I have been saying for several years now that Christianity is NOT an intellectual experience. True Christianity is not found in a set of doctrines or teachings. Like God, it cannot be fully or adequately explained by ANY book or pamphlet. Paul wrote in many places that Christianity cannot be explained or understood using man's words and wisdom - that it is OUTSIDE of that realm. Christianity must be experienced on an emotional level - in the gut. I'm not saying that you have to experience Christianity in the same way (or using the same words) that Fonda did, but I am saying that you can't be a TRUE Christian by comprehending and/or adopting a set of beliefs as your own. Choose your own words, but you must be "begotten again" or "reborn."Do read the entire piece.
Try to forget the literalist and fundamentalist baloney. Abandon the apologetics. You're never going to get there on that road... It turns out that the HEART and SENTIMENTALITY are what it's all about! You've got to FEEL it on the inside. Wipe that smug, self-righteous smirk off of your face and let God and Christ into your heart.
I guess I know where Lonnie is coming from. I certainly agree strongly with many of these statements, but I still did a double take. I'm not so sure that something called Christianity can be primarily "experienced on a emotional level - in the gut." That's where values come from, the still, small voice, the conviction that something is right - or wrong. But Christianity has no exclusive market on that. Isn't that the whole point of Romans 1:19-20?
And I'm not sure that the heart and sentimentality are what it's all about either. It took more than sentimentality to motivate the reformers and abolitionists who fought the slave trade, who campaigned for women's suffrage, who work today for a just society worth handing on to future generations. There were few more "sentimental" varieties of Christianity in the years leading up to World War One than German Protestantism, especially in its Pietistic form, but that seemed to matter not at all as nationalism swept across the face of Europe, and the pastors fell in behind the Kaiser in whipping up unquestioning patriotic fervor.
My point, I guess, is that to identify good feelings and sentiments with Christianity creates a category error. And to focus on good feelings and intentions can lead to quietism and withdrawal from the great issues which should command our attention and passionate advocacy. Christianity, under any positive definition I'd be comfortable with, is as much about the hand as the heart.
Christianity, Lonnie contends, comes to us from outside the realm of human words and wisdom. Again, I know what he means, but can anything beyond instinct and lower animal behaviour really be conveyed outside the realm of language? Even if that was true, which I personally doubt, there is no other place that it - or anything good - can be expressed other than in this messy realm with all its uncomfortable paradoxes.
Doctrine, apologetics... on these I agree wholeheartedly with Lonnie. But if you strip them away, I wonder if what you're left with is best described as something other than Christianity. And, in my view, intellectual rigor, engaging the mind, at least at a basic level, is a non-negotiable element in negotiating one's way through life - and that includes faith commitments of whatever stripe.
As Lonnie often says, what do you think?
Religion is an emotional experience because it rooted in our fear of death and "what's going to happen to me." It's also why those who argue doctrine and correct thinking about it do it so vehemently because the Bible seems to indicate that unless one "get's it " absolutely correct, the alternative is the fake Lake of Fire and Eternal Damnation.
Buddhism is also a matter of the heart and mind with little or nothing to do with which teacher taught it all "right." No one ever wrote a booklet on "Does Zeus Exist?
or "Seven Proofs Mithras Exists" Proofs are for those who want to control the minds of others with their own spin on things and perhaps make a few bucks along the way it seems.
Dave Pack is notorious for his endless "proofs" of just about everything that enters his follow me mind. Yet he has no reputation in matters of the heart because being right and true and correct is all important and, of course, he is so wrong in so many things that time would fail one to explain it.
People of the heart are much easier to live on the planet with no matter their "beliefs" Beliefs, which are not the same as what might actually be so, cause nothing but trouble especially when they must be crammed down the throats of others that they might be saved.
Frequently, the adversarial secularist view of Christianity for those with some experience with and, perhaps, a weakness for religious legalism is that Christianity should consist of carefully documented algorithms that define propriety in all things, both epistemological and behavioral. Both the secularist and the religious legalists share the same philosophy though they come to opposing conclusions.
This code oriented view does not admit of such concepts as the sanctifying action of the holy spirit, general revelation and special revelation. For them that is like someone making up the rules of the monopoly game as they go along. I switched from being a creationist to a theistic evolutionist in the course of my contributions to this blog. I was startled that some contributors thought that this was not playing fair. Their inherently legalistic mental processes would not permit them to accommodate such a change.
Christianity is interactive and mystical.
Someone once said that humans are gods, trapped in animal-like bodies, and largely driven by human emotions.
The Armstrongs used to speak disparagingly of Protestantism's "sickeningly sentimental" approach and appeal. Mind you, the Armstrongs wanted church members to feel passionately about their version of Christianity, they just redefined what was proper as an emotion. The net effect was that they diminished the level of passion, reconditioning members to feel something akin to what may be felt for some sort of hobby, like painting, photography, or restoring vintage automobiles. Obviously, to obtain the desired effect, this had to be spiked with fear, which was most certainly one of the very key elements of Armstrongism.
Paradoxically, we have the New Testament version of a proverb, "Perfect love casts out fear." Since love is often at least partially based on or accompanied by sentimentality, we should all have known something about our teachers and their doctrinal approach from that alone. The fact is, you can temporarily repress emotion for the purpose of diagnostics, or objective thinking, but it is an integral component of the thought processes inherent in the daily living experience of humans. Since you cannot get rid of it, it is best to learn to utilize and sublimate it.
Great comments! I sincerely appreciate and respect the remarks made by Gavin, Dennis, NEO and Byker Bob more than I can say. I also appreciate the private remarks of others.
In responding, I want to make it very clear that the kind of emotion and sentimentality I'm talking about is always accompanied by the work of loving hands - not the intellectually inspired works of a legalistic mind; but the actions of an open and willing heart. Also, my treatise should not be regarded by anyone as anti-intellectual or an advocacy for mindless acceptance of any religion. For me, spiritual truth has many sources (science, art, music, literature,etc.) I believe that Christianity was never intended by its founders to be a debate over ideas/beliefs/doctrinal positions. I believe that LOVE is the purest expression of what it was meant to be, and that it invariably loses its potency and viability when it is reduced to the format of sermons, books and pamphlets. Do Christians have a monopoly on this (LOVE)? Absolutely not! In fact, I would say that Dennis appears to be closer to the Christian ideal than many of the "Christians" I know.
Are you getting a kick out of baiting fundamentalists with this Gobbledygook?
"True Christianity is not found in a set of doctrines or teachings"
Your "New Age" (re)definition of Xianity is outside of historic orthodoxy.
When you insist on a radical alternative view, you become another HWA.
Minimalist: You claim to have rejected HWA's teachings, but you appear to have retained his tendency to see everything in black and white. In addition to attacking their doctrines/teachings, he disdained the emotion and sentimentality evident in so much of "traditional" Christianity. Sorry, on this one, I think HWA would be more comfortable with what you're saying. By the way, I don't recall founding a new church. leading a group or incorporating a new organization.
You are the one who claims to be a "Christian":
You should repent and seek orthodox rectitude in teachings like Joseph Tkach.
But hey, feel to customize the religion to your own tastes; you're not the first!
You're perturbed because I'm "moving the goalposts" again. You want a static target to attack, but Christianity has NEVER been that! Everything evolves (life, science, technology, religion, atheism etc.).
And, yes, I do believe that spiritual matters are very personal and individualistic. Ultimately, each person must develop their own unique relationship and understanding of the Divine. In fact, what I'm talking about is the antithesis of what HWA preached. Yes, he borrowed from other folks and cobbled together his own religion, but he wanted other folks to adopt what he had arrived at. He didn't want folks thinking for themselves, and he certainly didn't want them to have the freedom to "customize" what he had put forward.
There is much about religion that lends itself to attack, but what are you doing to try to influence its evolution in a more positive direction? Or do you expect everyone else to adopt the view that you've arrived at? If so, how likely do you think it is that such a thing would ever happen?
I agree with M. Jones. But I must honestly give you your due. I see Christianity as growing and developing. I earlier referred to my move from creationism to theistic evolution. This tracks with a number of theologians and denominations. In another twenty years, creationism will be a minority viewpoint.
But any change for the diehard legalists, whether Christian or anti-Christian legalists, is to be condemned. While I regard my move to theistic evolution as growth in understanding that underpins Christianity, the diehards will regard it as an abandonment of Christian dogma. In that sense, I am like HWA in their eyes. HWA abandoned mainstream thinking (although I understand that a book by John Wesley was found in his desk drawer after he died)and took a radical stance, reinventing Christianity for himself and his objectives.
I can make two observations. One, the revision of Christianity is a broad movement and is not happening among just a few and in isolation. Two, those people in the movement do not care what the legalists, both Christian and non-Christian legalists, think about it.
One thing that strikes me, is that we can't even know how HWA would have reacted to the mapping of the human genome. At the time that he died, "the end" was only a little over 10 years overdue. When confronted with incontrovertible evidence, if he understood it, and assuming his continued association with world leaders, he could well have gradually transitioned away from British Israelism. We can't know one way or another, although some profess to know based on the HWA doctrinal approach that became frozen upon his death. Let's face it, if he had died in 1942, his followers today would probably be preaching that God would ressurrect Hitler!
Searching for a parallel, languages have become dead throughout history, at which time they lost their dynamic quality. Alive, and vibrant languages have continued to evolve. For all intents and purposes, The followers of Herbert W. Armstrong (with the possible exception of Ian) have frozen Armstrongism in time, and have created what is basically a nostalgia act. That is nonfunctional in a constantly changing, dynamic world.
I do not believe that HWA would have ever denounced BI. I think it would be quite easy for him to denounce the science of genetics. The WCG had a history of rejecting scientific conclusions and genetics is just another one.
There are ministers and leaders within the Armstrongist community that are perfectly capable of understanding the broad implications of genetics. Yet we have seen no revisions of Armstrongist dogma. But there are North American evangelicals that devoutly believe in the Young Earth Theory. This disbelief of science is common in conservative religious circles (including fundamentalist atheism).
Genetics clearly supports the conclusion that the Jews and the British are only distantly related. All men are related but to put this "distance" in context, Native Americans are more closely related to the British that Jews are. BI should not be preached by any organization that claims to pursue truth. But it will be preached by organizations that pursue the dollar.
I was just in my doctor's office and found a copy of Flurry's rag in the waiting room.
It is remarkable how that organization has been able to replicate the old PT. De ja vu. I am uncertain how I ever saw anything in that malarkey. It contained a lot of vitriol targeted against President Obama. I did not appreciate that.
Yeah, on Sunday, there was one at the Supercuts where I get my hair styled. If I had had a Sharpie with me, I would have written "Caution: Cultic Bullshit" on the cover.
Now we know how they inflate their circulation numbers.
It is odd to see a magazine that is so off-the-wall sitting on a coffee table next to reputable publications. And it was surprising to me to glance up and see the face of HWA solemnly staring back at me.
The story arc was the same: the European Common Market minus Britain and the fulfillment of prophecies in the Book of Revelation. And, of course, the "Westboro Baptist Church shtick" about God punishing the United States.
I toyed with the idea of going to the receptionist's desk and warning her about the cultic content of the magazine. Then I thought better of it. Nobody probably reads it anyway. And if they do read it, they probably marvel at its bizarre content. I wish I had been able to do marvel in that way when I was seventeen - the age at which I was captured by the cruel and unusual.
"Christianity must be experienced on an emotional level - in the gut."
Is that what Jesus taught? I thought he said, it was given to his disciples to understand mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. I didn't realise that a true Christian is supposed to live a life of ignorance.
But Jesus allegedly also said "Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed." Isn't this saying it is most holy to believe in ignorance?
Legalists attach faith to knowledge. This is a type of latter day Gnosticism. In principle, it says that only perfect knowledge can underpin faith. And with perfect knowledge you can successfully defend your faith. In essence it turns worship away from God and towards knowledge. The idea is that if your theology is not comprehensive and correct, you faith is not correct. Hence, sermons and bible studies that focus on having the correct knowledge.
HWA was a respository and marketer of this "saving" enlightenment. Chief on the list was British-Israelism. The high regard that Arstrongists place on the correct knowledge has prevented them from progressive understanding. They want to hold onto what they understood when HWA died as if that were their savior.
While knowledge has its place and is desirable, it is neither comprehensive or perfect. Faith, then, involves trusting god even though knowledge is incomplete and so much is unknowable. We see through a glass darkly.
Tom, the Greek word translated into English as "heart" denotes both thoughts and emotions. It suggests the internal center of the person- the innermost soul of the person. In this connection, it is interesting to note that Christ clearly gave more weight to the emotional side of this understanding. For instance, when asked about the greatest commandment, Jesus is reported to have said: "Thou shalt LOVE the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it. Thou shalt LOVE thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang ALL the law and the prophets." (Matthew 22:37-40, emphasis mine). Hence, it appears that Christ felt that an intellectual understanding of the law was unimportant compared to the actual internalization of the principle.
Or at least the anonymous author of "Matthew" felt that way.
the anonymous author of "Matthew"
Didn't Mark write most of Matthew?
But don't worry about Bible problems; come to Lonnie Hendrick's church
where the Book is mined for the 5% of its content that's happy.
Slim pickings, but better than trying to find any joyful stuff in the Koran!
True, much of Matthew was plagiarized from Mark ... with a new spin on it. But who wrote "Mark"?
Minimalist, Lonnie Hendrix doesn't have a church, and what is your justification/proof that a mere 5% of Scripture is positive? Sounds like some of HWA's sweeping comments about how much of the Bible was history, prophecy, etc.
Skeptic, you may have noticed that I said in my remarks "Jesus is reported to have said..." You also may have noticed that the story in Mark is different from the story in Matthew, and that the scribe/lawyer/Pharisee validates and expounds on Christ's answer in that version. You have probably also noticed that the account in Luke (10:25-28) puts the statement in the mouth of the lawyer with Jesus confirming it. John quotes Christ as saying that love for God and each other is vital in several passages. By the way, we (Minimalist, you and I) agree that we don't know who wrote these books. Nevertheless, for me, this documentary evidence indicates that there is a strong probability that Jesus said/taught that love for God and each other was of preeminent importance.
Miller, sorry, I glossed over the phrase "Jesus is reported to have said..." I was responding to assertions like "Christ clearly gave more weight..." and "it appears that Christ felt".
Yes, I realize all three stories have their differences. "Matthew" took many Mark stories and added details - often making them more fabulous - to put his desired spin on them. "Luke" also took many Mark stories and added different details, to put his/her different spin on them. The fact that two authors took the original story and embellished it hardly confirms the veracity of the original story. All three were writing many years after the alleged events and all three were writing with a motivation to convert others: hardly the hallmarks of true objective reporting.
who wrote "Mark"?
A clever writer >40 yrs after the 'fact'
Might as well piece together your own do-it-yourself religion like Lonnie Hendrix.
And like 'Mark' pieced together a string of borrowed sub-plots:
"In the story that emerged, the Gospel of Mark, essentially, the author composites more than fifty 'micro-stories' (mainly healings and miracles, of the type told of Apollonius), sandwiched between a put-down of John the Baptist (whose followers were serious rivals to the early proto-Christians) and a dying-saviour sequence (of the kind then being officially promoted for the dead Antinous."
Skeptic, Thank you. We have obviously arrived at different conclusions about what the available evidence indicates that Jesus taught on the subject.
Minimalist, Why not "piece together your own do-it-yourself religion"? Haven't you essentially done the same thing? After evaluating some of the available evidence, you have arrived at some conclusions that you believe to be superior to other possible conclusions. And how do you know what was borrowed, and that it was borrowed more than 40 years after the fact? What about the evidence that contradicts your statements? (And don't ask me what evidence, reference our past discussions - I'm not going to plow that ground over here)
Regarding your comment to Minimalist, I have to disagree. He has not pieced together a religion. He makes no claim to supernatural involvement. He points out that the many of the bible's stories are similar to stories from other belief systems that predate the New Testament. And he points out possible motivations of the bible writers. One has to ask, which scenario is more likely? Minimalist and I have drawn our conclusion and you have drawn yours. But let's be clear: yours is a religion, ours is not.
Could this be a case of semantics or parsed meanings? Religion vs system of beliefs? Beliefs are beliefs. If any one of us holds a system of beliefs composed of 50-1/2% truth, we would be classified as winning by a slight margin. There are so many unknowns, and our very excellent five senses can't even pick up radar. We can't see the vast areas of space between the atoms and molecules in "solid" objects, or detect the relatively low frequency at which they are vibrating.
I see how my remarks could be interpreted as implying that Minimalist has "pieced together a religion." The clumsy wording is entirely my fault. I meant to suggest that he has formulated his own belief system (I acknowledge the fact that he does not claim any supernatural component to those beliefs). Moreover, we can all speculate about possible motivations for biblical writers, but it's still speculation at the end of the day. In answer to your question about which scenario seems more likely, I think we've both made our answers to that one very plain.
By the way, I usually enjoy Minimalist's comments (yours too), but he never seems to answer my questions (I always try to answer his). We're having a discussion. I respect your opinions, and I'm not trying to "convert" anybody.
What about the premise of my original post? Do you think that the founders of Christianity envisioned the development of an elaborate theology with positions on things like the trinity, proper observance of rituals, prophetic scenarios, etc? Or do you think that it was more likely that those folks intended for it to satisfy emotional/spiritual needs? Even from the perspective of a non-believer, I think that those are important questions - especially in light of where religion has taken mankind and where we are today. What do you think?
I guess I was writing my comment at the same time you were writing yours! Yes, good point. Sometimes we unintentionally talk past each other.
Actually, Lonnie, as I sure we both agree, not having God in one's belief system does not guarantee that that belief system will then be improved. Either way, it all ends up being a function of human thinking, anthropomorphic thinking in some cases. I've come to look at both secular and non-secular belief systems in terms of whether they produce good or bad, and, if good, how efficient they are in producing good. This is setting aside matters such as salvation, I know, but since that isn't even our prerogative to judge, I usually leave that issue alone.
Exactly, BB. I've commented before about the arrogance and evangelical zeal of some atheists in times past. Some (I would say a minority based on my own experience) atheists seem to believe that the absence of God or anything supernatural/spiritual automatically makes their belief system superior to any theistic one.
Still, I see value in looking at questions from both perspectives (atheist/theist). In fact, I would say that it was intended/anticipated that we would do just that.
And, while there has certainly been way too much anthropomorphic thinking regarding the Divine among religiously inclined folks, I wouldn't say that such thinking is devoid of any value or merit. In other words, it makes sense to me that some of our attributes are almost certainly shared with the Divine (at a minimum, most theists would say that they have their origin in that entity).
I agree with your standard - evaluating the fruit (I believe that's scriptural). Moreover, how efficient that system is in producing "good" results has to be a major factor in evaluating its merit. Great comments - as usual.
You ask "Do you think that the founders of Christianity envisioned the development of an elaborate theology with positions on things like the trinity, proper observance of rituals, prophetic scenarios, etc? Or do you think that it was more likely that those folks intended for it to satisfy emotional/spiritual needs?"
That's a complicated question, but I'm sure of one thing: it's not either/or between those two choices. There are no doubt a myriad of motivational factors involved.
Also, "the founders of Christianity" would not have been a monolithic group. Each "founder" would have had his own unique blend of motiviations.
Finally, we must acknowledge that mankind in general living in the first century CE had a much different mindset than ours in the educated western world today. Life for them was short, ignorant and brutal. The average lifespan was 30-35. The average years in school was zero. The vast majority were illiterate. To them, the weather was caused by gods, mental problems were caused by demons and illness was a result of your own sins. Just to name a few of their misconceptions. Frankly, we can probably barely comprehend what their thinking must have been like.
That said, I think there are probably similarities among founds of religions - be it HWA, Joseph Smith, Mohammed, Billy Graham, Ron Hubbard, you name it. For the "founder" himself - the top leader - I doubt satisfying emotional/spiritual needs had much to do with it. Psychopathy, narcissism, overconfidence, greed and self-importance seem to be among the main drivers.
The next level down, just below the founders, shows more variety. It includes a good measure of the above characteristics but also various mixtures of sincerity, looking for answers, wanting to help others, etc. In WCG, I have met high-level men who seemed to me to be sincere and caring. They were rare, but they did exist. Many others were a mix. After all, none of us is all good or all bad.
Below this level is an even more mixed group. Many of these people are sincere, caring people looking for answers. Many others are not. None of this group has power so it doesn't much matter.
That's the best answer I can give you. It's not an expert analysis, just my impression based on my life experiences and observations.
Now you can't say I never answer your questions, LOL.
I'd say that's a pretty good analysis. Your observations are entirely consistent with things that most of us have observed in the behaviors and motivations of each other. You're right - we're all a mixture of bad and good, and the men and women who founded Christianity were no different. They were the same degree of human as you and me and subject to the same weaknesses and failures that plague us. That said, however, given the kinds of notions extant in that time period which you referenced in your remarks (regarding weather, demons, etc.) do you honestly think that any of them could have anticipated the discussions and divisions that subsequently arose over a canon and various doctrines? I just can't bring myself to believe that the Christianity that has evolved over the last two thousand years is quite what they had in mind at the founding.
Miller, I'm not sure the christian founders had anything in mind beyond their own lifetimes. I agree with you, I doubt they had any idea Christianity would evolved over the last two thousand years is quite the way it did.
I have observed in life that nothing is static. Everything requires maintenance, else it decays. That goes for our bodies, our houses, our roads, our customs, everything. With this in mind, I am not an "originalist". I don't think there is much to be gained by trying to discern the original intent of the bible writers, or the writers of the U.S. constitution, etc. and apply it to today's situation. Religion, government etc. needed to be maintained and to evolve and adapt to changing cultural conditions.
I have made that same point about evolution in some of my more recent posts and comments. It is my hope that religion will evolve in a more positive direction going forward. In that context, however, I do think that it can be instructive/constructive/positive to attempt to discern original intent. As a student of history, I've always been fond of the statement attributed to Cicero: "To know nothing of what happened before you were born is to remain always a child." Don't you believe that the effort to understand what happened in the past can be extremely beneficial in trying to understand the present and plan for or attempt to shape the future?
"..he never seems to answer my questions...Do you think that the founders of Christianity envisioned..?"
That's because your questions are tough: For instance, we don't know how Xianity was founded.
In October is the Price/Ehrman debate (they have different theories on Xian origins.)
I agree, understanding the past is important to understanding the present and shaping the future.
I think there is much to be learned from millennia of Christian, Jewish and Islamic history. We certainly see what evils religions can inflict when they have the power. And we can see some benefits as it is applied locally.
Trying to discern the original intent of the founders? I'm not sure (1) it is even possible to come close to understanding the thinking of the founders and (2) how beneficial it would be if we could.
One approach would be to look at founders for which we DO have some information. As I stated in a prior post, it seems the "top man" in a religion, i.e. THE founder, generally displays many characteristics of a psychopath. I'm talking about people like HWA, Sun Yun Moon, Ron Hubbard, Mohammed, Maharaj Ji, etc. The list goes on and on. Do you agree these founders appear to be psychopaths? Or something very close to it?
Minimalist, And your questions are easy? :)
Skeptic, Yes: psychopaths, sociopaths, narcissists, or something very close! However, as you noted in your earlier remarks, there have been some sincere and brilliant founders as well (still human though).
Mostly psychopaths. Very few sincere - and none to my knowledge at the very top.
Reading what Paul says in his own words, where would you place him?
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