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Ask a Theologian II

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

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  1. Eran of Arcadia

    Eran of Arcadia Stormin' Mormon Retired Moderator

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    I read a survey somewhere online yesterday that said about half of all Americans had either switched religion or left religion entirely as adults at some point in their lives.
     
  2. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    I have been trying to think of an answer to this but I can't. If I were being wanky I'd say 2001 or A clockwork orange or something like that, but fortunately I'm not. I remember that Priest seemed pretty good. But there aren't really all that many films about religion, and most that exist are shallow or one-sided.

    I think that this is right as far as it goes, although it doesn't exactly answer the question because it supposes that "atheism" means "lack of religion", which is not the case. The Jacobins were anti-religion but they weren't atheists, and Therevada Buddhists are religious atheists. It seems to be the case that most societies develop religion at a very early stage - religion seems to be a sort of "given" for human society. And most religions, especially most early or primitive (in a non-pejorative sense) religions have strong supernaturalist elements. Why this may be is a matter for debate, of course, but it is hard to deny that it is the case. Under those circumstances, the development of atheism would naturally be contrary to society and take a long time.

    That can only be half of the story though. After all, there are all kinds of features of primitive societies that often get lost in their later history, without so much difficulty. A tribal social or political system is also a very common element of primitive societies, and this has persisted in some more advanced societies but been lost in others. So why has a belief in the supernatural tended to persist far more, and been more vigorously defended when under attack? There might be all sorts of reasons for that; I suppose the most obvious is that such a belief provides some kind of psychological benefit to people that makes them extremely reluctant to give it up, in a way that is not the case with other beliefs or social elements. And if you want to know why that is, you would have to study the ways in which theism or related beliefs function within the cognitive framework, and wider practical context, of those who hold them. To put it another way, someone who believes in God does not, typically, merely hold that the proposition "There is a God" is true, as someone who believes in the planet Mercury holds that the proposition "There is a planet Mercury" is true. The belief in God has wider ramifications than that for the rest of that person's belief structure, and still wider ramifications for their understanding of themself, the world, their place in it, and the way they are to behave. It is a matter not simply of cognitive belief but of a moral and existential attitude. That is what "faith" means, and it is something that is very difficult for people to give up.
     
  3. ExtraCrispy

    ExtraCrispy Chieftain

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    What's constant prayer?
     
  4. Atticus

    Atticus Chieftain Retired Moderator

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    I've been puzzled about Jesus' words on the cross: "father forgive them, for they know what they are doing". First of all, in what sense they don't know what they are doing? They don't know they are crucifying an innocent man, or they don't know they're part of salvation that way? If the latter, why they need to be forgiven? Aren't they really doing a good deed there.

    We could also imagine, what would be the case if people would have known what they are doing: Shouldn't they also then crucify Jesus?

    To tell the truth it seems to me Jesus is playing some kind of double role in the bible, sometimes he is the Messiah, and sometimes just an example of a victim (which I suppose originate form the fact that he was a historical figure who was thought to be divine). I'm curious, do you get that same feeling, or is it only my lack of education on the matter?

    Also I'm curious that Jesus speks to the Father, if they are both (parts of) the same God. I remember he also prayed before being captured. Are the words directed to the crowd, or are they meant as a communication with .... a part of himself?

    Have you seen A Man for All Seasons, which tells about Thomas More, and therefore probably touches religion too? I've been going to watch it as well as the Message, which tells about Muhammed (the prophet).
     
  5. Eran of Arcadia

    Eran of Arcadia Stormin' Mormon Retired Moderator

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    I always thought he meant, "they have no idea that this is the Son of God they just killed here. They also don't know that they only got this far because I let them. They thought they were just dealing with a potential rebel."
     
  6. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    I always took it as a "Dad, I know you're annoyed with them, but this really needed to happen, you know that!" type of thing.

    Which on one hand makes sense, but on the other, it doesn't.
     
  7. Atticus

    Atticus Chieftain Retired Moderator

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    That's what I used to think too, but wouldn't that knowledge make the killing desirable, as it's part of what has to happen? If they don't know what they are doing, they are killing a man with bad justification. If they knew what they are doing, they would do it to help salvation happen (there's some other possibilities too, but I'll have to think them little more).

    I'm not good at explaining this, but it seems like that interpretation holds in it the tought that Jesus was just a man, but much better than other, killed for crime he didn't do, and that's everything that happens when he is crucified. In christian view on the other hand his crucifixion isn't just unjust sentence.

    It also seems to contain a thought which people seem to hold even they didn't say it aloud: that people are to be judged for what they are, not what they have done. In this case the punishers should know that they are crucifying the Messiah, that he is so good, that he shouldn't be punished, although the punishment should depend on whether he did the crime or not. That is if we allow punishing in general.

    (Well, of course if he was innocent on everything, he was innocent on this crime too, but it feels to me it isn't this kind of logic behind that thought, but rather some kind of "secret nobility").

    It seems this relates to the question I askded before about aesthetic qualities of Christ: There's some part of christianity, which seems to state only that Jesus was really good fellow, kind of Hero like Akhilleus or Zinedine Zidane.
     
  8. flyingchicken

    flyingchicken 99 117 110 116 115

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    Was the spread of Christianity inevitable, so much so that it would end up predominant in Europe even without the policies of tolerance and intolerance, among other things, by the Roman emperors since Constantine?
     
  9. Agent327

    Agent327 Observer

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    That kind of comes with the medium. What's essential to religion cannot be properly shown through imagery.

    Nothing is ever inevitable; that is a deterministic viewpoint. (Nothing wrong with that, but the "victory" of Christianity was certainly not inevitable.)

    Some very good questions here.

    First, in a sense, no man knows what he's doing. Second, since the crucifixion is a Roman act, it stands to reason Jesus is actually asking forgiveness for his "enemies" (referring to an important aspect in Jesus' teachings). Third, he may be referring to mankind in general.

    As to salvation: all participants in the story (actually: stories) of Jesus life play a rather vital part, either as villains or heroes, or somewhere in between (like Peter), as in all good stories. (But I doubt that Jesus, while on the cross, being human, would be referring to the bigger picture; remember his exclamation "My God, my God, why hast Thou foresaken me?")

    As to Jesus speaking to His Father, while being God himself, there's two answers to that: according to the Trinity doctrine Jesus was fully human, mortal and unaware of his identity with God. On another level, the Christian doctrine of the H. Trinity hadn't come into being yet. (Plotinus has mentioned that the necessary terms - Father, Son, H. Spirit - where available at Jesus' time, but the formulation of the doctrine itself hadn't occurred yet. Which leads me to the conclusion that Jesus couldn't have been aware of it; it would also be in contradiction of that very doctrine, as it states that Jesus was fully human, therefore he could not have had knowledge of things beyond himself - other than those that were known at his own lifetime.)

    So I have to disagree with the interpretations provided by Eran of arcadia, warpus and Atticus.

    I'll leave it at that, as I'm sure Plotinus has something to say about all of this.
     
  10. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    Praying constantly, I suppose. I'm not sure exactly what you're referring to here!

    You need to specify the context you're asking about. You could mean any of the following:

    (1) What the historical Jesus himself meant when he said this.
    (2) What Luke meant when he attributed this saying to Jesus.
    (3) What the Christian church takes the saying to mean.

    In the case of (1), we don't know that Jesus actually said this, and if he did, it is impossible to know really what he meant. In the case of (2), the obvious interpretation would seem to me to be that the Roman soldiers don't know that Jesus is innocent of the crimes with which he is charged, and they don't know that they are executing an innocent person. In the case of (3), I should think the interpretation would be that they don't know they are killing God himself.

    There's no contradiction between being the Messiah and being a victim! I'm not sure what you're getting at, though. Certainly the different biblical authors have different understandings of Jesus. There is no clear teaching about Jesus' identity in the New Testament as a whole. This is why it took Christian theology a long time to sort it out. It is also, perhaps, why Christian theology eventually decided that Jesus was, uniquely, not one kind of thing but two kinds of thing (God and human being) at the same time. So on that view, a "double role" is exactly the right way of understanding Jesus.

    Again, are you asking this from the viewpoint of the historical Jesus, or the Gospel writers, or Christian orthodoxy? With the historical Jesus, presumably he did pray, but what his psychological state at the time was, we cannot know. The Gospel writers do not, for the most part, seem to think of Jesus as divine, so there is no contradiction involved. John does seem to think of Jesus as divine in some sense, but still as distinct from the Father, although he does not explain how this is possible. Christian orthodoxy holds that Jesus is identical with the second Person of the Trinity, the Son. He is thus distinct from the first Person of the Trinity, the Father. The Son can address the Father without any kind of contradiction. They are not parts of the same God, though. God cannot be divided into parts. Each of the three Persons is fully God and possesses the entirety of divinity.

    I haven't seen it, although I have read a few bits of it. I do know that it's amazingly unhistorical (More wasn't some kind of humble martyr but a nutcase who had himself ordered plenty of people to be killed for their religious views!).

    As JELEEN said, nothing in history is inevitable. I should add that its spread in Europe really had very little to do with Constantine and his successors, given that the reason Europe is Christian is that the barbarians converted to Christianity, and that had nothing to do with Constantine and everything to do with missionaries such as Ulfilas.

    No, you're making quite a few mistakes here I'm afraid. First - and as I've said before - the doctrine of the Trinity says nothing about Jesus. The doctrine of the Trinity states only that God exists as three Persons - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. That tells us nothing about Jesus' humanity or his knowledge. It is the doctrine of the incarnation that states that one of the divine Persons, namely the Son, became human with all that that entails. These two doctrines are quite distinct. Someone could believe in the Trinity without believing in the incarnation, and someone could believe in an incarnation without believing in a Trinity.

    Second, the doctrine of the incarnation does not state that Jesus was unaware of his own divinity. On the contrary, the orthodox view is that Jesus was aware of his own divinity. Indeed, as we were discussing a while ago, the orthodox Catholic view is that Jesus knew everything that any human being could know. Now many people today find this unsatisfactory for various reasons, and hold instead that Jesus was ignorant of may things. There are various ways of accounting for this. One is the "kenotic" model, according to which, when the Son became human he actually gave up many divine properties, such as omniscience or omnipotence. Another is the "two minds" model, according to which Jesus had a human mind and also a divine mind. His divine mind was omniscient but his human mind was ignorant of many things.

    Personally I don't see why the doctrine of Jesus' full humanity would entail that he was ignorant of many things. I'm not convinced that it is an essential property of human beings that they be ignorant. Certainly there are other reasons to prefer a model of the incarnation according to which Christ was ignorant of many things - such as (a) its greater plausibility, (b) its greater fit with the Gospels, and (c) its greater fit with the notion that Jesus was really like us - but I don't think the doctrine of his true humanity is one of them.
     
  11. Agent327

    Agent327 Observer

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    1) I thought that the Son of the H. Trinity doctrine is the same person as Jesus. If Jesus was (not is) aware of his own divinity, why are there no references to this in any of the 4 Gospels? (And if there are, would you mind pointing them out?) That the doctrine of the incarnation refers to Jesus only seemed so obvious to me that I'm afraid I forewent its explicit mention. (And I disagree with your contention that the two doctrines are unrelated: there's only one incarnation of God according to Christian doctrine, and that is Jesus as the Son of God. They may be distinct doctrines, but the second has little, if any, meaning without the first.)

    2) Being aware of one's divinity and knowing everything that a human might know are two entirely different and, to a point even contradictory, contentions. (Why he should be ignorant I cannot answer. Jesus may, at some point, have become concinced of being the son of God - in a literal sense -; there are some indications of this in the Gospels. This is, however, something different from being aware of one's own divinity - which, to me at least, seems contradictory to being fully human - the latter being a necessary condition for his death.)

    I apologize for identifying Jesus' (un)awareness of his divinity with the Trinity doctrine (I believe I mentioned earlier its intricacies are somewhat beyond me). I'd like to state again that anything I post is a personal opinion and subject to correction by, for instance, Plotinus, who obviously has greater knowledge of theology than a lay person like myself.
     
  12. Eran of Arcadia

    Eran of Arcadia Stormin' Mormon Retired Moderator

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    It's hardly surprising that you disagreed with my interpretation, as I was speaking as a Christian.
     
  13. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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  14. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    Yes, that's right.

    There aren't - at least, there aren't any unequivocal ones, although some might argue that there are a few in John's Gospel (He who has seen me has seen the Father, etc). But why does this matter? The mere fact that the Gospels do not record any statement of Jesus claiming that he is divine does not, in itself, mean that he didn't believe himself to be divine. No doubt Jesus believed himself to have feet, but there is no mention of this belief in the Gospels.

    The doctrine that Jesus was (a) divine and (b) aware of his divinity is based not upon historical data but upon theological data and religious experience. It's not really got anything to do with the Gospels. (Some would argue otherwise, of course, but in my view they would be on shaky ground in doing so.)

    Well, we've been over this before, so there's no point rehashing it. I didn't say that the doctrines are unrelated, only that they are distinct and should not be confused. Also, it would be more accurate to say that in Christian doctrine the Son is incarnate as Jesus, not that Jesus is incarnate as the Son (the title Son of God is inherently confusing and should be avoided in this sort of context). He was the Son before he became Jesus.

    They may be distinct, but surely if Jesus knew everything that a human person can know, and if he was divine, then he must have known that he was divine, because that is knowable by human beings. It is, after all, something that many Christians claim to know.

    As I said, the term "Son of God" is too confusing to use in this context, especially if you give it a literal meaning, which would be quite incompatible with Christian orthodoxy. At any rate, it may be that being fully divine and being fully human are incompatible (this is a hoary old subject of debate), although I think one needs to provide an argument for this position. Also, being fully human is surely not a necessary condition for being able to die, since cats can die without being fully human. Christian theology holds that Jesus was fully human not because this was necessary for him to die, but because it was necessary if divinity and humanity were to be truly united in his person - and this is necessary because it is essential to salvation.
     
  15. Atticus

    Atticus Chieftain Retired Moderator

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    I meant what do churches think about those things. My question was terribly bad articulated though, partly because I haven't yet myself thought out properly what it is about. I just have weird feeling that something is wrong, like somebody in a crime novel thinking that the data doesn't match, but unable to say what it is.

    Ok, but if we assumed that they knew what they were doing, shouldn't they still do it? Jesus' purpose on the earth was to get crucified, so wouldn't it be a bad thing not to put him on the cross? So the ignorance wouldn't be alleviating thing in this case, but rather the only thing that makes the crucifixion a sin. That's why it seemed to me there would be plenty of speculation on the meaning of these words.

    On the other hand, it would make sense, if he was talking about people in general, since pretty much of the bad things people do seem to be results of that they don't know what they are doing.

    Yes, but some parts, like when Jesus is on the cross, seem to portray him as only human. The phrases "forgive them, for they know not what they are doing" and "my god, why have you forsaken me?" seem to suggest this.

    Not only the content of these phrases suggests it, but also that he says them aloud, unless he is not saying them just for the public.

    This thought of his double role is not problematic for me though, since it's exactly what I think about Jesus: he was just a man, who was thought to be god. I was thinking how the church have dealed with this issue, but then realized that it isn't a probelm for them either, since they don't have to think Jesus actually said so, they can think he had some unknwon motivation to say so, and most of all, it's too vague thing to be problem.

    So I guess my question isn't probably worth of much consideration after all. Thanks for the answer though.
     
  16. Fifty

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

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    Could you make some general remarks on the doctrine of divine simplicity?

    -What (essentially) is it?
    -What motivated its adoption? Was it a natural outgrowth of some historical view, a piece of revealed theology, or was there some philosophical reason for its adoption?
     
  17. HannibalBarka

    HannibalBarka We are Free

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    The switching religion in that case is, I suppose, in 99% of the cases a change between two christian denominations, which is not that "big" of a change (well at least seen form outside the Christian faith). I wonder how many people in general change religion in a big way like muslims becoming christians, hindu becoming muslims, etc
     
  18. Eran of Arcadia

    Eran of Arcadia Stormin' Mormon Retired Moderator

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    I don't recall that the article said.

    (In terms of actual doctrine, changing between Christian denominations isn't that big a deal. But it has effects on one's family and social life that may be huge.)
     
  19. flyingchicken

    flyingchicken 99 117 110 116 115

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  20. Imperialmajesty

    Imperialmajesty Chieftain

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    What is your opinion of the interaction between Zoroastrianism and Judaism? Did Zoroastrianism influence Judaism significantly?

    Also, what was the nature of pre-Babylonian Captivity Judaism? From my readings of the bible, I sense that Judaism was perhaps a Henotheistic religion at one time.

    Forgive me if anything I said is idiotic or insane.
     
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