Sunday, May 12, 2002

Universalist Soldier-Louder Fenn pointed to Hokie Pundit as meandering into Unitarianism in this post. No, he's flirting with Universalism.
I've always been receptive to the idea that Christianity as an establishment (rather than a means) isn't the only True Way.
Louder rightly points to John 14:6, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." To get around that, you have to be able to point to another religion that points to Jesus as the only way to God. Do all the churches in the world have a monopoly on bringing people to God? No, but they come close. However, you'd be hard pressed to find an alternative establishment outside of the various churches that will be a depository of such saving knowledge. It is possible to have an ad-hoc, disorganized band of believers passing along the knowledge of God and his Son without having an "establishment." However, at some point, there will likely be some loose structure to this adhocracy that will start to look something like a church. If we take the Bible at face value, we are instructed to gather together. Hebrews 10:25 makes that case- "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching." This makes some kind of church, at least on a local, ad-hoc basis, an intrigal part of the Christian faith. It need not take on the structure of a big world-wide denomination, but some structure is needed.
Before I go any further, I'd better do some heavy clarification. I believe that there is one God, and that this God created us and everything in the universe. I believe that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life (after his baptism, at the absolute, no-questions-possible, latest). I believe that Christ's teachings on love and attaining the Kingdom of God were correct. However, I don't know (in the same sense as above) that he was the one and only Son of God in a way distinct from what every person potentially is.
OK. How do we know that Jesus is THE Son of God?
I'm not sure how important that part is, either. If what he said is true, it could've come from a Ouija board and still be as correct. Having the proponent of an idea also be a follower lends some credence to it (I suspect that atheists/agnostics reading this will disagree and demand an explanation, and while I'll do so if asked, I also think it's self-evident if you stop and think for a bit). Thus, move from concentrating on the man to concentrating on the message.
Problem is, Robert, McLuhan's right here; the medium is the message. John 1:1-"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." Follow that with verse 14-"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." To duck the issue of Jesus' divinity, the Jehovah's Witnesses change the end of John 1:1 to "and the Word was a god." Jesus in His incarnation was both the messenger and the message; his life and death was an example of God's Word put into flesh and blood in an unique manner. If you've got another equally valid exemplar of God's Word, let me know.
Looking at the message rather than the messenger is helpful in that it removes outside influences. It's true that you can learn a lot about a book by its cover, but many false ideas have charismatic proponents (just as truths may be espoused by either the attractive or the lowly). It also means that squabbles over the virginity of Mary or the possible sexuality of Jesus are nullified, and so a stumbling block between Catholics and Protestants is removed.
The stumbling block between Protestants and Catholics isn't over the virginity of Mary as much as the sinlessness of Mary. There is a disagreement on whether Mary had other kids by conventional means with Joseph after Jesus' virgin birth and whether Mary was concieved without sin, but Jesus' virgin birth isn't a bone of contention between the two. As far as the sexuality of Jesus, there isn't any debate on that issue between orthodox Protestants and Catholics; both parties assume that he was chaste.
When looking at any claim, we want independent attestation. Absence of proof is not proof of absence, but having several witnesses improves the reliability of a claim.
There are numerous written accounts, outside of Christian writings, of the life and death of Christ. Jesus' life is better documented than any other figure of his era. A historian who wanted to declare that Julius Cesaer was a myth would be laughed out of the academe, but there is more evidence pointing to Jesus' life than there is to that other JC.
The major philosophies of life currently existing are Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism. Stoicism and Confucianism also tend to influence these belief systems, but rarely act on their own. I think that the persistence and size of these schools of thought lends them some credibility. I don't say that the bigger a following something has, the truer it is. However, if something has survived hundreds or thousands of years of questions and still has a sizeable following, the likelihood that it has some hold on the truth is far higher than if it is extinct or only has a few followers. If we are to assume that all major religions have at least some part of the truth, the best thing to do is to compare similarities, as these are probably true.
No, we're better off looking at the differences. There are some universal truths that can exist in more than one religion, but you are hard pressed to find too many areas of agreement between all five of the big religions listed. The first three may have monotheism in common, but disagree on the nature of God and man. Hinduism and Buddhism think that mankind is perfectible on his own, while the others do not. The Buddhist Eight-Fold Path might be a viable guide for day-to-day living with one's fellow man and be a viable version of the Golden Rule, but it ignores the issue of how to deal with God.
What comes to light first is a sense of order and duty. The creator is above the created.
Not in Hinduism and Buddhism. In their pantheistic worldview, the creation essentially is the creator.
Goodness is portrayed as sky and air and evil is the ground and underworld, a physical representation of good over evil. We also find that we've separated from our former union with God and fallen (a physical representation, again). Our goal is to reunite with God (or as Buddhism portrays it, an eternal energy; I'll refer to this as God for my purposes here) by following certain laws and codes of conduct. By achieving harmony with God, we are able to join him (her, it, whatever).
Robert, that's what Jesus died to end! Following laws and codes of conduct ain't gonna get it done. It's God's grace delivered through the sacrifice of his Son that rendered the Law fulfilled through His blood.
There are two primary manifestations of this duty and order that we see. The first is the responsibility to know one's place. If one having authority is over you, you are to obey them. This may be God, a king, a governor, a parent, etc. For those under your own authority, you are to discipline them when they fall out of line in order that they may learn their place. However, the other side is that of love. We are always encouraged to treat others as we ourselves would be treated. A master may order an underling to do something, but he should not order them to do something that is wrong. If someone needs our help, we should give it. This also applies to oneself. We're to abstain from certain practices because they're ultimately hurtful to ourselves or others, not because they violate some abstract rule. If our ultimate goal is to achieve union with God, then sins are those things which delay or prevent that from occurring. Now, there are some parts that need more explanation. A reasonable question at this point would be to point out that Hinduism and Buddhism believe in reincarnation, and to say that a just, loving God wouldn't damn us (in other words, prevent us from joining him) and so we'll all eventually achieve union.
If I remember correctly, Theravada Buddhism doesn't believe in reincarnation but other forms do. A loving God that allows some level of free will allows some people to not choose to be with Him. Why would he spend so much time talking about Hell if it winds up empty.
If there is infinite reincarnation and we're destined to eventually become one with God, then why should we do anything? Eventually, we'll just stumble upon the right answer or God will get fed up with our absence or figure that, in the words of Sgt. Hartman, "if God wanted you up there, he woulda miracled your [donkey] up there by now, wouldn't he?" I think this is a very risky way of thinking.
Good. He's steering clear of universalism after putting his tootsies on the edge.
There is also a claim that we only get one shot. In the absence of full information, it's safer to assume that we need to try and save ourselves in this life, and then be pleasantly surprised if we're proven wrong by being reincarnated (sort of like Pascal's Wager). As for being miracled up to heaven, this is essentially stating the Problem of Evil. I don't have a full explanation, but it seems to me that if this were a viable option, it would've occurred by now. Since it hasn't, it's reasonable to assume that it won't happen, even though we don't know why (just like how scientists know the universe exists, but can't prove why).
Good. If we get a second shot, great, but don't count on it, dude.
In order to be reunited with God, we must fit in. Jesus said rightly that no one mends shrunk clothes with an unshrunk patch (unless they're ignorant, of course), since they'll tear after being washed. As such, to be successfully reincorporated, we must match God. Life is our chance to change our soul's composition.
Not its composition but its destination.
If we let life by and don't use our chance to change ourselves, we may never again get the chance. Thus, we'll endure the hell after we die of knowing that we're separate from God but not having the opportunity to change. We would only be able to hope that God could put us out of our misery by causing us to cease to be.
Which isn't scriptual. There are plenty of verses that point to an eternal torment, and anhialation of the non-Heaven-bound is a common but heretical thought.
That is what Christianity is. It's a clarification of Judaism. When Jesus says that he is the only way to God, he means that only through love and duty can we change ourselves to be in God's image.
However, it's God who enables the change through the Holy Spirit, not us.
Hindus who walk in love and duty will also be saved.
But those would be the ones who find Jesus, as Hinduism doesn't feed the bulldog when it comes to having our sins removed.
The difference is that Christianity is the simplest of the ways to achieve this.
Try only. If you have a more complex way to do the job with certainty, let me know.
Any belief that has part of the truth can lead to all of it, but the more extraneous material there is, the more opportunites there are for straying from the True Path.
James 2:19 "You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that--and shudder." If Jesus isn't the one and only Son of God, he was a liar and should be condemmed. If He was the one and only Son of God, He then is the One and only Son of God and needs to be worshiped. If Jesus says "I am the Way" and Mr. Universalist says "he is a way," one of them is wrong. If the Universalist is right, all dogs go to Heaven and I've wasted my time. If the orthodox Christian is right, the Universalist is finding out that Hell doesn't have a non-smoking section. Pick your theology with care-eternity is at stake.

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