the sacrifice only takes effect if *we* believe it does. Otherwise, we go to hell.

This was the "true insight" of Christianity that I was taught and came to reject. It makes no sense to me and, though calling itself grace, keeps us relegated to wretches and sinners. If this is the best that Christianity can do, if this is the "faith once handed down to us from the saints", I don't need it. And I doubt that it will resonate with the modern world much longer.

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17 hours ago, BillM said:

I agree with you, also, Thormas. To me, if Christianity survives, it must be incarnational. The teachings and ways of Jesus must be "born again" into each generation, even into each person. It is not enough, IMO, for people to hold to old doctrines, dogmas, and creeds. When the way Christianity is told no longer makes sense to us, we find it irrelevant, non-cohesive, unhelpful, even inhumane.

The story of Christianity that I was told was this: "You, Bill, came into the world separated from God by your sin. Because of your sin, you will die and go to hell UNLESS you believe in Jesus. If you believe in Jesus' death on the cross for your sins and his resurrection (Paul's gospel, not Jesus' gospel), you will be forgiven and go to heaven when you die." 

In this scenario, God becomes a human sacrifice to himself because God can't forgive us or be in a relationship with us because of our sin. But the sacrifice only takes effect if *we* believe it does. Otherwise, we go to hell.

This was the "true insight" of Christianity that I was taught and came to reject. It makes no sense to me and, though calling itself grace, keeps us relegated to wretches and sinners. If this is the best that Christianity can do, if this is the "faith once handed down to us from the saints", I don't need it. And I doubt that it will resonate with the modern world much longer.

There used to be a book series called "Reader's Digest Condensed Books".  Each one contained a highy abridged version of a half-dozen or so novels.  All completely destroyed the wisdom and artistry in the originals by reducing everything to a simple plot.

Do your own research.  Read the bible and pray for understanding.  Stop relying on other peoples lame synopsis for the basis of your faith.

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1 hour ago, Burl said:

There used to be a book series called "Reader's Digest Condensed Books".  Each one contained a highy abridged version of a half-dozen or so novels.  All completely destroyed the wisdom and artistry in the originals by reducing everything to a simple plot.

Do your own research.  Read the bible and pray for understanding.  Stop relying on other peoples lame synopsis for the basis of your faith.

Most of the writings of the serious and dedicated biblical scholars and theologians are anything but abridged versions - of anything. And the best of them bring out and enable many others to truly appreciate the wisdom and artistry of the Bible and Christianity. As for prayer, many find prayer is listening - and listening to wise, passionate and dedicated scholars (among others) seems to be a high form of prayer.

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Why would Christianity decline in the West?

Well if the literal beliefs that Jesus was the "Son of God" and at the end "He resurrected to sit at God's right hand" are no longer compulsory to be a Christian, then why bother taking them as a metaphor? People can go out and live their lives without developing a new interpretion  (or another interpretation) of texts that stretch back two millennia or more. We have had new insights about the way the universe ticks in the last two thousand years, the majority of the people in the West have much improved educations and can reason for themselves. Of course some might reason they have a pretty good interpretation of the Christian texts. Perhaps they do. But then so what? It does not mean the ancient scribes were right. 

  • Otherwise, avoid rules and follow the truth you discover yourself.
  • Act from awareness, not habit or convention.
  • Don’t blindly repeat rituals.
  • Don’t trust those with spiritual pretensions.
  • Question those who presume to speak for God

Apparently Jesus's words.

 

 

Edited by romansh

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4 hours ago, thormas said:

 

Most of the writings of the serious and dedicated biblical scholars and theologians are anything but abridged versions - of anything. And the best of them bring out and enable many others to truly appreciate the wisdom and artistry of the Bible and Christianity. As for prayer, many find prayer is listening - and listening to wise, passionate and dedicated scholars (among others) seems to be a high form of prayer.

The folks BillM was talking about are not serious and dedicated bible scholars.  Christianity today is chock-a-block full of mediocre preachers, priests and penetants who are neither serious or scholarly but they fill a need.

Nothing is wrong with traditional Christianity.  Reader's Digest Condensed Books were very successful and many people enjoyed them.  

Only a very small percentage of humanity acknowledges a deep and pervasive drive for conscious contact with God.  We PC types are typically unsatisfied with stereotypical western Christianity, but that does not mean that worship of Jesus Christ cannot provide that conscious contact nor does it discount the fact that the Reader's Digest version of Christianity works just fine for the vast majority of people in the world.

Reason can be a steep barrier to salvation.  Really now, what good is a religion that only satisfies the intellectually elite?  

 

Edited by Burl

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28 minutes ago, Burl said:

The folks BillM was talking about are not serious and dedicated bible scholars.  Christianity today is chock-a-block full of mediocre preachers, priests and penetants who are neither serious or scholarly but they fill a need.

Nothing is wrong with traditional Christianity.  Reader's Digest Condensed Books were very successful and many people enjoyed them.  

Only a very small percentage of humanity acknowledges a deep and pervasive drive for conscious contact with God.  We PC types are typically unsatisfied with stereotypical western Christianity, but that does not mean that worship of Jesus Christ cannot provide that conscious contact nor does it discount the fact that the Reader's Digest version of Christianity works just fine for the vast majority of people in the world.

Reason can be a steep barrier to salvation.  Really now, what good is a religion that only satisfies the intellectually elite?  

 

I would tend to agree with your first sentence. However, I disagree with the second sentence as is evidenced from the decline in the western world and the rise in other parts of the world sometimes spread or preached by the people in your first sentence.

I witnessed what was wrong as both a participant and a teacher of Christianity: it wasn't understood by people (although they longed for something) and many of the guys in the first sentence didn't get it and couldn't help; they couldn't translate it to a language that spoke to people, people sometimes desperate to understand. If something doesn't speak to people, doesn't make sense in their lives and how they understand the world, it is slowly placed to the side and contact is lost along with interest.

Even the idea of "worship of Jesus Christ" goes to the problem: did Jesus do what he did to be worshipped or so others could 'be him' and Live? Traditional Christianity goes for the former, life is found in the latter. 

 

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3 hours ago, romansh said:

Why would Christianity decline in the West?

Well if the literal beliefs that Jesus was the "Son of God" and at the end "He resurrected to sit at God's right hand" are no longer compulsory to be a Christian, then why bother taking them as a metaphor? People can go out and live their lives without developing a new interpretion  (or another interpretation) of texts that stretch back two millennia or more. We have had new insights about the way the universe ticks in the last two thousand years, the majority of the people in the West have much improved educations and can reason for themselves. Of course some might reason they have a pretty good interpretation of the Christian texts. Perhaps they do. But then so what? It does not mean the ancient scribes were right. 

  • Otherwise, avoid rules and follow the truth you discover yourself.
  • Act from awareness, not habit or convention.
  • Don’t blindly repeat rituals.
  • Don’t trust those with spiritual pretensions.
  • Question those who presume to speak for God

Some think the beliefs should never have been taken literally and if that is part of the problem, a different interpretation might be worthwhile. People can indeed go out and live without a new or another interpretation but some feel there is value in the Christian story and a different take is worth a go.  So, why not for those interested?

In spite of new insights and better education some still desire faith and those involved in new interpretations already live by your 5 concluding points. Spong is a case in point.

 

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1 hour ago, Burl said:

Reason can be a steep barrier to salvation.  Really now, what good is a religion that only satisfies the intellectually elite?  

 


The history of the state church in my country follows a pattern; the theologians get busy with academic theories and completely distance the folk people from their religion, then there is a folk revival that rejects their intellectualism. The theologians bitterly oppose the folk revival, and the folk revival crew stops listening to them altogether thinking they're just worldly philosophers and chooses their own leaders. The theologians strike back in trying to restore the hierarchy (in the old times, sometimes with legal persecution, in modern times it's more of a concentrated propaganda effort and shutting out from the church). There is at least 3 times I can recall when it plays out the exact same way, Pietism of 1800's, Evangelicalism-influenced revival of early 1900's and the Charismatic movement around the late 1900's.

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33 minutes ago, thormas said:

Jack,

What country?

 

Finland. Finland still technically has a Lutheran state church. The culture is very non-religious and secular nowadays, though, just like everywhere in Northern Europe.

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2 hours ago, Burl said:

Reason can be a steep barrier to salvation.  Really now, what good is a religion that only satisfies the intellectually elite?  

Just to be clear, Burl, I see salvation as personal and social wholeness, not as having one's eternal address changed. :)

Galileo Galilei once said, "I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use."

Anthropologically, religions developed to help people make sense of their world, of their lives, especially in the face of powers beyond their comprehension. If religions don't make sense, as they are doing less and less in the West, then those religions become "non-sense." Who wants to believe in nonsense to help them make sense of the world? Not me.

But I'm not talking about religion that satisfies only the intellectually elite. That would most certainly leave me out. What I'm talking about is religion that is not rife with cognitive dissonance, with nonsense, with superstition, with immorality, with statement that claim to be truth that in no way line up with our best understandings of ourselves and our world.

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.

So when religions claim that they have no need or desire or goal to make sense, that they are not open to sensible or reasonable or intellectual exploration and scrutiny, is it any wonder that people have little interest in them (except for those who do not value sense, reason, and intellect)?

Edited by BillM
Bolding

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16 hours ago, thormas said:

Some think the beliefs should never have been taken literally and if that is part of the problem, a different interpretation might be worthwhile. People can indeed go out and live without a new or another interpretation but some feel there is value in the Christian story and a different take is worth a go.  So, why not for those interested?

In spite of new insights and better education some still desire faith and those involved in new interpretations already live by your 5 concluding points. Spong is a case in point.

That was the point ... even today people like Spong are taken as atheists as they do not have a literal belief. Did Spong and others start off with a literal belief? 

Is this metaphorical interpretation a post hoc belief? Was it for you? Personally I never had a literal Christian belief. 

Yes we all are to some degree indoctrinated in our beliefs ... I cannot choose to be a Buddhist at least not in this moment. 

But because of the new insights and better education fewer people have this desire for faith. It is difficult to be indoctrinated into faith when those around you are faithless. At university very few of my associates were religious and if they were it did not show. At work (in a science and engineering type world) there were fewer religious people so it was more difficult to pick up this religion meme. 

And finally they are not my points ... Those points were a distillation of what some religious scholars/investigators believe we can reliably ascribe to Jesus. There are a large handful.

You can find the complete list here.

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14 hours ago, BillM said:

Just to be clear, Burl, I see salvation as personal and social wholeness, not as having one's eternal address changed. :)

Galileo Galilei once said, "I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use."

Anthropologically, religions developed to help people make sense of their world, of their lives, especially in the face of powers beyond their comprehension. If religions don't make sense, as they are doing less and less in the West, then those religions become "non-sense." Who wants to believe in nonsense to help them make sense of the world? Not me.

But I'm not talking about religion that satisfies only the intellectually elite. That would most certainly leave me out. What I'm talking about is religion that is not rife with cognitive dissonance, with nonsense, with superstition, with immorality, with statement that claim to be truth that in no way line up with our best understandings of ourselves and our world.

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.

So when religions claim that they have no need or desire or goal to make sense, that they are not open to sensible or reasonable or intellectual exploration and scrutiny, is it any wonder that people have little interest in them (except for those who do not value sense, reason, and intellect)?

Salvation is not personal and moral wholeness. Those are simply part of being a good person.  The definition of salvation is deliverance from the power and penalty of sin.  

The doctrine of the Trinity is not 1+1+1=1.  Next I guess I will hear light cannot possibly behave as a wave and as a particle.  

The doctrine of the Trinity is: 

God is the Father

God is the Son

God is the Holy Spirit

The Father is not the Son

The Son is not the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit is not the Father

Most religions make sense and are open to sensible and intellectual exploration and scrutiny.  Christianity is especially open; Protestantism in particular is heavily based on reason.  

However, religions use reason to inductively point towards a closer approximation of the unproveable.  What kind of person ever says about anything, "I cannot reason it therefore it cannot be so"?

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1 hour ago, romansh said:

That was the point ... even today people like Spong are taken as atheists as they do not have a literal belief. Did Spong and others start off with a literal belief? 

Is this metaphorical interpretation a post hoc belief? Was it for you? Personally I never had a literal Christian belief. 

Yes we all are to some degree indoctrinated in our beliefs ...

Spong did start off this way, yet anyone who listens to Spong knows he is far from an atheist - but, agreed, that is all some hear.

Growing up, I never gave it much thought, it was my upbringing. However, the Catholics seemed less bound to the 'book' that the Protestants - we were all about the sacraments. Later, the more I learned, the more my horizons were broadened, I was open to new approaches and the timing was good because I was taught by professors and priests who were open and presenting new insights (some later frowned upon by the Church). We are indoctrinated (but there are also competing secular beliefs into which we are indoctrinated) but some to a lesser degree.

Agreed, some have less of a desire or need for faith, and some still remain interested but I have found many are hungry for a new approach in line with their modern insights/education.

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52 minutes ago, Burl said:

The definition of salvation is deliverance from the power and penalty of sin.  

Protestantism in particular is heavily based on reason.  

If your definition is true, Burl, then no one is saved. Everyone, per the bible's definition of sin as "missing the mark", still sins. No deliverance from that (yet). And, again per the bible's definition, the penalty (wages) of sin is death. No deliverance from that (yet). Christians who claim to be saved still sin and they still die. The claimed salvation that Jesus wrought has affected no one. Therefore, no one is, per your definition, saved. Perhaps you believe in salvation as only a post-death deliverance?

IMO, Jesus, being a Jew, would never have held to the doctrine of the Trinity. God in him, working through him? Yes, that was a Jewish notion. But 3 people in 1 God? I doubt he would have believed that. Most Jews were far too monotheistic to accept the Church's later theological pretzel of the Trinity.

The rallying cry of Protestantism is "salvation by faith alone." Faith requires blind belief, not reason. Reason says, "Show me evidence for your truth claim and I will test it for coherence." Faith says, "Tell me what to believe and I will believe it, for you are in authority." These conclusions may be somewhat simplistic, but I think they basically come down to this. There is no logical reason for people to believe that if they fly airplanes into buildings, that they will receive 72 virgins in heaven. But their faith tells them they will.

Edited by BillM
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1 hour ago, romansh said:

You can find the complete list here.

I enjoyed this. I also enjoyed much of the other content on your page, Romansh.

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41 minutes ago, Burl said:

Salvation is not personal and moral wholeness. Those are simply part of being a good person.  The definition of salvation is deliverance from the power and penalty of sin.  

The doctrine of the Trinity is not 1+1+1=1.  Next I guess I will hear light cannot possibly behave as a wave and as a particle.  

The doctrine of the Trinity is: 

God is the Father

God is the Son

God is the Holy Spirit

The Father is not the Son

The Son is not the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit is not the Father

Most religions make sense and are open to sensible and intellectual exploration and scrutiny.  Christianity is especially open; Protestantism in particular is heavily based on reason.  

However, religions use reason to inductively point towards a closer approximation of the unproveable.  What kind of person ever says about anything, "I cannot reason it therefore it cannot be so"?

Of course, this is all a human attempt to say something about the belief that God was encountered in Christ - which required a 'new understanding' of God.

Also, salvation is also healing which is also, therefore, making one whole? And sin (self-centeredness) is that which prevents man from being whole, the image of God - and that from which we must be saved/healed. The truly 'moral' man is not selfish, therefore he is freed/healed of (saved from) sin.

I like the idea of modes of God: the way that man experiences God's action in life is as creating, calling and empowering (Father, Word/Son, Spirit): one is not followed by another, all are experiences of the eternal modes of the one God. Still the One who creates, is the One who calls, is the One who gives the courage to be.

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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.

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2 hours ago, thormas said:

Of course, this is all a human attempt to say something about the belief that God was encountered in Christ - which required a 'new understanding' of God.

Also, salvation is also healing which is also, therefore, making one whole? And sin (self-centeredness) is that which prevents man from being whole, the image of God - and that from which we must be saved/healed. The truly 'moral' man is not selfish, therefore he is freed/healed of (saved from) sin.

I like the idea of modes of God: the way that man experiences God's action in life is as creating, calling and empowering (Father, Word/Son, Spirit): one is not followed by another, all are experiences of the eternal modes of the one God. Still the One who creates, is the One who calls, is the One who gives the courage to be.

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.

 

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2 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.

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.

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