Ever thought about this possibility?

Discussion in 'Abrahamic Religions' started by pghguy, Oct 6, 2010.

  1. pghguy

    pghguy Well-Known Member

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    So, last I heard there where between 1,500 and 3,000 different sects within the Christian faith. And who knows how many more unaffiliated. As we know, the history of people claiming to be followers of Christ has been turbulent at best. There where the schisms, the reformation era and some sub splits even since. However, as the Bible tells us, the gates of Hell shall not prevail against Christ’s church.

    Could it be that maybe, despite all the infighting and some arbitrary differences, these division have actually allowed Christianity to survive and thrive in the 2,000 + years since Christ’s death?

    Despite our differences, we all intend to follow the teachings of Christ and give glory to the one and only God. It can be argued that the rest are just details and semantics.

    Since Jesus did not officially establish (although some will incorrectly try to argue that he did) any branch of Christianity, and it’s very much questionable whether or not he even intended or would want Christianity to be an organized religion, it’s really very presumptuous and arrogant for any branch of Christianity to presume they are the only true or right version of the faith.

    So, I see it as a very strong possibility that the spits within Christianity have actually been a way of fulfilling Jesus’ words. If it wasn’t for the sprits, Christianity would have either died out a long time ago or would be on figurative life support as we speak.
     
  2. pghguy

    pghguy Well-Known Member

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    No thoughts? Anyone?
     
  3. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    I don't think so, really. The surviving tradition did so on their own feet, without requirement or reliance upon the others? You'd have to demonstrate that some denominations took the heat off others, whereas I think it's more the case that each new denomination invariably attacks the parent.

    Well, He established a Church?

    I wonder what a disorganised religion would look like?

    I think it can be done by comparing the doctrines.

    As J.H. Newman observed when he converted to Catholicism, if a Christian from the 1st century came back today, Catholicism would be the only Christianity he would recognise, as the others have moved so far away from the core of Christianity, in one sense or another.

    The Church was a liturgical body before it was a scriptural body, but some denominations have next to no liturgical praxis whatsoever.

    Thomas
     
  4. bob x

    bob x Well-Known Member

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    I think anyone from the 1st century would find modern Catholicism utterly bizarre.
     
  5. Sinful Hypocrite

    Sinful Hypocrite Active Member

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    The Catholics were the first to move away from core. When the East–West Schism occured in 1024.
    The Eastern Orthodox Church has remained as it was before that time. We still use a regular Chalice and spoon for communion and fast on Wednesday as well as Friday just to name two of many things that the Catholic church has changed or modernized since then. Of course we also have never had a Pope which is the main reason they split then. Pope John Paul in the 1990s was the first to apoligize for the atrocities carried out by Rome back in 1024.

    So the Eastern Orthodox would really be the one he would recognize more.
     
  6. path_of_one

    path_of_one Embracing the Mystery

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    Unfortunately, generally this seems to be the case.

    In Christianity, the closest thing would be Quakerism, to the best of my knowledge. Small group, consensus-based, without a priesthood.

    Other examples of disorganized religion would be many Pagan traditions, indigenous shamanic traditions, Taoism, in fact most nature-centered religions.

    Of course, they have their own organization, but they are decentralized organization and without an authoritative body.

    From the Catholics I know who converted to the Anglican or Episcopal church, there's very little difference in what people do and the liturgy.

    So far as I'd understand it, a first century Christian had no organized church. The Bible wasn't canonized and the council of Nicaea hadn't occurred until well after that. This was when the main doctrines were worked out and what was considered proper vs. heretical were delineated.

    There was an amazing variety of Christians immediately after Christ's death, most of them blending his teachings (or what they could find out from the hearsay, as there was no canonized text) with whatever their prior religion had been, be it Judaism, Roman Paganism, or something else. There were gnostics and so on.

    I think people couldn't be that picky about what was the "right" sort of Christianity until Romans stopped executing them. As is the usual human condition, in-fighting occurs once there is no outside enemy to bind us together. Ever since Christianity became a state-endorsed religion, it had the luxury of disintegrating into bickering sects rather than existing as a diverse but perhaps less acrimonious family. Though it seems that even in Paul's day there was plenty of disagreement about an awful lot of stuff, so perhaps there was never unity to begin with and the unity will (hopefully) evolve out of the church.

    But I think it likely that a first-century Christian may not have even found other first-century churches recognizable as Christianity. And certainly, just given the cultural differences alone, it's unlikely a first-century Christian would recognize any modern Christian sect as familiar. After all, in the time immediately following Christ's death and resurrection, most "churches" would resemble Bible studies far more than any church today, with the occasional traveling apostle if you were lucky. Much of early Christendom, from what I understand, was underground due to martyrdom. I doubt they had cathedrals, pianists, organs, choirs, priestly vestements, or any of the trappings we have now... and trappings that I think are lovely and invoke a certain mysticism.

    My archaeological and anthropological influenced mind just can't wrap my head around folks who try to get "back to the origins" of any religion, be it those that want to return to 1st century Christianity or the Pagan reconstructionists. If it floats one's boat, fine, but I'm highly skeptical at the ability of any person to really crawl inside the worldview and life of a person who lived 2000 years ago.
     
  7. Dream

    Dream Well-Known Member

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    Peace is a fruit of the spirit (Gal 5:22), so I think unity is a metric to measure the spirit in the church. I prefer to think about this in context of John 17, which contains Jesus' prayer for the unity of believers. If unity were easy then he wouldn't have had to pray about it, and I think unity is a goal for believers. They must not lose sight of that goal, but they must be realistic in that it is not a human accomplishment. It can not be accomplished by committees or rules, and you can see the evidence in History. Borrowing a quote from Jesus about marriage "What God has joined together let man not separate." Within this quote the idea is that only God can create unity, whereas people break it sometimes. If people are spiritually successful, then you will not see lots of divisions during their generation. I Peter 2:5 says that God's temple is made of 'Living stones', which I take to mean that each stone takes its place of its own will. Until then the building is incomplete.
     
  8. shawn

    shawn Well-Known Member

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    One can presume that it has served the role of being a "necessary idolatry".
    One that it would be good to treat as a tutor and then move beyond.
     
  9. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    I'm not sure that's quite accurate.

    Acts (c80AD) shows the actual institution of an administrative structure — it appears the early Church lived the common life, with the distribution of goods for the benefit of all (Acts 5). By 160AD Rome had over 1,500 widows and orphans under its protection.

    Sadly, in Acts 6 we see the signs of dissent ... it would appear that all are created equal, but the Jews are more equal than the Gentiles, and were receiving the lion's share of the social outreach programme ... so the Diaconate was established (liturgically as well as administratively) to make sure everyone got a fair deal.

    The canon wasn't dogmatically defined until the Reformation!

    But that does not mean the doctrines were unknown before then ... quite the reverse. At Nicea (325AD) the main doctrines were 'ratified', but they had been the common teaching for over 200 years by then. There was certainly a move towards 'standardisation' but that is not necessarily a bad thing.

    The doctrines of the Eucharist, the Incarnation, the Trinity ... were all in place well before Nicea, and was the common stock of the people.

    The notable exception is the clause inserted into the Creed at the suggestion, supposedly of Constantine, but actually by his theological adviser, the bishop Ossius, of the term 'homoousios' — 'of one substance'. This was to affirm the consubstantiality of the Son and Father beyond dispute — and it failed magnificently, as the subsequent Arian disputes testify.

    Indeed so. many forget, or do not know, that Jesus sent out '72' disciples to preach in His name before His final journey to Jerusalem, so these preachers could not know of the mysteries that would be revealed in the Passion and subsequently, nor would they have had such an intense and intensive exposure to Christ.

    Nicea was the first 'ecumenical council' largely because it was impossible to gather the bishops together whilst the faith was proscribed.

    Sadly so ... indeed, it seems Jew and Gentile had hardly time to draw breath in the common faith before they fell out. But we should not assume this to be universal.

    As a tutor of mine once remarked ... it's not surprise Christianity survived the persecutions, but it's a bloomin' miracle that it survived becoming the state religion!

    As you know, I've fought many critics here who lay the fault of everything wrong with Christianity at Nicea. This is, largely, just bad history, propaganda and assumption.

    I think the 'real damage' came later, after the 5/6th centuries, when the emerging global institution modelled itself on the Roman Empire ... that (I'm guessing) is a much richer seam, but will need a much finer comb, and a much finer sensibility attuned to Catholicism.

    If one is an honest and open-hearted Catholic one will pick up the resonance of error long before it manifests. But I'm guessing here.

    Even to the attempt at assassination!

    I think that unity will be the stuff or miracle rather than any human methodology.

    I think you might be surprised. The fundamentals are there ... Baptism, the common life, the Eucharist. These were universal among the churches. The letters of Paul were copied and sent to the other churches, as were letters from various bishops (Clement of Rome to Corinth, for example) ... there was by the close of the first century a tradition of writing to the churches.

    I accept there was diversity, from orthodox to heterodox to heresiarch ... but the main line was far more widespread than you might suppose.

    Of course ... but cultural differences aside, if we look at doctrine and teaching ... then a first century Christian would have felt at home within the Catholic and Orthodox patriarchies ... and of course the early schismatics, Nestorians and so on ... but once we reach the Reformation, then one crosses into another world alien to the early spiritual inspiration.

    House churches, yes ... but it's not the walls, its what goes on within.

    Oh, I'm not so sure. They had the Temple, for example. So whilst there were house churches and catacombs, there would have been a hankering for the sung liturgy, the mysteries ... and we can tell from early iconography and catacomb graffitos that there was already a rich symbolic language that would have adorned vestments etc. had it been allowed.

    Oh, I quite agree ... but that does not mean we should not try!

    The Ressourcement Theology that emerged in the last century continually unearths the richness of early and Patristic thought ... always tempered by the necessity to observe that we are looking from a different mileau ... but this is just the point, we might not know all, but we know enough to know that 'contemporary' or 'new age Christianity' is so far removed from the early image, so clearly reflects the relativism that is the governing philosophical principle of its age ... so while we may not be able to think as they thought, we can come to know enough to know they certainly did not think as many like to think now.

    On a personal note ... and I am sure you will know what I mean ... if there is an affinity then there can be a communication that reaches beyond the logical and reasoning faculty.

    Thomas
     
  10. horiturk

    horiturk Active Member

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    i think if the ones who decided to deify yeshua had not been able to successfully supress those who didn't agree with them the world would be in a much better position today. but since people rarely question what they are taught those who decided to manipulate the bible are the ones who are in control of christianity.
     
  11. Saltmeister

    Saltmeister The Dangerous Dinner

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    The "deification of Jesus" had much to do with the surrounding Greek and Roman culture, particularly with the influence of Hellenism.

    The Greeks and Romans thought of their gods as the "divine sparks" emanating from the heavens. The Jews, however, thought of their prophets as the divine sparks emanating from God.

    Much of Christian theology derives from the ideas of the Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria. The idea of divine sparks was an adaptation of Hellenistic thought that was transferred into a Jewish culture, eventually making it into the New Testament.

    From what I have read recently, the idea of an afterlife or eternal life did not receive much interest from the Jewish community until after the Babylonian Exile. Foreign incursions triggered a desire among Jews for deliverance by their God, that would happen with the coming of their messiah. But it would be of an earthly nature, involving an overturning of social, political and economic influences that would shift in their favour. There would be a sign in the form of a general resurrection, where fallen heroes would rise again in the new world order.

    While many have been led to believe that "Christianity" was "changed" from a "monotheistic" and "non-pagan" tradition when it "became" more like the "sacrificial" and "mystery" cults in the Roman Empire I think it's more appropriate to think of this kind of Christianity as something that simply existed in a particular geographic locality and belonged to a particular demographic.

    It is understandable that the idea that Christianity "changed" comes from evidence that there used to be "Christians" who did not believe in the Trinity nor in Paul's salvation, atonement and sacrifice theology.

    But if first-century Christianity was not organised on matters of theology and doctrine and if there were wide differences in beliefs, then it is wrong to think that there was ever any "orthodox" or "authentic" Christianity that was ever purely and flawlessly preserved. It would be wrong, therefore, to say that Christianity changed at all.

    No, Christianity didn't change. It emerged. If a bunch of people upon hearing about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus began thinking he was one of the three persons of God, that he was a ritual sacrifice dying for the sins of all and made a "Christianity" that took the form of a "mystery religion," then it is not because Christianity at that point had changed, but because that was how it first emerged in that geographic locality.

    The point of course is, why was there a group that did not dabble in that kind of theology, the kind that led to the Trinity, the doctrine of Original Sin, atonement theology and replacement theology? Why was there a group that still followed the Law when Paul said it was pointless for one's relationship with God?

    I think the reason was that Jesus meant something different for this other group which was either "more Jewish" or "fully Jewish." They didn't need these concepts because they had Judaism, and being Jewish, Jesus had a completely different significance to them than to those who followed Christianity as a "mystery cult." For these "Christians," Christianity wasn't about a ritual sacrifice or a mystery, but about the commandments. This group is likely to have been a combination of one or more groups of Jewish Christians, most likely the ones called "Nazarenes" or "Ebionites."

    This "branch" of Christianity was different to the "mainstream," more dominant and more numerous followers of the mystery cult. It was like there were "two Christianities," not one as most Christians would like to think. This might also be something critics of modern, contemporary and mainstream Christianity may fail to realise.

    The Christianity based on the mystery and sacrificial cults was a "Gentile" Christianity that was more heavily influenced by Hellenism and pagan traditions than the Christianity based on commandments. Christianity didn't change from the "monotheistic" and commandments-based tradition to one based on the Roman and Greek mysteries and philosophies. There were two Christianities. The former simply disappeared because it was a minority group.

    "Orthodox" and "traditional" Christians may be somewhat right in this regard, that their tradition hasn't "changed" in ways that are important -- the Trinity, original sin, salvation, atonement were accepted from the very start and were mainstream ideas.

    But where I think they are wrong is that these concepts were never actually "essential" or "fundamental" to Christianity. They weren't fundamental to the Nazarenes or Ebionites. It may simply seem that way to those who don't have the relevant knowledge of how Judaism worked in the first century, knowledge that would help them understand how Christianity can "work" without them.

    (Methinks if we were more Jewish we would be able to find reasons to discard these ideas.:))

    The Christianity that was lost, the "Jewish" one is the one that I consider more important than the one we've been carrying around these last 1800 years because the "Gentile" or "Hellenistic" Christianity emerged from the Jewish one. The Gentile Christianity cannot assert its own validity, though it may have faith that God accepts its ideas -- faith in the man Jesus, but not faith in the doctrine or theology.

    The Western world no longer cares about Hellenism. The "pagan" aspects of Trinity, original sin, atonement theology, etc. have become anachronisms in a culture that no longer cares about the Roman and Greek pagan myths. It's like these concepts were really just a "buffer ideology" that would make it easier for the Greeks and Romans to transition to a tradition based on a Jewish eschatological hero.

    I see it fitting to declare that now that the pagan gods of the Romans and Greeks are gone, it is safe to discard Hellenistic Christianity and move on to a more "Jewish" Christianity. Nobody in the secular or heathen world will complain about this. It is more likely that they would ask why we didn't make this "change" or "transition" sooner.

    I am not saying we should "change" Christianity, but that we should try to resurrect the one that was lost.
     
  12. horiturk

    horiturk Active Member

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    well there wasn't one that was lost,it was obliterated for politics and power,i think we're all fully aware of the myriad of theological influences and pagan assimilation that led to the current state of christendom. while i won't be as lengthy as you were i will say that there is a quite a bit more than hellenism that was involved in getting the current christianity propped up by its current idolatry,et al. what i am so concerned with is the lack of understanding of the bible among professing christians and that the pastors continue to take passages out of context and simply go on fooling themselves and their congregations.
     

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