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Complete Introductions Collection 2: Chapters 5

Ben Huot

July 1, 2018

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Table of Contents

Religion Articles

General Religion

Science and Relevancy

The belief in Science, as a way to solve problems is understandable for unbelievers, but for Christians it is unacceptable. The Church today is uncompromising, in their beliefs that society is corrupt and Christ is the answer, but then they fear the supernatural and then use human methods, to solve their problems. Paul talked about how the Church was very immature and weak, in that they would not really question and stand against what unbelievers believe in.

Christianity is not a one time decision. The biggest problem with Science, for Christians, is that it is a big distraction and most people now see Science as a belief system, that cannot be questioned. There is no logical proof for logic. We just assume that truth is just facts and that the only things, that are really true are the things that can be reduced to math or computer programs.

Why does every website look the same now? We have no soul. We fail to win people over, with our ideas and our products, because we have nothing of value to offer. The problem contemporary Americans have is that they have too much of everything. Technology has not liberated us or improved our lives.

We do the same things with computers we did before computers, just by employing less people and doing everything in a more complicated way. Everyone expects everything to be free and yet get paid huge amounts of money, for doing a very sloppy job and performing basic functions of their jobs, without any consistency or accuracy. We are fat and lazy and it is killing us and our world.

We spend huge amounts of money buying aircraft, that can do somersaults in the air, while going at full speed and we can bomb one building, without touching adjacent buildings, but this does not solve any problems for us. It is a very expensive attempt at solving a problem, without fundamentally understanding the problem. We make very sophisticated technology, like how Facebook is designed, in the behind the scenes parts, but no one asks do we really need Facebook?

Before Apple released its first iPad, a significant minority of the population already knew they were going to buy one, before they even knew the cost or the capabilities. Now schools think the future of technology is in tablets and don't even realize laptops and tablets are designed fundamentally different, for fundamentally different markets. Kids today are not losing out on jobs, because they cannot type fast enough or aren't able to use the Internet. They are failing because they cannot read, write, or do basic math.

There are few jobs, even in the science, technology, engineering and math fields. Instead of getting more women into technology jobs, why not get more men involved in the helping professions? Instead of educating our future generations, to do nothing, but do math and engineering, we need to questions why we are willing to pay hundreds of dollars for a smartphone, but nothing for software or media.

Our society is optimized for efficiency, which is why businesses adopted computers and this is achieved, by saving money, by employing less people. Technology reduces jobs, but is does not add any. Our leaders claimed technology would liberate us, but now the government uses it to control us. The problem with our society is that while it is very efficient, it is also very brittle, in that if one terrorist blocks one port, by exploding one bomb, or there is a hurricane or earthquake in one place, the world grinds to a halt.

What the Church needs to question is the assumption that materialistic thinking is really the best way to solve our problems. What really matters is what we and other experience and the way we feel and think. If we have a bigger care, a newer smartphone, or better medical treatments does this solve the problem of where we spend our eternity?

For people who suffer depression, because of a chemical imbalance, know that just doing something that sounds fun does not necessarily make you happy. We live the world in our minds, so no matter how much a medical treatment would fix your body, if it is so painful, expensive, or debilitating is the cure worth those costs? Just having more money does not solve your problems and just having more free time does not make you more happy.

Whether or not we know we live in a 2 dimensional world or we can travel through space of time, how does this give us joy in life? Science answers a lot of questions, but are these the questions we need to answer to live well? Are we going to treat animals and people better, if we are able to be lazier and have cheaper Internet access. When you are in pain, life goes by much more slowly, then when you are having fun. Science would say the time is the same, but is that relevant if it does not reflect your experience?

It is well known that our memories are not always scientifically accurate. People witnessing the same event, at the same time, communicate totally different experiences, that do not reconcile with the facts. When you are in surgery, when they put you out and you have no memory or have any awareness of what is happening or that any time passed, it is as if the surgery ever happened. You have the results, but the process is just not relevant (because it didn't happen for you).

When we get older, we experience time going by faster than when we were young. Time seems to go by much faster when we are happy in life, then when we go through struggles. The fact that objectively the time is the same is irrelevant, to what we feel and how we experience life.

Why Religion Makes Sense

People use words in common speech that mean different things philosophically or in other fields. For example, Modern European History started 300 years ago. This is because it was based on new ideas from the Enlightenment, which was also called Modernism. With Modernism we get the idea that we are the center of the universe, we are the highest form of intelligence, and we know what's best for us.

Modernism's solution to our problems is technology and we only value what we call Rational, which we define as facts determined by the Scientific Method. The highest good is what gives us physical pleasure and we only want to solve problems with solutions that don't require material sacrifice.

For thousands of years before and after, the most important thing and the focus of society was on religion and worship. In most revealed religions there are many methods of determining truth. In religion, these are some of the methods of inquiry: faith, worship, ritual, scripture, prayer, code of conduct/ethics, divine healing, tradition, prophecy, paradox, mystical experience, visions, fasting, living a life of poverty, taking vows of silence and/or chastity, intuition, history, and feelings.

What really separates Science from religion is that Science relies on physical proof, whereas Faith, by its very nature, means there is no physical proof. Many people spend much of their lives trying to prove whether or not God is real, and they will never get any of their "proof". Science and religion are in a special kind of parallel worlds with separate histories, all starting from a breakaway from each other at a common point in history.

Many people talk about how Animism preceded World Religions and how Science is the most evolved development of determining truth. Besides there having always being someone who worshiped the one creator God and more now than any times in history, only Europeans traditions saw the world as moving in straight line and always improving. Most other cultures see the world and human history as going in repeated cycles like our current understanding of economics.

Our whole American society is based on fear of death. The basic directive in modern medicine is to keep the person alive as long as possible at any cost. Soldiers get so much armor they cannot move and the armor only succeeds on stoping bleeding, so the injured are kept alive even with severe burns, without even checking to see if they would really want to live like that. One of the reasons why our health care is so expensive is that old people will pay unlimited amounts of money to live even a day or more longer. Many of the treatments of cancer are so bad, that they seem worse than the cancer itself.

Today, being young and looking young is considered more important than learning and growing our discipline, ethic, creativity, or even just intellect. There is so much we could do, if we would only ask God for help. Most of our pursuit of pleasure results in addiction and pain. We make bad choices when we take drugs and when we get overweight we get discouraged. It is very hard to break free from addictions and totally not worth the pain. If you feel bored or depressed, the best first step is to volunteer to help others, so your life has meaning outside yourself. It is a very lonely world when all you care about is yourself.

Life beyond Science, or Religion, gives us a much broader and more balanced view of the world. The physical world is one tiny subset of the spiritual world. When we choose God to be first in our life, we have something to look forward to after we die. We can be part of a community, just based on our beliefs. We can live a life affecting others more in our current jobs and lives than if we ran for office. God doesn't care if you are a lawyer or a doctor - He care how you treat others and yourself. He wants you to be free of immorality and its bad consequences.

The world's future looks bleak from a materialistic and Scientific view of the world. We are running out of drinkable water, fertile soil, moderate weather, and energy (oil, coal, propane, and nuclear). We have many solutions, but none will give us enough energy. Our society is not focused on seeking life on other planets or exploring the universe. It won't be long before we will be scavenging off of the remains of our garbage dumps.

There are people who now live in garbage and make money of of selling what they find in it. They are called squatter villages and shanty towns. They exist all over the third world. many of these people are much more wealthy in terms of spiritual knowledge and hope for the future then we are, even though we in the first world all live as kings did in the past. There is not a direct connection between hope and money, technology and solutions, and lifestyle and living a good life.

Why are Some People Kind?

One of the biggest mysteries to Christianity is why are so many Christians so unkind? It would be much easier, if all Christians were just kind like Jesus and it would make defending the Gospel easier. The sad truth is that none of us are even good, by our own low standards. Unlike what many people think, you do not get into heaven by being better behaved then others. Otherwise, none of us would get in.

Christianity and just general life as a human being involves constant choices, where we decide who we will be, in the future, with each choice we make. Even a mostly kind person can be and often is cruel at sometimes in their lives and mostly mean people are often kind at least sometimes.

There are many reasons why we are unkind, but what really matters to us is what we follow through with action wise. Even when we try to avoid choosing, we make a choice then as well. So why would a Christian be kind, if they never gets any reward for it? Christians are often kind, because of what God has done for us, or after watching how animals behave a lot of times.

So, if kindness is a choice, is it a learned trait. So can people become kind, who were not raised to be kind. I think that is what Christianity is about. This is what you will see in any Christian, who is really trying, is that, over time, you will see real change, in their lives. Kindness is just one of the attributes, that Christians should strive for. It is hard for many people to understand why God would save people, who are not even trying.

But the thing is that we never really know who has committed their lives to God and has asked for forgiveness for their sins. Many people, in Church, have never accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. In fact, the Church is one of the biggest targets for spiritual warfare. There are likely people in every Church who come every Sunday and always seem divisive, but have huge power and act very selfish, could be there just to cause problems and may totally reject God and everything about Him.

One of the hardest things to accept about Christianity is forgiveness. We are happy to get forgiven by God, when we are saved, but we don't really understand what that means until we forgive someone else for doing something really bad to us. When we do something really bad to others, especially as Christians, we start learning what the cost of evil is. Then we begin to appreciate what Christ has done for us, in a much more tangible way and the Gospel makes much more sense.

God has never taken the easy route. The way God has chosen to judge us by His grace and by our faith, He has opened what they say "a can of worms". For God, everyone's life is a special case. How can anyone really know what someone's true intent is in life and if they are really trying or not?

No one knows everything about your life and everything you did and why and all your past and all the factors of every situation. No one really knows if you have genuinely submitted your life to Christ. Only God knows and it is far from simple even for Him.

So when we ask why are so many Christians mean, if we are Christian, we should know why because all of that failure and selfishness exists in us as well. If we are not Christian, then it is going to be hard to accept, until a Christian forgives us, for a major evil we committed to the Christian. That is why we, as Christians need to realize that we are representatives of God and that forgiveness is a two edged sword and it cuts both ways. In the Lords prayer, we actually pray for God to forgive us only as much as we forgive others.

So when you see a Christian commit a sin, understand first that you do not really know if they are truly a Christian, second that would you have done any better, think of how God will forgive you when you commit a similar evil act, and finally think of how you are going to forgive something someone did to you like that. To God, everything matters, but to other people, the actions are really what matters most. But these actions first arise in our minds and start from what we are thinking and our true intent.

So, the key to understanding the God, the Bible, and Christianity is to understand what forgiveness means. And this just comes with life experiences and especially being around Christians. Being Christian does not mean you are a good person. Becoming a Christian, means you have accepted that you are a bad person.

A Christian is very much like an addict. The only thing that they have to be proud about is God and what He has done for them. There is nothing that we do to earn a spot in Heaven: that is the definition of Grace - that it is freely given.

If you think you are better than Christians, then you might be happier with another religion or wait until you are convinced. Being good does not get you anywhere with God, because, first you are already supposed to do so like following government laws, second of all God chose not to judge us this way, third we aren't actually good people and are doing bad things, and finally even if we were perfect, we still would be nothing in comparison to God in every other way.

Christians and Christianity

What is so Unique About Christianity?

Throughout most of recorded history, the ideology was religious in nature. In Africa, the supernatural and the community/ancestors were the focus, while in East and South Asia the focus was on ethics and discipline and abstract ideas (with less emphasis on the supernatural). Christianity brings with it a union of both ethics and discipline (of East and South Asia) with an acceptance of the importance of both community and the supernatural (of Africa).

The beginning of the anti-religious sentiment starts with Plato and Aristotle, in Late Antiquity, but didn't really start until the Renaissance and Reformation. With the huge expansion of European wealth and power, people challenged both the Church and the government and formed what is now the modern world, with the one world economy, run by capitalism/imperialism.

The basis of our modern world is atheism, which has some direct philosophical parallel to Paganism, in that the values are beauty and strength. The reason our entire world is running out of resources is because we have been so afraid of death, that we keep making more and more food, to feed the ever increasing population, and won't let our elderly die, when they are ready.

What life really comes down to is are you a person who follows rules or someone who breaks them? Do you feel a need to risk your life, to feel happy, or do you find joy in things others may say are boring? Are you willing to put off immediate pleasure, for long term happiness? Can you find joy, in working for others? Can you feel free, even when you have a boss?

Christianity is the one true religion, which has a God that really exists, is all powerful, and is truly good. It is not like, in many belief systems, that you are all alone spiritually that you don't strive, to better yourself, and do what is good, without a tangible reason. Christianity sets you free, because what we need more than anything else is God living within us and forgiveness of our sins.

We are truly our own greatest enemies. After saying a simple prayer and believing in one simple truth, you can be sure where you will live after you die, forever. The only real thing you have to do, before you die, is plan for the hereafter. You truly change with God in your life, because you literally have God living within you and divinely intervening, in your life and most importantly providing all that you need, to live a good life and experience true joy and peace.

When you enter into the Christian faith, you give up some things like popularity and the ability to fit in. You will appear absurd and irrational to most people. Christians are not part of the world's values, or its system of relationships. Christians do things for others and make sacrifices for others, when there is no obvious gain for themselves. This does not make sense to someone that only values beauty and strength.

People ask me why do I put all this work into my books and websites without anyway to make money? This comes right to the heart of the key issue, that separates the modern world and traditional Christianity. Is there something you would give your life for, or spend your life working for, that does not push your own fame, wealth, power, ideas, or agenda?

Why are Christians so Irrational?

To understand where Christians are coming from, this most important and first thing to wrap your head around is that religion, in general, and Christianity, in particular, is not based on reason. First, let me explain what I mean by rational and irrational. Irrational is not an insult, nor do I mean that when people act irrationally, that that means what they doing is stupid or insane. Unfortunately, there is not a word, that distinguishes the spiritual rational, from the physical rational, in philosophy.

Just like the word Modernism has nothing to do with Contemporary, as used in Philosophy, the word Rationalism refers to a certain type of philosophy and is not a value judgement. We could substitute a word like utility or practical, to distinguish between spiritual and physical reasoning, but we run into the same problems, because spiritual things can be very practical (ethics and even sometimes the supernatural) and have clear utility (they help keep our society together and provide hope and purpose in life).

Whenever someone uses the word spiritual, many people think that means supernatural, but ethics are a big part of spiritual reality and most sins are only possible in a physical world. I think a better way of breaking down the difference between our different modes of existence are the different aspect of our self awareness, including the spirit (the mind, the heart, the will/soul), and the body. I would say that Christianity sees the will, as being the primary actor, in our world, not the body or mind, as Science teaches. Psychology deals with the heart but, while seeing the connection to the mind and body, fails to factor in the state of the will.

So Christianity is not about why or what but about Who. If God did not exist, then praying to Him would do nothing and nothing (including us) would not even exist, in the first place. While there are many rational reasons, to believe in God and to explain it to others, the concept of faith is not defined by belief in what we can understand. God doesn't ask us to believe He merely exists. God calls us to choose to obey Him, by repenting of our sins, believing in His worldview, and asking Him to interfere, in all aspects of our lives, so that we continue to choose His will, instead of ours.

We do good for others and follow His rules, not because we have to do so, to be saved, but that, if our faith is real, we really want to do the right things, because God has changed the way we think and our priorities in life. We help others, because we are thankful that God helped and helps us. Many non-Christians do not understand why someone would feel they need to change themselves for God to accept them, but they do not hesitate to totally transform their beliefs and their lifestyle, just to gain one weak human friendship.

God takes us where we are and we change, because we realize, that God knows what is best for us (as He mades us and lived as us, as Jesus Christ) and following Him will improve our lives. God is not interested in: what you do for a living, what kind of personality you have, what your artistic views are, what you have done in the past, where you live, or other less significant things. God cares about who you are now and He is just there to make you a better person and give you hope and meaning, despite whatever circumstances you have found yourself in or what decisions you have made, good or bad.

So whether or not religion is rational or not rational, more importantly it makes your life better and Christianity does so be God working directly in your life. Isn't it amazing that God cares so much for us, after all the terrible things we have done and how weak, stupid, and unimportant we are, in the grand scheme of things. Think about how big the universe is and think how sparsely populated it is: God went to great lengths to make our lives possible. If the conditions were slightly different, in physical laws, the universe would not hold together and fire and flight are possible on earth only due to a very specific range of properties.

Christianity is often thought, to be in the dark ages, in some of the beliefs we follow, that are written in the Bible, compared to what non-believers believe today. If you want to see something truly ridiculous, just look a couple hundred years back in Science and compare to what Scientists believe today. I remember, when I was kid, black holes were thought to be impossible and now they are thought to be micro ones everywhere and the center of each galaxy is a great black hole. Stephen Hawkings even tried to prove the whole universe is one big black hole. Now there is a direct correlation between the necessary chemical components needed for our form of life and black holes.

Who knows what Science will say about the world in the next 200 years, but the Bible will still say the same thing it said 2,000 years before us and it will still be the most widespread religion in the world. Christianity is already outpacing Islam 2:1 today and growing more rapidly, in some of the fastest growing populations, than Islam (and relevant to many more parts of thew world than Islam ever will be). The Islamic world has no faith in the dedication of fellow Muslims or else it would not be a death penalty, to spread the Gospel or convert to Christianity, in most of the Islamic world, even today.

Most of the modern Islamic populated world was Christian (including the entire Middle East), for 500 years before Islam left Saudi Arabia. This situation continued up until 2/3 of their (Assyrian/Syriac) population was massacred between World War I and II. This was the culmination of ethnic cleansing and genocide of Christian areas by Muslims, for hundreds of years, by radical Islamic fundamentalists (much as Jewish people were persecuted in Medieval Europe). Most of the world (outside the Middle East and Europe) only heard the Gospel a century ago, while Islam has been in many of these countries 500-1,000 years before.

What is Rational?

When many people read that I am promoting what is irrational, they say that it is ridiculous to do things for no reason. This is not what I mean by using the world irrational. This current generation of people think that facts are the only way to determine actuality or truth. A good example of what is commonly referred to as irrational is a feeling/choice like unconditional love. Faith, by its very definition, is based on the concept of knowing something is true without having to prove it.

The reason why we sin and/or refuse to become Christians (be sorry for and stop committing our sins/evil acts) is not because we lack enough understanding or that there is not enough reason to believe. Faith is an act of the will, not the mind. Sin is when we choose to do wrong, when we know better. God has called us to believe, not to understand. The reason why things involving God involve believing, without being able to prove it, is because God, although I believe is completely rational, is infinitely beyond us. Much of biblical theology is based on paradox and cannot be explained by math or science.

The basis for Buddhism is that we need both good actions plus we need to strengthen our mind and we are saved by doing good deeds and by training our mind, to transcend the physical world. What enlightenment means is a big debate, amongst different schools of Buddhism. The Islamic Fundamentalists in the Middle East are often asked why they kill fellow Muslims, in terrorist attacks, and the response is usually that if these people were living good lives, they will be able to live in paradise forever. The unique thing about Christianity is that it deals with failure.

If you have committed too mans sins and you do not have enough time, to do enough good deeds, to cancel the bad deeds out and/or don't know exactly what you must do, you will likely give up or be very depressed. Christianity is based on the idea, that although we can and should always do the right thing, we unavoidably don't, repeatedly. The Christian worldview sees all people as addicts, to doing the wrong thing, and solves this by God divinely and directly intervening, in our lives, to change the way we think and to support us making good choices.

In an overly simplistic sense, salvation is too easy and all you have to say is that you are sorry for your sins and go to heaven. Many people wonder how this makes any sense or gives any justice. The other aspects of salvation paint a very different picture. Not only are you to feel sorry for your sins and confess them to God, you also are supposed to stop committing them and then live life completely differently.

When you repent of your sins, you don't just feel sorry for them: you submit your entire mind, will, emotions, body, and soul to God's will. You then live a completely different life and your main goal is to further God's will in the world. You make the decision that, instead of leaving for your own gains, you live for the gains of other people and animals and the Kingdom of God on earth.

Does this kind of Christian salvation make sense? Can you prove it conclusively, using only factual evidence, that can be quantified in numbers? This is what I mean by irrational: sensical, but not limited by the material world and a purely factual understanding of life.

Separation Between Christianity and the State

Our country is founded on the idea of separation of Church and State, so that people can worship God or not, in any way they choose. I personally am not concerned with other religions, but as for Christianity I believe that Christianity is irreconcilable, with the very concept of politically and socially based change. I do not see Christianity as some kind of partition-able aspect of our lives or that we should look to create Christian compatible versions of everything.

The very concept of Christianity is at war against the ways of the world and despite the Biblical laws to follow government rules, we are supposed to resist thinking like the world, and embracing its way of life. The only way we can do this is by Christ's direct divine intervention in our lives. Even though our future depends on our choices its God's choice to die and rise again for us that truly liberates us.

Being Christian is not just one among many equally good religions and it is not reducible to just following a set of rules. It is about personal spiritual growth through Christ's help. It is about overcoming addictions. This is fundamentally different than following laws as while they are overlapping, they are not the same.

I fully agree that we should follow all the government's rules, but this is not enough. There are many things that are illegal that are corrosive to the spirit like worship of other Gods, divorce, sex outside marriage, excessive gambling, gluttony, drug use, vanity, gossip, hazing, being a workaholic and the like. We need to first transform our minds, if we are to transform our world, and, in turn, the whole world.

We often think of some things, that we know are bad, but think they won't affect others, as vices. The problems relate spiritually, but not just like that. The very concept of addiction leads to a point of desperation, that a person will compromise everything, for their fix. Their behavior becomes obsessive compulsive and just continues to get worse, until they can accept they have a problem and make the decision, to stop, with outside help.

So the problem with promoting the morality of the Bible in the forms of laws first is that, without treating the spiritual sources of the problems, it doesn't bring about real change. There has to be a reason why we follow rules other than we get punished for not following them. People need to be inspired, to take on the challenging reformation of their morality.

The thing that really discourages people to deal with life primarily from a spiritual point of view is that faith isn't visual. We want to see results. Even in politics, you can eventually see some changes. But the very concept of faith is that you live it and make choices to further it, without understanding how or why it works.

Praying for God's will, instead of our own, requires great courage and it is hard to believe in a God who speaks so softly and so rarely, but you will be able to see the changes in your own life and those of your family and friends. It is hard to believe in a God who allows suffering, but God only calls us to believe what He promises.

God has not created evil in any way and does not promise to stop it, but rather lets people run their own governments and cultures how they want to. But God still does intervene all the time. I am not comforted that God will protect me from all suffering, because He never promised that and He never created the problem, in the first place. It is, however, hard to fully trust a God, that uses the suffering we already have to deal with, to help make us more mature.

We can see that, even in times when the government claimed to support Christianity, our leaders till did bad things. The real difference now why evil has grown to much in the last few hundred years is that we have more power than ever before and have opportunities greater than ever before. These same things that can make life better, for the disabled or the poor, are a double edged sword and allow for greater suffering, to everyone, as well.

Many times throughout history, the Church has sided with the government and it is a big reason why many people reject Christianity and what has made our society as a whole reject religion in general. Government will always be corrupt, because the people who are drawn to it get addicted to it and will do anything to win an election and stay in power. People who like power tend to be unwilling to listen to others, with superior knowledge in some areas than they have. And finally, the only people who usually get into power are the cruelest, because only the meanest will survive against the opposition.

Church History and Theology

Reformation Never Ends

History of the Reformation

I have been reading a lot about the Protestant Reformation and one of the things that people don't understand about it is that it was not a one time event. The Catholic church got too big and got corrupt, as it faced little opposition. The situation was opposite of the churches in the east. People tried to reform the Catholic church and bring back a genuine faith, for hundreds of years.

Originally, the Catholic church and the medieval kingdoms in Europe, after the demise of the Roman Empire, in the west, were both very weak. They both decided to support each other and so religion and government became the same thing. The church was the only unifying factor, in the region. The church gave legitimacy, to the king and the king protected and raised money, for the church.

In the first half of the medieval period, called the dark ages, many people starved to death and almost every part of Western Europe was ruled by tiny kingdoms, that most people have never heard of. Scotland, England, and Wales did not become recognizable, until the second half of the medieval period. Countries like Germany and France were originally part of the same empire and the only difference was language. The Vikings called the Dutch and the Anglo-Saxons by the same name. Portugal did no come together, until around 1300 and Spain was not recognizable until the end of the medieval era. Italy did not become one country until the 19th century and what people think of modern Germany did not occur until about the same time.

There was a lot of fighting over how much power the church should have and how much power the government should have. Some of the greatest fights were between the Holy Roman Emperor (medieval Germany) and the pope. The pope was accused of being the Antichrist, hundreds of years before Martin Luther. Around 1100, there were many reform movements, that happened throughout Europe, and in the following centuries. Martin Luther was not even the first Protestant reformer. There were a number of Catholic orders, that were created around 1100-1200, like the Franciscans, Dominicans, and Cistercians. They were created, to help promote a more genuine faith, in the church and society. Later, there were also many Christian mystics and philosophers calling for similar reforms and genuine faith.

There is another major situation that is poorly understood about medieval Europe. In the areas of the former Roman Empire, in the west, were converted to Christianity, before the fall of the Western Roman Empire. But, Northern Europe took hundreds of years to convert. Even Central Europe was not all converted, until the Renaissance. Eastern Europe was a big mix of Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran, Pagan, and various less known Protestant denominations. For centuries, Christians in the British Isles were tortured, to try to convert them to paganism, by the Vikings.

Many things throughout history keep on resurfacing and many things never change. The origin of questioning everything and everybody having a different opinion and driving reforms and divisions, based on their ideology, started mainly with the Protestant Reformation. There were many simultaneous religious reforms, at the same time. And the British had an entirely different, although related, Protestant history, than the rest of Europe. The Protestant Reformation was the first major western revolution and its legacy still inspires most reforms movements and revolutions today.

The Reformation Today

When most people study European history today, most focus on the economic and political reasons, for the start and the success of the Reformation. The more important thing is that people did actually believe these things, of their own free will, and were willing to suffer and die, for their beliefs. Just like today, everybody had their own opinion and, like with both Christianity and Islam, they each believed that their particular convictions were the one true doctrine and faith.

It is interesting, to see this from the point of view, of the contemporary world, we now live in. With the Internet and the corruption of the media and business, we no longer trust anyone. Technology allows us to find out more than ever before and we can easily find something, to reinforce our opinions, no matter what they are. But we are at a loss of determining what is eternally and objectively true.

For people, who want to know what the truth about religion is, who believe there are certain spiritual absolutes, there is no one clear direction. Many good, honest, and devout people believe so many different opinions, that can't all be true, but no one is able to determine what is important and what is not. If most true believers in Christ were asked what are the essential of their faith, they would say everything in their theology and each person would have a different idea. I think I know what the essential things are, but no one thinks like I do and I am as fallible, as anyone else.

I think there is an over reliance now on theology and the point of how we are to live our lives, worship God, and help other people is lost, in a lot of this elaborate theology, so that religion, to many devout Christians becomes reduced, to defending their particular set of theological beliefs. If we are to be honest and objective, many of our ideas are wrong.

We have to consider, that it is likely we are all completely wrong, about vital parts of our faith. It is important, to realize, that God is not going to judge us, on our theology, because we are all equally wrong, but rather on our hearts. I wish there were a way to keep our dedication, to our beliefs, but sill be able to accept others, for who they are and avoid all this conflict (over things that we cannot be certain about or all agree upon).

Why Theology?

Theology has always been a necessary evil. If you believe what the Bibles says, that it is clear about, there is no need for doctrine. There is a good reason, for all this emphasis on doctrine, even confusing doctrines, like the Trinity, and for not compromising, on anything. The reason why doctrine evolved was that people came up with bizarre, unbiblical ideas. Some of these ideas form the basis, for a number of "churches", that claim to be Christian, but are not (many of which originated in the United States, in the last couple hundred years). There have been movements, like the liberal theology in the church and the New Age movement, which are actively trying to sabotage and discredit the obvious doctrines in the Bible, that they do not like.

But, there must some limit, to this lack of compromise. Devout Christians need to find some core set of beliefs (that is clear cut in the Bible) and allow differences, in the other areas of doctrine. The church has way too many divisions, that have agreement on all the doctrine, for those things (that the Bible is obvious about).

I think the reason why God allows this lack of certainty, in doctrine, is that people can become arrogant, if they think they know the truth and everyone else is wrong. The truth in the Bible is absolute, but we are not. Many Christians may see this as relativism, but I believe that this is part of being humble before God. God seems to really hate arrogance, which is understandable, if you have any appreciation, for how perfect God is and how even the saints and martyrs have done nothing, compared to what God has done for us. Even if we had never sinned, we would still be mortal and insignificant, compared to God.

European History, After the Reformation

Before the English, the French, and the Germans got their empires and became world powers, the Swedes, the Polish, and the Turks were some of the greatest powers in Europe. The Habsburgs, who came originally from Austria, were traditionally Catholic and owned both what is now Germany plus the entire Spanish empire, at its height. But the Portuguese were the first Europeans, to build an empire in Asia. People hear about the 100 year lease Britain got from the Chinese for Hong Kong, but the Portuguese got a lease for 500 years for the Chinese port city of Macau. The Portuguese became a world power, until they became victims of Spain trying to conquer them, as each owned an entire hemisphere, at the start of the European colonial empires.

Dutch history is very intertwined with British history. The English basically came to Britain from what is now the Netherlands. During the Hundred Years War, where the English pillaged France for 100 years, the English allied with the Kingdom of Burgundy (which is now the Netherlands). The English Navy fought the Dutch 3 times and lost every time. Most of the achievements of the modern world like the stock market, central banks, international trade, free enterprise, and freedom of religion all came from the Dutch originally. They were later copied by the British and later the Americans. The English finally joined up with the Dutch. In a variety of treaties they divided up colonies, and the British got India, whereas the Dutch got Indonesia (which is much larger than India and much wealthier, before the industrial revolution).

Most of the successes of the French and the British came much later and for only a couple hundred years total. The British were like Microsoft or Google, with nothing original, but just became powerful, by being at the right place, at the right time. When the Industrial Revolution happened, labor was worth most of the cost of goods and commodities were worth little (the opposite of most of history). The Industrial revolutions started in England, with the automation of wool production, because of small climatic changes, that allowed them to grow more wheat. The reason the British, French, Germans, and Americans became world economic powers was because they had the largest supplies of coal and steel, which were necessary for the production of finished goods, like: guns, ships, and trains. If the outside world and the common people, in Europe, did not value these higher technology goods, more than commodities, then these countries would have never become world powers.

Christian Theology and Unity

What does faith mean? Just admitting or intellectually being convinced that Jesus Christ is the Son of God does not get you to heaven. Even the devil knows and admits this. We are not saved by knowledge of theology; we are saved by obedience. The obedience that God requires to save us is to repent of our sins and believe in Him. Faith is an act of obedience; faith is a choice, an act off the will.

Theology is not an end in and of itself. Theology can even distract us from our faith. The big emphasis on theology of the Evangelical church is there for a reason and is a response to a movement that has attempted to make Christian beliefs symbolic and empty. The great Protestant theologians were not chiefly trying to bring about a separation of church and state or bring rational knowledge as the defining characteristic of European civilization.

Protestant reformers of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries believed in very specific things and often were killed, immediately after they professed these beliefs. They argued and persecuted each other over what most of the Church would now consider unessential things. A big part of the Reformation was often more about Church policy and worship, rather than a huge difference in the profession of faith, at least as we see it today.

The Roman Catholic Church is very similar in beliefs and worship as most of the other traditional churches of Iran, Syria, Egypt, and Greece, throughout history, but the difference is that the Roman church never had to deal with persecution, like the other churches did and refused to compromise on any issues, even up until the last 50 years. One of the big ideas that is missing from the Protestant churches is the idea of mysticism.

Mysticism is about letting God be who He is and having an awesome respect for Him. When we pray to God, it is important that we are honest about where we are in our faith and are willing to speak to God directly about things we think are unfair about the Bible or how God acts. At the same time, we need to realize that we are speaking to the all-powerful, all knowing, and perfectly good authority figure.

Although we need not refrain from questioning God, we need to have awesome respect for Him. It troubles me that even believers have no assurance of escaping even the worst forms of suffering in this life, but God has not created nor is He responsible for alleviating our suffering. We caused all suffering, by rejecting God and disobeying Him.

The Protestant churches see theology in a very European legal and rational expression of Christianity. The Evangelical church has poor representation overseas, despite a huge push to evangelize in the third world. The big world Christianities are Roman Catholicism and Pentecostalism. Pentecostalism is the closest to mysticism of any major Protestant group.

One of the limitations of Evangelicals is the emphasis on the rational aspects of God and the idea of convincing people of faith by debate. Oftentimes conversion is reduced down to what seems like a sale of a car. I think there are spiritual reasons for why the Evangelical church exists now in history, despite nothing like it existing before the 20th century or at least until the Reformation. The Evangelical faith is a very effective counter to the New Age movement.

The very uncompromising and very specific theology and the lack of toleration for diversity in beliefs make it next to impossible to water down. The sword cuts both ways, though. Many people such as myself share many aspects of this faith, but cannot accept how narrow this worldview is. One of the big problems with the Evangelical faith is not so much the theology, but the practice. There is a huge fear of the supernatural and an absolute uncompromising unwillingness to learn about other religions.

The other major issue that many potential evangelicals cannot accept is the weird spiritual status they give to America and the support of the business establishment. When leader like George Bush tell people they are born again Christians and then authorize torture and the establishment of a police state, it makes a mockery of Christianity. When the richest Americans claim to be Christians and Christian non-profits keep asking people to give them money, there is little room for God, in this worldview.

This idea of moderation is an important aspect of faith and personal growth and maturity. I have long been extremely literal and this has made it hard for me to understand some important aspects of theology and scripture. I think it is important to not take such extreme stances on things the Bible is not clear about. It would be great if Christians could find a non-denominational core sets of beliefs that the Bible is very clear about and separate core theology necessary for salvation, from more worship or practice related issues in the Church.

It is great that the Church has such continued emphasis on keeping theology pure and continuing to reform the Church, but Christian unity has a place as well. I think we have plenty of different churches and I think it would be great if we could find a way to have more unity. So many Evangelicals agree on so much theology that it would be great if they at least could join together, as they would not need to compromise on core beliefs, to do so.

Too much theology can be as bad as too little theology. Our faith should be about who God is, not who we want Him to be. We need to prioritize our lives the way God has in scripture and need to be able to separate our opinions from what Scripture teaches us. Just because we believe something to be true, it is important to realize that we can and are wrong about much in theology and that is ok.

Post-Enlightenment Church

For the least few hundred years, since the European Enlightenment, there has been a battle in the Church over doctrine as big or bigger than the Reformation. While the Reformation was half about politics, at that time, most of the religious leaders, as well as many politicians were very literal and specific about their beliefs and were often hung from a tree the next day, after they announced these beliefs. People felt very concerned about the details of beliefs like the type of baptism, the type of music and languages used in worship, detailed beliefs about the end of times, and more.

This tradition continues to this day and is big reason why there are so many different denominations in Protestant Christianity today. One of the big reasons for this hyper emphasis on doctrinal issues reflected the Church's belief that the end of times was imminent. Another less literal and doctrinally based movement began several hundred years after the start of the Reformation, focused more on the "social gospel" or ethics and practical applications of Christianity.

The leaders of the Enlightenment were for all intents and purposes what we would now call atheists. Starting with the secret societies, especially with the Freemasons, sought to bring back ancient hidden knowledge from pagan/animist traditions. In the 1800s this movement became led by the Theosophy Society. This was the beginning of the New Age/Neo-Pagan movement, that reached its height in the 1990s.

In order to bring in followers, the New Age movement, like most religious organizations, started with the most common sense and easily accepted beliefs first. Their gateway to these pagan beliefs were some of the earlier translations of classic Asian philosophical writings. Although thought to be associated with Eastern philosophy specifically, these New Age beliefs took from most major belief systems, as well as most pagan traditions worldwide, including a great deal of some of the most widely accepted ideas from Christianity.

The church was concerned about Christians not having solid teaching in theology, so that they thought that they were still Christian, even though their beliefs were less Christian theology than paganism. Many religious and philosophical traditions, especially those from India and China, see no reason not to embrace major theology of other belief systems and adjust their beliefs, to link the two belief systems together. Christianity is meant to be practiced singularly, without any changes in theology and without any worship, to any other deity.

On the other hand, scholars have looked to philosophy, even from pagan believers, like those of Plato and Aristotle, to explain and support the various doctrines of Christianity. One of the most famous of these is the Trinity, and the formulation of this doctrine by Early Church Fathers was made in response to two factors, relevant to their time in history.

First of all, the general concept of the Trinity is very obvious from Scripture. The explanation was developed, because of analogies we use today, that reflect modern psychological understandings of people (soul, spirit, and body) and modern scientific ideas (ice, water and steam) were not known at that time.

At the same time, there were several different widespread heretical formulations of God the Father and Christ that were competing with the Scriptural version (Gnosticism/Manichaeanism and Arianism - nothing to do with NAZIs). Unfortunately, several other clearly scriptural explanations of the Trinity by the Coptic church in Alexandria (now in Cairo, Egypt), Syriac churches in Antioch (recently in Aleppo, Syria), and what is now Baghdad, Iraq were also falsely identified as heretical, at the time.

So, while there is clear scriptural reason, to not change Christian doctrine, to make it more compatible, with another religion, using philosophy to help explain and understand Christian doctrine was first done by the Apostle Paul and other great early Christians, like Augustine. But a mistrust developed between Indian and Chinese philosophy and Christianity, as many in the Christian community saw this Eastern philosophy as a gateway to paganism. And Augustine understood Gnosticism well as he was previously a Manichaean, before converting to Christianity.

In reality, most of these philosophies are mostly concerned with ethics and are either: not explicitly claim one particular theology, they are so vague that the theology can be matched with anything, or they do not even concern themselves with theology. Furthermore, there is no more taken from Eastern Philosophy in neo-paganism, than their are elements drawn from Christianity.

Some of the major charitable causes to be widely associated with this neo-pagan movement were the environment and feminism. Unfortunately, this led many Christian groups to not accept either of these movements, even though they could have found common cause with pagans and common ground, to further expand the reach of the Gospel. The point of Christianity is not to be opposite of non or other believers, but to do what is right and serve the Lord our God.

In my life, I have found that Christian Existentialism and Philosophical Taoism, which I was first introduced to in a public university, helped me understand the Bible and God better and reflected the way I saw the Bible, before studying any belief system besides Christianity. One of the things that few others, in the Christian community, understand is a certain kind of non-dualism or paradox helps explain much of Biblical theology and how to incorporate Christian ideas in life and still be happy.

I believe that these non-dualistic philosophies explain God and the Bible much better than Plato or Aristotle. Christianity is not about miracles or about knowledge, but about a decision we make of our own free will. You will never adequately explain God, because although He is perfectly rational, He is to a large extent beyond our understanding and always will be. We are not asked to understand but to believe. Not to explain but to obey. Faith is a choice to obey God and cannot be chosen by primarily understanding theology.

Theology is important, up and to a point, because people get mixed up and come up with some weird, baseless, and destructive ideas without it. But we worship a Living God and theology, if taken too far, can come in the way of this. The Bible is more relevant today than ever before, but your current worldview may not be.