- Cults, Religions and the Occult: Roman Catholicism & Judaism
Catholics believe that our Lord Jesus Christ founded the Catholic Church in the year 33. Jesus appointed the apostle Peter as the first vicar or pope. Matthew 16:18-19 are the scriptural references Catholics give to support this. “And I say unto thee, That thou art Peter, 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 shalt be loosed in heaven.”
Around the year A.D. 45, Peter went to Rome and assumed control of the church. During the persecution of Christians by the emperor Nero, Peter was imprisoned and scourged. He gave his farewell blessing to all of his flock, and especially to Saint Paul, who was going to be beheaded the same day outside Rome. He was then led to the top of Vatican Mount to be executed by crucifixion. Deeming himself to be unworthy to die in the same position as our Lord, he asked to be crucified upside down. He received his eternal reward on June 29 in the year 67. Two hundred sixty six popes have succeeded Peter since.
For the next 300 years, Rome would begin a serious persecution against the truth. Christians began to meet behind closed doors and gradual changes were made. Elders of the church were known as bishops, and by the close of the third century; each congregation of any size had a bishop as its head, with a group of elders under him. No work was to be done on Sunday.
In 306, Constantine became sole emperor of Rome. His mother Helena became a Christian and urged Constantine to ease up on the persecution of Christians. He decided that Christianity would now be the state religion. Finding much division in the church, he decided to call a meeting to be held in Nicaea in May 325 A.D. to discuss and unite over the issues that divided the church. Three hundred eighteen bishops assembled and established the Nicene Creed.
Several doctrines were decreed. (1) The Oneness of Deity (2) Easter to be celebrated on the same day (3) Preachers not to be married (4) Certain meats not to be eaten on Sunday by bishops (5) A greater recognition given to the bishops of Antioch, Constantinople, Alexandria, Rome, and Jerusalem. These bishops would be patriarchs, and all authority would be under them.
In A.D. 606, Boniface III was given the title “universal bishop,” the pope of Rome. The word “pope” means father. This marked the beginning of the Roman Catholic Church.
Today there are an estimated 1.038 billion Catholics in the world. They make up almost 18 percent of the world population. The pope still heads the church, and priests are urged to remain celibate. (http://www.allaboutreligion.org/history-of-the-catholic-church-faq.htm)
In keeping with the Lord’s command, the Gospel was handed on in two ways:
– orally “by the apostles who handed on, by the spoken word of their preaching, by the example they gave, by the institutions they established, what they themselves had received;
– in writing “by those apostles and other men associated with the apostles who, under the inspiration of the same Holy Spirit, committed the message of salvation to writing”.
. . . continued in apostolic succession
“In order that the full and living Gospel might always be preserved in the Church the apostles left bishops as their successors. They gave them their own position of teaching authority.” Indeed, “the apostolic preaching, which is expressed in a special way in the inspired books, was to be preserved in a continuous line of succession until the end of time.”
This living transmission, accomplished in the Holy Spirit, is called Tradition, since it is distinct from Sacred Scripture, though closely connected to it. (76-78)
…the Church, to whom the transmission and interpretation of Revelation is entrusted, “does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from the holy Scriptures alone. Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honored with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence.” (83)
“The task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether in its written form or in the form of Tradition, has been entrusted to the living teaching office of the Church alone. Its authority in this matter is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ.” This means that the task of interpretation has been entrusted to the bishops in communion with the successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome. (85)
It is the task of exegetes to work, according to these rules, towards a better understanding and explanation of the meaning of Sacred Scripture in order that their research may help the Church to form a firmer judgment. For, of course, all that has been said about the manner of interpreting Scripture is ultimately subject to the judgment of the Church which exercises the divinely conferred commission and ministry of watching over and interpreting the Word of God. (119)
The Roman Catholic Church has traditionally suppressed, opposed, and forbidden the open use of the Bible. It was first officially forbidden to the people and placed on the index of Forbidden Books List by the Council of Valencia in 1229 A.D. The Council of Trent (1545-63 A.D.) also prohibited its use and pronounced a curse upon anyone who would dare oppose this decree. Many popes have issued decrees forbidding Bible reading in the common language of the people, condemning Bible societies and banning its possession and translation under penalty of mortal sin and death. The Roman Catholic Church has openly burned Bibles and those who translated it or promoted its study, reading, and use (John Hus, 1415 A.D.; William Tyndale, 1536 A.D.) Roman Catholic Religion Examined
“I believe in God”: this first affirmation of the Apostles’ Creed is also the most fundamental. The whole Creed speaks of God, and when it also speaks of man and of the world it does so in relation to God. The other articles of the Creed all depend on the first, just as the remaining Commandments make the first explicit. The other articles help us to know God better as he revealed himself progressively to men. (199)
Jesus revealed that God is Father in an unheard-of sense: he is Father not only in being Creator; he is eternally Father in relation to his only Son, who is eternally Son only in relation to his Father. (240)
The apostolic faith concerning the Spirit was confessed by the second ecumenical council at Constantinople (381): “We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life, who proceeds from the Father.” By this confession, the Church recognizes the Father as “the source and origin of the whole divinity”. But the eternal origin of the Spirit is not unconnected with the Son’s origin: “The Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, is God, one and equal with the Father and the Son, of the same substance and also of the same nature. . . Yet he is not called the Spirit of the Father alone,. . . but the Spirit of both the Father and the Son.” (245)
The Trinity is one; the divine persons are really distinct from one another; the divine persons are relative to one another. (253-255)
Taking up St. John’s expression, “The Word became flesh”, the Church calls “Incarnation” the fact that the Son of God assumed a human nature in order to accomplish our salvation in it. (461)
The unique and altogether singular event of the Incarnation of the Son of God does not mean that Jesus Christ is part God and part man, nor does it imply that he is the result of a confused mixture of the divine and the human. He became truly man while remaining truly God. Jesus Christ is true God and true man. (464)
The Church thus confesses that Jesus is inseparably true God and true man. He is truly the Son of God who, without ceasing to be God and Lord, became a man and our brother. (469)
Jesus Christ is true God and true man, in the unity of his divine person; for this reason he is the one and only mediator between God and men. (480)
To become the mother of the Savior, Mary “was enriched by God with gifts appropriate to such a role.” Through the centuries the Church has become ever more aware that Mary, “full of grace” through God, was redeemed from the moment of her conception. That is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses, as Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 1854: The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin. (490-491)
“God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them.” Man occupies a unique place in creation: (I) he is “in the image of God”; (II) in his own nature he unites the spiritual and material worlds; (III) he is created “male and female”; (IV) God established him in his friendship. (355)
Only the light of divine Revelation clarifies the reality of sin and particularly of the sin committed at mankind’s origins. Without the knowledge Revelation gives of God we cannot recognize sin clearly and are tempted to explain it as merely a developmental flaw, a psychological weakness, a mistake, or the necessary consequence of an inadequate social structure, etc. Only in the knowledge of God’s plan for man can we grasp that sin is an abuse of the freedom that God gives to created persons so that they are capable of loving him and loving one another. (387)
The account of the fall in Genesis 3 uses figurative language, but affirms a primeval event, a deed that took place at the beginning of the history of man. Revelation gives us the certainty of faith that the whole of human history is marked by the original fault freely committed by our first parents. (390)
Behind the disobedient choice of our first parents lurks a seductive voice, opposed to God, which makes them fall into death out of envy. Scripture and the Church’s Tradition see in this being a fallen angel, called “Satan” or the “devil”. (391)
God created man a rational being, conferring on him the dignity of a person who can initiate and control his own actions. “God willed that man should be ‘left in the hand of his own counsel,’ so that he might of his own accord seek his Creator and freely attain his full and blessed perfection by cleaving to him.” Man is rational and therefore like God; he is created with free will and is master over his acts. (1730)
God created man a rational being, conferring on him the dignity of a person who can initiate and control his own actions. “God willed that man should be ‘left in the hand of his own counsel,’ so that he might of his own accord seek his Creator and freely attain his full and blessed perfection by cleaving to him.” (1731)
Man is rational and therefore like God; he is created with free will and is master over his acts. (1732)
Celebrated worthily in faith, the sacraments confer the grace that they signify. They are efficacious because in them Christ himself is at work: it is he who baptizes, he who acts in his sacraments in order to communicate the grace that each sacrament signifies. The Father always hears the prayer of his Son’s Church which, in the epiclesis [the invocation of the Holy Spirit to consecrate the bread and wine of the Eucharist] of each sacrament, expresses her faith in the power of the Spirit. As fire transforms into itself everything it touches, so the Holy Spirit transforms into the divine life whatever is subjected to his power. (1127)
This is the meaning of the Church’s affirmation that the sacraments act ex opere operato (literally: “by the very fact of the action’s being performed”), i.e., by virtue of the saving work of Christ, accomplished once for all. It follows that “the sacrament is not wrought by the righteousness of either the celebrant or the recipient, but by the power of God.” From the moment that a sacrament is celebrated in accordance with the intention of the Church, the power of Christ and his Spirit acts in and through it, independently of the personal holiness of the minister. Nevertheless, the fruits of the sacraments also depend on the disposition of the one who receives them. (1128)
The Church affirms that for believers the sacraments of the New Covenant are necessary for salvation. “Sacramental grace” is the grace of the Holy Spirit, given by Christ and proper to each sacrament. The Spirit heals and transforms those who receive him by conforming them to the Son of God. The fruit of the sacramental life is that the Spirit of adoption makes the faithful partakers in the divine nature by uniting them in a living union with the only Son, the Savior. (1129)
The sacraments are efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us. The visible rites by which the sacraments are celebrated signify and make present the graces proper to each sacrament. They bear fruit in those who receive them with the required dispositions. (1131)
Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit (vitae spiritualis ianua), and the door which gives access to the other sacraments. Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission: “Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration through water in the word.” (1213)
This sacrament is also called “the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit,” for it signifies and actually brings about the birth of water and the Spirit without which no one “can enter the kingdom of God.” (1215)
NOTE: The seven sacraments are 1) Baptism (1213-1284); 2) Confirmation (1285-1321); 3) Eucharist (1322-1419); 4) Penance (1422-1498); 5) Anointing of the Sick (1499-1532); 6) Holy Orders (1536-1600); 7) Matrimony (1601-1666)
The moral law is the work of divine Wisdom. Its biblical meaning can be defined as fatherly instruction, God’s pedagogy. It prescribes for man the ways, the rules of conduct that lead to the promised beatitude; it proscribes the ways of evil which turn him away from God and his love. It is at once firm in its precepts and, in its promises, worthy of love. (1950)
There are different expressions of the moral law, all of them interrelated: eternal law – the source, in God, of all law; natural law; revealed law, comprising the Old Law and the New Law, or Law of the Gospel; finally, civil and ecclesiastical laws. (1952)
The Church, the “pillar and bulwark of the truth,” “has received this solemn command of Christ from the apostles to announce the saving truth.” “To the Church belongs the right always and everywhere to announce moral principles, including those pertaining to the social order, and to make judgments on any human affairs to the extent that they are required by the fundamental rights of the human person or the salvation of souls.” (2032)
The Roman Pontiff and the bishops are “authentic teachers, that is, teachers endowed with the authority of Christ, who preach the faith to the people entrusted to them, the faith to be believed and put into practice.” The ordinary and universal Magisterium of the Pope and the bishops in communion with him teach the faithful the truth to believe, the charity to practice, the beatitude to hope for. The supreme degree of participation in the authority of Christ is ensured by the charism of infallibility. This infallibility extends as far as does the deposit of divine Revelation; it also extends to all those elements of doctrine, including morals, without which the saving truths of the faith cannot be preserved, explained, or observed. (2034-2035)
Freedom makes man responsible for his acts to the extent that they are voluntary. Progress in virtue, knowledge of the good, and ascesis [rigorous self-denial and active self-restraint] enhance the mastery of the will over its acts. (1734)
Sin is an offense against reason, truth, and right conscience; it is failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods. It wounds the nature of man and injures human solidarity. It has been defined as “an utterance, a deed, or a desire contrary to the eternal law.” Sin is an offense against God. (1849-1850)
Sins are rightly evaluated according to their gravity. The distinction between mortal and venial sin, already evident in Scripture (1 John 5:16-17), became part of the tradition of the Church. It is corroborated by human experience. (1854)
Mortal sin destroys charity in the heart of man by a grave violation of God’s law; it turns man away from God, who is his ultimate end and his beatitude, by preferring an inferior good to him. Venial sin allows charity to subsist, even though it offends and wounds it. (1855)
Mortal sin, by attacking the vital principle within us – that is, charity – necessitates a new initiative of God’s mercy and a conversion of heart which is normally accomplished within the setting of the sacrament of reconciliation (penance, Ed.). (1856)
For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met: “Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent.” One commits venial sin when, in a less serious matter, he does not observe the standard prescribed by the moral law, or when he disobeys the moral law in a grave matter, but without full knowledge or without complete consent. (1857, 1862)
Death puts an end to human life as the time open to either accepting or rejecting the divine grace manifested in Christ. The New Testament speaks of judgment primarily in its aspect of the final encounter with Christ in his second coming, but also repeatedly affirms that each will be rewarded immediately after death in accordance with his works and faith. (1021)
Each man receives his eternal retribution in his immortal soul at the very moment of his death, in a particular judgment that refers his life to Christ: either entrance into the blessedness of heaven-through a purification or immediately, — or immediate and everlasting damnation. (1022)
Those who die in God’s grace and friendship and are perfectly purified live for ever with Christ. They are like God for ever, for they “see him as he is,” face to face. (1023)
All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven. The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned. The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire. (1030-1031)
From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God. The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead. (1032)
To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God’s merciful love means remaining separated from him for ever by our own free choice. This state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called “hell.” (1033)
The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, “eternal fire.” The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs. (1035)
At the end of time, the Kingdom of God will come in its fullness. After the universal judgment, the righteous will reign for ever with Christ, glorified in body and soul. The universe itself will be renewed: The Church will receive her perfection only in the glory of heaven, when will come the time of the renewal of all things. At that time, together with the human race, the universe itself, which is so closely related to man and which attains its destiny through him, will be perfectly re-established in Christ. Sacred Scripture calls this mysterious renewal, which will transform humanity and the world, “new heavens and a new earth.” It will be the definitive realization of God’s plan to bring under a single head “all things in [Christ], things in heaven and things on earth.” In this new universe, the heavenly Jerusalem, God will have his dwelling among men. (1042-1045)
The Tanakh corresponds to the Jewish Scriptures, (often referred to as the Old Testament by Christians). It is composed of three groups of books:
–the Torah (Pentateuch/Law): Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.
–the Nevi’im: (Prophets) Joshua, Judges, Samuel (2), Kings (2), Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zachariah, and Malachi.
–the Ketuvim, the “Writings” including Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, Ruth, Esther, Lamentations, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, Chronicles (2).
The Talmud contains stories, laws, medical knowledge, debates about moral choices, etc. It is composed of material which comes mainly from two sources:
–the Mishnah’s, oral tradition, 6 “orders” containing hundreds of chapters, including series of laws from the Hebrew Scriptures. It was compiled about 200 CE.
–the Gemara (one Babylonian and one Palestinian) is encyclopedic in scope. It includes comments from hundreds of Rabbis from 200 – 500 CE, explaining the Mishnah with additional historical, religious, legal, sociological, etc. material. It often records many different opinions on a topic without giving a definitive answer.
Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, (a.k.a. Maimonides) is generally accepted as one of the most important Jewish scholars from Medieval times. He wrote a list of thirteen principles of faith. This list has been generally accepted by Jews for centuries as a brief summary of the Jewish faith. However, the liberal wings of Judaism dispute some of the 13 today.
1. God exists.
2. God is one and unique.
3. God is incorporeal.
4. God is eternal.
5. Prayer is to be directed to God alone and to no other.
6. The words of the prophets are true.
7. Moses was the greatest of the prophets, and his prophecies are true.
8. The Written Torah (first 5 books of the Bible) and Oral Torah (teachings now contained in the Talmud and other writings) were given to Moses.
9. There will be no other Torah.
10. God knows the thoughts and deeds of men.
11. God will reward the good and punish the wicked.
12. The Messiah will come.
13. The dead will be resurrected.
Jews are strict monotheists, like Muslims. They view God as a single, indivisible entity. This contrasts with most Christians who view God as a Trinity — a single entity with three personalities — the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Some Jews view Jesus as a great moral teacher. Others see him as a false prophet or as an idol of Christianity. Some sects of Judaism will not even say his name due to the prohibition against saying an idol’s name.
The Messiah (the anointed one of God) will arrive in the future and gather Jews once more into the land of Israel. There will be a general resurrection of the dead at that time. The Jerusalem Temple, destroyed in 70 CE, will be rebuilt.
Jewish belief does not accept the Christian concept of original sin (the belief that all people have inherited Adam and Eve’s sin when they disobeyed God’s instructions in the Garden of Eden).
Judaism affirms the inherent goodness of the world and its people as creations of God.
The idea of human free will is fundamental to Judaism. The concept of original sin is rejected, and every person has the ability to choose good or evil.
Jewish believers are able to sanctify their lives and draw closer to God by performing fulfilling mitzvot (divine commandments).
Jews do not recognize the need for a savior as an intermediary with God.
The Mosaic Law consists of 613 commandments found in Leviticus and other books. They regulate all aspects of Jewish life.
The Ten commandments, as delineated in Exodus 20:1-17 and Deuteronomy 5:6-21, form a brief synopsis of the Law.
Jews generally consider actions and behavior to be of primary importance; beliefs come out of actions. This conflicts with conservative Christians for whom belief is of primary importance and actions tend to be derivative from beliefs.
Jews do not believe that the messiah will be divine. A fundamental difference between Judaism and Christianity is the Jewish conviction that God is so essentially different from and beyond humanity that he could never become a human. The “when” of the messiah’s arrival is not made clear in the Tanach, and has been a source of much scholarly speculation.
When the messiah does come, he will inaugurate the messianic age (sometimes called the Olam Ha-Ba, World to Come). The Tanakh employs the following descriptions about this period:
—Peace among all nations (Isaiah 2:4; Micah 4:3)
–Perfect harmony and abundance in nature (Isaiah 11:6-9) (but some interpret this as an allegory for peace and prosperity)
–All Jews return from exile to Israel (Isaiah 11:11-12; Jeremiah 23:8; 30:3; Hosea 3:4-5)
–Universal acceptance of the Jewish God and Jewish religion (Isaiah 2:3; 11:10; 66:23; Micah 4:2-3; Zechariah 14:9)
–No sin or evil; all Israel will obey the commandments (Zephaniah 3:13; Ezekiel 37:24)
–Reinstatement of the Temple (Ezekiel 37:26-27)
Jewish sacred texts and literature have little to say about what happens after death. This may seem surprising to non-Jews, since the sacred texts of Christianity and Islam (both of which have their foundations in Judaism) elaborate rather fully about the afterlife.
Judaism is much more focused on actions than beliefs, so it is actually to be expected that its prophets and sages have not spent as much time on speculations about the world to come as elaborations on the mitzvot to be performed in this life.
Traditional Judaism includes belief in both heaven and hell. How is one’s destination decided? The School of Shammai offered this description:
There will be three groups on the Day of Judgment: one of thoroughly righteous people, one of thoroughly wicked people and one of people in between. The first group will be immediately inscribed for everlasting life; the second group will be doomed in Gehinnom [Hell], as it says, “And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life and some to reproaches and everlasting abhorrence” [Daniel 12:2], the third will go down to Gehinnom and squeal and rise again, as it says, “And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried. They shall call on My name and I will answer them” [Zechariah 13:9]… [Babylonian Talmud, tractate Rosh Hashanah 16b-17a]
The school of Hillel suggested a more merciful view, in which the middle group are sent directly to Gan Eden (Heaven) instead of Gehinnom after death. Rabbi Hanina added that all who go down to Gehinnom will go up again, except adulterers, those who put their fellows to shame in public, and those who call their fellows by an obnoxious name [Babylonian Talmud, tractate Baba Metzia 58b].
The Talmud teaches that all Israel will have a share in Olam Ha-Ba, but makes some notable exceptions:
All Israelites have a share in the world-to-come… [However], these are they that have no share in the world-to-come: one who says there is no resurrection of the dead prescribed in the Torah, and that the Torah is not from Heaven, and an Epicurean. (Sanhedrin 10:1)
General Jewish belief is that one need not be Jewish to enjoy Heaven. “Moses Maimonides, echoing the Tosefta to Sanhedrin, maintained that the pious of all the nations of the world have a portion in the world-to-come [Mishneh Torah, Repentance 3:5].”
- Christianity and Other World Religions
New Age Movement
not a monolithic movement because it lacks cohesiveness; major figures do try to promote a “movement” mindset in order to achieve overall goal. People and terms: Dan Brown, Jeanne Dixon, Edgar Cayce, Shirley Maclaine, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, Shakti Gawain, Deepak Chopra (ascensiongateway.com). George Lucas, David Spangler, Marilyn Ferguson, Neale Donald Walsch (Conversations with God), Gaia, Mother Earth. Encompasses great emphasis on spirituality, miracles, angels due to philosophical perspective.
“New Age is a recent and developing belief system in North America encompassing thousands of autonomous (and sometime contradictory) beliefs, organizations, and events. Generally the New Age borrows its theology from pantheistic Eastern religions and its practices from 19th century Western occultism.” (http://www.wfial.org/index.cfm)
Some popular publications and journals are New Age Journal, Body Mind Spirit, Yoga Journal, Gnosis, East West, Noetic Sciences, and Omega.
Other Names: Higher Consciousness Movement, Occultism, Eastern Mysticism, Eastern Spirituality, Ancient or Perennial Wisdom, Age of Aquarius, Holistic Health Movement.
The New Age Movement is both a religious and a social movement. It’s a multi-focused, multi-faceted synthesis, in varying degrees, of the Far Eastern, mystical religions, mainly Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, and Western Occultism, adapted to and influenced by Western, materialistic culture.
It is comprised of hundreds of groups and individuals who have gained significant influence, affecting almost every area of the culture [including] the church. It is expressed in organized religious forms such as Christian Science, Unity, and even forms of Witchcraft. Yet, it shows up in secular forms as well, in various human potential seminars, and much in between, i.e., transcendental meditation, some alternative holistic health practices, and certain curriculum in public (and private) schools.
The most central and commonly shared beliefs among New Agers are various combinations of gnosticism and occultism. Gnosticism is an ancient world-view stating that Divine essence is the only true or highest reality, and that the unconscious Self of man is actually this essence.
The term “New Age” is an informal term derived from astrology, which indicates that this earth, if not the cosmos, is on the verge of an evolutionary transition from the Piscean Age (rationality) to the Aquarian Age of spirituality, bliss, and harmony of all things. (http://www.watchman.org/profile/nwagmpro.htm)
New Age author Marilyn Ferguson also sees the New Age movement as a road to positive change:
“Humankind has come upon the control panel of change—an understanding of how transformation occurs. We are living in the change of change, the time in which we can intentionally align ourselves with nature for rapid remaking of ourselves and our collapsing institutions. … We are not victims, not pawns, not limited by conditions or conditioning. … We are capable of imagination, invention, and experiences we have only glimpsed.”
No external revelation has importance over any other, none is any more the word of God than another. No document, body of literature, external entity has the right to exert authority over an individual. Best description: radical autonomy, self-law.
“The real problem with commitment to an external form is that it doesn’t allow room tor the inevitable changes and growth of people and relationships. If you promise to feel or behave by a certain set of rules, eventually you are going to have to choose between being true to yourself and being true to those rules.” “When we consistently suppress and distrust our intuitive knowingness, looking instead for [external] authority, validation, and approval from others, we give our personal power away.” Shakti Gawain
“Special revelation need not exist in books or in any other form outside of us, because each of us has our own special revelation in our higher consciousness.” UTT
All is God, God is all, all is one. All reality is one, spiritual, at the opposite end of the spectrum from Secular Humanism. Matter is simply a manifestation of spirit, lasting only until universal higher consciousness is achieved. Ultimate reality is the God-force or Christ-consciousness.
“Once we begin to see that we are all God, that we all have the attributes of God, then I think the whole purpose of human life is to reown the Godlikeness within us.” Beverly Galyean
“”We are as much God as God is a part of us; each of us is God; together we are God’ this all-for-one-and-one-for-all makes us the whole of God.” Ruth Montgomery, quoting a channeled spirit
Every person should begin the day by affirming their own godhood: “You can use I am God or I am that I am as Christ often did, or you can extend the affirmation to fit your own needs.” Shirley Maclaine
“Levi Downing’s, The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ, declares that Jesus became the Christ through a complicated mystical ceremony in Egypt (Aquarian Gospel, Section XI). The channeled New Age book, A Course in Miracles, states that Jesus became the Christ by seeing “the face of Christ in all His brothers.” (p. 83). Both the Aquarian Gospel and the above statement in A Course in Miracles reveals a lot about the New Age. Firstly, they believe that Christ and Jesus are distinct in some way. They will often say that Jesus was the man in whom the Christ dwelt. The Christ, is said to be a kind of cosmic principle, obtainable by anyone who is enlightened.” (http://www.spotlightministries.org.uk/newagejesus.htm)
The Jesus of the Course explains, “There is nothing about me that you cannot attain. This leaves me in a state which is only potential in you. I bridge the distance as an elder brother to you on the one hand, and as a Son of God on the other” (A Course In Miracles, Vol. 1, p. 5).
“In Jesus we had the first perfect full example of what it’s like to be in the image and likeness of God, and he launched that story, including the crucifixion of the animal body and the resurrection to a light body – a resurrected body of subtle energy – to show us that we are, indeed, meant to be in the image and likeness of creative gods.” Barbara Marx Hubbard
“The significance of incarnation and resurrection is not that Jesus was human like us but rather that we are gods like him – or at least have the potential to be.” Science of Mind
“Jesus was human. He fully manifested human potential but he always discouraged the projection upon himself of a deified superman. He made clear that his powers were available to all, and showed the way to them.” Kell Kearns
“The Son of God is not Jesus but our combined Christ-consciousness.” John White
Man is divine, progressing toward godhood or Christ-consciousness. Each individual’s soul was present in other forms earlier in history and will remain in still other forms after the individual dies (reincarnation).
Man has the ability to alter the progress of evolution; the goal is to achieve higher consciousness when material reality will disappear and all will experience cosmic oneness. The path to enlightenment and higher consciousness is through meditation often with the aid of crystals or mantras. An added benefit that comes from regular meditation is channeling. Other aids to meditation are astrology, firewalking, Ouija boards, aura readings.
New Age meditation focuses on the God within rather than the God without.
“And if you really want to pray to God, you can just close your eyes anywhere, and think about that feeling of god, that makes you part of everything and everybody. If you can feel that feeling of God, and everybody else can feel that feeling of God, then we can all become friends together, and we can really understand ‘What is God?’. So, if you really want to feel God, you can close your eyes now, and listen to your breath go slowly in and out, and think how you are connected to everything, even if you are not touching everything.” What is God?, children’s book
Sin is an illusion, so too, the idea that we have left heaven. The world, sin and death are all illusions created by mankind who has believed in a wrong idea. Bottom line – if we are God enough we can save ourselves. Of course, it would help if everyone else got on board and we all achieved higher consciousness together. If enough people make it, there will be sufficient “critical mass” to bring along the rest and achieve the cosmic oneness that was lost in the Fall. The Fall was basically a glitch on the evolutionary road to godhood.
“Jesus remains a Savior because he saw the false without accepting it as true. And Christ needed his form that He might appear to men and save them from their own illusion. Jesus became what all of you must be”. Course in Miracles
“The gospels speak of Jesus as the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. The way that he took away the sins of the world was to show that they had no effect. Through his overcoming of death he took away all sins. However, this is not the way that the churches have understood it, or that it has been taught. So one important reason that the Course has come at this time, in this way, is to correct this error. What Jesus did was to live in this world – the world of suffering, sin, and death – show that it had no effect on him” (A Talk Given On A Course In Miracles, p. 65).
“By salvation I do not mean an elect few who will be plucked from the planet at the last possible moment. to sing ‘Amazing Grace’ in front of a gigantic throne for endless millennia after billions of brothers and sisters have suffered and died horrifically on earth below. I mean the continuance of the collective Human Being here, now and in a cocreative future of the advancing consciousness of Self divinity and loving power.” Kell Kearns
The standard of right and wrong is the individual. The individual has no authority to impose his/her standard on any other; all moral/ethical views must be tolerated because ethics is relative to the truth within each individual. More alarming, if all is one then good and evil are indistinguishable; so are right and wrong, wholeness and brokenness, light and dark, Christ and Lucifer.
“Christ is the same force as Lucifer…Lucifer prepares man for the experience of Christhood.” David Spangler
It is only by listening to the “God within” that each individual settles on a personal standard of right and wrong. The individual is responsible for holding himself to his own standard, if that is part of his standard, and cannot hold anyone else accountable to anything.
Brad Pitt declares, “It’s taking everything you’ve learned from your parents and school and finding out what works for you and what you have to offer. The important question is, ‘What feels right for you?’”
“What I see happening now is that we are at the edge of Armageddon and there are people who believe that even by using power, even nuclear power that there would somehow be a redemption after that which would lead to the return of Christ. That’s one reason they’re for the apocalypse! But, there’s another interpretation of this altogether. The alternative to the destruction of this existing world in order to bring Christ in would be the creation of the mass resonance and connectivity of the world which would bring in the experience of the Essential Being, the Father, the Creator, the God Within, in a critical mass simultaneously which would shift the field of Earth, the thinking layer, the Noosphere, that would be the Christification of the Earth. It could well be, this is my evolutionary intuition, that when we receive a massive degree of resonance in a critical mass of humans that whatever is beyond this dimension of human consciousness – the so called spirits, angels, living body of Christ, will be collectively experienced. We have ‘seen through a glass darkly’, when we experience mass resonance we will ‘see face to face’. We do not need to go through Armageddon.” Barbara Marx Hubbard
“Surely we can see the times. They are as obvious as the weather out our window. The choice between life and death has come down to this generation. “Greater things than I do shall you do,” Jesus said. “You are gods!” We are to bear each other into the vast territory of love, and let none be left behind who would come. The Beloved Community is our only survivable destiny. It is our salvation.
We will not be denied this time, as Jesus was seemingly denied in his day. The Reign of God is among us. The Reign of God is at hand. The Reign of God is everywhere bursting forth. It is eternal Reality. There is more and more of the New Humanity each day. They can not crucify us all. We are a chain reaction of love. We will overrun the old order with love. Let us declare that with us the age of the crucifixion of humankind ends. The age of the universal resurrection into love begins here and now. Baptized as the Beloved Community, we emerge from the old river of extinction as a new creation.” Kell Kearns
- Christianity and Other World Religions
Muhammad (570-632 AD)
As an ordinary Arab (age 1-35).
Muhammad, a descendant of Ishmael, was born into a minor clan of the Quraish tribe in
Mecca. Orphaned at an early age (father died before Muhammad’s birth, mother when he was 6 years old, grandfather and guardian when he was 8), he was raised by an uncle, Abu Talib. As a child, he took care of herds. Later, he subsisted as a camel driver. Eventually Khadija, a wealthy widow, employed him. They fell in love and were married. As a wealthy merchant, Muhammad had contact with adherents of monotheistic religions on the trade routes and time to pursue religion.
As a religious seeker and visionary (age 35-52).
At the time, Mecca was a place where polytheism and animism thrived. Each tribe had its own deity and made annual pilgrimages to Mecca to pay homage. En toto, some 360 deities were worshipped. The first shrine that greeted pilgrims entering Mecca was a statue of God’s [Allah’s] three sensuous-appearing daughters (al-Lat, al-Manat, and al-Uzza). The Ka’ba that housed a black stone allegedly given to Abraham by Gabriel was dedicated to the god Habal.
In 610 AD, while meditating in a cave on Mt. Hira, overlooking the plain of Arafat, Muhammad fell into a trance. Trembling and sweating, he heard the angel Gabriel say to him, “Recite!” This was the beginning of a series of “recitations” given to him over a period of years.
Muhammad’s career as a prophet in Mecca began. His message to the Meccans was this: There is only one God to whose will people must submit, and there will be a day of judgment when all people will be judged in terms of whether or not they have obeyed God. Some accepted what he said and became Muslims; others (the majority) rejected his message.
His “Flight” and the Subsequent Growth of the Theocracy (age 52-62).
Rejection of Muhammad and his message by the leaders of the Quraish led him to look for some other place where this new religion could be established. The people of Yathrib (now Medina) had expressed interest and openness to Muhammad and his followers, so they left Mecca in 622 AD and settled there. Muslims use the date of the migration, the hijrah, as the start of the Muslim era. [AH = After the hijrah; not after revelation, not after commissioning as prophet, but after rise to power as a warlord].
In early January 630 AD [8 AH] Muhammad led an army of 10,000 to Mecca and conquered his enemies. The Ka’ba was cleansed of idols and shrines to pagan gods were destroyed. Muhammad retained Mecca as the center for pilgrimage, and certain holy places, such as the Ka’ba and the well Zamzam.
He died in 632 AD (10 AH).
The basic essentials in “The Practice of Islam” are summed up in the five pillars of faith.
1. The confession of faith (Shaháda), i.e. the recitation of the ‘Kalima’ (= word). “There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the messenger (apostle) of Allah”.
2. Prayer (Salat) [in arab. the ‘t’ at the end is not pronounced]. This is the duty of every Muslim (able to do so). The prescribed ritual prayers five times daily, at prescribed times, with the prescribed posture, have to be observed. During these five prayers a fixed prayer-text must be recited seventeen times altogether (twice in the morning; four times at noon; four times in the afternoon; three times in the evening and four times at night). This is called by many Persian and Indian Muslims ‘namaz’. The wording of this prayer is found in the appendix.
3. The giving of alms (Zakat) [again the ‘t’ is not pronounced] is a religious duty and should amount to not less than 2.5% of the income above ones needs.
4. Keeping the Fast during the month of Ramadaan (Sawm) is a duty for all, except the sick, travellers, pregnant women, nursing mothers and children. The fast is to last from the rising of the sun until sunset.
5. Pilgrimage to Mecca (Hajj) is required once in a lifetime during the month of Zu’l-Hijjah, if the means allow this. There is also a minor pilgrimage (Umra), which is performed at other times. We ought to realize that very considerable cost is involved in a pilgrimage, quite apart from the travel fare.
6. Some add to this the Holy War (Jihaad). Today in the West this concept is often interpreted as ‘the spreading of your faith’.
Prophets who were also apostles left books for their people.
1. Moses revealed the law (Tawrat), David gave us the psalms (Zabur), Jesus left us the gospel (Injil), and Muhammad left us recitations (Qur’an) he received from God through Gabriel.
2. Jews and Christians have their holy books, just as Muslims have the Qur’an. The former are known as “people of the book.”
3. The Qur’an is the highest authority in Islam. It is the earthly version of a heavenly book and the um-al-kitab (mother of all books). The Qur’an is divided into Suras (chapters) and ayats (verses), and maintains its authoritative character only in Arabic.
We believe that the Qur’an is Allah’s words. He literally spoke it to Gabriel who conveyed it to the Prophet, peace be upon him: “Say (O Muhammad) the Holy Spirit has brought it down from your Lord in truth.” (16:102) “Truly it is the revelation of the Lord of the worlds brought down upon your heart by the Faithful Spirit so that you may be one of the warners, in a clear Arabic tongue.”(26: 192-5) (Muslim Creed)
The Qur’an is “confirming the scripture that was before it and stands as a guardian over it.” Thus, by the Qur’an Allah abrogated all the previous Books. Allah has also guaranteed its protection from any play or mischievous distortion. “Indeed, We sent down the message and We will guard it.” (15:9) That is because the Qur’an is a proof against mankind till the Day of Judgement. Ibid.
The previous scriptures were meant for a limited period that ended with the revelation of what abrogated them and exposed what had taken place in them of distortion and change. That is why they were not protected from corruption. They underwent distortion, addition and omission. “Some of the Jews pervert words from their meanings.” (4:46) “So woe to those who write the Book with their hands, and then say, ‘This is from Allah,’ that they may sell it for a little price. So woe to them for what their hands have written, and woe to them for their earnings.” (2:79) Ibid.
Sura 112:1-4. Say: He is Allah, the One and Only; Allah, the Eternal, Absolute; He begetteth not, nor is He begotten; And there is none like unto Him.
Allah, on the other hand, although calling himself merciful and gracious and all-forgiving, differs dramatically. He is the absolute Singular, he has no partners! (Suras 6:22-24, 136-137, 163). He has no son! (Sura 2:116; 6:100; 19:85; 23:91; 112:1-4). He forgives whom he pleases and punishes whom he pleases (Sura 5:20; see chapter on ‘Predestination’, p. 111ff). He is high above all else – remote from man, although the Qur’an also says: “We [i.e. Allah] are nearer to him [i.e. man] than his jugular vein” (Sura 50:16). Nels & Eric
God Most High is alone to be adored. He has neither associate nor equal. He is free from the imperfections of humanity. He is neither begotten nor does He beget. He is invisible. He is without figure, colour or parts. His existence has neither beginning nor end. He is immutable. If He so wills, He can annihilate the world in a moment of time and, if it seems good to Him, recreate it in an instant. Nothing is difficult to Him, whether it be the creation of a fly or that of the seven heavens. He receives neither profit nor loss from whatever may happen. If all the Infidels became believers and all the irreligious pious, He would gain no advantage. On the other hand, if all Believers became infidels, He would suffer no loss. Imam al-Barqavi
1. “There is no God but Allah” [La-ilaha-ill-allah]. This affirms
a. the oneness of God. [Note: The unforgivable sin in Islam is shirk, ascribing any of the exclusive power or rights of Allah to another or to an associate.]
b. the uniqueness of God.
2. “God is the greatest” [Allah-o-akbar]. This affirms that
a. God can do anything he wants.
b. God is far greater than all created beings.
c. God needs nothing.
3. “In the name of Allah, the most gracious and the most merciful” [Bis-millah-al-rahman-orahim]. This states that
a. God is most gracious.
b. God is most merciful.
4. “If God wills” [Insha-allah]–This affirms that God predestines everything that happens.
“They do blaspheme who say: ‘Allah is Christ the son of Mary’. But said Christ: ‘O Children of Israel! Worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord’. Whoever joins other gods with Allah, Allah will forbid him the garden, and the fire will be his abode. There will for the wrong-doers be no one to help. They blaspheme who say: Allah is one of three in a trinity; for there is no god except One Allah. Christ the son of Mary was no more than an apostle; many were the apostles that passed away before him. His mother was a woman of truth, they had both to eat their (daily) food.” Sura 5:72-75
“O people of the book! Commit no excesses in your religion: nor say of Allah aught but truth. Christ Jesus the son of Mary was (no more than) an apostle of Allah. And His Word, which he bestowed on Mary, and a spirit proceeding from Him: so believe in Allah and His apostles. Say not “Trinity”: desist. It will be better for you: For Allah is One Allah. Glory be to Him; (For exalted is He) above having a son. To Him belong all things in the heavens and on earth. And enough is Allah as a Disposer of affairs.” Sura 4:171
“It is not befitting to (the majesty of) Allah that He should beget a son. Glory be to Him! When He determines a matter, He only says to it, ‘Be’, and it is.” Sura 19:35
“The Jews call ‘Uzair a son of Allah, and the Christians call Christ the Son of Allah. That is a saying from their mouths; (In this) they but imitate what the Unbelievers of old used to say. Allah’s curse be on them: how they are deluded away from the Truth!” Sura 9:30
1. Each prophet is for a particular age.
2. Jesus was a prophet to the Jews.
a. The Qur’an affirms his virgin birth (3:45-47), his many miracles (3:49), and his ascension (4:158).
b. The Qur’an denies that he is God (5:117) and that he died on the cross (4:157). His substitutionary atonement is also denied.
c. According to hadith [tradition], signs inaugurating the last days include the prophecy that Jesus will return, take a wife, and have children. During his forty years on earth there will be peace such as has never previously existed. Then he will die and be buried alongside Muhammad. He will be resurrected with everyone else and judged by God.
3. Muhammad is the final prophet of God. He is considered to be the prophet like Moses foretold in Deuteronomy 18:15-18.
Al-Dajjal is the Islamic version of the Anti-Christ:
“It appears from many traditions that Dajjal was living or at least born at the time of the Holy Prophet. He will not die till he will be killed by Jesus. In the mean time, he has been kept in strong iron chains. The Holy Prophet has given his physical description. He will be squint of right eye, floating of the left eye, curly and coarse haired, having biting teeth, big and fat so much so that there will be a distance of 70 cubits between his two eyes. His father will be long statured with long nose like a beak, and his mother will be fat and long of two hands”. Mishkat IV, p. 51 – Commentary
Jesus will defeat Al-Dajjal:
“When Dajjal representing the embodiment of evils will let flow his poisonous teachings attended with general oppression and sham miracles, Jesus will come down from heaven placing his two palms upon the wings of angels and descend in [sic] the white minaret to the east of Damascus. He will pray behind Imam Mehdi thereby showing that he will establish the Shariat of the Holy Prophet of Arabia. He will destroy the Cross which represents the crucifixion of Jesus Christ because it is a gross misrepresentation. He will establish the kingdom of god on earth in which there will remain no mutual hatred, jealousy, enmity and rancour. The world will be filled up for a time with the melodious names of Allah. Thereafter almost all including the Jews and the Christians will accept Islam thus proving the truth of the Qur’anic verse: ‘He it is who sent his Apostle with guidance and true religion in order that He may cause it to prevail over all other religions’. After this Jesus will die and he will be buried at the Prophet’s sepulcher just by the side”. Mishkat IV, p. 80 – Commentary
Jesus will destroy all crosses:
“Abu Hurairah reported that the Messenger of Allah said: By One in whose hand there is my life, it is certainly near that the son of Mary will bring down to you justice and administration, that he will destroy the Cross, kill swines and abolish Jizya that wealth will increase so much so that nobody will accept it, so much so that one prostration will be better than the world and what will be therein. Afterwards Abu Hurairah said: Read if you like: And there will be none from among the People of the Book who will not believe in him before his death”. Mishkat IV, p. 81
Jesus will marry, have children, die and be buried next to Muhammad:
“Abdullah-b-Amr reported that the Messenger of Allah said: Jesus, son of Mary, will come down to the world. He will marry and there will be his issue, and he will live for forty five years and then die. He will be buried with me in my grave. Then I and Jesus, son of Mary, will stand up in one grave between Abu Bakr and Omar”. Mishkat IV, p. 82
God gave man spiritual qualities, but God is entirely unlike man; not only is He non-physical, He is not a person and not a spirit. God honored Adam and made him his viceroy (khalîfa) over the earth. The garden of Eden was probably not on earth. It is the same as paradise.
Adam repented and was forgiven. There was no spiritual fall, only a physical fall from the heavenly paradise to earth. Man continues to be born with a good nature, free from sin, although he is weak and forgetful of God’s laws.
All people (except Jesus and perhaps some prophets) commit offenses (dhunûb), but if they repent they are forgiven. They are punished for unforgiven offenses by spending time in hell. Not all people, however, commit transgressions (’ithm), and it is only this (’ithm) that permanently disqualifies a person from paradise, and then only if God chooses not to forgive it. God has kept prophets and saints from transgression. Some say that everyone has a kernel of transgression in their hearts.
The main reason people sin is because they are weak and forgetful of God’s laws. Ultimately, every good or evil action is the result of God’s predestination. Those whom He guides fulfill His requirements. (Q 2:35-36; 7:19ff; 20:115-123)
Man has misconceptions about God. Man is forgetful of God’s laws. Evil exists because God created it and wills it. God allows Satan to mislead those people whom God wants to destroy, but Satan has not power to harm, nor does anyone else.
A sin is a violation of one of God’s laws, such as swallowing one’s saliva during the day in Ramadan. The only relationship one can have with God is to obey His laws and perform the religious works that God requires. One has no duty to God beyond that. Man is forgetful but good; he only needs instruction in order to comply with all of God’s requirements.
Only great sinners and those who refuse to submit to Islam are condemned permanently to hell; most Muslims will pass through hell and then go to paradise. Nevertheless, God has already consigned to hell whomever He wanted, and there is nothing anyone can do to change it. There is no fellowship between God and mankind. It is not possible and God does not desire it. The only relationship is that of master and slave.
Man needs right guidance, but God sometimes allows Satan and others to mislead him. Physical death is not the result of sin. There is no concept of spiritual death. By right guidance and observing God’s laws man can please God.
No one can be a substitute to bear the judgment for the sins of someone else, but ablutions may wash away sin, and fasting and alms may atone for them. Man’s sin did not affect the natural world.
Islam presents actually three ‘ways of salvation’, if one may call them by this name:
SALVATION BY RIGHT ACTION
“The balance that day will be true (to a nicety). Those whose scale (of good) will be heavy, will prosper.
Those whose scale will be light, will find their souls in perdition, for that they wrongfully treated our signs.” Sura 7:8+9
SALVATION THROUGH MERCY AND FORGIVENESS
“Say: If ye do love Allah, follow me: Allah will love you, and forgive you your sins. For Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” Sura 3:31
SALVATION BY PREDETERMINATION
“Say: Why then doth He punish you for your sins? Nay, ye are but men – of the men He hath created. He forgiveth whom He pleaseth, and He punishes whom He pleaseth. And to Allah belongeth the dominion of the heavens and the earth, and all that is between.”
“He leads astray whom He pleases and guides whom He pleases: but ye shall certainly be called to account for all your actions.”Sura 16:93
“This, then, is the Muslim idea of salvation. It consists, not in being saved from the consequences of our sins by the suffering or the merits of others, nor in Nirvana, or annihilation or absorption – but in the achievment, the attainment of all desires, the felicity in excelsis.
This is our idea of salvation: the negative avoidance of all the consequences of evil, and the positive attainment of all – and more than all – that our hearts could possibly desire. For God’s bounty outstrips anything that our eyes have seen, or our ears have heard of, or our imagination can conceive”. Qur’anic footnote
“…If you love Allah, then follow me (Mohammed)…” (Sura 3:31).
“Ye have indeed in the Apostle of Allah a beautiful pattern of (conduct) for anyone whose hope is in Allah and the Final Day.” (Sura 33:21).
“I leave with you two things. If you hold fast by them both, you will never be misguided – the Book of Allah and Sunnah [sayings and living habits] of the Prophet.” (“Mishkat” I, page 173).
“Whoso obeys me shall enter Paradise and whoso disobeys me, has indeed rejected the truth.” (ibid. pages 5 and 159). “All the utterances and deeds of the Holy Prophet are divinely inspired, and in them alone can one find the true meaning and the real significance of the will of Allah…The Prophet alone is best fitted and, therefore, divinely authorized to determine the meanings of the Holy Quran, to unfold before humanity the deep wisdom contained in it…It is by following Muhammad that we can achieve the cherished goal of winning Allah’s favour. (“Sahih Muslim” I, Introduction pp. I-ii). Nels
Sura 17:22-39 Do not associate with Allah any other god, lest you sit down despised, neglected. And your Lord has commanded that you shall not serve (any) but Him, and goodness to your parents. If either or both of them reach old age with you, say not to them (so much as) “Ugh” nor chide them, and speak to them a generous word. And make yourself submissively gentle to them with compassion, and say: O my Lord! have compassion on them, as they brought me up (when I was) little. Your Lord knows best what is in your minds; if you are good, then He is surely Forgiving to those who turn (to Him) frequently. And give to the near of kin his due and (to) the needy and the wayfarer, and do not squander wastefully. Surely the squanderers are the fellows of the Shaitans [Satans] and the Shaitan is ever ungrateful to his Lord. And if you turn away from them to seek mercy from your Lord, which you hope for, speak to them a gentle word. And do not make your hand to be shackled to your neck nor stretch it forth to the utmost (limit) of its stretching forth, lest you should (afterwards) sit down blamed, stripped off. Surely your Lord makes plentiful the means of subsistence for whom He pleases and He straitens (them); surely He is ever Aware of, Seeing, His servants. And do not kill your children for fear of poverty; We give them sustenance and yourselves (too); surely to kill them is a great wrong. And go not nigh to fornication; surely it is an indecency and an evil way. And do not kill any one whom Allah has forbidden, except for a just cause, and whoever is slain unjustly, We have indeed given to his heir authority, so let him not exceed the just limits in slaying; surely he is aided. And draw not near to the property of the orphan except in a goodly way till he attains his maturity and fulfill the promise; surely (every) promise shall be questioned about. And give full measure when you measure out, and weigh with a true balance; this is fair and better in the end. And follow not that of which you have not the knowledge; surely the hearing and the sight and the heart, all of these, shall be questioned about that. And do not go about in the land exultingly, for you cannot cut through the earth nor reach the mountains in height. All this– the evil of it– is hateful in the sight of your Lord. This is of what your Lord has revealed to you of wisdom, and do not associate any other god with Allah lest you should be thrown into hell, blamed, cast away.
THE RESURRECTION DAY
With the first blowing of the Trumpet, the Hour of Destruction will come to pass, and then after a lapse of forty years in Barzakh (intermediate state, similar to soul-sleep) the Resurrection will take place. Then it shall be blown again, when lo they shall stand up awaiting. And the earth shall shine with the light of its Lord and the book shall be laid down and the prophets and the witnesses shall be brought up (Sura 39:69). And the whole earth shall be in His grip on the Resurrection Day and the heavens will be rolled up in His right hand (Sura 39:67). And the Trumpet shall be blown when lo from their graves they shall hasten on to their Lord. They shall say: O woe to us! who has raised us from our sleeping-place … There shall be nought but a single cry when lo they shall be all brought before Us (Sura 36:51). Mishkat IV, p. 94+95 – Commentary
“Much intellectual blood is being spent on the question whether man will rise with body or without body. The old theory of dogmatic religion upholds the doctrine of only physical resurrection, while the new school of thought inclines to adopt only the spiritual resurrection. We cannot definitely answer either of the two questions as our vision of comprehension does not extend so far. The Qur’an and Hadith give us some clue by upholding the doctrine of spiritual resurrection combined with a physique made out of the good and evil deeds of a man”. Mishkat IV, p. 97 – Commentary
THE DAY OF JUDGMENT
“There will be none left who will not be asked these four things – his age, in what way he spent it; his actions, with what object he did them; his body, how he had worn it out; and his wealth, wherefrom he acquired it and how he spent it. All these questions will be put to him in presence of all the creatures from the beginning of the world up to its end”.
There is a Book of Deeds
“Then the Book of Deeds will be placed in his hands, such a book as had omitted nothing, small or great from being written. The Qur’an says: And the Book shall be placed, then you will see the guilty fearing from what is in it, and will say: Ah! woe to us! what a book is this? It has not omitted any great one but numbers them all [sic]. And they shall find what they done, and your Lord does not deal unjustly with any man (Sura 18:49).We made everyman’s actions to cling to his neck, and will We bring forth to him on the Resurrection Day a book which he will find wide open (Sura 17:13).
Sinners are chained
“For the sinners in general, the Lord will pass order to the angels: Lay hold on him, then put a chain on him, then thrust him into a chain the length of which is seventy cubits (Sura 69:30). At this time, the heavens and earth will weep for him at his disaster”.
The balance decides in case of doubt
“After those that will enter Paradise without account and those that will enter the Fire, there will remain a class of too numerous people who mixed good with evil and thus committed both virtues and sins. the virtues and sins of only these people will be weighed in the Balance. The Qur’an says: We will not set up a balance for them [unbelievers] on the Day of Resurrection (Sura 18:105). The first class will be the people who spent their nights by standing in prayer and whom neither the commodities of this world, nor its riches could have diverted from the remembrance of Allah (Sura 24:37). The second class will be the polytheists and unbelievers – those that set up partnership with God and disbelieved the Prophet and the simple articles of religion. The trial at the Balance will be very severe and there will be none left who will not be overwhelmed with fear, bewilderment and crushing anxiety”.
Saved when good deeds outweigh bad ones
“If his virtues outweigh, the man will be fortunate and will enter Paradise; if his sins outweigh, the man will be unfortunate and enter Hell. It is to this fact that the Qur’an says: Then as for one whose measure of good deeds is heavy, he shall have a pleasant life, and as one whose measure is light, his abode shall be the abyss. And what will make you know what it is? A burning fire (Sura 101:6)”.
After the measurement is over, the people will be driven towards the Great Path which runs over a bridge extended over the back of the Hell-fire. The bridge is sharper than knife and thinner than hair. There will be the fire of which the flames will be rising high just below the bridge and there will be thorny plants raising their heads above in the fire. Only those who were steadfast to the straight path of Islam will be able to cross it safe by virtue of their good deeds, and those who went astray and made their backs heavy will slip down unto Hell at the first step they will take on the Path. The Path will be enveloped in darkness and only those that will have light of good deeds will be able to pass it, some in the twinkling of an eye, some like the passing of air, some galloping, some walking, some crawling and falling down. This will occur according to the light of good deeds”.
“The Holy Prophet will be the first to cross the Path with his pious followers. None would speak except one whom the Beneficent God permits (Sura 78:38). Nothing but pious deeds will be true friends at the great crisis”. All previous quotes from Mishkat IV, pp. 109-112 – Commentary
Christianity and Other World Religions
“the name ‘Hinduism’ was not one that it took to itself, but rather it was named ‘Hinduism’ in the 13th century by the invading Muslim Persians who wanted to differentiate between their religion and the religion of the Indians, Hinduism – the religion of the people of the Indus Valley.” (Legge, Strongholds of Satan, 143)
The original stock was a monotheistic nature worship, which the Hindu ancestors held in common with other branches of the Aryan family when dwelling together on the high tablelands of Central Asia. …it seems certain, from similarities of language, that this Aryan family once dwelt together, and had a common worship, and called the supreme deity by a common name. It was a worship of the sky, and at length of various powers of nature: Surya, the sun; Agni, fire; Indra, rain, etc. (Ellinwood, Oriental Religions, 73)
Central principles: (simplified version of Sanatana Dharma)
Truth or God is one.
Our real nature is divine.
The purpose of our life is to realize the One in our own soul.
There are innumerable spiritual paths, all leading to this realization of divinity.
Hindu sacred texts fall into one of two categories: sruti (“heard”) or smruti (“remembered”). Sruti scriptures are considered divinely inspired and fully authoritative for belief and practice, while smruti are recognized as the products of the minds of the great sages.
However, smruti texts often carry almost as much authority as sruti, and the religion of the older sruti texts bears little resemblence to modern Hinduism and is largely unknown to the average Hindu. Nevertheless, the sruti are still held in very high regard and portions are still memorized for religious merit. The only texts regarded as sruti are the Vedas, which include both ancient sacrificial formulas and the more philosophical Upanishads.
Smruti texts help explain sruti scriptures and make them meaningful to the general population. Despite their lesser authority, they are generally the most recent, the most beloved by the Hindu population, and the most representative of actual Hindu beliefs and practices. Smruti texts include the Itihasas (History or Epics), Puranas (Mythology), Dharma Shastras (Law Codes), Agamas and Tantras (Sectarian Scriptures), and Darshanas (Manuals of Philosophy). (religionfacts.com)
Veda, (Sanskrit: “Knowledge”) a collection of poems or hymns composed in archaic Sanskrit. No definite date can be ascribed to the composition of the Vedas, but the period of about 1500–1200 BC is acceptable to most scholars. The hymns formed a liturgical body that in part grew up around the soma ritual and sacrifice and were recited or chanted during rituals. They praised a wide pantheon of gods, some of whom personified natural and cosmic phenomena, while others represented abstract qualities such as friendship (Mitra), moral authority (Varuna), kingship (Indra), and speech (Vach, a goddess).
Upanishad, also spelled Upanisad, Sanskrit Upaniṣad (“Connection”), one of four genres of texts that together constitute each of the Vedas, the sacred scriptures of most Hindu traditions. Each of the four Vedas—the Rigveda, Yajurveda, Samaveda, and Atharvaveda—consists of a Samhita (a “collection” of hymns or sacred formulas); a liturgical prose exposition called a Brahmana; and two appendices to the Brahmana—an Aranyaka (“Book of the Wilderness”), which contains esoteric doctrines meant to be studied by the initiated in the forest or some other remote place, and an Upanishad, which speculates about the ontological connection between humanity and the cosmos. Because the Upanishads constitute the concluding portions of the Vedas, they are called vedanta (“the conclusion of the Vedas”), and they serve as the foundational texts in the theological discourses of many Hindu traditions that are also known as Vedanta. (Encyclopedia Britannica)
Eerdmans’ Handbook to The World’s Religions, on page 172, defines their understanding of God like this: ‘The individual Hindu may reverence one god, a few gods, or many gods, or none at all. He may also believe in one god and in several gods as manifestations of that one god. He may express the ultimate in a personal way or in an impersonal way’.
So is Hinduism polytheistic, pantheistic, or monotheistic? Contributing to the difficulty of answering this question is the fact that Hindus are not nearly as concerned as are western thinkers with such labels and categories. After all, it is a favorite Hindu saying that “The Truth is One, but different sages call it by different names.” But when Hindus do define their religion in these terms, usually for the benefit of curious westerners, they tend to do so in terms of monotheism and pantheism:
“According to the tenets of Hinduism, God is one as well as many.” (HinduWebsite.com)
“Hindus believe in monotheistic polytheism, rather than polytheism.” (The Hindu Universe)
“Even though Hinduism is mistakenly regarded by many as a religion having many gods namely, polytheism, yet truly speaking Hinduism is a monotheistic religion.” (Sri Swami Chidanda)
Taking all of the above into consideration, our Fast Facts on Hinduism page classifies Hinduism as “pantheism with polytheistic elements.” (religionfacts.com)
Jesus measures up as a Sadhu, a holy man. He preached a universal message, love of God and love of brother, which was beyond any sectarianism or selfishness. Jesus was one of those people who appealed from heart to heart, and that’s what makes him such a good Hindu Saint.
In my particular tradition, and among other Hindus, He is seen as much more, as an Avatar, specifically a Shaktavesha Avatar or an empowered incarnation. This means that God has sent Him to us for a specific mission to fulfil God’s will on earth.
The Sanskrit word acharya means ‘one who teaches by example’. For Hindus, Christ is an acharya. His example is a light to any of us in this world who want to take up the serious practice of spiritual life. His message is no different from the message preached in another time and place by Lord Krishna and Lord Chaitanya. It would be a great shame if we allowed our Hinduism, our Islam, our Judaism or indeed our Christianity to stand in the way of being able to follow the teachings and example of such a great soul as Lord Jesus Christ. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/hinduism/beliefs/jesus_1.shtml)
The Shastras use the same word for man and the one divine and universal Being: Purusha, as if to lay stress upon the oneness of humanity with God.
Be that as it may, there can be no doubt that man is full of divine possibilities – he is not merely a term in physical evolution, but himself the field of a spiritual evolution which with him began and in him will end. It was only when man was made, that the gods were satisfied. (http://www.hinduwebsite.com/divinelife/auro/notebook1911.asp)
[T]he basic tenets of Hinduism: Man is an aspect of God. He is God’s objective reality in creation. He exists in relationship with God like a reflection in the mirror that is somewhat different yet inseparable and somewhat similar. Veiled in him is the true self by the influence and involvement of Prakriti or primordial nature. The purpose of his life upon earth is to follow the law (dharma) of God and achieve salvation (moksha) or freedom from his false self (ahamkara) by leading a balanced life in which both material comforts and human passions have their own place and legitimacy.
The four chief aims or purusharthas are:
1. Dharma (righteousness)
2. Artha (wealth)
3. Kama (desire)
4. Moksha (salvation or liberation).
…As he passes through the rigors of life and experiences the problem of human suffering, he learns to appreciate the value of liberation. He becomes sincere in his quest for salvation. So we have the four goals, instead of just one, whose pursuit provides us with an opportunity to learn important lessons and move forward on the spiritual path. What the purusharthas characterize is not a life of self-negation, but of balance, complexity, richness, opportunities and moderation in a cosmic drama of immense proportions in which man ultimately envisions and experiences his true grandeur and fulfills the very purpose of his creation.
Every individual in Hindu society is expected to achieve these four objectives with detachment, without any expectation and as a sacrificial offering to God in the ritual of human life. They have to be pursued selflessly for a higher and greater cause. Depending upon the attitude and the manner in which we pursue them, they either set us free or entangle us deeper with the allurements of human life. (www.hinduwebsite.com/hinduism/h_aims.asp)
Liberation is known variously in Hinduism as mukti, kaivalya, moksha or nirvana. Liberation means when a soul is released from its involvement with Prakriti or nature, which uses its instruments of delusion, attachment and egoism to subject the souls to their physical existence and the cycle of births and deaths. When the individual souls become aware of their true nature and transcend their limitations, they gain freedom and become one with the divine. It takes several births and intense effort on the part of the souls to regain their freedom.
Hinduism does not prescribe a particular way to achieve liberation. It is goal specific, but not path specific. This way it differs radically and fundamentally from all the other major religions of the world. It specifies the primary and the most important objective of human life as self realization, but leaves the specifics of the manner and the method in which it is to be attained to the wisdom of the scholars and philosophers and the individuals themselves. Since God is omniscient and innumerable are His forms, innumerable are also the paths and the methods by which one can find Him. To limit the paths by which one can reach God or to declare a path as the one and the only super highway to the kingdom of God, is to attempt to measure the infinite or define the indefinable.
While this is the basic approach, Hindu scriptures mention three broad categories of paths or approaches to the goal of self realization. They are the path of knowledge (jnana marg), the path of renunciation of action (karma-sanyasa-marg) and the path of devotion (bhakti marg). These three approaches are equally effective, depending upon who is practicing them and how they are practiced, and no one can say with certainty that one path is better than the other. One can attain liberation by practicing any one of them individually or by combining the best of their features. The Bhagavad Gita presents them as complimentary paths, acknowledging the path of devotion as easier and superior. (http://www.hinduwebsite.com/hinduism/h_enlighten.asp)
Yoga is the means to integrate the body with the mind and the lower self with the higher self. Through yoga, one can achieve perfection of the physical, mental and lower selves and prepare ones journey into higher consciousness through the awakening of the kundalini and other latent powers. Purely as a physical exercise yoga can aid us in keeping our bodies and minds in perfect balance and at peace. Yoga is the most important contribution of Hinduism to the modern world. The practice of yoga is a sure way to hasten the process of our evolution into higher beings of the transcendental realms. (http://www.hinduwebsite.com/hinduism/yogaindex.asp)
Hindu ethics are related to reincarnation, which is a way of expressing the need for reciprocity, as one may end up in someone else’s shoes in their next incarnation. Intention is seen as very important, and thus selfless action for the benefit of others without thought for oneself is an important rule in Hinduism, known as the doctrine of karma yoga. This aspect of service is combined with an understanding that someone else’s unfortunate situation, while of their own doing, is one’s own situation since the soul within is the soul shared by all. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethics_in_religion)
Hindu ethics is mainly subjective or personal, its purpose being to eliminate such mental impurities as greed and egoism, for the ultimate attainment of the highest good. Why Hindu ethics stresses the subjective or personal value of action will be discussed later. Objective ethics, which deals with social welfare, has also been considered by Hindu thinkers. It is based upon the Hindu conception of Dharma, or duty, related to a man’s position in society and his stage in life. Objective ethics, according to the Hindu view, is a means to an end, its purpose being to help the members of society to rid themselves of self-centeredness, cruelty, greed, and other vices, and thus to create an environment helpful to the pursuit of the highest good, which transcends society. Hinduism further speaks of certain universal ethical principles which apply to all human beings irrespective of their position in society or stage in life. (http://www.hinduism.co.za/ethics.htm)
Hindu ethics are taught by guidance from leaders and teachers (see guru), wandering holy men (sadhus), and sages (rishis). Some gurus are venerated, and may work miracles. Sacred scriptures also give guidance. Morality is taught through Hindu scriptures, for example the Ramayana. The scriptures prohibit murder, theft, adultery, and consuming alcohol, and promote kindness to others, respect for all life (ahimsa), vegetarianism, and respect for elders. There is no centralized religious authority, and the religion is held together by the duties of family and caste.
For Hindus, there are four goals in life: love or pleasure (kama), material wealth (artha), the path (dharma), and release from reincarnation (moksha). Dharma is based on sympathy, fairness, and restraint. Sin is to act selfishly instead of following dharma. Hindus aspire to equanimity and a sense of calmness (shama). Asceticism, the renunciation of physical pleasure, is a path taken by only a very small minority of Hindus. Some Hindus make daily worship and offerings to humankind, the needy, and to guests. Unexpected guests must be welcomed and fed. (http://www.talktalk.co.uk/reference/encyclopaedia/hutchinson/m0099087.html)
[L]iberation does not mean dying and going to heaven. Heavenly life is as desirable or undesirable as earthly life because in the ultimate sense, heavenly life is also limited and transient, though compared to the earthly life it may be longer and more intense. True liberation means liberation of the individual soul from the cycle of births and deaths, from the sense of duality and separation, and union with Brahman, the Supreme Soul. (http://www.hinduwebsite.com/hinduism/h_enlighten.asp)
Most Hindu traditions consider moksha the ultimate goal of life.
The main differences of opinion center on the precise nature of moksha. Although practically all schools consider it a state of unity with God, the nature of such unity is contested. The advaita traditions say that moksha entails annihilation of the soul’s false sense of individuality and realisation of its complete non-difference from God. The dualistic traditions claim that God remains ever distinct from the individual soul. Union in this case refers to a commonality of purpose and realisation of one’s spiritual nature (brahman) through surrender and service to the Supreme Brahman (God). (http://hinduism.iskcon.com/concepts/106.htm)
Siddhartha Gautama was born in approximately 560 B.C. in northern India. His father Suddhodana was the ruler over a district near the Himalayas which is today the country of Nepal. Suddhodana sheltered his son from the outside world and confined him to the palace where he surrounded Gautama with pleasures and wealth. Despite his father’s efforts, Gautama one day saw the darker side of life on a trip he took outside the palace walls.
He saw four things that forever changed his life: an old man, a sick man, a dead man, and a beggar. Deeply distressed by the suffering he saw, he decided to leave the luxury of palace life and begin a quest to find the answer to the problem of pain and human suffering.
Gautama left his family and traveled the country seeking wisdom. He studied the Hindu scriptures under Brahmin priests, but became disillusioned with the teachings of Hinduism. He then devoted himself to a life of extreme asceticism in the jungle. Legend has it that he eventually learned to exist on one grain of rice a day which reduced his body to a skeleton. He soon concluded, however, that asceticism did not lead to peace and self realization but merely weakened the mind and body.
Gautama eventually turned to a life of meditation. While deep in meditation under a fig tree known as the Bohdi tree (meaning, “tree of wisdom”), Gautama experienced the highest degree of God-consciousness called Nirvana. Gautama then became known as Buddha, the “enlightened one.” He believed he had found the answers to the questions of pain and suffering. His message now needed to be proclaimed to the whole world.
As he began his teaching ministry, he gained a quick audience with the people of India since many had become disillusioned with Hinduism. By the time of his death at age 80, Buddhism had become a major force in India. Three centuries later it had spread to all of Asia. Buddha never claimed to be deity but rather a “way- shower.” However, seven hundred years later, followers of Buddha began to worship him as deity.
Four Noble Truths
1. Suffering exists
2. Suffering arises from attachment to desires
3. Suffering ceases when attachment to desire ceases
4. Freedom from suffering is possible by practicing the Eightfold Path
Noble Eightfold Path
Three Qualities Eightfold Path
Wisdom (panna) Right View
Morality (sila) Right Speech
Meditation (samadhi) Right Effort
Buddhists of both traditions (Theravada (“more monastic and conservative”), Mahayana (“more liberal and lay-oriented”) look to the Buddha as their primary source of truth. But Mahayanists, unlike Theravadins, recognize numerous other Buddhas and bodhisattvas (those who help others toward enlightenment and nirvana). These personalities are said to be manifestations of the Absolute and, along with the Buddha, are regularly prayed to for assistance. Some are worshiped as gods.
The Theravada and Mahayana scriptures are different as well. The former tradition looks to the Pali Canon (written about 80 B.C.). This text—written in the Pali language and divided into a number of suttas—is called the Tripitaka, which means literally “three baskets.” It is about eleven times as large as the Bible and is arranged in three main divisions: (1) the Sutta Pitaka (discourses of Siddhartha); (2) the Vinaya Pitaka (precepts and rules for the Sangha); and (3) the Abidhamma Pitaka (esoteric and philosophical interpretations of the dharma.
The Mahayana tradition accepts as authoritative an extensive list of texts called sutras (composed primarily between the sixth and first centuries B.C.). The Chinese canon alone encompasses more than 5,000 volumes. Unlike the Theravadin suttas, which average only about twenty pages each, the Mahayana sutras are very long. They cannot be found in original form in only one language, but instead are written in Chinese, Tibetan, and Sanskrit. Furthermore, since there is no clear limit to the Mahayana canon, recent writings are constantly being added to Mahayana scriptures. This has forced most Mahayana sects to choose favorite texts for common use. Martin, Kingdom of the Cults
“Buddhism is often described as a “nontheistic religion.” There is no personal God who creates everything and to whom prayers can be directed. …the Buddha did not focus on descriptions of ultimate reality, the nature of the soul, life after death, or the origin of the universe.” Fisher, Living Religions
Interviewer: “How is it that the idea of God has arisen in the world?”
Dr Vajiragnana: “As we Buddhists believe, purely due to the fear and also due to ignorance”
Interviewer: “Fear and ignorance?”
Dr Vajiragnana: “Yes, fear and ignorance. Ignorance means the not understanding things as they really are, because when natural things happened they didn’t know how to tackle it, and how to handle it, and how to realise it; and they thought that there was a powerful being who does these things, or there was a powerful being behind of all those things. To prevent any danger from that powerful being they started venerating or praising or praying to that unseen being whom they have created by themselves as a god.” ‘Most Venerable Dr M. Vajiragnana’, from the London Buddhist Vihara
“Was Jesus a Buddhist? Certainly he was many things–Jew, prophet, healer, moralist, revolutionary, by his own admission the Messiah, and for most Christians the Son of God and redeemer of their sins. And there is convincing evidence that he was also a Buddhist. The evidence follows two independent lines–the first is historical, and the second is textual. Historical evidence indicates that Jesus was well acquainted with Buddhism. If Jesus did not go to India, then at least India went to Judea and Jesus. The real historical question is not if he studied Buddhism, but where and how much he studied Buddhism, especially during his so-called “lost years.”
Historical accounts aside, many textual analyses indicate striking similarities between what was said by Jesus and by Buddha and between the prophetic legend of Jesus and ancient Buddhist texts. The conclusion is that, although not identifying himself as a Buddhist for good reasons, Jesus spoke like a Buddhist. The similarities are so striking that, even if no historical evidence existed, we can suspect that Jesus studied Buddhist teachings and that the prophecy and legend of Jesus was derived from Buddhist stories.”
The biblical silence about Jesus’ lost years is one of the strangest hiatuses in history. It is a total silence about one of the greatest moralists in human history, covering seventeen years of Jesus’ life between the ages of twelve and twenty-nine. Indeed, except for his birth and a singular account of Jesus as a twelve-year old in Jerusalem, there is silence about all but the last three years of his life. Why? Why did not Jesus’ twelve disciples and his thousands of followers not comment on his life for twenty-nine of his thirty-two years?
Surely they did comment. Hundreds, even thousands, of accounts were written in the form of prayers, sermons, letters, or what became disparaged as the “apocrypha.” …Was Jesus really a Buddhist? The answer is not yes or no, but rather to what extent Jesus was or was not a Buddhist. James M. Hanson. Buddhist-Christian Studies, Annual 2005 v25 p75(15)
The Buddha held that everything that exists is characterized by anitya, or impermanence, and is continually coming into being and passing out of being as a result of certain interrelated causal conditions. A 12-link chain of causation (the “wheel of life”) explains how these causal conditions produce people’s mistaken perceptions of enduring realities.
The Buddha rejected contemporary Hindu views about the reality of an enduring self (atman), an indestructible soul that passes from one life to another. He claimed that belief in a substantial self is mistaken and results in the grasping or desire that produces suffering. What is normally thought of as a person is merely the ever-changing combination of psychophysical forces—the “Five Aggregates” of matter, sensations, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness. At death, what passes from this life to the next is not a soul but simply the cumulative karmic effects of actions, which then produce in the next life the (mistaken) perception of an enduring person. ESV Study Bible
The question Gautama, the founder of Buddhism, sought to answer was, Why is there pain and suffering? Also, he held to the Hindu belief of reincarnation: after death one returns to earthly life in a higher or lower form of life according to his good or bad deeds. This belief prompted a second question that needed to be answered, How does one break this rebirth cycle? The basic teachings of Buddhism, therefore, focus on what Gautama believed to be the answer to these questions. These basic tenets are found in the Four Noble Truths and the Eight-fold Path.
After freeing oneself of all desires and evil, a person must concentrate his efforts in meditation so that he can overcome any sensation of pleasure or pain and enter a state of transcending consciousness and attain a state of perfection. Buddhists believe that through self effort one can attain the state of peace and eternal bliss called Nirvana. Paul Zukeran, Buddhism
Buddhism insists very strongly that there is right action, but it says that we cannot decide what right action is only by thinking about it. It says that right action is decided just at the moment of acting. So that decision is not a decision in our mind alone, but an intuitive decision in our whole body and mind.
So the question is then, how do we ensure that our action is right. The answer that Buddhism gives is very simple. It says that as the decision is taken by our body and mind together at the moment of acting, then the best way to ensure right action is to practice putting our body and mind together in the moment of the present. And in order to do this, Master Dogen and all the Buddhist masters of the past have recommended that we practice the simple practice called Zazen (meditation). Zazen is sitting with body and mind as one.
The Three Devotions are:
Devotion to Buddha
Devotion to Dharma (integrating Buddha’s teaching into daily life)
Devotion to Sangha (community, people who have attained the first stage of awakening)
Society must have rules, and we need guidelines to tell us the kind of behavior that is right action. For this reason, Buddhism has precepts.
The Three Universal Precepts are:
No.1: To observe the rules of society
No.2: To observe the moral rule of the Universe
No.3: To work for the salvation of all living beings
The Ten Fundamental Precepts are:
No.1: Don’t destroy life.
No.2: Don’t steal.
No.3: Don’t desire too much.
No.4: Don’t lie.
No.5: Don’t live by selling liquor.
No.6: Don’t discuss failures of Buddhist priests and laymen.
No.7: Don’t praise yourself or berate others.
No.8: Don’t begrudge the sharing of Buddhist teachings and other things, but give them freely.
No.9: Don’t become angry.
No.10: Don’t abuse the three supreme values.
These sixteen precepts are the Buddhist’s moral code. Eido Michael Luetchford
But the most important thing to Buddhism is ‘nirvana’, this idea that you can get to a stage where suffering is excluded from your life, a state where you have no longer any craving, any desires, any want or ambition. Therefore, because you don’t have any desire, there is no longer any suffering. When you reach that place there’s no more reincarnations for you. You will continue in this transcendent permanence. Legge
The third key concept is Nirvana. The term means “the blowing out” of existence. Nirvana is very different from the Christian concept of heaven. Nirvana is not a place like heaven but rather a state of being. What exactly it is, Buddha never really articulated.
Nirvana is an eternal state of being. It is the state in which the law of karma, and the rebirth cycle come to an end. It is the end of suffering, a state where there are no desires and the individual consciousness comes to an end. Although to our Western minds this may sound like annihilation, Buddhists would object to such a notion. Gautama never gave an exact description of Nirvana, but his closest reply was this. “There is disciples, a condition, where there is neither earth nor water, neither air nor light, neither limitless space, nor limitless time, neither any kind of being, neither ideation nor non-ideation, neither this world nor that world. There is neither arising nor passing-away, nor dying, neither cause nor effect, neither change nor standstill.” Although no Buddhist really understands the condition of Nirvana, it is their eternal hope. Paul Zukeran, Buddhism
Taoism, also known as Daoism is an indigenous Chinese religion often associated with the Daode jing (Tao Te Ching), a philosophical and political text purportedly written by Laozi (Lao Tzu) sometime in the 3rd or 4th centuries B.C.E. The Daode jing focuses on dao as a “way” or “path”-that is, the appropriate way to behave and to lead others-but the Daode jing also refers to Tao as something that existed “before Heaven and Earth,” a primal and chaotic matrix from which all forms emerged. Taoism did not exist as an organized religion until the Way of the Celestial Masters sect was founded in 142 C.E. by Zhang Daoling, who based the sect on spiritual communications from the deified Laozi. The Way of the Celestial Masters and other later sects of Taoism engaged in complex ritual practices, including devotion to a wide range of celestial divinities and immortals, and thousands of Taoist religious texts were produced over the centuries. Taoists also engaged with Chinese politics in a variety of ways throughout Chinese history. At one time, scholars in both China and the West distinguished philosophical from religious Taoism, but more recently a continuity of belief and practice between these has been recognized. In both, a harmonious relationship between nature, humanity, and the divine is emphasized, and both are concerned with appropriate behavior and ways of leading and governing others. The term “Tao” has a number of meanings. Taoist religious sects were persecuted in China during the 19th and 20th centuries, but are currently undergoing a revival. Western interest in Taoism has, for the most part, been confined to the Daode jing, but in both the West and in the East, there is considerable interest in practices which, while not “Taoist” per se, are often associated with Taoism, ranging from fengshui to taiji quan to acupuncture and herbal medicine. http://www.patheos.com/Library/Taoism.html
The Taoist canon is huge. Even in its reduced form it contains 1,120 volumes. The most important Taoist text is Tao De Jing(“The Way and Its Power”), a 5000-character synopsis of Taoist beliefs reportedly written by Lao-tzu shortly before he died. This short book was the inspiration for a primarily philosophical form of Taoism. Two other important Tao texts are the Tao The King (a series of wise sayings) and the Writings of Chuang Tzu (a discourse written by the Taoist philosopher Chuang Tzu), which appeared a few centuries after Lao-tze’s reported death. These two texts are more mystical and religious in nature. http://factsanddetails.com/china.php?itemid=91
According to the Taoist creation theory (which is similar to the Chinese Creation Theory): “In the beginning of the universe there was only material-force consisting of yin and yang. This force moved and circulated, turning this way and that. As this movement gained speed, a mass of sediment was pushed together and, since there was no outlet for this, it consolidated to form the earth in the center of the universe…How was the first man created?…through the transformation of the material force. When the essence of yin and yang and the five agents are united, man’s corporeal form is established.
When asked about the existence of God, Kuo Hsiang said, “But let us ask whether there is a Creator or not. If not, how can he create things? If there is he is capable of materializing all forms. Therefore, before we can talk about creation, we must understand the fact that all forms materialize by themselves. Hence everything creates itself without the direction of any Creator. Since things create themselves, the are unconditioned. This is the norm of the universe.”
Tao and tê are central concepts of Taoism. Tao (meaning “The Way”) has been described as “the divine way of the universe” and the “unproduced producer of all that is.” Tê is the power of Tao and the power to bring Tao into realization. It incorporates the belief that human interference is damaging.
Tao is invisible, unnameable, impalpable, unknowable and imitable. Taoists believe that nothing exists before something, inaction exists before action and rest exists before motion. Thus nothingness is the fundamental state and qualities inherent to this state include tranquility, silence and humility and associations with femanine yin rather than masculine yang. Motion and change are important concepts, because from the state of inaction every kind of action is possible, and is why the term “Way” (Tao) is used.
Pure Taoism doesn’t dwell on an all-knowing, all-powerful God, or even nature spirits, rather it deals with “nonbeing,” the “unity of experience,” and “oneness” with chi. Taoism’s association with gods is mainly the result of its associations with Chinese folk religions.
There are thousands of Taoist gods. Some are holy men. Others occupy rivers, streams and mountains. Most have individual responsibilities and specific powers and abilities to grant wishes in particular areas of expertise. Taoists who need something pray to the appropriate deity in special shrines called departments or halls in Taoist temples.
Most Taoist gods are associated with a spot in the external world and a corresponding spot on the inside of man and often have a role in preventing disease. The position of Taoist deities in a large pantheon often mirrors those of secular officials in a bureaucracy. Many Chinese cities to this day have a temple dedicated to the City God, the heavenly equivalent of a mayor. http://factsanddetails.com/china.php?itemid=91
Taoism is an inclusive religion in that it does not reject the gods of other religions. While Taoists worship their own gods, they would not claim that the gods of other religions, such as Christianity, do not exist. Individual beliefs vary even more widely than do those of Christians, but I have put that question to a Taoist priest. Jesus, as a God of Christianity, would be accepted as probably real, but not relevant to followers of Taoism. http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_do_taoists_believe_about_Jesus_Christ
At the beginning of time, some Taoists believe, nine vapors were created. The purest vapors formed the heavens and the coarser ones made up the human body. Life, they assert, begins when one of these primordial vapors enters the body at birth and mixes with essence to form spirit. Death occurs when the vapor and essence go their separate ways once again. Taoists believe that immortality is possible if essence and vapor can be kept together. [“World Religions” edited by Geoffrey Parrinder, Facts on File Publications, New York]
When Chuang Tzu was asked by a friend why he was singing and drumming and not grieving after his wife died, he said: “When she died, how could I help being affected? But as I think the matter over, I realize that originally she had no life and not only no life, she had no form; not only no form, she had no material force (ch’i). In the limbo of existence and non-existence, there was transformation and the material force was evolved. The material force was transformed to be form, form was transformed to become life, and now birth has transformed to become death. This is like the rotation of the four seasons, spring, summer, fall and winter. Now she lies asleep in the great house [the universe]. For me to go about weeping and wailing would be to show my ignorance of destiny. Therefore I desist.” http://factsanddetails.com/china.php?itemid=91
Salvation for Taoism (absent the Buddhist influence) is a matter of participation in the eternal return of the natural world, a yielding to chaos followed by spontaneous creation, in a never-ending cycle. This is not a permanent transcendent state or redemption such as has been articulated in the Abrahamic traditions. For Taoism, salvation is not an escape from this world; rather, it is to become perfectly aligned with the natural world and with the cosmic forces that sustain it. http://www.patheos.com/Library/Taoism/Beliefs/Afterlife-and-Salvation.html
According to these texts, to emulate nature and “do without doing” (wei wu-wei), and to harmonize oneself with Tao, will lead naturally to behavior that is genuinely virtuous. …In the 4th century, a text appeared that designated 180 moral precepts, attributed to the deified Laozi. This was clearly inspired by the rules of the Buddhist community, which by then had established a significant presence in China. These 180 precepts included prohibitions against theft, adultery, killing, abortion, intoxication, and waste. They encouraged polite and mature behavior toward others, and also provided specific regulations regarding appropriate behavior within and outside of the community.
When the Lingbao scriptures appeared in the late 4th and early 5th centuries, they included a more developed moral component than was present in the Way of the Celestial Masters texts. Lingbao absorbed many elements of Buddhism, and the Lingbao sect adopted ten precepts, just as the Buddhists had ten precepts. Later the Celestial Masters movement also employed these precepts.
As in the case of Buddhism, when one was ordained, one vowed to follow these precepts, which included prohibitions against killing, stealing, lying, and intoxication. Notably, the precept against sexual misconduct in the five basic precepts of Buddhism was absent, replaced by a prohibition against immoral deeds and thoughts. Others among the ten were specifically Taoist in nature: to maintain harmony with one’s family members, living and dead; to support acts of good toward others; to help the unfortunate; and to avoid thoughts of revenge. The tenth precept is an obvious borrowing from Mahayana Buddhism: not to expect to attain the Tao until all beings have done so. http://www.patheos.com/Library/Taoism/Ethics-Morality-Community/Principles-of-Moral-Thought-and-Action.html
Immortality is an important idea in Taoism. Because all nature is united by Tao, Taoists believe, immortality can be attained. Taoists also believe that immortality it not something that can be achieved by separating oneself from nature, like with a soul, but rather is something achieved by directing natural forces through the body, creating more durable body materials, using techniques such as breathing, focusing sexual energy and alchemy.
The immortality referred to in Taoism is physical immortality. The highest goal of many devotees of Taoism is the attainment of immortality through a total channeling of energies to reach harmony with Tao. Immortality can be viewed literally or as a symbol of spiritual liberation. The idea of a spiritual immortality like that of Christianity was alien to the Chinese until Buddhism was introduced to China. http://factsanddetails.com/china.php?itemid=91
Christianity & Cults
Christianity & Cults
All authority is vested in the Governing Body, including the authority to understand and teach the Bible. “We acknowledge as the visible organization of Jehovah on earth the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, and recognize the Society as the channel or instrument through which Jehovah and Christ Jesus give instruction and meat in due season to the household of faith. (The Watchtower, June 1, 1938: 169)
They [Witnesses] must adhere absolutely to the decisions and scriptural understanding of the Society because God has given it this authority over his people. (The Watchtower, May 1, 1972: 272)
Also, preferential treatment is given to the New World Translation over other translations, claiming that “The evidence is, therefore, that the original text of the Christian Greek Scriptures has been tampered with.”
Is Jehovah a Trinity—three persons in one God? No! Jehovah, the Father, is “the only true God” (John 17:3; Mark 12:29). Jesus is His firstborn Son, and he is subject to God (1 Cor. 11:3). The Father is greater than the Son (John 14:28). The holy spirit is not a person; it is God’s active force (Gen. 1:2; Acts 2:18) (What Does God Require of Us?, Brooklyn: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, 1997, electronic version).
“The true Scriptures speak of God’s Son, the Word, as ‘a god.’ He is a ‘mighty god,’ but not the Almighty God, who is Jehovah” (The Truth Shall Make You Free, Brooklyn: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, 1943, 47).
“In other words, he was the first and direct creation of Jehovah God” (The Kingdom Is at Hand, Brooklyn: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, 1944, 46–47, 49).
“Thus, for example, the Bible shows that there is only one God, the Most High, the Almighty. And that the Son, as the First-born, the Only-begotten and `the creation by God,’ had a beginning” (From Paradise Lost to Paradise Regained, p. 164).
Jesus lived in heaven as a spirit person before he came to earth. He was God’s first creation, and so he is called the “firstborn” Son of God. (Col. 1:15; Rev. 3:14) Jesus is the only Son that God created by himself. Jehovah used the prehuman Jesus as his “master worker” in creating all other things in heaven and on earth (Prov. 8:22–31; Col. 1:16–17). (Martin, Kingdom of the Cults, p.99)
Jesus was only a perfect man, not God in flesh. (Reasoning from the Scriptures,
1985, p. 306)
The spirit of a man has no existence apart from the body. At death the spirit dissipates.
God retains only the memory of the one who has died. The soul does not live on after the death of the body. (Reasoning From the Scriptures, p. 383, 333; 136-137, 382)
No descendant of Adam is free from sin: all inherit it from the first man. All are born in sin (imperfect with wayward tendencies). (Make Sure of All Things, 1965, p.456, 458)
“The primary purpose of the Son of God in coming to earth was to meet and decisively answer Satan’s charge that God cannot put on earth a creature who will keep his integrity and abide faithful till death under the test of persecution from the Devil and his demons…. By keeping his integrity under the most fiery tests Christ Jesus would vindicate His Father’s name and would prove his worthiness to be the Seed or King of God’s capital organization, Zion.” (What Has Religion, 240-255)
“John showed (John 1:29, 36) the secondary purpose for which the Son of God came to earth, namely, to die as a holy sacrifice to Jehovah God in order to cancel death’s condemnation, that they might gain eternal life in the righteous new world which God has promised to create.” (What Has Religion, 240-255)
“Yet we know that Jesus came to earth to provide a corresponding ransom by His perfect human life. The ransom, therefore, must be equal to the thing lost, namely, perfect human life as Adam had it in Eden.” (What Has Religion, 105)
A person has “to do more than merely accept the Kingdom message in order to be saved.” (From Paradise, 249) He must take in knowledge, believe in Jesus Christ, repent, dedicate himself to Jehovah, recognize the Watchtower Society as God’s organization, conduct his life in harmony with the teachings and activities of the Watchtower Society, maintaining integrity to Jehovah and to his earthly organization, and endure faithfully to the end. (From Paradise, 242-246)
In Watchtower soteriology, there are two classes of the saved:
a. “The Congregation of God” [“144,000,” “Anointed,” “Remnant”]. These are the “little flock” of Luke 12:32 and the “faithful and discreet slave” of Matthew 24:45. They have a heavenly calling; their hope is to live and reign with Christ in heaven. They may partake of the bread and the wine at the Memorial [communion].
b. The “Great Crowd” [“Great Multitude,” “Other Sheep”]. These are the “other sheep” of John 10:16 and the “great crowd” of Revelation 7:9. They have an earthly hope; their hope is to live on a restored paradise earth. At the Memorial, they are merely observers.
If we are to walk in the light of truth we must recognize not only Jehovah God as our father but his organization as our “mother.” (The Watchtower, May 1957: 274)
Make haste to identify the visible theocratic organization of God that represents his king, Jesus Christ. It is essential for life. Doing so, be complete in accepting its every aspect. (The Watchtower, October 1, 1967: 591)
The Bible is an organizational book and belongs to the Christian congregation as a whole, not to individuals, regardless of how sincerely they may believe that they can interpret the Bible. For this reason the Bible cannot be properly understood without Jehovah’s visible organization in mind. (The Watchtower, October 1, 1967: 587)
We all need help to understand the Bible, and we cannot find the scriptural guidance we need outside the “faithful and discreet slave” organization. (The Watchtower, February 15, 1981: 19)
The return of Christ occurred invisibly in the fall of 1914. Christ will not leave heaven and come to earth. Christ will not have a visible return to earth. (Aid to Bible Understanding, pp. 551, 1336; Reasoning from the Scriptures, pp. 95, 314, 343; Make Sure of All Things, p. 451)
The majority of true Christians alive today, or 99.7% of Jehovah’s Witnesses, are members of the great crowd. Members of the great crowd will pass through the great tribulation and enter directly into everlasting life on earth. The “earthly hope” is the only valid hope for the majority of true Christians alive on earth today. (Watchtower, 1/1/86, p. 23, Reasoning from the Scriptures, p. 356, 136-137)
“Who are those 144,000? …they are faithful followers of Jesus Christ specially chosen to rule in heaven with him. …Since the days of the apostles, God has been selecting faithful Christians in order to complete the number 144,000.” —What Does the Bible Really Teach?, 2005, p. 78-79
It was at the “1935 convention in Washington, D.C.” that the leaders of the Watchtower publicly proclaimed to the Jonadab class they were to inherit an earthly paradise as their eternal reward (Jehovah’s Witnesses In The Divine Purpose, p. 140).
“Logically, the calling of the little flock would draw to a close when the number was nearing completion, and the evidence is that the general gathering of these specially blessed ones ended in 1935.” (Watchtower 1995 Feb 15 p.19)
Eternal nonexistence is the eventuality of those who are cast into gehenna, or the lake of fire. (Make Sure of All Things, p. 146)
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
“By the standard works of the Church is meant the following four volumes of scripture: The Bible, Book fo Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price… These four volumes of scripture are the standards, the measuring rods, the gauges by which all things are judged. (Mormon Doctrine, 1977 ed., pp. 764-5)
“…acceptance of the Bible is coupled with a reservation that it is true only insofar as translated correctly… The other three, having been revealed in modern times in English, are accepted without qualification.” (Mormon Doctrine, 1977 ed., pp. 764)
“How many Gods there are, I do not know. But there never was a time when there were not Gods.” (Brigham Young, Journal of discourses 7:333)
The God of Earth [Elohim], our heavenly Father, is an exalted man who has a tangible human body. He came to be God through what is called “eternal progression.” Mormon prophets have continuously taught the sublime truth that God the Eternal Father was once a mortal man who passed through a school of earth life similar to that through which we are now passing. He became God—an exalted being—through obedience to the same eternal Gospel that we are given opportunity today to obey (Hunter, Gospel 104).
God our heavenly Father is married to a multitude of wives, one of which is Jesus’ heavenly Mother.
There are many gods in other planets and in other universes. If we should take a million of worlds like this and number their particles, we shall find that there are more gods than there are particles of matter in those worlds (Journal 2: 345).
The Trinity [Father, Son, and Holy Ghost] consists of three separate and distinct gods. Three distinct personages and three gods (Smith, Teachings 370).
The Holy Ghost is distinct from the Holy Spirit The Holy Ghost is a spirit child of the heavenly Father and a heavenly Mother. He does not yet have a body. The Holy Ghost is yet a spiritual being and waiting to take to himself a body as the Savior did or as gods before them took bodies (Lundwall, Discourses 73).
The Holy Spirit is God’s impersonal force by which he governs His dominions. The chief agent or agency by which the Holy Ghost accomplishes his work is usually spoken of as the Holy Spirit or the Spirit of God. It is a universe-filling medium or influence (Widtsoe, Evidences 62).
In heaven, Jesus was the firstborn spirit child of the heavenly Father and a heavenly mother. He is our elder brother. His name was Jehovah. He is also the brother of Lucifer, who became the devil. (Pearl, 4: 1-4).
All men lived in a pre-existent estate before they were born into this world; all were born in pre-existence as the spirit children of the Father. Christ was the Firstborn Spirit Child (What the MORMONS think of CHRIST, 35-36).
On earth, Jesus was the product of a sexual relationship between God and Mary. When the virgin Mary conceived the child Jesus, the Father had begotten him… He was not begotten by the Holy Ghost. And who was the Father? …Jesus our eldest brother was begotten in the flesh by…our Father in heaven (Journal 1: 50-51).
Conceivably, Jesus was married [to fulfill one of the requirements for exaltation] and had children. He was married “both to Mary and to Martha, whereby he could see his seed before he was crucified” (Hyde, Seer 159; cf. Journal 2: 82).
Jesus was resurrected physically from the dead. He ascended visibly into heaven and will return visibly to earth one day. Jesus is our prototype. What Jesus was, we were [spirits procreated by the heavenly Father and a heavenly Mother]. As Jesus became a god, so male Mormons can become gods. Jesus became a God and reached His great state of understanding through consistent effort and continuous obedience to all the Gospel truths and universal laws (Hunter, Gospel 51).
“Life, intelligence, mind, the ‘light of truth’, or whatever name one gives to the center of the personality of man, is an uncreated, eternally existent, indestructible entity. In the first stage, man was an eternally existent being termed an intelligence. The next realm where man dwelt was the spirit world. There in the spirit world they were reared to maturity, becoming grown spirit men and women prior to coming upon this earth. (The Gospel Through the Ages, p. 127)
“Jesus is man’s spiritual brother. We dwelt with Him in the spirit world as members of that large society of eternal intelligences, which included our Heavenly Parents.” (Ibid, p.21)
Following his stay in the spirit world, man comes on earth in a probationary state preparatory to the eternal existence beyond the mortal confines of this world. Mortal death comes upon all. The eternal spirit goes to the spirit world to await resurrection and judgment” (Ibid, p.128)
Man can become god. As man is, God once was; as God is, man may be (Talmage, Articles 430).
[the Christian world] “has been long taught that Adam and Eve were great transgressors. We the children of Adam… should rejoice with them, that through their fall and the atonement of Jesus Christ, the way of eternal life has been opened up to us.” (Articles of Faith, p.476)
If there had been no atonement, temporal death would have remained forever, and there never would have been a resurrection. The body would have remained forever in the grave.
Jesus’ death on the cross made it possible for all men of every age to be resurrected. It is not sufficient to pay the price for all sin. There is not a man or woman who violates covenants made with their God that will not be required to pay their debt. The blood of Christ will never wipe that out. Your own blood must atone for it; the judgments of the Almighty will come sooner or later, and every man and woman will have to atone for their covenant (Journal 3:247; cf. 4: 219-220).
The Mormon doctrine of salvation involves not only faith in Christ, but baptism by immersion, obedience to the teaching of the Mormon Church, good works, and “keeping the commandments of God (which) will cleanse away the stain of sin” (Journal of Discourses, 2:4).
1. LDS salvation can be divided into two categories:
a. Unconditional or general salvation = Resurrection. All, with the exception of the sons of perdition, will be physically resurrected.
b. Conditional or personal salvation = Exaltation. The requirements for exaltation include:
(1) Faith in Jesus Christ.
(3) Baptism–The beginning of the process of moving toward godhood; when one is born again.
(4) Laying on of hands–The ceremony for conferring the priesthood, indicating a transfer of authority and power.
(5) Church membership–One cannot be saved [attain exaltation] outside the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
(6) Keeping the commandments (Ten Commandments, Word of Wisdom, tithing, gaining knowledge, being fruitful and multiplying, doing good works in general, and obeying all commands and directives given by the leaders of the Mormon Church).
(7) Accepting Joseph Smith, Jr. and his successors as “God’s mouthpiece.”
(8) Temple work–Marriage, genealogical work, and saving ordinances (proxy baptism, sealings, ordination, and endowments). (Bjornstad)
found in the “Four Standard Works” – KJV (insofar as correctly translated), Doctrine and Covenants, Pearl of Great Price, Book of Mormon – but the Bible is always subject to the others.
Upon death, Mormon salvation provides admittance, through resurrection, into one of three kingdoms:
a. Telestial kingdom–The lowest of the three kingdoms where an endless host of people will dwell, including murderers, adulterers, and thieves
b. Terrestrial kingdom–The second of the kingdoms where those who were “honorable” people, but who did not accept the Mormon gospel in this life, will dwell.
c. Celestial–The highest of the three kingdoms is reserved for Mormons in good standing. There are three levels in this kingdom and only those who have been completely obedient to Mormon teaching, including marriage in a Mormon temple, may have part in the highest heaven. They will enter it in family units and become gods. (Bjornstad)
Church of Christ, Scientist
For decades Christian Science was the matriarch of the Mind Science family. With a large and growing membership, secular and religious respect, and great wealth, the Mother Church predominated the Mind Science movement and was more important in almost all respects than Unity School of Christianity, Mind Science, Religious Science, Divine Science, and their other siblings. Kingdom of the Cults
The manifest mistakes in the ancient versions; the thirty thousand different readings in the Old Testament, and the three hundred thousand in the New—these facts show how a mortal and material sense stole into the divine record, with its own hue darkening, to some extent, the inspired pages (Science & Health, 139).
Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures is the “first book” which has been “uncontaminated by human hypothesis.” (The First Church 115; Science 99, 139, 456-457) Christian Scientists feel that her book offers the complete spiritual meaning of the Bible. They believe that this full meaning could not have been available to them without Mrs. Eddy’s discovery.
Christian Scientists have no problem adding Eddy’s book to the Bible as having equal divine authority: Humanity had the Bible for close to two millenniums without fully understanding Christ Jesus did. To arrive at that kind of understanding, humanity needed to comprehend the Bible on a deeper level. They needed to “unlock” the Bible, so to speak. It was the specific mission of Science and Health to give the world this “key” to the Scriptures—to open up their treasures and enable everyone to use them.
“The Jewish tribal Jehovah was a man-projected God, liable to wrath, repentance, and human changeableness” (S & H, 140).
“All is infinite Mind and its infinite manifestation, for God is All-in-All.” (Miscellaneous Writings, 21)
“(1) God is All-in-all. (2) God is good. Good is Mind. (3) God, Spirit, being all, nothing is matter. … GOD: Divine Principle, Life, Truth, Love, Soul, Spirit, Mind” (S & H, 113, 115).
Since God is “All-in-All,” anything that is not God does not exist. “Nothing possesses reality nor existence except the divine Mind and His ideas.” (Science and Health, 331)
“the theory of three persons in one God (that is, a personal Trinity or Triunity) suggests polytheism, rather than the one ever-present I AM” (Science and Health, 256).
“Life, Truth, and Love constitute the triune Person called God” (S & H, 331).
The Trinity – “Triply divine Principle.” The Godhead does not consist of three Persons. (Science and Health 256) The Trinity is “a triply divine Principle.” “Life, Truth, and Love constitute the triune Person called God—that is, the triply divine Principle, Love. They represent a trinity in unity, three in one—the same in essence, though multiform in office: God the Father-Mother; Christ the spiritual idea of sonship; divine Science or the Holy Comforter. These three express in divine Science the threefold, essential nature of the infinite.” (Science and Health 331)
“The Christian who believes in the First Commandment is a monotheist. Thus he virtually unites with the Jew’s belief in one God and recognizes that Jesus Christ is not God, as Jesus himself declared, but is the Son of God” (S & H, 361).
“The spiritual Christ was infallible; Jesus, as material manhood, was not Christ” (Miscellaneous Writings, 84).
He is Jesus the Christ. “Jesus is the human man, and Christ is the divine idea; hence the duality of Jesus the Christ.” (Science 473)
He was conceived by the Virgin Mary’s spiritual thoughts. “Jesus, the Galilean prophet, was born of the Virgin Mary’s spiritual thoughts of life and its manifestations.” (The First Church 361)
He was fallible. “[Jesus] knew the mortal errors which constitute the material body, and could destroy those errors; but at the time when Jesus felt our infirmities, he had not conquered all the beliefs of the flesh or his sense of material life.” (Science 53)
His ministry consisted of correcting erroneous beliefs. “Jesus cast out devils, mediating between what is and is not until a perfect consciousness is obtained. He healed disease as He healed sin; He treated them both, not as in or of matter, but as mortal beliefs to be exterminated.” (No 40-41)
His death was not real, only apparent. “Our Master fully and finally demonstrated divine Science in his victory over death and the grave . . . Jesus’ students, not sufficiently advanced to understand fully their Master’s triumph, did not perform many wonderful works until they saw Him after His crucifixion and learned that He did not die.” (Science 45, 350-351)
“Man is not matter; he is not made up of brain, blood, bones, and other material elements. … Man is spiritual and perfect; and because he is spiritual and perfect, he must be so understood in Christian Science. Man is idea, the image of Love; he is not physique.” (Science and Health, 475)
“Man is the offspring and idea of the Supreme Being whose law is perfect and infinite. In obedience to the law, man is forever unfolding the endless beatitudes of Being; for he is the image and likeness of infinite Life, Truth, and Love” (Miscellaneous Writings, 82)
“Man is the ultimate of perfection and by no means the medium of imperfection. … If God is upright and eternal, man as His likeness is erect in goodness and perpetual in Life, Truth, and Love. … The spiritual man is that perfect and unfallen likeness, coexistent and coeternal with God.” (Miscellaneous Writings, 79)
Jesus did not atone for our sin by shedding His blood on the cross. “The real atonement–so infinitely beyond the heathen conception that God requires human blood to propitiate His justice and bring mercy–needs to be understood.” (No 34)
“The material blood of Jesus was no more efficacious to cleanse from sin, when it was shed upon ‘the accursed tree,’ than when it was flowing in His veins, as He went daily about His Father’s business.” (Science 25)
He did not rise physically from the dead. (Science 339) He did not ascend into heaven. “The eternal Christ and the corporeal Jesus manifest in the flesh, continued until the Master’s ascension, when the human, material concept, or Jesus, disappeared, while the spiritual self, or Christ, continues to exist in the eternal order of divine Science.” (Science 334)
He is not returning physically to earth. “The second appearing of Jesus is, unquestionably, the spiritual advent of the advancing idea of God, as in Christian Science.” (Retrospection 70) He is the “Way-shower.” “Jesus taught the way of Life by demonstration. There is but one way to heaven, harmony, and Christ in Divine Science shows us the way.” (Science 242)
He is relatively unimportant to Mrs. Eddy. “If there had never existed such a person as the Galilean Prophet, it would make no difference to me. I should still know that God’s spiritual ideal is the only real man in His image and likeness.” (The First Church 318-319)
Salvation is by correcting erroneous beliefs. “To get rid of sin through Science, is to divest sin of any supposed mind or reality, and never admit that sin can have intelligence or power, pain or pleasure. You can conquer error by denying its verity.” (Science 339)
“Hence, evil is but an illusion, and it has no real basis. Evil is a false belief. God is not its author. The supposititious parent of evil is a lie.” (Science and Health, 48).
“There never was a moment in which evil was real.” (No and Yes, 24).
The standard is the Golden Rule and a commitment to be merciful, just and pure.
“The only reality of sin, sickness, or death is the awful fact that unrealities seem real to human, erring belief, until God strips off their disguise. They are not true, because they are not of God.” (S & H, 472).
“Sin, sickness, and death are to be classified as effects of error. Christ came to destroy the belief of sin.” (S & H, 473).
DEATH. An illusion, the lie of life in matter; the unreal and untrue; the opposite of Life. Matter has no life, hence it has no real existence. Mind is immortal. The flesh, warring against the Spirit; that which frets itself free from one belief only to be fettered by another, until every belief of life where Life is not yields to eternal Life. Any material evidence of death is false, for it contradicts the spiritual facts of being (S & H, 584).
Unity School of Christianity
the Bible, BUT, as interpreted by Charles and Myrtle Fillmore. There is an apparent literal meaning that hides (covers over) an underlying metaphysical meaning.
“When the Jesus ego first appears in the subconsciousness, it is a mere speck of light, a ‘star in the east’. The East is the mystical and occult realm where great wisdom and rich presents await the one who is born ‘King of the Jews’.” (Unity, Vol. 72, No. 1)
“Galilee represents the life activity or soul energy of man acting in conjunction with substance. Nazareth, a city of Galilee, means a sprout, a small thing held of slight significance, hence a term of reproach. It typifies the commonplace mind of man; but it is in the commonplace mind actuated by the soul energy of true substance that the Christ idea takes root and grows up in consciousness.” Ibid.
“The author of Genesis was evidently a great metaphysician. He described Being as God, Lord God, and Adam. We would express the same truth in the terms Mind, Idea, and Manifestation… But Mind, Idea, and Manifestation are one. Manifestation rests upon, and is sustained by the Idea, and the Idea is encompassed by the Mind that conceives it; therefore the Real of Adam is the Lord God, and the Omnipresent Fount of the Lord God is the One God.” (Fillmore, Christian Healing, 133)
“We believe that creative Mind, God, is masculine and feminine, and that these attributes of Being are fundamental in both natural and spiritual man… Almighty Father-Mother, we thank Thee for this vision of Thine omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence, in us and in all that we think and do, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.” (Unity’s Statement of Faith, Article 16, 32)
God, then, is an impersonal pantheistic Principle, a universal intelligence.
“Jesus represents God’s idea of man in expression: Christ is that idea in the absolute.” (Unity, Vol. 72, No. 1)
“The Bible says that God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, but the Bible does not here refer to Jesus of Nazareth, the outer man; it refers to the Christ, the spiritual identity of Jesus, whom he acknowledged in all his ways, and brought forth into his outer, until even the flesh of his body was lifted up, purified, spiritualized, and redeemed. Thus he became Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh. And we are to follow him into this perfect state and become like him for in each of us is the Christ, the only begotten Son.” (Unity, Vol. 57, No. 5)
“In his true estate man is the Christ, the head of the body.” (Unity, Vol. 48, No. 2)
Statements for the Realization of the Son of God:
“I am the Son of God, and the Spirit of the Most High dwells in me. I am the only begotten Son, dwelling in the bosom of the Father. I am the Christ of God. I am the Beloved Son in whom the Father is well pleased. Of a truth I am the Son of God. I and my Father are one.” (Christian Healing, 26)
As the oak is in the acorn, so God is in man.
“There is no sin, sickness or death.” (Unity, Vol. 47, No. 5)
“As we explore the mental realm, we find it filled with a whole legion of narrow beliefs, foolish, ignorant beliefs, selfish beliefs, and discordant beliefs. These we have lumped together and denominated ‘mortal mind’ or carnal mind.’ It is here we first do our ‘raising of the dead’. Each of these beliefs of mortality is a sin.” (Christian Healing, 164)
“The atonement is the union of man with God the Father, in Christ, …the at-one-ment or agreement or reconciliation of man’s mind with Divine Mind through the superconsciousness of Christ mind. …A living faith in the atoning grace of Jesus Christ will prepare the way to an understanding of His mission and will open the consciousness to the saving Christ power, which alone can, here and now, make the transformation of the soul and body that is called redemption.” (What Practical Christianity Stands for, 5)
Salvation is Christ-consciousness, conscious unity with God. “By his redeeming work Jesus Christ is forming and establishing a new consciousness into which all may enter. He went first into the interior spiritual realm of consciousness, and thus opened and prepared the way for all to follow Him and enter with Him into the realization of a perfect union with the Father-Mind.” (What Practical, 11)
Sin is our separation from God, the Good, in consciousness. Salvation is now–not something that occurs after death. It happens whenever we turn our thoughts from fear, anxiety, worry, and doubt to thoughts of love, harmony, joy, and peace. The “fall” takes place in consciousness whenever we fall into negative habits of thinking. Heaven and hell are states of consciousness, not geographical locations. We make our own heaven or hell here and now by our thoughts, words, and deeds.(http://www.unity.org/aboutunity/whoWeAre/faq.html)
The Bible is Unity’s basic textbook. Scripture comes alive when it is understood as a clear and helpful guide for today’s experiences. (Ibid)
The five basic ideas that make up the Unity belief system are: 1) God is the source and creator of all. There is no other enduring power. God is good and present everywhere. 2) We are spiritual beings, created in God’s image. The spirit of God lives within each person; therefore, all people are inherently good. 3) We create our life experiences through our way of thinking. 4) There is power in affirmative prayer, which we believe increases our connection to God. 5) Knowledge of these spiritual principles is not enough. We must live them. (Ibid)
“Dissolution of spirit, soul, and body, caused by death, is annulled by rebirth of the same spirit and soul in another body here on earth. We believe the repeated incarnations of man to be a merciful provision of our loving Father to the end that all may have opportunity to attain immortality through regeneration, as did Jesus.” (Statement of Faith, Article 22)
Christianity & Sects
Christianity & Sects
Historic Christianity essentials (source: LBCF, updated, Kerkham)
The Holy Scriptures, consisting of all the books of the Old and New Testament, are the only sufficient, certain and infallible rule for saving knowledge, faith, and obedience. The whole revelation of God concerning all things essential for his own glory, human salvation, faith and life, is either explicitly set down or implicitly contained in the Holy Scriptures. The supreme judge by which all religious controversies are to be settled can be none other than the Holy Scriptures.
The Lord our God is the one and only living and true God, eternal and self-existent, immutable, immense, and incomprehensible, existing in three persons who are one in substance, power, and eternity, each having the whole divine essence, yet this essence is undivided. The Father is not derived from anyone, he is neither begotten nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son.
The Son of God, the second person in the Holy Trinity, is truly and eternally God, of the same substance and equal with him. He took upon himself human nature, with all its essential properties and common infirmities, yet without sin. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary. So two whole, perfect, and distinct natures were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, mixing, or confusion. This person is therefore truly God and truly human, yet one Christ.
After God had made all other creatures, he created human beings, male and female, with reasoning and immortal souls. They were made in the image of God, with knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness. Man is dual in nature with a material body and an immaterial eternal soul. Man’s purpose is to glorify God and enjoy him forever, to have dominion over creation and to fill the earth with offspring.
Man was created upright and perfect but by willfully disobeying God’s command fell from his original state of righteousness. We fell in them, for by it death came upon all; all became dead in sin and totally defiled in all the faculties and parts of soul and body. In the Covenant of Grace God freely offers to sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ, requiring from them faith in him that they may be saved, and promising to give his Holy Spirit to all who are elected to eternal life, to make them willing and able to believe.
The character of God revealed in the law first written in the human heart is the perfect rule of righteousness. It was delivered by God upon Mount Sinai in ten commandments (written in two tables) the first four containing our duty towards God, and the other six our duty to our fellow beings.
After death the bodies of people return to dust and undergo decomposition. Their souls immediately return to God who gave them, are then made perfect in holiness, and received into paradise where they are with Christ and look on the face of God in light and glory, to wait for the full redemption of their bodies. The souls of the wicked are cast into hell, where they remain in torment and utter darkness, reserved for judgment on the great day. The bodies of the unrighteous will be raised to dishonor, the bodies of the righteous will be raised to honor on the day God has appointed when he will judge the world in righteousness by Jesus Christ. God’s purpose in appointing this day is to show forth the glory of his mercy in the eternal salvation of the elect, and his justice in the eternal damnation of the reprobate who are wicked and disobedient.
Sects and how they differ
common names: Christian Church, Disciples of Christ, Christian University
breakaway sect of Church of Christ, founded by Thomas & Alexander Campbell, 1820’s
baptism is necessary for salvation – “The gospel involves a five-fold requirement: hear, believe, repent, confess, and baptize.” Bjornstad(a deviation in Essential #5, Soteriology; see Matt. 28:19, Romans 10:9-10, Eph. 2:8-10)
ICOC adds radical form of discipling to requirements: “Faith + repentance + becoming a disciple + baptism = salvation.”Ibid
Each person is discipled within a hierarchy of disciples. Under God, Kip McKean is the director; under him are elders (e.g. Al Baird and Bob Gempel), then evangelists (e.g. Gordon Ferguson), then pastors, and then lay people who are disciplers. Final authority in all matters is vested in the leadership.
To become a disciple one must complete some or all of a series of studies with a discipler, commit to attend all the services, promise to read the Bible daily, begin recruiting others, agree to obey church leaders, and give tithes weekly. One must also list all the sins he or she has committed and confess these to one or more members.
One’s eligibility for salvation depends then on the leadership’s determination as to whether or not that person is ready for baptism. (a deviation in Essential #1, Authority; see 2 Tim. 3:15-17)
In 1818 William Miller, a Baptist minister, read Daniel 8:14 and predicted Christ’s return in twenty-five years.
Hiram Edson, who was from western New York, provided the doctrine of the Sanctuary and Christ’s final ministry in the Holy of Holies (1844).
Joseph Bates, of Massachusetts and New Hampshire, provided the doctrine of seventh-day worship, the Sabbath.
Ellen G. Harmon [White], who came from Maine, provided the doctrine of the “Spirit of Prophecy.” She is considered (officially) a prophet in the same sense as Samuel, Jeremiah and John the Baptist, i.e., as a continuing authoritative source of truth for the church.
When Christ became a man, He took upon Himself human flesh and a human nature, but no human soul as a distinct immaterial substance. (a deviation in Essential #3, Christology; see Luke 23:43)
The soul represents the whole man and the whole man [the body] remains in the tomb until the resurrection morning. The soul cannot exist apart from the body. There is no conscious existence after death. The righteous will be resurrected and caught up to meet the Lord at His return. The unrighteous will be resurrected after the millennium and then cast into the lake of fire where they will be destroyed or annihilated. (a deviation in Essential #4, Anthropology and Essential #7, Eschatology; see Matthew 10:28, Mark 9:44-48)
The Seventh-day Sabbath [Friday evening until Saturday evening] was instituted by God. Observance of this day is a test of one’s loyalty to Christ. (a deviation in Essential #3, Christology; see Matt. 16:24; also 1 Cor. 16:1-2, Acts 20:7, Rev. 1:10)
Jesus entered into the heavenly sanctuary in 1844 to begin a second phase of His ministry. The sins of believers have been transferred to, deposited or recorded in the Heavenly Sanctuary, and are now being dealt with in the Investigative Judgment. Those who have died are examined to determine if they are worthy of being part of the first resurrection. The living are also examined to determine who are abiding and keeping God’s commandments. When the cases of all the righteous will have been decided [the standard being the Ten Commandments], their sins will be blotted out and Jesus will return to this earth in all His glory.(a deviation in Essential #3, Christology and Essential #7, Eschatology; see 2 Cor. 5:21; Luke 18:14)
Christianity – defined by system of belief, not culture (Christian vs. Arab) or denomination; comprehensive worldview includes source of authority, nature of God, nature and work of Christ, nature of man, etc. It is summarized in the ecumenical creeds (Apostles’, Nicene, Nicæno-Constantinopolitan, Chalcedonian) and confessions of faith (Belgic, Westminster, London).
Sect – a group with roots in and shared beliefs with Christianity, but with distinctives (often receiving an unbalanced emphasis) that distinguish it from “mainstream” Christianity; may be considered a cult by some Christians
Cult – a group of people, which claiming to be Christian, embraces a particular doctrine system taught by an individual leader, group of leaders, or organization, which (system) denies (either explicitly or implicitly) one or more of the central doctrines of the Christian faith. Cults use much language in common with Christianity but with significantly different meanings for terminology. Roman Catholicism (listed in “ Other World Religions”) is not a cult since it does not deny a central Christian doctrine nor is it a sect; it was the “mainstream” for centuries. Yet given what the Roman Catholic church teaches on each central doctrine, it is distinct from Protestantism in general and evangelical Christianity specifically.
Occult – belief in or study of the action, influence or use of supernatural power or knowledge. It is comprised of three basic categories — divination, magic or sorcery, and spiritism. Though there are many theories today as to how or why it works, according to biblical theology it originates from, and constitutes interaction with, demonic spirits. Hence, it is expressly condemned.
Distinguish between what the system teaches and what is believed/practiced by particular individuals
“ Missionaries” and average lay participants have different knowledge sets; founders and insiders have an even different understanding of truths contained in the particular system. In some systems, inside information is withheld or masked from beginners. Even when there’s no secrecy, not everyone in a particular system understands or holds to the entire system; not everyone consistently practices what their system teaches. Often the actual belief system of individuals (particularly average nominal followers) has elements of syncretism – President Obama’s public statements, e.g.
In a 2004 interview Obama stated clearly, “I am a Christian.” Yet in the same interview he says “intellectually I’ve drawn as much from Judaism as any other faith” and “I believe that there are many paths to the same place, and that is a belief that there is a higher power, a belief that we are connected as a people.” Obama thinks religion is “at it’s best comes with a big dose of doubt.” He thinks “Jesus is an historical figure . . . he’s also a wonderful teacher”. He defines sin as “Being out of alignment with my values.” Additionally, he says he feels the most centered and most aligned spiritually when he’s being true to himself and that he’s a “follower, as well, of our civic religion.”
Distinguish also between “denominations”, spectra within groups:
Latin vs native-language Mass; charismatic congregations within Roman Catholicism
Hindu monotheism, polytheism, atheism
Orthodox, Reform, Conservative, Hasidism, and Kabbalah movements within Judaism
Freemasons – square and compass; the Square is an emblem of virtue in which “we must square our actions by the square of virtue with all mankind”. The Compass exemplifies wisdom of conduct,… the strength to “circumscribe our desires and keep passions within due bounds”. When these 2 Masonic tools are placed together with the Great Architect (God, the Creator, Supreme Being, Generating force) as the central focal point… (just as King Solomon built God’s Temple, first… and then built his house around it), peace and harmony is the result.
Taoism – yin yang; impartial force governing the cosmos through a self-generating process rather than the work of a Creator. This force has two aspects whose interplay causes the ever-changing phenomena of the universe. Yin is the dark, receptive, “female” aspect; yang is the bright, assertive, “male” aspect. Wisdom lies in recognizing their ever-shifting, but regular and balanced patterns and moving with them. This creative rhythm of the universe is called the Tao, or “way”. Yin and yang interpenetrate each other as represented by the small circles. As soon as one aspect reaches its fullest point, it begins to diminish, accompanied by an increase in its polar opposite.
Buddhism – wheel of life; in the center are animals representing lust, hatred, and delusion. The next circle shows the fate of those with good karma (left) and bad karma (right). The third circle represents the six spheres of existence from the gods to the infernal regions. The outer rim shows the chain of cause and effect. Grasping the wheel is a monster representing death, impermanence.
Sikhism – a Khanda includes three different items which have a symbolic meaning: 1) A double-edged sword, also called a Khanda, in the center; 2) A Chakkar which is circular; 3) Two single-edged swords, or kirpans, are crossed at the bottom and sit on either side of the Khanda and Chakkar. They represent the two characteristics, one being Miri (Temporal power) and the other, Piri (Spirituality). In the symbol the sword to the left represents truth, and the sword to the right represents the willingness to fight for what is right- dharma (religion). The circle in the middle means that there is only one God, never beginning and never ending. The Khanda represents knowledge of God, the Chakkar represents the eternal nature of God and oneness of humanity, the two swords represent Miri (political sovereignty) and Piri (spiritual sovereignty).
Islam – crescent moon and star; The crescent moon and star symbol actually pre-dates Islam by several thousand years. Information on the origins of the symbol are difficult to ascertain, but most sources agree that these ancient celestial symbols were in use by the peoples of Central Asia and Siberia in their worship of sun, moon, and sky gods. The city of Byzantium (later known as Constantinople and Istanbul) adopted the crescent moon as its symbol. It wasn’t until the Ottoman Empire that the crescent moon and star became affiliated with the Muslim world. When the Turks conquered Constantinople (Istanbul) in 1453, they adopted the city’s existing flag and symbol. Based on this history, many Muslims reject using the crescent moon as a symbol of Islam. The faith of Islam has historically had no symbol, and many refuse to accept what is essentially an ancient pagan icon.
Wicca – pentacle; the Pentacle is a 5-pointed Star contained within a circle. It is drawn in a continuous line, without breaks or lifting the pen (or whatever) from the writing surface. The five points of the Pentacle stand for the four directions and four elements, plus Center/Spirit. It represents the unity of all facets of the world into one expression of the Divine. It is no coincidence that a human standing with all limbs outstretched forms a rudimentary star shape. This human star inside the circle of the aura creates a living Pentacle. The Pentacle is the prime energy-containing Wicca symbol. It contains, in essence, the Universe within it. Part of the Pentacle’s power of protection relies on the fact that it is drawn with a single unbroken line. This leaves no gateways for unwanted energies to enter, or for Power to dissipate.
The question must be: what is the ultimate authority governing the faith and practice of devotees?
If there is a conflict between two “authorities”, which rules? how is conflict resolved?
It can also be helpful to know what the most basic presupposition is. What is the logical starting point of the system of thought, that which is accepted without proof. (There is a God and he has revealed himself through his Word, the Bible.)
Many cults and religions would acknowledge the Bible as an authority, would quite readily acknowledge other authorities or important people/writings, only when pressed (in conversation with a non-devotee) acknowledge a higher authority than the Bible.
What does the system of belief teach about God?
Is there a god and what is God like?
Who is Jesus?
What was/is his purpose in history?
Where did man come from?
What is his nature? (Dualism – physical/spiritual or material/immaterial; Monism – material only; spiritual only)
Why is man here? What is his purpose? Where/how do you find meaning in life?
What is man’s natural condition? Does man have a problem?
If man does, what is the solution?
What is the standard of right and wrong?
What is important in life? Why is that important?
Is there an end and, if so, what happens at the end?
What is the goal of history?
Especially when dealing with cults it is of utmost importance to clearly define terminology first, words like redemption, divinity/deity, Son, resurrection, salvation, heaven, Holy Spirit; for clear and effective communication to take place, both participants must be applying the same concepts to terms that are used.
Religions_Comparison (pdf comparison of world religions and cults formatted for 8-1/2 x 14 legal size paper)