11 Oct 2009

Sample Essay: The Essential Elements of a Christian Understanding of God

Even the most faithful of today’s Christians are confused regarding the concept of their God. This is partly due to the fact that the Church has lost much, if not most of its influence over the flock and partly due to the information availability. As opposed to the middle ages or even the 19th century, the people are much more educated on matters of spirituality and theology, which brings on many doubts about the infallibility of the Church and the understanding of God himself. Of course when the authority of the Church began to loosen, many questions arose regarding God and dogma. One of the most important questions regarding the Christian concept of God is the trinity and the differences between the Old Testament and the New Testament god, or subsequently, do Christians, Jews and Muslims adore the same God? The basic answer would be yes but in practice, the three religions have a very different concept of the same deity. Even though they all acknowledge the Old Testament God as their principal deity, due to different cultural and historic influence, they have different beliefs and understanding of their God. Many ask the question that haunts the religious authorities in modern times regarding the identity of God: “is the Old Testament and the New Testament god the same one”? And this inevitably rises another one: “is the Christian and the Jewish God the same one and what is the difference between the early Christian understanding of God as opposed to the modern Christians understanding of the same God. (1a)

The Trinity is the main problem regarding the Old and the New Testament regarding the concept of God. Those who support the idea of trinity claim that The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit are three different aspects of the same God. (1b) On the other hand many view the Trinity as a direct violation of the first commandment. They insist name “GOD” on a notion of monotheism, the idea that there is one God. As they understand this idea, God cannot be made up of parts, even if those parts are mysteriously united. The Christian notion of Trinitarianism is that God is made up of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Such a view, even if called monotheistic because the three parts are, by divine mystery, only one God, is incompatible with the view that such a division is not possible. Those who argue against the idea of trinity have a strong case when they claim that the entire Christian concept of god including the trinity was invented and adapted to suit a Jewish Religion to the understanding and beliefs of European polytheists.

Early Christianity was very different to the Christianity we know today.  The age of the early Christians is commonly defined as the Christianity of the three centuries between the Crucifixion of Jesus (c. 30) and the First Council of Nicaea (325). The term is sometimes used in a narrower sense, referring only to the very first followers  of Jesus of Nazareth and the faith as preached and practiced by the Twelve Apostles, their contemporaries, and their immediate successors as bishops, a period also called the Apostolic Age. This is the age Jesus and his disciples, who set the base of the religion as we know it today. The Age of the Apostles produced many different scriptures and brought on a division between many followers in a sect that was neither organized nor canonized until a Roman Emperor decided to make Christianity the official new religion of the Empire and modified it’s holy scriptures and God in order to suit his ambitions and make it more acceptable to the Empire’s polytheist population. Constantine the Great had to balance his own beliefs and the steps necessary to secure the unity of the state. Whatever his exact religious beliefs were Constantine choose Christianity to be the new official religion of the Empire and to shape it according to his own beliefs, thus creating a Church that would rule the Country for another thousand years and prepare the basis for all Christian dogma and beliefs today. (2a)  Of course while Christianity was being introduced as the new official religion, different branches started arguing on many matters regarding the religion. Being a pragmatic Constantine decided to put an end to it and oficialise the teachings of his new church. The first ecumenical council in the history of the church was convened by the emperor Constantine at Nicaea in Bithynia (now Isnik, Turkey). (3)

The purpose of the council was to determine the very concept of god himself and the role of Jesus as part of god. Nevertheless the need to oficialise the religion was due in order to attempt to heal the schism in the church provoked by Aryanism. (3a) Aryan claimed that Jesus was neither God nor part of God but a mortal prophet.(3b) On the other hand many other missionaries used the idea of the Trinitarian god in order to simplify the concept to generations of polytheist who had problems accepting one deity and saw it as worshiping nothing. The issue which culminated at Nicaea arose out of an unresolved tension within the theological legacy of Origin concerning the relation of the Son to the Father. Aryan’s teachings were rejected and declared heresy and the Trinitarian god was introduced as the official one. He has become the one Christians were going to worship for almost two millennia without daring to question its concept.

Constantine did not only change the concept of god (from one and only to Trinitarian) but also changed many rules, rituals and practices of early Christians in order to better suit Greek/Roman people as they were about to embrace the new religion.(2b)(5a)

Since the council of Nicaea the concept of god hasn’t changed much, even though as the original church divided and many different branches of Christian religion sprang off the Catholic Church the Trinitarian concept of the god remained without suffering much personality changes but all that was to change by the beginning of 19th century and as Karen Armstrong puts in her “History of God”, the death of god. Mrs Armstrong states in the above mentioned chapter that :”by the end of the 19th century a significant number of people were beginning to feel that if god was not yet dead it was the duty of rational, emancipated human beings to kill him.(4) Furthermore she states that the 19th century was the one in which Ludwig Feuerbach, Karl Marx, Charles Darwin, Charles Darwin, Friedrich Nietzsche and Sigmund Freud forged philosophies that had no place for God.(4) And effectively in the 19th and the 20th century the belief in God has become more of a tradition and people were less interested in the concept of God and more concentrated on economic than spiritual well being.

Nevertheless by the second half of the 20th century there was a re emergence of spirituality but less and less people were ready to take the word of the Church for granted and many looked for alternative religions. Those who remained faithful to the Christian religion are today divided between those who accept the dogma and the concept of God as oficialized by the Nicaea council and those who believe that the Bible and the concept of God were badly falsified but respect the rules and accept the dogma out of tradition and conciliation. One of the first Christians to complain about the council was the emperor Julian writing the following: “It is, I think, expedient to set forth to all mankind the reasons by which I was convinced that the fabrication of the Galileans is a fiction of men composed by wickedness. (6) But not even the Emperor himself could influence or change what has become dogma and official policy.

A very disturbing popular belief began to bother Christian authorities at the end of 20th century. Namely evidence emerged of a possibility that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and had a child with her. Of course evidence is scarce but just the possibility of it shakes the foundations of the Christian concept of God and makes the issue re emerge 2000 years after Arian. Because if Jesus was married to a mortal and had children with her, he can definitely not be God himself and if Jesus is not God then there is no trinity and if there is no trinity there is no Christian God. What many discovered is that they were lied to by their churches and that the way they understood their God is going to change forever.

Acquiring knowledge does not give one answers, it only raises more questions. And the same happens when one starts exploring the Christian concept of God he or she will realize that what they know as God and religion was something completely different before it was made official Church policy in order to suit pragmatic reasons of Roman Emperor and Clergy. We also cannot claim the bible to be accurate even before Constantine and we are going to need much help from God himself to properly understand and obey the bible. It’s been subject to interpretation and debate for millennia. It inspired people into causing countless genocide, wars, murders, robberies, conquests, slavery and all kinds of immoral deeds. One has to also keep in mind that the bible is a collection of many ancient, cryptic, mythological texts that have become doctrine and the basis for the foundation of empires that in some way or another exist even today. From the time of the Genesis the texts that serve as the foundation of the three major religions of the western world have been falsified, changed edited erased, re written and re interpreted in order to suit the will of a ruler or the political situation. Unfortunately those contradictions have much influenced the way modern people envisage god and has misled many into having different concepts of god than it was originally intended in both the new and the Old Testament.

Footnotes and References:

(1a) The Christian concept of God as creator holds a middle ground. Christianity conceives of God as One. But it is not an isolated One. Rather, God is a person, who is capable of affecting and being affected by others. This is implicit in the concept of God as Father, which is one of the most characteristic teachings of Jesus. The concept of God as personal ultimately led to the Trinity, which is surely one of the most distinctive (and controversial) ideas in Christianity. (Source)

(1b)For the Trinitarians the Father typically refers to God’s role as creator and father. The Logos refers to God’s word, his creative power. The Holy Spirit refers to God’s presence with us and the rest of his creation.  As used in the Bible and other writings, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit seem to have a certain distinction among them. That is, they seem to be more than just different ways in which God works with us. Rather, each seems to have a distinct personal existence. Nevertheless, it is clear that they are intended to be distinct roles of a single God, and not separate gods. The Father is the source of the love, and the Son its recipient. The Holy Spirit can be understood as the presence of the Father with the Son. Thus these are separate personal roles within a single God.”(Source)

(2a) Valerius Aurelius Constantine (c. 272 – 337), better known as Constantine the Great, was perhaps the most important person in the development of the early Christian Church (after Jesus and Paul, naturally). He ultimately gave Christianity political and social legitimacy in the Roman Empire, thus allowing the young religion to establish itself, obtain powerful patrons, and ultimately dominate the Western world.”

(2b) Constantine embraced the god of the Christians, essentially legalizing Christianity, and an underground persecuted mystery cult that was in grave danger of dying out; suddenly found itself at the pinnacle of the greatest nation on earth. The contribution of Constantine was enormous, and with his assistance, the drama was set upon the stage that continues to play until the present day. With Roman assistance Christianity began the battle to wipe out the old pagan gods, in the process overlaying much of earlier pre-Christian tradition, incorporating pagan ideas and religious holidays into its own structure, and ensuring that the sun would become the glorious figure of Christ. Ironically, Constantine being a pragmatic Roman, interpreted Christ as a war god, not the “prince of peace,” and he apparently never truly understood the mysteries of Christianity, retaining his right to worship the pagan gods, especially the sun. He never took baptism until shortly before his death.

(3a) The teaching of Aryanism is well documented. The central controlling idea is the unique, incommunicable, indivisible, transcendent nature of the singular divine being. This is what the Arians referred to as the Father. Logically pressing this definition of the Father and making use of certain biblical language, the Arians argued that if the error of Sabellius was to be avoided (and everyone was anxious to avoid it), then certain conclusions about the Son were inescapable. And it is this view of the Son which is the central significance of Aryanism.

(3b)He cannot be of the Father’s being or essence (otherwise that essence would be divisible or communicable or in some way not unique or simple, which is impossible by definition).

He therefore exists only by the Father’s will, as do all other creatures and things. The biblical description of his being begotten does imply a special relationship between the Father and the Word or Son, but it cannot be an ontological

(5a) According to Joseph Atwill, the Gospels are not accounts of the ministry of a historical Jewish Jesus compiled by his followers sixty years after his death. They are texts deliberately created to trick Messianic Jews into worshiping the Roman Emperor ‘in disguise’.

References:

1. Charles Hedrick, The section on Christian worship. SRC homepage retrieved from: http://geneva.rutgers.edu/src/christianity/major.html

2.Cline, Austin, Christ, Constantine, Sol Invictus: the Unconquerable Sun. Your Guide to Agnosticism / Atheism. Retrieved from: http://atheism.about.com/od/constantinethegreat/p/ConstantineBio.htm

Armstrong Karen, A History of God. New York, Alfred A. Knopf. 1993,

3.Monday . Ralph,Council of Nicaea, General Information, Nicea, 325. Retrieved from: http://mb-soft.com/believe/txc/nicaea.htm

5.Atwill . Joseph,Caesar’s Messiah – The Roman Conspiracy to Invent Jesus (2005)

Retrieved from: http://www.mountainman.com.au/essenes/article_006.htm

6. Julian, Invectives Against the Galilaeans (c.362 CE) Retrieved from: http://www.mountainman.com.au/essenes/article_006.htm

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