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Ask a Theologian II

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by Plotinus, May 9, 2008.

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  1. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    John 14:6 seems to claim it, wouldn't you say?

    That is absolute nonsense. Go away and read Duns Scotus, then come back and say whether you still think that's true. There is no innate contradiction between "thinking" and "believing doctrinal truth", and it is not true that thought requires fundamental doubt. Even Descartes didn't think that! Finally, "reason" and "religion" are not inconsistent. They are not even the same kind of category. "Reason" is a way of thinking; "religion" is a sociological phenomenon. There is no reason why the latter cannot incorporate the former.

    Because they didn't have such laws at that time, and it's a myth. Do you have a serious question?
     
  2. renohol

    renohol Chieftain

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    Yes I have a serious question being brought up Christian and taught to follow the Bible to the letter, when did God create the Universe, 5 thousand or 6 thousand years ago?
     
  3. Eran of Arcadia

    Eran of Arcadia Stormin' Mormon Retired Moderator

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    The date of 4004 BCE that Ussher came up with is not explicitly Biblical - the Bible has no formal internal chronology.
     
  4. flyingchicken

    flyingchicken 99 117 110 116 115

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    How would you define: religiosity, non-religiosity, atheism (yeah, discussed before, but not in this context methinks), and spirituality?
     
  5. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    Pietism is pretty interesting. Here is a brief summary I wrote a while back:

    The godfather of Pietism was a German Lutheran pastor named Johann Arndt, who in the first years of the seventeenth century wrote two books entitled True Christianity and The garden of paradise. Arndt insisted that Christianity is not really about the increasingly pernickety doctrinal disputes that were raging at this time between Lutheran, Reformed, and Catholic. It is about having a personal relationship with Christ that changes the way you live your life. Union with Christ is the presupposition for the Christian life rather than its goal, and Arndt recommended that the Christian should spend some time every day meditating upon the person of Christ. Here, then, we have an emphasis away from doctrine and towards lifestyle, away from a corporate concern for the church as a whole and towards the individual. Christianity is a personal way of life.

    Arndt’s ideas were controversial: many Lutherans argued that doctrine really did matter as much as personal piety, and that the life of the church was as important as the life of the individual. Where, in Arndt’s scheme, was there a role for the sacraments? But others were inspired by his ideas. Among them was the Spener family in Alsace. Philipp Spener, brought up on Arndt’s principles, became one of the foremost Lutheran pastors in Germany: in Frankfurt, he set up “conventicles”, small groups within the church which met for prayer, worship and discussion. These were enormously successful, and in 1675 Spener published Pious wishes, setting out his ideas. Spener argued that Luther had left the Reformation only half completed. He had reformed the doctrine of the church, but not its lifestyle. Spener unleashed a ferocious attack upon the Lutheran orthodoxy of his day, accusing people of obsessing over points of doctrine when they should be putting Christ at the centre of their existence and living good lives. In particular, he argued that Lutherans’ insistence upon the doctrine of salvation by faith alone led to laziness. The argument was much like that used by Pelagius against Augustine in an earlier age, although Spener did not deny that faith alone saves; rather, he insisted that living a good life must be central to Christianity. Similarly, while Spener did accept that correctness of doctrine was important, he insisted that it was not an end in itself but a step towards cultivating a personal relationship with Christ.

    “Pietism” took its name from the title of Spener’s book, and it remained controversial, as the theologians insisted that it undermined correct doctrine. The infighting became more bitter. In 1729, a notorious Pietist named Johann Dippel published The true evangelical demonstration, in which he argued that organised religion was completely opposed to true faith and called for the church structures and authorities to be dismantled so that people could follow the law of love, as taught by Christ, in peace.

    At the same time, however, Pietism became a major force within not only Lutheran religion but German culture and society as well. In particular, many Pietists felt that their ideal of living in the light of Christ meant trying to improve education, for education was seen as the training not only of the mind but of the character. The greatest experiment in Pietist education occurred at Halle, where a new university was founded in 1694. The professor of oriental studies was a friend of Spener’s called August Francke, who shared his emphasis on the inner life of the individual: Francke believed that taking on the Christian life meant taking on a whole new existential attitude, one which he described as “inner struggle”.

    Like Spener, Francke dreamed of completing the Reformation. In his case, he believed that this could be done only when society, like the church, had been reformed, and he recognised the key role that education could play in this. Francke therefore set about reforming the education system of the whole of Halle, not simply the university. He founded new schools, including training colleges for teachers, and sought to integrate the whole system, so that, for example, students at the university would help out at the schools for children. At the same time, Francke was an important figure in the setting up of missionary expeditions overseas. Under the guidance of him and others like him, Halle became a major centre of Enlightenment thought, and Francke was joined by great thinkers such as the legal theorist Christian Thomasius, also a Pietist and great believer in the moral value of education. Here too was Christian Wolff, a thorough-going rationalist philosopher firmly in the mould of his mentor Leibniz. Thus, Pietism and rationalism rubbed shoulders and benefited from each other.

    -------

    So that's basically what Pietism is. One thing I didn't mention in that summary (because I couldn't find clear evidence one way or the other, and there are contradictory versions of the stories) is that Dippel was a rather mad alchemist who experimented upon bodies from the local graveyard, attempting to create life, and this was the inspiration for Mary Shelley's book Frankenstein. It's also said that Dippel invented the dye Prussian Blue, but he unwisely drank it, with the result that his corpse was discovered sitting on his chair with a horrified expression, turned bright blue. If this isn't true, it should be.

    As for what happened to Pietism, it became very influential. It filtered into the English-speaking world via groups such as the Moravians, set up by the Pietist Zinzendorf at his community at Herrnhut. These Pietists sent missionaries to the New World who helped to spread Pietist ideas there. In particular, they influenced the young John Wesley, at that time working rather ineffectually in America. So the eighteenth-century awakenings in Britain, and the rise of Methodism, were greatly influenced by Pietism. In America, meanwhile, the "First Great Awakening" was also inspired by basically Pietist ideas. Key figures such as Theodore Frelinghuysen, Gilbert Tennent, Jonathan Edwards, and George Whitefield combined the traditional Puritan emphasis upon Reformed doctrine with the Pietist emphasis upon spirituality and moral living and founded what was effectively the forerunner of modern evangelicalism.

    Pietist ideas are still influential today, quite apart from the huge influence of Pietism's offspring evangelicalism. In particular, I think that Arndt's and Dippel's belief in a sort of eternal struggle between spiritually-minded mystics and authoritarian clergy is still very pervasive. You often encounter the idea that mysticism is intrinsically somehow subversive or prone to formal heresy - from those who think this is a good thing and those who think it's a bad thing - and this is really a classic Pietist dogma.

    I don't believe in God, so my answer would be that he didn't. If you mean, what do Christians believe about that, the answer is that there have been many views, because as Eran pointed out, even if one were to take everything in the Bible to be literally true there isn't enough information to date creation precisely. In fact James Ussher's date of 4004 BC was just one of many suggestions; it became famous because his chronology was printed in some eighteenth-century editions of the Bible which became particularly widespread. Stephen Jay Gould wrote an interesting article about Ussher in which he pointed out, quite correctly, that although it's fashionable to ridicule him as a kind of simplistic, fundamentalist date-adder-up, his Annals of the Old Testament were actually a sophisticated product of the new science of chronology and represented extremely thorough scholarship in all kinds of chronological records, not just the Bible. It might seem odd that that work was published in 1650 - the year the arch-rationalist Descartes died, and when Europe was supposedly getting all rationalist and Enlightened. In fact Ussher was just as rationalist as any philosopher; rationalism, at that time, generally operated within a Christian context rather than outside it.

    Obviously most Christians today, at least in the western world, do not believe the biblical creation myth to be literally true and do not believe that the universe is only a few thousand years old, so the question would be viewed as meaningless or at least desperately naive in that context.

    I'd define "religiosity" as following a religion to a considerable degree, and this would involve participating in its rituals, putting its moral teachings into practice in one's life, believing its doctrines to be true, and playing an active part in whatever social organisation was involved in the religion. I think these are probably the four key elements of a religion, although I've probably forgotten some, and all religions emphasise different aspects. So I suppose "non-religiosity" is just the absence of this. I would define "atheism" as the belief that God does not exist. I know that some people define it as the absence of belief in God, but I think that's too close to agnosticism, and leaves us without a word for the denial of God's existence. I'm not sure I have a good definition for "spirituality". It suggests to me an interest in, or an apparent awareness of, the world beyond what is perceptible to the senses, in a way that is emotionally engaging or profound. But that's a bit vague, perhaps.
     
  6. Agent327

    Agent327 Observer

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    Only if you think the NT overrides the Torah, which is a Christian thought unknown to Jesus. So: No.

    The latter is absolutely true; that does not negate however that church practice has shown the church's preference for religious doctrine or reason - which is in accordance of the spirit of my statement. Furthermore, there is an innate contradiction between thinking and religious doctrine (which results from faith, not reason).

    I would say that the belief in God is common to all Christians, for one.

    The fact that "certain religious truths... can be proved be reason alone" is just as true as the opposite: that religious truths can be proved false by reason alone. The point then is that religion as a phenomenon belongs to the irrational and the illogical. What people may reason to justify their beliefs is quite irrelevant, as its essence is faith. (No offense to Thomas Aquinas, Duns Scotus or any other intellect with religious tendencies. That intellectuals practice religion is no proof whatsoever for the "logic" of religion at all.)

    That the Catholic church deems equalling religious faith to illogic a heresy can hardly be taken into account, as it is but one of the innumerale Christian churches and the concept of heresy itself is illogical when compared to Jesus views alone. (Rather does it show the moral corruption of Christianity since Jesus.)
     
  7. Perfection

    Perfection The Great Head.

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    The essence of religion can be faith for some peeps and not faith for other peeps, okay, bro?
     
  8. Berzerker

    Berzerker Warlord

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    Jesus over rode Mosaic divorce law, "working" on the Sabbath, executing adulterers, etc...
     
  9. Maimonides

    Maimonides Chieftain

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    No he did'nt. The most you can say is that some people believe he did.

    As far as executing adulterers in the Torah, that act is not a mitzvah (Commandment from G-d) as far as I'm aware. The punishment for adultery on this plane of existence is left up to humans to decide. Jesus was not in a position to override any civil penalties. He was not Roman nor was he related to the Hasmoneans nor was he a priest. Palestine was not a democracy at the time.

    As far as divorce, Protestants do it all the time.

    As far as observing the Sabbath, there have been many Christian groups that did. The Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, for example, jailed people for offenses like riding a horse on the Sabbath.

    I never understood why Christians moved the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday, though. What say you, Plotinus?
     
  10. Huayna Capac357

    Huayna Capac357 Chieftain

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    But that doesn't mean Jesus did. Jesus =/= Christians. Jesus didn't go on any Crusades :p
     
  11. Maimonides

    Maimonides Chieftain

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    Good point. That's why I said:

     
  12. Huayna Capac357

    Huayna Capac357 Chieftain

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    ??? That's not what I meant at all...
     
  13. MagisterCultuum

    MagisterCultuum Great Sage

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    Sunday is not the Sabbath, it is the Lord's Day. It was common for the early Christians to meet on this day because it was on the first day of the week that the resurrection happened. It was a day to meet with other Christians and have Communion, not a day subject to Jewish Shabbat regulations. Jesus himself had ordered his followers to meet like this "from time to time," but how often or on what days they did this was of no real significance.


    The official movement of the day of rest was made by Constantine in 321. He declared the day of the sun a day of rest under Roman Civil Law so as to promote the worship of Sol Invictus. He was still a pagan at the time, so this shouldn't really have any bearing on when the Sabbath was. It was just easier for Christians to follow that custom to avoid be associated with and persecuted along with the Jews.


    Observing the Sabbath was really part of the Jewish holiness code, not a commandment for all nations to follow. It is in the Ten Commandments, but there isn't really a reason for a non-Jew to those instead of just the Seven Noahide Laws.

    Islam also teaches that the Shabbat only applied to the Jews, but that it was good for believers to assemble together from time to time. Friday was chosen for this purpose, pretty arbitrarily as far as I can tell.
     
  14. Agent327

    Agent327 Observer

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    The essence of Jesus' teachings is - a very moral - humanity. (As is obvious from the Good Samaritan story; Samaritans were looked down upon somewhat. Strict obedience to the no activity - not: work - rule on the Sabbath could have some very immoral effects.) He put forgiveness above tradition and reasoned it well (He who is without sin, throweth the first stone - to punish the adulteress; very effective).

    The choice of Sunday over Saturday/Sabbath was one of the means by which early Christianity discerned itself from main Judaism. (Ultimately this would lead to some very virulent Christian antisemitism, but that is another matter. That 'the Jews' killed Jesus is one of the stories resulting from a complete misrepresentation of the reality of the event, although it goes back to the Pilate story - which is in the NT, as is the triple denial of Jesus by Peter. A very solid rock indeed.)
     
  15. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    I don't understand what you mean. You said that the claim in question is not in the Bible. I cited a verse from the Bible which makes the claim. End of story. It makes no difference whether you believe that one bit of the Bible "overrides" another bit. The question was only whether the claim was in the Bible, not whether it is authoritative or whatever. The Gospel of John is in the Bible no matter what attitude one adopts towards it, and no matter whether it reflects Jesus' attitudes or not (which, I might add, you seem to be terribly sure you know with certainty).

    What makes you so sure that "faith" and "reason" are incompatible, or contraries? Don't you know that many people (the Cambridge Platonists, for example) have identified the two? That doesn't mean they were right to do so, of course. But it does mean that the issue is not as simplistic and clear-cut as you suggest. I don't understand why you keep on making these strident claims without the slightest sense of nuance or indication that you think any alternative opinion might be reasonable.

    If by "belief in God" you mean a belief that there is a perfect being that exists objectively, then there are plenty of Christians who do not believe that.

    No it isn't! No truth, whether religious or not, can be proved false, because a truth is by definition true and not false. Of course there may be an argument that seeks to disprove a truth, but if it's really a truth, that argument must be unsound.

    I seem to remember that, previously, you used words like these in unconventional ways. Perhaps when you say "religious truth" you mean "religious belief". Well, a Catholic would simply say that Catholic beliefs cannot be proved false by reason alone, although certainly the beliefs of rival religions can be proved false. I don't see how this affects the issue at hand.

    Even if what you had just said were true, and any religious truth could be disproven, it wouldn't follow from that that religion is irraitonal and illogical. That would follow only if it is necessarily irrational and illogical to believe something that is false. But of course it isn't. I'd say that if one has good grounds for thinking that something has a good chance of being true, it is not irrational to believe that thing. This is consistent both with the belief actually being false and with the existence of arguments for its falsity.

    I've noticed that many people on these boards seem to define "irrationality" as "believing something that I think is untrue".

    That is an assertion. Why should we believe it?

    I didn't cite them as proof that religion is logical. I cited them as proof that religion is not necessarily illogical. You claimed that "believing doctrinal truth" and "thinking" were "mutually exclusive". In order to disprove this, I don't have to show that all believers think. I need provide examples only of some who do. If you assert that no cats are black, I don't have to prove that all cats are black in order to refute you. I need find only a single black cat. Aquinas and Scotus are both black cats, and there are plenty more out there for anyone to read who's interested in making informed judgements about this matter.

    Again, it's entirely relevant, since (a) the Catholic Church may be only one denomination, but I'd say it's rather an important one, and (b) even if it weren't, it's sufficient to disprove the claim that Christianity always teaches that faith must be illogical.

    You simply cannot make a universal assertion like that and then, when counter-examples are pointed out, dismiss them because they are not universal! That's like saying "Your example of a black cat does not disprove my claim that no cats are black, because it's just a single one!"

    I don't think there's any good reason to think that Constantine was still a pagan in 321 or that his decrees concerning Sunday were specifically intended to promote the worship of Sol Invictus. On the contrary, there are good reasons to think that Constantine was a sincere Christian at this time, although it would not follow from this that the legislation in question was motivated by Christian concerns.

    It's likely that many Christians in the early church observed both Saturday and Sunday. Many may even have attended a synagogue on Saturday and their own church meetings on the Sunday. However, as I've indicated before, little is known about this sort of thing.
     
  16. Birdjaguar

    Birdjaguar Entangled Retired Moderator Supporter

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    A strike to the heart of the matter. :lol:
     
  17. Agent327

    Agent327 Observer

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    Faith and reason aren't incompatible, they're just different. To me they are contradictory, yes. That is an opinion. And people can have different opinions, obviously. I do not claim - unlike the church - that my opinion is an absolute truth.

    I made no such premise. I just pointed out that the belief in God is what all Christians have in common, no matter each individual's definition of God (or lack thereof).

    I make a distinction between religious truth and truth as such; a religious truth can be true within that religious context and still be false. (In fact, religious truth already contains a premise.)

    You seem not to take into account that religion and faith have a very strong emotional content, which defies logic and reason. If what people believe were absolute truth (and could be proven to be), what point would there be to believing? One can simply prove it to be true, which would nullify any ground or reason for belief.

    Indeed, that was thoughtless of me; I should have use ratio or reason (i.e. pure thought) instead of just plain thinking. Anyway, certain aspects of religion - in fact the whole structure of it - may be reasonable and rationable, but in essence it is not; it is about feeling, i.e. emotion, which, by definition, is contrary to ratio and reason. That is not to say they cannot complement one another. (In fact, I think they should and do.)

    That's not an accurate representation of what I said; as I've stated above religious teachings may be perfectly logical and/or rational.

    I think it has been suggested, with good reason, why Sunday was chosen as the Christian holy day in the week; the Sol Invictus cult was a rival to early Christianity.

    Also, many Christians today observe mass on Saturday and Sunday.
     
  18. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    They're just different - I don't see what's so contradictory about them. If you use them together in some sort of a strange way to arrive at some sort of a conclusion, then yeah.. they might be. Say, for example, if you try to use faith to reason something about the world (for example, "I have faith that the Universe is a bagel")

    They're contradictory in certain situations, but not inherently so. You can make any two ideas contradictory if you think up the proper context.
     
  19. Berzerker

    Berzerker Warlord

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    Well, thats true for everything we know about Jesus. Its all hearsay at best... :goodjob: nitpicking

    Then he should have said all that instead of criticizing the would-be executioners of an adulterer by pointing to their hypocrisy. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone aint, "I'm not Roman, ask them".

    What Protestants do is irrelevant to Jesus criticizing Mosaic divorce law.

    Moses and his posse executed a man for gathering firewood on the Sabbath. Why do you keep confusing Christians with the authors and enforcers of the Torah?
     
  20. Dachs

    Dachs Hero of the Soviet Union

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    The historicity of Jesus isn't doubted. There are Talmudic references, mentions in Tacitus and Suetonius (which aren't that specific) and an extremely famous and specific statement in Josephus.
     
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