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[RD] Ask a Theologian V

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by Plotinus, Nov 17, 2013.

  1. Jehoshua

    Jehoshua Catholic

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    @ Plotinus

    I spent quite a bit of time responding to your statements, when just prior to completion (when I was looking for a link) my computer had a spasmodic fit and I lost the lot. So you'll forgive me I hope when I say that I will respond to the greater whole of it later.

    However I would like to address firstly the very final point you make on the "survey". The assertion that its a survey of the laity or anything unusual actually is a false conception. What the questionnaire actually is, is the usual set of questions given to bishops and parishes prior to a synod to set the parameter for the event. This happens before every synod. What is different this time is that the bishops of England and Wales (a rather liberal lot) presumably due to the nature of the topic decided to post it online and solicit their laity to provide their input. The media than ran with this to say the Vatican was surveying the laity for their opinions and that something wholly unprecedented was occurring. Sorry to break the bubble, but I'm afraid its not, and indeed the Vatican has clarified in the wake of the media storm that the assertion that it is polling Catholics, or sending a questionnaire of to the laity is "not true".

    Here's a link to an article on the topic.

    Secondly, with regards to your assertion that the matter of contraception is not part of infallible teaching. The congregation for the doctrine of the faith (iirc) has specifically declared it an infallible teaching of the ordinary and universal magisterium. Ergo...

    -

    @Arakhor: You're making the false equivalence that many secular commentators make between the Church and doctrine, and governments and policies. They aren't the same, and the Pope does not have the authority to change doctrine in the manner that governments shift and change policy. Indeed for a papal assertion to be infallible, a requirement is that it cannot contradict infallible dogma (in addition to occurring in specific circumstances and the like). Even if a pope were to say it was infallible, no Catholic would be obliged to believe him and it simply wouldn't have the infallible character anyway. On a tangential note, if a pope were to be found (through canonical means, there are protocols through which a pope could be deposed for heresy or some other "deposable" offence) to be a heretic, he would instantaneously cease to be pope since a heretic cannot hold canonical office and the Church would be in a sede vacante state (with the cardinals obliged to initiate a conclave by canon law).
     
  2. Arakhor

    Arakhor Dremora Courtier Moderator

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    I would recommend the Lazarus plugin for situations like this.
     
  3. Jehoshua

    Jehoshua Catholic

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    I will have to see about that recommendation.
     
  4. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    The Catholic answer would be no. The Pope's infallibility is parasitic upon the church's: he is infallible (when he is) simply because he speaks with the church's authority. And the church's infallibility is given to it by God. God could never contradict himself; an infallible truth is true by definition, and truth cannot be inconsistent with truth.

    From a non-Catholic viewpoint, I'm sure it would be possible, at least in theory, for a Pope to issue an infallible pronouncement that contradicted an earlier one by finding some clever way to insist that they're not inconsistent. After all, those who believe the Bible to be infallible find ways to insist even that outright contradictions such as Romans 3:28 and James 2:24 are saying the same thing. (It's even possible that they're right - apparent contradictions sometimes aren't really contradictions, and that may be the case here, at least if one accepts the New Perspective on Paul.) So I'd say that it would be incredibly unlikely that one could ever "catch out" the Catholic Church in issuing inconsistent infallible pronouncements, such that no-one could doubt their inconsistency. This is especially so when one bears in mind that infallible papal pronouncements are extremely rare anyway, and doubtless invariably the product of long periods of thought.

    I'm really not sure, and I'm hampered in this by not knowing much about Judaism and Islam. On non-Abraham monotheism, that certainly exists (or has existed) to some degree. The ancient Stoics (some of them, at least) and Platonists (at least the Middle Platonists) were pretty much monotheists, though they had nothing to do with the Abrahamic tradition. Zoroastrianism has a form of monotheism that doesn't come from Judaism, and so too, arguably, do some forms of Hinduism and, even more arguably, traditional Chinese religion (both Tian and Tao can, at least sometimes, be seen as monotheistic deities).

    You might be right that the Abrahamic religions have a more common notion of the relationship between God and human beings than other religions, even those that can be seen as monotheistic. Neither Brahman nor Tian are ever as personal as the God of Judaism or Christianity or Islam or, I think, as concerned with what goes on in the world. So perhaps one could legitimately say that this is something that marks out the Abrahamic religions beyond historical connection.

    On the notion of orthodoxy, this has clearly been typically a major concern of both Christianity and Islam; I'm not convinced that it's been so important to Judaism, at least not to the extent of characterising the religion in the way that it does Christianity and Judaism. I would be inclined to see Christianity and Islam as closer to each other, at least in terms of general mindset, than either is to Judaism. They share an emphasis on the cognitive side of belief and the importance of this being "right" that seems to me less important for Judaism.

    Another connection between the three religions is their similar approach to scripture: the Torah for Jews, the Bible for Christians, and the Koran for Muslims. In each case these texts are considered divine and authoritative in a way that isn't so clearly the case in other religions. Even there, though, there are differences between them; a liberal Anglican does not view the Bible in the same way as an evangelical Anglican, let alone in the way that a Muslim regards the Koran.

    I do find the term "Abrahamic" a bit odd. After all, it's not like all three religions developed independently from some shared common ground in Abraham. Judaism was there first, and the other two developed from it.

    Of course. That is incredibly aggravating when that happens.

    That is very interesting, and a useful link, so thank you for the correction.

    I didn't know that either, so there we go. I suppose the church could find a way around this if it really wanted to, but I agree that this is pushing the bounds of what is plausible.
     
  5. Eran of Arcadia

    Eran of Arcadia Stormin' Mormon Retired Moderator

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    I suppose it's because he was the last of the patriarchs that all 3 faiths claim as their own in roughly the same way - because then you have the question of which son received his birthright.

    We could always take a page from biological taxonomy and call the three faith "Judeomorphs" or something.
     
  6. Takhisis

    Takhisis ΑΛΗΘΩС ΑΝΕСΤΗ

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    up yours!
    I should've added a question mark at the end as I was not sure what you meant. Sorry.

    But as long as I don't get your football club wrong I don't think you'll smite me with a crucifix.
    Something will come along the contraception front but in Vatican timeschedules, so expect a couple decades to elapse. Perhaps another Synod.

    What do you mean by 'pastorally utterly indefensible'?
    I don't know how long this pontificate can last, choosing aging men as popes isn't that good a policy.

    You have an outsider's perspective as a non-religious person from a mostly Protestant(-lite) country. I think that some more changes might come further along. Let's see what results we get from the Pope's worldwide poll.

    Also, people in Catholic-majority Third World countries sometimes have that greatest of commodities, which is Hope. The Church is suddenly once again against oppression. And maybe that will spread to Germany and France and so on.
    ---------------------------------
    This is more political than theological, but do you think any rapproachement with the Eastern Orthodox churches might happen?
     
  7. Cutlass

    Cutlass The Man Who Wasn't There.

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    I had read or heard that somewhere. For all the 3 have in common and hold differently, Abraham is the latest thing that all 3 have full agreement on.
     
  8. timtofly

    timtofly One Day

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    I would debate that fact, on the word 'agreement'. If they agreed on Abraham's God, they would also have to agree on Jesus, and they do not.

    The term Abrahamic Religions is probably a politically correct term to attempt to say they have something in common, when in fact they do not.

    Islam's only claim to Abraham was Ishmael, and they have kept to that story, instead of using Isaac. Abraham may be the last common denominator, but they still do not even agree on what Abraham did while he lived. They probably do not even agree on how Abraham's God fits into the human picture either.

    Having said all of that if the three religions sat down and came together in agreement, it would be ok with me. The more peace there is in the world is never a bad thing. For them to come together and agree on God would not bother me either for what it is worth.

    I tried to do some research and could not even find where the term Abrahamic Religions came from.

    @ Plotinus

    Is a personal relationship with God the same thing as a religion? (Hypothetically speaking) This is not a question about God, but an attempt to figure out the difference between knowing something and believing something based on theology.
     
  9. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    I mean it causes problems of a practical kind for the faithful that go beyond what's really tolerable.

    One of the purposes of the church is to provide moral guidance and pastoral support for its own members. In so doing it's always had to temper its sometimes otherwordly ideals in light of the facts of everyday experience. For example, probabilism - the notion that it's not necessarily sinful to do something that's not the morally best thing in that situation, as long as it's morally defensible to some degree - developed to help priests giving advice to their flock. Priests found that if you tell people always to follow the moral rules laid down by the church, they can't manage it, and they get depressed and give up, perhaps leaving the church altogether. So the idea emerged that the priest doesn't have to insist on such rigorous standards from his flock; he can advise them that sometimes the rules can be relaxed provided there's good reason to do so.

    That's a case of the church adapting its teaching to be pastorally better. I think the proscription of contraception is a perfect example of teaching that's pastorally unworkable; it's simply too much to expect of most couples that they must either abstain from sex almost entirely or open themselves to the probability of having enormous families that they can't afford. And the fact that a large proportion of otherwise faithful and obedient Catholic couples (just how large seems hard to determine, though it surely varies by country and culture) just ignore the proscription and use contraception anyway shows how pastorally unworkable it is. Plus of course the fact that it's a proscription that doesn't affect any of the people actually making that proscription can't help. David Lodge's The British Museum is Falling Down gives quite a tragi-comic portrayal of what it was like for many Catholic couples during the time of Vatican II, hoping desperately that the council would remove the proscription on contraception while living their lives under the tyranny of the calendar and the thermometer.

    Inevitably a new Pope is an old man, because it takes a long time to work your way up to become a cardinal. However, sometimes they are younger - look at John Paul II, who was only 58 when he became Pope - pretty young by papal standards, and he was also a pretty vigorous and healthy character too, at least to start with. But of course that meant he had a very long papacy. I think that one of the justifications for choosing only elderly candidates is deliberately to limit the length of papacies, because that ensures that the power of any given Pope is relatively limited. Just as the US president can serve only two terms, for the same reason. This is, I think, one reason why after the death of John Paul II the cardinals chose a man who was some twenty years older than John Paul II had been when he was chosen.

    I don't know much about these things, but there's already been a lot of such rapprochement - just look at what Vatican II said about the Eastern Orthodox churches (compared to what it said about the Anglican and Protestant ones). I'm not sure how much more rapprochement there could be.

    I don't really see why that follows. They can all agree that there is one God and that this God appeared to Abraham. You don't have to have the same view of Jesus to think that.

    There's no clear definition of "religion". A religion is a complex thing that has many different components, and different religions have different components. For example, a common component to religion is having a holy book, but there are plenty of religions that don't. Another common component is the holding of liturgical events, but not all religions do that. I would say that the idea of having a personal relationship with God is similar: it's something that is an element of some religions (e.g. evangelical Christianity) but it's not a religion in itself, and there are certainly religions where it's not present.
     
  10. Cutlass

    Cutlass The Man Who Wasn't There.

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    I don't see how that holds. The Jews don't believe that Jesus is the son of God, so why should the Muslims? It's not like there was any proof. It's entirely a matter of faith.
     
  11. _random_

    _random_ Jewel Runner

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    If you were to put money on it, does Hebrews predate or post-date the destruction of the Temple?
     
  12. timtofly

    timtofly One Day

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    Do all three view Abraham's God the same way? Is not the central point of contention that Jesus is the same God that Abraham had a relationship with?

    Did not Judaism go in a different direction from the one the Old Testament was headed?

    Did Christianity itself follow after Judaism via the traditions of Judaism?

    Did Islam set out to bring both back to the point where they went astray?

    Abraham is alleged to "view" God as both a Spirit, and also in human form. Abraham did not see God as more than one entity, but as a spiritual being able to take on personhood. Jesus also claimed to be that personhood. If one wanted to stay on track with the Jesus story, they may keep crucifying him over and over and even attempt to convince people that God is three in one. Why would they want to keep the traditions though, while at the same time blame the Jews for the whole mess?

    Islam would have to overlook the fact that God appeared to Abraham in human form, and they did so by making him a prophet, and they also made Jesus a prophet, but neither seem to be held in the Bible as prophets. Jesus was condemned as a false "prophet" and crucified that way in the Jews eyes. Yet Christianity put more importance on the Jesus factor and held to the claim he was God, and not just a prophet, and only gave lip service to the spiritual side of God. The Trinity being a mea culpa came years later. Islam took away any personhood of God and only focused on the spiritual.

    Jesus seems to be the only factor that messes up all three religions and calls them out on the carpet so to speak, if any one dares to look at the facts.
     
  13. Arakhor

    Arakhor Dremora Courtier Moderator

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    Presumably the whole point about the Trinity is that while Jesus is regarded as being God, God is not exclusively Jesus, as he is also the God of Muhammad and Abraham.
     
  14. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    There's no such thing as "the" Christian view of God or "the" Jewish one either, for that matter. Philo was Jewish but he thought of God as pretty complicated in a way not wholly dissimilar to the Christian Trinity. Similarly, it's simplistic to talk about "the" direction of the Old Testament; the Old Testament is a collection of books with very different ideas and emphases. Christians saw some things in it and Jews saw other things (and both Christians and Jews disagreed among themselves too).
     
  15. Cutlass

    Cutlass The Man Who Wasn't There.

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    Not even all Christians view Jesus as the same God as other Christians. At least not if I'm understanding the trinitarian - unitarian debate.
     
  16. Takhisis

    Takhisis ΑΛΗΘΩС ΑΝΕСΤΗ

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    up yours!
    And yet in Africa priests hand out condoms to fight the spread of AIDS.
    This will probably change, eventually.

    And, while I have read David Lodge, I haven't got round to that book. Starting out with Deaf Sentence was very discouraging.
    He shouldn't be elected for life then, but that's not a theological debate unless someone tries to say that the Bible says we ought to have a lifelong high priest.
    There could be more, in time…
    And many other debates as well, some of which were superseded by the spread of Islam which eliminated the proponents of some views.
     
  17. PhroX

    PhroX Chieftain

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    Regarding the question of Onan discussed by Plotinus and Jehoshua earlier, back when I was in school doing RE (admittedly pre-GCSE level), our teacher (a CoE reverend) explained that the real issue, and hence the punishment, was not so much that he "spilled his seed", but that he disobeyed a direct order from God to impregnate his brothers widow, something truly worthy of death - and thus that actual thing he did is not neccesarily wrong (i.e. if God hadn't told him specifically to impregnate the woman, he wouldn't have been killed).

    Is this a reasonable interpretation and one that is/was common among Christians - particularly in the past before the issue of widespread contraception made this a major issue? Or is it more a case of deliberately interpreting it in a way to justify allowing contraception/masturbation (admittedly, trying to tell a class of mainly teenage boys not to bash the bishop every now and then is pretty futile)?
     
  18. timtofly

    timtofly One Day

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    This is a very interesting account and yet hard to follow logically.

    God killed Er because he was wicked. God killed Onan because he had sex with a women multiple times while thwarting a customary reason to do so. Judah, the father of Er, ended up having sex with this woman and that is how the bloodline was passed down in the tribe of Judah. The account is not clear on what was evil on Onan's part, and perhaps both the intent and the way it was carried out was evil. What if Onan just refused to have sex at all? God did not tell Onan to do that, it was the custom of the day to do that. If you take other accounts in the Bible, God does not always favor the firstborn. So getting another person to have children to carry on another's person name, does not follow as being God's Will. See Abraham and Hagar. Now if God had killed Onan, because he refused to have sex altogether, it would be a clear cut case. Perhaps taking advantage of another person multiple times based on deception is an issue also? I am sure humans will apply the story in any way that fits their agenda.
     
  19. MagisterCultuum

    MagisterCultuum Great Sage

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    It may be worth explaining a bit more about how Levirate marriage worked. The when a man took his brother's childless widow, he also took possession of the dead brother's property and his share of their father's inheritance. He was supposed to impregnate the widow. The first born child would be considered the child of the dead brother, and would be given that brother's property and inheritance when he came of age. If the widow never conceived a child, then those riches would remain under control of her new husband and could be given to the children he had by other women which would bear his own name.

    A brother could refuse to marry (or have sex with) his brother's widow, but only so long as he finds an acceptable replacement husband. Normally this would mean getting a younger brother, or perhaps a cousin, to agree to marry her instead. (Ruth married Boaz after her husband died, but only after another man who was more closely related to her late husband refused to do so and passed on the task to his cousin Boaz.)

    Onan's choice to marry his brother's widow but not impregnate her was probably an act of greed. He wanted to keep his brother's property and inheritance for himself.

    I think traditional wedding customs back then may have typically included a public bedding. The marriage would not be official until consummated. They may have been witnesses watching or at least listening to make sure that they had sex. Actually having sex may have thus been a prerequisite for acquiring the property.

    (In Jewish law, a father's possessions are supposed to be divided evenly among his sons, but with the eldest son getting double what the other sons get. The eldest would presumably also be expected to take care of his mother and sisters with these funds though. If Er was Judah's eldest, then Onan would be tripling his inheritance by marrying Tamar but leaving her without child.)
     
  20. timtofly

    timtofly One Day

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    This could be the case that provoked such a law, seeing as how it happened 100's of years before such a law.
     

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