God Is Not Green: the Scary Story of Christian Systematic Theology
God Is Not Green is a free online book with a clear and concise social history perspective. Its two-part purpose is to s...
God Is Not Green: The Scary Story of Christian Systematic Theology
by P.D. Lingenfelter Highby
God Is Not Green: The Scary Story of Christian Systematic Theology Copyright 2009 by P.D. Lingenfelter Highby.
About the cover: "The Ancient
of Days" by William Blake, circa 1824-1827.☺ Trustees at the British Museum. Used with permission.
"'The Ancient of Days,' of course, is God the Father as the Bible describes him at the time of Creation, measuring out the world. But for Blake, God the Father was an evil figure, an oppressive law-maker...God is not establishing order, he is circumscribing the imagination...[The dark, uncircumscribed world is the world of the spirit for Blake] - that world of the spirit, of the unimprisoned imagination, which Blake regarded a the truest happiness."
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Page Numbers: Prologue.
Chapter One: Christian Systematic Theology Hides Six Socio-Political Codes.
Chapter Two: Why Systematic Theology Is a Scary Story.
Chapter Three: A Second Way To Break the Code.
Chapter Four: How and When Christian Systematic Theology Built Its Codes.
Chapter Five: “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty.”
Chapter Six: “This Is My Father’s World.”
Chapter Seven: “Just As I Am.”
Chapter Eight: “Saviour, Wash Me In The Blood.”
Chapter Nine: “The Church’s One Foundation.”
Chapter Ten: “We’re Marching To Zion.”
Chapter Eleven: Summary and Positive Possibilities
Appendix I: The Jesus Seminar.
Appendix II: Hierarchy and Separation of Church and State.
Appendix III: The Science-Religion Split
Appendix IV: Christian Systematic Theology’s View of the Disabled Person and of the Evil Found In Nature.
Appendix V: Saint Paul’s Vision
Appendix VI: Social Justice Movements, Including Liberation Theology.
1 PROLOGUE God not “green” – that’s impossible! Didn’t God create the earth? Didn’t the Creator provide the good things of Nature for humans to use? Beliefs such as these make it very difficult for Christian people to admit that human abuse (despoiling, polluting, overcrowding) of Nature has brought the earth close to destruction. God Is Not Green places much of the blame for environmental chaos squarely upon God! Such an absurd statement is reasonable when we remember that the Christian Church claims to represent God on earth. Thus, this book defines “God” as the scary systematic theology that the ancient Christian Church and its Church Fathers developed. We shall see that these Christian Church leaders deliberately tried to destroy the pagan Nature religions that existed before the Judaeo-Christian belief system. These leaders despised pagan religions because pagans worshipped a plurality of Nature gods and goddesses and valued Mother Nature as the intelligent designer or creator goddess. To counteract and destroy these pagan claims, the ancient Christian Church Fathers declared that Mother Nature was merely a material puppet in the powerful spiritual hands of the true Trinitarian God who was really the Creator. To convince people to abandon their old pagan beliefs and turn to the new Christian religion, Christian leaders had to tell six interrelated scary stories that include a creation story. “Systematic theology” is the name of these six stories told here. The historical consequences of this systematic theology have helped to destroy the ecological balance of our planet. In fact, the sixth and final tale of the interwoven six stories predicts, prophesies, and encourages Christian believers to work and fight for the destruction of our planet!
2 CHAPTER ONE: Christian Systematic Theology Hides Six Socio-Political Codes. One way for us to understand the code of Christian systematic theology today is to imagine it as a story in the form of a drama set in six acts. The playbill follows. “God’s Melodrama” Act I. God/Trinity: One imperial God appears on stage. He comes down from above, a deus ex machina (as Peter Pan comes when he appears with harness and pulley). This God reveals His nature by alternately employing three masks in order to play three different political roles: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. ACT II. Creation-Out-Of-Nothing: God performs a spectacular magic act which results in the creation of a world, an hierarchical world order (meaning “divine or sacred elitist order”), and a theocratic political order (literally meaning “rule by God” or practically meaning “rule by priests/pastors,” “church ruling over state,” and “elite males ruling over Nature”). Act III. Human Nature: The villain (Satan or Devil) appears on the scene. He gains entrance into the lives of human persons by way of their evil self-will. This self-will causes them to be disobedient, sinful, and rebellious. God declares that this evil self-will must be punished in hell for all eternity. Act IV. Redemption or Salvation: The hero (savior) enters, stage left. This Jesus/God-hero takes the required punishment upon himself, and dies in the place of the disobedient and rebellious humans. By the graceful act of the hero’s sacrifice, the human sinners are thereby provided with a miraculous means of escaping their just punishment.
Act V. Church: A safe haven, a sanctuary, appears as a shelter for these escapees. It serves a dual purpose: 1) it becomes a theater, with weekly shows, for the purpose of keeping the memory of the hero intact; and 2) it serves as political and social headquarters for social control of these weak and sinful humans. Act VI. End Times or Ultimate Things: The drama ends with the promise to a restless and often resentful society that a nonearthly justice will occur in the future – in the end times when the hero magically returns – this time as a warrior and judge, not as the meek and mild savior. The earth is destroyed.
3 CHAPTER TWO: Why Systematic Theology Is a Scary Story. Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they [Paul and Silas] said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” (King James version of the Bible, Acts 16:30-31). This Bible verse does not appear to be scary at all. What could be less threatening than to simply believe in Jesus the Christ and then have faith and full confidence in miraculously being saved from hell’s fire and in having the promise of spending eternity in heaven? This verse of scripture seems to be calling for merely an individual belief commitment. And yet, something nags at our complacency about such easy belief: “If something sounds too good to be true, there must be a catch to it.” What is this catch or artful plan to entrap in the seemingly simple story? The catch is that we assume this vague belief in “Jesus as lord and savior” is all there is to it. But it’s not that easy. In addition, the ancient belief language was filled with philosophically obscure terms that became hidden code words difficult for illiterate persons to decode. The Christian story of belief in Jesus drags behind itself much historical baggage heavily laden with a very scary political ideology that is harmful to ecology, social justice, and science. This worldview includes the following six-parts that all Christians must believe so that the miraculous salvation will occur: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6.
God/Trinity, Creation-Out-Of-Nothing, Human Nature (seriously flawed), Redemption or Salvation, Church, and End Times or Ultimate Things.
The name of this 6-part story is systematic theology. Theology means “study of God.”
4 Christian theology claims to be an orderly, logical, consistent, non-contradictory, and absolutely true six-part systematic worldview. Systematic means that all six parts of the Christian teachings are linked together in order to form an organic whole. Because of its systematic, holistic nature, not one of the six parts may be omitted or changed without destroying the truth and logic of the whole system, so the Christian belief and faith system asserts as fact. We are NOT permitted to pick and choose among these six parts, as if we were at a salad bar. If we don’t accept this entire system, the miraculous grace, salvation, and the human participation in Jesus’ resurrection will not occur, so cries out the scary story of Christian systematic theology. The six-part story of systematic theology includes mysteries, detective thrillers of crime and punishment, love stories that demand a cruel type of love, science fiction and fantasy, tales of horror having to do with ecology, and imperialistic political drama. In order to understand these stories, we first must dig beneath the encoded specialized religious language to unearth the real-world meanings and their political, social, and ecological results and consequences. But be of good cheer, this book does provide keys to the codes, and does unlock the everyday, factual meaning of each story and each of the six parts, in turn. Our very first tool we have in our code breaking kit is the vital knowledge that certain assumptions underlie all of the stories and each of the six parts. (Assumptions are things or opinions that are not talked about because everybody supposedly knows them and thus they are taken for granted). For example, when the early Christian leaders called Church Fathers wrote the systematic theology, everybody assumed that the earth was flat and that the earth, not the sun, was the center of our solar system.
5 The following crucial ecological assumption and two political assumptions are the three major assumptions that underlie systematic theology: 1. First and foremost in the scariness rating of these three assumptions behind the stories found in systematic theology are the ecological horror stories. These stories were written precisely in order to substitute a Christian God for the pagan deities who were being worshipped in the Roman Empire at the time systematic theology was written. The term pagan means “of the earth; a peasant; or any person or country that reveres Mother Nature and the Nature gods and goddesses.” In order to carry off such a huge religious, political, and ecological task, the Church Fathers had to insist that their spiritual God could control and dominate the material Mother Nature and usurp Her powers. The Church Fathers eventually were able to destroy the pagan/heathen valuing of Nature as an intelligent divine creator and the pagan/heathen worshipping of nature gods and goddesses. They accomplished this immense feat by maintaining that Mother Nature was a mere puppet or tool of the Christian God, and by declaring that elite ruling males who converted to Christianity could and should use, and even abuse, the things of Nature, if necessary, but never value or revere Nature as sacred. Two thousands years of such a mind-set have nearly destroyed the ecological system of our planet. Truly horrifying! 2. The second most frightening assumption underlying the six scary stories of systematic theology is its insistence upon a political system called theocracy. Theocracy means “rule or government by God” (and God’s clergy). Theocracy also means that the spiritual Christian Church and clergy have dominion and control over the material secular state. Since systematic theology is both political and religious, those who believe
6 are expected to conform to the explicit and implicit politics and social order connected to that belief system. Many believers are shocked by such news. Christian priests and preachers seldom tell their parishioners that Christian systematic theology forms a political theocracy. Even when they do tell us that theocracy means “rule by God,” they use code to explain that this Christian God rules his theocracy by way of Christian popes, priests, preachers, ministers, and TV evangelists instead of a democratically elected president, congress, and supreme court. Theocracy cannot be a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. Our democracy would be destroyed if we lost our precious principle of separation of church and state and our nation became a theocracy. Such a thought is exceedingly scary! The footnote below gives us a glimpse of a congressman and evangelist who would prefer, because Christian systematic theology is both politics and religion, that our nation were a hierarchical theocracy, not a democracy.
3. Third most alarming of the assumptions holding up or supporting all of the scary stories of systematic theology is hierarchy. The original meaning of the word hierarchy was “divine order.” The coded implication of the term divine order or hierarchy is that God himself established both the religious order and the political-social order. If God set it up, then it surely has to be right. Right? Yes, right, if we believe that 1
For example, Representative Tom Delay, who opposed separation of church and state, said when he was House Majority Whip: “Only Christianity offers a comprehensive world view that covers all areas of life and thought, every aspect of creation. Only Christianity offers a way to live in response to the realities that we find in this world – only Christianity.” Tom Delay, in July, 2002, as a speaker at a gathering organized by The Center For Christian Statesmanship, also said: “You see, I don’t believe there is separation of church and state. I think the constitution is very clear. We have the right and the freedom to exercise our religion no matter what it is anywhere we choose to do it. We have an opportunity to once more get back into the public arena.” See also Rob Boston, “Missing Book Mystery Solved” (Church & State, September 2003) 12, who reported that the Reverend Jerry Falwell on page 52 of his book America Can Be Saved, published in 1979, stated: “I hope to live to see the day when, as in the early days of our country, we won’t have any public schools. The churches will have taken them over again and Christians will be running them. What a happy day that will be!”
7 God himself really did establish the system. When we break the code, we understand that in reality it was human, fallible elite male leaders in the Christian Church (no females or slave males included) who wrote this coded systematic theology. Perhaps we might not accept authoritarian hierarchy without question if we remember that the vertical organizational structure of institutional Christianity is almost always shaped like a ladder or a pyramid. Webster’s Dictionary tells us that the hierarchical pyramid is related to the pyramid scheme, for a scheme is “a carefully arranged and systematic program of action.” Thus, a scheme is similar in form to systematic theology which is also a carefully arranged and systematic program of both belief and action. Webster’s dictionary also notes that a scheme can be “a plot [or] underhand intrigue” as well. Sometimes this secondary meaning is also true of coded systematic theology. That is, Christian leaders who wrote systematic theology plotted and used underhand intrigue by writing in code to keep laity (the average person, not clergy) unaware that Christian teachings are not just a religious scheme but also an hierarchical socio-political system. Random House Dictionary (1966) defines pyramid as: “a system or structure…in hierarchical form.” Webster’s Third International Dictionary (2002) explains that a pyramid may also be like religion in that a pyramid is often “an immaterial structure built upon a broad supporting base and narrowing gradually to an apex (as of power, dominance, or significance).” Both dictionaries note that a pyramid form can also imply a confidence game or pyramid scheme! In any type of pyramid scheme, groupings of power are “superimposed one on another to give those in control of the top [group]… control over the whole pyramid with a small investment.” Why would we who call
8 ourselves a free people want to believe in, and be part of, a pyramid scheme or con game, especially one bent upon devaluing and destroying the power and balance of Nature?
CHAPTER THREE: A Second Way To Break The Code. In addition to perceiving theology as a drama in six acts, a second way for us to understand the coded story of systematic theology is to see it as a worldview with its six parts as six categories of knowledge within a vast university library. This is not a mere analogy. Historically, the cataloguing schema of a university library was established in ancient and medieval priestly and monastic Christian libraries in order to mirror the sixpart theology. No one but clergy was allowed to enter and study at these holy religious libraries. Their institutional structure was meant to be hierarchical in importance, just as the structure of the church is hierarchical (that is, a divine political order).
In today’s university libraries that use a Library of Congress cataloguing system, part of that original format is still in use today, although, thankfully, now we do not have to be a member of the clergy to enter the library. Below is how the format of a medieval theocratic Christian library catalogue may have looked as compared to today’s university library catalogue:
1. God/Trinity = (or compares to) “A.” At the top of the hierarchical ladder is the library category “A” which stands for the omniscient (all-knowing) God/Trinity. Thus, it includes the vast, entire worldview of all knowledge: encyclopedias, dictionaries, facts-on-file, etc. “B” is a subcategory of God/Trinity, for its three major fields of knowledge are: a. Philosophy which originally meant “love of Wisdom or the Heavenly Sophia or the Holy Spirit”; b. Psychology which originally meant “study of the Soul”; and c. Religion which originally meant “a tying together of the soul with God.” (Other subcategories within “B” include comparative religions, theology, biblical studies, creeds, prayer, religious symbolism, etc.).
Statement by the head librarian, The Iliff School of Theology, Denver, CO, c.1982.
10 2. Creation Out Of Nothing = (or compares to) library categories “C,” “D,” “E,” & “F.” Systematic theology says that creation is the beginning of history, and C, D, E, & F are the library categories for History. Subcategories include the history of auxiliary sciences such as archaeology, genealogy, etc., and the history of all world areas. Therefore, these would have been the perfect places to classify the beginning of history (the Creation of the world and its auxiliary sciences), the genealogy of Adam & Eve, and the history of the world areas as noted in the creation stories about Adam and Eve’s descendants who had to scatter throughout the known world.
3. Human Nature = (or compares to) library categories “G” & “H.” G is the category for Geography, Anthropology, and Folklore and therefore would have been the correct place to tell about the geography of the first land: The Garden of Eden. There, according to systematic theology, Adam and Eve were created and lived until their evil self will, called the “Original Sin” or “The Fall of Man,” caused their expulsion from this Garden out into the harsher geography of the larger world. Their descendants (the beginning of the category Anthropology) in turn suffered punishments, too. H is the category for the Social Sciences, Ethnicity, Criminology, and Sociology; therefore it is the right classification for telling about the evil social conditions in the world as a result of Adam and Eve’s sinful human nature and their great crime of disobedience.
4. Salvation/Redemption = (or compares to) library categories “J” & “K.” J is the library category for Political Science. K is the category for Law, including Economics and Criminal Law. Therefore, it is the proper place in a theocratic system for explaining that because humans had broken God’s law, they were criminals, and had to be punished by a Just God. Thus, God sentenced their souls to an eternal death in Hell. Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, took their punishment upon himself and became the savior and redeemer.
5. Church = (or compares to) library categories “L,” “M,” “N,”& “P.” These are the categories for Education, Music, Fine Arts, and Language and Literature, respectively. Through the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, the Christian Church provided full education via its systematic theology for only its clergy and other elite males. It provided religious education for all Christians (most of whom could not read or write) by way of its oral sermons, memorized creeds, and catechism (simplified religious teachings). Church music and the fine arts (choirs, cathedrals, stained glass windows, etc.) provided a worshipful setting for its liturgy and religious ceremonies. The church translated the scriptures, the religious classics, and other holy literature and preserved these books in its libraries.
11 A frightening and disgusting aspect of the systematic theology story is hidden in the history of the library subcategories “Q” (Natural Sciences), “R” (Medicine), “S” (Agriculture), and “T” (Technology, Home Economics). These categories were greatly devalued by the Christian church of the Dark Ages and the Middle Ages because only the non-elite or poor parish church members [i.e., women, peasants, slaves, and servants] worked in these fields. There was no respect for the people who toiled in these areas. However, systematic theologians did study the philosophical theory of these fields, but these elite males considered that the practical, dirty-hands aspects of these subject categories were beneath their dignity! Sometimes they considered the categories evil, too, such as when women who worked in medicine were burned at the stake as witches. 3
6. End Times and Ultimate Things = (or compares to) library categories “U” & “V.” U is the category for the Military, and V for Naval Science. End Times mean the end of the world. Systematic theology maintains that the End of the World will come about because of a great war on land and sea. Ultimate Things will include the Second Coming of the Christ to the earth as a Warrior. He will lead that battle (which only the Christians will win) and He will judge the sins of all people. The wicked (those not saved or redeemed by Jesus) will be thrown into everlasting punishment. Thus, these are the appropriate categories for End Times’ violence using military and naval might. If it were not for the science/religion dichotomy that occurred during the Enlightenment, university libraries might still have this narrow theocratic range of subject matter. In addition, it is the principle of separation of church and state that has continued to enlarge available knowledge. If this ancient Christian library catalogue of systematic theology seems far-fetched to our modern minds, consider the following historical facts.
The reason behind such an elitist attitude is that practical knowledge was the domain of females and male slaves who were the property of upper-class males. Such property included wives, servants, and peasants who were considered to be not fully human because their work was mere animal drudgery. Only in the Renaissance did elite males of the upper classes gradually take over the fields of medicine, technology, and the wealth of agriculture. For further explanation, see F.E. Peters, Greek Philosophical Terms: a Historical Lexicon (NY: New York University Press, 1967), category episteme. This lexicon notes that episteme or the study of rational knowledge is opposed to praktike or practical knowledge. Since Christian systematic theology is the study of rational knowledge, it devalues practical knowledge.
12 In 389 Common Era, after the Christians had gained political power in the Roman Empire and were beginning to consolidate their coded systematic theology, the Christian Roman Emperor Theodosius used his religious and political power to destroy the most famous pagan/heathen library in Alexandria, Egypt. The building was wrecked and the books burned, thus eliminating most of the ancient world’s important literature in one mighty blaze.
Pagan Hellenistic librarian scholars had constantly debated whether true knowledge came from the bodily senses of sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell (lower down in the hierarchy) or from the intellect, for example, imagination and mental revelations (higher within the hierarchy). Nevertheless, they always highly valued knowledge from Nature in their libraries, for to them Nature was divine. Christian Church Fathers argued, instead, that true knowledge came only by way of revelation through scripture and by way of the Holy Spirit inspiring the minds of the church leaders. Thus, this argument was their logical justification for destroying all knowledge found in pagan/heathen libraries. The church leaders then established their own Christian compilations of knowledge that became organized into their coded systematic theology. As Christians began to build their own libraries and their own worldview, their purposes were: To destroy the pagan/heathen valuing of Nature as a divine creator and the pagan/heathen worshipping of nature gods and goddesses, and
Williston Walker, History of the Christian Church, 3rd edition (N.Y.: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1970), 117-119. See also Barbara G. Walker, The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets (San Francisco: Harper & Row,1983) categories “Sarapis” and “Hypatia.” See also Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Supplement, category “Hypatia” for further destruction of pagan knowledge by Christian leaders.
13 To substitute a Christian political/theocratic worldview of a philosophical and metaphysical (invisible) God who controls and dominates Mother Nature and her powers. That such crucial information is almost lost to modern knowledge is a direct result of the hidden, coded nature of Christian systematic theology. Cracking this code is essential. Part of code breaking is to learn how, when, where, and why the codes were developed in the first place. Chapter Four gives us this information.
CHAPTER FOUR: How and When Christian Systematic Theology Built Its Codes.
How and when did this coded Christian system begin? Jesus himself did not play any part in setting up the system. Perhaps such a radical statement needs to be repeated: 5
Jesus himself did not play any part in setting up the system. Jesus who remained a Jew in his lifetime did not write or preach or teach Christian systematic theology. Jesus taught in oral parables, not written code. Neither is systematic theology the study of the Bible. This, too, needs to be repeated: systematic theology is not Bible study. Systematic theology merely makes use of some specific scripture verses while ignoring thousands of other scripture passages. Most of the Bible verses which systematic theology uses come from Saint Paul’s letters to the new churches Paul himself organized or from St. John’s message to the new Christian churches, rather than from Jesus’ teachings! Never systematic and seldom consistent, scripture or the Bible is often contradictory. Scripture comes in a wide variety of forms such as songs, poetry, proverbs, parables, story, metaphor, symbolism, drama, prophecy, dreams, history and letters. The Bible includes pornographic and extremely violent tales as well as glorious and magnificent stories. The Bible may be interpreted in numerous and varying ways. On the other hand, systematic theology leaves little wiggle room for various interpretations. Systematic theology is obviously systematic and relatively consistent or non-contradictory. Systematic theology follows a logical form or format – if one accepts 5
Mary Ann Frese Witt et al., The Humanities, Vol. 1, 4th edition (Lexington, MA: D.C. Heath and Company, 1993). Chapter 8 and pp.257, 261-3 note that the Christian system started several hundred years after Jesus’ death when a few literate Christian leaders gained enough education and wealth to be able to begin to copy the governing pattern of the Roman Empire in which they lived.
15 the assumptions upon which the logic is based and if one accepts the “either…or…” ancient Aristotelian logic itself. Because the ancient Christian Church accepted both the logic and the assumptions (logical presuppositions), the church could logically claim that Christian systematic theology was absolute truth (the one and only truth in the whole world). Historically, applying this claim of absolute truth to practical political, social, and religious problems has often resulted in tragic consequences such as wars, torture, genocide, and additional forms of intolerance when other cultures have clashed with Christianity. Like all religions, Christian theology (study of God), combines mysticism, sacramental ritualism or ceremonialism, and doctrine or teachings (that may include sacred writings or scripture). Unlike many religions, Christianity emphasizes doctrine more than mysticism or ritualism. Because of this emphasis upon doctrine, Christianity created a system of specific beliefs and a systematic theology.
As noted in Chapter Two, “systematic” means that all six parts of the Christian teachings are linked together in order to form an organic whole that is orderly, logical, and classified into an entire worldview. Not one of the six parts may be changed or omitted without the order, logic, and truth being destroyed. All Christian churches – Roman Catholic, Orthodox Eastern, and Protestant – follow this same six-part format, although each church institution differs in how it interprets sections within each of the six parts.
See The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, categories “Religion” and “Patristic Philosophy:” In the latter category we find the surprising statement that “…several of them [the Church Fathers] do not even mention Jesus.” The context of this fact refers to the huge importance of Greek philosophy to the Church Fathers who wrote Christian systematic theology! (emphasis added). 7
A Dictionary of Christian Theology, categories “Doctrine” and “Dogma,” notes that Protestants prefer the term “doctrine” to “dogma” but that even so, “Today’s Christendom  as a whole may be said generally to accept the dogmas formulated by the ecumenical councils of the ancient and undivided Church.” [emphasis added].
16 Systematic theology is a theocratic social and political system because it was written at the time when every powerful religion in the whole world combined its religious institution with the state or empire or kingdom. The early Christian leaders wanted their new religion to become powerful enough to be an empire, too. They dreamed and longed to claim that their God was the only true God and that He and His church ruled over the state (that is, a theocracy). In defining Christian political theocratic terms, Christian leaders named “Church Fathers” (some of whom were also known as Apostolic Fathers or Doctors of the Church) used Greek and Latin words already familiar in the pagan Roman Empire where 8
leaders simply assumed that political and religious beliefs formed one law: •
“doctrine,” a Latin term, meaning “teachings” or “instructions,”
“dogma,” a similar Greek word, meaning “what seems right,” and
“doxa,” a Greek word, related to the terms doctrine and dogma, connoting the “opinion or judgment of the ruling elite males of a community.” 9
Why are these ancient Greek and Latin words scary when they certainly do not appear frightful? They become hair-raising politically when applied as stated in The Catholic Encyclopedia, categories “Doctrine” and “Dogma.” There is repeated – over and over 8
For a brief description of all the Church Fathers, see Encyclopaedia of Religion and Religions, E. Royston Pike, editor, category “Fathers of the Church.” For more in-depth discussion, see J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1978), parts I and II. 9 Definitions are a distillation from a variety of sources: The Catholic Encyclopedia, categories “Doctrine,” “Dogma” “Hierarchy,” “Theocracy”; A Dictionary of Christian Theology, categories “Dogma” and “Doctrine”; The Dictionary of Theology, categories “Doctrinal Freedom,” “Dogma,” “Dogmatic Theology” and “Dogmatic Facts”; The Encyclopedia of Theology, category “Dogma”; and F.E. Peters’ Greek Philosophical Terms: a Historical Lexicon, categories doxa, kosmos, kosmos noetos, and theos. See also Gerda Lerner who explains why the Church Patriarchs valued theocracy as political religion in her book The Creation of Patriarchy (NY: Oxford University Press, 1986) – note especially chapters eight and eleven.
17 again – throughout four pages of fine print, the elitist dictum that non-elite, ordinary people must not think for themselves in the matter of doctrine and dogma! That religious encyclopedia adds that the private revelations of the non-elite lay person do not count as dogmas or doctrines. For a recent example of such elitism see Margaret Spillane, “The People’s Church” (The Nation, January 6, 2003), 5-6. The context was Pope John Paul’s “…distaste for inclusionary politics…[He states] “The Church is not a democracy and no one from below can decide on the truth.” (emphasis added). Returning to our historical discussion of how the ancient Christian codes were developed, we note that because the ancient Christian community sometimes valued the opinion and judgment of the early Church Fathers, these ruling elite male theologians slowly gained the power “to determine the rightness of ” both religious and political policies.
In so doing, these men planned a political “theocracy” (a government by God
or his priests/clergy) in the form of a “hierarchy” (a divine/sacred order) similar to military structure or ordering. Implying that God himself established both the religious order and the political-social order, this theocracy included social, political, and scientific maxims integrated into the religious beliefs. In addition, religious beliefs merged with scientific “facts” of the day, coupled with social policies about slavery and woman’s status, and entwined with schemes about politics and war. Thus, systematic theology became a complete and comprehensive ideology that would be the guide for both church and state. 10
For an example of church leaders writing both religious and secular laws, see The Papal Encyclicals in their Historical Context, Anne Fremantle, editor (NY: The New American Library, 1956). The introduction and chapter one, especially, explain how at times these encyclicals were secular laws as well as religious beliefs. See also Documents of the Christian Church, 2nd edition, Harry Bettenson, editor (NY: Oxford University Press, 1980). Section I, #III “Church and State,” Section II, #III “Church and State” and Section IV, #I & II “The Episcopal Inquisition and the Secular Arm” and “The Justification of the Inquisition” speak to this issue. See also J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1978), 104-112, 122, 241.
18 Although the Christian community eventually accepted as doctrine and dogma much of what these theologians called Church Fathers wrote or preached from approximately 150 C.E. to 450 C.E., this high regard came only after great conflict, controversy, and political maneuvering during this period of about 300 years.
Since religion openly included politics, Christian priests and theologians literally formed groups similar to political parties. Priests/theologians of the winning party 12
grabbed the right and power to write the religious creeds and doctrines. By squabbling and argument, this winning party also gained the power to rule over the populace.
Williston Walker, a renowned historian of Christianity, walks his readers through A History of the Christian Church to show how and when Western religious creeds and doctrines became coded political slogans filled with political meanings. During the first 300 years of Christianity, Walker explains, doctrines were contradictory, varied and fluid. The Christian Church had little power in those years when the doctrine was contradictory and pluralistic. Rather, Christians were sporadically persecuted by the Roman Empire during the time period 100-290 C.E.
In those early years, political and religious leaders openly admitted that doctrines and creeds were the political and religious human opinion of various Christian leaders. Controversies over how political code words should and could be interwoven into religious doctrines raged throughout this entire time. 11
13 14 15
Dr. J. Alton Templin, professor of religious history, lecture at The Iliff School of Theology, 1982. Ibid. Dr. Templin explained that religious debates in the late Medieval era were very popular and lively affairs, similar to today’s Bowl Games with everyone taking sides and cheering on their favorite team. Winning or losing had more critical results however, for sometimes the loser of the debate was burned at the stake! Williston Walker, A History of the Christian Church, 3rd ed.(NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1970), 43-45. Ibid, 105-123. J.N.D. Kelley, Early Christian Doctrines (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1978), 5-6.
19 One of the historical factors that helped to end the controversies was the action of the pagan Roman Emperor Constantine. In the early fourth century (about 300 years after Jesus died), Constantine recognized Christianity as one of the legitimate religions of the Roman Empire. Circa 320 C.E., or a few years before Emperor Constantine and the priests met in Nicea for the Council of Nicea, the Roman Empire acknowledged and accepted Christianity as a religion to be tolerated.
Immediately, Christian leaders gained more
power, and Christian doctrine quickly became more political, more rigid, and, in its turn, more intolerant.
For example, the arguments and debates about how to write the now
famous Nicene Creed in 325 at the Council of Nicea became so politically heated that some of the priests came to blows inside of the churches. Celibacy was not yet established for the priests, and so the priests’ wives and mistresses, who were waiting outside of the churches, also joined in the fracas – pulling each others’ hair, scratching eyes, and slapping cheeks over the same issues regarding the Holy Trinity; a doctrine which was being established by their husbands or masters at that time.
It is very significant to note that Roman Emperor Constantine, a pagan worshipper of the Roman Sun God, was the person who insisted that all the Christian bishops and priests and theologians agree upon a unified Christian creed even though the Christian leaders were still greatly divided in their opinions and convictions. Constantine was more politically aware than the religious leaders at that time and he knew that great
Ibid. See also: The Catholic Encyclopedia, categories “Church,” “Authority,” and “Hierarchy.” Ibid. 18 Dr. J. Alton Templin, op.cit. For additional history of celibacy, see The Catholic Encyclopedia, category “Celibacy of the Clergy.” 17
20 political power and control over his empire would result from a unified and consistent religious worldview. Within decades, in spite of Emperor Constantine’s action, the Roman Empire was destroyed by its enemies, enabling Christianity to grow stronger and stronger. Soon Christianity became both politically and religiously powerful as a theocracy. Relatively soon, historically, (circa 400 –500 C.E.) Christianity became an established imperial power. When the institution reached this pinnacle, it began operating by means of full religious and political power. The Church used wars, intrigues, and other maneuvers to obtain its goals. The Church violently cut off, forcefully suppressed, or drove underground all controversies and contradictions concerning doctrine. [So much for a religion of peace and love!] 19
As Williston Walker clearly tells us: …Doctrinal discussions that earlier would have run their course were now political questions of the first magnitude…. [emphasis added]. … On reviewing this long controversy, it may be said that it was a misfortune that a less disputed phrase was not adopted at Nicaea, and doubly a misfortune that imperial interference played so large a part in the ensuing discussions. In the struggle the imperial church came into existence, and a policy of imperial interference was fully developed. Departure from official orthodoxy had become a crime. 20
The term “crime” and the term “imperial” (repeated three times in the quotation) explicitly give a clear message that Christian doctrine had become equated with power politics and societal law and control. Christian belief would henceforth recite its creeds or speak its liturgy and its language of faith within a larger and broader coded context of political, economic, and societal control! Once doctrine became openly aligned with
Williston Walker, op.cit., 108-124. Ibid, 111, 118.
21 power politics, the Christian Church declared its systematic theology to be unchangeable absolute truth.
This extravagant claim encompassed five socio-political purposes:
To obtain wealth and power;
To differentiate the new Christian religion from its Hebrew/Jewish roots and from the older doctrines of the surrounding pagan world; 23
To retain the Hebrew/Jewish God and scriptures (the Old Testament) even as Christian Church Fathers interpreted that God and those Jewish scriptures in radically new ways to serve new and different Christian political purposes; To utilize only a small and select portion of scripture from both Old and New Testaments for Christian systematic theology while claiming this restricted choice as the one and only correct doctrine; 25
To claim that if any fault, sin, mistake, or error should be found, the fault is always that of the sinful, mistaken individual priest or minister, or lay interpreter, never that of the doctrine or church institution itself. 27
In Chapter I we imagined that Christian systematic theology is like a drama set in six acts, but all the symbolism hides socio-political codes. In Chapter II we learned why Christian systematic theology with its hidden assumptions and codes is scary and dangerous. Chapter III displayed the structure and outline of systematic theology as 21
See, for example, The Catholic Encyclopedia, categories “Church,” “Hierarchy,” and “Metaphysics”; The Encyclopedia of Theology, category “Truth”; The Dictionary of Theology, categories “ Doctrinal Freedom” and “Dogma”; and “Westminster Confession of Faith” 1643, categories “The Authority of the Holy Scripture,” “Of Justification,” and “Of the Law of God.” 22 The Catholic Encyclopedia, category “Hierarchy” (from the Greek hieros meaning “sacred or divine,” and archein meaning “rule, order or command”) notes that the church claims the right to power and its accompanying wealth by the right to rule over the state by the concept of hierarchy. See also Appendix II on hierarchy and separation of church and state. 23 Arthur Cushman McGiffert, The God of the Early Christians (NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1925), chapters 1,2, and 3. 24 See The Catholic Encyclopedia, category “Pantheism,” and Encyclopedia of Religion, category “Pantheism and Panentheism.” 25 Norman Perrin and Dennis C. Duling, The New Testament, 2nd ed. (NY: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Publishers, 1982), its Appendix I “The Canon of the Bible” compares Jewish purposes with Christian purposes. 26 In Christian churches as an aid to worship may be found the ancient, greatly abbreviated scriptures called the “Kerygma.” The kerygma is considered to be “the essence of the Gospel” for preaching and catechism classes. It ignores all contradictory scriptures from either the Old or the New Testaments. See also Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, Supplementary Volume, categories “Textual criticism, OT” and “Textual criticism, NT” for modern scriptural analysis. 27 The Catholic Encyclopedia, categories “Church, “Hierarchy,” and “Authority.”
22 compared to the coded categories of a university library with its entire worldview. This Chapter IV gave us an historical summary and showed us a snapshot of the political purposes of the elite men who built systematic theology and its codes. Now we move on to examine, in turn, each of the six divisions of the scary story of Christian systematic theology. That is, an entire chapter will be devoted to each one of the six parts, in their proper order. First in line appears God/Trinity.
23 CHAPTER FIVE: “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty” (Title of a Christian Hymn about the Doctrine of God/Trinity)
I believe in One God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth; And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God; And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord, the giver of Life. 28
Declaring caesars and emperors to be divine gods or lords was a common practice of the Roman Empire. When the Roman Emperor Constantine established Christianity as a state religion, circa 315 C.E., he followed this common pattern by giving the long deceased Jesus the political title of “Lord.”
“Lord,” “Christ,” and “Messiah” are all
coded words for political designations; for example, “Christ,” is not Jesus’ last name; it is his political title.
The Greek Christos was an ancient and often used pagan political
title meaning “the anointed one” - the male who has been ritually anointed with oil as a sign that he has been marked for kingship.
“Our Lady,” one of the titles given to the
Virgin Mary who was the mother of Jesus, was similarly a political title. Historically, “Lady” was the title of any wife or mother of a Lord who was the political ruler of the land. Although Emperor Constantine himself remained a pagan and continued to worship the sun god, he recognized a shrewd political move when he saw one. To Constantine’s essentially political mind Christianity was the completion of the process of
A simplified version of the Nicene Creed of Christianity. For a more thorough examination of the various creeds see Documents of the Christian Church, 2nd edition, selected and edited by Henry Bettenson. (Oxford University Press. 1963, 1980), pp.23-26. For the history describing how the Church Fathers wrote the creeds see J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, revised edition (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1960,1978), pp.29-51, 83-400. 29 Williston Walker, History of the Christian Church, 3rd edition (NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1970),105. 30 Harpers Bible Dictionary, category “Messiah.” See also Barbara G. Walker, The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, categories “Christos” and “Constantine I.” 31
Barbara G. Walker, op.cit., category “Christos.”
24 unification that had long been in progress in the empire. It had one Emperor, one law, and one type of citizenship for all free men. It should have one religion.
A monotheism (one god) which was also a trinity (a three-ness) carried an extra political bonus: it had a God who, while being transcendent, that is, aloof, other-worldly, and removed from human problems, also could become immanent. Being immanent meant that the God could also become intimate and bodily involved in the world by means of his caring human offspring Jesus. Insisting that the once-earthly, human, and incarnate (made of flesh) Jesus had been transformed into the invisible Christ Spirit who was Lord and ruler of the entire world gave Emperor Constantine quite a political boost. It enabled Constantine to argue that he, Constantine, was the one human, visible surrogate divine ruler of the empire-world, ruling as an earthly monarch with divine mandate for all that he willed. Later on, when the Roman Empire fell in defeat, the Christian leader (Father/Papa/Pope) would use exactly the same logical argument, maintaining that he was the one imperial ruler of the Christian world and the Holy Roman Empire. Today the Pope still similarly maintains that he reigns upon the earth in Christ’s stead.
It was the pagan Emperor Constantine, not the Christian bishops, who called for a council to be held at Nicaea where the bishops formulated the extremely crucial trinitarian Nicene Creed which is still recited every Sunday morning at the worship services in the majority of Christian churches. Emperor Constantine, not the bishops, was the one who insisted that the Nicene Creed be the coded political phrasing that must be universally agreed upon and accepted throughout the empire. Being more experienced in politics on a large scale, Constantine understood the political importance of 32 33
Williston Walker, op.cit., 105. The Catholic Encyclopedia, category “Hierarchy.” See also Appendix II on hierarchy.
25 universality. To facilitate the process, the emperor banished from the empire those bishops and clergy who dared to disagree with him! But even so, the Nicene and other creeds were not easily formed. Controversies over how the Christian religious phrases – which were in essence political code words – roiled, boiled, and burned for one hundred and twenty-six years, from 325 C.E. until the creeds were fully accepted in 451 C.E!
During these 126 years, many of the debates focused upon four main issues:
whether Jesus was human or angelic,
whether Jesus was physically created or mentally “begotten,”
whether Jesus’ nature was similar to (Greek: homoiousion) God’s nature, or
whether Jesus’ nature was the same as (Greek: homoousion) God’s nature.
Finally, the Church Fathers decided, as we might have deduced from their past decisions, upon the most politically expedient answers to these controversial questions: A. Jesus was human, not an angel, but B. Jesus was also God, because 1. Jesus’ nature was the same as God’s nature, and 2. Jesus was mentally “begotten” rather than physically created.
Such answers required an enormous amount of logical maneuvering. The Church had normally used Aristotle’s “either…or… logic,” and so how could the Church Fathers claim that Jesus was both “fully”100% human and “fully” 100% God? They argued that this illogical, unusual phenomenon was a sacred “Mystery” accomplished because Jesus’ father was not his earthly father Joseph, but rather his heavenly father God. In His Holy Ghost persona, the church hierarchy declared, God impregnated Mary, Jesus’ mother. 34
See # 28 above. See also Williston Walker, op.cit., 99-111. For analysis of all of these debates and other Christological issues, see J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1960, 1978), pp.83-162. 35
26 Thus developed the coded political phrase “The Virgin Birth” that granted Jesus a God status – not as a separate God – but rather as a political part of a Trinitarian God. [Of course, in that era, the Church Fathers and science did not know that a female brought an egg to the process of conception. Thus, the Church Fathers could declare that Jesus was conceived by the mental semen from God and was, therefore, 100% divine, for they believed that Mary provided only the receptacle and the physical material in which the divine seed was planted. It is part of the scary story of systematic theology that brainwashed believers are expected not to notice that such logic is no longer valid now that we know that females contribute an egg to the process]. However, the institutional Church decided that the trinity issue per se did not need to be a mystery, for the “Three in One” problem could be solved logically and linguistically by making use of the Latin and Greek terms for “persons” and the Greek concept of “essential substance” of personhood. The original literal meaning of the Latin term persona was “a face mask used by actors in the stage” says Webster, and the literal meaning of the Greek term hypostasis was “a standing under, hence substance, real being, frequently in opposition to appearances,” says F.E. Peter’s historical lexicon. The Church Fathers fought over how to combine these two meanings. One group declared that the One God is the one actor who is the hypostasis, the single essence or substance undergirding all outward appearances, masks, or personas of that One God. Each Person of the Trinity, each “Personal God” has this one hypostasis standing under, or beneath, each of the masks or other outward appearances.
one actor in a theater holding three masks and alternately putting each mask up to his face). The other group argued, in opposition, that there were three hypostases or three 36
See Rosemary Ruether, New Woman, New Earth: Sexist Ideologies and Human Liberation (NY; The Seabury Press, 1975), pp.44-45
27 essences. (Think of three actors in a theater holding one mask up to their faces, and each mask depicts a different expression from the other masks). The first group won the argument and the code became standardized. [This part of the scary story of theology is frightening precisely because we can clearly see that the so-called “absolute truth” of the Christian doctrine was merely a result of human imagination and often violent argument]. Even though this involuted and convoluted Trinity dogma may seem bizarre to us as modern and educated people, such a mysterious and dramatic solution to the question of how a God could be both one and three at the same time gave the church and empire maximum political advantage. Even the logical and philosophical difficulty of understanding such a Trinity lent an awesome tone to the Church Fathers’ pronouncements in the era when few people could even read or write and were, therefore, gullible and willing to accept religious decrees without question. In addition, the plurality of modes of manifestations of divinity gave the politically minded Church leaders a plurality of ways to speak to the people with forceful authority via its codes: •
The “Father” mask or persona promoted fear of authority, law, and the natural “acts of God.” The Father laid down the Law. The Creator God manipulated natural disasters in order to punish humans for their disobedience to those laws, or prevented natural disasters in order to reward humans for their obedience to His authority.
The “Son” mask or persona encouraged both loyalty to authority and fear of authority. Sinful humans were devoted to the Son because of his taking on human form to “save” them by his sacrifice for them on the cross. But, paradoxically, sinful humans feared the Son who, at the end of time, would judge them for their misdeeds and decide their fate for all eternity.
The “Holy Ghost” mask or persona, operating mostly through the institutional Church, provided the safety net and comfort of the Church’s sacraments, which the Holy Spirit dispensed only to those obediently faithful servants of the institution. The Church Fathers did admit that these terms “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”
were merely metaphors for the unknowable essence of God. Of course, it was not politically expedient to admit this to the general population. The Church Fathers were only too willing to allow the vast majority to think that the father, son, and holy ghost terms were literally true. Such deceit is scary! A few of the earlier Church Fathers had speculated that the best metaphor for Trinity might be “Heavenly Family” as the oneness, substance, or common unity, with “Father, Mother, and Child” suggesting the three-in-one aspect. However, the most famous Church Father Saint Augustine (circa 400 C.E.) argued that a “family” essence would suggest sinful sexual connotations to the Christian followers! Augustine suffered 37
from what we today would label sexual addiction. To know this information may help 38
us to understand why he was fearful of the intimate emotional metaphor “family.” Augustine substituted, in its place, purely intellectual terms: Rationality as the Oneness, and Reason, Understanding, and Will as the Trinitarian three-ness.
Augustine of Hippo, “The Trinity,” The Fathers of the Church, 45 (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1963) Book 12, chapter 5 and Book 15, 486-487; Augustine, “The Trinity,” Library of Christian Classics, Later Works (Philadelphia Westminster Press, 1955), vol.8, Introduction. 38 Augustine of Hippo, “The Confessions,” in The Confessions of St. Augustine, Introduction by Harold C. Gardiner, S.J. and translation by Edward B. Pusey (NY: Washington Square Press, 1966). In this book, an autobiography, Augustine admitted that he struggled with what we today would call sexual addiction. Today there is an Alcoholics Anonymous type of group called the Augustine Fellowship that took its name from Saint Augustine’s serious problems. Their “Big Book” with their Twelve Steps is Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (Boston: The Augustine Fellowship Press, 1986). 39 Augustine, “The Trinity,” op.cit.
29 All of the readers who are female will have to give up hope that the Trinity will ever include a female metaphor because of the systematic nature of systematic theology. In spite of the Bible’s personifying Wisdom as female or a “daughter of God,” there 40
never could have been an “only begotten Daughter of God” or a female metaphor used in the Trinity doctrine. This is so because the later Church Fathers insisted that there be a politically coded “equality of essence” within the Trinity. This means that each metaphor in the triune three-ness had to imply equality with each of the other metaphors. In turn, this means that, throughout the six-part doctrine, the Fathers used the hierarchical pattern of Spirit having dominion over Nature and body. Such a pattern includes males having dominion over females, and male rational mind being superior to female irrational mind. Thus, logically, females could never be equal (in essence or otherwise) in a hierarchical system.
The doctrine thus effectively barred women from any positions of power,
whether in heaven or on earth! Possible feminine metaphors in the Trinity irritated the doctrine builders for another reason, too. Feminine words could imply paganism (denoting “of the earth”) and pantheism (denoting “All is God”). Paganism valued Nature gods and goddesses. Paganism saw Mother Nature, herself, as an intelligent Goddess. Pantheism considered that everything is connected to the God, believing, therefore, that even rocks, trees, snakes, bugs, etc., have souls or at least a spark of the divine. This idea was anathema to the Christian Church Fathers who insisted that elite Christian men must have political dominion over soulless pagan “heathens” and material dominion over soulless Nature. 40
Barbara G. Walker, op.cit., categories “Sophia, Saint,” and “Goddess.” Modern female biblical scholars, historians and theologians have been very interested in this topic. See, for example, Elizabeth Moltmann-Wendel, A Land Flowing with Milk and Honey (NY: Crossroad, 1986), pp.63-75, 97-98; Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenza, In Memory of Her (NY: Crossroad, 1983); and Rosemary Radford Ruether, Sexism and God-Talk: Toward a Feminist Theology (Boston: Beacon Press, 1983). 41
30 Thus, the Trinitarian doctrinal code was written and carefully interpreted in order to avoid paganism, pantheism, and women gaining any political power.
Bolstered by the Gospel according to Saint John, Chapter 1, verse 1, (“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”) the Christian Church Fathers did slip a pagan Greek term Logos into the Trinity doctrine (Logos connotes the rational divine Word, Logic, or Wisdom). The Fathers claimed that the human Jesus was this Word – the incarnate Logic or rational Word of God. However, the Church never speaks openly of the following social history of the term “Word” or “Logos” precisely because it is connected to the devalued feminine and Nature! Circa 400 B.C.E. or about five hundred years before St. John applied the Logos idea to Jesus and his political term “Christ,” the word Logos (linguistically feminine plural), referred primarily to the ratio or reason of pagan goddess Mother Nature. “Ratio” meant the rational balance or divine wisdom of Mother Nature who contains all the
The following theologians whose specialty is doctrine focus intently upon this crucial issue: a) Jules Lebreton, S.J., History of the Dogma of the Trinity, translated by Algar Thorold (NY: Benziger Bros., 1939), pp.40-41, 62-63, explains that because the logos concept was pantheistic prior to Christian doctrine, the early church was continually fighting the concept of pantheism; b) Aloysius Janssens, The Mystery of the Trinity (Fresno, CA: Academy Library Guild, 1954) talks in the foreword and introduction about the constantly present danger of pantheism and notes that the Trinitarian doctrine was written and constantly reinterpreted in order to avoid pantheism; c) Frank MCGloin, in the Mystery of the Holy Trinity in Oldest Judaism (Philadelphia: John Joseph McVey, 1916), p.9, states that the doctrine of the Trinity was written especially to refute pantheism; d) Thomas F. Torrance, in The Trinitarian Faith: the Evangelical Theology of the Ancient Catholic Church (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1988), pp.7, 47-50, 109, 111, notes that the preCappodocian Church Fathers, in arguing whether the Christ and the Spirit were creatures, emphasized that the creation out of nothing is completely different from God’s nature, and that the works of Nature per se tell us nothing about “who God is or what He is like in His own Nature”; d) J.P. Arendzen, in The Holy Trinity (NY: Sheed & Ward, 1983), pp.149-154, explains that the Christian Trinity is different from the pagan trinities precisely because the Christian Trinity is absolutely not pantheistic; e) George S. Hendry, The Holy in Christian Theology (Philadelphia: The Westminister Press, 1951, 1965), p.71, believes that he refutes pantheism by noting that the Holy Spirit never became incarnate; it must be only the Spirit of the incarnate Christ. See also The Catholic Encyclopedia, category “Pantheism,” and The Encyclopedia of Religion, category “ “Pantheism and Panentheism.”
This social historical knowledge implies that Jesus, as Logos, was operating
as a metaphor not just for a feminine Wisdom role but also for a Mother Nature role.
Such radical historical knowledge forcefully breaks the Christian code! Politically crucial to ecological interests and feminist interests today, this knowledge proves that systematic theology was determined to destroy any female metaphors, for the Logos logically could have been a female Daughter of God, Word of God, or the female Mother Nature. It is scary and unethical that such knowledge has been hidden from us. In building the Trinity Doctrine, the Church Fathers were determined to change history in order to control it for their political purposes. This sounds like megalomania, but it worked. Most pagan cultures, at the time when Christian systematic theology was built, looked at history from a cyclical viewpoint – using Nature’s seasonal changes as a pattern. When the Church Fathers wrote that their Trinitarian God established a linear, not cyclical, history, they were proposing that God had in mind a “Salvation History.” These Doctors of the Church were planning BIG. They were copying the Roman Empire, its imperialism, its universalism, and its long-range plans. This Salvation History or long-range plan ran in a straight shot from creation of the world to the end of the world. There would be no cycling around with an avatar or savior for each eon or cycle of time, as the Hindus claimed. There would be no 43
Patricia D. Highby, Toward a Feminist Trinitarian Doctrine of God, Ph.D. dissertation, University of Denver, Denver, CO 1992, pp. 109-110, 192-196. 44 See F.E. Peters, Greek Philosophical Terms, categories “Logos,” “Nomos,” and “Physis.” See also Encyclopedia of Philosophy, categories “Logos,” “Ancient Logic,” “Lull, Ramon,” and “Ramus, Peter”; Walter J. Ong, Ramus, Method and the Decay of Dialogue From the Art of Discourse to the Art of Reason (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1983), pp.56,74, 76, 141, 160, 166, 256; Patricia D. Highby, Toward a Feminist Trinitarian Doctrine of God, Ph.D. dissertation, University of Denver, Denver, CO, 1992, pp. 100-128, 208-215. Finally, in 2003, New Catholic Encyclopedia, 2nd edition, category “Logos” and subcategory “Logos in Philo and in St. John,” gives a hint of this social history by admitting that John 1:1 was not a totally new revelation about Jesus as the Logos: “One can hardly state that John did not know the thought of Philo on the Logos;…” [Philo was a Jewish philosopher who had split the Logos into active and passive forms. Philo was a contemporary of St. Paul, as well]. (emphasis added).
32 reincarnation, as both Hindus and Buddhists believed. Rather, there would be One, Unilateral, Linear Path through six parts of Christian systematic theology:
from God/Trinity determining to
create out of nothing (the beginning of time and/or history), through
human nature (the sinful Fall of Man), through
redemption or salvation (the one and only savior Jesus appearing on earth), to
church (where always sinful humans must choose between Christ or Satan), to
end Times or ultimate things (Jesus’ Second Coming, Judgment Day, and end of the world), therefore, the end of history. One Triune God, one unilateral way, one dominant leader, one dominant Christian
nation in one world – it is the ancient Christian doctrinal plan for its coded systematic theology. This Trinitarian God first of all creates the world as He creates history. Our Christian code breaking moves on to the story of Creation-Out-Of-Nothing in the next chapter. It’s the “out-of-nothing” weirdness that’s the scary part!
For various theories about history see any modern academic encyclopedia under the heading of “History” and a subcategory of “Theories of History” or “Historiography.” For a specific Christian viewpoint, see The Encyclopedia of Religion, Mircea Eliade, editor, vol.6, category “Historiography”; The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, categories “Historical Explanation” and “Historicism”; The New Catholic Encyclopedia, categories “History” and “History, philosophy of .” Augustine’s philosophy of history that became Church doctrine can be found in his book The City of God, vols. 6,7,8 (NY: The Fathers of the Church, 1950-1954.
33 CHAPTER SIX: “This Is My Father’s World” (Title of a Christian Hymn about the Doctrine of Creation Out of Nothing)
Creation Science? Intelligent Design? Evolution? Global Warming? These questions are being batted back and forth at school boards and courtrooms regarding what to teach in school science classes. We’re asking the wrong questions in this current debate when we fail to examine key historical assumptions behind Christian teachings about creation. No one in this debate within our twenty-first century sound-bite culture seems to be remembering that Christian teaching about creation comes from Christian systematic theology. Therefore, the debate does not refer to mere creation. It logically must refer to Creatio-ex-Nihilo (Latin for Creation-Out-of-Nothing) which was and is a full-blown political and negative ecological code, as well as religious, doctrinal code. When the ancient Christian Church Fathers wrote their new teachings about creation-out-of-nothing, they really meant it when they said: “This is my Father’s world.” These Christian leaders were consciously and deliberately trying to refute the creation stories of the surrounding pagan peoples who said: “This is my Mother’s world.” Most of the people living in the ancient Roman Empire thought that Mother Nature was the active, intelligent force behind all creation. They believed that She was the “intelligent designer.” As a Goddess, She was the source of all creation, even though She was often assisted by other gods and goddesses, animals and birds, reptiles and fish. The Church Fathers or Doctors of the Church wrote the doctrine of creation-outof-nothing in order to totally destroy pagan respect for Nature’s creative ability, pagan worship of nature gods and goddesses, and pagan belief that all is divine and that Nature and humans are connected to the divine (pantheism). Christian leaders’ powerful desire
34 for religious justification of their plan to subjugate Nature and rule over the surrounding pagan culture burned its way through this second section of the six-part systematic theology. These Christian leaders used religious language that would also function as political code words. The key political code words include: the “nothing” from “creation- out-of-nothing” emanation, pre-existent matter, contingency, active versus passive, virtue, spheres, and three-tiered universe. Let us not be fooled by the language. This is no spiritual theology alone, neither is it a mere myth about an unknown creation which occurred in the dim past. The Church Fathers, as they were writing this section of systematic theology, were consciously trying to destroy the creation myths of the other cultures that surrounded them.
Once we gain political understanding of those other myths, we will, in turn, be able to understand why The Doctors of the Church chose their opposing political code words. We will also uncover ancient creation ideas from both Jewish and Greco-Roman (Hellenistic) cultures – the two major roots of Christian doctrine (other roots include the Egyptian and Zoroastrian religions).
J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines (San Francisco: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1978, Chapter IV “The Divine Triad: One God the Creator.”
35 All three of these cultures, Christian, Jewish, and Hellenistic, usually pictured the cosmos as an earth-centered, not a sun-centered, universe. They commonly envisioned oceans surrounding a flat earth. They all accepted that this flat earth was encircled by a set of spheres. They all thought that the sun, moon, stars, and planets revolved within these eight fixed spheres. This theory of the shape of the cosmos and its spheres is an ancient one, and was believed to be correctly scientific for many centuries. Some 47
readers may recall a Christian hymn which reflects this creation idea of spheres: This is my Father’s world, And to my list’ning ears, All nature sings, and round me rings, The music of the spheres. (Maltbie D. Babcock) Above the sky floated heaven, while hell held to an opposing position, deep in the volcanic fires beneath the flat earth, so Christian doctrine taught. Thus, Christian believers meant it literally when they recited creeds that claimed (and still claim today) that Jesus descended into hell and ascended into heaven.
By following some parts of Hellenistic philosophy about political hierarchy while slightly changing other parts of this hierarchical system, Church Fathers interwove religious, economic, scientific and political policies into this three-storied universe: •
Above was equated with the Christian Heaven, the Christian God or Trinity, angels, Goodness, Spirituality, soul, the Christian Church, the clergy, and the upper class.
The Flat Earth was the place of Nature which had become corrupted by the fall of humans into a sinful and depraved condition of existence because of the disobedience of Adam and Eve (see chapter six).
For historical analysis of this theory of the spheres, see “The Pythagorean Theory of Music and Color,” in Masonic, Hermetic, Qabbalistic and Rosicrucian Symbolic Philosophy (Los Angeles: The Philosophical Research Society, Inc. 1988). 48 Documents of the Christian Church, 2nd edition, Henry Bettenson, editor (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980) 24-26.
Below represented the qualities opposed to the heavenly realm: Hell, Satan, Evil, demons, body, matter (that is, anything material which was believed to be inherently opposed to anything spiritual), religions other than Christianity, and the lower classes or poor slaves.
How was this three-tiered universe created? To the pagan world, it seemed logical to continue to follow our human senses and believe that Mother Nature, as the active, intelligent Designer, creates. In many creation myths throughout the world, the Nature gods and goddesses create humans, animals, vegetation, and so forth. Sometimes the gods and goddesses create from some natural substance such as mud or an ear of corn, or perhaps a god will release his own semen directly into Mother Earth. However, politically and socially, these pagan myths imply that Nature plays an important role in creation of the world. Christian systematic theology determined to destroy such pagan valuing of Mother Nature. To carry out the deliberate murder of the Mother’s creative powers, the Church Fathers first laid the groundwork to emphasize how Nature became corrupt at the time of the “Fall of Man” (see doctrine on Human Nature, chapter six). Next, the doctrine warriors used linguistic tools to kill the creative Mother. They chiseled out a doctrine called creatio ex nihilo, Latin for “creation out of nothing.” Even though both Christianity and Judaism worship the same God and utilize the same Biblical creation story from Chapters 1 and 2 of the Book of Genesis, Christian doctrine of creation out of nothing is different from Judaism’s concept of creation out of nothing! On the one hand, Judaism interprets “nothing” as “no-thing-ness,” meaning that the masculine God created out of feminine chaos or un-formed primal matter (also called the void, the deep, or the abyss). Christianity’s “nothing,” on the other hand, 49
The Encyclopedia of the Jewish Religion, categories “Creation” and “Cosmology.”
37 means that the masculine creator by-passed any primal or pre-existing feminine chaos or primal matter to create via his mental Will or Word alone. When the Christian God creates out of nothing, it implies that He makes no use of Nature at all, that He exists before Nature and prior to Time itself.
It also means that God and elite man should
have “dominion over” nature, and justifies such dominion. Not satisfied with insisting upon a Nature-free doctrine of creation out of nothing, the Church Fathers were also determined to destroy “emanationism” – a pagan theory of creation. Emanation denotes an emission or a “trickle down” process. This emanation theory had its origin in the Hellenistic culture. Even though the popular Greek religion was filled with many Nature gods and goddesses living on Mount Olympus in Greece, the more elite Greek philosophers viewed the cosmos as an emanation, emission or trickle down process from a Divine Oneness situated “above” even the gods and goddesses on Mt. Olympus. This highest, most Spiritual Source was pictured as a World Soul. In this view, creation emanated from the mental energies of the World Soul itself. These mental energies, like mental semen (meaning “seeds”) would emanate “down” to fertilize the lower level of Nature and matter, thereby creating all things. Male human souls, envisioned as lesser parts of this world soul, were, therefore, truly connected to the divine world soul.
In other analogies for this Divine Source, the pagan Greek philosophers imagined rays emanating from the sun, or water flowing out of a pure, clear Source or spring high in the mountains. Even though the water becomes more and more impure as it emanates 50
See, for example, The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, category “Creation, Religious Doctrine of.” For the Greek concepts used by the Church Fathers in their systematic theology, see F.E. Peters, Greek Philosophical Terms: a Historical Lexicon (NY: New York University Press 1967), categories eklampsis or emanation, demiourgos or creator, nous or intelligent mind with its subcategory of cosmic nous which is divided into an active energy and a passive dynamism, or a passive intellect, logos, and psyche tou pantos or world soul. 51
38 or flows from the Source, and even though the rays give out less heat and light as they emanate further from the Sun, nevertheless, even the filthy water and the slaves, beasts and all of Nature using this filthy water and dim sunlight are still part of the Divine Source. Here’s the frightening and disgusting part: the Christian Doctrine Builders despised this Hellenistic doctrine of emanation because of its political implications that Nature, slaves, females, and animals have a spark of the divine. Modern (1967) Christian doctrine still despises it: Hence, it is necessary to reject all forms of pantheism, of emanationism that would attempt to establish a continuity between God and creatures… One must eliminate pre-existing matter. [emphasis added]. New Catholic Encyclopedia, subcategory “Creation.” 1967. Get out the Code Book so that we can decode this secret language! The Church Fathers wrote letters filled with righteous rage because the Hellenistic philosophers really believed that the political result of an emanationist worldview was social justice. Once we learn that a belief in reincarnation was an absolutely necessary part of the Hellenistic social justice logic, the three remaining logical steps no longer seem to be as bizarre as they might:
The Divine Will of the World Soul placed the reincarnated human soul into a human baby who was born to parents of an appropriate social class level within the hierarchical structure of society. The reincarnated soul deserved to be placed at this level because of its actions in its previous life. This outcome was called perfect justice, for the male soul born into a socially and economically elite level was believed to have gone through many incarnations and to have been ethical and moral throughout its previous lives. Thus, a reward was in order. 52
Ibid. See also Barbara G. Walker, The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, categories “Creation” and “Reincarnation.”
At the other end of the scale, slavery was justified by a similar, though reversed, logic. The Divine Will of the World Soul had placed the reincarnated soul at the social class level it deserved. If the slave then lived a moral life of obedience to his or her master, she or he could expect to be reborn into a family of a higher social class. The female, however, had a longer probationary period before she could expect to be reborn as a male! The use of such logic meant that even the person on the lowest socio-economic level and even the non-human creatures or inanimate parts of Nature were valuable and worthwhile because they were part of the Divine Source. Their value was maintained so long as each person and each creature kept to his/her/its “proper place” (level or degree within the hierarchy) and performed his/her/its proper function. Being in one’s proper place in this hierarchy of creation was called virtue: For Plato there is an idea of arête [virtue] and of the various species of aretai (virtues) (Parmenides 130 b); in The Republic 442 b-d he describes the four “cardinal virtues” desirable in the ideal state, a discussion that has as its correlatives the classes of men in the state and the divisions of the soul [emphasis added]. F.E. Peters’ …Historical Lexicon, category arete (virtue). 53
[Please notice the emphasis upon socio-economic class and the elitist notion of divisions or levels of souls]. In order to build their own Christian creation doctrine, the Church Fathers were faced with a serious dilemma:
F.E. Peters, op.cit., categories arête or virtue, excellence and psyche or soul. The reader can see why the Church Fathers valued Plato’s concepts, for to connect social class with levels of souls is highly political and elitist.
40 1. On the one hand, they detested pantheism and emanationism, and they were forbidden to accept either reincarnation or the idea of a World Soul because of certain traditional Scriptures and Jewish beliefs which they valued. 2. On the other hand, they valued Plato’s Greek philosophy, believing that God had granted Plato divine wisdom to be used by Christianity in building its doctrine. The Church Fathers also placed extreme value upon the Greek type of hierarchy where virtue meant keeping to one’s proper place within this hierarchy.
As a result of this dilemma, the Christian Church Fathers accepted the Hellenistic notion of hierarchy and the idea of virtue as keeping one’s proper place in the hierarchy, but rejected Hellenistic reincarnation, pantheism and emanationism. As a deleterious political consequence, Christianity suffered the loss of any social justice in its own systematic theology. Saint Augustine, for example, in consolidating dogmatic theology, admitted that Christian doctrine does not promise to strive for social justice on earth. Because Christianity rejected the belief in eventual social justice via reincarnation, and because people were usually forced by Christian law to keep their allotted proper place in the hierarchy, the likelihood was very high that the poor would always remain poor, the rich would always remain rich, the slaves would always remain slaves, and women would always be devalued. A Christian could expect justice only after death in heaven or in hell.
More and more scary!
Let us turn again to the above quotation (p.38) from the The New Catholic Encyclopedia in order to re-read: “One must eliminate pre-existing matter.” This sentence does not make logical sense. Obviously it is coded political language because it is 54
The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, category “Neoplatonism.” Henry Paolucci, editor, The Political Writings of Saint Augustine (Chicago: Henry Regnery Co., Gateway Edition 1962); note especially: “True Justice: Not of This World,” pp.28-43. See also Herbert A. Deane, The Political and Social Ideas of Saint Augustine (NY: Columbia University Press 1963). 55
41 impossible for humans to eliminate something that has never existed. In order to decode, we must look at the historical meaning of the phrase “one must eliminate pre-existing matter.” It carried an implicit call for war! Just as “collateral damage” and “Desert Storm” are Pentagon code words, so these phrases meant that because the polytheistic and pantheistic peoples of that era believed that some female matter existed in some form prior to the creation of the world, the Christian Empire must eliminate these polytheistic and pantheistic notions or beliefs. To do so, Christians must destroy the polytheistic and pantheistic nations or at least prevent them from holding positions of power and political control.
Specifically, “eliminate pre-existing matter” also meant that the Christian
empire, combining its type of religion and politics, was the only righteous and correct political structure. These code words, in addition, established that the Christian pope should be the only imperialistic authority over both spiritual and cultural affairs in the Western world.
In case some readers come from a Protestant background and are thinking: “This was only the Roman Catholic way of perceiving the issue,” history tells us that after the Protestant Reformation when Protestants became more powerful than Roman Catholics in some parts of Europe and America, the Protestants simply substituted the Bible as the authority equivalent to the pope. The Bible in these areas became known as the “Paper Pope.” Protestant clergy claimed that they were the only proper interpreters of this Bible.
All of the Protestant denominations continued to accept all six parts of the
See Rosemary Radford Ruether, Gaia and God: an Ecofeminist Theology of Earth Healing (Harper SanFrancisco, 1992), entirety. See also F.E. Peters, op.cit., categories Kakon, Physis, and Hyle for a related discussion related to the hellenistic despising or devaluing of matter/nature. The Church Fathers utilized these categories in writing Christian doctrine. See also The Catholic Encyclopedia, category “Matter”; and Elaine Pagels, Adam, Eve, and the Serpent (NY: Random House, 1988), Introduction and pp.98-101, 128-133, 142-153. 57 J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines (San Francisco: Harper & Row, Publishers 1978), pp.417-421. 58 J. Alton Templin, Professor of Christian History, Iliff School of Theology, Denver, CO. Lecture notes, 1976.
42 systematic theology, and most of the Protestant churches continued to follow a hierarchical religious/political structure.
Let us return for a third time to the above quotation from The New Catholic Encyclopedia in order to review the sentence: Hence, it is necessary to reject all forms of pantheism, of emanationism that would attempt to establish a continuity between God and creatures. This time, let’s focus upon why Christian Doctrine wants to destroy pantheism and emanationism. We see that it’s because of a fear that these beliefs would allow people to think that a religious system actually could: …establish a continuity between God and creatures. Why would this continuity between God and creatures be so unthinkable or so terrible? The answer is found within two critically important subcategories of the Creation Doctrine that are almost never mentioned to Christian church-goers: 1. Doctrine of God’s “Otherness,” and, 2. Doctrine of Contingency. These terms mean that God, the only active agent in the creating of the world, is totally “other” than, and different from, the passive creatures and creations which he brought into existence out of nothing. The world itself, including Nature, and all its creatures, including humans, has no connection to any divine essence; the world is not part of any divine Being. Rather, both creation and creatures are absolutely dependent upon the continuing Will of God. If humans should disobey or displease this God, they might, at any moment, forfeit their very existence.
For the Lutheran position as the first Protestant Church, see The Encyclopedia of Politics and Religion, Vol.2, category “Lutheranism.” Historically, a few groups at the extremes of the continuum changed some of the basics of doctrine but they did not survive the persecutions and the religious wars of the sixteenth century.
43 That is, the human creature and the creature, Mother Nature, are both contingent upon, or totally dependent upon, the uncertain event or condition of pleasing or displeasing the “father,” the active creator. This “otherness” of God and this 60
dependency upon something uncertain or conditional is an important differentiation between the Christian doctrine of creation and the creation doctrines of most of the other religions. Unlike Christianity, many other religions teach that there is at least some connection to the creator. In pagan religions, humans are connected to Nature, and Mother Nature plays an active role in creation. However, in Christian doctrine, Mother Nature is considered to be a passive robot or puppet. The “Father” pulls the strings of this female puppet as necessary to reward humans for their passive obedience to His will with good weather, bountiful crops, and disease-free lives, or to punish humans for their disobedience to His will with storms, floods, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tidal waves, drought, and disease. This notion of active versus passive is crucial to systematic theology’s doctrine of creation. Since the creator is the only active agent, this logically gives Him the familiar titles of “omnipotent, “almighty,” “all-knowing,” and “author” and allows Him to claim all-pervading control.
Because active Spirit must have power and dominion over passive Nature, so systematic theology insists, the Church Fathers also claimed that a great gulf or gap existed between the divine heavenly realm of Spirit/God and the non-divine earthly realm 60
Thomas F. Torrance, Divine and Contingent Order (Oxford University Press 1981). Note especially pp.vii-viii, 4-5. 61 F.E. Peters, op.cit., category nous or intelligent mind. Peters notes that the cosmic nous is divided into an active energy and a passive dynamism. The Church Fathers used these Greek concepts in writing theology.
44 of Nature/humans. A quotation from a Protestant encyclopedia may be appropriate here so that readers will not think that these creation issues are to be found only in Roman Catholic sources: …the world exists for the sake of man. Man is the real object of God’s love. [Man is] the vice-regent of God and his image. In obedience to God…[man] is to subject the world to himself. Man must not bow to the mysterious forces of Nature. He must, on the contrary, make them serve him. With this, the world loses fundamentally all divine status. Encyclopedia of Theology, subcategory “Creation.” Amazingly arrogant as well as scary! The role of “man” (connoting only the elite male in Christian writings for almost two thousand years) is established only by the subjugation of Nature and by never viewing Nature as divine. Saint Augustine, the Church Father greatly admired by both Protestant and Roman Catholic Christians, focused much of his vitriol upon this issue: We are required to despise all sensible things and to love God alone…God then alone is to be loved; and all this world [Nature and matter], that is, all sensible things, are to be despised – while, however, they are to be used as this life requires.” Augustine of Hippo, “On the Morals of the Catholic Church.” 62
Although man is passive and must respond in passive obedience to God, he nevertheless must actively dominate the female Nature.
This conception gave the Christian Western World free license to use up all the resources of Nature and never worry about any harmful ecological results!
despising and subjugation of Nature allowed Christian nations to use and abuse pagan 62
Augustine of Hippo, “On the Morals of the Catholic Church,” translated by R. Stothert in Basic Writings of Saint Augustine, Whitney J. Oates, editor (NY: Random House Publishers, 1948) chapter xx, p.337. 63 Rosemary Radford Ruether, Gaia and God, op.cit. See also Carolyn Merchant, The Death of Nature: Women, Ecology and the Scientific Revolution (Harper San Francisco 1980, 1989); Elizabeth Dodson Gray, Green Paradise Lost (Wellesley, MA: Roundtable Press, 1981); Catharina J.M. Halkes, New Creation: Christian Feminism and the Renewal of the Earth (Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1991). 64
Refer to endnote 63, above, and to Encyclopedia of Theology, category “Creation.”
45 nations. Christians, in all good conscience, could conquer such cultures and feel free to use and control their agricultural and mineral products. In the past, such language justified the Christian “Holy Wars” and the Crusades.
In America, both church and
state used this subjugation of Nature to justify killing or mistreatment of Native Americans and usurpation of their lands. The United States subjugated black slaves by arguing that their native pantheistic religions and cultures were evil. In the twentieth century, such language allowed a Christian “First World” or developed world to exploit a non-Christian “Third World” or non-developed world. The Christian agenda to eliminate all goddesses implied that women – whom systematic theology declared to be closer to matter and Nature than are men – must be eliminated from political and cultural positions of power.
This is precisely what
happened in Christian history with its witch-burnings and with women often the property of men legally. Today this language justifies denying women entrance into the 67
priesthood. It also helped to keep women out of medical, legal, and political positions until the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
J.N.D. Kelly, op.cit., pp.401-416. See also Francis Oakley, The Western Church in the Later Middle Ages (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press 1979), chapters 4 and 5. In addition, Augustinian scholars advise that it was Saint Augustine’s arguments for suppressing the heretical Donatists which set in place the logic for the Church’s Holy Wars. See, for example, Saint Augustine, “Ten Homilies on the First Epistle General of St. John,” in The Later Writings, vol.8, Library of Christian Classics (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1955); Encyclopedia of Religion, category “Augustine”; Encyclopedia of Philosophy, category “Augustine”; The Catholic Encyclopedia, categories “Augustine” and “Donatism”; W.H.C. Freund, The Donatist Church: a Movement of Protest in Roman North Africa (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1952); and Peter Brown, Augustine of Hippo, a Biography (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967), chapters 19-30, 413, 421. 66 David F. Noble, A World Without Women: The Christian Clerical Culture of Western Science (NY: Alfred A. Knopf 1992), pp.89, 106, 188, 206-211, 223. 67 Brian Easley, Witch-Hunting, Magic, and the New Philosophy (Atlantic Highlands, NY: Humanities Press Inc. 1980), chapters 1 and 2. See also Carolyn Merchant, op.cit.; Walter Pagel, Paracelsus, 2nd ed., revised (Basel, Switzerland: Karger, 1982), 40-44, 55, 93, 217, 300, 312, 331; and The Malleus Maleficarum of Heinrich Kramer and James Sprenger, translated with Introduction, bibliography and notes by the Reverend Mantague Summers (NY: Dover Publications, Inc. 1971), entirety. 68 Ibid. See also David F. Noble, op.cit.
46 The ancient terminology of subjugation of Nature, creation out of nothing, and Spirit over matter is currently being used by a certain political group to attempt to prohibit teaching of evolution in the public schools and to defeat an ecological agenda in some sectors of the United States. For example, Loren Wilkerson, in “How Christian is the ‘Green’ Agenda?” published in Christianity Today, explains carefully that Green Party agenda absolutely cannot be Christian because of its pagan-like and pantheistic-like valuing of matter and Nature. Christians are also advised not to vote for Green Party candidates.
Because of the belief that doctrine or God’s Truth never changes, Christian systematic theology’s doctrine of creation-out-of-nothing has not made any basic changes over the centuries even though our modern knowledge of cosmology, geology, biology, etc. has vastly and profoundly changed. All that seems to happen is that the majority of our American Christian churches ignore this part of the creation doctrine, for their educated leaders are embarrassed to mention it except in metaphor. The laity usually has no knowledge of this suppressed doctrine. However, many of these churches continue to accept the political and social hierarchical implications of the doctrine with its insistence upon control of Nature, females, and the lower classes. Only very recently (circa 2006-2007) have some churches begun to wake up to realities such as global warming, pollution of the oceans, and so forth. Finally, some pastors are preaching that humans must take care of Nature, and have changed the terms “dominion over Nature” to “good stewardship of Nature.” The taboo subject of changing unchangeable systematic theology, however, is never mentioned in the churches.
Loren Wilkerson, “How Christian is the ‘Green’ Agenda?” Christianity Today, January 11, 1993, 16-20.
47 So far our Western Christian culture has been able to socially and scientifically maintain its equilibrium in spite of its schizoid ignoring of certain socio-political realities. Or, perhaps, it has been because of the historical psychic rift between religion and science that the Creation Doctrine has survived. The Christian Church simply split modern science away from religion during the Enlightenment era.
Please refer to Appendix III
to see precisely how the Christian Church accomplished this political coup in four consecutive historical stages. This history is also a very disturbing and scary story. Because of these four consecutive stages of the science-religion split, our Western culture still operates under a dichotomy between science and religion. Most of our Christian leaders either encourage this dualism or do nothing to rectify our ignorance of this dark doctrinal history. The majority of us are not even aware that systematic theology’s doctrine of Creation-Out-of-Nothing negatively affects virtually all of our political, social, and ecological policies today.
Encyclopedia of Religion, category “Science and Religion”; and Encyclopedia of Philosophy, categories: “Bruno, Giordano,” “Descartes, René,” and “Malebranche, Nicolas.” See also Appendix III on the Science-Religion Split.
CHAPTER SEVEN: “Just As I Am” (Christian Hymn about the Doctrine of Human Nature)
Creation was complete. The Bible says: And God saw every thing that he had made, and behold, it was very good. (The Book of Genesis, Chapter l, verse 31). BUT, there was trouble in paradise. Almost immediately a contradiction appears in The Book of Genesis, chapter 3, verses 17-19. God is speaking to Adam and Eve: ..cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of they life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground.
Christian systematic theology refuses to acknowledge any contradictions within its teachings that are claimed to be God’s Truth. Nevertheless, the opposing thoughts in the scripture are obvious:
On the one hand, God Himself calls his creation of both Nature and human nature “very good”;
On the other hand, God curses the ground or Nature/earth and places the blame squarely upon the sinful human nature of His first human creatures: Adam and Eve. Thus, neither the natural world nor human nature is good any longer!
Christian theologians had to twist and turn to keep their systematic theology of human nature from remaining a dilemma of good versus evil human nature. These tangles of thought were combed out of both the Jewish and Hellenistic cultures then braided again
49 into the seemingly spiritual but actually encoded Christian doctrinal thought. To begin the decoding, let us look at the Book of Genesis, chapters 2-3. This biblical story tells of the alleged first human couple on earth and of their willful sin of disobedience in the Garden of Eden: a devilish snake tempted Eve to eat the forbidden fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Eve then tempted Adam to eat the forbidden fruit, too. As a punishment for disobedience, God evicted the couple from the easy, innocent, asexual life in the Garden of Eden and also declared that their souls, which were supposed to have been immortal, would now die. The disobedient couple was also punished in earthly ways – both would have to do hard labor: 1) Adam and all his male descendants would have to perform intensive labor to plant, weed, and harvest crops; 2) Eve and all her female descendants would have to perform intensive labor to bear and raise children. Additional blame was placed upon the female: Eve and all women who would come after her would have to be subservient to their husbands who would rule over them. Obviously, this is political code as justification for never-ending subjugation of women!
Because of Adam and Eve’s original sin of disobedience, God also cursed the earth or Nature, too, through no fault of its own. Jewish rabbis often interpreted this scripture as an allegory of the loss of childhood innocence, of falling into the sexual temptations of adolescence, and of being thrown into the harsh adult world of work and worries.
For Jews, the original meaning
The Encyclopedia of the Jewish Religion, 1966, category “Fall of Man.”
50 of sin was “missing the mark,” that is, truly trying to aim correctly at the right target or ethical goal, but missing the bull’s-eye because of human error.
Christian theologians, however, interpreted the same scripture in a different manner. For example, Saint Augustine developed a far harsher Christian interpretation of the fall of man and sin than did the Jewish rabbis. Church Father Augustine mixed the Jewish Bible story with a Greek myth in order to give the story a more degrading, hopeless, and anti-nature tone. The name of this Greek myth was Kathodos meaning “descent or fall.” More than five centuries before Jesus was born, the Hellenistic culture (also believing in the three-tiered universe) believed that the soul literally “fell down” from heaven, from its original or natural condition of total spirituality and immortality (that is, having no body or no death) to become trapped or imprisoned in matter. One of the ruling immortal souls or beings had committed a Primal Crime or Original Fault that had caused the soul to fall. The soul’s punishment, said the Greek philosophers Plato and Plotinus, was thousands of years of reincarnation in which the soul would strive to become more and more purified with each new incarnation.
When the Church Fathers stirred this Greek myth into the Jewish biblical story to form a logical Christian doctrine about human nature, the resulting bitter and harsh mixture was named the “Doctrine of Original Sin” or “The Fall of Man.” Unlike Jewish thought, Christian doctrine did not give the erring sinner the benefit of the doubt – that he or she was actually attempting to hit the bull’s eye or the ethical target. Rather, Augustine
Ibid. See also the category of “Sin.” F.E. Peters, Greek Philosophical Terms: a Historical Lexicon, category “Kathodos” (NY: New York University Press, 1967. 73
51 taught that – because of Original Sin and The Fall of Man – human nature had become depraved (morally bad, corrupt, and perverted). The sinful person would not even try to aim for a life that was moral and ethical.
Augustine’s combination of Hellenistic and Jewish myths brought another bitter taste to the mixture. Being Christian, Augustine was not permitted to incorporate reincarnation as the punishment for the Original Crime. In Christian systematic theology, therefore, the punishment of the soul became, not endless reincarnations, but an endless perpetuation of the original sin in the lives of all of the descendants of Adam and Eve – the whole human race!
Even more bizarre is Christian doctrine’s insistence that the means of passing on this continual punishment for Original Sin is the sin of lust for the sexual act itself. Named “concupiscence,” this lust or desire accompanying coitus was declared to be a serious sin of human nature, even within marriage. The only thing that saved a husband and wife from burning in hell for eternity because of performing the sexual act was if the couple consciously and earnestly were striving to conceive a child. As the consequence of such religious logic, masturbation, coitus interruptus or withdrawal, oral or anal sex [performed by either heterosexuals or homosexuals], and birth control were forbidden and declared a grievous sin, for such behavior cannot result in pregnancy.
the Roman Catholic and most fundamentalistic Protestant doctrines still forbid birth 74
J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, revised edition (San Francisco: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1978), chapters 1, 2, and 3. In The Catholic Encyclopedia, the category “Man” illustrates the application of the categories of Original Sin or the Fall of Man. Protestant doctrine changed very little of these issues. For one example, see H.T. Kerr, Jr.’s book A Compendium of Luther’s Theology (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1943), pp.24-25, 79ff. 75 Ibid. 76 Ibid. See also Peter Brown, The Body and Society:Men and Women and Sexual Renunciation in Early Christianity (NY: Columbia University Press, 1988); Uta Ranke-Heineman, Eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven (NY: Doubleday, 1990. German edition: 1988), entirety.
52 control! [Surprisingly, the very early doctrine did not necessarily forbid abortion – more on this subject in Chapter Seven]. Contamination of all newborn infants with the “virus” of Original Sin implied that because of their inborn sinful human nature, these innocents would go straight to hell if they died. Therefore, systematic theology had to develop doctrines of baptism and salvation that would counteract such a horrible fate. (See chapters seven and eight). 77
After setting up “The Fall” and “Original Sin” as encoded terms for inborn sinfulness of all humans, theology then logically had to explain why God had cursed Nature through no fault of its own (see Genesis 3:17-19) and why women were punished more harshly than men. The answer includes ancient science and sociology: •
The sociological reason comes quickly to our minds when we remember that, in the Trinity and Creation doctrines, the Church Fathers envisioned society operating within an hierarchical scheme. Since scripture claimed that Nature was to be punished along with humans, Christian leaders declared Nature to be at the very bottom of the hierarchy. Nature deserved this demoted position because Nature was chaotic, mindless, feminine matter to be controlled by masculine mind and spirit – a female forced to conform to and serve male needs. Women, too, were assigned to this lower level of the hierarchy because of their natural processes of menstruating, giving birth, and nursing their babies which forced them to remain close to Nature.
See any Christian Dictionary and Encyclopedia, category “Baptism. For further discussion on baptism, see Chapter Eight. 78 Most feminist theologians and biblical scholars speak to this issue; see, for example, theologian Rosemary Ruether, Liberation Theology: Human Hope Confronts Christian History and American Power (NY: Paulist Press. 1972), chapters 1, 7, and 8, and biblical scholar Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza, “Emerging Issues in Feminist Biblical Interpretation,” in Christian Feminism: Visions of a New Humanity (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1984) 43-46. See also two other books in which Schussler Fiorenza has important essays: Weaving the Visions: New Patterns in Feminist Spirituality, Judith Plaskow and Carol P. Christ, editors (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1989), 31-36, and Feminist Perspectives on Biblical Scholarship, Adela Yarbro Collins, editor (Chico, CA: Scholars Press, 1985), 53-62.
The scientific reason why the penalty was harsher on Nature and women is that Christian systematic theology accepted the scientific ideas of the ancient philosopher Aristotle (384-322 B.C.E.). Western science no longer accepts Aristotle’s ancient biology and anatomy nor believes his science to be correct, but the Western world and the entire Christian Church culture accepted Aristotle’s false views for more than seventeen centuries. These false ideas 79
were that only the male creates life via his active semen (or seeds of life). These seeds/semen were considered to be spiritual as well as material seeds. Aristotle 80
did not know or understand that the female contributed an egg to the process of creation. Philosophers, physicians and priests believed that the female uterus or womb was merely a vessel of passive matter or bloody “dirt” into which the active, spiritual male seeds were planted.
The political implications of this belief are still with us: often culture views man as primarily spiritual or mental but woman as primarily physical and concerned about body. See, for example, what The Catholic Encyclopedia says under the category of “Woman” (published at the beginning of the twentieth century): …[Earlier, Church doctrine followed Aristotle’s concept of woman as a disabled male and not fully human. Now (circa 1916) females are fully human but only before God and only in reference to moral value. Otherwise, women are]…in some respects inferior to the male sex, both as regards body and soul….[There is no social equality or no equal rights in society – only the male is pre-eminent in society. Man is supreme 79
Ibid. F.E. Peters, op.cit., categories “ sperma,” “ noesis,” “ pneuma,” and “ stoicheion.” See also Dictionary of Mythology, Folklore and Symbols, part 2, 1962, category “Phallus”; An Encyclopedia of Archetypal Symbolism, section on “Sacred Marriage,” p.201ff; Dictionary of Symbolism, categories “Yoni,” “Pillar “ (Facts On File, 1992); Church, Monastery, Cathedral, a Guide to the Symbolism of the Christian Tradition, category “Serpent” (Short Hills, NJ: Ridley Enslow Publishers, 1977); The New Catholic Encyclopedia, categories “Stones, Sacred,” and “Stones, Sacred (In the Bible); The Encyclopedia of Religion, category “Phallus”; Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, category “Phallus”; The Westminster Dictionary of the Bible, category “Pillar”; Barbara G. Walker, The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, categories “Phallus Worship,” “Pillar”; and Barbara G. Walker, The Woman’s Dictionary of Symbols & Sacred Objects, categories “Obelisk,” “Phallus,” “Pillar.” The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, categories “Pillar” and “Obelisk,” however, tell us not to believe such suggestive implications. Harper’s Bible Dictionary helps to explain the issue from the ancient Hebrew point of view in the category “El.” A term originally used for the potent bull in ancient Semitic culture, El came to mean husband, patriarch, and also a name for God. 80
54 over both Nature and his wife and children. Canon law (always effective when church and state are not separate) says:] ‘Women are ineligible to all civil and public offices…women may not use male attire… Women…are not capable of certain functions pertaining to religion. Thus, a woman is not capable of receiving sacred orders…[or] teach[ing] in monasteries…[or] ministering at the altar…[or] form[ing] part of the choir…’ [emphasis added]. … … God’s grace imparts to only males the spiritual character necessary to be a priest. [emphasis added]. 81
What hideous and fearsome misogyny (hatred of women)! Our twenty-first century language still reflects systematic theology’s beliefs about the value of semen/seeds as the only creative force. For example, a “seminal thinker” originally meant only male creative ideas and still refers to mainly male thought. A “seminary” is a seed bed for the germination of male creative ideas about religion.
Logically, therefore, females, with very few exceptions, were forbidden entrance into religious seminaries until long after separation of church and state. The words “testament,” “testify,” and “testimony” stem from the word testes or testicles. In ancient times, Hebrew men promised to keep a covenant or bond by swearing an oath upon their testicles, supposedly the container of the only spiritual seeds of life.
The phallic shaped architecture of our Washington Monument, our church spires, our skyscrapers and our pillar-shaped cemetery markers stand for the phallus, the erect penis, as a spiritual symbol (see footnote #80, above). As of today, these phallic-shaped monuments are still considered spiritual symbols. Let us remember that they are also symbols of political power, while vaginas and breasts are not so considered. Therefore, these religious words and symbols are code words – not just for male political power, but 81 82 83 84
The Catholic Encyclopedia, category “Woman.” The Catholic Encyclopedia, category “Orders.” Webster’s New International Dictionary. Dr. Waltemyer, professor of Biblical Studies, Gettysburg College, 1951, class discussion.
55 also for political suppression and subjugation of the female. In the ancient Near East, for example, “El” was the name for the potent bull with his harem of cows. Later, “El” became the name for “husband” and “God.” Not only did the erect phallus imply sexual potency and the physical ability to sire a large progeny, it also implied political power. Potency connoted that the patriarch was still young and strong enough to prevent his sons from usurping his power and control over the entire extended family or tribe.
Christian systematic theology coupled Aristotle’s inaccurate science about female gynecology with another misconception from the Bible (Genesis 2:21-23) that Eve, the first female, was created from the rib or side of the first male Adam. Saint Augustine used this scripture passage in his doctrine building and interpreted it to mean that only males were created in the image of God even though the contradictory Genesis 1:27 could be interpreted to mean that both male and female were created in the image of God. The political result: females were judged to be less worthy because they were created merely in the image of man.
Political consequences of this Doctrine of Human Nature extended into the category of slavery – of both male and female slaves. Augustine justified slavery and other unjust treatment of lower class peoples by alleging that the unnatural condition of The Fall and Original Sin gave God the green light to decree that thousands upon thousands of people should be born into slavery and poverty:
Harpers Bible Dictionary, category “El.” See also footnote #80, above. Saint Augustine, City of God, Book 12; Saint Augustine, “The Literal Meaning of Genesis,” Vol. II, Books 7-12 in Ancient Christian Writers: the Works of the Fathers in Translation, edited by J. Quasten et al. Number 42 (NY: New Press, 1982), see especially Book 8, Chapter 23, p.63. Augustine contradicts this, however in “The Soliliquies” – there he maintains that man alone is rationable, for he was created by reason. Women cannot be rationable, for they were not created by reason; they were created from Adam’s rib, from flesh. Until the nineteenth or twentieth century, when Christian sources used the term “man,” these sources always meant “males” and usually only elite males! See also, Not in God’s Image, Julia O’Faolain, editor (NY: Harper & Row, 1973).
56 It [slavery and subjection to the upper classes] is a designation that is not natural, but one that was deserved because of sin…Nor does this befall a man, save by the decree of God. Augustine, City of God, Book 19, Chapter 15. Terrifying thought!
Christian countries promoted or allowed slavery and unjust conditions for the lower classes throughout most of Christian history. In America, during the pre-Civil War era, both Northern and Southern preachers and priests utilized these doctrinal arguments of Saint Augustine from the pulpit. The political logic that justified slavery sometimes went like this: Slaves, servants, peasants, and other lower class peoples perform the work of Nature: the earthy tasks of farming or the dirty tasks of dealing with garbage, bodily excrement, vomit, sickness, and death; Each group must keep to its place within the political, social, and religious hierarchy; Nature has been assigned by God to the bottom of the hierarchy, therefore, slaves and other lower class peoples must work and remain at this lowest level. 87
As women were categorized as not fully human, so were slaves and other lower class persons. For example, only Protestant/Calvinist/Puritan land-owning white males could vote in America during early Pilgrim times. In the thirteen colonies, females, slaves (even freed male slaves), and Native Americans could not vote. As late as the mid 1800s these people were assigned a mere percentage of fully human status!
See International Dictionary of the Bible, category “Slavery in the OT (Old Testament)” for a summary of the slavery laws. Also see the following examples from the Bible which were used to support the institution of slavery: Genesis 9:18-27, Exodus 21: 1-7, 20, Deuteronomy 15:12-13, Joshua 9:23-27, Joshua 16:10, Joshua 17: 12-13, II Chronicles 8: 7-9, Ephesians 6: 5-8, Colossians 3:22, Titus 2: 9-10, I Peter 2: 18-20, I Timothy 6:1, Proverbs 29: 19, Ecclesiasticus (in the Apocrypha) 33: 25-33. These women and men were not “fully human,” not part of “all men are created equal” in early American culture and politics. See Denise and John Carmody, Exploring American Religion (Mountain View, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Co., 1990), chapters 6 and 14.
57 As if slavery, subjugation of Nature and women, and Original Sin are not harsh enough aspects of systematic theology’s doctrine about Human Nature, the next problematic subcategory about human nature is “The Evil Human Will.” Saint Augustine crowned Christian doctrine with his own special insight into the evilness of human nature. His logic, which the Christian Church accepted, follows: Evil is not active or powerful in its own right but is simply or merely the absence of, or lack of, or the privation of Good or Goodness; The cause of evil is found only in the evil human will; The means of passing on the continual punishment for the Original Sin of willfulness and disobedience is the desire for the sexual act itself. 89
Some of us may be thinking, “What’s the big deal? All of us are willful and disobedient at times; most of us feel strong sexual desire. It’s normal. And the other stuff doesn’t even make sense!” Let us see if we can make sense out of the logic pertaining to evil. If we can do so, we may understand that these words of logic became encoded language known only to the elite church leaders. The political consequences of such logic were and still are a political “big deal” for our society. To understand why and how Christian Doctrine about Human Nature claimed that evil cannot be an active force, we again need to distinguish between Hebrew scripture versus Hellenistic thought:
Using Neo-Platonism with its logic by Aristotle, Augustine writes of evil, sin, and soul in almost all of his works; his main focus can be found in 1).Enchiridion and his Confessions (Library of Christian Classics, Albert Cook Outler, editor, Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1955, vol. 7); 2). “83 Different Questions” in The Fathers of the Church (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1982), vol.7; 3). “Soliliquies,” in The Fathers of the Church, vol.5 (NY: Cima Publishing Co., 1948); and 4). “On Free Will” in Library of Christian Classics (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1955).
58 1. The Hebrew/Jewish scriptures in the Bible state that both good and evil come from God. The New Testament part of the Bible, too, states that the Devil has real or genuine power. 90
2. Hellenistic thought, however, placed Good and God in the active portion at the top of its hierarchy while it assigned Evil to a negative passive part at the bottom of the hierarchy. 91
Since the Church ignored the contradictions of Scripture because the Doctrine Builders were determined to keep Christian systematic theology molded into a consistent hierarchical format, Christian doctrine about evil insisted that evil is not active in its own right. Rather, systematic theology sees evil as passive in the sense of lacking goodness. The Doctors of the Church built a longer and more complex logic with which to explain why neither God nor Satan/Devil could be the cause of evil: God is All Powerful, thus, neither the Devil nor Fate shares His power; God is All Good, thus, He could not be the cause of evil; God cast Satan, a rebellious angel, down from heaven to earth; Satan has no real power of his own, per se; However, God did grant Satan temporary power on earth in order to test humans; this temporary power will end when the Christ comes to earth again in his Second Coming at the end of the world; Satan’s temporary power is material, not spiritual, for Spirit is always Good; Satan acquires his temporary power by way of the evil will of human nature (which is sinful and depraved as a result of Original Sin); Thus, the Devil or Satan is not the cause of evil.
Cruden’s Complete Concordance, categories “evil” and “good.” For the Jewish point of view, see The Encyclopedia of Jewish Religion, category “Good and Evil.” For Old Testament references, see Deuteronomy 32:39, Isaiah 45:7, Lamentations 3:32, 38, and Jeremiah 42:6. 91 Encyclopedia of Philosophy, category “Evil, Problem of”; F.E. Peters, Greek Philosophical Terms, A Historical Lexicon (NY: New York University Press, 1967), categories Kakon, Physis, and Hyle; The Catholic Encyclopedia, categories “Matter.” See also Elaine Pagels, Adam, Eve, and the Serpent (NY: Random House, 1988), Introduction and pp.98-101, 128-133, 142-153.
59 When the Church Fathers combined this convoluted logic with the corollary doctrine that the cause of evil is found only in the evil human will, only in an interior and individual human psychological force, the encoded language of their theology took on a new twist. Ordinary people reciting the creeds did not realize that the church and its theocratic culture seldom or never emphasized or encouraged social action/social justice. Mathew Fox, a former Roman Catholic priest who became an Episcopal priest, speaks to this issue in his book Original Blessing: Why is it that fall/redemption theology has so dominated in the West?…It has served the purposes, conscious and unconscious, of empire builders and patriarchy and certain political and economic systems to…help to keep the poor poor. They do not encourage the trust, the creativity, the moral courage…for social transformation… Fall/redemption theology is a theology of the oppressor…[This] ‘right wing’ spirituality…has worked historically through Augustine of Hippo who was a Platonist in philosophy although a Christian in religion. 92
Here is the doctrinal logic about human nature that allowed such an unjust culture to develop: 1. Since human sexual passion constantly perpetuates Original Sin, and 2. since the cause of evil/sin is found only in the interior depraved human willpower, and evil and sin are only a lack of inner (psychological) good (that is, never to be found in outer forms of physical or mental illness, genetic conditions, destructive parenting, physical aspects of addictive disorders, poverty, or in any other harmful or hurtful social-economic-political conditions), 3. therefore, the solution to sin and evil cannot be found in striving for social justice or in being actively socially engaged in correction of harmful or hurtful socialeconomic-political conditions. To phrase it in another way, many of us would agree that human willpower (choice or determination) is a critical component of the personality. Being filled with a strong purpose could be used for both good and evil in society. In its dualistic either… 92
Matthew Fox, Original Blessing (Santa Fe, NM: Bear & Co., 1983). p.267. See also another book by Matthew Fox: Confessions (Harper SanFrancisco, 1996) which tells of Fox’s additional struggles against this lack of social justice in the church institution and its doctrine.
60 or…vision, however, systematic theology insisted that either blind obedience to God’s will [read “Church authority”] or sinful human will (which always leads to evil behavior) is the only option. As a result, Christian systematic theology about human nature has maintained that no change in an “outer” condition in society – not better parenting skills, not proper nutrition or health care, not population control, not correction of ecological hazards, not better secular/public schools – can solve the problems of sin or evil. Since doctrine says there is no real social cause of evil, there need not be any attempts at a social cure. Since neither physical nor social environment plays a genuine role in effecting sin or evil, there is no reason to spend the money, time, energy, or resources to try to save the physical environment or to try to change political and economic conditions. What a horrifying worldview! Many of us may disagree with this extreme right wing doctrinal logic at this juncture, but it gets even more problematic. Systematic theology’s answer to the “problem” of evil is to be found only in solutions that attempt to “break the will,” or in efforts which discipline and punish the evil human willpower or the “hard heart.”
solutions could include wars and/or economic sanctions against non-Christian countries in order to break the stubborn wills of their leaders. Within a country where Christianity is dominant, the breaking of the will of dissidents would be encouraged. Other solutions might include harsher prison conditions, more death penalties, being forced off welfare, “just saying ‘no’” to the temptations of the will, censorship of books, entertainment, and art which tempt the will, and shaming a sinner publicly. Scary! 93
James Dobson, for example, as the psychologist for the Christian Religious Right writes about breaking the will in The Strong-Willed Child. Nancy Novosad, “The Right’s New Messiah” (The Progressive Magazine, December, 1996, p.23) notes that Dobson decries the lack of absolutes and traditional Christian beliefs in today’s society.
61 Even with Mother Nature, the solution is to break Her will by dominion and control! All that needs to be done, systematic theology says, is to break the evil will of the sinner, direct him or her to the redemption of Jesus, and then in obedience she or he will follow what the Christian Church sets forth. This redemption will be described in Chapter Eight.
62 CHAPTER EIGHT: “Saviour, Wash Me In The Blood” (Christian Hymn about the Doctrine of Redemption or Salvation)
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16 This poetic, oft quoted Christian scripture about God’s redemption sounds “lovely” and spiritual. We would never dream it has political connotations unless we move on just one more verse to read a rarely quoted line: …he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. John 3:18 Such a harsh and negative qualifier to the preceding verse immediately throws the entire scripture into the political arena. “Saved,” “Redeemed,” “Born Again” – these crucial religious terms that appear to be purely spiritual – are code words that also serve Christian political purposes. Priests and ministers seldom differentiate between and among “redemption” or “salvation” or “being born again.” Yet, there are differences and several outright contradictions. Since systematic theology gives the term “Redemption” first place, let us begin there. Webster’s New Universal Dictionary says: “redeem” means “to buy back,” “to ransom,” “to purchase or buy,” “to atone or make amends for,” or “to rescue.” [When speaking about God, redemption denotes] “…the purchase of God’s favor…[and] the ransom or deliverance of sinners from the bondage of sin and the penalties of God’s violated law.”
63 How can mere humans purchase or buy an all-powerful God’s favor? Is this question a metaphysical or a political one? To answer these questions we return to the Church Fathers who wrote systematic theology. Once again, the Church Fathers caused great confusion because they combined Hebrew/Jewish scriptures with conflicting Hellenistic ideas. This time the task was nearly impossible, for Hellenistic thought referred to salvation of an immortal soul that continued to exist after death of the body and after numerous reincarnations. But the Hebrew/Jewish scriptures referred to redemption of the entire theocratic community to a better, more righteous life on earth. This mixture caused a serious dilemma:
On the one hand, from the Hebrew/Jewish perspective found in the biblical books of Leviticus, Deuteronomy, and parts of Numbers, redemption was the human process of ransoming or buying back something that was valuable by sacrificing something else that was also valuable. These scriptures proclaimed that the first of everything belonged to God: the first born son, the first born calf, lamb, or other animal, the first fruits of the crops, and so on. If, for example, the Hebrew patriarch did not want to give his firstborn son to God, he could redeem his son, or buy him back, by paying a ransom to the priest! Because the land itself belongs to God, it, too, must be redeemed every seven years by payment to the priest. In addition, God expected good and righteous behavior from His people. If the people failed to act right and, therefore, sinned, God demanded sacrifices to atone for the bad behavior. 94
Thus, humans could, in this perspective, buy God’s favor and appease His anger. The Hebrew Messiah or Savior could be a mere human male, similar to the Hebrew King David, because what Hebrews were ransoming was not their immortal soul but their human and communal ethical and moral status in their theocracy. The point and purpose of their striving mightily to keep the laws of God, and their offering of sacrifices when they did err or sin were to promote the social welfare, peace, and health of the entire greater community in this world, in this earthly life. Grace was not emphasized; rather, God’s mercy balanced with justice was the focus. There was no Jewish concept of salvation by grace alone. 95
Leviticus, chapters 25 and 27. Bernhard W. Anderson, Understanding the Old Testament, 4th edition (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: PrenticeHall, 1986), 482. 96 Encyclopedia of Theology, Karl Rahner, editor, category “Grace.” 95
64 On the other hand, from the Hellenistic philosophical perspective that the Church Fathers had used in their doctrine about human nature, what is being ransomed is the immortal soul that had been lost by Original Sin. Mere humans cannot buy back a lost immortal soul. Only a God capable of performing miracles, could do that. The Hellenistic perspective also declared that there were levels of souls arranged into a social/political/religious elitist hierarchy. The Doctrine Builders accepted the latter view – the Hellenistic hierarchical, mythical, miraculous view of Redemption with varying levels of souls. However, the Church Fathers put those ideas into Jewish biblical language not meant for that purpose; and so, they did not resolve the dilemma, but only intensified it. By now, we have 97
enough information to fill in the omitted portion of the above quotation from Webster’s dictionary: Redemption, in theology [denotes] the purchase of God’s favor by the death and sufferings of Christ; the ransom or deliverance of sinners from the bondage of sin and the penalties of God’s violated law. In other words, the Son of God, by his death on the cross, purchased or bought the redemption of human sinners from his own Father who had demanded the death penalty for human self will or disobedience. Such a law could be rescinded only by God, Himself, the Doctors of the Church claimed. Jesus, as the declared Christ who was also God, could, therefore, break His own law and miraculously buy back or ransom the lost immortal souls of humans. Only a God could substitute Himself as a metaphorical Lamb for the real slain lambs that the merely human Hebrews/Jews had slaughtered for their sins. Only a God could sacrifice Himself, by His own death on a cross, and miraculously “redeem” humans from paying the required price for their sins – losing their immortal souls and spending eternity in hell and torment. Or so Christian theology declared.
Ibid. See also Harper’s Bible Dictionary, categories “Redemption” and “Grace.”
65 As we turn from the concept of redemption to the idea of “salvation,” we see in Webster’s New International Dictionary that salvation denotes “rescue” and “preservation from destruction.” Webster adds a connotation to the definition: …in theology, the redemption of man from the bondage of sin and liability to eternal death. The saving of the soul through the atonement of Jesus. We note that it is the individual soul that is being saved, but that there is no mention of “purchase” or “ransom” as in the redemption definition. For example, see the opening quote: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son….” This term gave completely contradicts the term purchased. The choice of contradictory words implies a different choice in political interpretation and it makes the code more difficult. However, just as we saw that “redemption” originally connoted an ethical, communal meaning, so, too, did “salvation.” To the non-Hellenistic Jew of Jesus’ era, “salvation” primarily denoted “healing” – that is, health and wholeness and freedom for the whole nation which was constantly striving to be an ethical and just group in this earthly life.
No thought was given to the individual immortal soul.
Today few Christians know of this ancient definition because Christian systematic theology chose to accept an individualistic, not a communal, redemption and salvation – a saving of immortal souls, one-by-one, for the next life, the life after death. Such a choice for the Hellenistic, not Jewish, meaning of its coded words, caused the focus of Christian systematic theology to be placed upon other-worldly salvation. Theology no longer emphasized a communal striving to work for human social welfare on earth. The ethical results in the real world were devastating at times:
Harper’s Bible Dictionary, category “Salvation.” Encyclopedia of Religion, category “Soul, Jewish Concept.”
66 The ethical dimensions of soteriology are sometimes underplayed insofar as it is by the grace of God rather than through ethical (or ritual) efforts that one is saved. The Encyclopedia of Religion, category Christian “Soteriology” [soteriology means the doctrine of salvation by Jesus the Christ]. Here, written in convoluted language and hidden away in an encyclopedia that ordinary churchgoers never read, a theologian is admitting that the Christian doctrine of redemption and salvation downplays ethical behavior. Our priests and preachers seldom or never spell out this lack of ethics in an obvious fashion in their sermons or homilies. Nevertheless, the logic is obvious to even a half-asleep parishioner: if we only believe, someone else – a God – will get capital punishment in our place, as our substitute. This is why it’s called salvation by grace. “Grace,” Webster’s Dictionary states, means “the free unmerited favor of God.” Thus, grace is neither just nor fair, for it gives gifts and favors to those who do not merit or deserve them!
And yet, a type of moral and ethical behavior is required of the Christian after he or she is redeemed: he or she must trust and obey. But, whom must they obey? What must they trust? God, yes, but God via the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy with its pope, cardinals, bishops, and priests, or God via the Protestant Church hierarchy with its one-and-only-one proper interpretation of the Bible by its priests, pastors, ministers, preachers, evangelists, and deacons. This is the tricky “catch” in any hierarchy or theocracy: the individual must not think for himself or herself but must always humbly submit to the authority above him or her in the political and social hierarchy. 100
For the history of the realistic horror story behind “Amazing Grace,” one of the most famous and popular Christian hymns, see Marcus Wood, Slavery, Empathy, and Pornography (NY: Oxford University Press, 2002), Chapter 1 and pages 62-77. 101 For example, The Catholic Encyclopedia, category “Authority” states: “But the canker-worm lies at the root of this [logic of Hobbes and Rousseau that the State is omnipotent via the will of the people], as of all ultra-democratic doctrines, that one man is as good as another. In all sane polity, the predominant Intelligence must guide the counsels of the State, not the predominant Will, which may be no better than caprice. But intelligence is not necessarily attached to majorities.”
67 person does make his or her own ethical choices, that person is declared a “heretic.” Evolving from hairesis or airesis which is the Greek word for “choice,” heresy was 102
punishable by burning at the stake or torture in the Christian world, for church and state were together.
Certainly a scary story!
The Doctrine Builders who were at the top of the social, political, and religious hierarchy allowed themselves the luxury of choice, however. Even though there were ferocious debates and fights among these elite men, they found a way to manipulate the political/religious system in order to declare themselves to be at the top of the hierarchy – the ones who make the laws and doctrines of God. To justify such an elitist doctrine, the Church Fathers utilized Plato’s theory of levels of souls combined with Saint Paul’s 104
biblical ideas differentiating persons who were living “under the law” versus those persons who were “justified by faith” or “saved by grace” - that is, living “above the 105
law.” This egregiously elitist part of the Christian Doctrine of Redemption or Salvation may well be called socially insidious (deceptive, deceitful, sly, crafty, wily). It is See also the Protestant Harper’s Bible Dictionary, category “Salvation” which notes: “Salvation is a gift of the grace of God, but the gift has its own proper conditions, and it lays upon those who receive it its own proper demands.” (emphasis added). For a recent example, see “Pontiff: Dissenters Not Good Catholics,” Associated Press, Los Angeles, as reported in the Casa Grande Dispatch, September 16, 1987: “Pope John Paul II has declared it is a ‘grave error’ to believe one can dissent from church teaching and still be a good Catholic, as he reaffirmed prohibitions on women priests, contraception, divorce, abortion, and homosexual acts… Dissent from church doctrine remains what it is, dissent.” 102 F.E. Peters, Greek Philosophical Terms, A Historical Lexicon (NY: New York University Press, 1967), category “Proairesis.” 103 Margaret Deanesly, A History of the Medieval Church, 590-1500 (London: Methuen & CO LTD, 1979), chapter XVII. 104 Encyclopedia of Religion, category “Soul, Christian Concept” and New Catholic Encyclopedia, categories “Soul” and “Soul, Human.” 105 See Paul’s biblical letters Romans 3:19-26, Romans 6:14-23, 1st Corinthians 9:20-21, and Galations 3:23-25, 4:4-7, and 5:18. All of these scripture passages refer to the same idea that once persons become believing Christians, they are no longer “under the law” but are now “above the law.” That is, because of Christ’s death upon the cross, believing Christian leaders are freed from the old Jewish Law Code and are now operating on a “higher,” spiritual level of grace.
68 deceptive because the Church leaders usually did not (and still do not) tell the laity – especially the lower classes and women – that the doctrine contains such an outlook. It is sly because some of the Christian leaders used this theory of levels of souls to justify their own immoral and unethical behavior while punishing similar behavior in others.
The doctrine is as follows: 1) Immortal Soul (at the top of the hierarchy) Most spiritual part of the soul – only elite males have this soul Most rational or intellectual part of the soul (often named the rational soul) Most valued – like having a high IQ and being rich “Saved by grace”/justified by faith” – freed from the law/ “above the law” 2) Rationable (sic)
Soul (mid-way within the hierarchy)
Less spiritual Less rational Less valuable than rational soul Saved by grace (under special circumstances); little freedom from the 108
law. 3) Irrational Soul (at the bottom of the human hierarchy) Not spiritual (too closely connected to the body) Not rational Least valuable Not saved by grace except under rare conditions; always “under the law.”
The Roman Catholic Church’s cover-up of the sexual abuse of young boys and youths by priests, and the Protestant cover-up of the evangelists’ peccadilloes and major confiscation of church funds follow this same “above the law” principle. That is, the harm done to the lower status person was seldom the concern of the church leaders. Rather, it was the harm that would come to those in the “upper” echelons of “spirit” which concerned the Institution. For example, Margaret Spillane, “Law’s the Law in Boston” (The Nation, March 25, 2002), 7, notes that Boston’s Bernard Cardinal Law covered up nearly two decades of rape and molestation felonies; paid hush money to victims and moved the predators to new parishes where new crimes ensued. In addition, Doug Ireland, “Marriage of Convenience” (The Nation, September 1/8, 2002), 4-5 reports that CBS News unearthed a secret Vatican directive, in force since 1962, to cover up priestly sex abuse under ‘penalty of excommunication’ for any cleric who talked.” 107 Term coined by Saint Augustine. 108 For example, a few wealthy, upper-class women or a few extremely brave lower-class soldiers were sometimes considered justified by their faith in early Medieval times.
69 Saint Augustine had coined the above term “rationable” for use in codifying this middle part of the theory of level of souls: the rationable soul was only rational enough to know that it must obey those upper class males with the rational soul.
was to be used at the discretion of the elite Christian leaders for a few non-elite males and for very few, usually upper class females. By Medieval times, a few hundred years after Augustine’s codifying of the soul hierarchy, the prevailing Christian teaching was that women, having only irrational souls, could not be redeemed. They could, however, squeak into heaven if, and only if, they bore male children. Bearing female children did not count. Even this expression “did not count” came from the ancient Christian practice of never counting females as members of the population. Females were “ciphers” or zeros!
For a more thorough understanding of this hierarchy of souls, we now look at the main social and political principle of this belief in order to crack its code. The principle claimed that God, by his miraculous grace, has restored the immortal soul’s ability to make ethical choices during this earthly life. But beware, this does not apply to everyone, only the elite male. For the non-elite person, very scary! At this juncture, it may be appropriate to remind ourselves what the Doctrine Builders said: With few exceptions, only elite males are blessed with the immortal or rational soul; Once this rational soul is redeemed or saved, then it operates on a “higher” spiritual level of grace; that is, it is “better than” the souls in most other people. According to the doctrine, more political power is allotted to the saved, rational, immortal soul: 109 110
See Chapter Six, endnotes # 86 and # 89, for relevant references to Augustine’s works. Dr. Waltemyer, professor of Biblical Studies, Gettysburg College, class discussion, 1951.
Christian elite males who claim that they are redeemed by their belief in the Christ, also claim that they possess the saved, rational, immortal soul;
These men now assume that they are worthy to be a leader in church, society, and politics;
Christian leaders may now impose their own cleansed, holy Christian “will” upon others in the lower echelons [slaves, servants, and females], or upon non-believers because these Christian leaders now make right choices and intelligent decisions;
Such imposition is ethical because the will of the Christian leader is now aligned with Christ’s will, therefore righteous and correct. No one beneath them on the hierarchy should question their will or their decisions. 111
Terrifying! When a secular, rather than a religious, institution or an organization today acquires similar hubris as displayed in this doctrine, the majority in the organization may feel …misled and used. They had been promised something that was a ‘con.’ ….The organization becomes the addictive substance for its employees… [W]hen the employees become hooked on the promise of the mission and choose not to look at how the system is really operating….its actions are excused because it has a lofty mission…[I]t is more probable that the organization will enter into a rigid denial system with concomitant grandiosity. …[G]randiosity is one of the characteristics of the addictive system…It is gross selfimportance. 112
History saw political effects of this grandiose aspect of systematic theology in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries as Christian leaders imposed their will upon Native Americans, African slaves, New England witches, and non-Christians. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, American Christian missionaries imposed 111
The actual doctrine of how the believer participates in Christ’s act of salvation may be found, for example, in Harper’s Bible Dictionary, category “Law.” Anne Wilson Schaef with Diane Fassel, The Addictive Organization (Harper SanFrancisco, 1990), 122123.
71 their will upon indigenous peoples in America and other countries, ignoring indigenous laws, yet punishing the natives for not obeying the Christian laws. In those same two centuries, Christian capitalists used this doctrine to force employees to keep to their slave-like conditions at the bottom of the hierarchy. Protestant Christian capitalists, especially, used the Protestant Reformer Calvin’s dictum that wealth was a sign of God’s favor and a signal that a person truly was redeemed or saved or bornagain. Max Weber, a scholar who wrote The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, argued that the history of European capitalism could not be explained by economic and technological terms alone, but was also a consequence “…of the ascetic secular morality associated with the twin emphases in Calvinistic theology on predestination [of the soul] and salvation.”
Protestant Christians, more so than Roman Catholic Christians, emphasized salvation by grace because Roman Catholic doctrine differs from Protestant doctrine at this pivotal point: Roman Catholic doctrine states that – even before redemption – God gives man (sic) a natural grace that allows him to strive toward the four natural virtues: prudence, justice, courage, and self control. After man is redeemed, God grants him a super-natural grace which gives him salvation plus allows him to seek God and practice Christian faith, hope, and love. Protestant doctrine omits the natural grace, saying that – because of Original Sin – man’s will is totally depraved and must have the super-natural grace in order to strive toward either natural or Christian virtues. 114
Encyclopedia of Philosophy, category “Weber, Max.” For a similar, yet psychological, explanation of this type of Christian capitalism, see Anne Wilson Schaef with Diane Fassel, op.cit., 135. For an example of the imposition of the Christian missionary’s will upon an indigenous population, see George E. Tinker, Missionary Conquest: the Gospel and Native American Cultural Genocide (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Fortress Press, 1993), entirety. 114 Encyclopedia of Theology, category “Grace” and Harper’s Bible Dictionary, category “Grace.”
72 Both groups agree, however, that only redeemed males are truly qualified to be political, social and religious leaders – thus, this spiritual language also hides an elitist code. “Born Again” is not a truly separate category of the Christian Doctrine of Redemption or Salvation. Rather, it is a sub-category of Salvation. In the majority of the formal texts and religious encyclopedias, the term is given only cursory treatment – implying salvation by way of a new spiritual birth and the shed blood of the Savior rather than the old, sinful first birth. However, because of the greater use of this term by radio and television evangelists and by the new, mostly Fundamentalist and Evangelical Protestant denominations established in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, we hear this political code word “Born Again” with much greater frequency today.
“Born Again” has the added political symbolism or metaphorical value of being anti-feminist and of devaluing the role of women in society. The logic is as follows: Since Old Testament scriptures say that the blood of the lamb that was slain for the sins of the people mythically provides redemption or ransom (but that menstrual blood and birthing blood of the female is “unclean” and unholy); and Since Hellenistic ideas, too, say that only the life-giving blood of a male god will restore the lost immortal soul and rescue it from eternal punishment (but that the female birth process with its accompanying blood is merely an animal-like process); and Since the Church valued Mary as Virgin mother (but did not value the first, bloody physical birth of Jesus); Therefore, a spiritual birth, or being “Born Again” is of great worth (but the first birth from a human mother is worthless spiritually). 116
The Encyclopedia of the American Religious Experience, 1988, category “Fundamentalism.” See, for example, Leviticus, chapter 15 and Genesis, chapter 31. See also Barbara G. Walker, The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1983), categories “Menstrual Blood” and “Vagina.”
73 Female blood was so truly despised that Roman Catholic doctrine claimed that after Jesus’ birth, all physical signs of his birth process miraculously disappeared and Mary’s hymen was miraculously restored!
Jesus’ blood and death, on the other hand, provided for a clean, holy, non-female spiritual re-birth. The person seeking Christian salvation and redemption must be reborn by way of the blood of the crucified Christ and the baptismal water, says systematic theology.
As the believer is freed from the disgusting bodily, bloody and sinful female
first birth, the believer is “Born Again.” in a second spiritual birth. That is, the physical and spiritual aspects of our personalities have truly become separate and split apart in the Christian Born Again doctrine. Spirit/body dualism reigns. By now, we have enough background data to be ready to analyze the political issue of abortion. As noted in Chapter Six, issues about abortion have some connection to the moral principles surrounding birth control, but the core question refers to beliefs about when the soul enters the body, levels of the soul and its redemption or salvation.
Historically, before systematic theology was permanently fixed and declared unchangeable, the Christian Church permitted abortion! The Church allowed abortion because early Christian theologians argued that a fetus was merely expendable animal tissue until the soul entered the body. Beliefs about when the soul enters the body were not fixed in that era and were highly debatable.
Barbara G. Walker, op.cit., category “Vagina.” See John 1:13. Dogma was based upon this verse and other similar verses. See also The Catholic Encyclopedia, categories “Man,” “Supernatural,” and “Theology,” and New Catholic Encyclopedia, categories “Son of God,” “Son of Man,” and “Messiah.” 119 Refer to footnotes # 99 and # 104, above. Harper’s Bible Dictionary, category “Soul,” notes that the biblical meaning of soul changed after the Jews’ exile to Babylonia. At this time the meaning drew closer to the Greek meaning (of an immortal soul) which the Church Fathers used in doctrine. See F.E. Peters, op.cit., categories psyche, pneuma, and thymos. 118
74 The Doctors of the Church had lengthy arguments over the issues, and for centuries the opinions varied from one position to another. Sometimes the Church pronounced that the soul entered the body at the moment of conception and, therefore, no abortion was permitted. Sometimes, the Church maintained that the soul entered only at the “quickening” of the fetus – that is, when the father (not the mother) could feel the fetus kicking and moving in the womb. Until the time of quickening, approximately five or six months, the Church, therefore, permitted abortion. At other times, on the contrary, doctrine stated that the soul entered the body only at birth, only when the infant inhaled her or his first breath. Thus, the Church permitted abortion anytime prior to birth.
Even after birth, however, if the infant appeared to be disabled or deformed, a rational soul was missing from its body, so the doctrine claimed in that era. And so, the person attending the birth was encouraged to restrain the deformed infant from taking its first breath, if possible, or, to allow the deformed creature to languish and die. The rationale for taking such action was as follows: A. Since the immortal or rational soul provides both the spiritual form or mold for the body and the proper shape of the body, and B. since a severely de-formed body demonstrates clearly that a rational soul is not present, C. therefore, a severely de-formed person has merely an animal soul rather than a human soul. There is no possibility that an animal soul can be saved or redeemed. 121
(See Appendix IV for a more detailed discussion of disability/deformity and the soul).
Barbara G. Walker, op.cit., categories “Abortion” and “Birth Control.” In The Catholic Encyclopedia, category “Irregularity,” may be found this interesting notation: “The penitential practice of the Church… presumes that the male foetus is animated only after forty days, and the female after eighty days.” This difference presupposes the doctrine about levels of souls and the relative worth of male versus female gender. In addition, these words are to be found in a context concerning a priest who is “… procuring the actual abortion of a living foetus”!! (emphasis added). 121 See Appendix IV for a more detailed data about the soul and disability.
75 Today, Christian systematic theology is set. As a general rule, abortion is forbidden. Liberal and moderate churches try to keep a low profile as they ignore the doctrine about abortion and seldom attempt to change it. The above analysis clearly shows us that the crux of the abortion issue is a question of who is “under the law” versus who is “above the law.” The real point is: who decides and chooses and where are they located on the hierarchical soul scale? If the individual mother does the choosing, she is declared a sinner and a heretic, for she has merely an irrational soul yet she has made a choice or decision that goes against the one and only one Truth as set by the Church hierarchy (even if it did take that Church hundreds of years to decide what that one Truth should be!). How did this Christian Church get to be so all-important to the Christian systematic theology while Nature and natural functions receded into unimportance and disrespect? Chapter Nine answers this question.
76 CHAPTER NINE: “The Church’s One Foundation” (Christian Hymn about the Doctrine of the Church)
“Outside of the Church there is no salvation”
Throughout its existence, Christian systematic theology taught the laity – the nonclergy parishioners – to believe that God choose to operate within the confines of a Christian bureaucratic and hierarchical institution. This church became a political and social center as well as religious headquarters. How did such power and control evolve? The Christian Church had a Jewish origin. Within a very short period of time, however, it was also greatly affected by the burgeoning Hellenistic influence becoming dominant throughout the “Holy Land” and much of the Middle East.
Jesus, as a healer, teacher, and Jewish reformer, harshly criticized the Jewish institutional religion of his day. He was punished by the Roman state because criticizing any of the religions tolerated by the Roman state was considered a political crime. He was put to death – using the method of crucifixion. He had not established a new church before his death:
During Christ’s earthly ministry, he revealed no plans for an organized church or for a structure called by that name…He looked upon his companions and helpers as a brotherhood, recruited from synagogues, the Temple, and villages and in all likelihood never dreamed that a ‘church’ would be formed because of his work. Harper’s Bible Dictionary, “Church”
Christian doctrinal statement. See also The Papal Encyclicals in Their Historical Context: the Teachings of the Popes, Anne Rremantle, editor (NY: The New American Library, 1956), chapters 2 & 4. 123 Arthur Cushman McGiffert, The God of the Early Christians (NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1925). See also Williston Walker, History of the Christian Church,3rd edition (NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1970), part one; and Witt, Brown, Dunbar, Tirro, and Witt, The Humanities, 4th edition (Lexington, MA: D.C. Heath and Company, 1993), 257. 124 See Harper’s Bible Dictionary, categories “Jesus Christ” and “Church.” See also Witt, Brown, Dunbar, Tirro, and Witt, The Humanities, Vol.1 (Lexington, MA: D.C. Heath and Company, 1993), 227.
77 Nevertheless, Jesus’ disciples and followers met together to continue to carry out Jesus’ message of social justice within both an earthly and a spiritual/inner “kingdom of God.”
Little is known about these groups. One such group was the Ebionites, possibly led by Jesus’ brother James.
Other groups called themselves “Gnostic” – implying by
the meaning of the term that they had special and secret or hidden knowledge about Jesus’ message.
The New Testament of the Bible tells us of yet another group, led by Peter and John, that operated by way of a type of religious communism: And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that …the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common…. Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold. And laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need. Acts 4: 32-37 Many of these various groups wrote gospels or stories about Jesus. Each group had a different and usually contradicting perspective of the man Jesus and of his message. After competing with each other for several years, some of these splinter groups lost followers while other groupings gained followers. Finally, one faction began to gain the most power and control. Because of its power, this winning group was able to decide which gospels would be declared heretical and discarded, which gospels would be canonized (accepted as God’s true and holy word by the Church), and which would be 125
Williston Walker, op.cit., chapters 1-4. Ibid, 23-35. 127 Ibid, 51-53. See also Elaine Pagels, The Gnostic Gospels (NY: Vintage Books/Random House, 1989), Chapter V “Whose Church Is the True Church”; The Gnostic Religion, by Hans Jonas (Boston: Beacon Press, 1958, 1963), and Kurt Rudolph, Gnosis: the Nature & History of Gnosticism (San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row, 1987), section 3 “History.” 126
78 called apocryphal stories (the truth may be questioned but the moral of the story is acceptable). The Roman Catholic Bible includes some of the apocryphal gospels, while the Protestant Bible usually omits these stories.
What are the characteristics of the faction that became dominant and gained more power than the other groups of Jesus’ followers? Its leader was a man who had never met Jesus. In fact, this man had persecuted the followers of Jesus. He was Saul of Tarsus who later took the Greek name of Paul. Paul claimed personal knowledge of Jesus after he had a vision of Jesus and was struck with temporary blindness (See Acts 9: 3-9 and Acts 26: 14-15). In some Bibles it will be difficult to find parts of this story; see Appendix V to understand the hidden social-political problem behind this omission. Although Saul/Paul was a Jew, he was educated in and valued the non-Jewish world and its Hellenistic philosophy. He was the leader who tore the Jesus movement out of its Jewish milieu, away from its early form of communism, noted above, and into the beginnings of the hierarchical organization it has become. A Christian Church, separate from its Jewish roots, developed gradually, possibly about 30 years after Jesus had died.
Traveling as a missionary throughout many areas in the Middle East and Greece, Paul established many churches. Letters that Paul later wrote to these churches became incorporated into New Testament scriptures of the Bible. The church leaders who wrote systematic theology called Paul’s letters part of the “unquestionable Word of God.” This sadly scary part of the systematic theology story is that no longer were Jesus’ own teachings of social justice within a kingdom of God the main message of the new 128
For additional apocryphal stories, see The Lost Books of the Bible and the Forgotten Books of Eden (NY: New American Library, 1974). 129 Arthur Cushman McGiffert, op.cit. See also Appendix I for additional references to the early church by scholars of the Jesus Seminar.
79 Christian Church. Paul had changed the message of Jesus to a new message about Jesus. It was this message about Jesus which became Christian systematic theology. Because this sentence is vitally important, it bears repeating: the Church Fathers who wrote the Christian Doctrine followed Paul’s imagined metaphysical message about the Hellenistic Christ Figure rather than the teachings of Jesus, the human Jewish reformer.
Appendix I for further information. Systematic theology’s doctrine about the institutional church established Paul’s metaphysical message of “Christ and Him crucified” with its twofold emphasis: 1. Jesus as divine and powerful/ political Christ rather than merely an earthly Jewish Messiah and 2. Jesus’ resurrection (a miraculous raising from the dead, plus a bodily ascension into heaven). Paul insisted that the believer in the resurrection of Christ would become a follower of Jesus, not in a physical sense of doing political and social agitation as the Jewish reformer Jesus himself had done, but in a metaphysical sense of miraculously participating in the Christ’s resurrection from the dead and in escape from God’s judgment and punishment.
In addition, the Doctrine Builders used Matthew 16: 18-19 to declare that Jesus, himself, had established a new church, separate from the Jewish temple, with Simon Peter as the first bishop (this book of Matthew was not written by Jesus’ disciple
Theologians and biblical scholars have recognized this discontinuity and contradiction regarding the message of Jesus versus Paul’s message about Jesus since the nineteenth century. Arthur Cushman McGiffert focused upon this issue in the early twentieth century. Scholars of the Jesus Seminar are also zeroing in upon the same topic – please refer to Appendix I for additional information on the Jesus Seminar. See also Norman Perrin and Dennis C. Duling, The New Testament, an Introduction (NY: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Publishers, 1982), Chapter Five, for an in-depth analysis on Paul’s role. 131 Robert W. Funk, Honest to Jesus (Harper SanFrancisco, 1996), 2, 6, 20, 35, 43, 202, 219, 223, 234, 238, 309-314.
80 Matthew but by an unknown writer circa 90 C.E., many years after Paul established his churches ): 132
And I [Jesus] say also unto thee, That thou art Peter [a name that signifies “rock”], and upon this rock I will build my church; And the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. These two verses were built rock solid into Roman Catholic dogma which teaches that each pope, in a line of succession from Saint Peter, acts in Christ’s place on earth as head of the Church.
(The Orthodox Eastern Church, however, later was quite unhappy with
this particular focus upon the Western Roman Pope, valuing Patriarchs instead).
Even though Paul and his new Christian communities had rejected many of their Jewish roots, they still held on to the ancient ideal of theocracy and still used Hebrew or Jewish metaphors for their church. Today, for example, Christians call their church a “House of the Lord,” a phrase that has its origin in Hebrew stories of almost four thousand years ago. The first house of the lord was a tent called a tabernacle which served the ancient nomadic Hebrews as a portable place of meeting. In this tabernacle was a very special, feared yet revered, container called the Ark of the Covenant, which supposedly housed the Lord’s presence. Thus, the earlier Hebrews believed that the tabernacle was a literal “House of the Lord.” After the Hebrews abandoned their nomadic life style and their tent tabernacles, they built larger, more ornate, and permanent Houses for the Lord. In these extravagant buildings called temples, the Jews performed rituals and sacrificed animals, birds, grain, 132
Norman Perrin and Dennis C. Duling, op.cit., 263-264. The Papal Encyclicals In Their Historical Context, Anne Fremantle, editor, op.cit., 11-12. 134 Margaret Deanesly, A History of the Medieval Church, 590-1500 (London: Methuen & CO LTD, 1979), Introduction. 133
81 fruits, etc. to their God. As religious centers of a theocracy – a culture where priests rule over both secular and religious concerns of the community – temples functioned as political headquarters as well as social and religious centers.
When the temples were destroyed in wars, and when the populace was forced into exile, Jewish people formed more modest places of meeting called synagogues. Sometimes, these synagogues were held in private homes. Like the tabernacle and temple, these synagogues, too, served both political and religious functions: •
A sanctuary for worship and instruction
A legal center where trials were held and punishment was announced
A social center where community problems were discussed and solved and where gifts and money (welfare) for the poor were brought and dispensed. 136
Synagogues were gathering places in times of political unrest and, as such, were opinionmaking centers of power and control. The early Christian Church copied the synagogue’s rituals of prayer, song, creeds, reading from the scriptures, sermons, benediction, and blessing. This new Christian Church also copied the synagogue’s pattern of theocracy and took over similar functions of power and control: political decision-making, education, legal matters, and welfare policies.
Bride of Christ,” a second metaphor describing the Christian Church, also has roots in ancient Hebrew/Jewish images. The bride or wedding metaphor stems from stories found in Jeremiah 2:32 and 3:1-20 in which the males of the nation of Israel are
135 136 137
Harper’s Bible Dictionary, categories “Tabernacle,” “Temples,” and “Church.” Ibid, category “Synagogue.” See footnotes 135 and 136, above.
82 portrayed as unfaithful wives of the Lord – the male God named Yahweh or Jehovah. (Yahweh or God’s experience is always with the men of Israel, because the women were never permitted to enter the temple. Misogynous!). Hosea, chapter 1, also tells a similar story using the bride metaphor. This story depicts the trials of a man whose bride is a whore and a prostitute. An allegory of Yahweh’s experience with the unfaithful men of Israel, this story is full of grief. “Bride” is a significant and very political metaphor for the temple, synagogue or church because a bride’s vow or covenant of faithfulness and absolute obedience to a husband who is her lord and master is symbolic of the men of Israel’s vow or covenant of faithfulness and absolute obedience to God who is their Lord and Master. The culture out of which the Christian Church grew was patriarchal, and a bride’s “place” was inferior, self-effacing, subservient – like a slave or often simply property. It was precisely these qualities the temple or synagogue or church was encouraging when it used the metaphor of the church as a Bride! In their relationships with God, males were to be as subservient, self-effacing, and obedient to God, to priests, and to temple or church hierarchy as brides were required to be toward husbands in the marriage covenant. When the Christian Church took over the Bride motif and added “of Christ” to the metaphor, it also used the bride as property idea, noting that redeemed or saved Christians are “bought with a price.” The Christian Church valued an additional New Testament image of Bride of Christ from The Revelation of Saint John 19: 7-9. This story tells of a wedding that will take place in a future time – the time of the Second Coming of the Christ to the earth. Because this scripture notes that the linen clothes of the bride are spun from the good deeds of the saints, the Roman Catholic Church
83 emphasized that its saints and its members of religious orders are Brides of Christ. Nuns wear a wedding ring to symbolize this bridal status. “Body of Christ” is the third metaphor for the Christian Church. Stemming from Saint Paul’s Hellenistic background and training rather than from Jewish scripture, this Body of Christ image imitated the Hellenistic belief in an intellectual, directing World Soul, noted previously in Chapter Four. The metaphor implies that the institution of the church is the torso, arms, legs, hands, and feet of Jesus the Christ who is the head, intellect, and control center of the Church or Body of Christ. Although this metaphor is more psychological than House of the Lord analogy, nevertheless it still functions as symbolism for social and political power and control, for it rather explicitly implies that passive obedience is the main function of the laity, the average person in the church. Lay people in the church, the “body” metaphor implies, should act as robots or brainless puppets with no selfish ego or will of their own – a definite military-like political coup! Readers who have sung in church choirs will probably remember the hymns about such obedient passivity: “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey”; or “Have Thine own way, Lord, have Thine own way. Thou art the Potter, I am the clay. Mould me and make me after Thy will, while I am waiting, yielded and still.” There is a catch, however, for the obedient laity in this doctrinal hierarchy. With sudden insight we remember what we have already learned: that the Church and its clergy operate in Christ’s place within the earthly realm until Christ comes to earth again at His Second Coming. Thus, the Church and its clergy get to play “Head” in this “Church as
84 Body” game. However, there are no taking turns in this game – the laity never get their turn to play “Head.” Fallible men and women, who are the actual church leaders, control the strings of the puppet body. This heady power of clergy persons includes the ability to bestow or withhold God’s grace.
Also, clergy can bestow or withhold this divine grace regardless of the
clergy person’s or the recipient’s ethics, moral behavior, just actions, or lack thereof! In case these extravagant claims of the clergy – to be qualified to be actual standins for God/Christ during human earthly existence – might seem to be too arrogant, Church doctrine added that the Third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Ghost or Holy Spirit would keep the clergy company. Catholics and Protestants differ somewhat at this point. On the one hand, Roman Catholic Church doctrine dictates that the Holy Spirit operates primarily through the institution of the Church and the clergy’s machinations of the sacraments.
Such sacraments, doctrine explains, are the rituals through which the
metaphysical or otherworldly salvation occurs. Therefore, the Church could logically dare to proclaim: “Outside of the Church there is no salvation.” These sacraments are seven: 1. Eucharist (also known as the Mass, Holy Communion, The Lord’s Supper and Love Feast), 2. Baptism (parents or godparents take the vows for the infant who is daubed with a small amount of sanctified water), 3. Confirmation (children, who have reached the age of reason, confirm for themselves the vows that were made for them at their baptism), 4. Holy Matrimony (performed only under the auspices of the Church),
Matthew 16: 18-19; J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1978), chapter XV. J.N.D. Kelly, op.cit., chapters XV and XVI.
85 5. Penance (being sorry for one’s sins and doing some Church related task to show that one is sorry), 6. Extreme unction (anointing and prayers in preparation of one’s soul for death), 7. Priestly Ordination.
On the other hand, Protestant doctrine argues that the Holy Spirit operates primarily through the reading and exposition of the Holy Scriptures. For this reason – because the Bible explicitly tells of Jesus eating a Last Supper with his disciples and of John the Baptist baptizing Jesus in the Jordan River – the Protestant Church sanctifies only these two sacraments: Eucharist and Baptism (either infant or adult baptism, and either sprinkling the water or full immersion into the water). Nevertheless, the Protestant Church does celebrate or practice the remaining five ceremonies – it just doesn’t call them sacraments because they were developed from Church tradition rather than from explicit Bible verses. In spite of criticizing tradition, the Protestant Church did develop its own church traditions about the Bible, insisting, for example, that these Holy Scriptures through which the Holy Spirit operates, must be correctly interpreted and expounded by an ordained clergyperson, minister, pastor, or preacher within an institutional Church. The most conservative Protestant churches mandate that there be only one correct and literal interpretation of Scripture, and preferably, only one translation of the Bible through which the Holy Spirit moves.
In the Dark Ages and the Middle Ages, participation in these sacraments and liturgy was very important to the mostly illiterate laity who valued the pomp and circumstance of the liturgy and readily believed in the miraculous/magical nature of the ceremonies. Today, on the other hand, average churchgoers of this scientifically minded,
86 jaded post-modern era, often mention Christian love and fellowship as their primary reason for faithful church attendance.
But this is scary love!
What is the history of churchly love and fellowship? Few people understand that systematic theology’s Doctrine of the Church teaches the love ethics of Saint Paul and Saint Augustine rather than Jesus’ ethics about love! Neither do many persons understand that Paul’s ethical system contradicts Jesus’ ethical views: Jesus emphasized the traditional Jewish ethics, but Paul (even though he, too, was Jewish) utilized an hierarchical Hellenistic ethical system. In the following comparative examples, please note that even though Paul/Augustine and Jesus often use the same terms (love, heart, mind, soul), they give radically different meanings to these terms: I.
Jesus’ Ethics: “…[Jesus is summarizing and quoting from Deuteronomy 13:3 and 30:2] ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your Heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second resembles it: ‘You must love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang the whole Law, and the Prophets, also.” Matthew 22:37-40 (other versions are in Mark 12:29-31 and Luke 10:27-37). [Jesus insisted upon ethical behavior and just action, not mere belief]. Harper’s Bible Dictionary notes that Jesus used the Jewish connotations of scriptural terms (Jesus left no writings; at first, the Church translated his alleged oral sayings into the Greek language):
Love: “mutual love between God and people,” “use of only one term for various types of love [even sexual love].” Heart: “the repository and directive center of thought, will, feeling, and conscience.” 140
See psychology and sociology of religion textbooks such as Robert W. Crapps, An Introduction to Psychology of Religion (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1986), chapter ten, especially pp.296298; C. Daniel Bateson and Patricia A. Schoenrade, in Advances in the Psychology of Religion, L.B. Brown, editor (Oxford: Pergamon Press, 1980); and Donald E. Sloat, “Why Can’t I Relate to God?” in The Dangers of Growing Up in a Christian Home (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Publishers, 1986). For additional insights into seeking love and intimacy in a church setting, see Anne Wilson Schaef and Diane Fassel, The Addictive Organization (Harper SanFrancisco,1990), 69-70, 89-94, 122, 135; and Anne Wilson Schaef, Escape From Intimacy, the Pseudo-Relationship Addictions: Untangling the “Love” Addictions: Sex, Romance, Relationships (Harper SanFrancisco, 1989), 90, 96-100.
87 Soul: “life, mind, and person.” Not used dualistically, these terms infer that the heart could bring forth both thought and emotions, both sin and purity; that the soul could be directed toward various choices and hold a variety of attitudes; and that love was not hierarchical but reciprocal. Versus II.
Paul’s Ethics: Harper’s Bible Dictionary states that “Paul’s writings…were influenced by Greek philosophy…” and that Paul wrote in Greek and used Hellenistic terminology:
Love: Paul uses Plato’s term “agape for love between God and man.” Heart: Generally used in the sense of “the seat of the emotions.” Mind: Paul uses the Greek philosophical term nous for mind. Soul: Paul utilizes the Greek philosophical term psyche, a life principle. Used dualistically and hierarchically, these political and elitist coded terms are clarified by F.E. Peters’ Greek Philosophical Terms: A Historical Lexicon, category Nous: The primary meaning of Nous is intellect and mind in the sense of “the highest ordering principle” which controls all within a hierarchy ranging from spiritual ideas at the top to material things at the lowest level. Always rational, nous does not include emotions or feelings. Nous participates in the “divine cosmic nous” and “is shared by only a few men.” (emphasis added). These love ethics of Paul precisely follow the Hellenistic “Body of Christ” metaphor. In a descending order, for example, 1 Corinthians, chapters 12 and 13 gives scriptural details about elitist hierarchies of churchly love and churchly talents: Head – Christ Body - The Church:
Levels of Love: -----------------
Charity or Agape* Faith and Hope
88 1st: Apostles – Speaker of Words of Wisdom 2nd Prophets – Speaker of Word of Knowledge 3rd Teachers 4th Miracle Workers 5th Healers 6th Helpers 7th Government Workers 8th Speakers in Tongues. *Paul’s Greek term for love, agape, excludes all emotions! In building systematic theology about love within the Church, Augustine, the Church Father, ignored Jesus’ ethics of love and instead chose Saint Paul’s ethics of ordered, non-emotional love. Augustine’s love and fellowship ethic was named ordo amoris meaning that love must be channeled into an hierarchical descending order: 1st 2nd 3rd 4th
God Others Self Things.
This order doesn’t look or sound immoral: Augustine appears to be even more moral than Jesus, for Augustine loves others more than himself, while Jesus loves others the same amount as himself. Ah, but we have insider knowledge! We have learned, above, about Jesus’ non-dualistic and non-hierarchical terminology as compared to Paul and Augustine’s elitist and self-centered Greek meanings of love.
And, for example, we
know from Augustine’s writings that Augustine did not advocate putting an end to slavery; thus he could not have meant putting “other” slaves above himself. Neither did Augustine advocate treating women as equals, let alone treating them as “Others” above himself or other clergy. For Augustine, both slaves and women were classified within the 141
Samuel Meyer, The Deacon and the Jewess: Adventures in Heresy (NY: Philosophical Library, 1982), p.82 [Meyer is quoting from Rabbi Leo Baeck’s The Essence of Judaism]:“St. Augustine said, God and the soul, and nothing else, ‘constitute the whole and true content of religion.’ Judaism could not accept this self-centered faith.”
89 “Things” category: things of Nature to be used as necessary but never loved. Neither did Augustine advocate treating priests as equal to bishops or to the pope within the hierarchy of the Church. Thus, by “Others” Augustine meant only those men who were classified as being on his same level or above his level within the social and political hierarchy. Augustine and the other Doctrine Builders utilized the love hierarchy found in Plato’s ancient writings.
We know, too, that Paul had been influenced by Greek
philosophy. The descending Platonic hierarchical order follows: •
Agape (Paul’s “Charity”) - non-emotional, non-sensuous or non-sensual rational caring for another male.
- brotherly love; emotional caring for a male peer.
- fellowship/partying type of love for one’s male peer.
- sensual/emotional love of the male for the male.
- lust or purely physical desire for the female.
The term “fellowship” gives the code away still today: only “fellows” allowed in the inner circle. And “fellows” are a man’s peers and equals, not those men “beneath” him on the hierarchical ladder (and certainly not women): “Fellow” (Webster’s New Universal Dictionary): 1. originally, a person who shares… 2. an equal; a person of the same class or rank; peer… 3. a man or boy… [emphasis added]. “Fellowship”: Mutual association of persons on equal and friendly terms; …familiar intercourse;…an association of persons having the same tastes…
For a more complete delineation of Plato’s ladder of love, see Plato’s “Symposium” in Great Dialogues of Plato, Eric H. Warmington and Philip G. Rouse, editors, W.H.D. Rouse, translator (NY: New American Library, 1984), pp.69-117.
90 Some modern Christian churches are returning to the ancient term koinonia for their fellowship groupings. Little do the hard working women in the Ladies Aid organizations within the Koinonia Fellowship Groups of the Christian churches suspect that Plato, who advocated homosexual love precisely because females were not worthy of love, explained that the three highest types of love - agape, philia, and koinoina - could never include love of the female because the female did not have a rational soul.
Only the rational
soul, Plato maintained, was worthy of love. Augustine and the other Church Fathers understood that quite well when they wrote systematic theology, for the majority of the Fathers were schooled in Platonic theory.
Even though the laity values the fellowship within the Church, doctrine about the Church appears to value war just as highly. This war logic follows: There is only one God – The Triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. There is only one true religion: Christianity. Since there is only one truth, all other religions are heresies and should not be tolerated. Therefore, crusades, “holy wars” (similar to jihads), just wars, and witchhunts or inquisitions (or more modest modern versions of the same) are appropriate tactics to use in society.
Saint Augustine, circa 400 C.E., produced one of the first drafts of the “Just War” doctrine in order to justify a war he personally instigated against fellow Christians called the Donatists. Most historians agree that Augustine’s clear logic and rhetoric promoting 143
Plato recorded his teacher’s assumptions in the “Symposium,” noted above in footnote #142. This teacher was Socrates who was married because he believed that it was a man’s duty to marry and raise children for the state. Thus, the teaching about love is in actuality a bisexuality: although only elite males are worthy of true love, a man is also required to marry and use women as baby-making machines –as Saint Augustine later said: as things to be used as necessary, but never loved. 144 Encyclopedia of Philosophy, categories “Patristic Philosophy” and “Platonism and the Platonic Tradition.”
91 war enabled the Church to carry out its Crusades and Holy Wars with thorough justification for the slaughter of infidels and heretics (even Christian heretics).
When the church won the wars, it wrote the laws. By the sixth century, church and state were fully united with a common law (that is, a theocracy).
that same era, serious disagreements erupted between Eastern and Western Christianity and continued for almost 500 years until 1054 when a Schism occurred: “…and Christianity divided into two churches, the Eastern or Greek Orthodox Church [under the patriarch at Constantinople] and Western or Roman Catholic Church [under the pope at Rome].” 147
In 1096, the Eastern Church called upon the Western Church to help the East fight the Turks and their Islamic beliefs. “The First Crusade (1096-1097) marked only the beginning of a wave of military expeditions from Western countries to Palestine and Syria over the next two hundred years …The First Crusade was largely an idealistic enterprise, but very quickly crusaders became aware of the rich opportunities for political and economic gains in these eastern lands.” [emphasis added]. 148
After more than six Crusades, all failures, the battles ended in 1291. But, corruption in the Vatican increased to such an extent that by the 1400s “[i]ts ambitions and its aims were like those of other Italian rulers. The papacy became secularized as at no other period in its history, save possibly the tenth century…Political ambition took almost complete control of the papacy…” (emphasis added). 149
146 147 148 149
Encyclopedia of Philosophy, category “Augustine, Saint”; and Peter Brown, Augustine of Hippo: a Biography (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1967) 207-242. Witt, Brown, Dunbar, Tirro, and Witt, op.cit., 263, 269-271. Ibid, 270. Ibid, 271. Williston Walker, op.cit., 283.
92 Throughout the 1400s and 1500s many of the popes were extremely corrupt. Reformers arose within the Church. So, too, did Inquisitions and witch hunts in order to suppress the uprisings and attempted reforms which the Church called heretical.
Martin Luther, a priest who was one such reformer, succeeded where many other reformers had failed precisely because he was supported by his prince who had big political ambitions. Luther’s rebellion started the Protestant Reformation in 1517. In spite of the rebellion, Luther, and other Protestant denominations that followed his lead, kept all of the six basic parts of the Christian systematic theology even though they modified or reinterpreted them in some ways. For example, since Protestants refused to follow the lead of the pope, Protestants changed the interpretation of Jesus installing Peter as the first pope of the Church (Matthew 15:18-19) as follows: Although the institutional church is the locus of Christ’s power, Peter’s faithful insight – that Jesus is Lord – is really the Rock upon which the institution is founded. 151
By the 1600s the Protestant Reformation had gained many followers and states began to gain more power than the church as religious and political wars raised havoc. One compromise in Europe established the law that if one’s prince were Roman Catholic, the parishioner became Catholic, and conversely, if one’s prince were Protestant, the parishioner became Protestant. The persons at the bottom of the hierarchy as usual had no choice in the matter.
By the time of the Enlightenment, secular universities were becoming large and powerful enough to disagree with the religious schools (under the control of the Christian churches) without fear of their scholars being burned at the stake.
150 151 152 153
Ibid, 280-285. See also Margaret Deanesly, op.cit., 255-258. Harper’s Bible Dictionary, category “Peter.” Williston Walker, op.cit., 341-342. Ibid, 429-430.
93 and theologians dared to form a more objective history of Christianity as well as begin to interpret the Bible from a critical, modern perspective without the fear of being hounded by the Inquisition. By the nineteenth century, American seminaries began recognizing the discontinuity or contradiction between Paul and Jesus’ messages. By the late twentieth century, scholars writing for the widely known Jesus Seminar were filling a new and very important niche by providing to the lay person up-to-date data on biblical interpretation and Christian history, in clear and understandable language.
Just as the social history of the Church’s biblical studies followed a path of blood and struggle until modern times, so too, did the social history of separation of church and state. Given that Christian systematic theology was established for the purpose of the church maintaining control over the state by means of a theocracy with an hierarchical system of order whenever and wherever it was and is legally possible, Christian systematic theology did not and still does not value separation of church and state. Political and social realities, however, sometimes forced the church to compromise over the two thousand years of Christian history. Many battles were fought for dominance. Sometimes the church won these battles; sometimes the state or king or prince won.
In fact, the Christian Church and state originally viewed separation of church and state as a type of terrorism! Historian Williston Walker tells us of the first Christian group to practice separation of church and state. Nicknamed Anabaptists (Christians who denied the validity of their infant baptism and insisted upon being 154
See Appendix I on the Jesus Seminar. A book critical of systematic theology, such as this book, builds upon the work of the Jesus Seminar which is critical of biblical studies related to Jesus. 155 For example see The Encyclopedia of Politics and Religion, 1998, category “Freedom of Religion, Christian Beginnings.” See also David C. Korten, The Great Turning From Empire to Earth Community (Berrett-Koeher Publishers, Inc.) 2006, pp159-170 for a summary of separation of church/state in the U.S.
94 rebaptized as adults), this group at first followed Martin Luther and later moved beyond his reforms of the early sixteenth century: They refused to have any part in state-churches…They chose rather to set themselves apart in free communities and conventicles of their own. Thus they were the first to practice the separation of church and state. It was chiefly on account of this non-conformism that they were subjected to persecution [usually drowned as an appropriate punishment]. Their sectarianism was interpreted as an expression of hostility to ordered society. (emphasis added). 156
If we needed even more proof that the primary purpose of doctrine is political rather than spiritual, this bit of history, emphasized above, shows us that both church and state viewed separation of church and state as possible terrorism, even if no violence of any kind occurred or was intended. Today, some of our extreme right-wing political and religious leaders express similar sentiments. The Encyclopedia of Politics and Religion tells us that “[m]uch of the history of Western Europe revolved around the relationship between the papacy (spiritual power) and various secular governments (temporal power)….[No matter which side gained the upper hand], secular rulers attempt[ed] to influence selection of religious leaders and enforce religious laws, and clerics attempt[ed] to influence the selection of secular rulers.”
Finally, some leaders decided that separation of church and church was the
way to proceed in order to solve the power struggle. Often the church versus state argument centers upon whether moral religious or moral secular interests brought civil rights to the forefront. Many historians maintain that ending of slavery, granting of voting rights and civil rights to former slaves, Native Americans, and women, 156 157
Williston Walker, op.cit., 327. The Encyclopedia of Politics and Religion, 1998, category “Separation of church and state: a potent, dynamic idea in political theory.”
95 access to public education (including education of women and of the lower classes), acceptance of scientific advances, prison and mental hospital reform, and rights for labor were brought about by secular forces and very liberal or even heretical Christian churches before conservative, mainstream Christian churches would consider such issues.
We have seen that systematic theology’s doctrine of the Church is highly political with theocracy as its goal. That doctrine does encourage and sometimes even insists upon paying of one’s tithe (10 percent of one’s income) to the church. In a theocracy in which church and state are together, the tithe is a flat tax upon gross income that is paid to God (read His Church and priests). In turn, the church in a theocracy is to take care of the poor and other social problems. Historically, this is one of the main reasons that the taxes of religious institutions were waived.
In the non-theocratic
United States, however, three recent presidents have greatly restricted the state/nation’s role in welfare for the poor and needy, but churches have not picked up the slack even 158
Walter Rauschenbusch, Christianity and the Social Crisis, edited by Robert D. Cross (NY: Harper & Row 1964), Chapter IV “Why Has Christianity Never Undertaken the Work of Social Reconstruction?; Karl Mannheim, Ideology and Utopia (NY: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich) 1936, entirety; Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed (NY: The Seabury Press) 1970 entirety. See also: The Encyclopedia of Politics and Religion, 1998, categories: “Morality,” “Secularization,” “Human Rights,” “Separation of Church and State,” “Freedom of Religion,” and “Friends, Society of (Quakers).” See also The Encyclopedia of Philosophy and its Supplement, categories “American Philosophy” (especially its subcategories of Deism, Humanism, Transcendentalism, Dewey, Darwinism and evolution); “Ethics, History of,” “Ethics, Problems of,” “Ethical Relativism,” and “Religion and Morality” (especially its subcategories of Christianity and western ethics, Supernatural sanctions and moral behavior, Religion and the content of morality, and Does morality point to religion?); “Feminist Ethics,” “Feminist Legal Theory,” “Feminist Social and Political Philosophy,” “Feminist Philosophy” (especially its subcategory Feminist values), “Women in the History of Philosophy,” “Religion and Science” and “Peace, War, and Philosophy.” 159 The fascinating topic of the tithe is covered in great detail in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, vol.4, 1988, category “Tithe”; Encyclopedia of Religion, Vol.14, 1987, category “Tithes”; The Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol.6, 1992, category “Tithe”; The Catholic Encyclopedia, category “Tithes”; and The New Catholic Encyclopedia, category “Tithes.” Today’s religious taxation issue is far less clear and many contradictions and exceptions are noted in The Encyclopedia of Politics and Religion, 1998, category “Taxation”; Leo Pfeffer’s, “Religious Exemptions” and Dean M. Kelley’s “The Supreme Court Redefines Tax Exemption,” in Social Science and Modern Society, May/June 1984.
96 though they pay no taxes. President George W. Bush has instead initiated a faith-based social program in which some eligible churches and ministers receive payment from the government to help relieve poverty and other social ills! Scarily unfair! Theocracy devalues social justice but loves social action and the tithe. Social action is charity connected to the desire to help the church save a person’s soul. Social justice, on the other hand, may or may not include charity, but always strives or works toward changing political and social conditions which keep people in poverty and ill health and unable to work or find affordable housing. Systematic theology does not promise, nor strive for, social justice in the Church. However, it does promise another type of justice, as we shall learn in the next chapter.
97 CHAPTER TEN: “We’re Marching To Zion” (Christian Hymn about the Doctrine of End Times or Ultimate Things)
Christian systematic theology about End Times or Ultimate Things was culled from scriptures in both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible and written during the 160
period preceding the miserable Dark Ages.
In that period wars were almost a constant
state of affairs. Many women died in child bearing. Twenty to thirty years was the average life expectancy for those in the lower classes who could expect nothing but drudgery, poverty, sickness, and mistreatment by the upper classes. Yet the people in the lower classes were expected to pay their tithe, a ten percent religious and secular tax of their meager income, to the Christian Church which was integrated with the state. To quell any grumblings, grievances, or any possibility of uprisings or rebellions, and to give the people at least some hope, Church doctrine developed a lively supernatural Star Warslike scenario about Jesus’ Second Coming to the earth. This Second Coming was coupled with a promise that justice would come – sometime – in the future. The Doctrine Builders who wrote this futuristic doctrine gave it three Greek names: eschatology, the study of last, final, or ultimate things, such as death, judgment, end of the world, and immortality; apocalypse, a future time when all secret things, all mysteries, would be uncovered and revealed – judgment, too, was prophesied for this future time; and
Texts are scattered throughout Ezekiel, Daniel, Joel, Amos, Zephaniah, Isaiah, II Maccabees, Malachi, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, some of Paul’s letters, and Revelation. 161 Carl Sagan, The Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence (NY: Random House, 1977), 236-237, notes that this doctrinal era causes and “marks the beginning of the Dark Ages in Europe.” For the entire quotation, see Appendix III on the Science-Religion Split.
98 parousia, a close presence or appearance; interpreted as the appearance of Jesus, coming to the earth for the second time in the Last Days. 162
For this extravaganza of justice, judgment, and Second Comings, the Church Fathers blended together special controversial scriptures that were written in coded, metaphorical and fantastical language. Ironically, what Christian systematic theology teaches about Jesus’ Second Coming at the End of Time opposes most of what the Church taught about Jesus’ message the first time he lived on earth.
The Gospel or Good News stories in the Bible
described how Jesus appeared as a newborn infant, that he came in love and meekness, that he associated with the sick, the poor, and the sinful – often without condemning or judging them. Finally, Jesus even willingly let himself be sacrificed for sinners. BUT, it’s not going to be so nicey-nice the second time around! Christian systematic theology harshly proclaims that Jesus will come as a fierce warrior, a role he rejected the first time around. As a leader in battle, this warrior will no longer teach us that love is the way, but that war is the only way to solve problems! In The Second Coming, Jesus will not be a loving shepherd of lost sheep, but a frightening judge who decides which person gets sent up to heaven and which person is dragged down to the torments of hell. Finally, there will be justice, administered by a fearsome Judge who is no longer a loving Savior. This warrior judge will put on a magnificent show: a great battle between good and evil will take place. But, if we’re saved, we don’t need to worry. There is no doubt
Harper’s Bible Dictionary, categories “Eschatology,” “Apocalyptic literature,” “Millennium,” and “Parousia.” 163 Although the theology contradicts the message of Jesus, it does not contradict Paul’s message about Jesus as the Christ.
99 as to the outcome: good Christian nations will win; evil non-Christian nations will lose. The world will end in fire – what a dreadful slash and burn anti-Nature view! Still no need for the Christian to worry – Jesus will magically and miraculously create a new heaven and a new earth. As the divine Christ, Jesus will appear in the sky in a parousia, a Second Coming to the earth. The dead will be miraculously raised or resurrected from their burial plots. This will be Justice and magically easy ecology! There is one catch to this coded worldview. This is not social justice.
it sensible ecology. Rather, this is an other-worldly ecology and justice, which will occur magically or miraculously sometime – perhaps today, perhaps tomorrow, or perhaps in thousands or millions of years. In addition, this scenario is filled with biblical contradictions. One of the contradictions that caused the most trouble (after the 1700s when some of the common people could read the Bible for themselves) had to do with the “Millennium” question: [“Millennium”] refers to the [thousand-year] period …described in Rev.20: 1-8 during which ‘the dragon, the old serpent, which is the Devil and Satan,’ was to be bound, making possible a universal blessedness. During this period Christ would reign… … Premillennarians and Postmillennarians divide on the question whether the return of Christ, the establishing of his universal reign, and the resurrection of the redeemed, will precede or follow the millennium. 165
When they wrote this doctrine, the Church Fathers did not make use of Jesus’ message. Biblical scholars tell us that much of Jesus’ own message did not emphasize the End Times, but instead focused mainly upon an earthly and a psychological Kingdom
Some courageous Christian groups have worked for social justice in spite of the doctrine. For example, see Appendix IV on social justice movements including Liberation Theology. See also Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, category “Social Gospel.” 165 Harper’s Bible Dictionary, category “Millennium.”
100 of God.
This kingdom could and would happen in the real world, but only if a person
operated ethically. Jesus, more often than not, had made salvation dependent upon an “if… then…” condition such as: “if you behave justly and act morally and ethically, then you will obtain the reward of salvation.” Jesus insisted upon social justice, not mere belief. See, for example, Matthew 7: 21, 16: 27, and 19: 21: Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven; or For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels: and then he shall reward every man according to his works; or Jesus said unto him, ‘If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.’ [emphasis added]. Because of conflicting ideas about Last Things in the Bible, the Doctrine Builders were easily able to ignore or distort Jesus’ message of social justice. Modern biblical scholars tell us that at least nine contradictory ideas about End Times can be found in Scripture. These nine may be grouped into three main categories: I. Eschatology/salvation/justice as a future event, II. Eschatology/salvation/justice as a present event, and III. Eschatology/salvation/justice as both a present and a future event.
Although Christian Doctrine focused upon only the first choice, biblical scholars advise that the Church Fathers could have utilized several alternate possibilities for their doctrine of End Times: 166
For example, see The God of the Early Christians, by Arthur Cushman McGiffert (NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1925). In this book, McGiffert compares the message of Jesus with the doctrine of Saint Paul and the later theologians, the Church Fathers, to show that Jesus emphasized moral reform of his Jewish religion and encouraged people to strive for an earthly moral and ethical kingdom of God. Please also refer to Appendix I on The Jesus Seminar. 167 The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, Supplementary Volume, categories “Eschatology of the New Testament,” “Apocalypse, genre,” and “Apocalypticism.”
101 o End Times will occur very soon, at the time of Jesus’ imminent Second Coming, but only after a period of extreme tribulation on earth; o Eschatology occurs in the present day by way of possession by the Holy Spirit, forgiveness of sins, feelings of joy, and speaking in tongues (glossolalia - a language used when a person enters into a trance state or altered state of mind); o Eschatology occurs in the present day, but its salvation and justice are only for believers in Christ who already mystically or magically possess eternal life and are already saved from eternal punishment by this belief; o The Last Days will come in a cosmic, metaphysical fashion, with mental and intellectual revelations, spiritual salvation and forgiveness of sins; o End Times happen only within the Church, the Body of Christ, not within the broader, worldly society; and o Last Days have already come and the kingdom of God already is a reality, but in an individual, psychological fashion which happens at a different stage, time, and place for each person. 168
Because Christian doctrine allowed no contradictions, the Patriarchs manipulated the above conflicting biblical ideas into one composite code acceptable to the institution. Jesus’ social justice emphasis was disregarded. Scholars know and admit this fact even though the Church keeps this knowledge a secret from the average person: Christian apocalyptic theology did not originate with Jesus, but in the post-Easter enthusiasm of the primitive [Christian] church… … As a result [of these doctrinal manipulations], the cosmic-universal and socialpolitical dimensions of the apocalyptic worldview are eliminated from Jesus’ message and from early Christian theology. Moreover, the whole discussion demonstrates that exegetical results depend largely on the systematic presuppositions and interests with which scholars approach the texts… It is not the message of the historical Jesus, but rather the Christian kerygma [or doctrine] that has an apocalyptic context. (emphasis added). 169
Ibid. See also footnote # 162, above. The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, Supplementary Volume, category “Eschatology of the New Testament.”
102 In plain language, what these quotations from various biblical dictionaries and encyclopedias tell us is that although Jesus himself taught certain things about the End Times, Christian systematic theology eliminated Jesus’ message and substituted its own point of view, for its own coded political purposes. [Such arrogance on the part of the Doctrine Builders is horrifying, given the resultant centuries of religious terrorism and deliberate destruction of natural resources in war or peacetime in the name of Jesus]. Today some American religious politicians are again using apocalyptic messages for their own purposes. Most of them are not using the model the Church Fathers chose. They are using a modern model called “The Rapture” which was engineered by American evangelical fundamentalist preachers.
An historian suggests
that what is new and unusual is that America seems to be developing a very overt religious foreign policy based in part upon this “Rapture” model.
[Read: “It’s o.k. to
start a pre-emptive war against a non-Christian nation; or, it’s o.k. to ignore global warming and pollution of our air and water, for the Rapture is coming”]. In addition, the doctrine of the Second Coming has also been used in our modern era to discourage participation of American Christians in the somewhat liberal World Council of Churches, in the earlier League of Nations, and in the later multi-national, multi-religious United Nations.
The doctrinal logic behind these political ploys that use “Rapture” code is: Since a Christian nation must not be influenced by, or share control with, nations in which non-Christian religions hold sway as it prepares for the End Times; and 170
The Encyclopedia of Protestantism, 2004, category “Rapture.” The Encyclopedia of Protestantism, 2004, category “Rapture”; see also Flo Conway and Jim Siegelman, Holy Terror: The Fundamentalist War on America’s Freedoms in Religion, Politics, and Our Private Lives (NY: Dell Publishing Co., Inc., 1984) pp. 108,145, 158, 174, 245. 172 Flo Conway and Jim Siegelman, op.cit. 171
103 since a Christian nation must always practice control over non-Christian nations; therefore, political unilateralism rather than a multi-national, ecumenical, compromising spirit must be the path a Christian nation should follow. Such information helps us to understand that “eschatology,” “second coming,” “the Rapture,” and “judgment day” signify political and anti-Nature code words for the continual postponing of earthly social justice, and for the continued use of abusive environmental policies. These code words and their magical but violent scenario promise much but actually encourage passivity because they present justice as occurring miraculously in the after-life, on an otherworldly plane in a distant or far distant time frame. None of these beliefs encourages humans to work or strive for social justice, now, on earth. Neither do these beliefs encourage persons to work for a healthy environment. The above End of the World scenario, which the Church Fathers meant to be very terrifying for non-Christians and very satisfying for Christians, brings us to the end of our scary story. We have broken the key codes and uncovered the main assumptions of Christian systematic theology. The result is a hideous picture of power and control, injustice, and a totally destroyed natural environment. Are there alternative paths we can take? Yes, Chapter Eleven sets forth some positive possibilities.
104 CHAPTER ELEVEN: Summary and Positive Possibilities.
Our Scary Story is over. The curtain has closed on the six acts of the Christian systematic theology. After examining these six categories of Christian teachings in systematic form, we are now able to break the Christian code. We understand that church leaders wrote their dogma and doctrine as a coded overarching political, economic, social, and scientific system as well as a theocratic religious belief. By today’s standards, the knowledge upon which that systematic doctrine was constructed is very narrow, simplistic, and not necessarily ethical or correct. The men who wrote Christian systematic theology were highly educated for their day but their knowledge was greatly limited because of the era in which they lived.
All the ancient cosmological, anthropological, biological, geological, and geographical assumptions that the Church Fathers accepted as absolutely true have changed and are no longer considered accurate by today’s standards. The ancient scientific assumptions have been replaced, have radically evolved and continue to evolve.
As science changed, doctrine about creation-out-of-nothing should have
changed because of its own internal logic. But systematic theology refused to change. Instead, doctrine’s response was the science-religion split that occurred during the Enlightenment. (See Appendix III for further discussion of this science-religion dichotomy.)
For example, see Encyclopedia of Science and Religion, 2 vols., 2003, category “Science and Religion, History of Field.” 174 Recent scientific books can help us understand the new worldview. One such book is The Tangled Wing: Biological Constraints on the Human Spirit by Melvin Konner (NY: Henry Holt and Company. 1982). Covering a vast amount of scientific data, Konner integrates the new scientific data and applies this material to humanity and our vast web of interconnectedness in this universe. Konner’s aim, he tells us, is like that of Galileo’s aim: “to set a limit on error.”
105 In addition to the above noted modern secular changes to the ancient scientific doctrinal assumptions, modern secular thought about human nature has also changed, evolved, and become much more complex. For example, today’s psychology and anthropology have ignored or discarded their ancient assumptions behind Christian doctrine of human nature. An explosion of new psychological and anthropological theories occurred throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Theories continue to proliferate.
In the twenty-first century, psychological data is being combined with new
data in the field of neurology. Such new theories would also logically require a change in systematic theology’s doctrine about human nature. Modern secular ethical theories, too, have changed as modern science and psychology have changed. Ethical studies no longer claim, for example, that only Christians have the ability to act morally and make ethical decisions. Now, ethicists take physical and mental maturity, neurological status, cultural standards, gender, and so forth into account as they propound their ethical theories.
Such new information, when
applied to Christian ideas of morality and ethics related to the redemption or salvation of sinful human nature should logically require a change in systematic theology. No such change occurs; theology remains static.
For a discussion of some of these theories see, for example, Charles Hampden-Turner, Maps of the Mind (NY: Collier Books, 1982). 176 For example, see the Western history of ethics in the text: Denise Peterfreund, Great Traditions in Ethics, 7th edition (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Co, 1992); its introduction summarizes the issues. For the developmental perspective regarding ethics, see, for example, Jean Piaget, The Child’s Conception of the World (Totowa, NJ: Littlefield, Adams, & Co., 1965); Lawrence Kohlberg ,“The CognitiveDevelopmental Approach to Moral Education,” in Phi Delta Kappan, (June, 1975); Lawrence Kohlberg, “From Is to Ought: How to Commit the Naturalistic Fallacy and Get Away With It in the Study of Moral Development,” in Cognitive Development and Epistemology (NY: Academic Press, 1971); and Carol Gilligan, In a Different Voice (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1982).
106 Similarly, because modern academic studies in metaphysics and philosophy, too, have produced new information and theories, such new data, logically, should have required changes in systematic theology’s doctrines of God/Trinity, Redemption, and End Times. But no change occurs. Most believing parishioners, who faithfully occupy the same church pew every Sunday, do not realize that many Christian seminaries today teach priests and preachersto-be courses in metaphysics, theology, and philosophy of religion which have been greatly influenced by modern and post-modern secular ideas. Some of this information argues that any kind of metaphysics involves internal, psychological reality rather than external reality. When we crack the code words, this means that our own psyche or self imagines a God who may or may not exist outside of ourselves. Christianity used to insist that metaphysics (knowledge found beyond or outside of physics) cannot be proved or disproved in a scientific sense, and that it cannot be argued or analyzed in a real world sense.
But this does not mean that scientists cannot
or should not study religion and should not question theology, doctrine, and dogma. See Appendix III for an historical summary of the Science/Religion split or dichotomy. We now have available far more information about metaphysics than we did two thousand years ago. Just a library or an Internet away, we can now find knowledge about thousands of gods and goddesses, many Christ figures, many trinities, many types of saviors, vastly differing scriptures, and various contradictory scenarios about the future or life after death found throughout a plurality of world religions and their
Encyclopedia of Philosophy, categories “Metaphysics, History of” and “Metaphysics, Nature of.” However, many of the New Age groups and churches disagree and do try to prove their various versions of metaphysical beliefs by way of more modern scientific theories such as relativity and quantum mechanics.
Few Christians study in depth either their own or these other religions.
Such knowledge should change systematic theology; but its status quo never budges. Because logic is absolutely crucial to Christian doctrine and its metaphysics, modern changes in logic, too, should have caused changes in doctrine. The Church Fathers, for example, utilized Aristotle’s ancient dualistic “either…or…” logic when they wrote Christian doctrine.
This “either…or…” logic is perfectly rational if and only if
we assume that there is a hierarchy, a divine order, that envisions a “higher” realm of spirit separated from a “lower” realm of matter. The result of this “either…or…” thought is a split or dualism between soul and body, between mind and body, between Spirit and Matter, between science and religion, and between sacred and secular. Christian doctrine did and still does logically assume such an either…or… dualism.
Such a dichotomy is
harmful to the health of our human selves and that of our planet. A more wholistic logic and picture of the world is urgently needed. Present day logicians and philosophers no longer consider Aristotle’s form of argument as logically accurate.
Dr. Douglas Low, for example, a philosopher and
specialist in the thought of the modern philosopher Merleau-Ponty, argues for the importance of a “both…and…” logic. Dr. Low thinks that “both…and…” logic produces a more ethical and accurate system than the Aristotelian “either…or… logic.” 178
For example, see Ways to the Center: an Introduction to World Religions, 4th edition, by Denise Carmody and John Carmody (Mountainview, CA: Mayfield Publishing Co., 1990), chapters 10 and 11; and The Concise Encyclopedia of Living Faiths, edited by R.C. Zaehner (Hutchinson of London, 1959). See also Barbara G. Walker, The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, categories “Christos,” “Religion,” “Savior,” and “Trinity.” 179 Encyclopedia of Philosophy, categories “Laws of Thought,” “Logic, History of,” and “Logic, Traditional.” 180 Ibid. See also A Lexicon of St. Thomas Aquinas, Roy E. Defferari, Sister M. Invioleta, and Barry McGuiness, editors (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 1948) pp. 233, 235-236, 775. 181 See: Irving M. Copi and Carl Cohen, Introduction to Logic, 8th edition (NY: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1990), pp. 71-72, 183-184. 182 Douglas Low, “The Foundation of Merleau-Ponty’s Ethical Theory,” in Human Studies 17, pp.173-187, Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1984, and Douglas Low, Merleau-Ponty’s Last Vision, (Evanston,
108 Even after we consider all the new information that should have resulted in changes in Christian systematic theology’s six-part schemata – but did not do so – we need to consider what possibilities await in the future regarding doctrine and dogma. The following topics may stimulate the readers conscience and imagination. Dr. Fritz Buri of Basel, Switzerland, a world-renowned expert on Christian systematic theology, breaks the Christian code by pointing out that the Church Fathers who wrote doctrine and dogma were really giving us an insight into their own beliefs about power and control, egotism, and political-economic relationships. Buri explains religious code by stating, “Since doctrine and dogma are made up of symbols, these symbols express the author’s self understanding and his own insight into the meaning of absolute transcendence, personal ego, and the economic relationships of persons in community.” Buri warns us that, “If we do not distinguish these ancient symbols and metaphors from final and absolute truth (that a human can never know), we run the risk of pathological thinking similar to the kind that occurs in schizophrenia!” Dr. Buri also declares that two thousand years of such dogmatism have brought the Christian world to “a crisis of irresponsibility.” Many Christians act irresponsibly in their daily lives because of the “cheap grace,” “easy forgiveness,” and “cheap hope” systematic theology has promoted.
“True doctrine,” Buri cries, “is a by-product of our actions.” He explains: “We encounter God in acting responsibly; thus, hope is a product of our responsible behavior, rather than the prior cause of our actions.”
Buri reminds us: “Humans have no final
Illinois: Northwestern University Press, 2000). Fritz Buri, How Can We Still Speak Responsibly of God? Translated by Charley D. Hardwick (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1968), discussion recorded in class notes, Iliff School of Theology, Fall Quarter, 1982. 184 Ibid. Dr. Buri also noted that the issue of lack of responsibility in Christian doctrine could also be found in his books Thinking Faith (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1968) and Theology of Existence, translated by 183
109 solution.” He encourages us, therefore, to “realize the contradictions of life and decide, at each moment and in each situation, what is the best and most responsible action we can take.”
As such, this would be a responsible teaching we would be wise to emulate. Dr. Anne Wilson Schaef has a similar point of view in her books Living in
Process and Addictive Organization: Another key to Living in Process is the willingness to take responsibility for our knowing, our own internal truth, our healing, and ultimately, for our lives…Taking responsibility for our lives means accepting the reality of our lives, healing, learning, integrating, and moving on [from blame]. 186
Living in Process is rooted in and connected to making conscious choices. We are actors in our life, not just reactors. When we do react, we recognize that the reactions are ours and take responsibility for them. (emphasis added). 187
…[T]here is no one way to change the…addictive organization. There is no right answer. [The Christian Church, unfortunately, can be an addictive organization, Schaef advises]. 188
Susan Jacoby, author of Freethinkers, A History of American Secularism (Metropolitan Books, 2004), also speaks powerfully about responsibility and the importance of separation of church and state. In addition, she reminds us that it is the failure to examine assumptions that causes the greatest social harm: …[A]n indispensable condition for the successes of the ultraconservative minority is the larger American public’s unexamined assumption that religion per se is, and always must be, a benign influence H.H. Oliver and Gerhard Onder (Greenwood, SC: The Attic Press, 1965). 185 Fritz Buri, How Can We Still Speak Responsibly of God? op.cit. Dr. Buri is referring especially to pages 50-63 and the appendix. 186 Anne Wilson Schaef, Living in Process: Basic Truths For Living the Path of the Soul (NY: Ballentine Wellspring, 1999), 111. 187 Ibid, 119. 188 Anne Wilson Schaef and Diane Fassel, The Addictive Organization, (Harper SanFrancisco, 1990), 212. See also pages 122-124, and Section III. Other applicable works by Anne Wilson Schaef are Women’s Reality, (Harper SanFrancisco,1981, 1992), chapter 7; Co-Dependence, Misunderstood-Mistreated (Harper SanFrancisco, 1986), pages 57, 84-87, 89-90; When Society Becomes An Addict (Harper SanFrancisco, 1988), pages 23, 31-33, 51-52, 90-92; Escape From Intimacy (Harper SanFrancisco, 1989), pages 22-24, 39-40, 43-44, 70-71, 76-77, 86-87,96-97, 100.
110 on society. The extreme right has exploited that assumption brilliantly and succeeded in tarring opponents of faith-based adventurism as enemies of all religion, as atheists, as ‘relativists.’ It takes a drastic example of religion’s potential to do either public or private harm…to shake the general American faith in all religion as a positive social force…The problem, of course, is not religion, of whatever brand, as a spiritual force but religion melded with political ideology and political power. Since the religiously correct do not acknowledge any danger in mixing religion and politics, evil acts committed in the name of religion must always be dismissed as the dementia of criminals and psychopaths. (pp.355-6). By means of delineating the social and political assumptions of Christian teachings, this book, God Is Not Green: The Scary Story of Christian Systematic Theology, has demonstrated that Christian systematic theology is not just a religious belief but also a coded political system – which causes very serious problems, as Jacoby says, above. A religious doctrine is an ideology or worldview. Worldviews may be positive and just if we can crack their codes, and if such information is accessible to the general populace and its democratic input. Such worldviews must also be subject to the checks and balances of a wall of separation between church and state. When such separation is in place, we are better able to examine our own internal and external realities. As Joel Kramer and Diane Alstad advise in The Guru Papers: …[The new must be open to challenge and self-correction via one’s own experience]…it is essential for any viable model to promote people trusting themselves sufficiently to value their own experiences, instead of accepting unexamined assumptions and values. 189
Our study of the scary story of Christian systematic theology enables us to check out assumptions upon which it is based, thereby breaking its code. As a result, we 189
Joel Kramer and Diane Alstad, The Guru Papers, Masks of Authoritarian Power. (Berkeley, CA: Frog Ltd. 1983, 2.
111 may make our own individual ethical choices, and act morally responsible in carrying out these choices. When we must make ethical choices as a group, our decisions can be enhanced by our better understanding of the necessity for separation of church and state.
policies regarding crucial ecological and environmental issues, for example, require such separation of powers. As we have seen in this scary story of systematic theology, God Is Not Green, and we want to avoid the End Times scenario of destruction of our world.
For an excellent source for understanding the issue of separation of church and state see The Godless Constitution, by Isaac Kramnick and R. Laurence Moore (NY: W.W. Norton & Company, 1997). These authors emphasize both freedom of and freedom from religion, arguing carefully and without rancor against Stephen L. Carter’s The Culture of Disbelief (NY: Doubleday Anchor Books, 1994). Carter maintains that our First Amendment does not allow us freedom from religion. For a precise Christian perspective see The Catholic Encyclopedia, category “State and Church.” See also The Encyclopedia of Politics & Religion, Vol.2, category “Separation of Church & State”; Encyclopedia of Religion and Society, category “Christian Right”; and the Introduction of The Encyclopedia of Politics and Religion, Vol.1. See also footnotes # 155-158.
APPENDIX I THE JESUS SEMINAR: Only in modern and post-modern times have scholars of Christian theology and biblical studies come to the recognition that Christian doctrine utilized St. Paul’s message about Jesus rather than the message of Jesus. Theologians and biblical scholars have recognized this discontinuity and contradiction in the Christian tradition since the nineteenth century. Arthur Cushman McGiffert speaks to this fact in his early twentieth century book The God of the Early Christians (NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1925), chapter one. Bible scholars of the Jesus Seminar are some of the persons focusing upon differentiating the message about Jesus from the message of Jesus. The Jesus Seminar is a relatively recent group of biblical scholars who expose the contradictions and lack of historical accuracy in Christian scripture. Thus, as this book uncovers and reveals the usually hidden factual social history of systematic theology, it makes use of some of the writings of The Jesus Seminar which decodes the New Testament scriptures. What is most remarkable about the Jesus Seminar is that their writings are directed to church parishioners and to the public square rather than to fellow Bible scholars and to academia. For example, Robert W. Funk, Roy W. Hoover and The Jesus Seminar speak the following words taken from The Five Gospels: the Search for the Authentic Words of Jesus (Harper SanFrancisco, 1993), pages 1-4, 7-8, and 34-35: Academic folk…have too long buried our considered views of Jesus and the gospels in technical jargon and in obscure journals. We have hesitated to contradict TV evangelists and pulp religious authors for fear of political reprisal and public controversy…It is time for us to quit the library and speak up. [emphasis added] The level of public knowledge of the Bible borders on the illiterate…The public is poorly informed of the assured results of critical scholarship although these results are commonly taught in colleges, universities and seminaries.
113 The fundamentalist mentality generated a climate of inquisition that made honest scholarly judgments dangerous [in the not too distant past, and at the present time]… Many Protestant scholars are reentering [the dark ages of theological tyranny] as a consequence of the dictatorial tactics of …fundamentalisms….Latter-day inquisitors… have gone witch-hunting for scholars who did not pass their litmus tests.
This book, God Is Not Green: The Scary Story of Christian Systematic Theology, presents an additional necessary step beyond the biblical scholarship of the Jesus Seminar. This next step is the revealing and uncovering of the coded social and political nature of Christian doctrine. Such information has been kept an even more closely guarded secret from the average person than biblical information has been has been kept secret. Just as the Jesus Seminar directs its writings to the public square, so, too, does God Is Not Green…. For excellent Jesus Seminar books that have special relevance to the information presented in God Is Not Green… please refer to: 1. Honest to Jesus by Robert W. Funk (Harper San Francisco 1996), pp.2, 6, 20, 35, 43, 202, 219, 223, 234, 238, 282, 309-314;
2. The Lost Gospel: The Book of Q and Christian Origins, by Burton L. Mack (San Francisco: Harper Collins Publishers, 1993), 1-11; and
3. The Jesus of the Sayings Gospel Q, by James M. Robinson (The Claremont Graduate School: The Institute for Antiquity and Christianity: Occasional Papers Number 28, 1993), 16.
For additional pertinent Jesus Seminar books, see also:
The Gospel According to Jesus, by Stephen Mitchell (NY: Harper Collins, 1991), pp. 4041, 56-57, 186-187, 190-191;
The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions, by Marcus Borg versus N.T. Wright (NY: Harper Collins, 1999); and
The Historical Jesus, by John Dominic Crossan (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1991).
The publication of the Jesus Seminar is titled: Fourth R: an Advocate for Religious Literacy (Westar Institute, P.O. Box 6144, Santa Rosa, CA 95406). TIME magazine, April 8, 1996, pp.52-60, also carried a piece about the Jesus Seminar.
114 APPENDIX II HIERARCHY and SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE. A. Hierarchy: As one of the most important of the Christian code words, hierarchy is a fairly easy code to crack by simply knowing its meaning and social history. The Church claims the right to rule over the state by the concept called “hierarchy.” The term comes from the Greek: hieros meaning “sacred or divine,” and archein meaning “rule, order, or command.” The Catholic Encyclopedia, category “Hierarchy,” says: He [God] established His Church as a visible, external, and perfect society, hence He conferred on its hierarchy the right to legislate for the good of that society. For this double purpose, the sanctification of souls and the good or welfare of religious society, the hierarchy of jurisdiction is endowed with the following rights: • The right to judge how the faithful observe these laws, i.e., judicial power; • The right to enforce obedience, and to punish disobedience to its laws, i.e., coercive power; • The right to make all due provision for the proper celebration of worship, i.e., administrative power. • Furthermore, with the power of jurisdiction there should be connected the right to exercise the power of order. (emphasis added).
Thus, literally and objectively it is immediately clear that the Church functions politically as a non-democratic government. When permitted to do so, the Church claims the right to rule over the state as well as over the society within the Church. Only our separation of church and state keeps this from being enforced in the United States. Historically, it was not just Roman Catholics who valued hierarchy. Many Protestants, too, loved hierarchy and theocracy as much as Catholics valued the practice. Protestant Reformer John Calvin, for example, established Geneva, Switzerland, as his own theocratic, hierarchical dominion with himself, as the clergyperson, as the head of state. Martin Luther, on the other hand, had to share power with the German princes because they had given him military support when he broke away from the Roman Catholic pope and established the Protestant group which became the Lutheran Church.
115 For our current American use of hierarchy, see the ancient Masonic symbol of hierarchy applied to our American Republic by means of the symbol found on the onedollar bill. The pyramid shape and its various levels, plus the eye of God at the apex of the pyramid, symbolize the nation as a hierarchical Republic – one nation under God! [This term “under God” is not in the constitution of the US. The term is a political one established in 1954]. If we do not value this type of hierarchy, separation of church and state is the answer.
B. Separation of Church and State: The Catholic Encyclopedia, category “State and Church,” published in the early twentieth century, makes it absolutely clear that, ideally, there should not be any separation of church and state. Although the facts are clear, they are still very scary coded facts, for they are not preached from the pulpit, but hidden in church encyclopedias that the average person never reads: (a) Church is higher on the hierarchical ladder or pyramid than is the State. (b) The state should yield to the Church. (c) Although the Church may extend its powers “in a measure” into the domain of the State, the State may never extend “upward” into the domain of the Church! (d) The Church has rights whether or not the State approves of these rights. (e) The Church has the right to decide for her people what is right and what is wrong. (f) Although the State is permitted to decide temporal matters for its citizens, in spiritual matters, the Church holds full power to the exclusion of the State. (g) However, the Church gets to decide or judge “when a question does or does not involve spiritual matters, either purely or in part.”
116 (h) “The State is even under obligation to promote the spiritual interests of the Church….” (i) Union of Church and State “…is in principle the normal and ethically proper condition for a truly Catholic State” (that is, when there is no separation of Church and State, the Church has complete authority). (j) When harm is caused by the union of Church and State, it is never the fault of the Church: “That in practice it has in the past sometimes worked evil to both Church and State, is an accidental effect consequent upon the frailty and passion of the human instruments then ruling in Church, or in State, or in both.” (emphasis added). When Pope John Paul II finally apologized in 2000 for the complicity of the Church in the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Holocaust, burning of witches, and other horrors, the pope was careful to blame only individuals, not the Church institution, per se! [National Public Radio, Morning Edition news on March 19, 2000, carefully noted this differentiation]. A second example of Roman Catholicism fighting against separation of church and state occurred in 1960. The Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano published an editorial which applied to anti Marxism and to John F. Kennedy being the first Roman Catholic to run for President of the U.S.: “The Church, has full powers of true jurisdiction over all the faithful and hence has the duty and the right to guide, direct and correct them on the plane of ideas and the plane of action… The Church has the duty and the right to intervene even in (the political) field to enlighten and help consciences…A Catholic can never prescind the teachings and directives of the Church. In every sector of his activities he must inspire his private and public conduct by the laws, orientation and instructions of the hierarchy.” (Time, May 30, 1960, “Religion: Dogma & Politics”), 43. [emphasis added]. Today, 2009, we are in great danger of losing our separation of church and state in these United States of America. An office of faith-based social services is established even inside the White House.
117 APPENDIX III THE SCIENCE-RELIGION SPLIT: The elite leaders of the Christian Church who wrote systematic theology copied the ancient Hellenistic philosophical hierarchical form of: Spirit having dominion over Matter, Soul/Mind having control over Body, Elite Males having dominion over Females/Slaves and a Female Mother Nature, Religion having power over or at least joined with State/Secular power, and Rational Religion over Practical Science. But there was one crucial difference: the Hellenistic pagan, pantheistic hierarchical philosophy pictured a decremental degradation or gradual diminution from Spiritual to Material form, rather than the Christian dogma of a gap or split between Spirit and Matter. In Hellenistic thought this meant that Matter, Body, Females, Mother Nature, and Practical Science on the bottom step of the hierarchical ladder or pyramid still contained at least something spiritual within their devalued material categories. Christian systematic theology, however, envisioned a Gap or Split between Spirit and Matter. This Gap or Split allowed a total devaluing of material things or people classified as mere things to be used, such as slaves, females, Nature, and practical science Following Plato’s Hellenistic philosophy and Aristotle’s “either…or…” logic, but adding the split or gap, Christian dogma declared: 1) Spirit/Soul/elite male Mind to be the logical First Thing or Subject, and 2) Matter/Body/Nature to be the logical Second Thing or Object. Such either…or… logic combined with Christian theology did not allow a Third Thing that could mediate between Spirit and Matter except for the Christ Figure whom the Church declared to be both spiritual and material, both God and Man.
118 Neither did systematic theology allow for a Third Thing that could mediate between Religion and Science. Such a thing would have been considered to be a logical contradiction, or at the very least a paradox. Because of the above theology and logic, the Christian Church and Western society reacted to the fear of astronomical and other scientific discoveries in four different ways during four consecutive historical stages: the Dark Ages, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and the Enlightenment : 191
In the Dark Ages, the Christian Church banned and forcibly tried to suppress all study of Nature and the cosmos.
Saint Augustine, for example, came to despise
science. Augustine’s influence on others was crucially important in the socio-political as well as the scientific sense: In a time in some respects similar to our own, St. Augustine of Hippo, after a lusty and intellectually inventive young manhood, withdrew from the world of sense and intellect and advised others to do likewise: “There is another form of temptation, even more fraught with danger. This is the disease of curiosity….It is this which drives us on to try to discover the secrets of nature, those secrets which are beyond our understanding, which can avail us nothing and which men should not wish to learn….In this immense forest, full of pitfalls and perils, I have drawn myself back, and pulled myself away from these thorns. In the midst of all these things which float unceasingly around me in everyday life, I am never surprised at any of them, and never captivated by my genuine desire to study them….I no longer dream of the stars.” The time of Augustine’s death, 430 A.D., marks the beginning of the Dark Ages in Europe. Carl Sagan, The Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence (NY: Random House, 1977), 236-237.
During Medieval times, the Church labeled practitioners of science “sorcerers and witches who were in league with the devil.” Even something as innocuous as a pair 191
Encyclopedia of Religion, category “Science and Religion.” See also Encyclopedia of Philosophy, category “Religion and Science.” Ibid.
119 of spectacles was declared to be a work of Satan. The Church forbade sick Christians to use mineral salts as medicine because mineral salts were found in caves or underground areas associated with the realms of evil and devils.
By the time of the Renaissance in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, scientists were emboldened by the cosmic discoveries of Copernicus and the early chemical and biological discoveries of alchemists. Some of the alchemists, such as the infamous Roman Catholic Philippus Theophrastus Bombastas von Hohenheim who was called Paracelsus, combined study of science and theology. Some of the Protestant Reformers, too, mixed their religious beliefs with their alchemical research and also with their philosophical research into contradictions and/or paradoxes. These alchemists were greatly persecuted not only because they were studying forbidden science but also because they were attempting to find the forbidden Third Thing that could mediate between Spirit and Matter. That is, these alchemists reasoned that the catalysts, which facilitated the chemical reactions in their furnaces and glass retorts, had truly created new substances and made real changes from solids to gases or liquids. These alchemists believed, therefore, that by their use of catalysts, they had actually created a Third Thing between matter (solids/liquids) and spirit (gas/air)! Thus, they thought that they were performing both spiritual and material actions and reactions. Studying the ancient Jewish mystical science called Kabbalah (aka Qabala or Cabala), these Christian alchemists/scientists christianized the Kabbalistic mysteries and used them to give legitimate status to their scientific procedures. Most of these Christian scientists claimed to strive for ethical results or consequences in their pursuit of science, even though they did rebel against the hierarchy of the institutional churches. Both Roman Catholic and Protestant churches persecuted these scientific theologians, killing some and forcing others to go into hiding. Renaissance science appeared to be slated for destruction in a new kind of Dark Age, but momentum was building among the scientific community for a means to escape the restrictions of the churches.
Brian Easlea, Witch-Hunting, Magic and the New Philosophy: an Introduction to Debates of the Scientific Revolution, 1450-1750 (Sussex: The Harvester Press, 1982). See also Walter Pagel, Paracelsus (NY: Karger, 1982); Walter Pagel, The Smiling Spleen (NY: Karger, 1984). Ibid. (Kaballah has no spirit/matter split as Christian systematic theology has).
120 Today, a religious dictionary has this to say about that era: It was…the domination of European thought by Greek philosophical notions which delayed the rise of modern science until the age of Copernicus, Kepler and Galileo….Aristotelianism had to be dethroned before the concept of empirically established laws could be developed….It is essential that philosophical (or religious or theological) explanations be ruled out of scientific thinking. A Dictionary of Christian Theology, category “Science and Religion.” (emphasis, which devalues the alchemical history, added).
The Enlightenment brightened the fourth historical stage by lessening church control of scientific discoveries. A philosopher named René Descartes developed a devious maneuver that allowed Enlightenment science to make rapid progress even within theocratic political conditions. That is, Descartes tried to appease the fear of the Roman Catholic Church that changes in scientific theory would destroy Christian systematic theology. Descartes’ endeavor was accomplished by his completely splitting apart the types of truth to be found in science and religion. Coded language is the result. Let us break the code by uncovering the history. To carry out this feat of splitting scientific truths from religious Truth, Descartes put Plato’s idea of hierarchy and Aristotle’s concept of “either…or…” logic to a new use. Descartes began by using a worldview already acceptable to the Church: Saint Augustine’s fifth century concept of two realms of action in life – one sacred (“The City of God”), the other secular (“The City of Man”). Thus, philosophically, Descartes could separate sacred Truth from secular/scientific truths. In other words, Descartes split religious metaphysical reasoning and its realm of an absolute religious and moral Truth (at the top of the hierarchy) away from scientific reasoning and its realm of experimental and mechanical truths (at the bottom of the hierarchy – along with Nature). Although this scheme was not immediately acceptable to the Church, the philosopher Nicolas Malebranche made Descartes’ concept eventually palatable to Christian doctrine by the following tricky compromise. The Church condescended to permit science to develop unhindered by its Inquisition terrorists so long as sacred Truth at the top of the hierarchy was left untouched by that science! 195
Encyclopedia of Philosophy, categories “René Descartes” and “Malebranche, Nicolas.” See also Encyclopedia of Theology, Karl Rahner, editor, category “Truth.”
Within a short time period, not only was the chasm between science and religion deepened and widened, at times ethical concerns were also ignored in scientific experiments. Unlike many Renaissance scientists who had a sense of one unified ethicalmoral-scientific program, a few unethical Enlightenment scientists, following Descartes’ split values, no longer felt the need to agonize over ethical and moral issues during their experiments. These few unethical men gave science a bad name again. (Usually female scientists were still called witches and were not yet accepted into the scientific realm). In the later Enlightenment Era as science was gaining strength, Immanuel Kant (a German religious philosopher) developed his Critique of Judgement to demonstrate a logical Protestant reason for the science-religion split to remain firmly in place. Kant designated elite male judgment as The Third Thing between Nature (science) and Reason or Understanding (church theology). Such rational, not empirical, judgment would function as the guard or gatekeeper that would not allow empirical science to usurp the power and morality of the Christian religion. Other religious philosophers of the era, such as Emanuel Swedenborg, appointed elite male (never female) Imagination as The Third Thing between science (Nature) and religion (theology). This imagination was to be used in the service of religion, not science (even though Swedenborg had had an intense interest in science in the early part of his life)! Today our society still operates under this dichotomy between science (nature/ things/objects) and religion (spirit/elite males/subjects) in spite of several modern philosophers who do strive to find a Third Thing or relationship between the two. For example, Maurice Merleau-Ponty before he died was focusing upon the human body and its language as the Third Thing. However, too many other scientists and theologians desperately want to keep that split or gap. A scientist by the name of Stephen Jay Gould, for example, developed a theory called NOMA (Non-Overlapping Magisteria) meaning that the realms of science and religion do not overlap, therefore each side can respect the other’s turf (1997) [http://www.stephenjaygould_noma.html]. Gould does not seem to realize that this is
122 exactly the same as claiming that Spirit does not overlap the realm of Matter and that the realm of Matter does not overlap the realm of Spirit. He does not seem to understand that an assumption that separate realms of Spirit and Matter actually do exist would logically require a return to a flat-earth and earth-centered cosmology, plus an imaginary spiritmatter split. Gould appears to have no knowledge of the history or philosophy of Christian theology, for he conflates creationism with only the argument over evolution and a literal reading of the Bible, not understanding that systematic theology’s doctrine of creation-out-of-nothing is far more complex than that (see chapter five). The spirit-matter, science-religion split occurred simply because the early scientists accepted such a dichotomy in order to save their skins from burning at the stake. The Church accepted the split so that the Institution could save face in the light of new scientific discoveries that would have destroyed the false assumptions of its systematic theology! Mutual respect for each other’s non-overlapping magisteria had absolutely nothing to do with the split historically! The science-religion gap or split is purely and simply a political image that has had harmful consequences even though it did allow science to flourish. One needs only to check The Catholic Encyclopedia, categories “Hierarchy,” “Order,” and “Soul” to find that the Christian Church insists that God wants the Church to rule over science, state, and Nature. It is only separation of church and state that prevents such a theocratic vision from occurring at the present time. See, for example, the following quotation which notes that Christian dogmas of control and dominion over science and Nature are alive and well: Today Christendom as a whole may be said generally to accept the dogmas formulated by the ecumenical councils of the ancient and undivided Church… A Dictionary of Christian Theology, category “Dogma.” (emphasis added).
Another consequence of this imaginary, but politically real, dichotomy is that in present day seminaries almost all history about the Renaissance alchemist/theologians has been erased, and in modern university libraries, such information may be found only within the science libraries, not the humanities libraries. Such erasure of history speaks volumes about the political power of this science-religion split.
123 APPENDIX IV CHRISTIAN SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY’S VIEW OF THE DISABLED PERSON AND OF THE EVIL FOUND IN NATURE: In Christian systematic theology, many concepts about disability, deformity, and evil are coded. We are able to break the code when we look back at Christian history. The Church Fathers co-opted ancient Hellenistic ideas about evil and deformity when they wrote their doctrines and dogmas. These Church Fathers accepted Plato and Aristotle’s concept of the spiritual soul as the invisible “form” or eide made manifest in physical form. This meant that, if a person’s “form” (shape) was misshapen or de-formed or disabled, something was also very wrong with that person’s soul! Using the Greek philosophical writings of Plato, Aristotle, and Plotinus, these Church Fathers also taught that the eide or forms found in Nature are the thoughts of God that are good, true, and beautiful – therefore, perfect and without flaw. Thus, anything in Nature (including persons) that is de-formed is instantly proven to be flawed and to have a lack of goodness, truth, and beauty.
Hellenistic and Christian thought claimed that the perfect human form is that of the elite male. Thus, women, per se, are de-formed. (Here is the source of Freud’s theory of penis envy – he was accepting, as Aristotle and Christian doctrine had taught, that women are de-formed males because they lack male genitals. Therefore, women are always filled with penis envy). But there are standards of the proper form for elite males, too, Hidden within a category with the strange title of “Irregularity,” The Catholic Encyclopedia carefully spells out its standards of perfection of form for men going into the priesthood: “Bodily defects…constitute an impediment to Sacred orders, either because they render a person unfit for the ministry or because his deformity would make him an object of horror and derision. The following, therefore, are irregular: mutilated persons, those having an artificial limb or who are unable to use their hand or thumb or index finger; the blind and those whose vision is too dim to allow them 196
See Greek Philosophical Terms: a Historical Lexicon, by F.E. Peters (New York University Press, 1967), category eidos or “form,” sub-category # 17. See also St. Augustine’s City of God, chapter 3, p.250, and chapter 4.
124 to read the Missal….total deafness, dumbness, …stammering,…the lame,… lepers, those afflicted with the falling sickness [i.e., epilepsy], and in general all whose deformity is very notable are irregular. Defect[s] of Reason - …insane… and simpletons…” are irregular, as are many other problems listed.
Some of these other problems include: being of illegitimate birth, being a hangman, an actor, a slave, a married man, and a soldier in war who does the actual killing. However, it is interesting to note that the person who is higher up the hierarchical ladder and who merely orders the murder or slaughter is free of guilt: “In a just offensive war, both clerics and laics who personally kill or mutilate others become irregular, but not those who exhort others to action, without taking part in the fighting themselves.” Very politically expedient! The Church Fathers perceived even the problematic aspects of Nature (such as snakes, scorpions, stinging insects, predators, tornadoes, and typhoons) as the result of Nature being cursed by God after the Fall of Man. (Please note that, in chapters five and six, systematic theology claims that prior to the Fall of Man (aka Original Sin), Nature, too, had perfection of form with no disabling conditions such as weeds or floods). The Christian culture accepted the Hellenistic chauvinism that only the light complexion and only the perfectly proportioned form and body are most beautiful and, therefore, most spiritual. The classic Greek statues of males, for example, always display perfection of form. This was an elitist political attitude: Webster’s Dictionary notes that the word “classic” relates “to the highest class [of society]; hence, superior.” The scriptures give us no physical description of Jesus; he could have been very short and fat or very tall and skinny; he could have had a deformity or disability; he could have had a very swarthy complexion and very dark hair. The paintings of Jesus that became predominant in Christian culture, however, depict him as having perfection of form, light complexion, and light or even reddish colored hair. So, too, are conceptions of the Virgin Mary. Her form is portrayed as perfectly symmetrical; she always has classic features, and often is shown with light skin color or even blond hair.
125 As noted within the text, systematic theology claimed that someone with a severe deformity was devoid of any human soul or possessed only an animal soul. The logic had to do with the soul/spirit versus body/matter split that is at the heart of Christian doctrine. For centuries, our Christian culture blamed the female for apparent deformities in her children. Something had to be wrong with her body or her “Matter” (the bloody “dirt” within her uterus), since there could be no fault with the perfect spiritual semen! Ultimately, the problem was traced back to the evil will of the female, as noted in chapter six. Political results and consequences of such Christian doctrinal logic have lingered in our Western culture for almost two thousand years. That logic follows: • • •
because deformity or disability was believed to be a punishment for sin, and because disabled people have little or no souls, therefore, it is not unjust to deny disabled, deformed, or mentally ill or mentally retarded people the rights of proper education, housing, and health care, etc.
As a political result of this doctrinal logic, for example, few or no disabled, deformed, or mentally retarded children were permitted access to American schools even as late as the early twentieth century.
The Catholic Encyclopedia, categories “Soul,” “Evil,” “Orders,” “Woman”; Encyclopedia Judaica, 1971, category “Blind”; The Encyclopedia of the Jewish Religion, 1966, p.300; A Catholic Dictionary of Theology, category “Evil”; The Encyclopedia of Religion, category “Diseases and Cures; and Encyclopedic Dictionary of Religion, category “Evil.”
126 APPENDIX V SAINT PAUL’S VISION: See Acts 9:3-9: “And as he [Saul/Paul] journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do. And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man. And Saul arose from the earth: and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink.”
Note the phrase in bold print – this phrase is used again in Acts 26:14-15 where Saul/Paul is speaking to King Agrippa and repeating the story of his vision of Jesus: “…I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And I said, Who art thou, Lord” And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.”
Most biblical concordances say that “prick” means “an ox goad.” However, this phrase “it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks” had already been in use by male homosexual groups in Greece for over 400 years by the time of Jesus and Paul. In this Greek usage, the “prick” referred to the penis. The Greek playwright and comic poet Aristophanes (circa 448-330 B.C.E.) used this well-known phrase in a homosexual context in his play “The Clouds” written about 423 B.C.E. The educated Church Fathers and church leaders who chose this book of Acts to be a part of the Bible would have been familiar with such an ancient and common phrase. Thus, it is a code that needs to be cracked. In 1979, male homosexuals in a small mountain town in the southwestern U.S. sported T-shirts bearing this prick logo written in Greek. They advised that this logo could be found in an ancient Greek play (see “The Clouds” mentioned above). However,
127 they were very surprised, even shocked, when I, as professor, told them that it could also be found in the Bible. The biblical Paul was an intelligent Jewish man – a Roman citizen with a Hellenistic education – he certainly would have been aware that this classic and ancient phrase had a homosexual meaning. Thus, his use of this phrase suggests that Paul’s vision may have included homosexual overtones. If Paul, a Jew, practiced homosexuality, his religion would have considered this behavior to be a sin and an abomination which called for the death penalty. If true, Paul’s guilt must have been extreme. It is no wonder, then, that Paul emphasized salvation by grace and freedom from being under the law. Most interesting in this suggestive issue is that modern translations of the Bible have omitted this phrase without any explanation! Although you can find the quotations, above, in the old and still classic Protestant King James Version of the Bible (1611), they are missing from the Jerusalem Bible (1966), the American Translation of the Bible (1939), The New English Bible (1972), The New Oxford Bible (1973), and possibly other modern versions. No footnotes explain the omission. The phrase has just vanished. Could this be another example of scholars and clergy being privy to religious codes and information but the laity is kept in the dark? Such a cover-up and omission of scripture has definite political connotations once we break the code.
128 APPENDIX VI SOCIAL JUSTICE MOVEMENTS, INCLUDING LIBERATION THEOLOGY: The primary aim of Liberation Theology and other social justice movements is to liberate the average person from unjust social conditions. Educated priests and ministers who already understood the political harm of theocratic policies aimed to make changes in a theology that had declared itself to be unchangeable. These priests and ministers proposed to bring about just social conditions for people in the earthly, not heavenly, realm. At first, only a few Protestant ministers and a few Roman Catholic priests were involved. Lay persons or parishioners often were not able to be involved at the theory and planning levels, for many were illiterate or very poorly educated. Let us take a brief look at the history of these movements. Although social service movements have been present in Christian history from its beginnings and were associated with orthodox, conservative, or evangelical groups,
social justice movements emerged only in the later nineteenth century under socialist influence.
The Social Gospel Movement was one such social justice group: The late years of the nineteenth century saw the rise of deep social concern on the part of many Christians. Under the leadership of such liberal ministers as Washington Gladden (1836-1918) and Walter Rauschenbusch (1861-1918) the “social gospel” was advanced. It drew on British and Continental social Christianity [Society of Friends and the Salvation Army, for example] as well as on American progressive social thought. Early nineteenthcentury Protestantism had expressed its social concerns largely in individualistic terms, stressing charity and moral reform, but the social gospel focused attention on the corporate aspects of modern life and on the achievement of social justice. Great attention was devoted to the relations between capital and labor, and the movement influenced the shortening of the working day. [The social gospel was] dedicated to the building of the kingdom of God on earth…200
Francis Oakley, The Western Church in the Later Middle Ages (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1979), chapters 4 and 5; Williston Walker, A History of the Christian Church, 3rd edition (NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1970), chapter 2. 199 Williston Walker, op.cit.,500-503, 506-507. See also Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, category “Social Gospel”; Encyclopedia of Religion, category “Rauschenbusch, Walter” and Dictionary of American Biography, category “Rauschenbusch, Walter.” 200 Williston Walker, op.cit., 518.
129 A more modern
social justice movement named “Liberation Theology” began in
South America in the middle of the 1960s and spread quickly throughout the Third World. Influenced by Marxist thought, its focus was on the lack of social ethics in Christian systematic theology – noting especially the rich versus poor divide. Pedagogy of the Oppressed, by Paulo Freire of Brazil, may be considered the basic reference book, for it speaks to the necessity of education that provides a new method of looking at the origins of human knowledge.
This new way of perceiving
knowledge differs from, and often opposes, the old religious, doctrinal and dogmatic format where the illiterate parishioner was told what to believe and warned not to think for himself or herself. This new method, in turn, will provide a different political character to one’s worldview, for literate parishioners are able to think and judge for themselves.
By the 1970s, this Third World theology influenced African American and Native American theologians and historians in the United States. Four key examples are: God of the Oppressed, by James Cone (NY: The Seabury Press, A Crossroad Book, 1975); Prophesy Deliverance! An Afro-American Revolutionary Christianity, by Cornel West (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1982); God Is Red, by Vine Deloria, Jr. (NY: Dell Publishing Co., Inc, A Delta Book, 1973) and Missionary Conquest: the Gospel and Native American Cultural Genocide, by George E. Tinker (MN; Fortress Press, 1993).
Both Third World and minority theologies influenced feminist theologians, in turn. Two of the earliest writers were Roman Catholic theologians Rosemary Ruether and Mary Daly. 201
See Mary Daly’s The Church and the Second Sex (NY: Harper & Row,
Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, translated from the Portuguese by Myra Bergman Ramos (NY: The Seabury Press, 1970). For crucial information on the educational theory and its worldview, see such Liberation Theology classics as: Juan Luis Segundo, S.J., The Liberation of Theology, translated by John Drury (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1976, 1985; Jose Miguez Bonino, Christians and Marxists and Doing Theology in a Revolutionary Situation (both of these books speak to the emergence of Third World Theology); Gustavo Gutierrez, The Power of the Poor in History (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1983); and Gustavo Gutierrez, A Theology of Liberation (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1973).
130 1968) and Beyond God the Father (Boston: Beacon Press, 1973). See also Rosemary Radford Ruether’s Liberation Theology: Human Hope Confronts Christian History and American Power (NY: Paulist Press, 1972). Such a powerful revolution in theology was not without severe consequences for the clergy who took part. Pope John Paul II “firmly denounced ‘theologies of liberation’…” (The Denver Post, Sept. 4, 1984, p.18A), and “…is intensifying his campaign against activist priests…” who are preaching liberation theology (The Denver Post, September 7, 1984). The pope’s campaign against activist priests included such punishment as priests forced to retire, or priests removed from important key posts to isolated outposts with few parishioners. John Paul II “told leaders of the Roman Catholic Church they must defend the poor from the ‘illusory and dangerous ideological proposals’ of liberation theology…” (emphasis added). The Pope also praised the critical instruction by the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, published September 3, 1984 (The Denver Post, December 22, 1984, p.26A). The Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine and Propagation of the Faith is the modern name for the old medieval and Renaissance Inquisition that burned witches at the stake, persecuted heretics, and praised Holy Wars. In other words, the modern inquisitor was warning these heretical Liberation Theology priests that they were in danger of punishment by “critical instruction” instead of the old-fashioned torture rack. Thus, according to systematic theology, the poor must remain at the bottom of the hierarchy and the Church must not encourage a different worldview or politics that could help the poor obtain just treatment. [By the way, the Cardinal who was at that time the head of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is now Pope].