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Wrestling with the "exclusivity" of Christianity... please help! - Page 14

post #261 of 279
Quote:
Originally Posted by smeisnotapirate View Post
Not everyone who believes in G-d believes that, so it's probably wise not to assume that all Christians or those who believe in G-d will agree with you.
A non-omnipotent God would be very difficult to defend from a Christian theological perspective. Many pre-Christian pagan philosophers thought that God was totally unaware of the created world, but it proved to be difficult to reconcile with a God who created purposefully.
post #262 of 279
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bluegoat View Post
A non-omnipotent God would be very difficult to defend from a Christian theological perspective. Many pre-Christian pagan philosophers thought that God was totally unaware of the created world, but it proved to be difficult to reconcile with a God who created purposefully.
From my understanding (limited as it is), these pre-Christian pagan philosophers did not call the source of the universe "God" but rather the "one" or the "source" and they did not worship it. The many Gods emanated from an original source, which always existed and was not created out of nothing from a creator God. At least that's how I understand it. And I tend to agree.
post #263 of 279
Quote:
Originally Posted by Purple Sage View Post
From my understanding (limited as it is), these pre-Christian pagan philosophers did not call the source of the universe "God" but rather the "one" or the "source" and they did not worship it. The many Gods emanated from an original source, which always existed and was not created out of nothing from a creator God. At least that's how I understand it. And I tend to agree.
It is the same theological idea, and yes, some did worship it. They may or may not have thought other "gods" emanated from it, depending on which system you are talking about, but that sort of "god" is not the same theological idea. If Plotinus, Origin, and Maimonides had sat down together they would talk about God and the One and the Good and know they were talking about the same thing. If you look at the philosophical works of the early Christian era, pagan and Christian philosophers were reading and being influenced strongly by each others works, there was really no question that their subject matter was the same.

It's important to remember that during this time, theology and philosophy really were not differentiated the way they are now.

I am a bit unclear what you mean was always existent - God/the One, or the material universe. Both Christian, pagan and Jewish philosophers would have seen God as self-existent. As for the material universe - yes, an important distiction between the Jewish/Christian model and the pagan one is that the pagans thought that it had always been there, emanated unknowingly by the One, while the Christians and Jews saw it as having been created from nothing, in a willed kind of way.

The main reason for the difference was that the Scriptures revealed the material world as created in this way. (Although theologians argued whether it was possible to also know this as a matter of reason. Thomas for example said no while his contemporary Bonaventure said yes.) whereas the pagans felt this would mean both that God changed at some point, and that he had to be aware of something outside himself, which would make him impure.

On the other hand, it solved some vary serious problems that many of the pagan philosophical systems faced. One such problem was where the stuff part of the material universe came from. Most such systems would not allow that it game from the One because it was clearly imperfect. Yet if they located a material principle, a kind of substrate, which the One somehow shaped (indirectly), that implies some self existent thing outside of the One, which was a terrible contradiction that they struggled with. As well, the idea of emanation was always unsatisfactory to them, because it still implied the One moved outside itself, even if unknowingly, and the description isn't really much of a mechanism. The Christians and Jews, however, did not consider matter impure in the same way, and didn't have a problem with God moving outside himself and knowing about an impure world, because creation was Good. In the case of the Christians, with the doctrine of the Trinity and the Incarnation, they explicitly placed the material and the principle of multiplicity within the unified Godhead.

The time aspect is a bit of a red herring, because Christians and Jews don't believe that God is in time, but rather that time is part of the material universe. So the idea that a created universe with a beginning necessitates a change in God is a misunderstanding.

The religious systems based on the pagan understanding are interesting. Most of them are what we would describe as Gnostic, and are very similar to Hinduism in some ways. They tend to see the material universe as profoundly flawed, or at least something to be overcome. They focus on the purpose of human life being to overcome the impure, material world, and attain spiritual union with the One. Some suggest that can be done permanently once we have shed our earthly bodies, but most seem to think we get stuck back in other material bodies eventually. They can have a very strong ascetic streak dedicated to purifying the flesh, such as extreme fasting and mortifications.
post #264 of 279
Yeah, it depends on which philosophers you're talking about. Plotinus was not pre-Christian, so I wouldn't put him in the same category. In any case, it's an interesting topic, what the ancient pre-Christians thought was the source of everything. I could read about it for the rest of my life and still not scratch the surface.
post #265 of 279
Sorry I wasn't clear. I do believe that G-d is omnipotent. I do not believe he is "infinitely merciful" as the PP said. I don't believe he can be both omnipotent AND "infinitely merciful," but that's a whole different story.


I should have been clearer about what I was disagreeing with in the PP's post.
post #266 of 279
1ht

i've read a few replies - i see that hell has been discussed and i'd like 2 share my beliefs fwiw -

i'm a christian, no real denomination, but i am in agreement with Bereans (acts 28:28).

i no longer believe in hell as a place of eternal torment. Those who don't believe will not inherit eternal life, only believers will, so it doesn't follow that unbelievers will be tormented for eternity. They will not have eternal life. Their death will be final.

This is what I've been studying: http://www.charleswelch.net/Hell%20o...0all%20Men.PDF

interesting thread, i've enjoyed all of your thoughts
post #267 of 279
Mrs Turner, thats interesting. Ive come across that explanation in my recent studies too. Very interesting. As I study the word this is the understanding Im coming to as well.
post #268 of 279
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mrs. Turner View Post
1ht

i've read a few replies - i see that hell has been discussed and i'd like 2 share my beliefs fwiw -

i'm a christian, no real denomination, but i am in agreement with Bereans (acts 28:28).

i no longer believe in hell as a place of eternal torment. Those who don't believe will not inherit eternal life, only believers will, so it doesn't follow that unbelievers will be tormented for eternity. They will not have eternal life. Their death will be final.

This is what I've been studying: http://www.charleswelch.net/Hell%20o...0all%20Men.PDF

interesting thread, i've enjoyed all of your thoughts
Interesting link - I'll give it a more thorough read when I have time. I'm just curious if you (or anyone) can explain why belief is so important that nonbelievers would either be annihilated or be condemned to eternal suffering. What is it about the act of believing that is so central to Christianity?
post #269 of 279
Quote:
Originally Posted by Purple Sage View Post
Interesting link - I'll give it a more thorough read when I have time. I'm just curious if you (or anyone) can explain why belief is so important that nonbelievers would either be annihilated or be condemned to eternal suffering. What is it about the act of believing that is so central to Christianity?
I'll try to put the thoughts from my mushy mind in order -

Sin is what separates you from God and prevents spending eternity with him. When you believe, your sins are forgiven. To not believe is to be separated from him, and because there is unforgiven sin that hasn't been paid for by Christ's substitution, a person who doesn't believe will not spend eternity with him. That's the simplest answer that I can give.

The Lord wants everyone to believe. Believing doesn't just involve having the knowledge of his existence. To believe is to give yourself over to him and let him be the Lord of your life, to follow the one who created you, not to just obey his orders like he's cracking a whip, but to believe that his laws are righteous and loving his laws, loving his ways. It's about love, love from him to you and you to him.
post #270 of 279
Quote:
Originally Posted by Purple Sage View Post
Interesting link - I'll give it a more thorough read when I have time. I'm just curious if you (or anyone) can explain why belief is so important that nonbelievers would either be annihilated or be condemned to eternal suffering. What is it about the act of believing that is so central to Christianity?
Usually, sin is considered a deliberate act, and that it is done knowingly is important. THere are different levels of "knowing" and so different levels of culpability for wrongdoing.

When Christ says, I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, it is problem easiest to talk about belief in the context of knowing Truth. Christ wants us to know and acknowledge Truth.

What does it mean if we know the Truth and reject it somehow? THat would include denying it outright, not actually following it in our life, distracting ourselves so we don't have to really think about it, rationalizing, or whatever. Truth ultimately includes everything that is - the universe, nature, and the laws that govern them; love, compassion, and mercy; justice and order; God. So if we reject Truth, it means living without those things. I think that would very likely mean either living in a very nasty and uncomfortable place, or perhaps simple non-existence.

So, to acknowledge Truth, is is always necessary to acknowledge Christ explicitly? The pre-Christian Jews obviously didn't, yet we are taught that Abraham and others are in Heaven, so it seems that it doesn't always need to be explicit. What about those who knew about Christ but didn't believe he was the Truth? Well, Paul tells us we are only responsible for the Truth we actually know. So, I would say, maybe, depending on the circumstances. It is clear that none of us see the whole Truth, yet we are still promised the possibility of Heaven.
post #271 of 279
Purple Sage thats a very good question. I have NO idea why that is what God has chosen to unlock understanding and knowledge of Him but Ive found it to be just the way it is. Its as if, this is how I see it, have experienced it, as if God is saying 'Take a chance. Beleive in me, despite what the world says, teaches, believes. Believe *I* am real, that I am who I say I am and Ill 'reward' you with the wisdom the world cant know bc it doesnt know me.' When I believe, Ill ask God questions and I can be surprised sometimes when I get the answer and Im like 'Ooooh'. I still walk in unbelief is some areas, and like Bluegoat says somethings I dont know, or understand or it doesnt cross my mind so I cant believe in it. I have found that the moment I did that simple act of choosing to believe in Jesus Christ, then understanding was given. It was as if a light was turned on in a very dark room. As if a veil had been lifted. As if I had lived in a dark house, never choosing to look outside, even tho there were curtains to be pulled, doors to be opened, I never thought to open them. The moment I chose Christ, was like opening the curtains in my dark and dusty, dirty house for the first time. It was the first time I could see how dirty my house was. In fact, for me, it took me years to fully understand how dirty my house was, what a mess my heart was, for me to understand sin. It was as if for years I was just in awe of Jesus Christ. I think this is why the act of choosing to believe is so important to the Christian. Im not sure if any other christians would agree with me or not, we all have our stories. Belief seems to unlock something. Like for the first time we actually ask God 'Who are you then?' And he tells us, we believe it or we argue with the Sovereign of the universe. The One with ALL the answers.
post #272 of 279
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bluegoat View Post
...So, to acknowledge Truth, is is always necessary to acknowledge Christ explicitly? The pre-Christian Jews obviously didn't, yet we are taught that Abraham and others are in Heaven, so it seems that it doesn't always need to be explicit.
God dealt with people's salvation differently before Christ came to the earth. For the people who chose righteousness before he came, they will be in heaven.
post #273 of 279
I appreciate the responses.

I've been seeing more and more similarities between Christianity and my religion. This feeling about a "light coming on" and wanting to live morally and ethically because it is in harmony with the Divine, and how belief in itself can be illuminating - that is all resonating with me. It also resonates with me that separating oneself from the Divine by doing immoral things or otherwise not feeling a connection to the Divine "energy" that is all around us will cause pain and suffering (hell?). In my own little way, I think I'm getting it, finally. Thanks again!
post #274 of 279
Quote:
Originally Posted by Purple Sage View Post
I'm just curious if you (or anyone) can explain why belief is so important that nonbelievers would either be annihilated or be condemned to eternal suffering. What is it about the act of believing that is so central to Christianity?
I do not think nonbelievers are either annihilated or condemned, but I agree belief is considered very important in Christianity. A very simplistic explanation is, this life is just a preparation for our "real" life after death. In that life, we will be faced with the absolute, inescapable reality of God, and everything that follows from the nature of God. The more we know of and accept God now, the better prepared we are for the life to come.
post #275 of 279
But, not all Christians hold the belief that this life is only preparation for the next. From my point of view, Jesus came so that we may have the fullness of life now, not after death. He came so we could live a just and righteous life now. He came that we may life a fully human life, not a life based on fear, but one based on faith and love.
post #276 of 279
Doesn't this go back to the age-long Christian argument of faith vs. works?
post #277 of 279
I was just reading about that this weekend in a book called The First Paul by Marcus Borg. He made a very compelling argument that Paul never said that all we needed to do was believe/have faith, but that he was making an argument between faith-with-works versus works-without-faith and how the later would be for naught. (I think that is my word of the day. ) Paul's words have been much twisted over the last 2000 years, and the first place to start would be to separate Paul's actual letters from post-Paul letters attributed to his name but that were rather political and polemical in nature.

I believe anyone who has a love for the Divine (not making that an exclusive Christian thing) will do good in their lives. Someone who feels the love of the Divine in their lives will want to extend that to others. That is why there are works. But then again, I think you have to go back even further than the controversy over "faith versus works" and really define what people mean by "salvation" or "saved" because I can guarantee my view (and views of people who are more progressive/liberal in their theology) will vary greatly from a more literal, conservative, evangelical, fundamental point of view. I see Jesus's death, resurrection, and purpose much differently. He went as far as his death to show that nonviolence, compassion, and love for one another was the way of God. The Roman Imperial government/theology executed him because he was a threat to their way of life, as he is a threat to the way of life in most of the world (think of the idea of manifest destiny, or much of our foreign policy over the last number of years - just to clarify, those would be examples of the way of the world ).

Okay, I got to interrupted, I'm going to post this and then clarify if I need because I cannot remember my train of thought.
post #278 of 279
Quote:
Originally Posted by smeisnotapirate View Post
Doesn't this go back to the age-long Christian argument of faith vs. works?
I don't find that it is really much of an argument, though it is age long, or since the Reformation anyway. But both sides are pretty much saying the same thing.
post #279 of 279
Quote:
Originally Posted by ILoveSweetpea View Post
From what I can understand reading the bible and from what I can understand by what my pastor says, Christians believe that Jesus is the ONLY way to God.
...
How can we accept this? Do we have to accept this? This is such a troubling issue to us. Are there any alternative ways to interpret the scriptures? How do other Christians reconcile this? Do other Christians really believe that (for example) Gandhi is in hell right now? That just seems ... unthinkable!!
you have 3 choices - to accept your elders teachings, to find a way to reconcile the two as I have and deal with being different, or to find a denomination with which you have a fundamental belief in common. I did the latter and found UCC/Congregational. Its like UU, but it still heartily Christian, where as not all UUers see themselves as Christian.

I believe that Christ is the only way to God, yet believe that Ghandi is in "heaven." This is because I believe that Christ is saying that you believe and act out his body of teachings. And it is through those teachings, compassion, and love, that we are saved. And many religions also believe in the same parables and teachings. Buddhism is very close - they too have parables like Jesus told. In fact some scholars have conjectured that Jesus traveled the silk trade routes and learned of Buddhism during the missing years of his life. I believe then, that many people can come to Jesus's teachings in many ways - whether through the Bible or Koran or Buddhism or even deep self-reflection.

ETA: I read only the first 2 pages of posts, and did not yet see my belief mentioned yet, so I thought I'd throw it out there.
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