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Ask a Theologian

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

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  1. frob2900

    frob2900 Chieftain

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    Sure, you are right. We can reason all we want about godhood this way, but we can never reach a consensus on the question 'what makes a God' without having something we all agree on to start with.

    [EDIT]
    The reason I keep bringing up axioms is that I have come to think of the concept (the few times I read foundational mathematics/logic) as 'useful axiom = assertion of least controversy'. And I still submit that these are essential for any debate to reach 'assertive consensus' (i.e. people agreeing 'yes, that is so' rather than 'yes, that certainly follows from your assumptions')
     
  2. Leif

    Leif Chieftain

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    I don't know if you've been asked this question before, but..

    ..Why do you believe religion exists?
     
  3. Atticus

    Atticus Chieftain Retired Moderator

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    Ok, I did some contemplating and understood that it's bit naive to want criteria for godness before the proofs: there certainly isn't so many proofs that the criteria couldn't be thought afterwards. It just feels very strange to first prove existence of something and after that think if the thing really is what it is. Little like proving that there are infinitely many twin primes without knowing what twin primes are. On the other hand it seems to be standard procedure in philosophy: somebody gives his theory first, and after that someone else says he has misunderstood the very thing he's talking about.

    Here's two concrete examples:

    1. I take the paradox "can god create so heavy stone that he can't lift it" as a genuine one (it's witty, and that's why people tend to pass it by as a mere joke). Perhaps god is something who is beyond ordinary lifting, but I'd suppose the paradox can be at least formulated other way so it forms a real problem. As omnipotence seems to be generally thought as the definition of god, this would be problem. Perhaps new condition could be "maximal potence", but it wouldn't be that clear cut any more, what if the maximal potence would equal George Bush's political power or Arnold Schwartzenegger's strength? I wouldn't like to worship either one of them. As long as omnipotence is the requirement, we can rule them out easily.

    2. Let's say someone claims the whole universe to be God. I guess someone has said something along these lines (Spinoza maybe, though his god had other attributes too, so he doesn't quite fit). Idea seems very appealing and possible to defend against ctriticism, but it's somehow trivial, it seems to lack something essential for god. Atheist could maybe be convinced that the universe has every quality generally attributed to god (he can't deny the possibilty that universe might be conscious), but still insist that it couldn't be said to be god.

    Umm, the latter example was poorly phrased, but I hope someone understands what I mean. It's little bit like saying that erverything that happens can't be called natural, because then the word wouldn't have any meaning.
     
  4. scy12

    scy12 Chieftain

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    Do you think for the progression of humanity in areas related to science , moral behavior * , economical advancement and so on that Relligion should or will be weakened as a result of the progress that is sparked by technological advancement, generally , globally ?

    There are differences between religions and i expect this in your answer but each religion does share a distinct culture that affects our culture , ideas positively or negatively.
     
  5. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    Of course the best book you could read on that would be mine, but here is part of the bibliography I put together for that book, which you might find helpful:

    Ahlstrom, S. A religious history of the American people New Haven, CT; London: Yale University Press 2nd. Ed. 2004
    Belitto, C. The general councils: a history of the twenty-one general councils from Nicaea to Vatican II New York: Paulist Press 2002
    Bokenkotter, T. A concise history of the Catholic Church rev. ed. New York: Doubleday 1990
    Breward, I. A history of the churches in Australasia Oxford: Oxford University Press 2001
    Constantilos, D. Understanding the Greek Orthodox Church 3rd Ed. Brookline, MA: Hellenic College Press 1998
    Duffy, E. Saints and sinners: a history of the Popes 2nd. Ed. New Haven, CT; London: Yale University Press 2002
    Fernando, L. and Gispert-Sauch, G. Christianity in India: two thousand years of faith New Delhi: Viking 2004
    Ferngren, G., ed. Science and religion: a historical introduction Baltimore, MD; London: John Hopkins University Press 2002
    Gritsch, E. A history of Lutheranism Minneapolis, MN: Fortress 2002
    Hastings, A., ed. A world history of Christianity London: Cassell 1999
    Isichei, E. A history of Christianity in Africa: from antiquity to the present London: SPCK; Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans 1995
    Küng, H. Christianity London: SCM 1995
    McBrien, R. Catholicism 3rd Ed. London: Geoffrey Chapman 1994
    McManners, J., ed. The Oxford history of Christianity Oxford: Oxford University Press 1990
    Noll, M. A history of Christianity in the United States and Canada Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans; London: SPCK 1992
    Pospielovsky, D. The Orthodox Church in the history of Russia Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press 1998
    Sundkler, B. and Steed, C. A history of the church in Africa Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2000
    Thompson, R. Religion in Australia: a history Melbourne; Oxford: Oxford University Press 2002

    That's far too huge a question for me to answer here, especially given the ready availability of information on Luther (apparently more books have been written about Luther than about anyone else in history, other than Jesus). Here are a few that might help:

    Kolb, R. Luther’s heirs define his legacy: studies on Lutheran confessionalization Aldershot: Ashgate 1996
    Lindberg, C. The European Reformations Oxford: Blackwell 1996
    Louthan, H. and Zachman, R. Conciliation and confession: the struggle for unity in the Age of Reform, 1415-1648 Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press 2004
    MacCulloch, D. Reformation: Europe’s house divided, 1490-1700 London: Penguin 2004
    Mannermaa, T. Christ present in faith: Luther’s view of justification Minneapolis, MN: Fortress 2005
    Marins, R. Martin Luther: the Christian between God and death Cambridge, MA; London: Harvard University Press 1999
    Mullett, M. Martin Luther London: Routledge 2004
    Pelikan, J. The Christian tradition: A history of the development of doctrine 4. Reformation of church and dogma (1300-1700) Chicago; London: University of Chicago Press 1983
    Pettegree, A., ed. The Reformation world London; New York: Routledge 2000
    Steinmetz, D. Reformers in the wings: from Geiler von Kayserberg to Theodore Beza Oxofrd: Oxford University Press 2001
    Tomlin, G. Luther and his world Oxford: Lion 2002
    Williams, G. The radical Reformation 3rd. ed. Kirksville, MO: Truman University Press 2000

    Thanks! Good to know that people have heard about my books without my telling them. It's a little odd to think of them out there. I just got a copy of my second book translated into Chinese. I didn't even know it was going to be translated into Chinese until I saw it.

    Really the issue of the Law was one of the earliest disputes in Christianity. Paul's letter to the Galatians was written, in part, to attack a group in that church who argued that Christians were bound by certain parts of the Old Testament Law (namely circumcision). It's not known who these people were: traditionally they are taken to be Jewish converts to Christianity, although they might just as easily be gentile converts who are over-enthusiastic about it all. Paul argues that you can't pick and choose with Old Testament laws; if you think you're bound by one you must be bound by all, so if you think that circumcision is still required you must obey all the others too. But that is inconsistent with the belief that salvation comes through Christ. So ever since then, the notion that Christians are required to follow the Old Testament Law has generally been regarded as heretical (and Christians have traditionally been very suspicious of any "Judaising" tendencies in that direction).

    I don't know much about the extent to which such a view was revived during the Reformation, although I think it would have been quite contrary to the spirit of the Reformers. I also don't know much about modern American churches, although I would be surprised if this view were very prevalent among them. As I said, it's a heresy from the viewpoint of traditional orthodox Christianity. That doesn't necessarily mean it can't be widespread (the belief that the Father suffers is also a heresy, but I think it's quite common even among fairly conservative evangelicals) but in this case I don't think it is.

    Now the idea that the Bible is the only source for human ethics does sound a lot more like something the Reformers would believe. The Catholic Church would reject that view, because Catholics believe that ethics is one of those areas that you can know about through reason alone. That is, reason will tell us (for example) that murder is wrong - you don't need revelation to know such a thing. Of course, we also know it through revelation - the Bible tells us that murder is wrong, just as reason does. So reason and revelation agree, which means that the Bible isn't the sole source for ethics. The Reformers disagreed with this outlook, which is why Protestants traditionally think that it all has to come from the Bible. I suppose the most thoroughgoing representative of this view was Karl Barth, who devoted most of his life to arguing against the claim that human beings can know anything spiritual or moral except through revelation.

    So I'd say that the view that Christians are bound by the Old Testament Law must be a very minority view in most churches today; but the view that ethics should come only from the Bible is probably quite mainstream, at least in Protestantism. I'd question how seriously most Protestants would take the principle, though. Because if you accept it, you must also accept that anyone who doesn't know about the Bible cannot be held morally responsible for any action, because they wouldn't know whether it's right or wrong. So (say) Crassus did not commit an immoral act when he crucified thousands of slaves along the Appian Way, because he hadn't read the Old Testament and didn't know that such things are wrong. But that seems pretty implausible and I doubt that most Protestants, even those who think that morality must come only from the Bible, would hold such a view. In practice, I think that most Protestants have held a view more like intuitionism or sentimentalism, according to which you just know right and wrong through the action of an inner "moral sense" (or something like that). Jonathan Edwards, the most important American theologian and a pretty strict Calvinist, was one of the most important representatives of this view.

    I don't think there's any religious view which is so wacky you won't find representatives of it in America!

    No, my choice of Leibniz had nothing to do with Theology. I chose to do him because I wrote my undergraduate dissertation on him. And I did that simply because I happened to have found a subject to write about connected to him. I wanted to do him, though, because I like his ideas and his style of writing. I don't actually think Leibniz was very interesting as a theologian (although he did write a very striking early work in which he argued that there are virtually no theological differences between Lutherans and Catholics).

    That's an interesting question and I'm not sure how to answer it, except by saying that in theology the views expressed are only those of the theologian in question... I mean that anyone is entitled to think that the opposing opinion is ridiculous. That is, I've seen plenty of conservative evangelicals heap scorn upon "liberal" views, usually without any real understanding of the views in question or why people hold them. And I've seen Catholics ridicule Protestantism and Protestants ridicule Catholicism, again usually on the basis of ridiculous misunderstandings (I remember in particular one woman telling me that all Catholic priests are hypocrites, because they tell people not to use contraception whilst remaining celibate themselves - something so daft I didn't know what to say). So if theologians do it then they're hardly exclusively to blame.

    The more fundamental issue, though, is where one derives the sources of one's religious views. Should one discard a belief because it is "ridiculous" or doesn't seem to fit in with what one knows in other matters? Much modern theology is based on the assumption that one should (just as Bultmann said it's impossible to believe in angels and demons in a radio age). But of course many religious people would completely reject such a view - Tertullian went so far as to say that he believed because it was impossible (a much misunderstood quote, but never mind). I don't think it's really possible to settle such a dispute.

    The church fathers - at least after the second century or thereabouts - would have distinguished between "hell" as a place where the soul goes after death to await judgement and "hell" as the place where the resurrected body goes after judgement. That is, they believed that, after death, your soul is separated from your body. The body rots, and the soul wafts off somewhere where it experiences a foretaste of what is to come: if it's a good soul it goes to be with God, and if it's a bad soul then it gets punished. However, these are not permanent destinations; they are only provisional, and last until the end of history and judgement day. At that time, all bodies are resurrected and all souls are reunited with their bodies. God then passes judgement on everyone, and they troop off to their final destinations. This is the view of things we find in Augustine. So those who accepted this view would have said that in one sense, "hell" is temporary (the first hell), but in another sense permanent (the second hell). However, I should point out that in practice, they tend not to distinguish them.

    This is where the medieval doctrine of purgatory came from: the belief in a sort of temporary, provisional hell turned into purgatory later on.

    Now as far as I can tell, most of the church fathers did believe that punishment would be everlasting. Some of them apparently disagreed. You're right that Origen is normally thought to have been a universalist, although his literary remains are in such a poor state that this is controversial - Henri Crouzel, for example, argues that Origen was not a universalist at all. However, the structure of his thought seems to entail it. Origen believed, like Plato, that the purpose of punishment is always rehabilitation: it is done to improve the person being punished. He likens it to painful surgery, which is unpleasant but in the best interests of the person undergoing it. On that view, it would be incoherent to have eternal punishment. So even if Origen didn't explicitly teach that damnation is only temporary and ultimately everyone would be saved, it certainly seems to follow from his views.

    Clement of Alexandria seems to have tended towards a similar view, and the more obscure Titus of Bostra also held them. The main universalist among the church fathers, though, was Gregory of Nyssa, who taught it far more explicitly than Origen ever did. The interesting thing is that Gregory seems unaware that this view might be considered controversial; he never argues for it in much detail, but simply mentions it almost in passing in many passages. Yet Gregory did devote much energy to defending views that he considered controversial, such as his view that God is infinite. Which suggests that although few people apparently believed in universalism, there may have been more than one might think, and there was very little dispute between the two sides. Which is strange, given that Gregory's own brother, Basil of Caesarea, argued against universalism. Their mutual friend Gregory of Nazianzus didn't know which one to believe.

    However, Augustine argued against universalism in his City of God, and that was so influential that that was pretty much it for the doctrine until modern times.

    Those claims are completely true, and indeed uncontroversially so. The word "aionios" does mean that, and indeed there are places in the New Testament where it is clearly used to indicate a long, but limited, period of time:

    That is, we are living at the end of an extremely long but limited period of time (ie, the history of the world). Now of course "aionios" is neutral regarding whether the "age" in question is finite or infinite. The fact that this word is used in other verses to refer to the post-mortem fate of individuals doesn't, in itself, indicate whether that fate is unending or simply very, very long - it's ambiguous.

    Because that's just the way people are! You'd have to ask an anthropologist for more on that, I think...

    I'm not convinced at all that humanity has seen any "progression" in morality, so I'm not sure what you mean by that. As for progress in science and economics, I don't really see why those would be relevant to religion. Religion doesn't depend upon science and economics being poorly advanced. Of course, religion may take different forms depending on the state of society, but that's not the same thing. For example, in late antiquity, people generally looked to religion to explain things cosmically. That is, one of the good reasons to believe in God (it was argued) was that God could explain why the world is the way that it is. Today, we don't need God to do that. But it doesn't follow that people are less likely to believe in God; it's simply that the belief functions in a different way for them.
     
  6. Eran of Arcadia

    Eran of Arcadia Stormin' Mormon Retired Moderator

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    Okay, I see what you mean; but at the same time, shouldn't someone studying something like this try to avoid making that sort of value judgment? Especially if (as in your case) you don't believe in any of it, so one is no worse than the other.
     
  7. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    Ah, when I said that, I meant "theologian" in the sense of someone who actively does theology rather than someone who studies what theologians have said.
     
  8. Eran of Arcadia

    Eran of Arcadia Stormin' Mormon Retired Moderator

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  9. MayNilad Man

    MayNilad Man Chieftain

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    Hmmm..

    I've heard that the Vatican has accepted the status of other religions as being alternative ways to God, but not the best way.

    Could you elucidate on this? Does it mean that RCC is not the only way to get into Heaven? That being the case, what is the RCC for?

    I've had thoughts on this and I just want to ahve them, more or less, confirmed: The RCC is not here to bring souls into heaven, but to bring Heaven to the souls, i.e. the Kingdom of God.
     
  10. Elrohir

    Elrohir RELATIONAL VALORIZATION

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    First of all, thank you Plotinus for getting back to me with all my questions!

    Exactly as I thought. I still wonder how much these people believe it, even so - I admit I suggested trying to buy the pastor's daughter in an attempt to find that out, but my friend wasn't amenable. ;)

    I'm not sure. I mean it sounds really good to say "all morality comes from the Bible" but practically speaking, I've never met a Protestant who didn't believe that people had consciences, even non-believers. (The "requirements of the law written on their hearts" in Romans 2:14 seems like good Biblical support for that idea) Honestly, I think many or perhaps most Protestants would say all morality is given in the Bible, in the sense that there aren't more "hidden" moral rules that God didn't give us, but I don't think most would believe that the Bible is the sole source of any actual moral truth. That doesn't make much sense.

    People can believe some pretty strange stuff.

    That's very interesting. So the idea that people went to a sort of temporary hell before the Last Judgment eventually morphed into the concept of a place where they could be "purified" of their sins before that Judgment?

    So would it be fair to say in summary that early on there was a difference of opinion, but a consensus was effectively reached after Augustine? Do we know which view was on the whole more prevalent in the early church?

    So while it is reasonable to interpret aionios in the case of the afterlife to mean a limited amount of time (An age, or eon) it is equally as reasonable to believe that the more traditional view of it meaning an unlimited age or eternity is the correct one? Simply put, we can't know exactly which was meant?

    I'm asking a lot of questions about hell primarily because I have some friends who have basically been converted by this sort of unconventional modern day "theologian" (Using the term loosely) who teaches that hell isn't eternal. As well as that mankind as no free will at all, that Christ was created by God, and some other....unorthodox doctrines, or at least unorthodox by modern day American Protestant standards - I'm sure someone has believed everything he does elsewhere, just probably not all at the same time.
     
  11. Erik Mesoy

    Erik Mesoy Core Tester / Intern

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    Recently in this thread, something of a derailment took place.

    Rather than word questions in any manner and be accused of phrasing bias, I think I'll just ask you for a few comments. ;)
     
  12. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    I suspect you're thinking of the Second Vatican Council, which did accept a version of Karl Rahner's inclusivist doctrine that other religions can offer valid routes to God. The key to understanding both Rahner and the official Catholic position, though, is that this can happen only in certain circumstances.

    I already described Rahner's views earlier in the thread, here. On this view, the purpose of the church is to help people come to God, and it does it far better than any other religion or organisation. However, if you have no access to the church or don't know its teachings, other religions or organisations may do the same job for you, though not as well.

    Some people have held that view - Barth, for example, or something much like it - but yes, I agree that even most Protestants probably don't, and it would be hard to defend.

    Yes, pretty much. Although purgatory was not a place where people were purified of their sins - only of the effects of sin upon their souls. Catholics always believed that sin itself was removed by Christ's sacrifice, without any need for subsequent purging.

    I think that universalism was always a minority view. But it never seems to have been particularly controversial. The only example of a dispute over this before Augustine that I can think of was when Origen was attacked by his bishop for supposedly teaching that the devil would be saved. Origen's response to this was to deny that he had said any such thing, only that the devil could be saved.

    That's right. The word itself isn't clear, so you need to look at the context and guess from that. For example, I'm sure that when the word is used to refer to the future happiness of the blessed, it's meant in an unlimited way. But it doesn't follow from that (contrary to what Augustine argued) that it means the same thing when referring to the future misery of the damned.

    I think the vast majority of modern theologians would reject the notion of eternal punishment - indeed such a position is so generally accepted among modern theologians they rarely even bother to argue for it. Saying that Christ was "created" by God is a bit odder since that is Arianism, which is pretty outdated these days, I think. As for the lack of free will, that's orthodox Calvinism (Calvin himself devoted some time to arguing against the notion of free will, as did Jonathan Edwards, the greatest theologian America has yet produced).

    Well, I'd say that like most religion-bashers, Princeps is being deliberately vague and evasive. He's just wrong. His argument depends upon identifying "organisation" with "coercive organisation", so he can claim that the pre-Constantine church had no organisation, on the basis that it didn't force anyone to join or believe it. That is obviously ridiculous. To suppose that an institution can be described as "organised" only if it is compulsory is to redefine the word in a ludicrous way; by that definition, the Labour Party is not organised, and neither are the Democrats, or Christian Aid, or indeed most of the things we call "organisations" at all. And the pre-Constantine church was perfectly well organised. And it did have systems to enforce dogma and practice upon its members long before the state took a hand in it. For example, the dispute between Cyprian and Stephen of Rome over apostates in the mid-third century turned in part upon the authority of the Roman bishop over other churches. Before that, Irenaeus and Tertullian provided the theory behind the distinction between "orthodoxy" and "heresy" at the end of the second century. Events such as the condemnation of Paul of Samosata or the debate between Origen and Heraclides show that orthodoxy was not simply taken seriously but enforced long before any Christian even dreamed that the state would endorse the church.

    The second part of his claim, that religion was later "organised" by the state simply with the intention of encouraging people to irrationally follow centralised authority, also seems to me to be ludicrous and completely unsupported by any evidence. People who say things like these generally make dark and vague references to Constantine and Nicaea, or perhaps the medieval Catholic Church, without apparently thinking that any actual examples are necessary.

    A simpler explanation for the increasingly organised nature of the church is simply that people tend to be religious, and any human activities tend to become more organised over time. Perhaps a good parallel, in some ways, from today is sport. Modern sport began as a very amateurish affair. It became more organised over time. Today it's a massive industry making vast sums of money, run by billionaires for profit - and yes, partly run by governments too, as the current situation with the Olympics shows. Does it follow that sport is a cynical invention of money men and politicians, created for the purposes of manipulating people? Of course not! They may use it for such purposes on occasion, but to dismiss sport itself, or organised sport, as such a creature of powerful men is to completely misunderstand the whole thing.
     
  13. C~G

    C~G Untouchable

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    I think you could still say that religion and church was used as organized tool for controlling people, however this doesn't mean original and ultimate purpose of the religion and church itself is this control. However we can debate whether originally in the history of mankind this was the point of creating religion but IMO this happened (also later again and again with different organizations) because of the synergy between the desire for people to be involved in centralized and organized system and the will of those in power to get people do what they want (and society also might need).

    What comes to sports, well, like they say roman populance "the mob" needed bread and circuses to be happy or at least content with those in power so you could say sports was used as political tool. This doesn't mean sports was originally planned to serve this purpose.

    Those in power (whether in government or church) have always recognise the chances to effect the population. And they do varyingly degrees believe into need of this and the truth behind it. It will be always part of any such systems that people are part of voluntarily or involuntarily.

    Any organized system or event that gets people involved will be tried to be used as a tool but explain that it alone makes this the purpose of these systems or events is just blind ridiculous malignant idealism.

    BTW, I think the need of bread and circuses is also mightily prevalent in todays society. Maybe that is exactly how to control the middle class in democratic society. Enough food and entertainment and you get enough populism to run the country by the way you like.
     
  14. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    Exactly. You shouldn't assume that because something is used in a certain way, that's the only way it has been used, or the purpose for which it was created.

    In the case of organised religion, it's often forgotten that it has frequently been a thorn in the side of secular rulers just as much as a tool. Rulers throughout history have found that endorsing an official church may bring dividends in one area but also brings problems with it. For example, the man who made Christianity the religion of Rome, the emperor Theodosius, was famously berated by Ambrose of Milan after ordering a massacre; Ambrose turned the emperor away from church, ordering him to repent before he returned. It was all settled amicably, with the emperor making a public repentance, but it shows that when church and state ally, it's not necessarily the state that's calling all the shots. Emperors and kings have had to suffer "turbulent priests" ever since, all the way up to Thatcher's fury at Runcie when he said it was a bad thing to kill Argentinians.
     
  15. Elrohir

    Elrohir RELATIONAL VALORIZATION

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    So the traditional Catholic view is that Christ's death removed the sin itself, but the effects of the sin remain, and can be purged through various methods? Interesting. But don't Catholics, or at least some of them, still believe in an eternal hell? How does work?

    Even if it us used in the same verse? I can try to find it, but I'm pretty sure there's a verse that talks about eonian joy and suffering with the same word in the same verse.

    Really? So most rank and file Protestants believe in eternal punishment, but the theologians don't? No wonder they don't like you guys. ;) The Arianism thing is a little weird, and I think this guy also teaches that the Holy Spirit is really just a way of talking about God's Power or influence or something, rather than a literal being part of an actual Trinity. Their main argument for this seems to be "Well, no one ever prays directly to the Holy Spirit!" even though that's false, and it's not like God would change His nature based on what we do, anyway. Is the the idea of the Holy Spirit as simply the power of God, rather than a "separate" being in the Trinity like Christ and the Father an orthodox view? I'd never heard it put forward in such terms before. (As far as I can tell, the most historical controversy about the Holy Spirit is whether He emanates from the Father or the Son, or both. Which seems like a kind of pointless thing to get angry with someone over, but hey....)

    On the free will thing, I'm not talking about in regards to salvation - although that figures in to. I mean total lack of free will, as in human beings make effectively no choices at all, even Christians, and therefore God is responsible for our actions. That doesn't sound like orthodox Calvinism to me, but maybe I'm wrong.
     
  16. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    The idea is that Christ's death removes the sin for those who are saved. Of course according to orthodox Catholicism there are plenty of people who don't have that happen to them, and they're the ones who are damned. Purgatory is only for those people who are saved but who need the effects of sin removing. Saints are those who are so holy at death they don't need to go to purgatory at all, and they go straight to enjoy the beatific vision.

    But of course it could just mean "incredibly long" both times in the same verse. The point is that the word itself is non-specific about whether it's literally never-ending or not. So in such a context, it does mean exactly the same thing in each case - ie, very long. It doesn't follow from that that the author thought that each thing described was very long in the same way.


    No, it's completely unorthodox to call the Holy Spirit simply God's power; the orthodox view is that all three of them are distinct (though not separate) persons. There's been plenty of controversy about the Holy Spirit over the centuries, of course, not just over whether he emanates from the Son as well as the Father. And that was (and still is) a very important point of contention, because the Orthodox believe that the Father is the sole source of divinity within the Godhead, while westerners do not, since they think that the Son is the source of the Spirit as well. Which makes a big difference, because it completely alters the internal dynamics of the Trinity.

    The problem of free will is enormously complicated, mainly because no-one can ever seem to agree what "free will" means. I don't understand a view which denies that anyone ever makes choices, because we obviously do make choices all the time. The question is merely whether those choices are "free", and if so, what that means. Calvin certainly denied that human beings have contra-causal freedom, in the sense of being able to choose otherwise than they actually do, in all circumstances - it's not just about salvation. Traditionally, Christians had used the old Platonic argument that if we don't have contra-causal freedom then we have no moral responsibility; but we do have moral responsibility; therefore we have such freedom. Calvin denied (quite correctly, in my view) that such freedom is essential to responsibility. So did Luther, of course.
     
  17. Elrohir

    Elrohir RELATIONAL VALORIZATION

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    But why wouldn't Christ's death remove the consequences of sin for the saved, as well as the sin itself? Where did this idea originate, and is there any specific Bible verse that proponents of this view champion?

    But what practical difference is there in where the HS originates from? I admit I follow the traditional Western view on this matter, but I don't understand why it is such a big deal. As far as I can see, there aren't any practical ramifications, and it can't be conclusively proven either way. I mean I'd understand if it was just theologians arguing over this (Because that's your job, I guess) but issues like this have divided the church, haven't they? Why, do you think, are they allowed to if there are no practical, real life differences between the two views?

    I think their response would be that we make the choices we do because of choices God made in the past, or something, and God influences us directly, so he's responsible for everything.

    Why do you think Calvin and Luther were correct in denying that man must have moral choice in order to bear moral responsibility? I confess that I've never understood this view - if moral choice isn't necessary, is it possible for an animal, or a rock for that matter, to sin?
     
  18. Birdjaguar

    Birdjaguar Entangled Retired Moderator Supporter

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    Plotinus, if you haven't read it, I recommend "Nonzero" by Robert Wright.
     
  19. Integral

    Integral Can't you hear it?

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    Plotinus, you and Elrohir had a discussion earlier about the role of Old Testament Law in Christianity. In particular, you said this:

    I’ve been thinking about this idea as well, and I ask if you could shed some light on this passage:

    So the only part of the OT Law that applies to Christians is the moral bit, while the Levitical Laws and other rituals don’t apply? Are there other sources that say similar things, and is this the accepted view in mainstream Christian theology (historical or modern)?

    Then again, if the Moral part of the law is “The Eternal Rule of Right”, why do we even need a Law; won’t reason lead to the same result? (I believe you mentioned this before…I should reread the earlier posts)

    Also, is John Locke’s theology worth reading? I mean, I know he was an influential political philosopher, but was he a decent theologian as well?

    Thanks,
    Integral
     
  20. Atticus

    Atticus Chieftain Retired Moderator

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    Somewhere before you (Plotinus) said that "son of God" didn't mean much in biblical times, especially it shouldn't be taken literally. Isn't that in conflict with the famous John 3:16:

    "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life"?

    And about those proofs for god: has anybody tried to prove them impossible?
     
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