Pious Fraud?

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dande48
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Pious Fraud?

Post by dande48 » 16 Apr 2018, 12:53

One of my favorite historical figures has got to be the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius. But the other day, I had a question that pop into my head. Did Marcus Aurelius persecute the Christians? I decided to do a bit of research. It's been interesting to turn from the problems with LDS Church history, and learn more about the challenges with Christian church history in general.

One interesting tidbit I came across, was that the early Christians at times seemed almost enthusiastic to become martyrs. A Roman officer, Arrius Antoninus, was once recorded saying to a group of voluntary martyrs, "If you want to die, you wretches, you can use ropes or precipices." Certain early Christians were doing literally everything they could to "die for Christ". I think this has been true ever since Christianity's foundations. There is a HUGE appeal to becoming a martyr.

The only evidence against Marcus Aurelius, came from a Bishop Historian, Eusebius. He told of a massacre, which took place in Lyon, in 177AD. In great gory detail, Eusebius described laws enacted which Christians were prohibited from appearing in marketplaces, bath houses, forums, etc. Christians were also accused in incest, from calling each other "brother" and "sister", as well as cannibalism, for eating the "body" and "blood" of Christ. As a result, 48 Christians were convicted, tortured in very gory ways, and killed. A monument still stands in Lyons to mark their martyrdom.

BUT... there is some pretty strong evidence that no such thing ever happened. First, Eusebius record, which came 120 years after the incident, is the only record we have of it happening. Three years after the incident supposedly occurred, Father Irenaeus, the Bishop of Lyons at the time, wrote, "The Romans have given the world peace, and we [Christians] travel without fear along the roads and across the sea wherever we will." (Against Heresies, Book IV, Chapter 30, Sentence 3). Delving in a little deeper, I learned of the term "Pious Fraud".

To quote Eusebius,
“... It will be necessary sometimes to use falsehood as a remedy for the benefit of those who require such a mode of treatment.”
Eusebius' account of the mass martyrdom also included stories of certain Christian convicts escaping death by being levitated 100+ feet into the sky, or somehow surviving with the stomachs of lions. There are plenty of probable embellishments, that I can't help but feel his record is entirely false.

I also found a equally troubling from Martin Luther. At first, I was in shock that it could ever possibly have come from him. But after much research, I finally found the first hand reference in one of his letters, recorded here.
Martin Luther wrote:"What harm would it do, if a man told a good strong lie for the sake of the good and for the Christian church ... a lie out of necessity, a useful lie, a helpful lie, such lies would not be against God, he would accept them."

I've had this suspicion myself in Church many times. People will come up with fantastical stories, containing all sorts of strange doctrines, which they preach in Church. And I've noticed, as long as they aren't undermining the authority of the Church, no one bats an eye. It is almost as if any story which supports the Dogma of Church is praised and considered to be "true", even if it isn't. Conversely, any story that goes against the Dogma of the Church is considered to be false and of the Devil, even if it is objectively true. What's worse, is that it seems very apparent that certain prominent Christian leaders have believed it is perfectly acceptable to bend the truth, embellish, and even outright lie, in order to "bring people to Christ."

The Book of Mormon further emphasizes this by stating, "For every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God." More and more, I am unable to buy that. I think Christ would be appalled, that people would bend the truth and even lie to convert their fellowman. I think many of us have been hurt by the "Pious Fraud" of Church leaders, but I don't think this is an expressly Mormon issue. I am afraid that too many prominent Christians would go to any lengths, commit any vice, in order to spread the "gospel message".


**Side Note: After looking through the sources, all evidence points to Marcus Aurelius being a protector of Christians, which I find very inline with his character.

***Side Note 2: I'm not saying all Christian leaders (or most, or even many) are guilty of "Pious Fraud". But as we know from the media, the loudest, most sensational stories always rise to the top. With the whole "fake news" epidemic, it's become obvious that the truthfulness of a story isn't as important to many as is the reaction. Even if it's just the smallest minority, it can cause a MASSIVE problem.
"The whole world is a comedy to those that think, a tragedy to those that feel." - Horace Walpole

"Even though there are no ways of knowing for sure, there are ways of knowing for pretty sure."
-Lemony Snicket

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LookingHard
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Re: Pious Fraud?

Post by LookingHard » 16 Apr 2018, 14:45

I have said it before here, but if I have to distill my concerns with the church history it isn't so much the history - it is the cover-up / "Lying for the Lord" that I just can't stomach. I feel that is what rob's people to have an informed decision - plus the intolerance of someone that decides Mormonism isn't for them. I actually think there wouldn't be much of any reddit ex-Mormon forum if it was "easy come / easy go".

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On Own Now
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Re: Pious Fraud?

Post by On Own Now » 16 Apr 2018, 15:23

dande48, great post and topic.

For me, I think it comes down to what we decide is truth and what is a fraud. It' s very common for people on their way out of the Church to complain about the lies. I guess that my view has always been that the "perpetrators" aren't lying as much as they are interpreting what is true based on their own perspective. For someone to ignore the head-in-the-hat translation for example... is that lying? Or is it perhaps selective hearing?

I'll use your testcase of Christian persecution as an example. Did it really happen? Yes. Was it as wide-spread as we sometimes think? No. Did the Christians think of it as major? Yes. Did the Romans think of it as minor? Yes. In other words, it depends on one's perspective.

Half a century before Marcus Aurelius was Emperor, Trajan was in office. There's a very interesting interchange between Pliny the Younger (a Governor in Asia Minor... roughly the same zone as Galatia) and Trajan, recorded in Epistulae Book 10. This is a very early attestation of Christianity. Pliny's correspondence is probably from the early second century and likely predates the Gospel of John in the NT. To Pliny and to Trajan, they obviously think they are being rational and fair - measured in their crackdown of Christians. In fact, Trajan hints at the enlightenment of their age in showing some restraint. No doubt, these two men would have rolled their eyes at the notion that the Christians were being persecuted. Yet its hard to miss the overall message. Check this out (and stick with it... it's a long-read, but fascinating):
From Pliny to Trajan: It is my custom, Sir, to refer to you in all cases where I do not feel sure, for who can better direct my doubts or inform my ignorance? I have never been present at any legal examination of the Christians, and I do not know, therefore, what are the usual penalties passed upon them, or the limits of those penalties, or how searching an inquiry should be made. I have hesitated a great deal in considering whether any distinctions should be drawn according to the ages of the accused; whether the weak should be punished as severely as the more robust; whether if they renounce their faith they should be pardoned, or whether the man who has once been a Christian should gain nothing by recanting; whether the name itself, even though otherwise innocent of crime, should be punished, or only the crimes that gather round it.

In the meantime, this is the plan which I have adopted in the case of those Christians who have been brought before me. I ask them whether they are Christians; if they say yes, then I repeat the question a second and a third time, warning them of the penalties it entails, and if they still persist, I order them to be taken away to prison. For I do not doubt that, whatever the character of the crime may be which they confess, their pertinacity and inflexible obstinacy certainly ought to be punished. There were others who showed similar mad folly whom I reserved to be sent to Rome, as they were Roman citizens.

Subsequently, as is usually the way, the very fact of my taking up this question led to a great increase of accusations, and a variety of cases were brought before me. A pamphlet was issued anonymously, containing the names of a number of people. Those who denied that they were or had been Christians and called upon the gods in the usual formula, reciting the words after me, those who offered incense and wine before your image, which I had given orders to be brought forward for this purpose, together with the statues of the deities - all such I considered should be discharged, especially as they cursed the name of Christ, which, it is said, those who are really Christians cannot be induced to do. Others, whose names were given me by an informer, first said that they were Christians and afterwards denied it, declaring that they had been but were so no longer, some of them having recanted many years before, and more than one so long as twenty years back. They all worshipped your image and the statues of the deities, and cursed the name of Christ. But they declared that the sum of their guilt or their error only amounted to this, that on a stated day they had been accustomed to meet before daybreak and to recite a hymn among themselves to Christ, as though he were a god, and that so far from binding themselves by oath to commit any crime, their oath was to abstain from theft, robbery, adultery, and from breach of faith, and not to deny trust money placed in their keeping when called upon to deliver it. When this ceremony was concluded, it had been their custom to depart and meet again to take food, but it was of no special character and quite harmless, and they had ceased this practice after the edict in which, in accordance with your orders, I had forbidden all secret societies.

I thought it the more necessary, therefore, to find out what truth there was in these statements by submitting two women, who were called deaconesses, to the torture, but I found nothing but a debased superstition carried to great lengths.

So I postponed my examination, and immediately consulted you. The matter seems to me worthy of your consideration, especially as there are so many people involved in the danger. Many persons of all ages, and of both sexes alike, are being brought into peril of their lives by their accusers, and the process will go on. For the contagion of this superstition has spread not only through the free cities, but into the villages and the rural districts, and yet it seems to me that it can be checked and set right. It is beyond doubt that the temples, which have been almost deserted, are beginning again to be thronged with worshipers, that the sacred rites which have for a long time been allowed to lapse are now being renewed, and that the food for the sacrificial victims is once more finding a sale, whereas, up to recently, a buyer was hardly to be found. From this it is easy to infer what vast numbers of people might be reclaimed, if only they were given an opportunity of repentance.
Trajan's response to Pliny: You have adopted the proper course, my dear Pliny, in examining into the cases of those who have been denounced to you as Christians, for no hard and fast rule can be laid down to meet a question of such wide extent. The Christians are not to be hunted out; if they are brought before you and the offence is proved, they are to be punished, but with this reservation - that if any one denies that he is a Christian and makes it clear that he is not, by offering prayers to our deities, then he is to be pardoned because of his recantation, however suspicious his past conduct may have been. But pamphlets published anonymously must not carry any weight whatever, no matter what the charge may be, for they are not only a precedent of the very worst type, but they are not in consonance with the spirit of our age.
"Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of another." --Romans 14:13

Roy
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Re: Pious Fraud?

Post by Roy » 16 Apr 2018, 16:26

The following thread had another example: viewtopic.php?f=6&t=8583&hilit=luther+thesis
Peter Marshall would go even further. A historian of the Reformation at Warwick University, England, he believes there’s a strong case to be made that the Theses were never posted at all, and that the story was invented to suit the political needs of people who came later. “The incident was first recorded nearly 30 years after,” he says. “Luther himself never mentioned it. There was very little discussion of the nailing of the Theses before the first Reformation anniversary of 1617.”

In 1617, with the Thirty Years’ War on the horizon, a local ruler in the Rhineland area had the idea of organizing a centenary celebration to drum up Protestant solidarity, to increase his chances in the forthcoming fight with the Catholic Habsburgs. “It’s a very good example of history being made because of a current need to create a historical event,” says Pettegree, with an air of admiration.
This reminds me of a number of instances in LDS church history where stories of earlier events were latter embellished to become more faith promoting or to reinforce a particular interpretation. The "Transfiguration of BY" event that made the Q12 the leading body of the church and later the miraculous revelation that made BY into the new prophet are two great examples of history being embellished after the fact to suit a current need. I am also suspicious of the event where JS reportedly bestowed the keys upon the Q12. The event was reported to have happened in the spring of 1844 and JS seems to foretell his own death. JS is martyred at the end of June. The meeting where BY is "transfigured" is on August 8. The earliest account of the bestowal of the keys is from September. It just seems awfully convenient for the 12 to suddenly remember that JS had given them all the priesthood keys necessary to lead the church about a month after they had already been officially leading the church.

Anyway, I am sympathetic. The church was facing a crisis for its very existence. It makes sense that they would need such stories to secure group unity before the evacuation and the arduous trek westward.
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13

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SamBee
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Re: Pious Fraud?

Post by SamBee » 16 Apr 2018, 17:20

What do you expect? The central event of Christianity is a martyrdom. Much more so than amy other major religion. But Christianity's opponents have never understood that murdering Christians actually makes the religion stronger in the long run.
DASH1730 "An Area Authority...[was] asked...who...would go to the Telestial kingdom. His answer: "murderers, adulterers and a lot of surprised Mormons!"'
1ST PRES 1978 "[LDS] believe...there is truth in many religions and philosophies...good and great religious leaders... have raised the spiritual, moral, and ethical awareness of their people. When we speak of The [LDS] as the only true church...it is...authorized to administer the ordinances...by Jesus Christ... we do not mean... it is the only teacher of truth."

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dande48
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Re: Pious Fraud?

Post by dande48 » 16 Apr 2018, 20:58

On Own Now wrote:
16 Apr 2018, 15:23
I'll use your testcase of Christian persecution as an example. Did it really happen? Yes. Was it as wide-spread as we sometimes think? No. Did the Christians think of it as major? Yes. Did the Romans think of it as minor? Yes. In other words, it depends on one's perspective.
Thanks for sharing, On Own Now. I completely agree with this sentiment. Looking over what I've read, it seems pretty obvious that the Pagan treatment of the Christians was almost on the exact level as the Christian Treatment of the Pagans. The biggest difference is, the Pagans allowed woshiping of other gods along side their own, and the Christians do not. Both groups thought the other were heathens, who angered God(s). All misfortune was caused by the others' lack of faith. The Romans were upset that the Christians undermined their religious/goverment authority at every turn, which they did. While I don't believe in punishment or torture for differing beliefs... I mean, good golly, the Jews and the Christians have historically been no better. We're lucky to live in a society with so many religions, none of them have the upper hand, so everyone (somewhat) cooperates.
"The whole world is a comedy to those that think, a tragedy to those that feel." - Horace Walpole

"Even though there are no ways of knowing for sure, there are ways of knowing for pretty sure."
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Ilovechrist77
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Re: Pious Fraud?

Post by Ilovechrist77 » 16 Apr 2018, 22:52

I don't get that at all. Why would God allow that? Then why the question about honesty in the temple recommend questions if that is allowed? There are so many people that are trying to follow God to the best of their ability, regardless of their faith. If people are going to preach the gospel or truth or tell about important events that just happened, then why don't He make sure the details, that the people aren't lying, exaggerating, or that if they are just telling a fictional story than just state it as such. Why the deception? Or is God just trying to work with imperfect human beings?

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Re: Pious Fraud?

Post by Roy » 17 Apr 2018, 14:48

Ilovechrist77 wrote:
16 Apr 2018, 22:52
Why the deception? Or is God just trying to work with imperfect human beings?
1) This is just how things go. People view things through their own perspective, sometimes they knowingly exaggerate and sometimes not. The better, more inspiring stories are retold and pick up more embellishments along the way.

2) IMO, it is more than just imperfect people. I have come to the conclusion that God must not be in the business of Micromanaging. He seems to take a pretty hands off approach IMO. It appears that God allows some people to commit heinous acts in His name and under the false belief that they are doing His will. He does not step in to correct them.

Similarly, God does not seem to step in to correct faith promoting but grossly exaggerated stories.
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13

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Ilovechrist77
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Re: Pious Fraud?

Post by Ilovechrist77 » 17 Apr 2018, 16:44

Roy, those are good points. I just hate the term "pious fraud." It's such an oxymoron. But then I looked the word "pious" in the Merriam-Webster's Dictionary And Thesaurus and, of course, it said the word means religious or devout, but the fifth definition says "Marked by sham or hypocrisy." Wow! I've never known that word also means that too. I guess it reminds of my favorite song by Led Zeppelin, Stairway To Heaven, "words sometimes have two meanings."

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SamBee
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Re: Pious Fraud?

Post by SamBee » 18 Apr 2018, 05:58

Ilovechrist77 wrote:
17 Apr 2018, 16:44
I guess it reminds of my favorite song by Led Zeppelin, Stairway To Heaven, "words sometimes have two meanings."
Isn't that notorious as a Satanist song? Either way Jimmy Page was heavily into black magic and Aleister Crowley at the time (and 12/13 year old girls)!
DASH1730 "An Area Authority...[was] asked...who...would go to the Telestial kingdom. His answer: "murderers, adulterers and a lot of surprised Mormons!"'
1ST PRES 1978 "[LDS] believe...there is truth in many religions and philosophies...good and great religious leaders... have raised the spiritual, moral, and ethical awareness of their people. When we speak of The [LDS] as the only true church...it is...authorized to administer the ordinances...by Jesus Christ... we do not mean... it is the only teacher of truth."

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