Unification News for September 2003
Examining the Word
This is the second article in a three-part series about the Word of God.
Archaeologists discover evidence about the Bible, and the lives of those who founded religions. We discussed them last month.
Many people do their best to live by the Word. They are known, most simply, as believers. Their turn will be next month.
Some people spend their professional lives examining sacred words. These scholars are called theologians.
Most religions have theologians.
Faiths such as Japan’s Shintoism, which is based upon ethnic myth, and rituals held at ancient shrines, require no elaborate theorizing.
The Muslim faith, with its ‘original language’ scriptures, and no central authority, hosts numerous imams and other clerics. Some are academically certified, others self-educated. In countless Islamic villages, their word is law. Anyone who watches the news knows how varied their temperament can be.
Judaism is famous for its Talmud, and other (extremely detailed) self-examinations of that faith. For centuries, thousands of Rabbis have spent their lives memorizing those texts, then applying their wisdom to contemporary life.
The Rabbi’s task hasn’t gotten easier. Some ultra-Orthodox sects once decided that "flicking a light switch" equals "lighting a fire," and is thus forbidden during the Sabbath. In response, Israeli scientists invented a room light that didn’t have to be manually switched on.
Your author is most familiar with Christianity, so that’ll be our main focus. How much scrutiny can the Bible stand? It’s possible to obtain a Doctorate of Theology, and a few brilliant Unificationists have done exactly that.
Such advanced knowledge can be a fount of wisdom and guidance. Yet, a high percentage of the world’s theologians have managed to become agnostics -- even atheists. How does that happen?
You’ve heard the old saying about, "Can’t see the forest for the trees." That is, getting so bogged down in detailed analysis that the big picture is lost.
Evidence is important, and yet, it can be (in different cases) so sketchy, or so voluminous, that one’s focus can become quite selective, and even distorted. Many theologians aren’t just missing the forest for the trees, they’re getting obsessed with a couple of pine needles!
Philosophers are the same way. Some demand such rigorous proofs, for anything and everything, that they come to doubt the very reality of themselves and the world. Claiming that things must vanish when no one is looking at them. (Conversely, things remaining whole is one proof of God’s existence.)
Hence the famous story of the Samuel Johnson’s refutation of ultra-doubter Bishop George Berkeley. Johnson said, "I refute it thus," and stomped his foot on a large stone. (He didn’t sock Berkeley in the face, though that apocryphal version does have a certain appeal.)
Knowing theological details can be beneficial. Learning the Bible’s original languages (and each verse’s clearest translation) brings tremendous richness and understanding, and makes for better Sunday sermons, too. Just as Muslims worldwide learn Arabic, many Unificationists study Korean.
Decades ago, Rev. Moon warned that the Left had infiltrated many Christian churches. This was, and to some extent remains, a deliberate effort to weaken that faith.
By now, a large portion of affected theologians don’t even believe in God. Some who do believe look to Marxist-style revolutions to carry out His supposed will on earth. This is called Liberation Theology.
Recently, homosexual activists have won over some major denominations. While officially disavowing that lifestyle, the Catholic church has allowed many of its seminaries (and even monasteries) to be overrun by gay men, to the point they will reject any newcomers who are judged to be ‘straight.’
No doubt every church has gays in its ranks. Your author knows a gay Christian who is more humble, and compassionate to the suffering, than many of us will ever be. This man lets his actions speak for him, and quite loudly enough.
However, the Episcopal church has elected openly gay men to its highest offices. They’ve compromised their doctrine so much that, in my opinion, they’ve become little more than a social fellowship. ‘Be nice’ is as ferocious a sermon one is ever likely to hear from their pulpits. No wonder their membership has been declining for years . . .
Unfortunately, few theologians are honorable enough, much less brave enough, to announce the Biblical truth about these developments.
For its entire history, Christianity has struggled for understanding and unity. St. Paul never met the physical Jesus, thus he taught from the perspective that the Messiah was supposed to be rejected and die. (In fairness, Paul was battling some pretty weird heresies.)
Centuries later, assembled theologians debated for months on end about quandaries such as the Trinity. This time, several of the ‘heretics’ were closer to the truth.
Under the stern gaze of the Emperor Constantine, those scholars came up with the Nicene Creed. It was a fine effort, but some of its key concepts, such as homoousios, are found nowhere in the Bible. Those few who defied Constantine were rewarded with exile.
Those concepts were never accepted universally. Mainline theologians still argue a lot. Instead of gaining unity, Christianity is more splintered than ever. (At least the differing factions don’t battle and torture each other any more.)
Most denominations are rather inflexible. If it’s not familiar from Sunday School, a lot of Pastors don’t even want to hear about it. (But if their car breaks down on a lonely desert road, you’re going to find them reading Chilton’s repair manual, not just the Bible!)
Fundamentalists love to pronounce that: "Jesus was either a madman, a liar, or exactly who he said he was." Further, that: "Hundreds of Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled by him." Sounds great, but there is more than a little circular reasoning going on.
It’s easy to find Christians who are as sure about their own salvation as they are that just about everyone else doesn’t qualify.
There are hundreds of Protestant denominations, and Roman Catholic orders, each with a distinct style and credo. So, is one correct, leaving all the others mired in heresy? Bible quotes can be hurled as stinging darts as readily as served up for tasty spiritual nutrition.
A Texan once informed me that, "The devil will use a whole lake of truth to disguise an ounce of poison." Undoubtedly he’d tested his lake down to the parts-per-billion. If correct, he’ll also find Heaven a lonely place. I know other Texans, raised amidst such people, who instantly reject anything labeled Christian . . .
Theologians are supposed to help, and sort this stuff out, but I don’t think they have. Maybe if they got out of their tenured Ivory Towers more often?
The Gospels were written, as individual accounts, decades after the fact. Hundreds of years later, they were picked through, filtered, and combined by ‘proper’ church councils. Many doctrines and testaments were discarded, often under the sword of rulers like Constantine.
Later still, Martin Luther tossed out even more of the Bible. He almost dumped the Book of James’ stern dictum: "Faith without works is dead."
This leaves plenty of room for doubts -- and reinterpretations. There is room for the Principle to bring clarity to the world’s theologians, and to the denominations they inform.
Our own Kevin McCarthy has made a wonderful contribution with his book The Blood Stained Voice. Common sense meets logic, under the umbrella of God’s Word. Rev. McCarthy tells how, at long last, some Christians are seeing the obvious, and grasping the essentials of the Principle.
No matter how bogged down in details a theologian may become, the actual, living God must never be doubted. One’s conscience is the ultimate guide, as informed by wise and humble teachers.
Theologians need to discover that God works quietly, along the course set forth in the Principal. And confess that they’ve never reached His heart, nor understood that He suffers along with humanity and all of the creation.
The Bible (plus many other sacred scriptures) is the genuine Word of God. Now is the time to take off the blinders, and see it in all its true majesty.
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