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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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    That assumes that the universe is created solely for our benefit... No doubt we will never see most of the universe, let alone go there, but why should that mean it has no intrinsic value, or that God might not like it for some other reason? Even if the whole universe is lifeless apart from our planet, why would that make it worthless or redundant? What's so amazing about life that makes it valuable and its absence valueless?

    An alternative answer that someone might give if they really do think that the whole universe exists solely for our benefit would be that in fact all those parts we will never see are essential for our existence, although it might not be obvious. Perhaps the universe has to be constructed in a certain way to make it capable of supporting life, and perhaps that requires the existence of innumerable other galaxies and things even though they have no obvious effect on us. Since we don't really understand how universes work, we can't know that this isn't the case.
     
  2. Perfection

    Perfection The Great Head.

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    Perhaps God only wanted them for us to enjoy thier beauty!
     
  3. Eran of Arcadia

    Eran of Arcadia Stormin' Mormon Retired Moderator

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    Maybe God's sense of aesthetics involves billions of galaxies.

    (As I believe they are inhabited, anyways, it doesn't matter that much to me.)
     
  4. Elrohir

    Elrohir RELATIONAL VALORIZATION

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    Maybe He enjoys the act of creation? According to the Bible, man is made in God's image, and we tend to create an awful lot of stuff using all sorts of materials. I mean, if you could create galaxies and planets and quasars and black holes and nebulas, wouldn't you want to? I know I would; that sounds like a lot of fun. ;)
     
  5. The Last Conformist

    The Last Conformist Irresistibly Attractive

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    This answer would seem to deny omnipotence. I can think of a few reasons why a universe like ours might need be very large (galaxy-sized, at least) to support life*, but an omnipotent god should be able to design a different one: there's no logical contradiction inherent in life in a small universe.


    * I'm assuming a roughly deistic deity, who lets the universe evolve mostly on its own. A constantly interfering deity happy to sustain his creation with continual miracles should be capable to maintain life in a universe consisting of just my apartment, my memories of having been outside it being the result of constant fiddling with the boundary conditions, much like the air coming in through the windows, the pizza delivery guy, and history before last thursday.
     
  6. Perfection

    Perfection The Great Head.

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    I really don't see how this would problematic for a benevolent God to create a universe full of galaxies that may never be colonized. The idea that extra universe is somehow a "waste of space" neglects the fact that God can make as much space as He damn well pleases. So any reason no matter how trivial can be used to justify it. The fact that galaxies are often strickinngly beautiful objects strikes me as valid enough for this case.
     
  7. The Last Conformist

    The Last Conformist Irresistibly Attractive

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    I didn't mean to imply that the size of the universe is or is not a problem for classical theism, only that Plotinus's answer is. :)
     
  8. Perfection

    Perfection The Great Head.

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    I wasn't addresssing adressing you specifically.
     
  9. shortguy

    shortguy It's a working title

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    That may be true, but God has no real reason to prefer a small universe, either. it matters than all the faraway stuff has a purpose, not that it could be done no other way.
     
  10. Atticus

    Atticus Chieftain Retired Moderator

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    This came as a surprise to me, and I just checked Finnish Evangelic Lutheran church's website, if there were information about it. I would be very amazed, if even 1% of Lutherans believed that commuinon was something else than just a symboilc ritual (at least in Nordic countries, which is understandable, as most of them aren't religious anyway). The official doctrine of church is of course a different thing, and I didn't find anything definitive about it. I'll see if there's some place where people can ask.

    Continuing little a question you (Plotinus) answered in the previous thread: Do christians think it is essential to repent your sins in order to avoid Hell? Why is it necessary? What counts as repenting?
     
  11. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    And maybe she lost a bet.
     
  12. Perfection

    Perfection The Great Head.

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    Why are religious beliefs so deeply held?
     
  13. holy king

    holy king Chieftain

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    you know this feeling when suddenly the whole universe and everything makes sense and seems clear to you? when there's no doubt about anything and you just know you understand why and how?

    i guess if you then make yourself believe you just found god it becomes a quite deep belief...
     
  14. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    There's often a difference - sometimes a big difference - between what people "officially" believe (according to their church's statement of faith) and what they "actually" believe. I doubt you'll find many Anglicans who think that all pub owners are damned, for example (it's in the 33rd of the 39 Articles). In this case, I think the Augsburg Confession is fairly basic for all Lutheran churches, but it's a bit vague:

    That rules out Zwinglianism (the elements are mere memorials) but it would be compatible with Calvinism (the body and blood are spiritually present, but the elements do not literally transform into them).

    Luther's Small Catechism is a bit clearer in some ways:

    This states that the body and blood are actually there "under" the bread and wine, which is basically consubstantiation. Luther personally placed a great deal of weight upon the words "This is my body" attributed to Jesus. When he and Zwingli were arguing about this he picked up a piece of chalk and wrote the verse in big letters on the table between them. He tended to do that sort of thing quite often.

    I should think that most Christians think it essential, although as I've often said before, there is no single doctrine that I can think of that all Christians agree on, so statements in the form "Christians believe X" must always be taken with a pinch of salt (especially when uttered by Christians).

    The word "repentance" translates the Greek word "metanoia" in the New Testament, which literally means a change of mind. So it's about completely changing your outlook on things, not simply saying you're sorry for something. And throughout the New Testament there is an idea that a true encounter with Jesus will produce such an effect; the story of Zacchaeus in Luke 19:1-10 is the classic example. Perhaps more importantly, the notion of becoming a changed person is central to Paul's theology of salvation:

    The idea is that sin is a sort of oppressive force that keeps people captive. The only way to escape from sin is to die, which is not very helpful. But Christ died and rose again. Paul believes that Christians are united to Christ in some mysterious way which means that what is true of Christ is true of Christians: they are one. So because Christ died, Christians have also died to sin. And because Christ rose again, Christians too will rise again after their physical deaths:

    This is why Paul says at the start of this passage:

    So the point here is that repentance is not simply something that you have to do, for some obscure legal reason, in order to be saved, like a sort of precondition that God imposes upon people before letting them off hell. It is part of what salvation is. To be saved you must become one with Christ and die to sin, and this has ethical as well as metaphysical implications. Note, by the way, that Paul never talks about people having been saved: salvation always lies in the future for him. Christians have died with Christ, and they will rise with him and be saved.

    In the light of all this it's rather striking that the Gospels don't portray Jesus as talking about repentance very much. John the Baptist seems to have made repentance a key part of his message, according to Matthew 3:2. Mark 1:15 portrays Jesus as preaching a similar message: "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news." But for the most part this summary of his teaching is not borne out in the rest of the material in the Gospels. The theme of repentance hardly appears in them. In fact some have argued that Jesus specifically did not call upon sinners to repent, and this explains why many people were annoyed at him. The Gospels portray people as criticising Jesus for spending his time with sinners; but they would not have been angry had he been trying to persuade those sinners to repent. The conclusion is that Jesus did not do so. No doubt he was pleased when they did repent - he wasn't encouraging them to continue in their sinful ways - but he accepted them whether they repented or not.

    You would have to ask a psychologist that, or consider your own most deeply held beliefs, whatever they may be, and think about what it is about them that makes you hold them deeply. I suspect that a lot of religious beliefs are deeply held because they form part of a person's self-identification, and people are more reluctant to give up beliefs about themselves than any other kind of belief.
     
  15. Eran of Arcadia

    Eran of Arcadia Stormin' Mormon Retired Moderator

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    That, too, is a possibility.

    (Hey, I always said that omphalism makes more sense as God working on a deadline than as a test of faith . . . )
     
  16. Perfection

    Perfection The Great Head.

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    'nother dumb question, so Jesus was like a carpenter right? So did he make like really good tables and whatnot? Is there any mention of the quality of his woodwork?
     
  17. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    Jesus is described as a tekton (Mark 6:3) or the son of one (Matthew 13:55). The word means an artisan of some kind, possibly but not necessarily a carpenter. That's all we have.
     
  18. Eran of Arcadia

    Eran of Arcadia Stormin' Mormon Retired Moderator

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  19. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    Alas, the theologians have as yet not determined the answer to that one!
     
  20. Atticus

    Atticus Chieftain Retired Moderator

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    This is news to me and explains a lot: I thought that you must feel sorry for doing things you have done, but this would mean that you just have to think them other way. To most christians it seems though that the feeling bad part is important, I mean catholics with their confessions and such. And that's the way I've always understood it anyhow.

    About that consubstantiation and Lutheranism, I got answer to the question I posted to Finnish Lutheran church, and it seems that they believe in real presence, that Christ's body is truely present during the communion. But as it is "weaker" belief than trans- and consubstantiantion ("substantions" imply real presence but not the other way around), they might also believe in consubtantiation, to which the parts you quoted from the Small Cathaechism seems to hint at. Not that this would be so important, but I guess some people here (besides me) are interested about this unknown theory of communion.

    Anyway, I posted them more precise question, and let you know when they answer.

    Funny, how often after hearing the answer to your question you understand that the whole setting of the question lies on wrong assumptions and terminolgy.
     
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