Religion / Theology

Topics related to theology.
Navigator
Posts: 652
Joined: Wed Feb 06, 2019 2:15 pm

Religion / Theology

Post by Navigator »

With John's permission, I am creating two new threads. This one is to cover Religion and Theology, so as to cover the philosophy and general theological topics.

I will also create a second thread to cover "End Times" and the religious aspects/implications of that.

In both threads, I would appreciate people remaining civil and respecting each other's beliefs. Because that is what religion is about, your beliefs. Others can have beliefs that differ from mine, and I am fine with that. I hope that all of us can keep that in mind, and act and interact accordingly.

Navigator
Posts: 652
Joined: Wed Feb 06, 2019 2:15 pm

Does God Exist

Post by Navigator »

Existence of God or a Higher Power

I think the first question for anyone in regards to religion/spirituality is whether or not God (or some “Higher Power”) exists or not. I think this is really a binary question. Either God exists or doesn’t.

To me, this means that either everything has happened and continues to happen purely by chance, or there is a God.

I do not believe that the creation of our earth was “by chance”. There are too too many things that worked out completely perfectly for life to exist here. The earth’s circular orbit (rather than elliptical) at a perfect distance from the sun, the relatively peaceful nature of our solar system, the nature of our protection from radiation, the makeup of our atmosphere, and so on. Plus little things like the moon being perfectly positioned so that during a solar eclipse it perfectly fits over the body of the sun. And these are just the cosmic things.

The complexity of our DNA, the diversity and beauty of nature, the narrow ranges of environmental extremes we experience, all of these, to me, also point to the existence of a God. I do not believe that these things came about by random chance. “Random chance” leads to chaos and breakdown; Entropy. Instead, things on earth have actually improved. Life has, on the whole, improved over time.

As historians (speaking to the audience here), I further believe that things are not happening by chance. If it were, events over time would have also led to collapse rather than improvement. I believe that the stories of history, and its intricacies, are further evidence of God’s existence.

On a personal level, I don’t believe that things only happen to me in life “by chance”. So often, I have been protected. I have been guided. I found specific friends and a spouse I was looking for. I don’t believe these things happened by chance.

And I believe that God will help those who wonder if he exists, and are interested in looking for him, to find him and learn of him.

Navigator
Posts: 652
Joined: Wed Feb 06, 2019 2:15 pm

Learning of God and his Designs

Post by Navigator »

After one grapples with the question of the existence of God (or even while doing so), one might then well consider what direction to take. The question then becomes, that if there is a God, what are his plans and how do we as individuals fit into those plans (if at all)?

Discussion about religion is important, as it allows us to have access to a depth and breadth of information. But debate can be pointless if it becomes argumentative. There is no way to prove anything about religion to someone else. The only way to settle the debate is to go to God and ask him for guidance, direction, and a witness of what is true and what is not. Again, I believe this can only be done individually, by asking God to provide a witness of what is truthful and what is not.

Personally, I did this, and asked for a witness from God (by praying and asking him directly) as to whether or not Christianity would be the path to understanding him and what my purpose in this life is. I can testify that I received such a witness.

In accepting Christianity, I accepted Christ as divine, and thereby also accepted his teachings. I believe that in his day he taught the absolute truth, as to the nature of God, what his plan is, why we are here, and what is expected of us.

I also believe the Christ personally organized a church, giving authority to his Apostles to act in his name after his departure. I believe that the original Apostles attempted to maintain this organization, as others were called to Apostleship to fill vacancies (for example Paul becoming an Apostle later on).

However, I also believe that shortly after Christ’s departure, even while Apostles like Paul were still alive, that people started “modifying” what Christ had taught. I do believe that many parts of the New Testament were “fiddled with” if they did not conform to the desires/philosophies of those that controlled the writings later on. Paul does mention this as a serious problem in the church, as do other Apostles. I do believe that philosophies from Gnosticism and Platonism, among others, were merged into what Christ and the Apostles taught. I believe this is the root cause as to why there are so many different Christian denominations today.

John
Posts: 10991
Joined: Sat Sep 20, 2008 12:10 pm
Location: Cambridge, MA USA
Contact:

Re: Learning of God and his Designs

Post by John »

** 24-Oct-2021 World View: Fiddling with the Bible
Navigator wrote:
Sun Oct 24, 2021 10:18 pm
> However, I also believe that shortly after Christ’s departure,
> even while Apostles like Paul were still alive, that people
> started “modifying” what Christ had taught. I do believe that many
> parts of the New Testament were “fiddled with” if they did not
> conform to the desires/philosophies of those that controlled the
> writings later on. Paul does mention this as a serious problem in
> the church, as do other Apostles. I do believe that philosophies
> from Gnosticism and Platonism, among others, were merged into what
> Christ and the Apostles taught. I believe this is the root cause
> as to why there are so many different Christian denominations
> today.
Wow! Now that's the first time I've heard anything like that. I've
discussed Christianity with many people over the years (especially in
college), and I also studied the Bible, and I recall that they all
believe that every word in the Bible is the literal inspired word of
God. I would have to count you as the first believing Christian that
I've met who says that the Bible has been "fiddled with."

I would be very surprised if your views are widely held among
Christians.

Navigator
Posts: 652
Joined: Wed Feb 06, 2019 2:15 pm

Lost Information and Distortions

Post by Navigator »

I think it is obvious that we do not have all of the material written by the early Apostles. Certainly there were other letters that were written, but are now lost. There may have been a LOT more material that would have explained the gospel more fully, and possibly could have led to less confusion concerning important doctrinal points.

I believe that a lot of the lost material was due to willful destruction. Either by those who were attempting to get out of the potential consequences of persecution, (like those who didn’t want to die for their religion, so they destroyed the evidence of belief/belonging) or by those who were against it, pagans, orthodox Jews and so on.

I also believe that post-Apostolic controllers of the material also “modified” it should it not conform to their desires and philosophies. But in doing so, they still left traces of the truth. My personal experience with sensing that something like this happened is in comparing the books of Romans (which I found very obtuse and confusing) to Hebrews (which I found much more direct).

The most important lost information, I believe, is concerning the very nature of God the Father and Jesus Christ. This later led to one of the biggest schisms in Christianity, between the followers of Arias (the Arians), and the Roman Catholics. Almost nothing is left of Arian writing, which would have been substantial, as the Catholics destroyed it for being heretical. The Arians believed that Christ was created by God the Father, and subordinate to him. The Catholics believe the Nicene creed, which, as I understand it, means that Christ and his Father are different manifestations of the same “essence”.

More deviation to the truth came from the introduction of philosophies like Gnosticism and Platonism into Christianity. In doing so, the nature of God and Christ, such as more detailed evidence of Christ’s resurrection, was, I believe, obscured.

The original Christian church, led by the Apostles, I believe contained the full gospel truth. People were already introducing error into it during their time. They fought against this, and most of their letters appear to be attempts to “set the record straight”.

I believe that a lot of truth was lost. The Reformation dealt with the most flagrant deviations from the gospel, but was unable to restore what was lost.

User avatar
Tom Mazanec
Posts: 3406
Joined: Sun Sep 21, 2008 12:13 pm

Re: Religion / Theology

Post by Tom Mazanec »

As someone who wanted to be an astronomer (and actually earned a BS in Astronomy) a quibble:
The Earth's orbit is not zero eccentricity, it is low eccentricity (and varies over thousands of centuries). The moon is not "perfectly" positioned for solar eclipses...of the two I have seen, one was total and one was annular (I hope to see a total one in 2024).
May not seem important, but it is like a pimple..it itches :-)
SHARKS (crossed out) MONGEESE (sic) WITH FRICKIN' LASER BEAMS ATTACHED TO THEIR HEADS

John
Posts: 10991
Joined: Sat Sep 20, 2008 12:10 pm
Location: Cambridge, MA USA
Contact:

Re: Religion / Theology

Post by John »

** 25-Oct-2021 World View: Disputes over the authenticity of the Bible

My book on Iran was about the history of Iran, and it was also about
the history of Islam and Christianity.

John Xenakis is author of: "World View: Iran's Struggle for Supremacy
-- Tehran's Obsession to Redraw the Map of the Middle East"
(Generational Theory Book Series, Book 1) Paperback: 153 pages, over
100 source references, $7.00
http://www.generationaldynamics.com/pg/ ... s.irbk.htm
https://www.amazon.com/World-View-Supre ... 732738610/

This post and the following post contain excerpts from my book.

**** Disputes over the authenticity of the Bible

Many people see both the Bible and the Koran as authentic texts that
were written millennia ago and are preserved in their original forms
today. Not surprisingly, these views are not correct, and it's
interesting to compare a little bit of the histories of the Bible and
the Koran.


The earliest copies of the Bible's Old Testament were written on
scrolls without vowels or accents. It wasn't until the 5th century AD
that Jewish scholars produced an official transcription of the Old
Testament, with vowels and accents. In the meantime, the Old
Testament was translated into ancient Greek in the 3rd and 2nd
centuries BC. These versions contained significant differences from
the versions produced by Jewish scholars. Other versions were in the
Aramaic and Syriac languages. However, all existing versions were
thrown into question and dispute in just the last 50 years, with the
discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which are versions of the old
Testament books that were written prior to any of those just
described. On top of that, the Catholic and Protestant versions of
the Old Testament are different, so there is no agreement today on a
single version of the Old Testament.

With regard to the New Testament, different versions of the Gospels
and other books were used by various Christian communities for the
first four centuries AD. During the fourth century there were
extremely vitriolic political battles over which books would be in the
New Testament. Finally, in 367, a Bishop named Athanasius declared:
"In these [27 writings] alone the teaching of godliness is proclaimed.
No one may add to them, and nothing may be taken away from them." His
recommendations were adopted, and those 27 books were adopted as the
official New Testament.

John
Posts: 10991
Joined: Sat Sep 20, 2008 12:10 pm
Location: Cambridge, MA USA
Contact:

Re: Religion / Theology

Post by John »

** 25-Oct-2021 World View: Brief history of Catholic and Orthodox Christian 'Ecumenical' Councils

For the sake of comparison, we end this discussion of the Koran and
Sharia (Islamic) law with a brief history of the development of
Christian theology, and the numerous splits within Christian Churches.
For this serious reader this serves two purposes. First, it describes
several points of intersection between the developments of Islam and
Christianity. And second, it allows comparison and contrast between
how controversies and schisms are handled in the two religions.

**** The Ecumenical Councils

Christianity's first Ecumenical Council was held in 325 AD in Nicea,
an ancient city just east of today's Istanbul (Constantinople). The
Council of Nicea was a meeting of all Christian churches, led not by
the Pope but by the Emperor Caesar Flavius Constantine of Rome. The
objective of the meeting was to unify the different regional branches,
and to resolve some important questions.

At that time, many questions of Christian theology had not yet been
decided. One of the most important was the divinity of Jesus Christ.
If Jesus was born, then how could he be divine? Although there was
debate, the Council ratified the view that he was a man, but was God
in the form of human flesh.

The details of how it makes sense that Jesus was both human and divine
were extremely controversial. It was discussed further at the Second
Ecumenical Council in Constantinople in 381, again in the Third
Ecumenical Council, held in Ephesus, an Aegean sea port, in 431. By
the time of the Fourth Ecumenical Council, held in Chalcedon, near
Constantinople, in 451, the differences on this issue were extremely
vitriolic.

This was the time of the first major split within Christianity, as six
branches of Christianity refused to recognize the Fourth Ecumenical
Council, in a controversy that has never been resolved. Today, these
are usually called the "Oriental Orthodox Christian" churches,
comprised of the Ethiopian, Coptic (Egyptian), Armenian, Syrian,
Indian and Eritrean Churches. These were all churches that had
existed since apostolic times, and the major political issue was that
they didn't wish to be controlled by Rome. The Fifth Ecumenical
Council (in Constantinople in 553) and the Sixth Ecumenical Council
(in Constantinople in 680) attempted without success to resolve the
split.

**** The Seventh Ecumenical Council (787) - iconoclasts and iconophiles

The Seventh Ecumenical Council, in Nicea in 787, is the last one that
was recognized. At this one, the major controversy was was between
the "iconoclasts" and "iconophiles." "Iconoclast" means "image
smasher" or destroyer of religious icons and monuments. The
iconoclasts, who were outvoted, said that religious art was idolatry
and must be destroyed. If Jesus is divine, is it not sacrilegious to
worship an icon of Jesus as if it were Jesus himself? The iconophiles
loved icons, and argued that they were man's dynamic way of expressing
the divine through art and beauty. The latter argument won out.

The argument over icons was heavily influenced by the rise of Islam at
that time. The Charlie Hebdo terror attack in Paris in January 2015
was supposedly motivated by prohibited artistic representations of the
Prophet Mohammed, and this prohibition was coming into effect at the
time of the Seventh Ecumenical Council.

**** The Catholic vs Orthodox Christian schism (1054)

That was the last time there was sufficient unity in the Christian
churches to hold a worldwide Ecumenical Council, although there were
smaller regional meetings.

In 1054, the Pope in Rome sent a letter to the Patriarch of
Constantinople demanding that the latter submit to the Pope as head of
all the churches. The Patriarch refused, and so the Pope and the
Patriarch excommunicated each other on July 16, 1054. The "Schism of
1054" has never been healed.

Things got much worse in 1204 during the Crusades. The Catholics, on
their way to fighting the Muslims in Jerusalem, sacked Constantinople,
and placed a prostitute on the Emperor's throne at the church of
St. Sophia. It was not until 2001 when the Pope John Paul visited
Athens and, encountering large anti-Catholic protests, that the
Catholics apologized for the sacking of Constantinople, and made a
plea for forgiveness.

The Orthodox Christians were generally excluded from the Ecumenical
Councils held by the Catholics over the centuries, but they were
controversial nonetheless, even in modern times. The Second Vatican
Council held by the Catholics in 1962-65 created a new split within
the Catholic Church, when the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) refused to
recognize the legitimacy of its edicts. Pope Francis is currently
working to heal this rift.

It was at the time of the Second Vatican Council that plans for an
Ecumenical Council of all the Orthodox Churches was announced in 1961.

So in view of that history, it should not be surprising to anyone that
the attempt to create a new Orthodox Christian Ecumenical Council, a
Great and Holy Council (GHC) of Eastern Orthodox Churches, announced
in 1961, has run into a great deal of controversy, as controversy has
always been the norm, since the beginning.


**** Universal versus regional religions

It's the norm for religions to target small regional or national
populations. You can be a "Catholic" anywhere in the world, but you
can't just be an "Orthodox Christian." You have to be "Orthodox
Christian" PLUS a nationality, such as a "Greek Orthodox" or a
"Russian Orthodox" or some other branch.

The same thing is true of the Protestant religion, which has about 20
different churches in the United States alone, each targeting a
different group.

In examining the history of religions, there are two conflicting
phenomena. One is that a regional religion "becomes viral" and
expands into a worldwide universal religion, and the other is that a
universal religion splinters into regional religions.

In the case of Christianity, Judaism was a local religion that
expanded into a more universal Christianity, and that splintered into
the Catholic religion, which became truly universal, and regional
Orthodox and Apostolic religions.

Islam has splintered into various sects, including Sunni Islam,
Shia Islam, and smaller sects, such as the Zaydis, Alawites and
Sufis. Only Sunni Islam has become truly universal.

The ancient Hindu religion has different sects and philosophies, but
the caste system restricted the religion to India. There was a
splintering in the form of Buddhism, which became a truly universal
religion.

There are only three religions that have "gone viral" and become
virtually universal: Catholicism, Sunni Islam and Buddhism. For
example, in China, you'll find plenty of Catholics, plenty of Sunni
Muslims, and plenty of Buddhists, but few Greek Orthodox or Shia
Muslims or Hindus.

Navigator
Posts: 652
Joined: Wed Feb 06, 2019 2:15 pm

Divergence from Original Truth

Post by Navigator »

As I stated, I believe a lot of crucial information regarding the nature of God and Christ was lost. Further, I believe many philosophy of the time were introduced into the gospel, and other changes were made.

I take these viewpoints on lost information and outright changes from my understanding of New Testament scriptures such as:

1 Tim 4:1-3
1 Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; 2 Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; 3 Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.

2 Tim. 4:3–4
3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.

2 Pet 2:1-2
1 But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. 2 And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.

As John points out in his posts on the history of early Christianity, interpretation of scripture leads to further divergence of thought as to what is actually meant. And again, I believe the only way to deal with the many different opinions is to go directly to God and ask him for guidance. I believe the Holy Spirit can speak to each of us individually and provide us with a knowledge of what is true, versus what is a “fable” or “heresies”.

All of the above is why I believe we have hundreds if not thousands of different and divergent Christian denominations.

User avatar
Tom Mazanec
Posts: 3406
Joined: Sun Sep 21, 2008 12:13 pm

Re: Religion / Theology

Post by Tom Mazanec »

As John points out in his posts on the history of early Christianity, interpretation of scripture leads to further divergence of thought as to what is actually meant. And again, I believe the only way to deal with the many different opinions is to go directly to God and ask him for guidance. I believe the Holy Spirit can speak to each of us individually and provide us with a knowledge of what is true, versus what is a “fable” or “heresies”.
The trouble with this is that your "Holy Spirit" speaks a different knowledge of what is true to each person he speaks to individually. This is why there have been many thousands of different Christian denominations in the last twenty centuries.
SHARKS (crossed out) MONGEESE (sic) WITH FRICKIN' LASER BEAMS ATTACHED TO THEIR HEADS

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 3 guests