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Ask a Theologian III

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by Plotinus, Nov 7, 2009.

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  1. Eretz Yisrael

    Eretz Yisrael Korean Conscript

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    Well, this is kinda how I view it:

    A guy's hungry, and he needs food. There are three kinds of food; Food A is delicious and is pleasing to the eye, Food B looks okay, and is acceptable in taste, whereas Food C looks amazing horrible, and it barely good enough to eat. Now all three choices can fulill the guy's need for food, as there are plenty of it, but I would think that he would choose Food A. This is how I view it; Christianity is not perfect, but its much better off than say, a Satanic cult. (Assuming that a person wishes to know Truth, which in this case would be G-d, then both Christianity and a Satanic cult agrees on the principle of G-d's existence; its just that the Satanic cult would be acknowledging G-d's existence whil going openly against HIM, which is ironic). But to live a life of holiness, or shall we say, righteousness (assuming that the person, once realizing the essence of Truth), then it would be best for the person to be Christian, for Christianity is an established religion that give guidance to those who seek a righteous and good life by revealing its accumulated wisdom (the Catholic & Orthodox have the practice of looking back at the lives of saints, while Protestants look for guidance from Jesus' teachings).
    But the main problem (at least I think) here is that, Eran, is that when one acknowledges Christ while searching for Truth (assuming that most people tend to view Truth as absolute and one), for example through Mormonism, then he/she has to also acknowledge that the Trinitarian doctrine holds true, which is a view not shared by Mormonism; then the person would would have to choose between Christ, or G-d, or else accept Truth as being many (Polytheism). But Mormons, who claim to be in line with Judaism, then has to confront the dillema that while Judaism states that G-d is ONE & that he exists, a salvation through Christ experience from a Mormon would suggest that G-d is Christ. But since G-d cannot be Christ, due to the non-Trinitarian stance of Mormonism, then it leaves us with a dillema.
     
  2. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    First, Catholics and Orthodox consider Jesus' teachings to be just as important as Protestants do!

    Second, I don't understand the argument about the Trinity. If Mormons don't think that the doctrine of the Trinity is true then they don't think there's any contradiction between following Christ and rejecting the doctrine of the Trinity. Who is to say they are wrong?

    Third, even if one thinks that salvation must come from God, and that salvation must come through Christ, it doesn't follow merely from that that Christ is God. Christ could be the non-divine conduit through which God channels his salvation.

    Fourth, even if the analogy of the different foods holds, it doesn't follow that some or indeed any of the foods are utterly lacking in nutrition. There is no contradiction in holding that Christianity is the best religion, and that it preaches Christ most clearly, while also holding that Christ is nevertheless present in all the other religions (or in the lack of religion), although less clearly. It may be better to eat the better food, but the worse food will still keep you alive.

    I'm not saying that's how things are, merely that it is a possible thing that Christians could believe and which many of them do (principally, of course, Rahner). The point being that you shouldn't assume that, from a Christian point of view, you have to write off anyone as "not saved" just because of the religion they follow.
     
  3. Eretz Yisrael

    Eretz Yisrael Korean Conscript

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    Exactly; I was at lost of words when trying to explain my own position, so therefore I used the food anaology.

    But I do disagree with you on how Christ could be non-divine, and acts an intermediate between man and G-d; if Christ was wholly man, then the presence of Orginal Sin would prevent Christ from realizing G-d's plans to forgive Man's Sins by bearing it himself; only G-d, by definition, can accomplish the task of heaving Sin off Man's back. Man is not divine, and therefore cannot completely heave off Sin, while it can be able to challenge it off every time it comes to tempt.
    And with the food analogy, I did say that all the foods would be able to fill one's hunger; just that I would prefer to choose the better food. So no denying other people being saved from me here.
    As with Mormonism, I have many doubts about the religion, but I am more than willing to discuss about it then to cluelessly makes random biased judgements about it.
     
  4. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    Well, first, it is an orthodox Christian belief that Christ was wholly man, so if you deny that, I'm afraid that's a very heretical thing to say. Orthodox Christians believe that Christ was entirely and fully human, and also that he did not have any original sin.

    Second, there's also no reason why someone can't be merely human, not divine, and yet not have original sin. Catholics believe that this was the case with the Virgin Mary, so I don't see why it couldn't have been the case with Christ too. Moreover, you're assuming a strong doctrine of original sin according to which it prevents human beings from carrying out God's plan, but "original sin" can mean all sorts of things and is not limited to that.

    Third, the notion that Christ literally "bears" people's sins himself is not one that all Christians believe. It is perfectly possible to suppose that salvation comes through Christ without having to believe that. As for "heaving off sin", that is a rather expressive term that I haven't heard before, but it's obviously metaphorical and therefore not very helpful in determining what is or isn't possible.

    The point is that whether Christ needed to be divine in order to save humanity really depends upon how you understand salvation, and what you think needed to happen in order for humanity to be saved. But there is no standard Christian view on these things.

    The fact is that very many Christians have believed that Christ was not fully divine, so you can't say that the denial of Christ's divinity is simply incompatible with Christianity. As I have said many times before, Christianity is a very diverse religion. Its adherents have or have had all kinds of views about all kinds of things. Don't assume that some particular doctrine is incompatible with Christianity just because it's incompatible with the form of Christianity that you personally are familiar with.
     
  5. Eretz Yisrael

    Eretz Yisrael Korean Conscript

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    First of all, I dont acknowledge the assumption that the Virgin Mary was without Original Sin; as I view it, man's inclination to Sin is always there, just as G-d's mercy is always there. I know what such ideas implicate to the nature of Christ, but as of yet, the Mariology of Catholicism hasnt been able to really convince me to change my mind (doesnt mean I dont respect the Virgin Mary; Calvin and Luther all respected the Virgin Mary to a certain degree).
    Second, the Orthodox belief that Christ was wholly man has confused me quite a lot when I was thinking about conversion before. Maybe its fully compatible with the Trinitarian Doctrine, but I have failed to link the two ideas. I do, as I mentioned above, believe that Christ was without Original Sin.
    Third is the fact that I never said Original Sin blocks G-d's plans on humanity; HE created the world, so why can't HE clear his own creations? On the opposite, I believe it was Man Itself that chose his/her own path, in which G-d gave them their respective roles to play. For instance, I dont hate Jews, in fact I find their knowledge in the Tanakh at times vastly superior to ours, and G-d did choose Abraham (at least Genesis says so), but this didnt stop them from killing Christ. And in retroperspective, Christ had to be killed by Jews, for who else would have been better to fulfill this role?
    And Christ did say, 'Father, forgive them for they do not know.' (Luke23:34; though I am not too sure if Christ really said this; Matthew, John, Mark, and some early manuscripts of Luke dont have this sentence, only 'Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?')
    Fourth is that I probably would have more disagreements with fellow Protestants than Catholics and Orthodox; there's a lot to learn from them, and are more experienced and far-sighted in theology than some of the radical, brimsone-preaching Evangelicals.
    And I do appreciate most Christian thinkers and most do have legitimate claims (which sometimes confuses a lot); I was showing my view of matters to Eran and you.
    I also might add that I quite agree to 'leap of faith' (Kierkkegaard) as well as having been raised in a nearly Calvinist religious environment (not as strict though) and take both Pelagius and Augustine to clear up things up, assuming if my statements before might have found itself contradictory.
     
  6. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    When I said that the doctrine that Christ was (and is) wholly man is "orthodox" I meant it with a small O, that is, it is the orthodox, traditional teaching of Christianity - not something specific to the Orthodox Church. In fact every Christian denomination in history has held this to be an important doctrine. The idea that Christ was not wholly human was one of the earliest Christian doctrines to be condemned - you can find such condemnation in 2 John 7, for example.

    The traditional Christian belief is that Christ was (and is) fully and completely human, just as he was (and is) fully and completely divine; yet he is also wholly without sin. So orthodox Christianity is committed to the belief that original sin is not essential to humanity, and that it is possible to be completely human without having any original sin, since Jesus managed it. Whether this means that it's possible for other human beings who don't enjoy the benefit of also being divine is a moot point - the Catholic Church thinks that it is (at least in the case of anyone born from an immaculate conception) while those Protestants who hold the Reformed doctrine of total depravity think that it isn't.

    That is tendentious, to put it mildly... Jesus was killed by Romans, not by Jews. And even if he had been killed by Jews, that wouldn't mean that "the Jews" killed him, only that some Jews did. And why it would have been better for Jesus to be killed by Jews than anyone else, I can't imagine. How could the salvation of humanity have required that?

    John doesn't have either of the sayings you mention. Matthew and Mark have the "Eloi, Eloi" saying but not the other one. Luke lacks the "Eloi, Eloi" saying, and some MSS have the other saying.

    No problem. Just be careful to distinguish between the things that some Christians think, and the things that Christians in general think.
     
  7. Eretz Yisrael

    Eretz Yisrael Korean Conscript

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    Oops, elementary mistake on the orthodox part...
    :blush:

    But anyways, Plotinus, you're the man; you just helped me get some new ideas so as to study more on the topic.

    Also, saw your photo. Kinda surprised me there. I had always had the perception that you looked like your avatar for some reason.
     
  8. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    The avatar is an old picture. I use a lot of moisturiser these days.
     
  9. Atticus

    Atticus Chieftain Retired Moderator

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    I guess this is obvious, but just for certainty's sake: is the expression G-d to avoid saying God's name?

    In older texts God is written sometimes with only big letters (at least in Swedish). Is that just to respect him? Also in Finnish old texts God is sometimes written with three big letters: JUMala, is this common in other languages with more than three letter word for God? Like DEUs?
     
  10. Eretz Yisrael

    Eretz Yisrael Korean Conscript

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    If there is a moisturiser that can do that, then I'd like to go buy one.
     
  11. MagisterCultuum

    MagisterCultuum Great Sage

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    I don't think many people seriously consider God to be God's name (it if is a proper name of any deity is is a pagan Germanic one), but yes, it is used (especially by Jews) to avoid coming anywhere close to taking his name in vain.

    I'm not really sure of that. I think many English bibles use all caps LORD in places where the original text uses YHWH, the most holy, ineffable name of God. (I think that when the word for lord precedes the name it is often written Lord GOD.) Hebrew texts tend to use the vowel points of Adonai (lord) to remind readers that that name should not be spoken and the title should be used instead. (Devout Jews often say HaShem ("the name") instead.) Since it was forbidden to pronounce the name for so long (from what I've heard in Aramaic the same word is used for blaspheme and pronounce so they considered saying the name at all to be forbidden except for when it was spoken once a year by the high priest, although the name is used more freely in old testament times) we don't know the proper pronunciation of the tetragrammaton.


    Capitalizing the first 3 letters of a 4 or more letter word seems weird.
     
  12. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    Yes, a small-caps "LORD" is standard in English Bibles to translate the Tetragrammaton, but "God" is printed normally (translating e.g. ho theos). In English in general one usually just writes "God". I must admit I haven't seen "G-d" anywhere outside this site, so if Christians do it it's certainly not common, but I'm guessing it's not unusual in Jewish writers.
     
  13. Eran of Arcadia

    Eran of Arcadia Stormin' Mormon Retired Moderator

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  14. MagisterCultuum

    MagisterCultuum Great Sage

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    I'm seen it once or twice offline, but mostly online. It is pretty standard for Jews, including Messianic Jews and gentiles who go to Messianic Jewish Churches. Some even go further than G-d and use G--. If I recall the Talmud forbids erasing a name of God, or writing it on a temporary, disposable medium. Web pages are all seen as temporary, so even though God doesn't really count as a name of God some think it is important to not even come close to writing a name of God online.
     
  15. Agent327

    Agent327 Observer

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    I seem to have missed a bit:


    O, I don't need 'fixing', thank you very much. I've mentioned this before, but I've noted when people run out of arguments, they resort to insults...

    Ill keep this just as short:

    O, don't take my word for it, just read another 21st-century theologian (like B.D. Ehrman).

    That's not really how one is supposed to look at a source text though, is it? At least one should be critical as to whom it addresses and what purpose it could serve. Whether Paul actually believed what he wrote was the truth or if rhat was what he wants his readers to believe isn't really answered by simply accepting Paul's word for it. (And I already mentioned that Luther translates it as a "fee", which, omce again you choose to ignore.)

    It may be consistent with what you said, but that is hardly the issue - nor was it. simply accepting Paul's word at face value will not do from a researcher's or historian's persepctive.

    I'm not going beyond anything: I merely mentioned a fact that isn't contested. As for Luther: since he translated the bivle in German, he must have had some insight in these matters. But ofcourse, "that is neither here nor there"...

    I'll leave it be, since we obviously aren't going to have anything fruitful come of this and there are plenty of other topics to discuss when it comes to theology.
     
  16. Erik Mesoy

    Erik Mesoy Core Tester / Intern

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    I don't recall running into arguments with you in the first place, so how am I supposed to have run out?

    “We have facts for those who think, arguments for those who reason; but he who cannot be reasoned out of his prejudices must be laughed out of them; he who cannot be argued out of his selfishness must be shamed out of it by the mirror of his hateful self held up relentlessly before his eyes.”

    — Wendell Phillips, American abolitionist, 1853
     
  17. Fifty

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

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    Could you give a sort of brief overview of asceticism in Christianity, and recommend major primary and secondary readings on the subject?
     
  18. Agent327

    Agent327 Observer

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    Good question.

    I wan't talking to you, was I? (BTW, great quote there. No need for snipping there.)
     
  19. ParkCungHee

    ParkCungHee Chieftain

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    Well I mean a "thing" in the way that Catholics consider Grace a "Thing" (I think in the last thread you referred it in the Theologically technical term as "Stuff"), and all christians consider a soul a "thing." While obviously it possesses no physical properties, it is at least a "thing" in that it exists, rather then just being a term to collectively identify certain action.
     
  20. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    Equally, merely assuming that what it says is false is just as foolish as uncritically assuming that what it says is true. However, in the absence of any reason whatsoever to think that it's false, why not take it at face value?

    Again, you seem to be countenancing that Paul was not merely wrong but that he was deliberately deceitful. I don't regard that as a feasible hypothesis - unless (yet again) YOU HAVE EVIDENCE.

    Why on earth should I care how the word was translated FIVE HUNDRED YEARS AGO by someone who is notoriously controversial in the field of Pauline interpretation? Scholarship has moved on just a tad since then. Find me a reason to think that the word should be translated "fee", rather than just an appeal to a highly partisan authority half a millennium old, and you might have a case. You haven't even bothered to give the chapter and verse where this supposed word "fee" appears.

    One of us must be living in a fantasy world, then, because I really think I remember contesting it. Again, if the only evidence you can find for your interpretation is a single word from an unspecified text in a five-hundred-year-old translation by a biased theologian in a foreign language, then I think I'm entitled to question the assessment of this interpretation as "a fact that isn't contested" until I see just a little bit more evidence.

    I wonder if you think all scholarship consists of people shouting assertions at each other until someone gets bored, or whether you think it's only theology that doesn't require evidence and reasoning.

    That's a bit of a tall order. I can say something very brief at least.

    Asceticism was very important to Christianity from a very early stage. Here's a thing I wrote recently about asceticism (and especially sexual asceticism) in early Christianity:

    After the fourth century or thereabouts, asceticism became less of an ideal for the ordinary Christian - at least in the west - but it remained important as a demonstration of God's power. With the ending of the age of martyrs, divine power could no longer be seen in the church in martyrs and confessors, and it came to be seen in extreme ascetics instead. This was especially the case in Syria, where the "stylites" or pillar saints became very popular. People came from miles around to look at the saints standing on their pillars, and they believed that God's power was manifested in their emaciated bodies. Meanwhile, the "desert fathers", mainly in Egypt, provided a similar ideal of extreme asceticism. A lot of this revolved around food and some of the accounts make it sound like they were all basically anorexic (although of course it would probably be anachronistic to apply that category to ancient characters). Here's an extract from something I wrote on this subject with particular reference to Evagrius Ponticus:

    It's important to remember that in orthodox Christianity, such behaviour has never been about denigrating or punishing the body, but rather about training it. It is sometimes assumed that an ascetic lifestyle represents a hatred of physical things or the body or a belief that they are unimportant. It can sometimes do that, as in some forms of gnosticism, where we are told that because the gnostics believed material things to be intrinsically evil, they would eat as little as possible to avoid having anything to do with material things. We see the same thing in the Cathars, who not only practised asceticism but avoided having children and sometimes just killed themselves to get away from it all. In orthodox Christianity, however, the marginally less extreme ascetic feats were intended to discipline and train the body and spirit equally. Matthew 24:42-44 instructs its readers to keep awake and watch for the coming of the Lord, and Christian ascetics regarded themselves as following this instruction (going without sleep has also been an important element of Christian asceticism - it explains the popularity in antiquity of the name "Gregory", which means "wakeful").

    I think that in later centuries the ascetic ideal remained an ideal, as it was in the age of the desert fathers, with the idea that only certain elements of Christian society (i.e. monks and a few others) were called to it. I suppose that idea was that as long as someone was being ascetic somewhere, that was what was important, whether or not you personally were being ascetic. I'm not sure I can come up with any more details than that off-hand.

    As for primary and secondary literature, I'm not sure. Anything involving the desert fathers is a good place to start and Evagrius Ponticus is the best of all. Most of his works are now available in good translations - which did not yet exist when I first studied him - so there's no excuse not to have a look.

    I'm not sure quite how Catholics officially regard grace. Certainly they speak about it as a thing, or possibly as stuff, and have done since the Middle Ages, but how literally this hypostasising language is meant to be taken, I'm not sure. In the case of the soul it's equally problematic. I don't think all Christians regard it as a "thing" at all; in scholastic theology, at least, it is not substantial, being merely the form of the body (although at the same time it is somehow a form which can exist without its matter, a notion that frankly does violence to Aristotelianism). And of course there are plenty of Christians who deny that any soul exists, in the sense of a "thing" of any kind beyond the processes of the body.

    But even if one doesn't take language of grace and the soul as "things" literally, one can still use or make sense of such language. Even the most thorough-going materialist can talk about the soul in some sense. So the fact that Christians have often spoken of "sin" as if it were things/stuff doesn't, in itself, mean that this language should be taken literally. I remember reading plenty of modern theology which argues that traditional language of demons and devils can be taken seriously without being taken literally, in the sense that to a person suffering from some psychological pressure, ordinary objects or situations or institutions or whatever can be considered objective oppressors to the extent that they become really, if not literally, demonic. In the case of sin we could say that the weight of guilt upon the person who has committed the sins is real, in the moral sense that they are culpable for committing the sins, and perhaps in the psychological sense that they feel a sense of guilt for doing so and it occupies their mind. So one could make sense, in that way, of talk of the weight of sin oppressing a person without having to assume that sin is literally some kind of stuff or thing that does so.
     
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