For example, the notion of an eternal reality owned and ruled over by a loving, benevolent but morally rigid monarch – a god who bases worthiness on obedience, and who promises reward and punishment based on obedience – seems to have originated with an imagined theology put into writings by early Christian Fathers. Those early Roman fathers, from positions of authority, created theological speculations and opinions that shortly became doctrine or dogmatic.
They needed a theology, a story line if you will, from which moral thinking could be supposed.
One serious negative consequence of that particular theology was the elevation of morality. Morality in a fundamentalist religious context became more important than the common sense of ethics – ironic in that at least part of the basis of ethics had conceptual connection to the historical golden rule, which was not a moral but a practical concept.
That particular theology has served as the framework for most of the visionary experiences linked to traditional Christianity, not to mention becoming the basis and foundation of formation for most Protestant offshoots and other non-traditional Christian churches such as Mormonism.
In reality, the same theology was the framework that informed both Joseph Smith’s and Emanuel Swendborg’s visions of the afterlife – both of which were equally legitimate and consistent with the monarchical cosmology.
But for most Mormons of course, Swedenborg was out in left field while Joseph Smith stood triumphantly victorious on home plate because of the truth claims of Mormonism which rendered for members that exclusivity to belongs to those in possession of God’s genuine truth.
There are alternative cosmologies that make just as much if not more sense than the morality-based Christian legalist system with its priesthood trappings; notions portray God as a score-keeping nit-picker obsessed with everything from bedrooms to spiritual warfare.
Recently at the request of the missionaries, my wife and I read 3rd Nephi during which reading I had my own kind of epiphany or light-bulb moment.
In 3rd Nephi, after the death and destruction had ended and the voice of Jesus commenced, I was struck by how Jesus took personal responsibility for the killing and destruction and that declaration of responsibility was heard by those who had managed to survive. They were worthy and proof that the Divine Lord hadn’t destroyed the worthy ones.
I was struck by how Jesus laid the blame for that destruction squarely on the heads of those he had killed.
I was struck by how Joseph Smith in translating the Golden Plate put into Jesus’ mouth the words of the principal 19th century fundamentalist theology common to what was commonly preached, assumed and accepted in the Burnt Out district of 19th-century upper New York State.
I was struck by how accurate all those fundamentalists as well as The Prophet himself depicted that morality based eternal cosmology which insists that obedience is above sacrifice and that God would punish in violent fire and brimstone those who were not faithful or who doubted or who disagreed.
I was struck by how marvelous it was that 19th-century moralizers had gotten the moral Jesus down to a critical “T” and that the divinely translated Book of Mormon proved it.
It seems that without theology, we cannot talk religion and spirituality in terms of how to live.
It seems we have to base our teaching and preaching on some sort of “plan” God has for us and that has been put in place to account for our natural enmity to God as Joseph taught and the fundamentalist Christian world fully believes.
It’s not unlike Captain Kirk audaciously asking God why he needs a mortally constructed spaceship?
Could we not audaciously ask God whether or not the monarchical cosmology is the real thing?
Would God be afraid to reveal it?
Would the bosoms burn with that kind of truth of which no religion could claim ownership or monopoly?