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Old Apr 20, 2010, 05:22 AM   #201
ParkCungHee
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I wouldn't push it too far no, but if you hold that the atemporal cannot be experienced by temporal beings, you'd have a hard time explaining how a man can experience Math.
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Old Apr 27, 2010, 03:18 PM   #202
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Have you heard of the movie Zeitgeist? If so, what do you think they got the most right or wrong about religion?
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Old Apr 27, 2010, 05:09 PM   #203
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That's an interesting example. One might say that what one experiences - if one "experiences" anything - is a particular mathematical act. For example, I experience the act of adding two and two. This is temporal, but it allows me to experience, indirectly, the atemporal fact that 2+2=4.

On the other hand, I'm not sure whether many theists would be willing to push the analogy between the eternal truths of mathematics and the eternal God too far. Maths may be atemporal but it's abstract. There isn't a thing out there called maths which exists atemporally, at least not in the same sense in which most theists think that God does.
Leaving aside that mathematics is a human construct (which breaks the analogy as the sun analogy did), we can only 'experience' math after we have learned it. Assuming a person does not know math and having 2 eggs he gets 2 more, all he knows is he now has more eggs than before. Now, not assuming that God is a human construct, how can we experience God if we not already know God? (It's here that the analogy is an improvement on the sun analogy. We know the sun exists, as we can see it. Which is the basic tenet for any experience. However we cannot see God. Moses tried and was nearly blinded* - by the way another interesting analogy with the sun, but equally irrelevant here.) Also, math is not atemporal: there was a time math did not exist; reasoning back we assume that the laws of mathematics have always worked.

Summing up I've seen no valid argument why it would be possible to experience atemporal phenomena. (Plotinus merely asked how I know it to be true.) Ergo, the problem is as yet unsolved.

You will note that my first assertion was that atemporal phenomena cannot be experienced. While I hold this to be self-evident, I'll explain however why: we lack the senses to experience anything atemporal, and, by extension, the instruments to do so. Any phenomenon we can experience/measure is temporal. Now, assuming a person does experience God, this does not automatically prove that we can experience atemporal phenomena. Rather it proves God isn't atemporal at all. (As I tried to illustrate with experiencing God's love and if you read back my post you will note that this is consistent with my original assertion.) Another problem ofcourse is: do people experience God? For argument's sake I've left that aside.

* I'm assuming here that Moses did experience God, which is ofcourse debatable.
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Old Apr 27, 2010, 05:51 PM   #204
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L

You will note that my first assertion was that atemporal phenomena cannot be experienced. While I hold this to be self-evident, I'll explain however why: we lack the senses to experience anything atemporal, and, by extension, the instruments to do so. Any phenomenon we can experience/measure is temporal. Now, assuming a person does experience God, this does not automatically prove that we can experience atemporal phenomena. Rather it proves God isn't atemporal at all.
That doesn't prove either assertion. Even if we assumed that we cannot experience anything atemporal, we could just experience a temporal projection of the atemporal God. Or in other words, the temporal effect of the atemporal being, which has to be there unless you postulate God to be totally removed from and totally without effect on the universe
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Old May 02, 2010, 08:06 PM   #205
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Have you heard of the movie Zeitgeist? If so, what do you think they got the most right or wrong about religion?
Plotinus has answered questions about the film in these threads before. I don't remember all the details and am too lazy to search all the old posts, but as I recall he proved essentially every one of the film's claims about religion to be wrong.
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Old May 02, 2010, 10:19 PM   #206
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I wouldn't push it too far no, but if you hold that the atemporal cannot be experienced by temporal beings, you'd have a hard time explaining how a man can experience Math.
See this thread for that very discussion:

http://forums.civfanatics.com/showthread.php?t=360947
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Old May 03, 2010, 02:27 AM   #207
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Not sure if it's been asked before, but what positions do you, Plotinus, take on issues of philosophy or theology that you think are probably contrary to popular opinion or common wisdom within your field of expertise?
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Old May 03, 2010, 02:44 AM   #208
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That doesn't prove either assertion. Even if we assumed that we cannot experience anything atemporal, we could just experience a temporal projection of the atemporal God. Or in other words, the temporal effect of the atemporal being, which has to be there unless you postulate God to be totally removed from and totally without effect on the universe
The first is just a repetition of what Plotinus said: an effect of a nontemporal phenomenon could be experienced by temporal beings. But why would this be so? My point is that all humans can experience/measure are temporal phenomena. How would one make certain that any temporal effect results from a nontemporal phenomenon? That's just the problem. It's a matter of human limitations. (One might even argue that temporal phenomena have no effect on nontemporal phenomena - since they are outside of it, i.e. out of time, so to speak. And one might ask why timely phenomena - such as we ourselves are - should concern a nontemporal being, such as God is supposed to be. However, according to the bible, timely events do affect God, and God actively responds to them. That suggests temporal attributes rather than nontemporal ones. What need would a nontemporal phenomenon have for temporal attributes?)
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Old May 04, 2010, 04:16 AM   #209
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Have you heard of the movie Zeitgeist? If so, what do you think they got the most right or wrong about religion?
I haven't seen it. I don't remember discussing this before, but from a quick glance at what Wikipedia says about it, it sounds utter rubbish. Not that I trust Wikipedia either, naturally.

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Leaving aside that mathematics is a human construct (which breaks the analogy as the sun analogy did), we can only 'experience' math after we have learned it. Assuming a person does not know math and having 2 eggs he gets 2 more, all he knows is he now has more eggs than before. Now, not assuming that God is a human construct, how can we experience God if we not already know God? (It's here that the analogy is an improvement on the sun analogy. We know the sun exists, as we can see it. Which is the basic tenet for any experience. However we cannot see God. Moses tried and was nearly blinded* - by the way another interesting analogy with the sun, but equally irrelevant here.) Also, math is not atemporal: there was a time math did not exist; reasoning back we assume that the laws of mathematics have always worked.
This is so confused I hardly know what you're saying. First, while the discipline of mathematics, including conventions of notation etc., may be a human construct, it's pretty tendentious to assert that mathematics itself is a human construct. If I have two eggs and then I get another two eggs, I have, as a matter of fact, four eggs whether or not I know it, and whether or not I use the word "four" in describing this happy situation. There is nothing arbitrary in saying that. If you think otherwise you should provide an argument in support of your position.

Second, it seems to me quite a wild claim to say that someone uneducated in mathematics could tell only that he had more eggs than before. Surely it doesn't require a mathematical education to recognise that there is a difference between (a) having two eggs and acquiring two more and (b) having two eggs and acquiring only one more. To suggest that the difference between these two situations, or our ability to recognise such a difference, is a purely human construct seems to me to take relativism to an absurd extreme. At the very least you need to provide an argument for it.

Third, while the human discipline of mathematics certainly hasn't always existed, given that human beings haven't always existed, it certainly doesn't follow that the laws of mathematics have not always held. It is no arbitrary assumption to think that, because 2+2=4 is true now, 2+2=4 was true a billion years ago. Again, if you think that's an arbitrary assumption, you need to provide an argument to that effect.

Fourth, I don't see why one would have to know God as a precondition for experiencing God. I don't have to know the Pacific Ocean as a precondition for seeing it. Why can't someone who has no knowledge of God nevertheless experience God? How do you know that no-one can see God - just because the Bible says so? Are we going to conduct this discussion as biblicists, then?

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Summing up I've seen no valid argument why it would be possible to experience atemporal phenomena. (Plotinus merely asked how I know it to be true.) Ergo, the problem is as yet unsolved.
On the contrary, I would say that I haven't seen any argument at all, valid or otherwise, to the effect that it isn't possible to experience atemporal phenomena. So I conclude that, as far as I can tell, there isn't a problem at all.

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You will note that my first assertion was that atemporal phenomena cannot be experienced. While I hold this to be self-evident, I'll explain however why: we lack the senses to experience anything atemporal, and, by extension, the instruments to do so.
Well, here for the first time we get an argument, but it's still just begging the question. You say that we lack the senses to experience anything atemporal. How do you know this? What's the argument that supports this assertion?

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Not sure if it's been asked before, but what positions do you, Plotinus, take on issues of philosophy or theology that you think are probably contrary to popular opinion or common wisdom within your field of expertise?
This is an interesting question and I can't think of many examples of issues where I'm at variance with common wisdom in the field, at least not on anything major.

I tend towards ethical externalism, which I think is a minority view. Most ethical philosophers think that if you believe an act to be morally right, then that in itself is a motivation for you to want to perform it. (Of course, this motivation might be outweighed by other motivations for not performing it, such as a desire for personal gain or whatever.) But I don't see any contradiction in the notion of a person who genuinely believes that something is the right thing to do and yet has no motivation whatsoever to do it.

Also on ethics, I've argued that the notion of permissibility is a good potential starting point, rather than the usual notion of right and wrong, and that's unusual. But I'm not dogmatic about that.

I've also argued that one can't draw conclusions about someone's metaphysical commitments purely on the basis of whether they think that sentences containing certain linguistic terms can be rewritten in a way that omits them, and that's an unusual position, but this is getting a bit arcane.

I think that continental philosophy is not enormously useful, but then this is a typical attitude of English-speaking philosophers. I also think that modern dogmatic theology tends not to be very useful either, largely because it is basically continental philosophy with added God, and I suppose that is probably a minority position among people who read it (although surely not a minority position in general).

It's easier to think of issues where I'm at variance with common non-expert opinion. For example I think the claim that science and religion are fundamentally at odds is false. I also think that the notion that faith and reason are fundamentally different and at odds is also false. And I think that the claim that religion has had a mainly negative effect on the world is quite wrong. But in these sorts of views I think I'm on the side of the majority of informed opinion.

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The first is just a repetition of what Plotinus said: an effect of a nontemporal phenomenon could be experienced by temporal beings. But why would this be so? My point is that all humans can experience/measure are temporal phenomena. How would one make certain that any temporal effect results from a nontemporal phenomenon? That's just the problem.
Whether one could be certain of it or not is irrelevant. Let's say I see a physical manifestation which is, as a matter of fact, caused by God. Let's say, further, that it is legitimate to call seeing such a manifestation a vision of God in an indirect way, just as my perception of the Invisible Man's clothes while he is wearing them can be legitimately described as a vision of the Invisible Man in an indirect way. Then my seeing this manifestation is a case of my seeing God (in this sense). Whether I know that it's a case of my seeing God is irrelevant to that fact. I may, indeed, believe that I haven't just seen God, but if the conditions mentioned above are satisfied, then in fact I have seen God and I am wrong to think I haven't.

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(One might even argue that temporal phenomena have no effect on nontemporal phenomena - since they are outside of it, i.e. out of time, so to speak.
One could only argue that if one held that causation must be wholly temporal. But anyone who believes in an atemporal God who is the cause of the universe must reject that principle right from the start, so it's not relevant to this discussion.

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And one might ask why timely phenomena - such as we ourselves are - should concern a nontemporal being, such as God is supposed to be.
I don't see why an atemporal being should be especially unconcerned about temporal beings. Why should our temporality make us of less concern to an atemporal God? Once again, what is the argument?

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However, according to the bible, timely events do affect God, and God actively responds to them. That suggests temporal attributes rather than nontemporal ones. What need would a nontemporal phenomenon have for temporal attributes?)
Again, I don't really see why an atemporal being couldn't respond to temporal events; it is no harder than an atemporal being affecting temporal events. There is a problem only if one assumes that causation must be wholly temporal, but as I have already said, anyone who thinks God is atemporal must reject that assumption anyway.
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Old May 26, 2010, 05:06 PM   #210
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I don't know if this has previously been discussed (it likely has) but:
How does Christianty reconcile the Triune God (three parts) with the monothiestic idea of their being no god but the one God? It seems more like Henothiesm like Hinduism than monothiesm.

EDIT: Please ignore this post. I didn't read the OP. Sorry.
EDIT2: After reading the OP link to this subject, I have to ask the question again as the answer given dealt mainly with the perception of Mary as part of the Trinity and the evolution of the trinity not how it is reconciled with monothiesm.
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Old May 26, 2010, 06:10 PM   #211
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The first is just a repetition of what Plotinus said: an effect of a nontemporal phenomenon could be experienced by temporal beings. But why would this be so?
Because we measure this all the time. For example photons do not have a definite point in time, but rather exist over a time interval. Within this interval, you cannot tell where in time the photon is. Only once you detect the photon, you project that state on an event, that has a (more or less) definite point in time. But despite its atemporal nature during that time interval it can still interact with me and I can interact with it. There is no reason, besides practical limitations, that this time interval cannot be extended to infinity to get a true timeless state.

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My point is that all humans can experience/measure are temporal phenomena. How would one make certain that any temporal effect results from a nontemporal phenomenon? That's just the problem. It's a matter of human limitations.
You're right that we cannot deduce this from a single temporal measurement of an atemporal state. But if the same state exists often enough, we can make a lot of temporal measurements and deduce from the statistics that it does not behave like a temporal state.
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Old May 27, 2010, 04:31 AM   #212
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I don't know if this has previously been discussed (it likely has) but:
How does Christianty reconcile the Triune God (three parts) with the monothiestic idea of their being no god but the one God? It seems more like Henothiesm like Hinduism than monothiesm.
Well, there are lots of ways. First, though, the Christian God doesn't have parts. The three persons of the Trinity are not "parts" of God - there are not three "parts" to him. Each person of the Trinity is fully and wholly God. So the problem of the Trinity is not about explaining how monotheism is true even though God has three parts, or even though there are three Gods. On the contrary, Christian orthodoxy is quite clear that God does not have three parts, and that there are not three Gods. It is clear that there is only one God, who does not have parts - and also that this one God exists in three persons. The problem is explaining what this means and how it can be true.

There have been various ways of explaining it. One is purely linguistic: we can distinguish between "person" and "substance", and say that God is three persons but one substance. There is no contradiction in saying that he is both three and one, because what he is three of and what he is one of are not the same kind of thing. This is the basis for an approach to the Trinity which has found some supporters in recent years, which is the "relative identity" approach pioneered by Peter Geach. Classical, "absolute" theories of identity hold that two things are either identical or they are not. If they are identical, then every property that one has, the other has too. For example, Clark Kent is either Superman or he is not. If he is Superman, then everything that is true of Clark Kent is true of Superman, and vice versa. However, proponents of relative identity deny this. They say that identity is kind-relative. That is, it's possible for two things to be the same X but different Y, where X and Y stand for kinds. For example: say I take a bronze statue of Achilles, and melt it down, and then make a new statue of Hector out of the same bronze. The statue of Achilles and the statue of Hector are not the same statue. But they are the same lump of bronze. So in one sense they are identical with each, but in another sense they are not identical with each other.

Similarly (Geach argues), we can say that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are the same God (just as the two statues are the same lump of bronze), but they are not the same person (just as the two statues are not the same statue). That preserves the logic of saying God is three persons but one substance, but it doesn't explain how it happens (obviously it doesn't happen in the same way as the statue example, with the different persons being made out of the same lump of stuff). Also, the theory of relative identity is pretty controversial and not many people accept it in the first place.

Another account is that of the Cappadocian Fathers, which also begins by distinguishing between "person" and "substance" (or "nature"), but argues that the difference between them is the same as that between the particular and the general. So, for example, if you have three human beings, then you have three particular individuals who all exemplify a single nature (human nature). Similarly, with God, you have three persons who all exemplify the single divine nature. That looks no different from tritheism, though, because if the divine persons are three in the same way that three human beings are three, then you've straightforwardly just got three Gods. Gregory of Nyssa expands on the idea by pointing out that in the case of the three human beings, there are various features that make them distinct. For example, they occupy distinct locations and may differ physically; they have distinct minds, personalities, and perhaps intentions and desires; they perform different actions, even if they are co-operating in something. None of these applies to the divine persons. They are incorporeal, so they do not occupy space or have bodies at all; they therefore cannot be distinguished from each other in this way. They do not have different personalities, intentions, or desires, and they co-operate perfectly, to such a degree that one can say that when one of them performs an action, they all perform it jointly. In fact, Gregory argues that the only things that distinguish the persons from each other at all - the only things that make it the case that there are three of them rather than just one - are their mutual relations. The Father is the father of the Son, the Son [i]is the son of[i] the Father, and the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father (and perhaps the Son, if you want to go down that route).

This idea that the only thing that distinguishes the persons of the Trinity is their mutual relations became very important in Christian theology, since Augustine took it up rather enthusiastically, and we find it in the medieval theologians such as Aquinas and also modern ones such as Barth.

Brian Leftow has recently argued for a very interesting version of this model, which explains the mutual relations in terms of (quasi-)temporal streams of consciousness. He imagines a situation where three dancers appear together on a stage. But although there are three of them, there is really only one - because she is a time traveller. She goes on stage and performs with the other two. Then she comes off, jumps into her time machine, goes back a few minutes, and performs again. Finally, she does the same thing a third time. So there is only one dancer, but if you watch the stage, you see three of them - the same one, three times. So what you have there is a single stream of consciousness (the one dancer), but which is temporally overlapped with itself. Leftow suggests that we can think of the Trinity in a similar way: a single consciousness (the one God) which is overlapped with itself (the three persons). Of course he's not suggesting that God is a time traveller, or that time travel is possible - rather, the way we think of the dancer/dancers in the time travel story offers a way of thinking about the Trinity, and of understanding what the relations between the persons could be. It opens up conceptual space which the Trinity could occupy.

That model starts with the oneness of God, and goes on to explain how he can nevertheless be three. That is a bit different from Gregory of Nyssa's, which beings with the threeness of the persons, and goes on to explain how they can nevertheless be one. These two approaches are often called the "Latin Trinity" approach (because it is typical of western theology after Augustine) and the "social Trinity" approach (because it models the Trinity as a sort of society of divine persons).

Finally, of course, a lot of theologians (such as Pseudo-Dionysius) have simply argued that ordinary categories, even numbers, don't really apply to God at all. "Oneness", "threeness", and so on are categories that apply to ordinary objects in the universe, but God is not such an object, and transcends the ordinary universal categories. He also transcends our understanding, which is equipped only to understand the ordinary universal categories (and even then doesn't always do a very good job). In the ordinary run of things, oneness and threeness certainly are incompatible, but for God, either they are not incompatible at all, or he doesn't really exemplify oneness and threeness at all - he has divine properties of his own that are just beyond all this. The doctrine of the Trinity is therefore an attempt to translate the divine reality into categories that we can understand, but it inevitably fails to do this adequately and appears contradictory - not because the truth is contradictory, but simply because we lack the conceptual tools needed to understand or express it. That may seem a bit of a cop-out but I don't see it as intrinsically problematic.
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Old May 27, 2010, 09:30 AM   #213
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Old Jun 27, 2010, 07:47 PM   #214
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If you took a poll among experts (church historians, archaeologists of that time period, etc. etc. etc.), what percentage do you estimate would agree with each of the following:

1) The Resurrection is consistent with what we know about the history of that time period.
2) The history of that time period supports the thesis that the Resurrection occurred.
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Old Jun 27, 2010, 08:33 PM   #215
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I just completed reading "The Alchemical Keys To Masonic Ritual" by Timothy Hogan and it discusses how throughout the Bible there are many references to Alchemy. As an example, when Jesus stated that those that came before Him baptized in water and air, whereas He baptized in fire. The 666 shekels (sp?) paid to King Solomon annually for 'bread', which the Greek word can also be translated as manna, the white salt, or an essence (not sure if I got that last part right). I realize this is the opinion of an alchemist, but after explaining the basic process of alchemy, it does sound very interesting.

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If you took a poll among experts (church historians, archaeologists of that time period, etc. etc. etc.), what percentage do you estimate would agree with each of the following:

1) The Resurrection is consistent with what we know about the history of that time period.
2) The history of that time period supports the thesis that the Resurrection occurred.
Another book I'm currently reading "The Hiram Key" by Christopher Knight and Robert Lomas brings up the idea, or theory of a living resurrection, rather then a literal resurrection. Their arguments are interesting, though I'm not sure I agree to them.
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Old Jun 28, 2010, 05:06 PM   #216
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1) Why do people bring up the idea that Jesus was a Jew? Maybe I'm unclear about what defines "Christian," but didn't Jesus believe he was the son of God, died for peoples' sins and was resurrected after he died? Or do people mean that he was ethnically Jewish? In which case I don't understand why it's brought up at all

My moreorless real question:
2) Where does religion go from here? Is organized religion doomed to go through the motions until faith is gone or a new religion takes its place? Has religion expanded at all lately? I know it's "evolving" in the sense that is forced to address contemporary culture and the modern environment, or face extinction (exaggeration), but has religion "grown" at all in recent times? From what I can see (maybe biased), religion is being forced to backpedal and blur some tenets in the face of increased scientific knowledge and evolving morals. Is that all that the church or any other organized religion has to look forward to?
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Old Jun 29, 2010, 03:15 AM   #217
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1) Why do people bring up the idea that Jesus was a Jew? Maybe I'm unclear about what defines "Christian," but didn't Jesus believe he was the son of God, died for peoples' sins and was resurrected after he died? Or do people mean that he was ethnically Jewish? In which case I don't understand why it's brought up at all
Because they imagine repeating this statement ad nauseum is somehow clever.

To Plotinus,
I wanted to know whether you consider Platonism to actually be as compatible with Christianity as is widely claimed, and if you could recommend soome texts on Neo-Platonism, as the ideas they have seemed to roughly conform to conclusions I've come to, but they are probably much more intelligable.

Also, I've stumbled upon lectures of a mister William Lane Craig, and what he says seems quite reasonable, and I was wondering if you're aware of him and if you have any thoughts on him?
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Old Jun 29, 2010, 06:39 AM   #218
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If you took a poll among experts (church historians, archaeologists of that time period, etc. etc. etc.), what percentage do you estimate would agree with each of the following:

1) The Resurrection is consistent with what we know about the history of that time period.
I'm not sure what historians would say to that, as it's not really a historical question. I mean, whether a resurrection is consistent with anything is not a historical question. My instinct would be to say that if you think a resurrection is possible at all, there is no particular reason to think that the claim that Jesus was resurrected is inconsistent with what we know of that time period. I mean, there are no particular features of that period that make Jesus' resurrection any more unlikely than any other resurrection claim.

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Originally Posted by Fifty View Post
2) The history of that time period supports the thesis that the Resurrection occurred.
I should think that relatively few historians of the period would think this. Of course there are Christian apologists who think not simply that the resurrection happened or that the claim it happened is consistent with what else we know, but that the evidence actually points to its having happened. I think that any such evidence is fairly feeble at best, largely because it is not very consistent. Different sources in the New Testament give very different impressions of what the resurrection even was (Paul apparently thinks in terms of a non-physical resurrection, although he is far from clear, while the Gospels describe a physical one) and of who witnessed it (the Gospels all disagree with each other on this, and with Paul). Any New Testament scholar, when asked about this sort of thing, is going to have to begin with these problems. I think that there can be no serious doubt that the first Christians believed that Jesus had been raised from the dead and that they had perceived the risen Jesus, but given that they don't seem to have been very clear on what this meant or who had perceived what, the evidence is not strong that Jesus actually was raised from the dead.

Note that this doesn't even take into consideration the problem whether resurrections are possible in the first place.

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Originally Posted by Methos View Post
I just completed reading "The Alchemical Keys To Masonic Ritual" by Timothy Hogan and it discusses how throughout the Bible there are many references to Alchemy. As an example, when Jesus stated that those that came before Him baptized in water and air, whereas He baptized in fire.
That is interesting, but I'm not sure I'm convinced. In this case, it's John the Baptist who says that, not Jesus (Luke 3:16), and he says not that Jesus will baptise with water and air, but with water and the Holy Spirit (en pneumati hagioi, which can't really be translated as "air" - that would be aeras). So it's hard to see that as reference to the elements. Even if it were, I don't see why that would make it alchemical; references to the elements are quite common in ancient texts and don't necessarily indicate anything arcane or esoteric.

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Originally Posted by Methos View Post
The 666 shekels (sp?) paid to King Solomon annually for 'bread', which the Greek word can also be translated as manna, the white salt, or an essence (not sure if I got that last part right). I realize this is the opinion of an alchemist, but after explaining the basic process of alchemy, it does sound very interesting.
I have to admit I don't know what that reference is!

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Originally Posted by Methos View Post
Another book I'm currently reading "The Hiram Key" by Christopher Knight and Robert Lomas brings up the idea, or theory of a living resurrection, rather then a literal resurrection. Their arguments are interesting, though I'm not sure I agree to them.
There are lots of different understandings of what "resurrection" is. As I mentioned, even in the New Testament different people seem to have different ideas. In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul lists himself as one of the people who saw the risen Jesus. But according to Acts 9, what Paul actually experienced was a flash of light and a voice, not a physical person. And even when Paul is arguing that the resurrection was real, in 1 Corinthians 15, he doesn't mention the story of the empty tomb, which is odd if he knew about it. (After all, modern Christians who argue that a physical resurrection occurred always cite the supposed emptiness of the tomb as one of the key pieces of evidence - so why doesn't Paul do so?) Whereas the Gospels, with their empty tomb stories, are clear that the resurrection was physical and involved Jesus' body returning to life, although it also acquired special powers such as the ability to walk through locked doors.

So it's not about "literal" resurrection versus "non-literal". Even someone who believes in a non-physical resurrection might believe that the resurrection literally occurred, but that real and literal resurrection does not require the revivification of a corpse.

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Originally Posted by Pete Atoms View Post
1) Why do people bring up the idea that Jesus was a Jew?
Because if Jesus was a Jew then it's impossible to understand him without taking that fact into account. For example, if you read the teachings attributed to Jesus in the Gospels without understanding the background to them - such as the similar teachings attributed to famous Pharisaic teachers of the time - then you won't be able to understand fully what they mean. This is true of any historical figure. It's especially true of someone like Jesus, who was a religious figure - I mean not simply a figure of importance to a subsequent religion, but someone who was deeply concerned with religious matters. Jesus seems to have talked constantly about things like the kingdom of God and similar religious topics and to have understood his own person and role in that context. So if we don't understand what those things mean, we can't even begin to understand him. But these ideas are taken from the Judaism of the time, so if we don't understand that, we won't understand Jesus, at least not very well.

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Originally Posted by Pete Atoms View Post
Maybe I'm unclear about what defines "Christian," but didn't Jesus believe he was the son of God, died for peoples' sins and was resurrected after he died?
Whether Jesus believed that he was the son of God is much debated; in biblical context, the term "son of God" merely means someone who is beloved of God. If you read the Old Testament you will find that it is usually used in this context and can refer to many people, even the whole of Israel on occasion. So to say that Jesus believed he was "the" son of God is largely meaningless. The notion of "the" son of God is a later one, introduced by later Christian theologians who didn't understand what it meant in a Jewish context. So this is an example of a case where understanding the Jewish background to Jesus is necessary for understanding him.

As for whether Jesus believed that he would die for people's sins and would be resurrected, I don't think there's any real historical reason to suppose that; the only good reason would be theological, on the assumption that (a) Jesus did indeed die for people's sins and was resurrected, and (b) being divine, Jesus was always aware of these facts even in his lifetime. In fact many theologians think that even if (a) is true, (b) is not necessarily true, and that despite being divine Jesus might have been unaware of things like this, and even unaware of his own divinity, at least consciously. The reason for that is that if Jesus did know things of this kind then he wouldn't have really entered properly into the human condition - he wouldn't have had a fully human mind.

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Originally Posted by Pete Atoms View Post
My moreorless real question:
2) Where does religion go from here? Is organized religion doomed to go through the motions until faith is gone or a new religion takes its place? Has religion expanded at all lately? I know it's "evolving" in the sense that is forced to address contemporary culture and the modern environment, or face extinction (exaggeration), but has religion "grown" at all in recent times? From what I can see (maybe biased), religion is being forced to backpedal and blur some tenets in the face of increased scientific knowledge and evolving morals. Is that all that the church or any other organized religion has to look forward to?
Christianity has expanded greatly in the past few decades, although not in the west. It has expanded significantly in parts of Asia (especially South Korea) and, above all, in Africa, where hardly anyone was Christian outside Egypt and Ethiopia at the start of the twentieth century and where most people are Christian today (apart from the ones who are Muslims). Moreover, African forms of Christianity are expanding quite aggressively elsewhere in the world, as anyone who has attempted to drive through south London on a Sunday will know (it is entirely clogged up with Africans in suits congregating outside churches). Protestantism has also spread significantly in South America, partly to the detriment of Catholicism. So the idea that Christianity is somehow on the wane is not true - it is just western bias to think that.

I don't think it's true that religion has been forced to "backpedal" in the face of science or other factors even in the west. For the most part, the areas where science and religion seem to clash are areas where only some religious people hold those views anyway. The obvious example is evolution; but most Christians in the west never had a problem with that in the first place, and the development of what we call creationism along fundamentalist lines was something that emerged in response to modern science.

Of course, before the nineteenth century many Christians believed that the creation story in Genesis was literally true - although many didn't - but my point is that when geology and biology came to contradict this, most people were quite happy to accept this, because their faith didn't depend on the literal truth of Genesis. They weren't bothered about it. The idea that the literal truth of Genesis is really important and represents a major disagreement between faith and religion is what developed later as a deliberate response to science. So the idea that you had religion, and then science came along and contradicted it, and religion has had to back off (or exist in a state of self-delusion) is not true. It's only some religious people who have been like that.

Religions have always changed and developed in response to cultural developments, whether they have realised it or not. I don't see anything particularly special about the current situation in this regard. Of course, Christianity (at least) has declined greatly in much of the western world over the past few decades, for reasons that are still not well understood at all - indeed even experts can't agree on how much it's declined in the first place. But it's still as diverse and as lively as ever it was, and it continues to develop new ideas as it always has done.

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Originally Posted by ParkCungHee View Post
To Plotinus,
I wanted to know whether you consider Platonism to actually be as compatible with Christianity as is widely claimed, and if you could recommend soome texts on Neo-Platonism, as the ideas they have seemed to roughly conform to conclusions I've come to, but they are probably much more intelligable.
The thing with Platonism is that it's a fairly broad church and doesn't consist of a single set of definitive doctrines. If it did, it might well be incompatible with Christianity, at least on some definition of "Christianity". But Platonism is more of a tendency or loose set of doctrines which can be adapted to fit a particular religion or set of ideas. Christianity is also pretty flexible. Thus, there is a clear disagreement between them - at least in their original forms - about human nature: Christianity holds an individual is either identical to her body or identical to a body-soul composite (hence the emphasis on the bodily resurrection of the faithful), while Platonism holds that the individual is identical to her soul and can survive the loss of the body. Agreement is achieved by holding that the soul survives the death of the body (as in Platonism) but will be re-united with it, or gain a new one, at a future time (as in Christianity). So you can adapt one system to fit the other.

Obviously, that's exactly what happened with Christianity, at several points in history (most obviously the second century, with people like Justin Martyr and the apologists; then in the third and fourth centuries, in a much more rigorous way, with Origen and the Cappadocians; then in the fifth and sixth centuries, in a more mystical way, with people like Augustine and Pseudo-Dionysius; then in the fifteenth century, with people like Ficino; and so on).

I'm not sure what to recommend on Neoplatonism, as it depends really what kind you're interested in. A very good book on Plotinus, if you're interested in early Neoplatonism as a intellectual movement in itself, is Plotinus: an introduction to the Enneads by Dominic O'Meara. If you're interested in the marriage of Neoplatonism with early Christianity then the classic study of that is Christianity and classical culture by Jaroslav Pelikan, which is basically about the Cappadocians.

Other books that might be of interest that I find in my bibliographies, all focusing on Neoplatonism and early Christianity, are Platonism pagan and Christian: studies in Plotinus and Augustine by G. O'Daly; Neoplatonism and early Christian thought edited by H. Blumenthal and R. Markus; The great tradition: further studies in the development of Platonism and early Christianity by John Dillon; Dionysius the Areopagite and the Neoplatonist tradition: despoiling the Hellenes by S. Wear and J. Dillon; and Plato and Theodoret: the Christian appropriation of Platonic philosophy and the Hellenic intellectual resistance by N. Siniossoglou. But unfortunately I don't have any good information on books on Neoplatonism considered purely as a philosophical movement.

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Originally Posted by ParkCungHee View Post
Also, I've stumbled upon lectures of a mister William Lane Craig, and what he says seems quite reasonable, and I was wondering if you're aware of him and if you have any thoughts on him?
Yes, he is a prominent philosopher of religion and apologist for Christianity, at least in America. I don't know a great deal about him though as he doesn't really do quite the sort of thing I'm so involved in. He is a prominent proponent of the "Reformed epistemology" position also associated with Alvin Plantinga and William Alston (which, in a nutshell, argues that Christian beliefs are properly basic - that is, they don't require justification on the basis of other beliefs - because they are guaranteed by the Holy Spirit). Despite rejecting evidentialism he also argues for God's existence quite vociferously, particularly using the kalam cosmological argument (which holds that it is impossible that the universe has always existed, and the only thing that could have started it off is God). As I understand it, he defends a pretty conservative evangelical understanding of Christianity, which means that he rejects an awful lot of modern biblical criticism, liberal theology, and stuff of that kind. Personally I find it rather hard to engage constructively with this kind of thinking, because it basically involves defending Christianity by means of arguing against a great deal of scholarly knowledge. Of course, scholarly knowledge is not infallible, but I have a lot more sympathy for the kind of defence of Christianity which accepts contemporary scholarship and does not expect the reader to become a raging iconoclast. So while someone like Craig is an able apologist and a good philosopher, I don't have much sympathy for his general position or approach. I think it plays into the hands of people like Richard Dawkins, because it involves agreeing with them on the fundamental belief that modern secular culture, including modern science, scholarship, and liberal learning and values, is at heart incompatible with Christian faith. Once you've accepted that belief, it's just a matter of which side you fall on. I don't agree with that belief, which means that from my point of view Craig (and his ilk) and Dawkins (and his ilk) are not only equally wrong, but wrong about the same thing and in the same way.
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Old Jun 29, 2010, 07:34 AM   #219
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Originally Posted by Plotinus View Post
Yes, he is a prominent philosopher of religion and apologist for Christianity, at least in America. I don't know a great deal about him though as he doesn't really do quite the sort of thing I'm so involved in. He is a prominent proponent of the "Reformed epistemology" position also associated with Alvin Plantinga and William Alston (which, in a nutshell, argues that Christian beliefs are properly basic - that is, they don't require justification on the basis of other beliefs - because they are guaranteed by the Holy Spirit). Despite rejecting evidentialism he also argues for God's existence quite vociferously, particularly using the kalam cosmological argument (which holds that it is impossible that the universe has always existed, and the only thing that could have started it off is God). As I understand it, he defends a pretty conservative evangelical understanding of Christianity, which means that he rejects an awful lot of modern biblical criticism, liberal theology, and stuff of that kind. Personally I find it rather hard to engage constructively with this kind of thinking, because it basically involves defending Christianity by means of arguing against a great deal of scholarly knowledge. Of course, scholarly knowledge is not infallible, but I have a lot more sympathy for the kind of defence of Christianity which accepts contemporary scholarship and does not expect the reader to become a raging iconoclast. So while someone like Craig is an able apologist and a good philosopher, I don't have much sympathy for his general position or approach. I think it plays into the hands of people like Richard Dawkins, because it involves agreeing with them on the fundamental belief that modern secular culture, including modern science, scholarship, and liberal learning and values, is at heart incompatible with Christian faith. Once you've accepted that belief, it's just a matter of which side you fall on. I don't agree with that belief, which means that from my point of view Craig (and his ilk) and Dawkins (and his ilk) are not only equally wrong, but wrong about the same thing and in the same way.
Yes, I realized there would be a problem once he ventured into Biblical History. I'm by no means an expert in that field, but he certainly made claims that stretched the use of the Historical Imagination, and his repeated refferences to the Gospels and Letters to the Corinthians as "Independent Sources" made me cringe.
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Old Jun 29, 2010, 07:37 AM   #220
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Lee Strobel insists that there was 'widespread eyewitness testimony' within three years of the crucifixion. I really have no idea where they get that idea.

I don't like William Lee Craig, because he completely misunderstands the point of Russel's Teapot and then fails to address its point. I can't really respect the rest of his philosophy if he stumbles so early.
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