Monday, July 13, 2009

The Divine Principle 3: General Introduction - Christianity unable to overcome its internal division and immorality, and communism

Icon depicting the First Council of Nicaea.Image via Wikipedia

Icon depicting the First Council of Nicaea

Text from Divine Principle, General Introduction, third set of paragraphs:

"Let us study the history of Christianity. For nearly 2,000 years Christianity grew, professed the salvation of mankind, and established worldwide dominion. But what has become of the Christian spirit which cast forth such a brilliant light of life that, even in the days of persecution under the Roman Empire, Romans were brought to their knees before the crucified Jesus? Medieval feudal society buried this Christianity alive. Yet, even in its grave, the torch of Christian religious reformation still shone out against the engulfing darkness of that age. It could not, however, turn back the tide of those dark days.

When ecclesiastic love expired, when the surging desire for material wealth swept the society of Europe and countless millions of starving masses shouted bitterly in the industrial slums, the promise of salvation came not from heaven but from earth. Its name was communism. Christianity, though it professed God's love, had turned out to be in reality a dead body of clergy trailing empty slogans. It was then only natural that a banner of revolt would be raised against a seemingly merciless God. Christian society became the hotbed of materialism. Absorbing fertilizer from this soil, communism, the foremost materialist ideology, has grown rapidly and unchecked.

Christianity lost its capacity to surpass the practice of communism and has not been able to present a truth which overcomes communist theory. Christians watch communism grow within their own midst, expanding its dominion over the world. Although they teach and believe that all men are descendants of the same parents, many Christians do not like to sit with brothers and sisters of different skin color. This is a representative example of today's Christianity, which is deprived of the life force needed to practice the word of Christ.

There may come a day when such social tragedies will end, but there is one social vice which is beyond the control of many men and women today. That is adultery. Christian doctrine holds this sin to be the greatest of all sins. What a tragedy that today's Christian society cannot halt this degradation, into which so many people today are rushing blindly.

What these realities mean to us is that Christianity today is in a state of confusion. Split by the chaotic tide of the present generation, it is unable to do anything for the lives of the people who have been drawn into today's whirlpool of immorality. Is Christianity unable to achieve God's promise of salvation for the present era of mankind? Why have men of religion thus far been unable to fulfill their missions even though they have struggled desperately and devotedly in pursuit of internal truth?"

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From the earliest beginning until today many Christians have thought Jesus to be God Himself. Some argue that this was already believed in certain ways by John, Paul and early Christian writers like Polycarp of Smyrna and Irenaeus. See for example the arguments as shown in this article.

At the first Council of Nicaea in what today is Turkey in 325 AD, which is believed to be the first Ecumenical Council, one of the topics which the gathered Christian bishops had to agree upon was a question of Christology. Here the notion was rejected brought forward by the priest Arius of Alexandria. The Arians believed that God the Father and Jesus the Son were different and that the Son, though he may be the most perfect of creations, was only a creation of God the Father.

The First Council of Nicaea (Wikipedia):

"The Council declared that the Father and the Son are of the same substance and are co-eternal, basing the declaration in the claim that this was a formulation of traditional Christian belief handed down from the Apostles. This belief was expressed in the Nicene Creed."

However there is other evidence that the first apostles and many early Christian writers did not believe Jesus to be God. For example, Mark did not believe Jesus to have unlimited knowledge like God has. According to Mark 13:32 (KJV), Jesus said:

“But of that day and that hour no man knows, no, not the angels who are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.”

The same article also quotes the Church Father Tertullian (ca. 160 - ca. 220 AD) as believing that God, the Father, was superior to Jesus:

“... the Son differs from the Father ... it is not by division that He is different, but by distinction; because the Father is not the same as the Son, since they differ one from the other in the mode of their being. For the Father is the entire substance, but the Son is a derivation and portion of the whole, as He Himself acknowledges: ‘My Father is greater than I.’ In the Psalm {Psalm 7:5} His inferiority is described as being ‘a little lower than the angels.’ Thus the Father is distinct from the Son, being greater than the Son, inasmuch as He who begets is one, and He who is begotten is another; He, too, who sends is one, and He who is sent is another; and He, again, who makes is one, and He through whom the thing is made is another.”

Where did the belief come from that Jesus were God? Jesus was born as a Jew and in that religion, nobody thought that a human being could be God.

According to this article 'The Origins of Christianity and the Bible' by Andrew D. Benson:

"Diaspora Jews referred to God as "the Father." Those Jews believed God is one person. They believed only the Father is God. Had Paul preached Jesus is God, he would have been forbidden from preaching in Diaspora synagogues. “… he {Paul} began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, ‘He is the Son of God.’ … But Saul {Paul} kept increasing in strength and confounding the Jews who lived at Damascus by proving that this Jesus is the Christ.” (Acts 9:20, 22 NASB) Paul proved that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, not God. The terms “Son of God,” “Messiah” and “Christ” were synonymous terms, which were commonly used in Israel in those days. The Jews used the terms “Son of God” and Christ” to refer to their awaited Messiah, whom they expected to be a mere man."

The belief that a man like Jesus could be or would have to be God came from pagan origins. Nations surrounding the old Israel like Babylonia, Egypt, Greece and the Roman Empire all were known for their many deities. Often historical figures in these cultures who were seen as having had extraordinary or sacred lives on earth, later were worshiped as deities.

To worship a human being as a god means to deny that the Creator is the only God. It puts saints and idolgods in the place of the Creator or in-between man and the Creator. Thus the direct relationship with God that was still normal for Old-Testament central figures like Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David and many prophets has become an unreachable ideal for many Christians.

Here lies the real cause of the inability of Christian religion to make victory over materialist ideologies such as that of the Roman Empire and later communism. Without having a direct relationship to God we cannot understand the essence of life to be an eternal spiritual existence and we are vulnerable to be deceived by evil spirits and to overvalue the meaning of the physical existence.

Communists have advanced their causes above those of Christianity by accusing them to have immoral and adulterous societies and to be unjustly dividing material wealth. It is only possible to overcome such accusations when religious people are really finding back to an original and individual direct relationship to God the Creator. Only our deep love for and direct relationship with God can give us the strength to overcome the temptations of free sex, external power and material wealth.

Sources quoted in this article

The former blog in these Divine Principle series

The next blog in these Divine Principle series

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