Monday, July 16, 2007

Pope Benedict: More Complication Added, More Simplifying Needed

You probably have heard by now, the recent controversial words of the Pope that many in the Protestant churches have taken some exception to. For sure, some have been harsher than others. But in almost all Protestant denominations, there's been some kind or reaction, at some level or another.

Here's a somewhat humorous (but yet in some ways quite serious) response from PYY regular AC of Fore Left.

Here is one of the harsher ones. The story isn't as harsh as the headline to the article:

Pope bashes Protestants -- again

This one is even more so. It's not as kind in the main body of the essay:

What is it about this arrogance that still angers me? Because the world is divided already, and we don't need this supercilious conversation right now? Because the country is in an immoral war abroad, and there's hunger and homelessness at home, and still we talk about this? Because we're straining at gnats, and swallowing camels?

Here's one that's not as harsh, but is more or less telling what Protestants should do about it:

Non-Catholics who are up in arms of the proclamation by Pope Benedict XVI that the only true church in the world is that of Catholicism shouldn’t even bother with getting upset. Just chalk it up to an old man trying to get a little attention.

I highly recommend reading Mr. Martin's essay, he has the right idea here. But as right as he is about how non-Catholics should react, even he cannot help but show in his writing that he's a little miffed about the Pope's erroneous statement:

Yet as I reflect on my years as a Catholic, it pretty was a wasted experience as there was more identification with the church, and not with Christ.

And that’s why Pope Benedict XVI is meaningless, along with his decision to re-state the primacy of the Catholic Church. This week, the pope released a document correcting interpretations of the Second Vatican Council, which some say modernized the church. But for hard liners like Pope Benedict XVI, the liberals went too far in some of their declarations.

But what ticked folks off is his assertion in the 16-page document by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that the only denominations that can call themselves a true church is if they can trace their roots back to Jesus Christ’s original apostles. He even suggested they suffer from defects.

Here is the document that is making all of the fuss, with this particular part as one of the cornerstones of the Protestant criticism:

"Third Question: Why was the expression 'subsists in' adopted instead of the simple word 'is'?

Response: The use of this expression, which indicates the full identity of the Church of Christ with the Catholic Church, does not change the doctrine on the Church. Rather, it comes from and brings out more clearly the fact that there are 'numerous elements of sanctification and of truth' which are found outside her structure, but which 'as gifts properly belonging to the Church of Christ, impel towards Catholic Unity.'

"'It follows that these separated churches and Communities, though we believe they suffer from defects, are deprived neither of significance nor importance in the mystery of salvation. In fact the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as instruments of salvation, whose value derives from that fullness of grace and of truth which has been entrusted to the Catholic Church.'

Personally, I think this has been a part of the Catholic Church for years now, and is hardly anything new. It is but one reason (of many), the Roman Church has alienated some of its membership over the years. There are many other reasons, but this attitude is nothing new to the hierarchy. They have always believed they were the one true church, and it goes back a long way. From the time Luther split the church back in 1517, there has been much contention between the Catholic leadership and the rest of the sects and denominations over who held the keys to the Kingdom. And while there have been times where the fellowship of all Christians was better than others, the people of the Protestant world have forgotten much of this during the latest lull.

This is but one of the reasons, I am not Catholic. It's also the reason that I am not a member of any church or denomination. I have made this decision many years ago, because the Roman Catholic Church is not the only church that claims spiritual superiority over the rest. You can find many others that make the claim that they have the truth and thus are spiritual heirs to the Church that Christ built, yet I found none that truly have a stake to either claim.

So, what's all of this mean? It means that there are varying beliefs within Church World and not all can be right. Does this mean that Roland Martin is any more of an authority or can make any other claim of spiritual superiority than Pope Benedict? Not from where I sit.

In my last post here at PPTG, I discussed the way man has complicated things that pertain to God. In one of my responses to a comment, I asked a reader to take a look at Revelation 12 and to pay close attention to the woman. Now, I will ask those that care to, to take a look at Revelation 11.

Do that and the next post may make better sense. In it, I will try to put some of this into better perspective and maybe in turn, it will spark some deeper thought into the reasons that the Pope and other leaders from other organizations, do not speak for me. Don't try to figure it out right now. Just read it and familiarize yourself with the metaphorical prose.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Complication Simplified

From Praesidium Respublicae comes an interesting post on religion from a historical perspective. Overall, it's a good review of some principles that have existed in religion from the beginning of mankind's time on this earth, many of which still exist today in some modified form or fashion. Sam makes some comparisons that are spot on and worthy of thought and consideration.

For many years now, I have adhered to a principle that (for me) has drawn a stark contrast between religion and Christianity, and has put all things theological into a certain relative perspective, one that has been highly instrumental in helping me sort out the truths and the myths. It is:

Religion is man's attempt to reach God (or some other named form or deity), while Christianity is God's attempt to reach man.

Think about this for a second.

Sam at PR states in his essay:

Early man, in trying to understand the forces of the natural world, developed a belief system in which many gods represented forces of nature.

Those of us that know and understand history know that man has been curious about the possibility of higher beings and an unseen realm that contains answers to physical mysteries. When attempting to answer questions about why it rained and other natural elements which man could not control, it was easy to assign some kind of supernatural explanation to them. And in doing this, man also determined that adverse events out of his control, had to be the result of something he was or was not doing that the force behind this element was not pleased with.

The multitude of deities that evolved from man's reasonings about these things, was one example of man complicating things, more so than was originally intended. He could not fathom that there was one entity that was over everything, he had to have many to explain the different phenomena that he experienced.

One example found in the Bible is the story of the tower of Babel. After God sought the people to disperse and populate the earth, the people thought they'd build a tower into the heavens, to be with God. Man tried, but as the rest of the story goes, they soon found their languages confused, thus no coordination could take place. By man not doing the will of God, his actions brought on more complications to a world that seemingly had one simple directive.

But, at the time of God's choosing (and only at that time), He sent his Son into the earth to redeem mankind. By sending Christ here and offering Him as the ultimate sacrifice, God and man made contact. Not through man's doing or effort, but by God's. After that, man had need of no more rituals, no more sacrifices, and no more ceremonies to touch the mind of God, for God had provided an opportunity that man need only accept and believe. God's purpose in all of this, was not complicated at all.

What was His purpose?

I firmly believe, the purpose of this effort was to free mankind from the horrible curse that came upon mankind, from Adam and Eve's actions in the Garden of Eden. That curse was death. God had told Adam that if they ate of the tree at the center of the garden, in that day they ate of it, they would "surely die". It's obvious that He did not mean they would die that same day. But He merely meant the day they ate, they would have this onus around their necks. It meant that instead of having eternal life, they would face a day whereby they would cease to exist on this earth.

If we read John 3:16, we can see this was the distinction being made for hope of restoring an opportunity for eternal life (as it would have been, had Adam and Eve not disobeyed and brought the curse on mankind in the first place):

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

This is one of the most quoted scripture by Christians of all denominations, yet it is (I feel) one of the most misunderstood. Note that the distinction is not between spending eternity in Heaven or Hell, but having everlasting life over death.

So, when Sam asserts and asks the following:

Modern religion assures us that there is an after-life existence in either heaven or hell. Remember, one must believe it in order to achieve it . . . but one really must ask if there is a heaven or hell, what has happened to the souls of all those millions of people who lived long before Jesus or Allah? Have these ancient souls been condemned to a never-ending torment just because they happened to live at the wrong time, or in the wrong place?

I have somewhat of an answer.

I say all souls that have died (before or after Christ came and redeemed the world are now dead), are now awaiting the day when their names are called to come forth in the resurrection, the same resurrection that Christ experienced. Those that are known by God will live again. That is the hope, that is the promise. Furthermore it is my belief that the Roman Church in the Dark Ages deliberately twisted passages from the Bible that were meant to be interpreted in a metaphorical sense, and not literally. Those passages became mainstream, because Rome wanted tight control over its subjects through the Church.

In short, I do not believe that there is a special place that God sets aside for those He wishes to torment (with angels all standing around the camp fire pit saying; "Goody, goody, they are getting what they deserve"). The lost souls that have done evil, killed innocents, and blasphemed will not fry and pop in the pits of hell, throughout the ceaseless ages of eternity. They will die and stay dead forever.

The current concept of Hell is just one example of how man has overcomplicated Christianity, as has been done with most religions throughout the annals of time. God gave Moses and the children of Israel the Law, it wasn't long before they complicated it. By the time Christ came, they had it so over-saturated with unnecessary rituals, that it was unrecognizable, from it purest form.

With that in mind, it only stands to reason the same has been done with Christianity and does much to explain why so many people are confused and even turned off by something that in it's purest form, was simple and easy. God uncomplicated religion and man messed it back up as he does everything he touches.

Questions? I'll try to answer them, best I can. If not, ponder on these things and see if they do not make a little sense.