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[RD] Ask a Theologian V

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

  1. Agent327

    Agent327 Observer

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    I think Cynovolans is referring to the fact that the angel and resurrection tale is a later addition. It was not part of the original story.

    There has also been made an argument by a theologian that the grave was indeed not empty. Which obviously would preclude any resurrection, and explain why Mark ended with 6:18.

    Is Plotinus on vacation, I am wondering?
     
  2. _random_

    _random_ Jewel Runner

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    Nah, the earliest manuscripts of Mark end like this:
    So the angel (although not named as such in this account) appears, and the Resurrection explicitly occurs, although there's nothing said about Jesus actually appearing to anyone after the fact. That's the oldest extant Passion narrative we have, make of it what you will.
     
  3. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Super Moderator

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    Is there a connection there? Origen was, after all, no Hindu. I doubt very much that Aquinas had read any Origen - his knowledge of Origen would have been entirely second-hand, via Augustine. Origen was at heart a Platonist, and so too was Augustine, and so too, really, was Aquinas, though he didn't know it. So there's a sort of indirect influence there. But I can't think of anything particularly Origenist about Aquinas in particular.

    This is the answer. You can't say "Everything has a cause, therefore the universe has a cause," and then go on to say "God is uncaused." That's inconsistent. Of course it might happen to be the case that the universe has a cause and God doesn't, but then it's not true that everything has a cause, and so the argument for God breaks down.

    That version of the argument avoids the inconsistency problem, but it seems to me to hit another problem, which is that the universe itself is not a "change or effect" and so no longer needs a cause. If every change needs a cause, then everything that happens in the universe requires a cause, but there could be a first cause which is not itself a change or effect.

    Surely the Big Bang is not the cause of the universe. It's just the cause of everything in the universe that comes after it. The fact that everything contingent exists at all can't be down to the Big Bang, because the Big Bang is one of those contingent existents, isn't it? (There might not have been a Big Bang.) It seems to me that asserting that it doesn't need a cause is as unwise as asserting that it does. We don't know.

    The theist's answer to that is that God is outside time. So he wasn't temporally "before" the universe, only logically and causally prior to it. He didn't "pop into existence" because there was never a time when he didn't exist; or, more properly, he exists in no time at all.

    Yes, this is weird and no-one has ever really explained it satisfactorily, as far as I know. There's even some doubt over whether the ending makes grammatical sense, suggesting that it breaks off in mid-sentence. Note also that there is no "angel" in Mark's Gospel - the women are greeted by a young man in a white garment, possibly the same one who lost his garment in 14:51-52. So as _random_ says, Mark's Gospel has the Resurrection, but no risen Jesus. Perhaps one might explain that as intended to mean something like the risen Christ is in all of us rather than out there or something, but that still wouldn't explain the negative tone of the last sentence. It's possible that there was an original ending which is now lost, and this wasn't meant to be the last sentence.

    On research leave in fact, but I'm also looking after a baby now, which turns out to be quite time-consuming.
     
  4. Agent327

    Agent327 Observer

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    Very clear. Of course, one might argue that 'everything has a cause' is induced from observation. But God can't be observed in the way the universe can, ergo this 'rule' might not apply to God. (Seeing as God exists irrespective of time and space.)

    That is less clear. It's also inconsistent with what we know of the physical universe, which is still evolving.

    You seem to be making a curious difference between a temporal cause and between the universe and 'everything in the universe'. To us, the Big Bang is actually the cause of everything, i.e. the universe. Secondly, the Big Bang no longer exists; the only thing it can be extrapolated from is the residual radiation left over from it - and the still increasing expansion of the universe. So it is logical to assume that prior to the universe there was the Big Bang. It is, however, not logical to assume there was anything prior to the Big Bang - unless one adheres to a continuous expansion and contraction of universes. (Which, incidentally, would explain the 'cause' of the Big Bang, should one feel the need for it.) But, since there was neither space nor time 'before'the Big Bang, any question relating to such a 'before' becomes logically meaningless. In practice, it leaves neither room nor necessity for a Divine Creator. (If you wish, you can put God in front of the Big Bang, but it really doesn't add anything, logically.)

    The main point of the Big Bang is that the laws of physics as we know them break down at this point. That is, to be more precise, the physics as we know it, didn't exist until right after the Big Bang. And this would include both time and space.

    And apparently also in no space, basically existing in nothing. The phrase 'God is outside time' has no meaning when there is no time, which is a dimension of space. Without a prior (also time-related), there is no need for a cause or a creator. So again, the question gets merely transposed to the why or what of God.

    Condolances and congratulations. Hopefully both will work out well.
     
  5. Cynovolans

    Cynovolans Not in my dimension.

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    Congratulations! And thanks for the answer.
     
  6. _random_

    _random_ Jewel Runner

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    What do you make of the chiasmus of the Messianic Secret? Also, why would you interpret the young man as being the one who lost his clothes earlier? Would Mark's audience not have read a young man in white announcing God's message as an angelic figure, as later Gospel writers did?
     
  7. Eran of Arcadia

    Eran of Arcadia Stormin' Mormon Retired Moderator

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    Woah, congrats. Babies are the best.
     
  8. jackelgull

    jackelgull An aberration of nature

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    How much power did the Pope wield over the Catholic Church? I know that there were curious episodes where there was a French and Italian Pope who excommunicated each other, but in general, how much respect did the authority of the Pope in Rome get?
     
  9. schlaufuchs

    schlaufuchs La Femme Moderne

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    How much power did the Pope yield when, and relative to whom? This question is inanswerable unless you provide those two clarifications.
     
  10. jackelgull

    jackelgull An aberration of nature

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    I'm not sure if what I mean is wielding power so much as it is respecting authority. If a Pope made a papal decree for example, would the local religious elite accept it as legitimate and enforce it, or would they ignore. I am specifically talking about the geographical area known as Germany before Otto the Great, but after the collapse of the Carolingian empire.
     
  11. abradley

    abradley Deity

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    A Catholic answer to the bolded bit:
    Congrats on the baby, long life to you and yours.
     
  12. abradley

    abradley Deity

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    This is pure long 2:10
    Am a fan of Dr William Lane Craig, most Catholics (and others) drone on and on putting me to sleep. Dr Craig no.

    But that's me.
     
  13. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Super Moderator

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    Thank you, though I've yet to be convinced of that!

    I didn't know it was chiastic, so I'm probably not the person to ask about that!

    I remember reading that interpretation in a commentary somewhere along the line and I thought it made sense of the odd passage about the naked young man, which otherwise seems like a moment of low comedy right in the middle of the Passion narrative. You could see the loss of clothes and the gaining of the white raiment as symbolic of something or other, I'm sure. But there's no indication in the text that the young man is meant to be an angel. Note that angels are almost entirely absent from Mark's Gospel (other than the rather vague reference in 1:13), whereas Matthew and Luke both have masses of them, especially in the birth narratives. Beyond this I don't really know what the best interpretation is.

    That is much more specific! But it's hard to answer because pretty much all of the Popes in that period were utter non-entities who typically reigned for little more than a year or two. In the first half of the tenth century, the papacy was basically run by the Theophylacti of Rome - this is the period that prim nineteenth-century Protestant historians called the "pornocracy". Throughout the period you mention, most papal disputes seem to have been with secular rulers rather than with other churchmen. One exception is Nicholas I (858-67), who had run-ins with John of Ravenna and Hincmar of Rheims over different matters, but neither of those were in the location you specify. More relevant was his dispute with Lothair II of Lotharingia, who had replaced his wife with the support of the local bishops. Nicholas disapproved of this and deposed some of the bishops. But most of the opposition that Nicholas faced over this came from Lothair and the emperor Louis II - I don't see much evidence that the Lotharingian church itself offered the Pope much resistance after he had issued his decrees.

    The Popes of this period seem to have spent most of their time having disputes with Constantinople, with the Saracens, and with temporal powers. This sometimes involved disputes over ecclesiastical appointments, such as when John X was forced to recognise the accession of a five-year-old boy as archbishop of Rheims in 925. This was because his father was the count of Vermandois, so it was a matter of the temporal powers forcing the Pope's hand, rather than any rebelliousness in the bishops themselves.

    That answer is effectively abandoning the argument, though. The point of the criticism in question was as a reply to the argument that holds that everything needs a cause. The passage you quote rejects that argument and instead offers other arguments. Of the arguments it offers, the first one (everything that begins needs a cause, and the universe had a beginning) is tendentious. Thomas Aquinas rejected it, and I think rightly, because we can't know that the universe had a beginning. Even if we could know this, I don't see why we should suppose that everything that begins requires a cause. The second argument (all contingent things must be caused by a necessary thing) is more mainstream (and Aquinas accepted it), but it has always seemed odd to me, because one would have thought that a contingent thing that is fully explained by a necessary thing is itself necessary, in which case the argument undercuts itself. Perhaps more worryingly, the very concept of a necessary thing is itself very dubious. It's hard to see how any existential claim could be necessarily true - for any object you can think of, it seems you could imagine its non-existence. This was Kant's objection to this form of argument and it seems powerful to me. If it's correct then the traditional concept of God (as necessarily existing) is actually an impossible object and cannot exist.

    I haven't watched all of this but I have watched a number of Craig's talks on this subject. In fact I show one of them to my students regularly, where he starts with the assumption that everything with a beginning in time must have a cause and ends up proving the existence not merely of a cause of the universe but of a perfectly good, personal God. It's always fun watching the students' expressions of utter disgust. It's a truly terrible argument. Craig puzzles me because he's clearly an intelligent person - he has an excellent explanation somewhere on YouTube of the differences between the A-series and B-series of time - and yet his theistic arguments are so very weak. In a nutshell, his primary assumption that everything that has a beginning in time must have a cause is just that - an assumption; his arguments from the paradoxes of infinity to the necessity of a temporal beginning of the universe not only misunderstand transfinite mathematics but in my opinion undercut the notion of an infinite God as well; and his argument that only a personal cause will explain why the universe began at time X rather than time Y is hopeless, because if time began with the universe then talking about the time when it began is meaningless. And don't even start on his defence of the genocides of the Hebrew Bible!
     
  14. abradley

    abradley Deity

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    Yes, and the audience at Rutgers clapped 53:00, guess it depend on the audience.
     
  15. Mouthwash

    Mouthwash Escaped Lunatic

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    What significance does that have? You can imagine that five plus five equals two or that the sky is made of music, but it doesn't prove anything.

    That's just semantic confusion. The argument should be stated as: something that is 'apparently' contingent must ultimately be caused by something necessary.
     
  16. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Super Moderator

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    I can't imagine those things at all, and I don't think you can either. To put it more accurately, for the concept of any given substance, there seems to be no intrinsic contradiction in supposing that substance not to exist. Now this supposedly isn't the case with God, who is defined as necessarily existing - but the point is that this seems to be just playing with words. Whether or not God actually exists, I can conceive of him not existing. What the defender of this argument needs to do is to show how any existential statement can be necessarily true, and this is a hard thing to do given that, at least in our experience, none is.

    It's not semantic confusion. If the proponent of the argument thinks that contingent things are only "apparently" contingent then she thinks they're necessary. And if they're necessary then they're not contingent and the argument collapses!

    The theist can get around this, perhaps, by distinguishing between different kinds of necessary things, as Leibniz does. E.g. God's existence is intrinsically necessary (its necessity is inherent to its concept) while my existence is only extrinsically necessary (my necessity is not inherent to my concept, but is dependent upon God's existence, which is intrinsically necessary). The problem now is that this looks very like Spinozism, which Leibniz was well aware of; but perhaps that's not such a serious problem, as it's more theological than philosophical.
     
  17. Arakhor

    Arakhor Dremora Courtier Moderator

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    In fairness, (a) the audience probably weren't theology students and (b) the audience was an actual audience, not simply watching a video.
     
  18. Mouthwash

    Mouthwash Escaped Lunatic

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    Sure I can. 2+2=5. There, imagined!

    You can't conceive of something that you can't also conceive the antithesis of. But some mind-independent object might necessarily exist, and our minds would be perfectly capable of thinking that it doesn't exist at all.

    The argument for God's existence is that the universe is contingent, but that there cannot be an infinite sequence of contingencies, so some necessity must have set everything in motion. Yes, it's true that by equal measure everything necessarily exists, but the argument is pointing out that our universe's apparent contingency makes no sense.
     
  19. classical_hero

    classical_hero In whom I trust

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    If you look at the manuscript you will see there is more than enough room to include more. Considering that manuscripts were extremely valuable and wasting any space would be a waste of money, leaving such a big gap in a manuscript is extremely odd.
     
  20. El_Machinae

    El_Machinae Colour vision since 2018 Retired Moderator

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    Keep in mind, he's a paid showman. This is why he never updates his arguments, even when they're shown to be incorrect. He just reuses them on a new, naive audience. He excels at debating, I'll grant. But he debates for an audience, and thus uses bait-and-switch techniques plus a sprinkle of charisma/mockery to bias the audience.

    WLC is truly terrible. His audience members comes aware with the notion that 'their side' has been 'proven', but then they parrot his arguments in a form that's even less philosophically robust.
     

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