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Monarchical Religion

Discussion in 'Christianity and World Religion' started by Illuminaughty, Jun 9, 2012.

  1. Illuminaughty

    Illuminaughty Drift and Doubt

    I was reading "Behold the Spirit" by Alan Watts today. An oldie but a goodie. Within the first chapter it ask a really intriguing and important question.

    The question then arises: Can Christianity abandon the monarchical image of God and still be Christianity? Why should this be of concern? For which is more important- to be a Christian or to be one with God? Must religion be Christian, Islamic, or Hindu, or could it simply be religion? Certainly there must be the same variety of style in religion as there is in culture, but the concern to preserve, validate and propagate Christianity as such is a disastrous confusion of religious style with religion. Indeed, this sectarian fanaticism (shared alike by Judaism and Islam) is all of a piece the monarchical image and it's necessary imperialism. Even such scholarly theologians as Maritain and Zaehner keep up this pitiful game of spiritual one ups manship differentiating the "natural" mysticism of Hindus and Buddhists from the "supernatural" mysticism of Christians, and continue to damn other religions with faith praise. If Christianity cannot be Christianity without pushing this claim to be the best of all possible religions, the world will breathe more freely when it dissolves."
    Is the monarchical understanding of God a necessity for the Christian faith? Watts answeres in the negative and provides some good backing for that assertion in this book. His understanding is that Christianity is the path of becoming a Christ. A pluralistic and revolutionary rather than conservative path. As much as I dislike the mainstream organized religions that have patterned themselves Christian I still have respect for the person of Jesus and find some of the teachings attributed to him very inspiring. Watts presents a picture of Christianity that I would have no trouble supporting. How would you answer the question?
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  2. Illuminaughty

    Illuminaughty Drift and Doubt

    "The purpose of religious facilities and assemblies is to provide a social milieu for religious experience."

    I think he hits the nail on the head here. It's about religious experience and not dogma or theories about God. That's the legitimate role of religious communities. A role that's often lost track of in favor of social club status or indoctrination device.
  3. ProScribe

    ProScribe Well-Known Member

    Skill in answering questions comes from comprehensive knowledge.
  4. fschmidt

    fschmidt Regular Member

    United States
    Other Religion
    Obviously the answer to this question depends on the definition of Christianity. I would expect Christians to answer "no".

    One thing I can say for certain is that democracy depends on having a monarchical religion. Humans are primates after all and the natural order of primate groups is to be led by an alpha male. If a god doesn't occupy this position, then a man will. This is why monarchical religions are a prerequisite for the development of democracy.
  5. Arthra

    Arthra Baha'i

    Other Religion
    I recall reading some of Watt's books years ago and he did have some insights that were interesting as I recall..but I haven't read "Behold the Spirit". but as to the question:

    Is the monarchical understanding of God a necessity for the Christian faith?

    Rather than using the word "monarchical" I'd suggest another word...maybe "sovereignty".

    You will find this word a lot in Baha'i Writings in reference to God...such as

    "He it is Who is transcendent in His sovereignty..."

    "He, in truth, witnesseth, and perceiveth, and doeth what He pleaseth, through the power of His sovereignty."

    The word sovereignty is "Mulk" in Arabic and is an attribute of God.

    Mulk: Dominion, Lordship, Sovereignty, the Right to carry out His Will, or to do all that He wills. Power is the Capacity to carry out His Will, so that nothing can resist or neutralise it. Here is beneficence completely identified with Lordship and Power; ....
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2012
  6. Jane_the_Bane

    Jane_the_Bane Gaia's godchild

    Legal Union (Other)
    Wait, what? That does not follow at all.

    Ah, naturalistic fallacies!
    Although I do think that many people tend to underestimate our instinctive heritage, it's extremely misleading to try to reduce all of our cultures to nothing but our primate roots.

    Modern day democracies started to flourish at a time when the impact and power of monarchic religion was finally fading - and those religions preserved, protected and defended monarchism and feudalism for millennia.
    As late as the 19th century, the Catholic Church referenced democracy as one of the great errors of modernity, attesting its full support for kingship as "ordained by God".
  7. Tobias

    Tobias Relationship over Religion

    On a practical level, I see many Christians having a religion that is Man-centric instead of focused on God. Let me explain: Most people have little if any real connection to God. Instead they focus on the Bible, or on some person they feel is a representation of God on this planet. The average person doesn't go to church to meet God, but to see and hear from one of His representatives here on Earth.

    This IMO is akin to polytheism, where one's religion is centered on the personality of some individual besides God Almighty. However, the theological differences between a monarchical religion and a polytheistic one will probably keep most people from admitting there's any resemblance. :cool:
  8. Illuminaughty

    Illuminaughty Drift and Doubt

    I'm a polytheist myself. "Many people, many gods" as the psychologist James Hillman wrote. Every man and women is a god or divine being. In fact within each man is a myriad of divine beings. A harmony of gods singing in unison. Divinities temporarily banded together to form a whole more complex than the individual selves that make it up. I still celebrate the divine unity in a sort of pantheistic sense but not to the exclusion of the many.
  9. a_ntv

    a_ntv Ens Liturgicum


    Well, I suppose that Watts was simply discovering the not-Protestant Christian spirituality.

    The core point is the possibility and the extent of a mysticism, i.e. of a direct contact/experience with the ineffable (monarchic) God.

    Some religion are very restive on this issue (for example in Islam even Muhammad himself arrived only at two bows' length from God's throne), while the Eastern and Roman Christianity allows and urges not only the possibility to see face to face god, but also to became like God.
    Of course for Christianity this is possible only through Christ, who being both man and God is the perfect mean for mysticism. But the possibility of a mysticism exists also in Judaism.

    The Christian mysticism is often obscured by the Protestant tradition, which focus on the salvation (i.e. not to go to hell), while all the other Christian traditions, the more you go to East, focus on the process which starts from the salvation and arrives to became God-like (see for example http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theosis_(Eastern_Orthodox_theology) and Divinization (Christian) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

    So that Christianity is the path of becoming divine (not "a Christ", but "Christ-like") is a core of the not-Protestant Christianity, well developed by the Chruch Fathers, and it represents the base of many fully Christian uses such as becaming a monk, fasting, and in general all the ascetic life.
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2012
  10. TG123

    TG123 Regular Member

    I believe that to reject the monarchical view of God, one would have to reject the Bible, and what stems from it, the Christian faith. God is referred to as Lord. He is our Judge and King.

    I think it is far more revolutionary to pledge allegiance to God and follow His teachings, and by doing so work for justice and oppose man-made laws and customs that are unjust; than it is to see God as a non-ruler, and instead of following Him follow political leaders, or the latest social trends and philosophies.

    Christian revolutionaries like Martin Luther King and Oscar Romero put God first and forefront in their lives, and chose to obey and follow Him. Their faith in Him helped them in their struggle against injustice.
  11. ViaCrucis

    ViaCrucis Evangelical Catholic of the Augsburg Confession

    United States
    In Relationship
    I would only answer this by saying that I don't think Protestantism broadly should be painted with such a brush, I think a closer inspection of traditional Protestant bodies offers a far more mystical conception. I think this may be easier to see in the Wesleyan tradition (Wesley was himself a devout student of the ancient Fathers). But even in the less "experiential" traditions of historic Protestantism (e.g. Lutheranism and the Reformed/Calvinist tradition) one can find concepts spoken of such as "unio Christi". In fact, in modern times there has been a strong interest among Lutheran scholars and those studying Luther himself about recovering potent elements of Luther's theology emphasizing strongly the historic Christian teaching on deification or theosis.

  12. a_ntv

    a_ntv Ens Liturgicum

    Most differences among Christian denominations are simply issues of focusing more on a aspect rather than on an other: a small difference of weight which may result in large differences in spirituality

    According to the standard Lutheran theology the "Unio Christi" is a state which is achieved after the "faith" and it is the basis of the "Justification", and for sure it is already fully obtained before the justified faithful is "adopted" (which is the immediate next step after the justification).
    One the contrary for the Eastern spirituality the theosis is not an achieved step but it is process, and this process starts (not ends !) at the justification/adoption (to use Lutheran wordings).
    The theosis, i.e. becoming Christ-like, is based on 2 Cor 3:18: "And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another": this is process which starts after the justification, requires to behold the glory of the Lord (Mysticism/Ascetism), and will be completed only in paradise.

    The so-called "Entire sanctification" of Wesley is different from the theosis. Actually the Wesleyan Entire Sanctification is a status that can be reached on this earth, while the theosis is only a target. More, the Wesleyan Entire Sanctification is a perfection of love which allow not to sin, while the theosis goes ahead of a simply "perfection in love" up to becoming Christ-like. The Entire Sanctification fully belongs to this earth, while the theosis means to be a bit transfigured as Christ was even on this earth.

    IMHO the "Entire sanctification" of Wesley is the contrary of the theosis: it is the climax of a community of saints on this earth, while the theosis is the climax of a unity where there is no more any boundary between earth and heaven. But this according to my 2 cents
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2012