I want to start by saying that faith in Christ is central to what I believe. I feel that I need to say that because what follows may seem to be heretical. To begin, I will ask where we think Christianity came from. I think that we can agree that the books in the Old Testament allude to Christ. Also, that the Jewish beliefs provided a symbolic understanding of what later became more accurately understood. So, God seems to have gradually revealed himself to us throughout history. I would like to expand on this idea.
A book club that I am in recently read Joseph Campbell’s “A Hero of a Thousand Faces”. One of this book’s central ideas is that mythologies and religions, which appeared at different times and different places throughout history, share various stories. One repeated theme is the story of Christ. Of course, most of this literature is not consistent with what Christians can accept. However, it is remarkable to me that this has happened at all. Further, it seems to me that there exists a certain amount of overlap between various cultural belief systems. So, this suggests to me is that God has been revealing himself to all people, no matter when or where they lived. The acme of that revelation occurred when Jesus told us about God.
Christianity came from the teachings of the apostles and decisions of the early church leaders in the first and second centuries as they formalized the teachings of Jesus and beliefs about events in the life of Jesus into a systemized belief system the built on Judaism but diverged significantly.
Yes, of course that is true. What I’m actually trying to get at is the nature of revelation. I would like to suggest that what the gospels inform us of is an elaboration of, or a deeper understanding of, what the Old Testament already said. So, the New Testament can be seen as logical extension of the Old Testament.
Sure, but that also is just basic Christian doctrine. I agree with what I think you are saying that God has been relating to humanity in many times and places throughout human history. Even if we as Christians accept that Jesus is the best and most complete revelation of God to humanity and the Hebrew Scriptures and New Testament writings are uniquely inspired by God to reveal his story, that doesn’t limit God’s self-revelation to the Bible and Jesus. If God is relational and personal like Christianity claims, then it seems very justifiable to assume he has pursued self-revelation and relationship with other groups of people in cultures other than the Israelites and their spiritual progeny. So I am not surprised when godly wisdom or claims of interaction with God that are consistent with Christian truth claims appear in other cultural traditions.
Joseph Campbell did a great job of identifying common motifs in many stories that tend to create interest (see, e.g., Star Wars). However, as far as actually representing the content of stories, his approach largely boils down to “if you ignore all the differences, then they’re the same”. The differences are often important. I have encountered the claim that an Appalachian folk tale about a hunter chasing a bear into a cave and discovering something is a version of Beowulf because “Beowulf” means “bear” [bee-wolf, cf. Beorn, Bjorn, Bern] and there was an underground treasure in Beowulf. No, those similarities are too vague without additional evidence.
C. S. Lewis argued that the presence of motifs in other cultures that link to Christianity could reflect God’s revelation. Assessing such gets complicated in many ways. Israel was at the crossroads between Asia, Africa, and Europe; ideas could travel to and from them in any direction. Also, most of those recording stories and beliefs from various cultures come from a background of some level of familiarity with Christian ideas, and may have been influenced in their understanding of their sources in other cultures. If Christianity is true, then its principles should work, and people may easily have noticed that on their own in various settings. People have all sorts of ideas, and they mix and mutate in unpredictable ways. It’s also essential to distinguish between the claim (e.g., in Paul’s sermon in Athens) that God has given pointers that should prompt us to seek Him and other claims such as asserting that such knowledge is sufficient for salvation without the work of Christ or that such pointers ought to be scientifically detectable and found in ID’s favorite places to look.
Christy and David, thanks. I am now going to elaborate on a larger point. I began writing this before I received the last post so sorry in advance for re-stating some ideas.
I don’t mean to suggest that various mythologies in any way compete with the Gospels. However, can we agree that God revealed things first to the Jews which Jesus and the apostles made more clear? Wouldn’t it be fair to say that the Old Testament is more correctly understood in light of the New Testament? If that is true, then didn’t God develop ideas among the Jews which were mere shadows of the ideas that were expressed in the New Testament? Doesn’t the New Testament make this clear?
From what I have read in Yuval Harari’s “Sapiens” and in Jacob Bronowski’s “The Ascent of Man”, mankind first began to express ideas about God 70,000 years ago. Since that time, many ideas about God have been developed. I agree that the Jews were special, but I don’t think that they were the only ones that God spoke to. I am not saying that you could find salvation through them, but I don’t think that they are completely ignored by God.
What I really want to talk about is how I believe God communicates to us. In a book written by Paul Nunez, “The New Science of Consciousness”, Nunez speculates that the human brain may actually function as an antenna. Also, we know about the subconscious from the work of Carl Jung, Sigmund Freud and others. It strikes me as too much for this to be ignored if it is at least plausible. What I am suggesting is that all thought comes to us from the subconscious and that the subconscious is not only our subconscious but everyone’s subconscious. Furthermore, this subconscious, I believe, includes God and Satan and that all of our ideas come from this source. The elements of this idea are not new. That consciousness can exist outside of our corporeal existence is an idea that has been debated by Cosmologists for well over 100 years.
In a practical sense, knowing this doesn’t help much. However, it could provide a mechanism by which we begin to understand how it is possible to pray and receive answers from God. We still need the spirit of Christ in order to evaluate the ideas that enter our consciousness.
No. God revealed nothing whatsoever to the Jews. The evil of the God of the Jews nearly cancels out the evolution of His good. And that is all fully explicable naturally. It’s Jesus that transcends that story. And even that works naturally. Thanks to His Mother.
Which Cosmologists have debated that consciousness can exist outside of our corporeal existence, since 1900?
Yes, this is what most Christian biblical theologians say.
I think that is a reasonable opinion consistent with God’s revealed character.
I hope you’re being sarcastic
Why? How could I be?
God revealed nothing to the Jews until, at most, Himself in Jesus. We desperately read God back in to the TaNaKh in the light of Jesus. Who read Himself in to it. Again, thanks to His mother. Even if He actually were God incarnate. Which is purely a matter of faith. His. Then ours. Desire.
And yes, that does tear ones flesh.
For me this is the best way I can understand it all. I don’t have time to get very detailed and will presume most others also are aware of the verses and concepts in thinking of , even if we connect it differently.
In the Bible to me it paints a picture of a God who loves creation and wants his creation involved in stewardship. Just to note this is not a post about intelligent design. I think this act of stewardship is more than just humans taking care of the planet. It seems that angels also have some kind of role in stewardship with us , but focused on us. It mentions that there were these angels, referred to as princes of Israel, princes of Persia and so on. We also read things about God in a throne room surrounded by the hosts of heaven discussing among themselves how to carry something out. It’s not that God can not do it on his own but that he wants his creation involved in it. So it seems to me that God placed different angels over different nations. I think these angels over these nations had some control over how they tried to direct it and part of that would be through visions, prophecy and miracles. I think some of these angels over time became evil. Like the ones that possessed the men and named themselves legion. I think they were involved in trying to kill Jesus through Herod and so on.
But not trying to dive into that.
Just that I guess I look at it like this. If there was a school of thought and the mode that drove them was a teacher whose philosophy was love, justice and mercy and then he sent those students out into the world to teach his wisdom , even though the students may do it differently, we would see a similar thread between them. Especially since the students would accommodate each culture. Then the teacher’s son was born and was raised up from a very young age the heart of the message and he reflected it the best and he went to a town where one the original students went, it would make sense he also picked up with that cultural understanding of it. But it would not mean the other students misrepresented the truth. They just used different metaphors and personalized the laws for that area.
Christy said once something along the line of when she is translating the Bible for a specific group of people she often has to translate it into something meaningful for that area. So the way something gets translated in one culture and language may be different from another and it’s not corrupting it, it’s making it valuable for those people. I guess I look at God doing the same thing through his angels in different nations. Same as how even with the same Bible we can have different groups of people reading the same story and translation but picking up on very different themes.
I also think that personally, this was something happening before Christ. I think before Christ, across the nations of the world, these different faiths built on love arose and it was to help guide and prepare
Humanity for Jesus through softening their hearts. That’s why Jesus is so easily incorporated into so many faiths as a person of love. I think Christ fulfilled all of these faiths. I’m not a universalist and so I don’t think all faiths lead to God, but I think many faiths can lead someone to love and when God searches the hearts, he knows what he’s looking for.
God revealed himself to Abraham. Jews, Christians, and Muslims believe this. The Messiah is a Jewish concept. And yes, Jesus saw himself in the Old Testament, the only Bible he had.
My first thought was that, well when a mommy Christianity and a daddy Christianity love each other very much … then I noticed this wasn’t the humor thread. NM.
In my studying on the subject, the Apostle Paul had a major impact on the Christian church we see today. According to tradition, Paul wrote the majority of the New Testament. There appeared to be other sects of Christianity at the time of Paul (e.g. gnostics), but Pauline Christianity is the one that made it to the modern age. The other formative events are the several councils (Nicene, Ephesus, Chalcedonia) 4 centuries or more after Paul.
There’s a really good YouTube video on the subject:
It’s strongly tilted towards an academic view (i.e. discusses “both sides”), but it contains a lot of good info.
I don’t know. If the Old Testament is included in our Bible, it seems that what the Jews knew was deemed relevant to what Jesus and the apostles said. However, the Jews had a different covenant with God. As the apostle Paul said, the Jews were under the law of Moses which was an oppressive system of attempting to appease God. Also, as Paul said, the law of Moses only proved that we couldn’t please God by following it alone. It would seem as if it was a different God, but it was the same God that sent us Jesus. If it was some other God, why does Jesus say that he came to fulfill the law of Moses and not destroy it?
Regarding the Cosmologists, there was an article in the New York Times on Jan. 15, 2008 “Big Brain Theory: Have Cosmologists Lost Theirs?” In the article, it is the concept that consciousness could exist without a body that seems important.
I agree that God is and has been involved with everyone. Also, as you said, we are at various levels of understanding. I like the stewardship idea. I think that God can use whole cultures to steward others. For instance, in The Book of Isaiah (10:5), God sends the Jews into the hands of the Assyrians in order to push them away from idolatry. He also uses people, one on one, to mold us. In my marriage, my wife most certainly influences my ideas. I may become head strong and she’ll come along and burst my bubble. After considering what she has said, I often re-evaluate my position to arrive at a modified one that is an improvement. It works the other way too. So, we each end up strengthened by the relationship. Also, in a forum like this, we become changed by the interactions with others. In these interactions we retain our individuality and our discretion, but because of exposure to new ideas, we are strengthened. Isn’t this the same way in which we are changed by The Word of God? So, yes I think that we are stewards of one another. However, ideally it is the Word of God acting through us. This is because we are deeply changed by The Word and that has an effect on our actions. This change may be overt or it may be so subtle that we don’t even notice it.
Where do Babylonians come from? When a Mama Lonian loves a Papa Lonian, they make a Babylonian.
That’s what I’m talking about.
When Papa Sota and Momma Sota really love each other, they make a MiniSota.
Oppressive? I don’t think the Jews got that memo. In Psalm 119 the psalmist says,
Oh, how I love thy law!
It is my meditation all the day.
98 Thy commandment makes me wiser than my enemies,
for it is ever with me.
99 I have more understanding than all my teachers,
for thy testimonies are my meditation.
100 I understand more than the aged,
for I keep thy precepts.
101 I hold back my feet from every evil way,
in order to keep thy word.
In the synagogues, the Torah is read through every year. At the conclusion of the cycle, there is a celebration called Simchat Torah (Joy of Torah). They celebrate by dancing with the Torah scrolls, and parading them around… In Israel, the celebration spills into the streets with a parade:
Israeli Jews in Tel-Aviv celebrate ‘Simchat Torah’ (Joy of Torah) by dancing with the Torah scrolls
It is true that Paul explains that the law can’t save us. He was being polemical to make a point.