As your guide you should realize that I am a believer, but I am not so arrogant as to think that I know all of the answers. This is an explorative expedition after all. We can all learn something from each other, so I encourage you to actively participate and share your ideas and questions, regardless of your perspective or your status as a skeptic or believer. I encourage this active dialog not because I believe all ideas and beliefs have equal value–I believe society will progress more from following Mother Theresa than Dan Jones in Ghana–but because I realize that different viewpoints allow us to see things from new perspectives adding increased depth and meaning to our own beliefs and ideas. It also allows us to see vistas beyond those within our own limited scope of vision. I encourage you to engage in our conversation so that we can benefit from your unique perspective and through this process increase our communal vision and understanding.
As we prepare to launch our expedition to explore how humanity has sought meaning throughout the ages and Christian theology’s role in that quest, we will first quickly pursue a broad overview of the world’s religious and philosophical landscape. We will not delve into the nooks and crannies of every concept entertained by the human race in its search for meaning–indeed, such an endeavor would take many lifetimes–instead, we will explore the religious concepts that have endured the test of time and continue to inspire millions of devoted followers to this day and the major ideas that informed society and directed its course through history. We will focus primarily on the history of Christian theology as it is the foundation of Western society, and the whole world has been adopting Western culture during the modern era.
We will begin our venture by taking stock of society’s current understanding of the origin of religion, reoccurring themes in religion, the role of fear in religion, and how Christians determine what is true.
We will then briefly examine polytheism, particularly as expressed in Hinduism, the oldest recorded world religion, and its concept that reality is actually an illusion that has entrapped our spiritual identity in a cyclical existence of birth, death and rebirth governed by the lawIs a fundamental concept of Luthernism and is contrasted by Luther with the Gospel. For Luther, the law consists of God’s commands regarding how one... more of karmaA core belief of most Eastern religions that eternal justice is realized through a process where one’s actions directly relate to one’s future sta... more until we discover our unity with the divine and escape this prison of mortal existence. We will move on to see how Buddhism evolved from this Hindu foundation and introduced a concept of Nirvana.
Next, we will witness the birth of monotheism with the advent of Judaism and its concept of God being bound by a covenant to his people as they live the moral lawIs a fundamental concept of Luthernism and is contrasted by Luther with the Gospel. For Luther, the law consists of God’s commands regarding how one... more that God established.
We will examine how the reason and ethics of classic Greek philosophy are the foundation of Western thought and attitudes that continue to influence our culture to this day.
We will watch Christianity grow from an obscure persecuted Jewish sect to become the force that dominated all aspects of life in the Western world with Christianity’s emphasis on sinIs violation to God’s Law, and implicitly includes disobedience to God’s the command to love God and one’s neighbor. See mortal sin, original si... more and redemption through the atonementA term referring to how Christ’s suffering and death on the cross expiates sin and reconciles humans with God. There are various theories regarding ... more of Jesus(c. 4 B.C.–A.D. 30-33) Also known as Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus Christ, the Messiah, and Savior of the World. He is the founding figure of Christianit... more, and how Jesus’ life and teachings continue to inspire his followers in spite of great divisions.
We will see IslamIs one of the three Abrahamic religions (Christianity and Judaism the other two) that stresses the importance of the only one true God and man’s for... more explode on the scene with its clear and straightforward theology that God is great but humans have a propensity to forget, so God has created a comprehensive lawIs a fundamental concept of Luthernism and is contrasted by Luther with the Gospel. For Luther, the law consists of God’s commands regarding how one... more that governs all aspects of existence to remind us of his greatness.
We will examine the revolution in thought and behavior that came with the Protestant Reformation(A.D. 1517) The Protestant Reformation begins as Martin Luther posts his 95 Theses, largely in response to the widespread abuses caused by the aggress... more and how it set the stage for our modern era.
We will follow the course of modern philosophy from the birth of ModernityA period of history tied to the Age of Reason or the Enlightenment. Modernity is characterized by such factors as questioning or rejecting tradition; ... more through the EnlightenmentA broad term for 18th century European intellectual developments, including deism and other movements critical of orthodox Christianity, that are char... more to today with its increasing secularism generating an appetite for increased fundamentalism and challenges for respectful co-existence in an increasingly pluralistic society.
We will then examine modern religions such as PentecostalismA modern evangelical movement named after the day of Pentecost when there was an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Its distinctive characteristics involv... more, the Evangelical movement and Mormonism (The Churcha term translated from the Greek word “Ecclesia” which means an assembly called together and is sometime translated as a congregation. A church is... more of Jesus(c. 4 B.C.–A.D. 30-33) Also known as Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus Christ, the Messiah, and Savior of the World. He is the founding figure of Christianit... more ChristDerived from a Greek term meaning anointed and is equivalent to the word “messiah” from Hebrew roots. The anointing references the act of installi... more of Latter-Day Saints), a rapidly growing newcomer on the religious landscape that has a unique view that we all lived in a pre-mortal existence as spiritual children of loving heavenly parents who created this physical world to help us learn and grow so that we can develop to become like God.
Regardless of whether one is religious or is a skeptic, this journey will help the reader to become more aware of the human capacity for spiritual transcendenceComes from a Latin term meaning “to go beyond” and is used by modern theologians to describe God being beyond this temporal world. more, gain a broader world perspective in an increasingly pluralistic society, enhance the reader’s understanding of our Western culture and assist the reader to formulate and develop his or her own philosophy of life.
Our era has been referred to as the Information Age(A.D. 1991) The Information Age begins as the World Wide Web is released to the public. more, but I believe we have rushed past the quest for information in our hasty insatiable pursuit of entertainment. Our current era should more appropriately be referred to as the Entertainment Age. People generally seek titillating tidbits of information to arouse their emotions more than they pursue knowledge to increase their understanding. Bloggers who seek readers typically need to write in such a way that their audience can quickly consume the writer’s morsel while his or her readers simultaneously manages multiple electronic devices spewing out entertainment disguised as information. Consumers sacrifice wisdom and understanding on the altar of provocative news, thrills and shallow entertainment, yet they remain hungry for something to fill their empty lives as they frantically thrash about in their pursuit of appeasing the god of pleasure who is never satisfied.
In our race for information we have lost our ability to take time to think and reason, to remember what was important yesterday and connect the dots to see the consequences of decisions and actions. We value speed over depth and accuracy. We prefer the thrills of riding the rapids over shallow waters more than the substance found in deep water, so once the ride is over, we desperately seek the next ride in order to distract us from our hunger pains that annoy us. Historians may likely diagnose our culture as being infected with the disease of communal attention deficit disorder which is the cause of many if not most of our problems.
Hopefully, this site and particularly this Commentary section will provide you with a respite from the noise and clutter of a turbulent world, a place where you can rest and ponder the thoughts and ideas that have inspired mankind for many millennia. This site is not designed to be polemic. We are less interested in trying to convince others of the truth of some idea than we are of provoking individuals to think for themselves. However, I will share some of my personal beliefs in the Preliminary Overview section in order to help the reader understand my perspective when we discuss events and ideas in subsequent sections.
Hopefully, we each will inspire one another in our individual quest for meaning. We invite you so share your observations, insights and knowledge, for from the exchange of ideas we increase our understanding. Please share this site with others so that we can benefit from their unique point of view as well.
Are you ready to begin? We will launch our expedition by exploring the human quest for meaning and the origins of religion in our first substantive post in this Commentary section of this website. We hope you will join us.
Grant J. Hallstrom
Founder & Editor of ClearStone Publishing
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