Doctrinal Evolution
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Posted by Richard Bonine, Jr. (+15311) 9 years ago
IMO MC.com has been lacking substantive conversation for a while, so here goes:

Bear with me on this thought as it might take a while to explain. if, as alleged, God is eternal and unchanging, it seems to me that we should not be able to point to particular times in human history and find new doctrine or belief. Those beliefs should be as "eternal" as the deity who decreed them.

The examples are numerous, but let's take the doctrine of hell. If God had told Adam and Eve about hell prior to their "transgression", the whole concept might be a little more believable. But God didn't do that and we have to fast-forward to the time of Justin Maccabeus, 200 BCE, before we find the concept of dualism or good versus evil. It is in this setting of the Jews trying to maintain their culture and keep it free from the influence of the greeks that the concept of everlasting punishment and hell was born. If hell is "eternal" is has to have always existed and should have been reveled long before man came to understand the concept. It cannot be "eternal" if it came into "existence" 4000 years after the "creation" of man. We can point to a particular time in human history, and before that time, the concept of hell did not exist. We must reasonable conclude that hell does not exist and that conclusion carries many implications about a deity that would sentence people that he "created" but don't live up to his "standards" to such a place.

We can observe the phenomenon of doctrinal evolution in the past 30 years. One has only to look at the conflation of the abortion issue, the rise of Reaganism and the religious right, and the need of the GOP to win elections, to understand the birth of the wrap-yourself-in-the-flag-with-your-gun-and-bible-Sarah Palin-tea-party types to observe the phenomenon. Much of the current small-mindedness (small government) is being taught as "doctrine" and "God's will for your life" in our churches this morning while I type. (Ironically, there are a lot of people loathing dependence on the government who themselves are on "spiritual welfare". Interesting how "God" always "come through" using other people and government cheese. He never shows up personally to provide the need.)

Prior to 1972, churches said little to nothing about abortion. This is the phenomenon of doctrinal evolution in action. The "doctrine" now commonly taught in our churches has more to do with what Bob Dole, Jack Kemp, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, James Dobson, et. al. believe, than anything any "God" actually said, even though they attribute the "revelations" to "Him". These are the individuals that have given birth to the Sarah Palin's, Michelle Bachman's, and Paul Ryan's of the world.

The fact that we can point to certain events in history and observe the evolution of doctrine, should forever settle the question whether there is an eternal God as described by the Abrahamic traditions. Such a deity simply cannot reasonably exist. Again, doctrinal beliefs should be (and in reality are) as "eternal" as the entity who decreed them. Historically, doctrinal evolution is typically the conflation of geo-political issues with "spiritual revelation" to control the masses. It is a man-made process and there is nothing "godly" about it.
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Posted by atomicg (+1021) 9 years ago
Many ancient deities weren't idolized as gods with personalities the way we perceive them now. They were thought of like spirits or energies (hence the belief in wind and water gods, etc.) and praying to them was more like an exercise in karmic superstition. Humans often perceive God or deities in general as personalities in the sky with human features. This is odd to me.

More to Richard's point: If a human being exists with no access to religious exposure at all is that human just a beast with no chance of entering heaven? Are they condemned to hell because no one taught them about Jesus or Muhammad? Am I expected to believe that we go to different places when we die because of differing perceptions of some force beyond our living world that we've had no direct exposure to?

I'm not sure you can say such a force does not exist simply because the belief in such a force has waned. For the proposition of sin could explain why we lose such sight and God continues to be. Doctrinal Evolution as you put it has its flaws in this respect. Many base their beliefs on others beliefs, not their own religious erudition. And even for those who do put in the time and study such things their beliefs can suffer the same cognizant dissonance as one who preaches against some ideology and practices methods that conflict with this. It is in our human disposition that our beliefs don't always reflect in our actions, therefore if free will is real then it could simply be our choice to take this path regardless of whether God is real.

I guess my questions run along a different line altogether.

How do people who have never died expect me to believe them when they tell me what happens after I die? Perhaps it is similar to what it was like before I was born. Maybe it's a pure state of non exist. Perhaps our energies do carry on in some form and our earthly perceptions and intellects simply do not have the capacity to fully realize the greater hierarchy we are part of. Perhaps it is not for the living to speculate about the dead and the cruelest joke of all is wasting life pontificating the possibilities of death.

Either way I say your argument is flawed although we share similar concerns with religious influences. It is possible for a belief to contrast with the truth, even if it is obvious truth. Look at gambling and simple statistics. It doesn't stop people even though they know the odds. God could be real and we could be gambling by choosing our wayward path.
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Posted by Amorette Allison (+12288) 9 years ago
The Flying Spaghetti Monster might be real. The Tooth Fairy might be real. And I will consider them as seriously as I consider any other invisible belief.
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Posted by Elizabeth Emilsson (+797) 9 years ago
If you were brought up in a strict fundamentalist list faith that defies evidence to the contrary, if you are like me, you are sort of stuck in it. It's always there. If I tell you I'll pray for you , out of love and concern, I will and I still think there is a God who will send you strength and comfort to help you shoulder your burden or sorrow.
Richard, the sisters who taught you did a good job. Wrestling with faith is an onus that is life long. I'll pray for you.
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Posted by Amorette Allison (+12288) 9 years ago
The whole point of faith is to believe something without evidence. I, sadly, am not inclined to do that.
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Posted by Levi Liles (+38) 9 years ago
If you are not inclined to then why must all of you constantly question it. There is a god, there is no god. Who cares believe what you want and live and let live. I for one don't give a damn, liberal, conservative, atheist or other. Isn't that the point of a free country, believe in what you want.
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Posted by Forsyth Mike (+483) 9 years ago
The popular (old) definition of hell as a place of "fire" has been supplanted by a more up-to-date thought, that hell is simply the condition of not being in the presence of God.

As if there is a party being held for you but you're not allowed in.

As for the idea that people are damned if they haven't believed in a God they've never heard of....that is stupid. They are only condemned if they are told the word and choose to reject it.

I also don't believe that God condemns someone because they're not in the right "religion." There are plenty of good and bad people of all faiths.

I don't think God holds it against a person if they question things. God gave us curiosity after all. If it wasn't for our questioning nature the world as it is today wouldn't exist.

So if you've heard about God and choose not to believe...well, good luck to you. I figure, if I believe and it turns out not to be true, I haven't lost a thing.
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Posted by Richard Bonine, Jr. (+15311) 9 years ago
Some thoughts:

atomicg wrote:
Either way I say your argument is flawed although we share similar concerns with religious influences.


I'd be the first guy in the room to admit my argument may be flawed, but I yam who I yam. Perhaps you can help me think in an unflawed manner?

Levi Liles wrote:
If you are not inclined to then why must all of you constantly question it. There is a god, there is no god. Who cares believe what you want and live and let live. I for one don't give a damn, liberal, conservative, atheist or other. Isn't that the point of a free country, believe in what you want.


Theoretically, but not really. In the last 50 years of foreign policy, (especially toward Israel), the positions of our country have been extensively influenced by Presidents and Congresses who believe in premillennialism and the rapture of the Christians during the tribulation. Again, this doctrine didn't exist prior to 1830. There are many groups who don't experience the freedom or acceptance they desire because of some government position based on a particular interpretation of the bible.

IMO, getting to the bottom of these issue, deciding we don't want to be ruled by theonomy and maintaining the wall of separation between church and state is fundamental to preserving our country.

Forsyth Mike wrote:
The popular (old) definition of hell as a place of "fire" has been supplanted by a more up-to-date thought, that hell is simply the condition of not being in the presence of God.


This is doctrinal evolution. To whom did the omnipotent, omniscient, immutable God reveal this truth and when? How can God be omniscient and/or immutable and redefine what hell is? Seems to me that redefining hell to "more up-to-date thought" convincingly suggests that:

a. all that has been written about hell is a man-made concept and we are justified in dismissing its existence;

or/and

b. the God that "created" hell is not omniscient as has been taught through the last 1800 years of church history. The implications here are huge.

If someone has another logical approach to consider, I'd be interested.

Forsyth Mike wrote:
So if you've heard about God and choose not to believe...well, good luck to you. I figure, if I believe and it turns out not to be true, I haven't lost a thing.


Heard about and believed which God? How can you say "good luck to you" and not define the deity of which you speak. On the other hand if you don't tell me about this God I won't be accountable to him/her. Seems like a lot of confusion to me.

Elizabeth Emilsson wrote:
Richard, the sisters who taught you did a good job. Wrestling with faith is an onus that is life long. I'll pray for you.


Those are scary thoughts.

I did find this article useful:
http://www.uuworld.org/id...1790.shtml
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Posted by Levi Liles (+38) 9 years ago
Haha oh Dick "Richard" i feel sorry for you. You are on every post always arguing, constantly needing to be right. Being you sure must be miserable.
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Posted by Richard Bonine, Jr. (+15311) 9 years ago
No need to feel sorry for me. There is nothing wrong with always seeking the truth. I'm not miserable at all. In many ways, the last two years of my life have been the happiest.

Back to the topic at hand...
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Posted by Bob Netherton II (+1905) 9 years ago
¦God does not choose the victor in football games.
¦God does not choose sides in human wars.
¦God does not save some people from disease while letting others die.
¦God does not "bless America" or any country.
¦God does not send floods, hurricanes, or other natural disasters to punish people.
¦God does not create diseases to punish people.
¦God does not appear to some people and not others.
¦God does not damn people for their sexual orientation or gender.
¦God does not damn anyone.
¦God does not demand belief in God.

Good article, Richard.
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Posted by RA (+648) 9 years ago
God remains unchanged ~ it is mankind that develops the doctrinal evolutions.
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Posted by Richard Bonine, Jr. (+15311) 9 years ago
RA wrote:
God remains unchanged ~ it is mankind that develops the doctrinal evolutions.


And you know this how?
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