tv Al Jazeera World News LINKTV May 8, 2013 7:00pm-7:31pm PDT
welcome to another session of beliefs and believers. we're having a wild discussion of religious doctrine in the context of christianity, and virginia just brought a cartoon out here that is really, you know, quite apropos. some new visitors to heaven are talking to what i assume is god, i imagine, and it says ... god's saying, "why, no, we have no catholic or protestant
districts here." and you know, there we are. it reminds me a little bit of, what was it, our foothills from, you know, down in the hindu world a couple few classes ago. we were talking about there's lots of arguments down in the foothills. but when you really get up to the mountain, when you really get up to heaven, well, then what are those distinctions. so you know, cute little people saying, "well, what's my room? where's my doctrinal cubical in heaven?" and they get a resounding, "it's all one here." so interesting stuff. you know what i'd like to do, because we were talking about jonestown and there's so many questions that you might have, and i'm sure you do in this class, which we're going to devote in part to conservative protestantism. these are folks, probably the kind of folks that if they got up to heaven, and you know, god said, "well, there's no catholic or protestant here," they'd say, "well, we must have got off at the wrong stop on the bus or something," you know, because there better be
a protestant heaven. not to denigrate them- this is a very doctrinally based group. but we were having such an interesting discussion and people were raising questions on the break- we didn't stop at all; we kept going about jones and why did this happen. i thought we'd use the graphics- in this class, i want to go through what we might call the formal graphics on doctrine, what we normally use in class to look at some of the functions of doctrine, how this dimension works in the world-view. but don't just jot down the notes and go past it; feel free to bring up jonestown - specific points as we look through these. as i'm glancing through the graphics and thinking about them, some of the answers to the questions of why jones and the people who committed suicide, why they did that- are within these answers. at the same time, we have to realize that the doctrinal dimension is by no means a kind of demonic dimension; it's an
extremely necessary dimension with very important functions in all world-views, so we might balance those out. but bring up those jonestown questions as we move through the material, and then we'll get to meet our arch-fundamentalist christian protestant who, again, has a very different look at the relationship between doctrine, ethics, and the social dimension. anyway, some notes here. doctrines, they are belief systems- i bet you knew that already; you know, beliefs and believers and behavior- but you know, kind of the heart of the course in that sense. they do answer or provide specific answers to boundary questions. and i would underline specific if i had one of those fancy computer programs where i could create things as i went along because it's the specificity- it's the specific answers. indeed, we get answers to profound life questions from myth, which we've seen played out in ritual, which ideally brings people back into religious experience, as we've talked about. but these are specific answers,
and by that, the term that we'll come to again, interpretation comes to mind. now i love this definition i came up with for doctrine. i wish i could find out who came up with it so i could give him credit, but i haven't. but we'll use it anyway, and they can send me nasty cards and letters, or else i'll send them nice ones if they contact me. anyway, the institutionalization of answers about the unexplainable- in this case, boundary questions. the institutionalization. you know, and here we're talking about authority- whether it's a book, whether it's a church, whether it's a, you name it. but it's those answers about- what? those boundary questions. and you know, three great instigators or creators or catalysts to boundary questions, and we could go back to our dear friend the buddha, and his sense of looking for- that we all suffer because we look for permanence in a constantly changing world. well, when we think of death and suffering and change-
you know, one great sociologist of religion i think was someone like- someone, maybe thomas o'day said- you know, someone asked him for a definition of religion, and he said, "we have religion because we die and because we suffer and because we constantly are buffeted by the changes of life. and we want to know why. but so often, you know, as we have here, we can't get the answers through science. interestingly enough, if you start looking around, you know, watch the news mags. people think religion doesn't count. i swear, about every fifth major news magazine has on the cover something about religion, and here we have, of course, "science finds god." well, it's about time. whooo, yes! very interesting article. science- science, with its own authority and its own methods and own mythology and own rituals, a chance to find answers about the unexplainable. religion goes about
it in a very different way, but very interesting how scientists are coming together. yeah, jamie? >> what issue was that? >> let me find out. let's see, it says january 1st, year 2000. just kidding. this is july 20, 1998- just put out in the newsstands, i think. so there we have it, you know, it's ways of knowing, ways of coming about it here. science uses its own terminology, but there's this fascinating way of knowing that i think- actually, if you read that article, you find that many very accomplished scientists are coming around to legitimizing this way of knowing- is this amazing human capacity called faith- you know, a way of knowing called faith that may- like myth, it transcends common sensical ways of explaining things. it may not be logical, it may not be true in some matter of fact way, but you believe it, or you put this kind of essence, this faith into it,
and answers do come. over and over again, the scientists- i just had read that a little bit quickly coming up here, but over and over again, you find that what they're saying is that you look at the world, you think of chaos theory, you think of, "why is there something, instead of nothing?" scientists start to think about that, and then, whoa- you know, there's another way of knowing, and you know, faith is certainly that kind of way. yeah? >> i don't think this is so recent. they're saying that it's recent, but scientists for many, many years have been admitting that there is something, for them, beyond. >> of course. think of einstein. >> yes, of course. >> you know, they have for many years, it's every- i mean, the news mags are always late in getting ahold of it. but you're quite right, the scientific community has- not everybody. i mean, there's just an antagonism, and i think, for some reason, i'm not really sure why, but the antagonism between science and religion has been exacerbated by the general media, and something that's been
around for a while is being recognized, and i think that's quite true. sure. >> a lot of the times, it's the fact that scientists is starting to catch up and able to measure things and see things they've never seen before because our equipment for doing this is getting much, much better. and once they see what looked like chaos and find a pattern, it's, you know, it's kind of scary maybe. and one of the things that was interesting to me- i was watching pbs a couple of months ago, a whole program on fractals, which is a mathematical concept. and all the trees that you thought were growing like little pear-shaped things for no reason, it's so mathematically- there's a mathematical pattern under it of everything. >> they found a formula you can replicate. >> and you see that replication in so many different things, and i think that's what scientists, you know, that's where it's beginning to come in and people
are beginning to see it. well, yeah, susanna, and i'll get you next. sure. >> you were mentioning that the scientists are looking at it, and their window is primarily faith, that modern physicians are looking at it, and their window is faith and hope, as they're looking and realizing the spiritual part, dimension of us has a real impact on how well we are, can be, and so forth. then, for love, you can look at those monks and people who are cloistered and praying, and there i think is the love dimension, because that's sort of why they're there. and doing studies as they are now, where if you're having a battle and it's close by one of these abbeys are something, they've shown, they've proven that there are fewer casualties- significantly fewer casualties- in battles that are fought while the monks are praying, or the nuns or whoever is there. >> and we say, whooo, you know, stuff for those late-night spooky shows, but uh - uh, you know, they're beginning
to see these patterns. you had a question? >> science tells you how things work, but they don't dispense morality, so that's a lack in science. >> and you're so right. i had this- i saw this wonderful interview with houston smith- some of you are reading his book, which is a wonderful, wonderful book, the religions of man, or whatever it is- i can't really replicate it, but he talks about the difference between science and religion, and that's what he's at. you know, there's a way that science- there's a limited, as he puts it, amount of things that science can know because that's the boundaries they put, and religion takes us to another way, another place of knowing. yeah, jan? >> i think that somehow in my classmate's comment about there being an underlying pattern and being mathematically explaining things of nature, that that somehow involves the fact that somebody made it that way. but i think if you go to the laws of physics and the laws of nature, you'll find that, for example, crystals grow- they're not considered by most people to be alive-
but they're governed by laws of physics. and so i think that in finding these patterns within supposed chaos that we could look toward the laws of nature and the laws of physics to explain all this. >> and that's where we're seeing this convergence between these seemingly disparate ways of knowing between faith and science; we're seeing a convergence over, you know, the tinier patterns that also are macrocosms of some grand macrocosmic vision that seems to be guided. amazing stuff. speaking of amazing stuff, we have functions of doctrines. you know, you can't- i mean, if you want a tv course, you've got to have functions because people have to take tests, and we have functions. but actually, this is really an important part of it because this is the positive side of doctrines. you know, sometimes it can divide people and we recognize that and we've seen how it can lead to some extremes in terms of interpretation. but we would get nowhere in terms of the development of these beautiful human expressions that occur in
religions if we did not have a doctrine functioning, like a heart, like a guiding system within this pattern- it plays a part in the pattern. anyway, i think number one for us, really, in terms of our relationship with the other previous dimensions is that it does bring order or focus to myth and ritual. now, let's hope the focus is a peaceful and beautiful focus, but myth and ritual, as you remember, as so symbolic and wide ranging. you know, i think of dr. dave's myth of the ganges, or the myths in the native american tradition, or even the myth of ramtha. sometimes they're so wide ranging. and actually, you know, that just popped into my head as we met the people from the ramtha school of enlightenment, and you've got jz, you've got a 35,000-year-old master who she's channeling- what's the next step? that's pretty mythic. well, the next step- and they've been busily doing that; you know, ramtha, through jz, vice versa, whatever's going on-
what you see is that doctrine is being spun out. you know, how does this work? how do we then do it? but the little piece i did in the last class about how the bible develops- you know, you're going to have oral tradition, you're going to have people spinning stories about what jesus did. well, naturally, over time, people have to put that into a context they can understand. that's both good, because that defines the parameters of the religion, but it's also- you pay a price for everything in this world, because once you build that wall, you naturally have someone who's inside and someone's out. and we had this wonderful conversation in the previous class about what jesus might actually have been like, and very different perspectives. a real important second function here, it provides those institutionalization of answers to the unexplainable. it takes from myth, it takes from ritual practice, it draws from the original stories, and it says, folks, these- this is what happened. these are the answers.
this is what you're supposed to get about it. this is what happens when you die. you're faced with change. do this. think that. you suffer- here's why. and we're going to look at an incredible explanation- a doctrine about suffering called a theodicy; some of you may have heard of a theodicy. it explains why, if god is all good and god is all powerful, you know, whence cometh pain and suffering? and it's- we'll look at an apocalyptic theodicy in the book of revelation here shortly. another important function, and here's the first two absolutely necessary to those inward- turning forces. these latter ones, the functions tend to move out through the ethical dimension and the social dimension, and they control the boundaries of religions expression. now here, as we all know, folks, the boundaries of religious expression. jim jones was in conflict with the boundaries of religious
expression within mainstream christianity. i would think that cecil williams, in some senses- in a benign way- is in conflict with the traditional rigid boundaries of christian expression- he wants to move beyond. and so that sometimes is a negative; it's a positive because it defines who one is as a people. and we see that the development of the bible- to go back to the last class- the struggle of the early church, which is a fascinating story, a lot of this is to establish the doctrines that define this. i mean, paul- st. paul- with those letters- i hate to read other people's mail, but what are you going to do, it's in the new testament. he's so fast on his feet- you know, he's writing these letters to the churches. i'm sure he never thought that people would be sitting down, you know, reading this and doing this. but he's very fast on his feet in defining doctrinally what exactly did happen in the life and teaching of jesus, which was so short, so it's an important point. another one that has, you know, a give and take to it is our last major function-
probably a few more, but these will get us rolling- it's to determine what is inclusive and exclusive in a given religion. and we know, we've had a few discussions here when cynthia jones was in about witches and the price witches paid, in medieval times in particular, the price jews paid in spanish inquisition times, the price- i was thinking, you know, in terms of jonestown- jones maybe had the wrong time. joseph smith and- you know, let's not write in the nasty letters here, folks; the comparison is merely along this plane- joseph smith raised up a christian doctrine that was way outside the boundaries of what was deemed mainstream. he stepped way outside of that, but there was enough country and a lack of communication and transportation that jones was able to-
well, not jones but joseph smith, of course, died in carthage, but brigham young finally, after so much suffering and turmoil and violence, was able to take his different doctrinal teaching way out in the country and allow enough time for it to grow. even the pilgrims coming here from the old country came to a place and had at least enough freedom to put the roots down. jones could get away with nothing. i think someone asked on the break how long they were even in guyana. i don't think it could have even been two years before immediately the, you know, he's got a congressman coming down, they've got lawsuits, people were running into the jungle to hassle him- and did that push him over the edge? so it's a difficult thing with who's inside and who's outside, but nevertheless, it's one of the important functions of doctrine. sure? >> i've struggled with the idea of christianity being a guy's religion and the idea of persons
belonging- i'm thinking of abraham sacrificing his property, god sacrificing his property- women don't sacrifice their children; they're self-sacrificing. and it is also very evident, as a woman, that all the god language in my church is male. the lutherans don't even have mary, and i'm wondering if the fundamentalists' attitude
is also that of ownership and property and deciding what belongs to me. >> you know, you're so right in that area. and you know, the backside of my brain cells are going bling, bling, bling with your question about the sacrificing, and i'll have to think about that. but the point that you draw out of me is the cultural context situation. and religion, in the expression- and this is somewhat doctrinally based when religion defines the parameters of behavior and all that- religion, in its institutionalized form, cannot transcend the flotsam and jetsam of the culture in which it exists. in other words, if a culture is patriarchal and androcentric, then that's going to work its way into t religion. and you know, it's not so much that the original idea is-
and we're back to this position on jesus and christianity, where we're scratching our heads and saying, you know, "geez, i'm reading the gospels and i see, you know, jesus inviting people and hanging out with people he's not supposed to and being inclusive and loving and talking about, you know, doing things differently." and yet here we're about to everything else in the roll-in an honest, you know, genuine fundamentalist preacher who will absolutely have none of that. he expresses another kind of sense in the culture in which the doctrinal boundaries are incredibly rigid. chris, did you have a question? and then marge, we'll get to you. >> actually, speaking from a member of her church and also a member of a southern baptist church, i do see that the southern baptist tradition in america is seen as very- more rigid than even the elca church that we have. like we attend- she and i attend the same church and we have a woman pastor.
in the baptist tradition, in the southern baptist tradition- i'm not a spokesperson for baptists or anything- but that, they don't think - anybody, future viewers or anything, i'm sorry if i'm totally wrong, but i don't think that that would be okay. you read in the newspaper some very conservative views from conservative religions in america, and i think what you said with our culture and our times being a dictate of religion, it's very true, and i think as our society moves, so will the church- they won't have a choice. >> it will shape and color is what i say- it's inevitable. marge, let me get you in here. >> you were talking about religion reflecting the culture, but some religions- one that i'm in- are very slow to reflect the change in our culture with regard to women.
although i have to say in the catholic church, all the texts now are painful- they don't use "he" or "him," it's all "person," it's all- they don't use the male or female anymore, it's all person- it's really strained almost. but it's a step, but there are no women priests and it's- i mean, they're very slow to reflect the changes in the culture, some churches. >> you're quite right along that line, because in terms of my androcentric, patriarchal, i think i'm looking at a broader thing. now what we're seeing here is a change in the culture that is slowly, you know, affecting the position in the church. sure. >> aren't all institutions slow to change and reflect cultural changes of governments? any institution- religion, governments- are slow to change in regard to the cultural changes which people experience first. >> and my favorite institution- education. but of course, i need a job, so i'm going to keep my mouth shut
and go with a roll-in here. anyway, we do want to go to the roll-in- a spokesperson. here we have- and i want you to try to think in your head to juxtapose his tone, his demeanor, his vibes, if you'll get into that, between this gentleman and reverend cecil williams. and i spent a good bit of time even to get this gentleman to talk to us. this is pastor walt stowe, and we met him because we wanted to talk to someone who is vehemently against the ramtha school of enlightenment, and he runs a large, independent baptist church in a small town near yelm, and we got his name simply because we wanted to interview him about why ramtha school of enlightenment was, you know, demonic, why he was attacking it. but then i thought, here's a perfect time- because i thought ahead, for once- we'll be talking about the doctrinal dimension. he calls himself- proudly- a fundamentalist, and an independent one to boot. so what are the fundamentals?
what are these doctrines? what's he aiming at? and listen- we talked about scripture, and the comments, particularly in terms of the interpretation of jesus. but listen to his stand on biblical literacy- the inerrancy of the bible. and every time, you know, you brought up southern baptists- it's an interesting story in its own right, which we don't have time to get into, but it's an interesting one about this quest to say that the bible is inerrant- absolutely no errors and historically correct. i don't have any problem with that. but guess what? who's doing the interpreting of the inerrancy? that's where it gets sticky- you know, that's where it does. i can't resist that. and we'll do the roll-in. >> well, who did the writing? men! >> and that will be our subject for beliefs and believers iii. well, we're going to come back to that- a heavy-duty thing. who knows. anyway, according
to pastor stowe here, god did the writing, and it was just taken down by men. but pastor stowe, let's hear what you have to say about the christian fundamentals. [singing] >> you mentioned the fundamentals of the christian faith, and we believe they're just the plain, unvarnished teachings of biblical historic christianity that much of the mainline churches in the modern world has departed from. for instance, we believe the bible is the word of god. all right? it doesn't just contain it- it is the word of god, verbally inspired, word for word, verbal inspiration.
we do not believe it loses anything to speak of in translation. i used to think they translated it from this to this to this to this, but i find out it's translated from the hebrew to english or from the greek to english or from the arabic to english. it doesn't lose anything any more than translations of our day and time would not be, you know, trustworthy. we have communiqués between nations- they don't have a big problem with that; they know what they're talking about. and so the god who inspired the bible to be written we believe also preserved the bible for you and me today, and we can trust what god says in his word. it's fundamental to believe the bible's the word of god. it's fundamental to believe in the deity of the lord jesus christ, that he was truly virgin born. if he had not been, he would be a man like you or me, and have his own sin to have to deal with, so he had to be sinless, and the only way god could bring a sinless savior into the world
would be through the virgin birth. joseph was not his father- god was. and we believe that he died an atoning death after living a perfect life. i can't live a perfect life, but he can and did, and he marched that to my account. now as far as my sins are concerned that i've already committed, or even will commit, he not only lived the perfect life, but he died an atoning death- he became my substitute. when the bible says he died for the ungodly, it means he died in the place of the ungodly- and that's me and everybody else. so jesus took my sin upon himself, according to the bible- this is called the atonement, biblically speaking. you may hear the word used in context with new age or some other religion- they don't mean the same. but the atonement means i'm at one with god- "at one-ment" with god. it's definitely vicarious- in my place and for me. we believe he literally, physically rose from the dead- his body rose
from the dead. christianity is the only religion in the world that teaches a physical resurrection. none of the other religions teach a physical resurrection. most of them are into reincarnation, and reincarnation and physical resurrection butt heads- if one is true, the other can't be true. and so if you think about that, think it through, you understand that. we believe that jesus christ is going to return someday- the second coming of the lord jesus christ. these are fundamental truths that we just hold which makes us fundamentalists. you're dead and trespassing in sin, according to the word of god. i'm not talking about your body, i'm talking about your spirit- you're spiritually dead. you can't comprehend spiritual truth- it seems foolish to you. >> now, you see this man and his church and the whole demeanor of the church, they take a huge, black magic marker and they draw
a thick line between what- you know, who's a christian and who isn't. you know, if you're in there, you're fine. and a lot of his sermon- we sat through his whole sermon- and believe me, we started out, he was very suspicious. i mean, the only thing worse than a 35,000-year-old ascended master is an academic. and you know, he's got a point there. and so here we are, a couple of academics- david ainsworth came in with me- he wanted our cards. and so at the start of the service, he gets up and kind of makes fun of us. he says to his congregation, "oh, well, lookie here! we've got people from the university- you know, a religious studies professor! you know, ha, ha, ha!" you know, big guy, you know, so he starts out like that, and throughout most of the service, i mean, i couldn't even list- i was trying to keep a list, but i ran- my pen ran out of ink- of all the people who were doomed to hell because they didn't believe. and you know, we're talking, of course, you know, the buddhists and the hindus and the new agers and the ramthaites and religious studies professors, and it went on and on and on.
but, the guy- i talked to him for quite a bit longer than that afterwards, and you know, he just truly believes that if you don't see christianity, if you don't believe those fundamentals- in other words, doctrine interpreting myth- if you don't believe that, then you're going to hell. and finally, as we're leaving, the guy grabs my arm and he says, "john, john, i love you, but you've got to accept jesus, you've got to do it!" he's getting tears in his eyes- he's so afraid that i'm going to walk out of his building and not get it. and he follows me up on it with books, you know, religious tracks and tapes he'll send me of sermons, and he's even on email. you know, we've got our fundamentalists out there- well, they'd be the first, you know, to use the technology. but he's keeping track of me- you know, he wants to make sure if i'm up on my reading and i get it, because he's so afraid that anybody that isn't inside that circle, they're going to hell. and i don't know, you know,
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