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Thursday, April 16, 2015

N is for Neo Christianity



The tenets of Christianity have changed countless times throughout history. The Bible has needed to have new translations in order to support popular beliefs of the day, often in an attempt to keep society in 'order.'  Any historian, who has no need to support a single idea, could go back and research a myriad of teachings and canons to document how and when the Church changed its stance on them. They can often define the need for those changes by the societal or political climate of the times.

Early Christians into the fifth century believed the definition of ensoulment (the time that the soul enters the body) offered by Aristotle's theory of epigenesis. His theory was about the sequence of growth for living things, which also assumed the souls entry, coincidentally, was not at the time of conception. Centuries of Christians believing this theory would belie any insistence that the Church had a position on the time of ensoulment from the time of Christ or his disciples (those who gave us the teachings of the New Testament). In fact, the reason the Church later denied Aristotle's definition of ensoulment was because it negated the origin of life they had been teaching. In the fourth century St. Gregory of Nyssa proclaimed the soul was implanted at conception. Shortly thereafter, the Church decided that the soul only entered once a fetus was formed. In the 12th century, Catholic law reversed back to Aristotle's theory and declared "He is not a murderer who brings about abortion before the soul is in the body." This belief was maintained until the 17th century.

(It is irrelevant to the context, but interesting to note: Aristotle's complete theory of epigenesis was dismissed for centuries until, in the 18th century, biology became a popular scientific endeavor and its study created an eventual acceptance of indisputable fact regarding the growth of living things).

The reason the anti-choice supporters demand that life begins at conception is because otherwise their entire premise of the Bible denouncing abortion becomes illegitimate. The Bible never speaks about abortion. It mentions the sanctity of life, which so many anti-choice supporters seem quite happy to dismiss, but it does not define the moment that life begins. If an embryo or fetus has no soul, the Bible doesn't support their claims.  The idea changed as it became necessary to support whatever the teachings of the time needed them to say.

It is wonderful to have an outline for your life and goals to work toward. There is nothing wrong, in my mind, with using the teachings of the Bible for that guide. But to insist that things are written which clearly are not, is allowing you to miss out on the things that clearly are written in there. For instance, Jesus told you to love everyone. And Jesus told you not to judge others. I'd bet Jesus would rather you work on yourself with the limited time you have here instead of trying so desperately to redefine his message to fit your needs.



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