Articles From the April 1995 Unification News
Dissecting Doctrines - Part One
Greetings once again, from your very own part-time Unification News rabblerouser. I'm writing this article 'first person' style for a reason. To paraphrase the famous cartoonist Charles Shultz, "Nothing is more disturbing than the challenging of a cherished belief." People hold on to their religious beliefs more dearly than any other kind. Therefore, I wish to state clearly that this article contains solely the opinions of myself, your author. I'm doing this article in two parts. Here is Part One:
Today we're going to look at 'doctrines' of many religions, and their 'real life' consequences for the believers. This will necessarily be rather blunt, so: apologies in advance. It seems the best way to get to the crux of things. As always, if I am incorrect in any particular, I welcome clarifications.
In an earlier article (Spiritual Matters, Nov. '93 UNews) we looked at 'Cain' and 'Abel' type (mostly Christian) beliefs and behaviors. Here I will be more general. Also, we'll look for some practical lessons for us Unificationists.
With matters Theological, scholars must be extremely precise. They have an entire special jargon, which unfortunately cannot be understood by others. One could say, "It's all Greek to me," and really mean it! And add "Latin, Hebrew and German" to the mix. Here, I'll probably offend some people's sensibilies, by keeping it simplified and in plain English.
Ever since its founding days, Christianity has hoped for 'orthodoxy,' and battled against 'heresy.' Saint Paul busily denounced heresies of several kinds, right in the Bible itself! Early Christians held several famous 'Councils' to fix their central doctrines. Notable was the big one at Nicea, where Jesus was pronounced to be 'the same as' God Himself.
Oddly, the Emperor Constantine had already announced which side he was backing! Afterward, he carried out his threat to banish those few who dared to oppose his verdict-in-advance. Thus was the three-males 'Trinity' doctrine accepted, and a woman's role in things was ever after confused.
Today there are thousands of Christian denominations, many diverging from that historical view. Unfortunately, without the Divine Principle, this only adds to the confusion. The defenders of Nicean orthodoxy really have their work cut out for them!
I understand that the other Great Faiths have gone through similar doctrine-setting and heresy-hunting episodes. However, I'm not familiar enough with them to comment.
Many denominations base their claims of 'correctness' on one passage or occurrence in the Bible. Some churches read of musical instruments used in pagan rituals, but not in the early Christian meetings. Therefore they frown upon church organs, etc. (But they sure are good singers!)
For another example, the Jewish Sabbath is Saturday. Why then do most Churches worship on Sunday? There are good reasons, of course. But Seventh Day worshippers (Adventists and a few others) pity and dismiss all other Christians as having 'caved in' to Pagan Sun-Day rituals!
Fortunately, the Adventists are unusually generous about this. Few Christians see God allowing 'ignorance as an excuse.' But Adventists speak of people being saved "by their lights," that is, the Truth as much as it was known to them.
Some Christians, especially those of the older traditions, divide themselves even further. They have 'rituals' that never appear in the Bible, yet are taken with deadly seriousness. In old Russia, Orthodox worshippers once 'crossed themselves' with three fingers held together. (Thumb, index and middle.) Later they 'reformed' and used only two fingers.
Some worshippers refused to change. Ostensibly for this reason, huge numbers were slaughtered! When I visited Macedonia, they boasted of Christian roots going right back to a legendary visit by St. Paul himself. They still use three fingers. (Don't tell the Russians.) So, please don't get too annoyed at American-style doctrinal mud-slinging, OK?
Many American Christians are highly analytical. A young Texan once told me that "satan will use a whole ocean of truth to disguise an ounce of poison." As a typical American, he must have tested his entire 'ocean' down to the parts-per-billion, finding it pure. The implication was; as well as I could "talk Bible," I was obviously headed right for that little vial of poison!
Similarly, such believers always bring up the notion of 'context.' Obviously, the Scriptural figures lived in different times. Their customs, languages, and worldviews were very different. That's one reason we have a Unification Seminary, to understand these things.
However, American Christians are very good at selectively 'assigning' context! One Biblical passage is "obviously literal," another 'allegorical,' yet another 'purely symbolic.' Thus, they can thoroughly justify virtually any doctrine!
Considering the vast differences in the various denomination's, church's -not to mention individual's- beliefs, that young Texan would probably find himself all alone in Heaven! Fortunately for us mortals, God is a God of Heart. Suffering with and for us, and raising us up with very much patience and mercy.
Let's take a brief look at some little-known but highly consequential doctrines. The first is called 'Eternal Security.' Briefly: Can the powers of the world overcome Christ? In plainer terms, is it possible to backslide completely? Denominations are deeply divided, but quietly, on this point. Most 'fundamentalists' claim it is not possible.
I've greatly annoyed many 'negative' Christians, using this one point. You see, I was "saved by the blood of the risen Jesus" at age 17. So if their doctrine says "eternally saved," then I -the moonie- will certainly be there in Heaven with them. Ouch!
The Principle is very clear on this point. One can fall away. But everyone, even satan himself, will eventually be saved.
Another (even less discussed) doctrine concerns 'Deathbed Salvation.' Plainly put, can you put off 'getting saved' until the moments before your death? Many American people are counting on this! As far as I know, only a few 'Holiness' style churches actually say that you cannot get away with this. I've heard that even some Soviet leaders had priests brought in, secretly, when they were on their deathbeds. Oh, well!
The Principle holds this entire point moot. Only the Holiness churches agree with us here. Saying that 'mental salvation' -a fifteen second rote prayer- won't really ensure salvation anyway.
A much-heralded but barely-considered doctrine is that of 'Renewal.' Assuming that, at the Resurrection, Christians will instantly be relieved of their earthly sins and burdens. Though Christianity -and all the Great Faiths- believe in 'free will,' at that certain point, God would have to violate our free will once and for all!
People are just not built like 'circuit boards,' from which sins and fallen nature can simply be unplugged, to be replaced with some unspecified 'angelic' nature. Many also believe they will have immortal 'resurrection bodies,' something that defies all physical laws. Mormons (of the Utah LDS branch) even teach that God Himself (and Jesus when on Earth) have such immortal, 'bloodless' yet quite physical bodies. Principle tells us of a much more desirable Spirit World awaiting.
Every Faith entertains vastly different notions of the 'afterlife,' though such beliefs usually set them apart from the fatalistic secular belief-systems. Even within Christianity there are different notions.
The late evangelist Keith Green made pamphlets depicting a tearful cloud-borne Christian. He was crying because his favorite TV show was on-and Heaven had no TV's. (Harps only, presumably.) 'Learn to Praise now, that's going to be it for all eternity,' was the point. C.S. Lewis wrote -far more accurately- of an 'intense' Heaven, more 'real' than anything found in this physical plane.
Some less savory Faiths have always tied 'salvation,' or a place in the 'heavenly elite,' with membership in a certain race or civilization. With the advancement of the age, these Faiths are either changing-or fading away. It was only in 1978 that Utah Mormons began to allow Blacks into their higher ranks. (With the little known exception of their founders' personal Black friends.) Some faiths are still being restrictive.
The Mormons, to their credit, have recently been sending missionaries into Black Africa. Other churches make a point of their missions to Third World and primitive societies. They speak of the '10-40 belt.' (No, not cars!) It's the mid-latitudes, the barely evangelized, largely Moslem, Buddhist and Hindu Old World nations.
I once heard a talk by a Baptist missionary to Central America. He painted a vivid picture of a jungle area practically swarming with missionaries-almost like there were three of them chasing every native Indian. They bragged about their primitive converts. While a few miles away, there were teeming, growing cities-with few if any missionaries there. In fact, new tracts were being laid out with no room for churches to be built!
Some faiths barely evangelize, if at all. To join certain ones, you have to go bother them about it! Many witness primarily to friends and neighbors, while others (such as Jehovah's Witnesses) have organized 'cold call' witnessing programs. I don't have to say which ones we would prefer to resemble!
Ever since the Cruxifiction, there has been talk of Jesus' Second Coming. In every century, someone 'discovers' it is the End Times, and that He is about to return. These days, such ideas are spread on billboards and over the airwaves. I've heard of a nifty -and quite legal- contract intended for such preachers. It assigns all their possessions to you, effective on the day after the End of the World. See if they will sign it . . .
There is a darker side to this. There are ministers in jail right now, for bilking their flocks out of their (so they thought) soon-to-be- unneeded worldly goods. Many denominations and preachers teach the doctrines of either 'Pre, Mid or Post-Tribulation Rapture.'
The 'Pre-Tribs' think that Jesus will snatch them up (it's never made clear to where exactly), and they will get to look down on a 'deservedly suffering' world. But the 'Post-Tribs' believe that 'The Antichrist' will torment them for seven years (or so) before Jesus comes for them.
I'm truly sorry to mention this, but I heard it in their own official doctrinal classes. The Seventh Day Adventists are 'Post-Trib' believers, and they see the American government, under eventual Sun- Day Pagan (particularly Roman Catholic) domination, as the very instrument of this Tribulation.
Hence their unfortunate small offshoot, the Branch Davidians of Waco, had every reason -from their historical doctrine- to fear and resist the Government. Even, as it turned out, to the death. Talk about a 'self-fulfilling' prophecy! And our 'humanist/statist' Administration proved all too eager to oblige them.
(If you read my new science fiction story, you'll see that -though their doctrine was very strange- I'm afraid they might have been all too right in their fears for America . . .)
Many faiths are arguing over the idea of giving leadership positions to women. This is their right, but these same faiths are now struggling to maintain themselves. While Principle does say 'men are the subject,' the reality of True Parents gives women more heavenly honor than they've ever had!
Concerning men and women, there are many styles and doctrines concerning marriage and divorce. Worldwide, there are too many to even list here. Within Christianity, it goes from super-liberal churches allowing homosexual or informal marriages, to ultra-strict 'Holiness' churches that allow divorce under almost no circumstances.
Wiser churches are now suggesting (even requiring) counseling and waiting periods for all newly engaged couples. Our own church frowns upon divorce, but does not forbid it. Because of the example of the True Family, the compatible beliefs and experiences of our members, and the availability of guiding elders, divorce is not so common.
Due to our (often badly misunderstood) post-Blessing 'separation periods,' things shake out before kids come along. So, divorces involving children are extremely rare! Few other peoples in the world can say that.
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