Monday, December 15, 2014

A Quick Review of Religious History and Philosophy

The great question of religion is whether or not there is a God and thus a heaven and whether or not there is some process of salvation. How did the concepts developed by religious philosophers, Biblical scholars and those that have professed Christianity in some form or another come to be?

The Bible tells us that Christ and his apostles established a church in the earth. This was the authoritative body to establish God's will and proclaim to the people. After Christ and the apostles died men began to formulate their own theology and administer a church after their own methodology.

History tells us that there was much disagreement as Constantine the emperor of Rome sought to unify Christians by formulating foundational creeds for their beliefs. This happened after the apostles died and men were making up their own philosophical theologies. This was 325 years or so after the birth of Christ. The historical and scriptural accounts that were available were canonized and closely held by the church for centuries. The Nicene Creed and Apostles Creed established to oppose Arianism became the the foundation of the Catholic Church's theology.

"Controversy over Arianism arose in the late 3rd century and persisted throughout most of the 4th century. It involved most church members—from simple believers, priests, and monks to bishops, emperors, and members of Rome's imperial family. Two Roman emperors, Constantius II and Valens, became Arians or Semi-Arians, as did prominentGothic, Vandal, and Lombard warlords both before and after the fall of the Western Roman Empire. Such a deep controversy within the Church during this period of its development could not have materialized without significant historical influences providing a basis for the Arian doctrines.[7] Of the roughly three hundred bishops in attendance at the Council of Nicea, only two bishops did not sign the Nicene Creed, which condemned Arianism.[8] This majority due, at least in part, to a penalty of exile or death for refusal to sign the Nicene Creed having been imposed by Emperor Constantius II." Wikipedia

Certain assumptions later led religious philosophers/apologists to try and convince people to believe that somehow the Scriptures as canonized in the Bible are complete and inerrant. Apologists quickly qualify the concept saying that the men and women that read them and form churches are not.  

This philosophy was developed because people wanted to be able to say that somehow there is absolute certainty in what the book says. This is a necessary approach because they themselves did not have authority to teach the word of God or administer the church. Likewise it was necessary to develop a teaching this says that anyone that follows the Bible is part of some universal brotherhood or invisible body of believers that represents the body of Christ.

We understand from the Old Testament the tendency of  Israel, God's chosen people to wander from the words of the prophet. The prophets were the watchmen constantly seeking to keep them aligned with God. The same was true in the New Testament as the apostles called the members to repentance.

How is it that man made the assumption that they knew exactly what God was speaking in the Bible when they no longer believed that prophets or authority were necessary?  The fact is they didn't and they admit it as they observe their own lack of unity in the religious communities of the modern era. The mantra of many is that the Bible is inerrant but people aren't.  Without a central authority in the church. individual opinion and scholarship will take that position and make itself the authority. Such is the case with the development of Christian theology in the mainstream churches.

After ruling for more than a millennium the church established in Rome by Constantine came under sufficient scrutiny to inspire the Protestant movement, a reformation of the universal church at the time. Certain things were identified according to different scholars did not align with their interpretation of the Bible.  Are not Baptists, Methodists and all protestants are essentially just Catholics with a twist.  After all they do profess the same trinity as their deity.  

What we see since the time of Christ's death is a constant state of confusion and disagreement over religious concepts.   Even though there was no authoritative body of the church on the earth we can see that through the word that was available God was able to preserve faith in Christ in the earth.  So if these churches were not authorized to perform acts that lead to salvation even though professing such;  what happens to all of these people? 

We see doctrines developed in the universal Church that taught such things as baptism of infants and charged money for it and sold other indulgences.  There were many other teachings that didn't reconcile with scripture.  The new order of religion sells grace without effort.  The churches of our day have strong disagreements over such topics as free will, salvation by grace, pre-determinism and others.  The teachings in the churches and congregations follow the dictates of the individual leaders.

While the real ordinances of salvation were not in the earth, it doesn't mean that God didn't have a plan consistent with scripture and his methods of salvation to carry them out in the earth. While we see thousands of years of religious apostasy we must remember that there is no real time in God's methodology. Whether the apostasy lasted one day or 2000 years it doesn't really matter.  He is however a God of order and established procedures, a being of law and eternal truth.

The overall purpose of a religion should be to fulfill that purpose which is to save all of God's children and help them live happy lives in mortality. This would require some action on the part of the individuals to be saved.  

The teachings developed by religious scholars and philosophers condemn all human souls that don't measure up to their concept of salvation of accepting Christ even if they never knew of him.   For man to assume that he had authority to do so and not really have it did not thwart God's plan.  Just as Christ's Atonement, which is his sacrifice for sin and his resurrection were foreordained before the earth was created, so to was the restoration of his gospel.  He will bring all things together in one under Christ in the latter days, which is now.

This is being done by the establishment of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  In it is found all of the authority and ordinances necessary for the salvation of God's children.   

God is not a respecter of persons therefore all men and women must receive the same message and the same ordinances pertaining to salvation by someone with authority to perform them.  Joseph Smith went to God in prayer and He came to Joseph in person and sent messengers to authorize him.  In the religions of men, they chose themselves and authorized themselves using the Bible as a basis for their justifications.

For theological discussion we talk about heaven as a place where people go to live forever. Traditional teachings have said that only certain people go there and that everyone else goes to hell. Some churches and religious organizations teach that those that don't accept God simply go back to the nothingness from which they were created.

Latter Day Saint theology teaches that we are truly immortal souls. This means that our eternal identity did not have a beginning and that we were not created out of nothing.  Eternal spiritual intelligence is the substance from which all people gain their personality and identity. We are begotten sons and daughters into God with this eternal substance.

Because we are eternal we cannot be sent back into nothingness because there is no such thing as nothingness.  God's power is to give to us through creation the moral agency by which we act and make choices. Scriptures are clear that there is a final judgment. Through the gospel we receive instruction from our Savior and about his divine mission and how he offers grace to us through his atonement which includes the resurrection.

Religious philosophers have failed to realize that God's powers and directives can only be carried out by his representatives.   His prophets and apostles act today just as they did when Jesus and his original apostles were on the earth.

All of the people that have ever lived on the earth still live. They as their eternal spiritual creation, they live in a place where they can communicate and where God's work is still carried out.  They will receive the same message and the same opportunities. Contrary to what some have said, no person is denied heaven because they weren't a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  The church would not teach such a doctrine as salvation after death if that were true.  We wouldn't have temples where we perform ordinances for ancestors who live in the spirit world and weren't members of the church.

At the final judgment we will essentially be standing before God and and judging our own life as the spirit opens our mind to remembrance of all things. Did we try to follow the commandments did we serve him and our fellow man or did we pursue our own agenda. He will judge us perfectly according to every deficiency that may have been a part of our life and we will only be held accountable for that over which we have control and the knowledge we had. No person will be condemned in ignorance.

Whatever we lack will be taught to us in the spirit world before the final judgment. The fact is we already know in our own minds what we think we want to accomplish in our life on earth and whether or not we are following God.

The kingdoms of glory are eternal realms where like-minded people will live together forever.  God lives in the family unit. That is the eternal order of godliness and holiness when individuals become perfected by the Savior and his Gospel.  His church is the school where we learn these things.  If we decide we don't want to learn the we he still allows us to live forever in a state of peace essentially carrying on with similar activities of life with perfect bodies though not glorified to a state of continued creation.  There is peace and no sickness and many of the joys of this life but not family life.

Traditional theology about heaven cannot even begin to explain what such a place is or tell us what we might be doing. Theologians, philosophers and Bible scholars don't have enough information and they profess no revelation to receive the mysteries of God.  Their canon of Scripture is closed and they are left to speculate and preach what they think people want to hear.  That is why so many churches exist and so many differing ideas of what heaven is are told from the pulpits and schools of religious philosophy.

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