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Ask a Theologian II

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

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  1. Birdjaguar

    Birdjaguar Entangled Retired Moderator Supporter

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    Let me speculate: The Catholics say the Orthodox left the true faith and the Orthodox say the Catholics did.


    And Plotinus?

    Spoiler :
    He will side with the Orthodox. **xxx fingers***
     
  2. Masada

    Masada Koi-san!

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    Protestantism has always existed as well :mischief:
     
  3. Agent327

    Agent327 Observer

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    I could make another point out of this but, well, it seems we're in agreement.

    I'm rather disappointed to hear this, but I appreciate your elaborate response on this. Have you ever considered actually correcting Wikipedia when coming across such errors?

    Here I'm not entirely satisfied. You pointed out yourself that Constantine lacked knowledge of Greek to interfere in the proceedings of the Nicaea council (which, by the way, wasn't the only council summoned under his rule). Apart from this, what I gathered from Constantine id that his main interest was in having order in the empire, religion being being one item of dissension. As I view it, he tried his best to promote order, first by embracing Christianity, second by promoting unison in the church (thereby setting a dangerous, but ultimately futile precedent). Other than that, I gather that Constantine had little interest in religious matters, being the emperor - which by the early 4th century certainly was a full-time job, and a tough one at that. But in the final analysis I think I'd have to agree that Constantine did not see himself as the head as the church, leaving the church-state issue he created to be solved by posterity.

    So, let me conclude in agreeing with Erik Mesoy.:thumbsup:
     
  4. Dachs

    Dachs Hero of the Soviet Union

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    If I may: a brief elucidation from the point of a historian, not a theologian. Church practices naturally began to differ between East and West during what is often called the 'Dark Ages' (a term that is not well deserved), and a few minor schisms occurred with the Pope and the Patriarch of Constantinople excommunicating one another. The Acacian Schism was one early example of these, during the fifth century. In the 9th century, the patriarch Photios noticed that the Western Church's Latin Mass included a phrase in the Nicene Creed that wasn't in the original Greek; that was the filioque clause, and its inclusion meant that the Western Church was claiming that the Spirit proceeded from the Father and the Son as opposed to the Greek-speaking Church, which merely claimed that the Spirit proceeded from the Father. Pope Nicholas and Photios excommunicated each other, but with Photios' deposition and Nicholas' death their successors didn't feel the need to continue the squabble and the schism was abandoned, and formally healed late in the century.

    But this was a dangerous prelude, and matters came to a head again in the 1050s. A series of weak Byzantine Emperors following the death of Basileios II had allowed the Patriarchs to recoup some of their influence and authority. The most powerful of these was Michael Keroularios, who attempted to enforce Eastern practices more firmly through the Byzantine Empire's territories. This included the elimination of the filioque clause and of the use of unleavened bread in the Eucharist (something that was okay in the West and in Armenia but not to the Greek churches). Michael, having gotten a rather high opinion of himself due to his ability to assert himself apart from the Emperor, also apparently tried to claim that he had equal authority to the Pope. Leo IX, the Pope at the time, got tired of the crap Keroularios was pulling and sent legates to Constantinople that excommunicated the Patriarch, who in turn excommunicated the legates and the Pope.

    This was basically the same thing that had happened before, and there was every reason to assume that it would eventually blow over in the same way. But in 1204, the Fourth Crusade was launched, and Constantinople was sacked. The Greeks' sense that they had been betrayed by the Latins lasted for centuries, and was one of the things that impeded the attempts at church reunion during the 14th and 15th centuries. Union was formally accomplished at Lyon in 1274 by emissaries of Emperor Michael VIII Palaiologos, who had finally recaptured Constantinople in 1261 and who had managed to reconstitute a reasonably strong Byzantine state, but many clerics in the East repudiated it. Again, at Florence in 1439, there was a formal pronouncement of union, but it was mostly initiated, at least for the Easterners, by a desire for a crusade to break the backs of the Ottoman Empire and relieve some of the pressure on Constantinople. When the Crusade - that of Varna - failed and Mehmet II seized Constantinople, the game was up. In 1484, the Orthodoxals held a synod that repudiated the Florence union, which by and large was accepted by the Orthodox clergy, although some congregations, the Uniates, remained in formal union with the Latin Church after that. They have some politically correct name for themselves these days but I forget what it is.

    So, to make a long story short: Keroularios started it, but Leo excommunicated him first. :p
     
  5. Agent327

    Agent327 Observer

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    As Eran said: "How so?" Some elaboration would be in place here.

    It would seem that Spanish theologians offer some stiff competition for the epithet of most evil theologian ever. (I'm thinking Savonarola and that cleric - I forget his name... Batholomé Diaz? - who proposed using Africans instead of Indians as a workforce, the latter being prone to sickness, death and laziness.)
     
  6. flyingchicken

    flyingchicken 99 117 110 116 115

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    Holy other people answering things satisfactorily, Batman! But yeah Plotinus didn't give his reasons.
     
  7. Roger Pearse

    Roger Pearse Chieftain

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    I think that "early" tends to mean "ante-Nicene" to most people, so I would actually describe all this stuff as "late", myself. There are quite a lot of important differences between the two, and lots of people today don't really feel that the post-Nicene stuff is something they need to endorse.

    The major heresies of this later period are nearly all more or less political in inspiration. No political dissent of any sort was permitted in the Byzantine empire. But a certain amount of theological dissent was indeed allowed. Better yet -- if you were a Greek, eager to engage in agora politics -- you could summon councils and have votes to exile your enemies. As you may imagine, thus, every political issue and enmity of this period tended to take on a theological dress.

    We all remember that the Greeks were very keen on philosophy. But in these disputes, they could turn that love into theology. The majority of the argument in the 5-6th century is based around Aristotelean dialect. If you didn't know Aristotle, you couldn't take part.

    One consequence of all this was that all the works of Aristotle were translated into Syriac -- a late dialect of Aramaic-- which was the vernacular in Syria and Palestine and Iraq. Indeed so important was this, that he was translated not once, but twice, by different groups. Sergius of Resaina did the monophysite translation, before he went to Constantinople and decided to become a melkite instead. Since jobs and money and even lives could hinge on this, a real system of accurate translation was devised which affects all translations from Greek into Syriac. When Arabic came along, because it is a related language to Syriac, the same process continued. This is how Greek science got to the Arabs, and why the translations are generally rather good. I mention all of this as it seems to be little known to most people.

    As you probably know, prior to Jacob's journeys around the Near East, the Chalcedonians and Monophysites did not have separate church organisations. Both were struggling for control of the same organisation. But after the accession of Justin I and the exile of monophysites like Severus of Antioch in 517, it became clear that the Monophysites had lost.

    So Jacob went around and created the whole Monophysite "alternative church." I don't really see how his work can be underestimated. The monophysites exist today because of his work as an organiser, which preserved and gave structural form and identity to the church. It rendered useless the imperial persecutions, which were in the process of eliminating all the monophysite senior clergy, and acted as a focus for national identity in Egypt and Syria. Without it the history of those parts might have been different. By 600, conceivably both regions would have been Chalcedonian, at least in theory. If so, the Moslem conquest in the 640's would have met stiffer opposition from a population and forces united under the emperor, and it is possible that they might have been kicked out of Egypt again. The Greeks did reoccupy Alexandria, some years afterthe surrender of 642. Then again probably some other "heresy" would have been invented to reflect the rivalry between Constantinople and Alexandria. Who knows?

    I suppose it's the sort of question that people get set as an essay question.

    All the best,

    Roger Pearse
     
  8. Roger Pearse

    Roger Pearse Chieftain

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    I don't know whether Plotinus has, but I have tried this, and indeed created a few articles myself.

    What tends to happen -- certainly on the Mithras article -- is that you get pitched into an edit war with some poster who knows nothing about the subject except a bit of hearsay and he promptly reverts your edits. If you remove rubbish he reinserts it; if you start adding referenced statements from reliable sources, he starts posting stuff culled from some terrible source with "references" to that. As a rule he also accuses you of bias against whatever bigotry he is peddling. The Mithras article, for instance has stuff from a book by one "Martin Larson" quoted as an authority. Larson is merely a polemicist repeating ignorant hearsay so I've edited it out in the past, yet it's still there.

    Sadly it's almost entirely futile to edit out errors in Wikipedia when there is some bigot or bigots perched on top of the article, as there always is on matters of political or religious controversy.

    That said, Wikipedia is getting better. The demand for references is improving things.

    All the best,

    Roger Pearse
     
  9. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    I can't really add much to what Roger Pearse said to this. I do know that it's rather hard to assess because there is obviously a lot of legendary material associated with Baradaeus. He is said to have consecrated 120,000 priests, which sounds pretty unlikely. And we don't really know where he went or precisely what he did during his extensive travels. His achievement was certainly enormous though, however he did it.

    Dachs answered this well too. The simple answer is that they split from each other.

    Sometimes. But I do find it a fairly futile activity, for the reasons that Roger Pearse mentions. I haven't become involved in any reversion wars of the kind he describes, but then I've rarely been really bothered enough about Wikipedia to try. I have rewritten one or two articles. I remember being shocked when I read the entry on "Pope Joan", which actually argued that she was real (the myth was debunked long ago). So I completely rewrote that one. I haven't looked at it since - hopefully some conspiracy theorist hasn't reverted it.

    Much of this is right, but I don't agree with this claim you sometimes hear that Constantine converted to Christianity for political reasons or to promote unity. That would have been a baffling thing to do. Christianity was very much a minor concern at the time (with, perhaps, one in ten Romans being Christians) and Christians were divided among themselves. I cannot imagine why Constantine might have thought it could be an agent of unity for the whole empire. If he had wanted to unite everyone under a single cult, it would have made more sense to choose one more closely related to traditional religion, such as his own favoured cults of the sun or Apollo.

    The most sensible way to promote order in the empire, from a religious point of view, would have been simply to let everyone get on with whatever religion they wanted and stop trying to persecute people. That is, more or less, what Constantine's father, Constantius I, and his rival, Maxentius, did. It is also what Constantine himself did prior to 312. And, in fact, it mostly what he continued to do after that point, because although he favoured and promoted Christianity, he very probably did not enact any legislation against paganism (this, again, would be left to his sons). So it is hard, really, to see how his conversion to Christianity could have been intended to promote order; no doubt Constantine would have continued to tolerate Christians had he remained a pagan, just as he tolerated pagans when he became a Christian. Surely the most plausible explanation for Constantine's conversion is also the most obvious - he was convinced that Christianity was true.

    That is the traditional view - at least of Catholics! Actually there's a lot of disagreement over how responsible Cerularius really was and how much he should be blamed. There has been quite a movement to rehabilitate him. For one thing, it's not clear that he was trying to set himself up as a rival to the pope. It was another case of meaning being lost in translation: the translation which Leo IX was given of "ecumenical patriarch" was something like "patriarch of the entire universe", which wasn't exactly Cerularius' meaning but which understandably annoyed the pope. Most of the controversy actually revolved around the azymites (the use of unleavened bread in the Eucharist), which was not simply a liturgical but a theological dispute. The Byzantines claimed that leaven should be used, because Jesus had likened the kingdom of God to leaven. The Latins claimed that it should not be used, because Jesus had likened the Pharisees and Sadducees to leaven. Perhaps more importantly, leaven represents life and vitality, which was another reason the Byzantines thought it important to use. At any rate, Cerularius was keen to enforce uniformity of practice throughout his own territories, and the fact that the Armenians had recently been conquered by the empire made this a pressing matter. So his dispute with the Latins was really a result of his trying to impose uniformity upon the Armenians.

    It's true that Cerularius was a pretty forceful character, though. It all ended for him when he started walking around in purple boots, like the emperor, which was just going too far.

    Also, I believe that "Michael Cerularius" actually means "Mickey Blue-Eyes", which I like.

    I thought that giving the title "Reichsbishof" might be a clue!

    Savonarola was Italian, and I wouldn't really class him as a theologian. Also, he's hardly up there in the evil league. He was obviously a dangerous nutter, and it's incredible that he managed to gain the influence he did, but still I'd call him more of a fanatic than outright evil.

    I think the other chap you're thinking of is Las Casas. I wouldn't call him evil at all - in fact he was, on the whole, extremely good, although naive and idealistic. Have a look here for a brief overview of what he did. He devoted most of his life to trying to improve the lot of the native Americans who had been enslaved, and denouncing the abuses carried out by the invaders. You can read his famous description of the conquest of the Americans here. He was one of the originators of the notion that the natives were utterly virtuous and innocent and the invaders completely wicked, which was obviously a little naive, but you can still see how he sought to defend those who had suffered and denounce those who had enslaved them. He did not, perhaps, go far enough - he did not oppose the institution of slavery itself. But just compare him to the people he was struggling against, who believed that the native Americans were not human at all and deserved to be enslaved. And, yes, big points against Las Casas for the idea of importing Africans to work instead of the native Americans. But he didn't suggest it because he thought they'd make better slaves, as you imply, but because he thought they would suffer less. Obviously that was wrong. And to his credit, Las Casas himself realised this. When he saw how badly the African slaves were treated, he changed his mind and campaigned against the use of them.

    Now you might have more of a case for "most evil theologian" in the case of Las Casas' opponents, such as Juan Gines Sepulveda. Sepulveda and Las Casas had a famous debate at Valladolid in 1550-51 to discuss the rights of the native Americans (or rather, whether they had rights at all). Las Casas argued that they did and that they were more civilised than the Spanish. Sepulveda thought otherwise. This was his view (taken from his work The second Democrates:

    I'd still say that Müller was more evil though. Sepulveda and those like him were more ignorant than malicious, I think, and their other views were not as appalling. Whereas Müller had a completely abhorrent theology from start to finish, which was deliberately designed and put into the service of a fundamentally racist and fascist ideology.
     
  10. Perfection

    Perfection The Great Head.

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    Have you seen this?
    http://www.thebricktestament.com/

    Do you absolutely love it with all your heart?

    Do you loathe it?

    What little biblical literacy I have I got from that. How badly is it screwing me up?
     
  11. Fifty

    Fifty !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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    Could you point me to theological sources on the 7 deadly sins (besides Aquinas)?
     
  12. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    Lego makes anything better.

    Obviously the Bible is better in the original Klingon.

    The Seven Deadly Sins go back to Evagrius Ponticus and his Eight Generic Thoughts. Here's a summary of who Evagrius was:

    Evagrius diagnosed the main problem of the monk as logismoi or "thoughts" which constantly arise unbidden. The term logismoi does not normally have negative connotations, but in Evagrius it does. For Evagrius, these thoughts distract the monk from God. It is not sinful simply to have the thoughts, because they appear whether you want them to or not - and Evagrius thinks that they are stirred up by demons acting upon the brain. Sin occurs when you deliberately entertain the thoughts or act upon their prompting.

    And there are eight kinds of thought (and, correspondingly, eight kinds of demon): gluttony, fornication, avarice, sadness, anger, acedia (or listlessness), vainglory, and pride.

    The western monastic writer John Cassian almost certainly studied under Evagrius when he lived in the Egyptian desert, although he never mentions Evagrius in his writings. These writings, which Cassian produced in Gaul after leaving Egypt, were incredibly influential on western monasticism. In them, Cassian recounted long conversations with the desert fathers in Egypt and laid down his own rules for monastic life. In the course of this he repeated Evagrius' taxonomy of the eight generic thoughts.

    Later, Gregory the Great - who was well versed in Cassian - revised the list to produce the familiar Seven Deadly Sins. Sadness and vainglory were dropped, and envy added to the list.
     
  13. Moss

    Moss CFC Scribe Retired Moderator

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    Plotinus, I had a friend send me a link to a site

    http://www.believers.org/believe/bel191.htm

    obviously, many of the claims in there are ridiculous, but the following caught my eye:

    Your thoughts on the claims, and any links to evidence that disputes those claims? I ask because I'd like to dispute the site, but my saying simply "those statements are inaccurate" won't fly.
     
  14. Birdjaguar

    Birdjaguar Entangled Retired Moderator Supporter

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    First, you cannot disprove things like the parting of the Red Sea or Lot's wife being turned into a pillar of salt. So, bible literalists get a free pass to claim them as "true and historical". If you insist that they prove those types of events, they cannot, but use the bible as sufficient eveidence for truth.

    Then, since archaeology does support many events from the bible, they get to claim those also as being true, which supports the claim for the other items also being true. One approach is to ask them to establish the standards by which one can know whether something is true or that something is not true. You can also ask who sets those standards and whether or not the standards change. From ther it is a simple matter of applying those standards to both biblical evetns and non biblical events. when the standards fail to support a biblical event or creates a contradiction between the bible and RL, you see how they change the standards to make it all fit.

    In a well managed discussion, they will eventually fall back to a position of "because I believe it to be so."
     
  15. Maimonides

    Maimonides Chieftain

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    That site mentions history & archaeology, but COMPLETELY ignores geology & biology...

    Geology has proven without doubt that the earth was never totally flooded & is much older than the biblical chronology.

    Any idiot who has had a flu vaccination or has seen a dog knows that Darwin was on to something.

    The purpose of history & archaeology is not to prove or disprove the Bible. It is simply to learn from the past.

    Drop that "friend." Life is too short & there are lots of interesting, rational people out there.
     
  16. pau17

    pau17 Chieftain

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    To what extent are readings of Islamic philosophers/theologians included in your personal canon of theology with which you do your work? If any such generalization can be made, how does your discipline approach Islamic philosophy/theology?
     
  17. Agent327

    Agent327 Observer

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    The correct translation would be mortal sins, though.

    "The bible is historically correct. No one has ever proved otherwise."

    First: the bible is not a history book, nor a science book.
    Second: if someone claims that the bible is historically correct, the burden of proof lies with the claimant.

    That is not to say that there aren't things in the bible that are historically correct (because certain events are), but things like "In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God" and the genealogies ("Methusalem lived a 1,000 years..." make it quite clear that the authors weren't going for historical correctness in the first place. Assertions like 'God created the heavens and the earth' and on the 7th day he did rest' is neither historical nor scientific, but mythological.
     
  18. Eran of Arcadia

    Eran of Arcadia Stormin' Mormon Retired Moderator

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    I believe the Bible to be historically true to a degree a lot of people don't, but even I see nothing spectacular about the ability of the authors of the Bible to correctly describe events contemporaneous to them.
     
  19. Eretz Yisrael

    Eretz Yisrael Korean Conscript

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    I suggest that everybody read the book ' Readings in Christian Theology' by Hodgson King (good book for noobs)before making any assumptions(I'm not saying anyone inthe thread is making assumptions)
    Um....anybody remember the whole embarrasment with the 'Red Sea' when it was supposed to be the 'Sea of Reeds'? Or the fact that the United Kingdom of Judah and Israel probably didnt exist?
    (Fellow Christians dont hate me for pointing it out, but there have been certain guides written by theologians as to how to interpret the Bible; try taking Revelations word for word.......)
     
  20. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    As others have said, the claim that archaeology has never disproved the Bible may sound impressive, but it doesn't really come to much. How could archaeology do so? There's plenty of non-archaeological evidence which contradicts the Bible. The classic example is Matthew's claim that Jesus was born shortly before the death of Herod the Great, and Luke's claim that Jesus was born when Quirinius was legate of Syria. But excellent non-biblical testimony indicates that Herod died in 4 BC and Quirinius was legate of Syria in AD 6. So at least one of Matthew and Luke must be wrong. See here for an exhaustive discussion of this problem.

    The page you link to is full of nonsensical claims which do not deserve serious response. I had a go at some near the beginning, but became too exasperated to waste any more of my precious time after the first few:

    I've already given a link to a page which does precisely this.

    That's nonsense. Even if it were true that all those books agree with each other, that could be explained perfectly well by supposing that the authors of the later books had read the earlier ones.

    Paul was not a "rabbi". He was a Pharisee. Many of the other references here assume the traditional authorship of many of the biblical books, but these are not accepted by most experts today.

    There isn't perfect unity between the books of the Bible. You only have to search online for a few seconds to find long lists of contradictions between them. See here, for example, on the well-known contradictions between the books of Kings and Chronicles.

    As I said before, even if there were no such contradictions, you don't have to invoke divine inspiration to explain it. I've no doubt that all of the Star Trek books out there agree with each other and do not contradict each other, but it doesn't follow that (a) they have a single author, or that (b) the events they describe actually happened.

    That doesn't mean that the author is claiming that the text he writes is divinely inspired, obviously. It means only that he is claiming to have experienced some divine inspiration, which he is recording. That is not the same thing. And even if the authors were claiming that their texts were divinely inspired, it would not follow that they are. The Koran claims to be inspired by God but it doesn't follow that it is.

    Why not? Do you think that no-one ever believes lies?

    Besides, it is not true that either the Bible is full of lies or it is completely true. It could be that it contains many things that are not true, but which the authors believed to be true. They might have been honestly mistaken. That is not the same thing as lying.

    Of course they have. Read Jeremiah 36:30 and then 2 Kings 24:6. Or read Ezekiel 26-28, a long and detailed account of the destruction of Tyre at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar, which never happened (he besieged the city but failed to take it).

    Of course, where some biblical books do describe "future" events accurately, the obvious explanation is that those books were in fact written later.

    It started getting even stupider after this and I gave up. Sites such as that one do Christianity no favours. Their childish claims are so obviously idiotic that they give the impression that you would have to be an idiot to be a Christian. That is not true, but you wouldn't know it from reading something like that. If there really is a God he must despair of some of his followers.

    I don't understand what you're trying to say. What assumptions? What exactly are you talking about with the Red Sea and Judah and Israel? What "guides written by theologians" are you talking about, and are commending or criticising them?
     
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