When I am confronted by a claim about the nature of Christianity; I have a test that I derived from the work of William Arkle: so I call it The Arkle Test.
The basis of the test is several assumptions concerning the nature and purposes of God, and God's relationship with Men.
These are all assumptions I find to be supported in the Fourth Gospel in particular, some other parts of the New Testament, some Christian traditions and theology; but mainly by my own personal and intuitive reflection (i.e. by personal revelation and intuition).
What this primary and ultimate reliance upon personal discernment means, and what lies behind the Arkle Test; is that we each need to know God as a person, in order to know about God.
For Christians (in particular); God ought to be someone experienced, not something inferred.
The basic assumptions include that God is the creator, and that he stands in relation to Men as that of ideal loving parents with their children; including the hope that at least some of these children will develop and grow-up to be adults at the same level of maturity.
Thus God hopes for His children to become 'creator gods' like himself - and God created this reality accordingly.
In a nutshell: Arkle sees The Family as the 'master key' to understanding God's purposes and therefore the world.
Such an idea of God's nature and motivations can be used to discern and understand statements that purport to describe this world, including Christianity.
For example; when someone describes this mortal life and world as a moral obstacle course, or a series of tests, which must be overcome for us to achieve salvation (i.e. resurrected eternal life) - I think this is a wrong understanding.
The Arkle Test tells us that, given God's nature and purposes, he desires that as many Men as possible should achieve salvation. Salvation should therefore be understood as a choice, not as an achievement.
The correct way is to regard mortal life positively, as a school or a university aiming at our development and improvement; an educational process that is directed at theosis (i.e. becoming more God-like).
While testing is an important part of education, it is the 'curriculum' of 'educative experiences' that is primary. A well-motivated person can be educated without any testing; but he cannot be educated without appropriate experiences.
We would therefore expect God's main activity to be a matter of providing each Man with the experiences from-which he can (potentially) learn; rather than in setting-up tests.
Another example is the (historically common) claim that the highest and best Christian life is monasticism - with its aspects such as discipline and obedience, ritual, and asceticism.
Monasticism always has been (and only can be) a small minority activity (at most, a few percent of the population - usually much less); partly because monasticism requires a specific profile of substantially innate personal attributes: such attributes as self-control, will power, conscientiousness, submission to the needs of groups and authority etc.
To put it differently; most Men are innately unsuitable for monasticism; and their dispositions and abilities are quite different, and often opposed to monastic requirements.
The Arkle Test - by which (through our own shared, parent-child, divine qualities) we identify with God's nature and intent; tells us that monasticism cannot be the intent, certainly not a necessity, for Men-in-general to attain salvation.
Men are born too various, and the world too various (often too hostile), for there to be any single 'template' for salvation. God created Men and this world; and He did not create a world suitable for monasticism to be the default path to salvation.
It is common, indeed usual, for a church to claim that it is (in some ways, or completely) necessary for salvation. (Or, in the case of the Mormon church, necessarily for the highest degrees of theosis.)
The Arkle Test notices that this would mean that most Men in the world and throughout history would thereby be excluded from salvation, and greatly impaired in terms of theosis. A loving God who regards all Men as His children would not set-up such a world: God would not have Men born and live only to be damned inevitably.
Therefore, it must be that God has 'placed' Men in specific situations, in which each man or woman can achieve salvation in accordance with innate nature - whatever the society, institutions and circumstances that surround him or her.
This makes sense if salvation is understood as a choice, and when the final choice to accept or reject resurrection (and its conditions) can be post-mortal - after biological death, when relevant knowledge can be universally available.
The point of the Arkle Test is that - whether such a scheme is exactly correct or not - this is the kind of set-up that a loving God may have used, so as to ensure that 'accidents of birth' are not fatal in condemning any individual to damnation.
Arkle's family metaphor - applied to God who is the primary creator of reality - confirms that no parent would bring a child into the world unless that child had (first and foremost) some chance of salvation; although equally family life tells us that some children are innately more inclined to good while others are a predisposition to evil.
Nor would such a loving creator sustain the life of any Man unless there was potential for him or her to learn valuable lessons from the actual experiences of his individual life.
Or else, life might be sustained in order for someone who has (at this point) rejected salvation and chosen damnation; to have a chance to change his mind, in response to further life experiences.
If there is no potential to learn (or if there has already been enough learning) then it would be time to die.
It is the contention of Romantic Christianity that - here and now, at this stage in human consciousness and these End Times - each Man must discover the truth of Christianity for himself; and must use his personal discernment to navigate among the conflicting and often false claims of the various Christian churches and theologies.
The Arkle Test is one possible way to do this.
I like this idea of the Arkle Test. Arkle has benefited and continues to benefit me personally/spiritually. I hope others take the time to discover him. The time has never been more ripe.
It occurred to me that the world will end because the supply of spirits that might possibly choose resurrection will finally run dry.
I'm not sure if I misheard but I recently saw a video where Dutton said 10-point loss in general intelligence since 2000 (remarkable) or something like that. This intelligence loss would be a proxy for all sorts of other forms of 'change'.
It could be that the gap in innate natures between parents and their offspring is increasing as mutational degradation compounds.
So in the past there would have been a small total number (at any one time) of people that could be described as historically normal in their natures, with a slow rate of change in the natures of the people. Then beginning quite recently, a massive population with people being increasingly different from even their own parents in their natures, causing a wide variety of spirits to incarnate in a short amount of time.
And I know that at the same time as this there are reproductive patterns that entail certain parents having children to begin with, rather than other parents.
@ben - I don't have any clear sense of whether or not there are a finite number of appropriately-motivated spirits willing to be incarnated.
I think it is a mistake to allow 'evidence' of a scientific type to drive metaphysical speculation. It ought to go in the other direction. There are very many plausible explanations for our current corruption.
I don't think that the increase in genetic illness - and therefore increasingly abnormal sexual and other social behaviours - is a causal agent of corruption; any more than other causes of illness are causes of evil.
For example, plenty of the most genetically healthy (least mutated, mostly healthy and long-lived) people are the most evil-aligned of all people - so there might even be an inverse correlation between mutation accumulation and evil.
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