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Don't worry. There are still people believing in astrology and palm reading. Beliefs can be very persistent.

As for balancing the prophetic voice and establishment, democracy theory provides some pretty good answers. Especially, classical liberalism and new institutionalism are relevant.

If an institution creates capacity while holding its officers accountable, the balance won't be perfect but pretty good. We have had some two hundred years experience operating a liberal democracy in the United States and four hundred years with the rule of law in the Dutch Republic and Great Britain. Those are the models that reconcile governance and free speech effectively.

In the Mormon experience, the Community of Christ has applied these lessons pretty well.

I have browsed through Morrison's book. I think I have somewhere another recently published book on the great apostasy from the LDS perspective. I will need to go find it. If I remember correctly, was the author's name, Tad (sp?)?

Bellinzoni is right in this respect. Man-centered Christianity in its ornateness will crumble. How can anything that is dependent on man last?

God-centered Christianity will always remain. Remnant theology--you can trace it from the prophets to Paul. You can see the thread throughout church history. Why? God does it for His own name's sake. For a testimony of His glory among mankind.

Todd, you're thinking of The Inevitable Apostasy by Tad Callister. I did a book review of it for AML.

When Dave posted the Bellinzoni quotation, I thought he was going to apply it to the LDS. Is that what you meant, Dave, when you asked about it being a real puzzle?

Well Dave, how about this:

Would Christianity, as Jesus taught it, have had a better or worse chance of surviving to the present day without the institutionalizing power consolidation manifested in Roman Catholicism. Would it have persisted all these centuries as merely an odd assortment of free-form worship?

Basically, is religion more durable and enduring when it becomes institutionalized?

Jonathan, yes I was tempted to go down that path but I didn't know where I would go with it so I just sort of left the question hanging.

Seth, I agree. I thought about saying something like this in the post: "We need texts to transmit truth through time. And we need institutions to sponsor and preserve the texts. But the institutions end up changing both the texts and the truth as they preserve and transmit them." But that all sounded so pretentious I just bagged it. I at least ought to finish the book first.

Christianity will survive in some form or another. I think it's too pessimistic to say it won't survive at all. As long as people pick up and read, say, the Sermon on the Mount once in a while, the majesty of its teachings will always find a way into the human heart.

Seth R. is correct. The Catholics galvanized Christianity into something mobile that found its way quite rapidly across Europe, northern Africa, and even across the sea and into the new world. Catholicism might not be all that biblical or original, but it was without a doubt the vehicle that attributed to Christianity's survival.

Dave, from your description, it sounds like Bellinzoni is being prescriptive, rather than predictive. Is he arguing that nothing resembling (what he feels is) the core of Christianity will survive? If so, it seems that you could make convincing arguments that original Christianity disappeared long ago.

Christianity has proved incredibly resilient, and even as social scientists were toasting the 20th as the century in which Christianity would fade away, it staged a powerful global resurgence in conservative charismatic and Pentecostal forms. It is interesting to me that this movement is highly decentralized and generally non-hierarchical. It jumps national and denominational boundaries with ease. Is it just a matter of time before this movement calcifies?

Apparently, the Irish deserve credit for saving civilization by preserving the classical libraries. The Irish also converted Germanic rulers, who were previously associated with Arianism, along the Rhine and the Rhone to Catholicism.

That turned out to be crucial because it was Frankish and German armies, which would defend the Roman Catholic Church until the demise of the Austro-Hungarian empire in 1918 (we are only overcoming the consequences of that civilizational catastrophe now with the expansion of the European Union into eastern and south eastern Europe, which is effectively fulfilling the functions of the Holy Roman Empire).

Fortuitously, the Irish missionaries sought submission to the Holy See.

This might also be a good place to remember the role of the Ethiopian empire in Christianity. Like Rome, Ethiopia became Christian in the fifth century. Until the murder of Haile Selassie in 1975, the emperor of Ethipia also held the title Lion of Juda.

It is a fun thought experiment to imagine Christianity as an African phenomenon had Rome become part of the caliphate during the middle ages.

How will bronze age religious notions survive the next two or three hundred years of scientific progress? If one assumes an exponential increase in knowledge about how the world really works it is hard to see how any religious beliefs can survive. What would be the harm in that? Its Galileo over and over again for the next few hundred years.
None of the so-called morality imperatives are original with Christianity, with the possible exception of turning the other cheek - and even that is not much preached these days - and it is safe to say the positive social mores will out live established religions. So, what positive role will religion play for Homo sapiens a hundred years from now?
The real question you religious folks should be discussing is whether mankind will survive the nonsense propagated by bronze age thinking. Nothing is more dangerous to our existence than believing one has the only true beliefs, when those beliefs include things like killing the infidel and removing the unbelievers with fire and brimstone. True believers have always represented the most dangerous sickness of humans.
I know you guys are a lot more sophisticated than the average believers, and may not actually believe most of that stuff, (or am I wrong) but the fact that you probably don't speak out against seventh century thinking makes you culpable, non-the-less.

The same way astrology survived, Duff.

I think I missed that killing the infidel part in the NT somewhere... Can someone find it for me?

Nothing is more dangerous to our existence than believing one has the only true beliefs, when those beliefs include things like killing the infidel and removing the unbelievers with fire and brimstone.

I would say super duper mutant viruses are more likely than religious beliefs to exterminate humanity.

Many religious people do speak out against things like killing infidels and removing unbelievers. There's nothing inherently dangerous in believing that one has the only true beliefs. As you indicate, it's the nature of the beliefs that matters. If one believes that the ultimate and only truth is that a cosmic teapot wills that everyone be nice to one another, there's no problem. The problem is religions that explicitly teach mistreatment of others or instill worldviews that lead to mistreatment of others.

Super duper mutant viruses are certainly something to be concerned about, but we have methods of understanding and controlling viruses. Do we have a way of controlling hateful religious concepts?? I think not. At least at this point. If you think a religious zealot with a dirty bomb in downtown Manhattan, or Chicago is less dangerous than a virus, I don't want you in charge of our security.

The actual lethality of a "dirty bomb" is debatable.

I'll wager, right now, that 98% of the damage done to America by a dirty bomb (assuming it happens) will come from the ensuing public hysteria and NOT the bomb itself (which may turn out to be a bit of a dud).

As always, the real destruction will come from governments, not rogue insurgents and terrorists. World War I is often said to have been triggered by a terrrorist act. But, in reality, it was the reigning governments of the time and their fears and hatreds that killed millions.

So here's my prediction:

Next time we have a "major" terrorist incident in the US, here's how it plays out.

Everyone goes berserk. The news media wets themselves (either with fear or with excitement - it's hard to tell which). Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill scream like little girls. Citizens everywhere make a run on the grocery stores and give themselves ulcers. And cries for heads to roll resound from every corner.

And just about everyone agrees that this whole freedom and liberty thing wasn't such a good idea after all.

The end.

(Sorry Dave, I'll try to restrain myself in the future)

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