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Ask a Theologian

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by Plotinus, Feb 13, 2007.

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  1. phoenix_sprite

    phoenix_sprite Chieftain

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    Thanks for answering (I really just wanted a reaction and answer) and I do realize that humanity wouldn't be humanity with out religion but what I meant was if (most) religions seek and promote happiness, peace and harmony why has so much blood been shed for it?

    And the three major abrahimic religions, why can't they cooperate if they have all the same sources and similarities?

    So is the purpose of religion to help humans seek leadership (god/s)? (referring to my first post)
    Because, a human is able to live without religion, I mostly think it's to answer the un-answerable (ex.: creation) but it certainly seems possible to a certain degree but I read 1984, the abolition of religion just lead to another type of worship related to religion.

    My last question in this post:

    What makes a person abandon his religion and/or stop believing in it?
     
  2. scy12

    scy12 Chieftain

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    . Maybe i didn't put the question in the right context.

    I am interested in the social, political and economical factors that are a necessity for the creation or as you corrected , development of that religion.
    (only the word creation refers to the procedure of development ofcourse., i.e creation of earth , creation of the world , creation of life.)

    The answer correctly refers to some factors but those are widely known and in my opinion is just one tree from the forest we are trying to explore.

    The question is , did local rulers "wait" for Christianity to become a social phenomenon and then necessarily used it or did some play a big part in it's later spread. I am interested on how the earlier rulers orchestrated it's use.

    What i think , appears : This is an answer to judaism , a religion proven attractively strong as it appeared in the Judo-Roman wars. But now that religion/nation was also an enemy of the Roman empire. I believe those wars were quite influential. Do you think so ?
    Now , we must look the context of where Paul , James and so on lived : This is an age where Judea is still under the cultural effect of Hellenistic times.
    The philosophical sphere under which Christianity development , called as gnosticism was nothing else other than traditional Greek philosophical thought applied on a new religion. Judging by later events we can see that the previous events regarding the development of Christianity was influential in the creation (development) of the Eastern Roman Empire. We see the development of social structures in the East that brought the organization and strength needed for the later events to take place.
     
  3. MayNilad Man

    MayNilad Man Chieftain

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    Hm, I thought that the marriage institution was mainly for breeding and rearing. Is it, or are there other dimensions to it that I am not aware of?
     
  4. C~G

    C~G Untouchable

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    Then there are the awkward issues of love, companionship, happiness, balance and security (financial etc.) for both of the participants. There must be others, but those are the most common dimensions.

    That at least from non-religious point of view.
     
  5. MayNilad Man

    MayNilad Man Chieftain

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    But those things aren't really the main issue, I think, in a marriage, seeing as they can exist outside of marriage.
    I personally have no problem with gay sex. Sex has been divorced from procreation since time immemorial.
    And I believe the institution of marriage should only address the issue of child care.
     
  6. Gogf

    Gogf Indescribable

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    These make sense, but what is the purpose of prayer if an omniscient God already knows what you want? Your third response answers this question, but what do other theological views have to say about it?
     
  7. Atticus

    Atticus Chieftain Retired Moderator

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    Can you tell some of the most convincing ones? Too often people are only told that there is evidence, but not what the evidence is.

    Another question: Does the doctrine of transsubstantiation include any speculation about what happens to the bread in digestion?
     
  8. Perfection

    Perfection The Great Head.

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    What are deese?
     
  9. Perfection

    Perfection The Great Head.

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    Are there any notable Christian groups or peeps dat think this way? It seems like a common popular notion.
     
  10. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    I hadn't read that. No doubt it should be required reading for all prospective research students... The problem with it, of course, is that Dennett doesn't specify what makes a field of research important or worthwhile, apparently leaving down to personal taste. Also, I don't think it's true that philosophers typically spend their time on a priori matters such as the rules of chmess, or indeed of chess for that matter. That's more what mathematicians do. Most philosophical problems, or at least most major ones (other than certain topics in metaphysics), are more concerned about what actually is the case rather than what is necessarily the case. Where philosophers are bothered about necessity, it is usually in order to shed light on actuality.

    Anyway, pretty much all dogmatic theology is like chmess, at least if you don't believe that any of it is actually true. For example, it's an interesting academic exercise to try to work out if it is theoretically possible for a single person to be both fully human and fully divine at the same time, but if you don't believe that any such person has really existed, there's not a whole lot of point (unless your aim is to show that it isn't theoretically possible, in which case you can hope to show that in fact no such person has ever existed). Which is why dogmatics tends to be studied by believers.

    Of course, many religious people believe that theological speculation such as this is pointless even though they also believe that it is concerned with things that are not only true but of overriding importance. Thus:

    In fact this attitude is highly prevalent among certain Christian groups today, such as conservative evangelicals, who seem uniformly to believe that if you're going to study theology you might as well just become a satanist right away and be done with it. I suppose this is, in part, because studying theology tends to show you just how most of what conservative evangelicals believe is either false or unorthodox.

    Contrast an attitude such as this:

    I suppose it comes down, in part, to whether you think the truth is worth pursuing for its own sake, or whether such an inquiry can be of only instrumental value.

    Because there's no such thing as a "religion", only "religious people". And people have a tendency to want to kill each other. Moreover, religion is an extremely powerful motivator, because a person's religious beliefs are usually their most heartfelt and important beliefs; and people are more likely to act if they think that they are threatened. It's the same with any deepseated emotional values: look at how much blood has been shed in the name of country, monarch, democracy, etc.

    There is also the fact that at least some religions are concerned not so much with peace and harmony on earth as with eternal salvation. If you think that the eternal fate of people's souls depends upon their believing the right things, then you will be very likely to everything in your power to prevent other people spreading false beliefs. This explains why so many atrocities were committed in the name of Christ in the Middle Ages, because it was felt that it was worth it to prevent the spread of false teaching which would imperil everyone's eternal souls.

    Because they also have enormous differences. It's worth bearing in mind that people tend to disagree more violently with people whose opinions are similar, though not identical, to their own, than they do with people who disagree more obviously. In politics, for example, arguments between members of different parties are rarely as vicious and heated as those between members of the same party. In religion, too, you'll find that different sects of the same religion will hate each other far more than completely different religions do. It's all about the proximity of one's enemy, as it were.

    There's an old joke that goes something like this: Man A is walking along when she sees Man B about to jump off a cliff. He runs over:

    A: What are you doing? There's so much to live for. Do you believe in God?
    B: Yes, I do.
    A: Why, so do I! Are you Christian, Jewish, Muslim?
    B: I'm a Christian.
    A: Why, so am I! Are you Orthodox, Catholic, or Protestant?
    B: I'm a Protestant.
    A: Me too! Are you Anglican, Lutheran, Reformed, Baptist, Pentecostalist, Free Evangelical, or...?
    B: I'm a Baptist.
    A: What a coincidence, so am I! Are you a General Baptist or a Strict and Particular Baptist?
    B: I'm a Strict and Particular Baptist.
    A: So am I! Are you a Gospel Standard Strict and Particular Baptist or a Fullerite Strict and Particular Baptist?
    B: Fullerite.
    A: Die, heretic! (Pushes him off the cliff.)

    Religion doesn't necessarily have a "purpose" any more than any other intrinsically human activity does - although individuals may have reasons for being religious. There's a lot of disagreement over what those reasons are, especially given that different religions seem to address different needs. For example, Christianity particularly deals with the desire for salvation, whereas Shinto ignores that more or less completely and instead has more to do with ethnic solidarity.

    There can be many reasons for that too. A common reason is that they find that they can't believe certain doctrines that they think are an essential part of that religion. They may be unable to believe them because they clash with other beliefs they have that are more important to them, or because they clash with other doctrines in that same religion. Alternatively, they may simply lose interest. Or they may be disillusioned by the sort of people they encounter in that religious community. Or they may find the moral code too strict, or not strict enough. Basically, every religion is a very complex social phenomenon involving many different elements, and people can become dissatisfied with any of those elements, and for a number of different reasons.

    I'm not sure exactly what you're getting at: do you want to know what factors are necessary for the development of religions in general? Or the factors that were necessary to the development of Christianity in particular? I'm not sure that either of those questions is really answerable. All we can do is say what actually happened; establishing which of those events was "necessary" for certain consequences isn't really possible, I think.

    Both, in a way. The first officially Christian state was Osrhoene, and since it apparently adopted Christianity in the second century AD, this was long before it was a major social phenomenon. But even at the time of Constantine's conversion two centuries later, only something like one in ten citizens of the Roman empire was a Christian. Christianity remained a minority interest until later in the fourth century, when a number of factors combined to encourage mass conversion to it. These factors included the increased prestige of the church, its superior philosophical resources (compared to previous centuries), the financial, legal, and medical services offered by the church to the needy (serving, in effect, as the closest thing to a welfare system that was available at the time), and (most of all) the proscription of rival religions in the 380s.

    Obviously, rulers could only adopt Christianity because it was already a social phenomenon to some extent; equally obviously, such official adoption inevitably affected the church to a considerable degree. It's not as simple as rulers manipulating the religion for their own purposes or being swept along by a movement bigger than them - it's a give-and-take process. I certainly don't think you can talk about rulers "orchestrating" anything, because one of the things that both emperors and bishops quickly learned was that while there were many advantages to their alliance, neither side could trust the other to do what they wanted.

    Of course, even if you mean only from a Christian point of view. The first Jewish war saw the destruction of the Temple and the subsequent re-invention of Judaism, a re-invention which also involved an attempt to distance themselves definitively from the Christians. The second Jewish war coincided with the period in which mainstream Christianity was reinventing itself within a much more hellenistic worldview, and coming to view those who retained a more Jewish perspective as "Ebionite" heretics. Although I must point out that very little is known about those Christians who stuck more rigidly to their Jewish roots after the first century. In fact this whole area is very obscure.

    There is considerable disagreement over how to define gnosticism and what its sources were. However, gnosticism proper was a post-Christian development, not a precondition for the development of Christianity; its major forms emerged only in the second century AD. Moreover, gnosticism was certainly deeply influenced by eastern religious movements such as Zoroastrianism. It wasn't just a product of Greek philosophy. Although different gnostics were influenced by different elements to different degrees; there wasn't really ever any such thing as "gnosticism", only different groups who could be called "gnostic" to varying degrees on the basis of certain similarities.

    I don't see any particular reason to take that view; surely marriage is about making a public commitment to someone you love. On your view, infertile people, or those past child-bearing age, shouldn't get married, or at least have no reason to do so. The fact that they do suggests at least that not everyone shares such a view of marriage.

    Well, quite, that's the problem. One way is to define "omniscient" in such a way that an omniscient God doesn't already know what you want. Another way is to say that although God knows what you want, he may not be motivated to bring it about without a direct supplication. That is, one of the reasons why God may wish to do X is that one of his creatures really, really wants X to occur. And if that creature really, really wants X, then it will request X of God. On this view, the prayer is not the cause of God's action; rather, the desire is the (part-) cause of both the prayer and God's action.

    There are brief references to Jesus in non-Christian sources, such as Suetonius and Josephus, but these tell us nothing except that these authors believed him to have existed. Really the main sources are the Christian ones, primarily the Gospels. And the major reason to suppose that these are not purely fictional is that form criticism and redaction criticism have shown how the authors have manipulated their sources to fit their own ends, and how the sources that they used themselves had histories of being shaped by the oral tradition. Often this shows how the writers wanted to minimise certain elements of the tradition. A good example is who to blame for Jesus' death. The later the text, the greater the tendency to blame the Jews and exonerate Pilate. If you compare the canonical Gospels, you'll see that Mark has Jesus condemned by the priests, then taken before Pilate, who seems a bit reluctant to execute Jesus, offering instead to release Barabbas instead, but is quickly convinced by the crowd. The later Matthew has the same account but adds in the notorious verse where the crowd say that the blame for his death should be upon their heads and those of their children. In Luke, Pilate insists repeatedly that Jesus is innocent, and states that he plans to whip him and release him, but he is eventually forced to change his mind. In John, Pilate also states that he thinks that Jesus is innocent and tries to release him, but is eventually convinced by "the Jews" who tell him that if he doesn't execute Jesus he will be guilty of treason. And in the apocryphal "Acts of Pilate", Pilate is a sort of hero, who is convinced not only of Jesus' innocence but of his divinity, but somehow still is forced to execute him. Clearly, as time went on and the Christians were involved in ever bitterer disputes with the Jews - and as their own fidelity to the Roman authorities were questioned - they wanted to stress that Jesus has been executed primarily at the behest of the Jewish authorities. The fact that the founder of their religion had been crucified - a Roman punishment - by a Roman prefect was an embarrassment for them, given that they wanted to stress their obedience to Roman law (see Romans 13, for example). This explains why the Gospel writers try to spin the material in this way. But it is striking, at the same time, how they don't change what were presumably the main facts of the case - in their narratives, Jesus still is crucified, and it is done on Pilate's orders. So although they were happy to modify the material in many ways to suit their purposes, they were more conservative than one might think.

    So to put it briefly, if the Christians had invented Jesus, he would have been rather different from the picture presented by the Gospels. In this example, he would surely have been stoned rather than crucified, since then the Christians could have easily placed the blame upon the Jews and stressed their own obedience to Rome. In fact, since stoning people to death was illegal, they could have pointed out that the Jews were the ones breaking the law, not Jesus.

    Scholars often use the "principle of dissimilarity" as a criterion for establishing that certain sayings attributed to Jesus are authentic. The idea is that if any saying is unknown in earlier sources (such as the Old Testament, and major Jewish teachers immediately before Jesus), and is inconsistent with things that the early Christians believed, then it must be authentic. Because the early Christians wouldn't have attributed to Jesus sayings that they didn't believe themselves. Of course, this is a very strict criterion. It's not meant to say that only the material that meets it is authentic: that would be ridiculous, since no doubt Jesus said many things that agreed with his predecessors, and surely the early Christians believed many of the same things as Jesus, or they wouldn't have been Christians at all. The point is that sayings that meet this criterion are ones that we can be sure, at least, are authentic. And the fact that such material exists points very clearly to its not having been invented by the early church.[/QUOTE]

    Not really, because according to the doctrine of transubstantiation, the consecrated bread retains all the natural properties of bread. So it is digested in the normal way. It is simply that although it retains all the natural properties of bread, it isn't bread.

    I'm not going to describe all of those for you: you can look them up easily and then ask more specific questions if you want.

    No doubt one could find individual Christians who believe it, since if you look hard enough you can find people who believe anything, but I know of no Christian group as a whole that has ever believed such a thing. It would certainly be extremely heretical from the point of view of every major Christian denomination. Apart from anything else, it would entail that Jesus wasn't fully divine and fully human, but half-divine and half-human, a sort of demigod Spock. If this is a common popular notion, that just shows how common misunderstanding can be.
     
  11. MayNilad Man

    MayNilad Man Chieftain

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    I am shamed. :blush:

    Here's another round of questions:
    -What is the history and the reasoning behind the doctrine of Hypostatic union?
    -Can you give a history and enumerate some of the achievements of the Christian Ecumenism movement?
    -What happened to the nuns after Vat. II?
     
  12. Perfection

    Perfection The Great Head.

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    What's the weirdest conception of God that you've seen?
     
  13. CartesianFart

    CartesianFart Chieftain

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    Can anyone help me on providing me a link to some English translation of Ockham's "Summa Totius Logicae" and some papers of Abelard responding to the only known sources of Roscelin?

    I be grateful if anyone provide me these sources.
     
  14. Atticus

    Atticus Chieftain Retired Moderator

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    Thanks for answers. I was thinking some time ago, that maybe the story of Jesus' birth could be such a proof: he was called Jesus of Nazareth, but prophecies demanded him to be from Bethlehem, so christians had to have the story. If he would be just invented guy, they could easily have called him Jesus of Bethlehem. Would that sound reasonable?

    Yes, but how long it is the body of Christ? Just in stomach, in intestines, when it exits the human body, or even after that?
     
  15. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    It simply means that the two natures - divine and human - are fully and genuinely united in one hypostasis, the person of Christ. "Hypostasis" is the literal Greek translation of the Latin "substantia" (both mean "standing under"), a substance or substantial reality. The word was often used interchangeably with "ousia", which meant much the same thing. In the fourth century, however, some theologians sought to distinguish between them, in order to express the idea that the Trinity has threeness on one level (that of hypostasis) but unity on another (that of ousia). Gregory of Nyssa set out this approach in this important letter (traditionally misattributed to his brother Basil). While the terminology for the Trinity was being developed, it was also being applied to christology, with the idea emerging that Christ had one hypostasis and two ousiae. To put it simplistically, a number of Alexandrian theologians stressed the fact that Christ had one hypostasis, while a number of Antiochene theologians stressed that he had two ousiae. I believe that Athanasius of Alexandria was the first to use the phrase "hypostatic union" to emphasise Christ's personal unity. Cyril of Alexandria also stressed repeatedly that Christ was a single person with a single hypostasis. Their point was that Christ starts off as a single divine person, and he subsequently becomes human as well. It is not as if there were a divine person and a human person who merge, which is what Cyril thought Nestorius was saying. Nestorius and his allies, meanwhile, wanted to stress the fullness and reality of Christ's two natures, but they didn't really have a clear understanding of the difference between a nature and a person. The council of Chalcedon in 451 basically combined the two approaches, with the formula that Christ was one hypostasis with two ousiae.

    The point of the doctrine of hypostatic union is that you can distinguish between a thing itself and the nature that that thing has. A nature is not a thing and a thing is not a nature, even though you can never have a thing without a nature. If they are distinct in this way, then (the claim is) there is no logical objection to having a single thing with more than one nature: you can multiply natures without multiplying things, as it were. And if you have such a case, then the natures are really and truly united, because they are both present in one and the same thing. And the claim is that this is precisely the case with Christ.

    After Chalcedon, this view was accepted by what would become the Catholic and Orthodox churches, though it was disputed by the non-Chalcedonian churches.

    My father is closely involved in the ecumenical movement, and by a happy chance I got him to write a short article summarising it some time ago, so here it is:

    They're still around, but there are far fewer of them, I believe. But the drop in monastic profession really came during the secularisation of the 1960s, rather than necessarily in the post-Vatican II atmosphere.

    Without a doubt, this one.

    That's got nothing whatsoever to do with theology. However, I do know that you can find some selections of Ockham's Summa here, as well as other medieval texts on this subject. I don't know of anywhere where you can find the whole thing.

    I'm not clear whether you want Abelard's discussion of Roscelin or his discussion of universals. The major sources for Roscelin are Anselm of Canterbury's De fide trinitate II 9:20-10:1 and Abelard's Letter 14, which I can't find online.

    If you want Abelard's own discussion of universals, the major texts are in his Logica and Glossulae, but I don't know if these are available online.

    Yes, that's entirely reasonable and I think right. This is especially so given that Matthew and Luke (the only ones with birth narratives) actually use different devices to reconcile Bethlehem and Nazareth. Matthew implies that Jesus' parents initially live in Bethlehem, where they have Jesus; they flee to Egypt to escape Herod and return when he dies, but find Herod's son Archelaus ruling Judea, so they flee to Nazareth (presumably having less objection to Herod's other son Antipas, who was ruling Galilee). Luke, meanwhile, has the more familiar nativity story, according to which Jesus' parents always lived in Nazareth, but visit Bethlehem in order to participate in the rather improbable census, having Jesus while there.

    I think the idea is usually that it becomes wholly united to the body of the eater (bearing in mind that medieval theories on digestion weren't entirely accurate!).
     
  16. Perfection

    Perfection The Great Head.

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    This leads me to a question, how if any have traditional African beliefs impacted the Christian churches there?
     
  17. CartesianFart

    CartesianFart Chieftain

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    I really don't know why you are saying that it have nothing to do with Theology. But, nevermind on that and I have to say thanks anyway for that link.

    The other hand, I find it silly that I can't find those other Abelard's writings. I wish I got an answer for that.
     
  18. MCdread

    MCdread Couldn't she get drowned?

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    Great thread, possibly the best I've ever seen in CFC. :goodjob:
    A couple of questions:

    1. What elements of pre-christian religiosity have made their way into Christian doctrine, or (perhaps more adequately) into what one might call popular religiosity and what kind of relation has existed between theology proper and what the church has taught as its doctrine and that more popular religious experience, with its rituals, superstitions, saints, etc. (isn't pagan after all a word that originally meant rural or an inhabitant of a rural village?)? Maybe this isn't so much of an issue today in protestant countries, but it strikes me as something very vivid and particular in the catholicism of southern european countries (which are the ones I know better), and probably later on also in latin America and nowadays Africa.

    2. From what I've read it seems that no other religion has created such a complex, vivid and multiform demon character as the christian devil. One might say that there have been many different devils throughout the centuries with different representations, powers and attributes, from the ridicule figure you can sometimes see in medieval illuminated manuscripts (brute and unintelligent) to an almost God rival all powerful entity. Is this multifaceted devil something intrinsic to the christian doctrine, ie, within christian theological trends is such a central devil character inevitable? And how has he evolved and been depicted by both orthodoxy and herectical groups? Finally, in relation to the first question, can it be said that such colourful character is precisely an output of that relation between the deeper theological inquiry of the fathers and doctors of the church and the simpler and practical (and sometimes superstitious) views of the common people, ie, a product of one trying to accomodate with the other?
     
  19. Bill3000

    Bill3000 OOOH NOOOOOOO! Supporter

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    I'm just curious; how exactly is conservative evaangelicalism false/unorthodox? I'd assume that Rapture goes without saying, but what else is there?

    As well, what about liberal protestantism?

    Finally, one last question: If you were a Christian, what denomination do you think would best suit you?
     
  20. Atticus

    Atticus Chieftain Retired Moderator

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    Couple questions more:

    Can you tell some of the sayings which are thought to be authentic and/or tell where to find them?

    Has somebody examined Jesus from the viewpoint that Jesus didn't think himself as the son of God (or to have any kind of special relation to god, or that Jesus dint believe in god)?

    Is there some reason why catholics hold on transubstantiation? I mean: it's so wacky idea that they must have something to gain with it.
     
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