The Human Truth Foundation

The Gradual Instruction of Humankind by a Series of Prophets from God

By Vexen Crabtree 2017

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#bahá'í_faith #buddhism #christianity #god_communication #judaism #monotheism #paganism #polytheism #religion

Most religions teach that ultimate reality is revealed to humanity in a series of steps. Despite this, most religions also claim to be embody final truth. This contradiction is most pronounced in the classical monotheistic religions: Jews believe their religion to be the result of a new eternal covenant between God and man, replacing the polytheistic paganism of their era. But Christians believe that Moses and Abraham were only given partial truth and that Jesus was then given the next set of revelations, washing away the Old Testament and establishing a new final word - in Matthew 5:18 it says very clearly that the word cannot ever change. Then comes the Qur'an, superseding the New Testament with another even newer final word from God. The eternal and perfect text of the Qur'an is held in heaven and Muhammad is another final "seal of the prophets" (Qur'an 33:40, 5:19, et al.). Yet he has been followed by Bab and Baha'u'llah of the Bahá'í Faith who too claim to be the latest messengers of God1. The sequence of messiahs continues and what is revealed by one, is annulled by another. It isn't just monotheistic religions that are at it; the teachings of the Buddha are divided into "Sudden" and "Gradual" teachings, and people must learn the more superficial doctrines before moving up to the more profound ones2.

Despite its appearance in formal doctrine and holy texts, the idea of sequential revelation doesn't make sense. (1) There is no reason for God to deceive entire cultures with claims that the latest revelation is the last - we cope with changes in knowledge without all going crazy. (2) The illusion of finality causes religious conflicts to be prone to violence and aggression, because 'belief' is raised to a matter of life and death. A benevolent God would simply tell everyone the truth, or, make it clear that it doesn't matter what we believe. The middle-ground of gradual-instruction is very destructive. (4) Many of the specific things revealed by religion differ from revelation to revelation in a haphazard manner; there is no sense in which religion is gradually getting closer to final theological truth. What this all tells us has more to do with human nature than divine truth: in reality, the only clear evidence from the proliferation of different religions is that if there is a god, it doesn't mind who believes what.


1. Problems With the Idea of Sequential Revelation

#christianity

How is it possible for an outsider to ever be convinced by any the religions, claiming that their claims to truth are the final one, when so many have claimed the same thing, and so many religions contain so many divisions, all with different interpretations of the teachings of those many prophets? Enough is enough! It is about time we recognized that the very concept of a God communicating through selected human prophets is ridiculous, in terms of its efficiency, accuracy and believability. Any belief system that states that God use prophets to communicate eternal truth is proving itself to be yet another nonsensical human-invented religion.

2. God's Methods of Communication: Universal Truth Versus Hebrew and Arabic

#christianity #god #god_communication #islam #religion

It seems that God's methods of letting people know that it exists, and of promulgating correct beliefs, are comprised of some fairly suboptimal methods. Excepting direct revelations to a very few number of people, God has all knowledge about itself passed by word of mouth from human to human. This limited and confusing way of communicating with us has led to uncountable numbers of chinese whispers, confusion, mistranslation and error, resulting in disagreements, sects, divisions, varying denominations, entirely different religions and dispute, conflict, violence and war, sometimes on large scales. Strangely, it also seems that direct revelation is nearly always given to mankind - for example there is no instance in the Jewish scriptures (Old Testament) of God talking directly to any woman3, and, causing additional problems, revelation is apparently restricted to classical and ancient languages. Many holy books are very clear that believing in signs is the good and holy thing to do, but, most of the same books have terrible punishments in store for those who have the wrong religious beliefs. This contradictory mess clearly shows us one thing: the vast majority of religious instruction that has surfaced in our history is a construct of human error. God, it seems, is a very poor communicator.

"God's Methods of Communication: Universal Truth Versus Hebrew and Arabic" by Vexen Crabtree (2012)

3. Religions

3.1. Buddhism

Because all regions of the world experience a gradual change in opinion and knowledge, other religious milieux aside from the monotheistic have also subscribed to the belief in gradual-revelation:

Although all of the above-mentioned five doctrines were preached by the Buddha Himself, yet there are some that belong to the Sudden, while others to the Gradual, Teachings. If there were persons of the middle or the lowest grade of understanding, He first taught the most superficial doctrine, then the less superficial, and 'Gradually' led them up to the profound.

"Zen - The Religion of the Samurai" by Kaiten Nukariya (1913)2

3.2. Christianity: Does the New Testament Represent a New Revelation Which Overrides the Jewish Scriptures?

#christianity #judaism #turkey

Most modern forms of Christianity accept the Old Testament and the New Testament. Where the two collections contradict each other many believe that the New Testament overrides the Old: this goes for parts that disagree directly on legalities (dietary codes, etc), and, the feel of God in the New Testament is accepted whereas the short-tempered and smiting god of the Old Testament is generally forgotten.

Some Christians argue that the "you" in Old Testament Law only refers to Jews. But they do not follow through with the line of logic, and they do not argue that the sins and new laws mentioned in the New Testament only apply to you Christians. And they also do not apply this logic to all of the Old Testament - just to the bits that they don't like. Also, there are New Testament verses (such as 2 Peter 3:1-2) which also state that the OT laws should be kept. So the reasoning against not having to obey the OT laws is inconsistent.

There are lots of verses in the Bible that imply that the Old Testament laws no longer need to be followed. But there are also a greater number of verses in the Bible that are very clear that all of God's laws are eternal and unchangeable, and apply "forever". So no matter which side of the argument you take, your actions and beliefs are not in accordance with what the Bible says. So, many preachers and teachers will select which set of verses they are going to quote from, and they manage to discount some of the opposing verses, and often, completely ignore the ones that they can't discount. Such confusing contradictions occur because the Bible was written by many different people, who all had different ideas and vested interests, and who wrote at different times and in different places. So on some theological points, such as whether or not everyone has to follow all the rules in the Bible or just the nice ones, there is no consistent message in the Bible.

All Laws Have to be Obeyed ForeverOld Testament Laws No Longer Apply
  • Genesis 17:19: God tells Abraham that he has established an everlasting covenant for him and all of his descendants.

  • Exodus 12:14-20,24 can be argued to apply only to Jews - for whom "expulsion from Israel" is a true threat. "This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord - a lasting ordinance. [A description of the 7-day Festival of Unleavened Bread follows]. Celebrate this day as a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. [...] Anyone, whether foreigner or native-born, who eats anything with yeast in it must be cut off from the community of Israel. [...] Obey these instructions as a lasting ordinance for you and your descendants" [NIV].

  • Leviticus 23:14,21,31: Three times the following phrase is repeated: "it shall be a statute for ever in all your dwellings throughout your generations". The generations have not stopped - even if they have converted to Christianity and other religions, these verses are saying that the rules still apply.

  • Deuteronomy 4:2: "Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the Lord your God that I give you" [NIV]. The previous verse was addressed to "Israel", so it can easily be argued that only those subject to the original covenant with God are covered by this particular instruction.

  • Deuteronomy 4:8-9: "And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today? [...] Teach them to your children and to their children after them".

  • Deuteronomy 7:9: "Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments". A thousand generations means 30,000 years, and this is repeated in "1 Chronicles 16:15". And the "Covenant of love" is surely exactly the same as that preached in the New Testament. The "Covenant of love" spans both the Old and the New, and, must be kept for 1000 years - and that covenant includes, as this verse says, keeping the commandments. This means that everyone must obey the Old Testament laws.

  • Deuteronomy 11:1, 26-28: "Love the Lord your God and keep his requirements, his decrees, his laws and his commands always" [NIV]. It does not say "until I make new commands". If God meant what it said, and if God's word is true, then it means always.

  • 1 Chronicles 16:15: "Remember ye to the age His covenant, The word He commanded -- To a thousand generations" [Young's Literal Translation] - this was also said before in Deuteronomy 7:9. A thousand generations is at least 30,000 years. Needless to say, we will be under the Old Testament laws for a very long time yet!

  • Psalm 119:151-3, 160: "Yet you are near, Lord, and all your commands are true. Long ago I learned from your statutes that you established them to last forever. Look on my suffering and deliver me, for I have not forgotten your law. [...] All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal" [NIV].

  • Ecclesiastes 12:13: "Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind" [NIV]. It does not just just for those with whom I have made a covenant. It doesn't say, "the duty of Jews" or as it would say, "the duty of Israel". Nor does it allow a future possibility of the Jewish Law from being annulled. It says for all mankind.

  • Isaiah 40:8: "The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever" [NIV].

Verses from the New Testament are also in harmony with all of the above verses from the Old Testament:

  • Matthew 5:17-19: "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven".

  • Matthew 24:35: "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away" [NIV].

  • Luke 16:17: "It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law" [NIV].

  • Luke 21:33: "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away" [NIV].

  • 2 Peter 3:1-2: Paul states that we should recall the words of the Holy prophets of the past - although this verse doesn't say that this means the old Law should be obeyed, it makes little sense to recall those words for any other reason.

Paul knew James (Gal. 1:19) and "indicates that he was committed to keeping the Jewish law and appears to have insisted that the other Jewish followers of Jesus do so as well (2:12)"4.

  • Luke 16:16: "The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached" [NIV]. Although this verse, taken out of context, sounds like it is saying that the old prophets have been replacement by a new preaching, this is not at all what the author of Luke was saying. The very next verse, says: "It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law" (Luke 16:17). So whatever verse 16 means, it certainly does not mean that any of the Jewish Law has been dropped.

  • Romans 3:28: "A person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law" [NIV]. This statement makes the entire Bible irrelevant, but, as such, it does also serve to make the Old Testament laws redundant too. Just be a good person!

  • Romans 6:14: "Sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace" [NIV].

  • Romans 7:6: "We have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code" [NIV].

  • Romans 10:4: "For Christ is an end of law for righteousness to every one who is believing" [YLT]. This confusing verse is no clearer in other translations - it might be saying that Jesus ended the law. But it also might be saying that Jesus is the culmination of the Law - the pinnacle of it - which doesn't actually imply that the old Law can now be discarded by anyone who doesn't happen to be Jesus.

  • Galatians 3:13: "Christ did redeem us from the curse of the law".

  • Galatians 5:18: St Paul writes to the church at Galatians, telling them that "if by the Spirit ye are led, ye are not under law". However, if some Christians argue that the Old Testament laws only apply to Israel, then, in this case, St Paul's comments only apply to the residents of Galatia (part of present-day Turkey. If Paul's comments apply to everyone even though they were addressed to those at Galatia, then, it must also be true that the Old Testament law applies to everyone, even though it was addressed to Israel. The contradictions are insurmountable.

  • Ephesians 2:14-16: "[Jesus] having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances... that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross".

  • Colossians 2:14: "having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross" [NIV]. Previous comments by Paul are unclear because they are addressed to particular people; but here is says "us" - therefore including not just those is he writing to, but including all those people who Paul counts as "us", which, given that he took responsibility for preaching to all the gentiles (non-Jews), could quite possibly mean that his comments apply to "everyone except Jews". It is not quite so clear as to be unambiguous.

The number of verses and arguments that show that all the Old Testament Laws still have to be obeyed somewhat outweigh the verses that indicate otherwise.

3.3. Islam: God Sends a Series of Messengers (Contradictions)5

#islam

The Qur'an recognizes that there have been prophets of God that have come before Muhammad, including Moses (Musa), Abraham (Ibraham) and Jesus. It, rather sensibly, tries to explain why God has seemingly sent different messengers at different times. It starts with the following admission:

Now has come to you Our Messenger making (things) clear unto you, after a break in (the series of) Messengers [...].

Qur'an 5:19

Many verses repeat the idea that there were previous messengers before Muhammad. For examples see Qur'an 6:42, 13:38 and 15:10. The Qur'an teaches that peoples have an assigned book, and each people have a set duration, and that both only last for a set time. The Qur'an and Muslims therefore have a set term, after which they will no longer be valid. In the following three verses the Arabic word ajal is translated either as "people" or "age":

But things do not add up. Qur'an 57:9 says clearly that the God's message brings people from "utter darkness" into light. Fair enough - this is what you'd expect the Qur'an to say. But what was the worth in the previous messengers if people are still in utter darkness? Another contradiction arises from 33:40 where Muhammad is said to be a final "seal of the prophets", contradicting the verses that say that each people, and their assigned book, both have a limited duration.

Previous prophets include Moses (Musa), Abraham (Ibraham), Jesus and then Muhammad. What does the Qur'an say about these prophets?

Those who ... wish to make distinction between Allah and His Messengers ... saying, "We believe in some but reject others," and wish to adopt a way in between. They are in truth disbelievers. And We have prepared for the disbelievers a humiliating torment. And those who believe in Allah and His Messengers and make no distinction between any of them (Messengers), We shall give them their rewards.

Qur'an 4:150-152

Not only were there previous messengers and the likelihood of future ones, but, failure to believe in them (or believe other signs) means you are destined for hell as a nonbeliever (Qur'an 4:150-152). But of course there are many more prophets that just those popular ones. The world is awash with religions, denominations and folklorists, many of which produce a steady stream of prophets. It seems that if you ignore the wrong one, if you disbelieve in the wrong one, you could incur the eternal wrath of God and end up in hell. This is a true dilemma. There are some very strong contenders for the title of the next prophet, and the Bible and the Qur'an give clear warnings that missing the signs, and disbelieving in a sign, is a serious misdemeanour with eternal consequences.

Current edition: 2017 Apr 206
http://www.humanreligions.info/gradual_instruction.html
Parent page: God's Methods of Communication: Universal Truth Versus Hebrew and Arabic

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#bahá'í_faith #buddhism #christianity #god #god_communication #islam #judaism #monotheism #paganism #polytheism #religion #turkey

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References: (What's this?)

Book Cover

The Koran. Penguin Classics edition. Originally published 1956. Current version published by Penguin Group Ltd, London, UK. Translation by N. J. Dawood. Quotes taken from 1999 edition.

The Bible (NIV). The NIV is the best translation for accuracy whilst maintaining readability. Multiple authors, a compendium of multiple previously published books. I prefer to take quotes from the NIV but where I quote the Bible en masse I must quote from the KJV because it is not copyrighted, whilst the NIV is. Book Review.

Breuilly, O'Brien & Palmer
(1997) Religions of the World. Hardback book. Subtitled: "The Illustrated Guide to Origins, Beliefs, Traditions, & Festivals". Published by Lionheart Books. By Elizabeth Breuilly, Joanne O'Brien & Martin Palmer. Published for Transedition Limited and Fernleigh Books.

Ehrman, Bart
(2011) Forged. Hardback book. Subtitled: "Writing in the Name of God - Why the Bible's Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are". Published by HarperCollins, New York, USA.

Nukariya, Kaiten. Professor of Kei-O-Gi-Jiku University and of So-To-Shu Buddhist College, Tokyo.
(1913) Zen - The Religion of the Samurai. E-book. Subtitled: "A study of Zen philosophy and discipline in China and Japan". Amazon Kindle digital edition produced by John B. Hare and proofread by Carrie R. Lorenz.

Stanton, Elizabeth C.. (1815-1902)
(1898) The Woman's Bible. E-book. Amazon Kindle digital edition produced by Carrie Lorenz and John B. Hare.

Footnotes

  1. Breuilly, O'Brien & Palmer (1997) p10,150-153.^
  2. Nukariya (1913) chapter 3 "The Universe is the Scripture of Zen: Scripture is no More than Waste Paper" footnote 388.^^
  3. Stanton (1898) p130.^
  4. Ehrman (2011) p193.^
  5. Added to this page on 2013 Sep 14.^
  6. 2017 Apr 20: Expanded from text from 2011 Apr 17 on "God's Methods of Communication: Universal Truth Versus Hebrew and Arabic" by Vexen Crabtree (2012).^

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