Phenomenology of World Religion
Chapter 20 ©
Holy Roman Catholic Church and the Great Schism that separated Christianity between East and West, Byzantine (Eastern Orthodox Church) i and Roman, ii different sects based upon certain theological concepts like the Gnostics as discussed in Chapters 9 & 10. The early forming Church that held councils periodically to decide just what universal doctrine would be approved, as well as make decisions in regards to splinter groups (sects) like Arianism.
Unitarianism is a proper noun in English that is a religious “ism” movement like Calvinism, Anabaptism, Adventism, Wesleyanism, Protestantism, Catholicism, and so on. It is a sect of Protestantism (that is a sect of Catholicism). One can readily see that Christianity, for all its similarities between sects and theological diversity is one of the most complex to understand the differences, despite being based upon the identity of Jesus (the Galilean) from Nazareth, known as Christ.
In the case of Unitarianism, it is a actually a description of several forms of Christianity; and can be described as the belief that God is one personality. That is the main difference between the major sects theological thought in what is called Trinitarianism.
|Thomas Aquinas, 1225-1274|
Originally, simply put, the Unitarian was a Christian who did not believe in the Holy Trinity of God – the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost), believing in the fact of a single God instead of God in three parts – thus the name Unitarian.
This belief was initiated at the time of the death of Jesus of Nazareth (Galilee); however, it wasn't until the middle of the 1500s in Transylvania and the 1600s in England that the sect organized into a separate church. Of course, the established Catholic Church viewed this as heresy and during the time period aforementioned, they were persecuted as other heretics in the past were since the advent of the Holy Catholic Church as an organized religion with churches and monasteries being built across the known world and ultimately brought to the New World, especially the Spanish. During the period between 1500 and 1700 there were important figures of Unitarianism like: John Biddle, Francis David, Michael Servetus, King John Sigismund, and Faustus Socinus.
|Elements of Unitarianism|
Unitarianism arrived in America in the early 19th century and the gist of its theology was rational thinking, each person and their direct relationship with God, and importantly the humanity of Jesus. By 1825, Unitarian ministers had formed a denomination called the American Unitarian Association in which members discussed issues like education reform, prison reform, temperance, ministry to the poor, and the abolition of slavery. Influential Unitarians during this period were people like William Ellery Channing, Theodore Parker, Joseph Priestly, and Thomas Starr King – the latter being a Universalist.
Over the next 150 years, Unitarianism adopted newer ideas and was the first to introduce transcendentalism in the 1800s and humanist thought in the early 1930s. Unitarianism has been influential in America history, especially in politics and literature. There are denominations that are not affiliated with Unitarian Universalism, called Biblical Unitarians or Christian Unitarians.
Unitarians also are known for the rejection of other Christian doctrines that pertain to original sin, predestination, and biblical inerrancy.
Besides Trinitarianism and Unitarianism, there is another theological doctrine called Binitarianism – which is simply two personae, two individuals, or two aspects in one God. It is a strict form of monotheism, stating that God is one absolute being, but that is the classical form developed after the death of Jesus, where God is an absolute being, yet the Father and the Son as two separate deities. If that is not confusing, the Holy Spirit is still in the scenario where it is not a God, but a living power of God that flows between the Father and the Son like a cosmic connection. This best describes the doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, (Mormons) or at least as Catholics describe their theology.
Bitheism mentioned above, there is Ditheism in which it is believed there are two Gods working against one another, for example, God versus Lucifer (Satan). This term has been used to describe doctrines of the World Churches of God, which is the offshoot of Christian Churches of God.
All these theological perspectives are called Christology, (also spelled Christologie) which reflects the thought of the original, early Christians and the Messianic Jews. Descriptive: Study of the Divinity and the concept that Jesus as Christ is pre-existent as Logos (Word), as in the Gospel of John. It should be noted here and it is backed by certain scholars that …
Earliest worship specifies two figures, God and Jesus, as recipients. iv
At the end of the 2nd century, Melito of Sardis (Catholic Saint) wrote:
No eye can see Him, nor thought apprehend Him, nor language describe Him; and those who love Him speak of Him thus: “Father, and God of Truth”. v
Melito also wrote:
For the deeds done by Christ after His baptism, and especially His miracles, gave indication and assurance to the world of the Deity hidden in His flesh. For, being at once both God and perfect man likewise … He concealed the signs of His Deity, although He was the true God existing before all ages. vi
After the Council of Nicaea in 325 defeated Arianism, the Council of Constantinople was called to meet in 381 in order to attempt to address the Binitarian issue, who were referred to as “Semi-Arians”. The Trinity concept was made official during this period in early Christian history, so the offended Semi-Arians walked out.
In the middle of the 4th century, orthodox apologist, Epiphanus of Salamis, noted:
Semi-Arians … hold the truly orthodox view of the Son, that he was forever with the Father … but had been begotten without beginning and not in time … But all of these blaspheme the Holy Spirit, and do not count him in the Godhead with the Father and the Son. vii
After Ellen White became an influence upon the American Adventist movement, in 1858, the Binitarian Church of God was founded in the US (Midwest) states of Michigan and Iowa.
Read more on this subject at Absolute Astronomy.
In Our Unitarian Gospel by B.M.J. Savage, dedicated -
to those who believe that the message of God to his children must be one of life and hope instead of a theology which teaches death and despair.
HISTORY AND BACKGROUND
The beginning part of the Bible shows traces of fact that plainly show that Jews were polytheists at some point in history, as well as nature worshippers before they became devout monotheists. Some scholars, historians and archaeologists believe that the story of Abraham, who became the Father of the Semitic people that included followers of Jesus and Mohammed alike, was part of a cultural tradition of human sacrifice within the ancient tribal communities, and when the Semitic people had turned to the One and True God, this was abandoned by His or the religious hierarchy's laws that forbade such a practice.
During the time of Moses, the Hebrew religious laws were being established, the foundation being that of what Hebrews then called the Law of Moses, who not only carried down from Mount Sinai the Ten Commandments, Moses also:
...the servant of the Lord commanded the children of Israel, as it is written in the book of the Law of Moses, an altar of whole stones, over which no man hath lift up any iron; and they offered thereon burnt offerings unto the Lord, and sacrificed peace offerings. And he wrote there upon the stones a copy of the Law of Moses, which he wrote in the presence of the children of Israel. [Joshua 8:31-32]
In a sense, Moses, whose Hebrew name was Mosheh, which means “drawn” and in the Coptic language it means saved from the water, was the founder of the Jewish religion as well as the legislator of the tribes that had been gathered to establish their homeland. Moses was a man who had been educated by the Egyptians in the late 1500s BC, yet through his biological sister had recommended a nurse for the infant to serve the Egyptian princess who adopted him as her own. That nurse was the biological mother who insured that Moses would know the religious training of his Hebrew heritage while Moses enjoyed the life of Pharaoh's court. This period is blanked out in the Pentateuch, but mentioned in the New Testament describing Moses as -
learned in all the wisdoms of the Egyptians … mighty in his words and deeds. [Acts 7:22].
Moses was a prophet and a spiritual leader of his people, who at one particular point, reverted back to polytheism when he was away upon the mountain communicating with God. After Moses returned with the original tablets of God's law, he made clear that if they were to be a people with their own nation, they must obey those laws written upon tablets, as well as be loyal to the One True God. Once the broken tablets were replaced with new, they were, as stated in the Old Testament, into the ark, to be carried with the people until the time came it was to be safeguarded in the planned building of a great temple belonging to the Hebrew nation that would become Israel.
When Jesus arrived on the scene, in his middle age, he, according to the New Testament likened himself to Moses when he stated, according to the Apostle John [John 5:46]: Moses wrote of me. This suggests three possibilities: (1) Christ was meant to be a lawgiver, like Moses – the last prophet as Moses was the first; (2) Christ is a lawgiver, like Moses, as in Him shall ye hear; (3) Christ was a representative of the people, a mediator between God and the people, like Moses who was a prophet out of the midst of the nation – from their brethren. In Hebrews 3:1-19; 12:24-29; and Acts 7:37, Jesus of Nazareth (Galilean), being called the Christ, by his disciples who turn apostolic after his Jesus' death, given them the authority just before his trial, tribulation, crucifixion, and ultimately his resurrection; is himself described as the apostle of God. Also it might be useful to keep in mind that Jesus, through his father, Joseph, whose father was Jacob (not Mary like many believe), was a descendent of the House of David, who was also a descendent of the Father of the Tribes of Israel, Abraham. viii
Another likeness between Moses and Jesus the Christ is what occurred at infancy or just before birth. In the story of Moses, in the Book of Exodus, the Pharaoh's daughter finds Moses in the reeds along the River Nile because the mother hid him there to protect him against the decree that all male newborns within the Hebrew sector of Egypt were to killed.
In the New Testament, Gospel of Matthew, we find Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of Herod the king. In the Gospel of Luke, the family line, conception and circumstance surrounding the birth of Jesus is provided in detail and also begins with the circumstance surrounding the conception and birth of John. Beginning in Luke 1:30, Gabriel, the archangel, appears to Mary, the predestined mother of Jesus:
...And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favor with God. And, behold, thous shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David. ix And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. x
Luke, Chapter 1, continues with the miracle of the immaculate conception through the mysteries of the Holy Ghost, when Mary xi, as the angel predicted, is visiting her cousin, Elizabeth, who is mentioned at the beginning chapter of the Gospel of Luke, who had been barren, yet conceived in her old age a son.
Something else that occurs in the Gospel of Luke, which it seems too many ignore – the birth of John (not the disciple), through Elizabeth, cousin of Mary, mother of Jesus. And, just who is this John, that is preordained to perform such wonders? First, let me quote the passage that provides some information in Luke, Chapter 1:
...And they made signs to his father, how he would have him called. And he asked for a writing table, and wrote, saying, His name is John. And they marvelled all. And his mouth was opened immediately, and his tongue loosed, and he spake, and praised God. ...And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways. To give knowledge of salvation unto his people for the remission of their sins … And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his showing unto Israel.
That child, named John, grew up to be John the Baptist, the counterpart to Jesus, who established baptism as part of the ritual of washing away one's sins.
In Luke, Chapter 2, we find still another side of the story of the birth of Jesus:
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria. And went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David).
In the Gospel of John (1:14) there is reference to the divinity of Jesus …
And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
In the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 2, Herod the king of Judaea was visited by three magi, wise me from the east. Called Herod the Great, son of Antipater, an Indumean (Genesis 36:1) and Cypros, an Arabian woman. Antipater was appointed procurator of Judea by Julius Caesar in 47 BC. Herod, was appointed at the age of 15 to the government of Galilee, 40 BC and the Roman senate voted to make him king of Judea. He was a builder and loved architectural splendor, erecting the Temple of Jerusalem. He was also a cruel and corrupted ruler.
Beginning in Matthew 2:2:
...in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem in Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, And those Bethlehem, in the land of Judea, art not the least among the princes of Judea: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel. The Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, inquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also. When they had heard the king, they departed … And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way. And when they departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt. And was there until the death of Herod ...Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men.
Moses was saved from slaughter, along with other children by order of the Pharaoh; then saved by being hidden along the banks of the River Nile, found by a princess, who raised him as her own with the biological mother acting as his “nurse” (nanny).
Jesus was also in danger, at the time of his birth, for Herod also sent his soldiers out to kill all newborns and babies (assuming to be male) up to the age of two – Jesus was saved because his father, Joseph, had been warned by an angel in a dream. They fled to Egypt, the original home of Moses.
Unitarians date their theology back to the Jews before Christ's birth and considered Jesus as a Unitarian, as well as his disciples.
Minot J. Savage (1814-1918) wrote:
Among the Church Fathers, Clement, Polycarp, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Origen, and Lactantius, all of them in their writings make it perfectly clear and unquestioned that the belief of the Church, the majority belief for the first three centuries, was Unitarian. Of course, the process of thought here and there was going on which finally culminated in the doctrine of the Trinity. That is, people were beginning more and more to exalt, as they supposed, the character, the office, the mission of Jesus; coming more to believe that he was something other than a man, that he was above and beyond humanity. [The Unitarian Bible, Minot J. Savage; p. 1-2]
In the year 325, the Council of Nicaea was convened because of a heated argument between a priest of the Church of Alexandria, Arius, and the Bishop of Alexandria, Alexander that was about the nature of Christ. This was serious enough for the hierarchy of the established Christian Church to worry about the political and theological impact it could bring.
During the Reformation Age, Michael Servetus was a Unitarian who was executed in Geneva at the order of John Calvin through the Protestant Geneva governing council authority, an anti-Jewish clergyman and who instigated persecution of German peasants. Servetus was burned at the stake as a heretic.
Michael Servetus – whose birth name was Michelde Villeneuve, was a multilinguiist who studied the languages of Latin, Greek, and Hebrew by Dominican friars, where he entered the service of a Franciscan friar by the name of Juan de Quintana. In 1531, Michael published De trinitatis erroribus (“On the Errors of the Trinity”) and in 1532 published Dialogorum de Trinitate (“Dialogues on the Trinity”) as well as De lustitia Regni Christi (“On the Justice of Christ's Reign”) written as a companion text of the former text and included in the same volume. Michael studied law at the University of Toulouse in 1526 and was suspected of participating in secret meetings and activities of Protestant students there. In 1536, Servetus returned Paris to study medicine, where he was considered an able assistant in dissections. While studying medicine, Michael taught mathematics and astrology. Because of his accurate predictions of astronomical phenomena, other teachers developed a jealousy and his teaching classes were suspended by the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Jean Tagault, where Michael wrote a discourse against Tagault, who had caused him trouble. Tagault demanded that the judgment against Michel de Villeneuve (Servetus) should be the death penalty, but instead the judgment was reduced to withdrawal of his discourse text. Michael then decided to go to Monpellier to complete his medical studies and there became a Doctor of Medicine in 1539. Another physician, jealous of Michael, ambushed with accomplices and tried to kill him; but Michael defended himself and injured two of the attackers in a sword fight. He was then imprisoned for several days because of the incident. xii
Michel de Villeneuve started a medical practice soon after and became the personal physician to Pierre Palmier, Archbishop of Vienna as well as to Guy de Maugiron, lieutenant governor of Dauphiné. While practicing for about fifteen years, he published two works that concerned Ptolemy's Geography. He also wrote pharmacological text and proof read several books dealing with medicine and pharmacology. He sent a copy to John Calvin, which initiated a correspondence between them. During this period, Calvin began making accusations based upon letters Michel sent, despite the fact they were never signed either as Servetus or Villeneuve.
In 1553, Michael de Villeneuve published under his pseudonym “Servetus” another religious work whose subject was against trinitarian views, which rejected the idea of predestination and the idea that God condemned souls to Hell regardless of worth or merit. Servetus insisted that God condemns no one who does not condemn himself through thought, word, or deed.
Calvin took this course of thought as a personal attack against his own written material and personal convictions and sent a copy of his book to Servetus, who returned it immediately with critical annotations. Soon letters of dissent flurried back and forth between Servetus and Calvin and the latter wrote to a friend in February of 1546:
Servetus has just sent me a long volume of his ravings. If I consent he will come here, but I will not give my word; for he comes here, if my authority is worth anything. I will never permit him to depart alive.
On February 15th 1553, Michael de Villeneuve, aka Servetus, while in Vienne, was denounced as a heretic by Guillaumede Trie, a rich merchant and friend of Calvin. On June 17th, 1553, he was convicted of heresy with the help of condemning letters sent by Calvin, was sentenced to be burned with his books, but an effigy and his books were burned instead because he fled; but stopped in Geneva before going to Italy, where Calvin and his Reformers had denounced him. On August 13th, 1553, he attended a sermon by Calvin at Geneva and was arrested after the service and again imprisoned. All of his property was confiscated and Michael was affirmed to be “Servetus” and French inquisitors requested that Servetus be extradited to them for execution. Found guilty of heresy and Calvin believed he deserved the death penalty for his execrable blasphemies. xiii In addition to Calvin's accusations against Servetus, Martin Luther also condemned his writing in strong language while the Geneva government decided whether or not Servetus should be condemned to death because he was not a citizen of Geneva and could only, by law, be banished. Calvin requested that Servetus be executed by decapitation as a traitor rather than by fire as a heretic. The Geneva Council refused his request. On October 27th 1553, Servetus was burned at the stake outside of Geneva and it is said that the last copy of his book was chained to his leg. Historians recorded his last words:
Jesus, Son of the Eternal God, have mercy on me.
John Calvin wrote:
Whoever shall maintain that wrong is done to heretics and blasphemers in punishing them makes himself an accomplice in their crime and guilty as they are. There is no question here of man's authority; it is God who speaks, and clear it is what law he will have kept in the church, even to the end of the world. Wherefore does he demand of us a so extreme severity, if not to show us that due honor is not paid him, so long as we set not his service above every human consideration, so that we spare not kin, nor blood of any, and forget all humanity when the matter is to combat for His glory. xiv
Servetus was the initial influence of the beginning of the Unitarian movement in Poland and Transylvania. xv John Biddle became the early Unitarian who established Unitarianism in England. Servetus was the first modern Unitarian martyr and has been credited to be the forerunner of freedom of religion and freedom of conscience in the Western world. He was also the first European to accurately describe the function of the pulmonary circulation and an expert on anatomy and medicine in general, especially treatments. Most of copies of his book were burned, but three copies survived, remaining hidden for decades.
Servetus also contributed to pharmacology, recognized for his study of syphilis and 224 new recipes that became the main reference pharmacopeia for physicians during the decades after 1616 when William Harvey published his dissections and medical findings; despite the fact that Ibn al-Nafis, a 13th century Arabic physician had already discovered the knowledge of how the pulmonary circulatory system worked in Damascus. Because few translations of Arabic had reached Europe, it took three centuries to be recognized as the original concept of what Servetus has been acknowledged for.
Three hundred and fifty years after his execution, Servetus was still a controversial issue and in 1903 a committee was formed to erect a monument in his honor in Geneva, which by then had become a great international learning center, notably of medicine and psychology. In 1942, during Nazi occupation, the Vichy Government took down Servetus' statue because it was a symbol of freedom of conscience – melting it down. In 1960, the original molds were discovered and it was recast and returned to its original site. In October of 2011, Geneva erected a copy of the statue and representatives of the Roman Catholic Church were present; however, according to a Geneva newspaper it was noted that officials of the National Protestant Church of Geneva, the church of John Calvin, were not present. xvi
Today, the H. Henry Meeter Center for Calvin Studies recognizes, in its “Servetus Controversy” that John Calvin, in a weak acceptance caused the injustice against Michael de Villeneuve (Servetus):
The penal death of Servetus was an historical event resulting from deeply-held theological, social, and political views which to 21 st century sensibilities may seem extreme or at best strange. It is true that Calvin and his fellow pastors in Geneva were involved in the death of Servetus. However, it would be difficult to find any church leader in the 16th century who advocated a more gentle approach. Luther called for attacks on German peasants and wrote an angry tract against the Jews, called ‘On the Jews and their Lies'. Zwingli, the Reformer of Zurich, supported the execution by drowning of the Anabaptist leader, Felix Manz.
William Wileman wrote an excellent paper concerning “Calvin and Servetus” - based on the questions over why Servetus was put to death, who was instrumental in the action, and what part did John Calvin actually take against Servetus. He concludes his article with:
All persecution on account of religion and conscience is a violation of the spirit of the gospel, and repugnant to the principles of true liberty.
i During the early Christian church period, there was also the Coptic Church, established in Alexandria which was once a major trading and cultural city of the ancient world, but also had monasteries and bishops throughout the ancient world at the time – it also was scattered from conquest, but still remains today with a long, historical history and tradition.
ii The Holy Roman Catholic Church, located in Vatican City, (also see Vatican Holy See) which became a nation onto itself, established in Rome became the principal church, latter shortened to Catholic Church; although the Eastern Orthodox Church established in Constantinople (Istanbul after takeover by Islamic conquests) still continued in a smaller way after the fall of the Byzantium Empire.
iii Incarnate Son of God and the redeemer of the human race. [New Advent, Catholic Encyclopedia]
viii In the Gospel of Matthew, it clearly states in Matthew 1:1: The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. And further states in Matthew 1:16: And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary. It is more clear that it is Joseph's bloodline that dates back to Abraham and David and not Mary's bloodline in the Gospel of Luke, who provides the details of Jesus' nativity story.
ix It is readily accepted by scholars and theologians that the throne predicted for Jesus is not an earthly throne, but the “throne of David” which is at the side (right hand) of God himself – a heavenly throne.
x In this passage, is where the Church established Jesus' divinity; as of pagan religions before the age of Christ, a human woman is impregnated by a deity, in this case indirectly through the power of the “Highest”.
xi It might be noted here that at the beginning of the Gospel of Luke, Elizabeth, relative to Mary (Virgin Mary) whose family line goes back to Aaron.
xii D'artigny- Judgment at Vienne Isère.
xiii Owen, Robert Dale (1872). The debatable Land Between this World and the Next. New York: G.W. Carleton & Co.. p. 69, notes.
xiv Marshall, John (2006). John Locke, Toleration and Early Enlightenment Culture. Cambridge Studies in Early Modern British History. New York: Cambridge University Press. p. 325. ISBN 052165114X. That no such doctrine was ever a part of the teachings of Christ's ministry or the early Christian church has caused no end of debate as to the real intentions of those who tortured and killed those whose views differed from those of the ecclesiastical authorities at the time, including Michel de Villeneuve alias Servetus.
xv See Stanislas Kot, "L'influence de Servet sur le mouvement atitrinitarien en Pologne et en Transylvanie", in B. Becker (English translation Ed.), Autour de Michel Servet et de Sebastien Castellion, Haarlem, 1953.
xvi Tribune de Genève, 4 October 2001, p. 23