This is the last of the group of postings that investigates the background information pertaining to hermeneutics and the proper study and interpretation of the Bible. All of the subjects covered thus far are very complex and detailed, and part of the goal is to impress upon the reader that there exists many differing facets of viewing scripture which need to be considered or at least taken into account for when applying the lessons from the Bible. It is hoped that by having an expanded awareness of the hermeneutical process, one will begin to appreciate the nuances and logic behind most of the teachings and authority of the Church, and the need to follow them as a pathway to a fulfilled life.
Natural religion is primarily based upon the empirical world, that which can be observed. Anthropologists have proven beyond a doubt that it is in the nature of man to worship a ‘higher power’, and the nature of this religion has to do with times, places and on going myths of what could be considered a tribe. An example of this would be groups near the North Pole viewing a glacier as sacred, as those in a rain forest may view the tallest tree as sacred. There are usually accompanying myths and rituals that correspond with the belief systems, and significant to severe punishment to anyone who violates or desecrates the ‘sacred’ object and/or rituals associated with it.
Natural religions tend to (but not all) view their gods as rather distant, and marginally involved in human affairs. These gods usually have mixture of good and evil, and most often are attributed with human characteristics, also known as anthropomorphism. These gods are generally designed around events, such as the Egyptian god of the flood, represented by blessings every spring when the Nile would flood and leave fertile soil behind. Generally, if revealed religion is introduced to a society that has very strong beliefs in their natural religion, the natural religion tends to win out. It is very difficult for man to change belief systems once he internalizes his beliefs, and it has been the cause of much distress and wars throughout history.
Revealed Religion is based upon God (gods) directly intervening into history and communicating directly with mankind through use of human representatives usually known as prophets. Through these individuals, God communicates his will, his character, moral order, issues pertaining to salvation and the future. Unlike natural religions, the prophet or priest may forward messages and teachings that are contrary to the empirical world, and this relies on faith more than substance. This often is the cause of conflicts and social tensions, when it is contrary to the contemporary movement of society.
Revealed religions also emphasize a personal relationship with God in the sense that certain behaviors and rituals are personally pleasing to God while other behaviors and rituals can create problems, up to the point of eternal condemnation. Revealed religions also tend to go more into the mystical and metaphysical aspects of reality, thus giving clear instructions as to what is ‘approved and not approved’. Although there are some anthropomorphic attributes given to God, God is seen as divine, and having ultimate control over the cosmos, and transcends any tribal or regional system of beliefs and rituals. Also, the tenets of revealed religions do not change with time, and thus reflect the constancy of God, whereas in natural religion, the view of god changes with increase in knowledge.
Natural Religion versus Revealed Religion
Despite what many would like to believe, natural religion is alive and well in our modern times, and in fact is thriving. We have to look no further than the sciences to see this. We have the world of science that is promoting and ‘predicting’ the future by promoting such things as global warming, over population, energy scarcity and other ‘sacred teachings’. The scientist is viewed as the modern day priest and prophet, and gives dire warnings of gloom and doom if their words are not taken seriously. We have the modern colloquialism of ‘mother earth and mother nature’, thus anthropomorphizing this planet. We have the punishment from the gods (mother earth) if we do not follow the teachings and precepts of the prophets, and most of the worlds governments promote these teachings (views) as gospel truth with significant punishment meted out to violators of the laws and teachings.
Modern technology and scientific advances have moved us as a species from the realm of revealed religion, back to the natural religions. Most of society mocks any individual who dares to question such matters as evolution, global warming, over population and energy scarcity. Society also mocks, and is beginning to persecute those willing to stand up for the ‘dead God” and challenge these ‘sacred cows’ of modern times, and is intolerant of any teachings that are contrary to modern myths and folklores. Thus in our modern world, science has supplanted revealed religion and the Christian God, and has taken on its own characteristics of a deity.
That science has taken on a religious stature is not really debatable among intelligent people. One only has to consider the exposure of the e-mails by hackers a year ago that exposed global warming as fraudulent, and watched the reaction of the ‘establishment’ to this revelation. There is no question that the ‘powers that be’ saw their ‘sacred cow’ slaughtered, and responded initially with a very unreasonable defense and with a force that is unequalled by any contemporary churches concerning their beliefs. The penalty is large for not believing in the new religion and our society is requiring that we fund and bow to this new god and to its prophets.
The conflict between the revealed Living God of the Bible and the natural religion and its god (distorted science) will continue until the time that God breaks into history once again. In the mean time, it is becoming more and more difficult to fight against the resurgence of this new and very nature based religion, as they have the means to promote it, while the representatives of the revealed religion do little to nothing in standing in their way, or challenging their false perceptions. As modern meets ancient, it will be truth that wins over the lie. We need to present the truth as it is, unvarnished and unchangeable.
The next posting will start with an overview of the bible in light of their hermeneutical process discussed in the previous postings. After the overview, we will investigate prophecies, starting with those fulfilled and then move into the story of Revelation, utilizing the hermeneutical processes covered, and then work on an understanding of what the Bible really has to say concerning the end times.