This is the Study Guide for The Primacy of Stewardship prepared by the author, John Manimas.
1) The Two Principles and the Five Questions.
2) The Three Levels of Doubt: What is the history of the healthy process of doubt?
3) The Five Possible or Credited Identities of Jesus.
4) The Five Gospels or Frameworks for the Focus of the New Testament Message.
5) Related Reading: Nine Books on Science and Religion.
6) Three Indexes prepared by the Author: A) Issues; B) Chapters; C) Biblical.
Begin by discarding the traditional presupposition taught to infants and children that the Gospel Message is about the moral laws of God or the moral philosophy of a kindhearted and gentle man. Then conduct a careful reading of the parables based upon the new presupposition that the Gospel Message conveys scientific facts about the real, physical universe and not about a theology of heaven and hell. Apply the Two Principles and Five Questions.
The Two Principles and the Five Questions
A) The Gospel message is about scientific facts, not about morality;
B) The purpose of the Gospel message is to tell us what we need to know, what we need to know in order to survive and thrive as a species;
1) What is the kingdom of heaven?
2) What is the main theme or main idea conveyed by the parables?
3) Why are there so many parables about good servants and bad servants?
4) What do all the good servants have in common?
5) What do all the bad servants have in common?
The Three Levels of Doubt: What is the history of the healthy process of doubt?
FIRST COMMON INDOCTRINATED BELIEF: The Gospel message is from Jesus Christ and Jesus is the Son of God, and is the Creator God, and he died to redeem us, as expiation for our sins. Jesus suffered and died for our sins; God suffered and died for our sins, so that we could be saved and go to Heaven after we die.
FIRST COMMON LEVEL OF DOUBT: Jesus is not God, not the Creator God or son of the Creator God; Jesus is just a moral philosopher, like Socrates or Buddha, and possibly the entire story is fiction made up by a group whose main interest is social control or compliant behavior of the working class. There are other reasons to try to be a good person, such as self-respect and emotional health.
SECOND COMMON INDOCTRINATED BELIEF: People have a soul that lives after the body dies. People who are good while living in the physical world go to an eternally joyful spiritual world, Heaven, after they die, as reward. People who are bad while living in the physical world, go to an eternally painful spiritual world, Hell, after they die, as punishment.
SECOND COMMON LEVEL OF DOUBT: There is no Heaven and Hell, or, there is no conscious life after death of the body. Or, we do not know if we have any conscious life after death of the body, and it is not reasonable to expect that we do. There are other reasons to try to be a good person, such as self-respect and emotional health.
Historically, the first and second levels of religious doubt comprise the entire past literature of questioning Christianity. These two common doubts are deemed to mean that the doubter is a free thinker and liberated from childhood indoctrination, or has questioned the authoritarian doctrines of the Christian religion and is therefore a scientific person who thinks for themselves and is not a conformist. However, there is a deeper or higher level of doubt that is necessary in order for a person to be able to mine the Gospel message for useful information, or, to be able to discard authoritarian religious doctrines while not dismissing the Gospel message as only myth or a worthless waste of time. The method of this deeper level of doubt is to examine the Gospel message without reference to divinity or an after-life. The two past common levels of doubt entail dismissing, discarding or discrediting the Gospel message as mythical religion, a form of internal emotional dialogue that can meet an emotional need but does not apply to the external physical universe outside of one's personal feelings and thoughts. But there is another method to doubt and re-evaluate the Gospel message: examine the message without reference to divinity or an after-life while still treating the message as valuable and worthy of careful attention because it might contain important information. Therefore, the deeper level of doubt takes one to a new world where the questions about divinity and a soul are set aside and replaced by an intentional search for useful information about real physical life in the real physical universe.
THE THIRD AND MOST FUNDAMENTAL (AND OVERLOOKED FOR CENTURIES) INDOCTRINATED BELIEF: The Gospel message is the moral law of God, or at least the moral philosophy taught and practiced by a very special person who had miraculous or paranormal healing powers, was uniquely unselfish, and possessed the greatest wisdom. This is the fixed presupposition with which virtually every child and curious adult approaches the Gospel message -- to learn about what Christians claim is the moral law of God.
Third: What happens when you take your process of doubt to a deeper third level?
THIRD AND DEEPER LEVEL OF DOUBT: The Gospel message is not about morality or moral philosophy, but is the attempt of a great teacher to convey a scientifically factual message about who and what we are, to provide useful information, to tell us what we need to know in order to survive and thrive as a species. The scientifically valid informational content of the Gospel message is accessible to any reader who uses the two principles and the five questions, a scientific method for studying the Gospels in order to discover the scientific content of the Gospel message.
The Five Possible or Credited Identities of Jesus
I do not favor any conclusion as to who or what is the source of the Gospel message. I am not promoting the belief that Jesus was God or not God. There are five identifying categories that encompass all possible identities for the source of the Gospel message, and I invite every reader to enjoy the freedom of choosing whatever possibility is most credible to them. Toward the purpose of having us study the Gospels scientifically, let's say that the Gospels are a message that is very important but we are not certain of the source precisely, but we can list five possible sources:
One: Jesus alone, a charismatic person and profoundly skilled philosopher and observer of human behavior, who by himself provides the parables and wisdom that constitute the entire message that we have received as the Gospels.
Two: Jesus not alone, but still a charismatic person and profoundly skilled philosopher and observer of human behavior, who by himself with a special educational and training experience, provides the parables and wisdom that constitute the entire message that we have received as the Gospels. This means he probably traveled and studied and practiced during the eighteen years of his "absence" (from age 12 to 30) in many lands, possibly Egypt, Persia, India, Greece, Rome, and possibly even China, Tibet and parts of North Africa such as Ethiopia.
Three: Jesus not alone, but still a charismatic person and profoundly skilled philosopher and observer of human behavior, who by himself with a special educational and training experience, provides the parables and wisdom that constitute the entire message that we have received as the Gospels. This means he probably traveled and studied and practiced during the eighteen years of his "absence" (from age 12 to 30) in many lands, possibly Egypt, Persia, India, Greece, Rome, and possibly even China, Tibet and parts of North Africa such as Ethiopia. And further, thirdly, the body of knowledge he came to master -- the message -- was not the result of any single ethnic or national tradition or sect but was in fact the accumulated record of wisdom and knowledge from the Gnostics and Greeks and Eastern cultures which represented a universal collection of the wisdom and knowledge of humankind to date. This option best explains the universal quality of the Gospel message that lifts it above the traditional sectarian or tribal religion of the Hebrews, even though Jesus was biologically and by cultural heritage a Hebrew.
Four: Jesus was a messenger from a superior extraterrestrial humanoid species that was sent on a mission to provide the human species with important information about what it means to be a technological animal, or intelligent species, and what are the traits and obligations and the possible destinies of such a species on a water planet like Earth.
Five: Jesus was God, or the Son of God and the Holy Spirit in a Holy Trinity, and in any case Jesus was essentially the "incarnation" of the divinity that created the universe and came to us in the form of a human being, Jesus, in order to tell us what we needed to know, or to tell us what He, God, considers to be good behavior and bad behavior so that we could be loved and approved by God instead of being lost without any hope of salvation and reconciliation with God.
Whatever one believes is the source, the original intended message is the same. The truth is the same no matter whence it came. -- John Manimas Medeiros
The Five Gospels or Frameworks for the Focus of the New Testament MessageWhat happens if we study the New Testament based on the supposition that it is a scientific message, a statement of factual information, rather than the rules of a stern and emotional God whose purpose is to reward good behavior and punish bad behavior? There are many Gospels. Critics of the Christian Bible say that you can read it and interpret it any way you want to. Well, people can interpret anything they read any way they want to. But the teachings of Jesus say something important. That is why the Gospel has had such a profound influence on so many people through the ages, and also why it has caused so much trouble, just as Jesus predicted it would. The five main interpretations of the Gospel message are the redemption Gospel; the social justice Gospel; the exclusive salvation Gospel; the prosperity Gospel; and the information Gospel.
1) The redemption Gospel. This is the interpretation most familiar to church members, Christian clergy, and those who feel strongly that they are self-identified as Christian. This interpretation is that Jesus died for the sins of humanity. Through his life and teaching and his suffering and death we are redeemed. Being redeemed by Jesus, we are able to join God in heaven after we die, if we are good enough and pass the moral test.
2) The social justice Gospel. This interpretation is also familiar to many church members, Christian clergy, and some who identify themselves as Christian. This interpretation emphasizes that the core of Jesus' teaching is about justice, about justice in human relationships and the marketplace and in the government and courts of law. According to the social justice Gospel, Jesus taught and practiced an extreme form of equality and equal rights and fairness to all, and we are expected to strive to do the same.
3) The exclusive salvation Gospel. This is the interpretation that has been propagated by the Roman Catholic Church and several other Christian denominations. The interpretation emphasizes that an individual can be saved and blessed by the love of God only by joining the Christian Church, or even more exclusively, only by joining a specific Christian denomination, such as Southern Baptist. These churches are often called "conservative" or "fundamentalist," and they usually argue that the content of the Bible, which is known to have been written by humans, is the word of God and cannot contain any errors. This is an impossible statement, because written or spoken words can always be produced with errors. The person writing or speaking can make a mistake. The exclusive salvation Gospel means that anyone who is not a Christian, and anyone who has not accepted Jesus as the savior of humankind, cannot receive the love of God and be admitted into heaven after they die. This interpretation can also be called "salvation by membership," because it states that membership in a particular group or institution is the only effective path to salvation from sin and punishment in hell.
4) The prosperity Gospel. This interpretation suggests that the Bible tells us good people will "prosper" which can be interpreted to mean simply that they will have a good life, but in this interpretation the meaning of "prosperity" is practically the same as being rich or wealthy. The inverse is also supported by this interpretation -- a bad person will not prosper, meaning will not be successful or wealthy. The reasoning in this interpretation is often circular, meaning that those who believe and promote this interpretation will argue that if a person is rich, that is evidence that they are good, and if one is poor, that is evidence that they are bad.
5) The information Gospel. This interpretation is new and has evolved through hesitant and unorganized steps during the twentieth century. There is a logical connection between the information Gospel and theories that most or all ancient encounters with gods or deities were in fact encounters with a superior species of intelligent being. If one interprets visions of gods and inspirations from gods as communications from superior beings, then it makes more sense to interpret those communications as being informative rather than some kind of moral commands. But that does not mean one has to abandon a belief in God or in a living spirit in order to explore the information Gospel. Since the core concept of the information Gospel is that the message is scientific information, or important facts about the human condition, this interpretation does not require or restrict one's thoughts or beliefs on what is the source of the message. That is left for the individual to resolve for themselves. The focus of the information Gospel is on what the Gospel message really says and is it credible and consistent with our own body of scientific knowledge. The Christian churches and clergy have not publicly expressed any support for or engaged in any discussion of the information Gospel. Only one denomination associated with the Christian religion, the Unitarian-Universalist Association, publicly acknowledges that they use science in formulating their religious faith and spiritual practices. Other Christian churches maintain that there is a clear and firm separation between religious or spiritual reality and physical or scientific reality. The information Gospel supports the concept that there is no real separation between science and religion. Both are methods of searching for the truth; both are based on the faith that we can learn from experience and thought, and by our own efforts we can understand who and what we are; both religion and science are intended to support and improve human life.
The reconciliation of science and religion is a concept and an ongoing process in the life of the human species. Some people argue that it cannot be right or can never happen. Those opposed to this reconciliation, or who do not believe it is possible, argue that religion and science are two separate ways of knowing and cannot be joined together. The information Gospel argues that they can and must be joined together in order for the human species to survive. The information Gospel, which teaches that the original Gospel message was intended to provide us with important facts about who and what we are, is a reconciliation of science and religion. One who understands and believes the information Gospel views religion and science as joined together and inseparable, each supporting the other, each contained in the same mind and same person, both sustaining the continuing search for the whole truth of what is and what shall be. The information Gospel teaches that the reconciliation of science and religion is a task that can and must be completed by individuals, by groups and organized institutions, and by the entire human species. And that all this is included in the teaching found in the New Testament Gospel, and is entirely consistent with our body of modern scientific knowledge.
Related Reading: A Course of Controversy in Science and Religion
1) Elaine Ecklund, Science vs. Religion. Oxford University Press, 2010.
2) Francis Collins, The Language of God. Free Press, 2006.
3) Graeme Taylor, Evolution's Edge. New Society Publishers, 2008.
4) Mark Lynas, Six Degrees to a Hotter Planet. [Kindle] Harper Collins e-books, 2011.
5) Rob Bell: Love Wins. Harper One, 2011.
6) John Manimas, The Primacy of Stewardship. J Manimas Publishing, 2008.
7) Catherine Cory, David Landry (editors) The Christian Theological Tradition, 2000 (University of St. Thomas, a Roman Catholic liberal arts university).
8) Janine Benyus, Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature, 1997 - Kindle.
9) Vine Deloria, Jr. God is Red. Fulcrum, 1992.
Three Indexes for The Primacy of Stewardship prepared by the author (PDF) to view or download: Index #1: (Issue Index), Index #2: (Chapter Index), Index #3: (Biblical Index).
John (Manimas) Medeiros is available to speak, preach, teach the Information Gospel and, or facilitate a discussion of “War Games,” an informative presentation designed to increase one’s knowledge of the debate between fundamentalists and scientists, or what has been labeled as “culture wars” or as a battle between science and religion. I will speak to anyone who will listen, old or young, rich or poor. Select the time window, 15 minutes, 30 minutes, up to 90 minutes in 15-minute units.
518-346-8889, email: [John M. Medeiros] .
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