CHRISTIANITY: CONNECTING ALL OF THE DOTS
Traditional Christian Doctrine and Christian Spiritism
Certain areas of the human belief system are firmly established early in childhood development. One of those areas concerns religious beliefs. If a child is raised in a Muslim home, more than likely that child will be a Muslim into adulthood. If a child is raised in a Christian household, whether Catholic or Protestant, more than likely that child will be a Christian into adulthood. Likewise with Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, or any one of the other major religious traditions in the world. The human psyche is easily conditioned by religious doctrines that are handed down from generation to generation; this is the "tradition" (from Greek paradidomi, "to hand over," "to hand down") of their belief and tradition takes a time-honored place in a society. The notion that one would doubt or question the very religious tenets that one was raised with does not seem obvious to most persons. Any idea or teaching that is tethered to "God" is rarely questioned. To question such an idea is indirectly questioning God. Who is in a position to question God? But there is a crucial difference here that many persons usually do not recognize: is the teaching truly sanctioned by God, or is the teaching a human-made teaching that humans assert is sanctioned by God? And how can we determine which teachings are truly from God and which are not?
As for Christians, many accept the doctrines of their home church within which they were raised, groomed, and baptized as a follower of Jesus Christ, either as an 11-month old in the Catholic church or as a teenager in the Baptist church (or whatever denomination it may be). For some, to question seems the very antithesis of what it is to be a Christian. The famous hymn "I Surrender All" evokes the image of a person who lays everything by the wayside and simply accepts Jesus as their Lord without question. But they are accepting more than just Jesus as their Lord. They are accepting all of the wrappings that go along with it; that is, the religious teachings of that particular church and its interpretation of who Jesus was and who he is now and the rest of Christian doctrine.
Many persons are raised in an environment where religious teaching holds a high priority, be they Christian, Muslim, or Jew. Among Christians, there are a plethora of different churches. Doctrinal variation also exists. For instance, if you are a Catholic you view the Last Supper through Catholic eyes (transubstantiation). If you are a Lutheran, you veiw the Last Supper through Lutheran eyes (consubstantiation). If you are a Protestant, you view the Last Supper through Protestant eyes (symbolism). Other doctrines remain more uniform, for the most part, across denominational lines, for instance the doctrine of the Trinity, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. It is also true that Christians agree on other points of doctrine and understand the Scriptures, more or less, in the same way, e.g., the story of the Prodigal Son, the narrative of the Hebrews in Egypt, the story of Moses, the rise and fall of ancient Israel, the narrative of Jesus and his apostles, and the life of Paul. But there are other points that the churches do not agree upon with one another. At this juncture, the question of truth begins to emerge. If there are so many different Christian churches with doctrinal variation to the point that one church looks totally unlike another on some very pivotal doctrines, then where are we to draw the line? The respect that many Christian priests and preachers gain in a community reflects back onto the very teachings that they deliver in their churches. Why would you question the very things to which someone has devoted their lives? Shouldn't their life's devotion and commitment as a shepherd to the Christian flock be enough for us to discern whether they speak the truth about God, Christ, and the Bible? Shouldn't their integrity and sincerity as a preacher be a guiding light as to the veracity of their statements made in a homily or a sermon? Shouldn't the strength of their convictions in themselves and in what they say during Sunday morning and evening services be the very measuring rod for the truth of their convictions? Besides, is any lay Christian in a position to question a man of God, a man of the cloth? Are these men not trained beyond the college level in things religious and spiritual? For this reason, shouldn't they know better? But we don't have to stop with contemporary Christian priests and ministers. We can go back even further into early church history. But therein lies another problem.
Most Christians (although sincere, devout, and some with radiant halos) lack a knowledge of early Christian beliefs and debates about the nature of humans, the nature of resurrection of the dead (what and why it is), spirits, the after life, God, Christ, Satan, heaven, and hell. They only know of the doctrines and tenets of their home church within which they were raised and assume that their church is not only representative of Christianity but also that this has always been the case. It would seem that this position is sufficient enough: eminent, godly, "Holy Spirit-guided" men of the past have already decided for us what the doctrines of the church should and should not be. The names of many of these figures are unknown to most devout, lay Christians. So why bother studying how all that stuff was debated in the past? Where would you begin? And how? Church history is buried in scholarly monographs that are accessible only to other scholars. How would you judge one book from another? Just tell me what I need to know. If this is an adequate position for a Christian to take, then why is Christianity splintered into so many segments? Who went astray? First Methodists or Second Presbyterians? Catholics or Episcopalians? First Baptists or Lutherans? The African Methodist Episcopal Church or the Church of God in Christ? Were early Christians this segregated? In some respects, yes. There were Valentinian and Basilidian Christians (two branches of Gnostic Christians), Manichaean Christians, Marcion Christians, Montanist Christians, Universal or "Catholic" Christians, "Jewish" Christians, "Hellenistic" Christians, to name a few. Because of this, there was no such thing as "the Church" in early Christianity. Indeed, during the late fourth century, the Roman Catholic Church ascended to dominate the Christian landscape after Constantine’s order for Roman tolerance of Christianity. His successor, Theodosius I, legalized the Roman Church as the only true religion of the land.
The reader should surmise: one must begin to think beyond their grasp and ask Why? and Is that Correct? In the words of Jesus, "Judge that which is right" (Luke 12:57). A person's convictions and sincerity in his/her deliverance of those convictions does not necessarily mean that the convictions are true. Often times, unfortunately, many thinking Christians must admit that the many Christian sermons given today merely repeat what a biblical text says without giving much in the way as to what the biblical text actually means. Neither does the position of authority of a minister or priest equal the veracity of the tenets of their particular church or denomination. We view Jesus in 20/20 hindsight, but during his ministry nobody (on Earth) knew that he was the Son of God, the Messiah. John the Baptist was unsure even after his baptism of Jesus, for while in jail John sent others to inquire of Jesus as to who he truly was. Jesus' teachings did not square well with the Jewish authorities who were steeped in their given dogmas. Jesus was in no position of authority as a teacher insofar as the synagogues were concerned even though some Jewish priests were impressed by his teachings in secret. At that time, even Jesus' family wanted him to keep quiet for fear of running them up against the Jewish priesthood. Might we recognize Jesus' teachings if he toured the towns and cities of the United States preaching today? If your answer is a resounding "Yes!" how can you be so sure? Would his teachings look and sound just like those that are heard in Christian churches today? But, which church? The Catholic or the Methodist? The Baptist or the Lutheran? The Episcopal or the Church of Christ? The Pentecostal or the Nazarene Church? Might Jesus read from early Christian texts that, athough not found in our New Testament, were nevertheless read as "Scripture" by some early church fathers, e.g., the Shepherd of Hermas, Baruch, 1 Clement, or 1 Enoch? What would he say about the Trinity? About the resurrection of the dead? About other religions and religious beliefs? Would he be accepted by the churches? Rejected by some, accepted by others? Or rejected by all, as it was during his earthly mission two thousand years ago? It is quite possible that, apart from things Jesus might tell us today, that there is a God, the Father, and general moral principles (the "Golden Rule," etc.), many of us might convict Jesus of heresy if he were to come back and preach to us today, just as had been done in the first century.
If modern Christianity has these kinds of problems, and if there are doctrines taught in the churches that might not be true or real, or at least in disagreement from church to church (for how can both transubstantiation of Catholicism and symbolism of Protestantism be true), then one rightly asks: Why would God allow his Christian people to be misled and to be taught things that are wrong (or different from one another) in His Church? Very good question. This very question requires the Christian to emerge from his or her comfort zone and begin to explore the history of earliest Christianity, the development of dogma, which dogmas won out and why, and to start taking matters of Christianity and religion in general into their own hands while asking for God's help and guidance.
Sometimes, thinking for one's self on matters of religion is given the name "free thought." Free thinking is one thing, but careful thinking is quite another. An example of "free thought" is found in the criticisms of religion. We are advocating critical thinking here, but not the haphazard thinking that often comes under the rubric of "criticism" in the eyes of the masses. A case in point: Opponents of religion in general claim that in the name of religion horrible acts are committed on the world stage, past and present. Wars, intrigue, torture, murder, and corruption have been the hallmarks of religious zealots of the past. Christianity especially is often criticized as such a religion. The "dark side" of Christianity is clearly seen in its shady, nefarious past: the oppositions and criminal acts during many great church councils, the torture and murder of heretics during the Inquisition, the evil and manipulative Popes of past Vatican administrations, the Crusades and other wars fought in the name of Christ, sexually corrupt priests and nuns, political intrigue of the Vatican, the murder of Popes by Cardinals, etc. These charges are not unrealistic and, unfortunately are, in many cases, true. But what mankind does in the name of Christianity is one thing. God and Christ are something else. People need to understand the difference between man-made Christianity and Christ's Christianity. This also goes for the "teachings" that are called "Christian." Are they teachings derived directly from Christ? The charge that "the blood of innocent millions has flowed in the name of Christianity" has nothing to do with Christ. Instead, that charge has everything to do with human kind. Whenever a spirit or an extraterrestrial berates Christianity as a murderous religious cult and cites this kind of evidence for such a claim, one needs to be on guard against that entity, and to be careful to discern the difference between man-made Christianity and Christ's Christianity, and to test that entity. Unfortunately, the name of Christ is attached to all of sorts of wrong-headed acts and ideas that many honest searchers are simply unable to sift through all of the mud and mire in order to arrive at the truth. Thus, the allure of non-Christian spiritualities becomes enticing to many souls. This website is meant to aid these very souls and help him or her take those next few critical steps toward a clearer, cleaner, and more logical Christianity; a liberating Christianity that recognizes the reality of the holy spirits who draw one closer to the true God and to the true Christ who have been lost, for the moment, to the dust heap of man's haunts and theologies on planet Earth.