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Ask a Theologian

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

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  1. Margim

    Margim Footy's back.

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    A lot of the problems you identify emerge from a conservative evangelical view of the Bible where the whole thing needs to be read literally to have meaning, and then qualified to make sense.

    I think that's the wrong way to look at it. If you believe God is good, then ignore/cut/radically reinterpret the bits that present God in another light.

    Those of us who are Christians are not Jews because we give a particular weight to the life and actions of Jesus - thus, it would anything that seems inconsistent with the figure of Jesus (ie death, destruction, unbalanced wrath, evil being given a free reign) needs to be reconsidered with that in mind.
     
  2. Margim

    Margim Footy's back.

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    If I can chip into this one too, I'd suggest its been a product of misinterpretation and tying together several otherwise disconnected concepts.

    In the Hebrew Bible (before Christianity was around), we've got an evil figure in Genesis (the snake) who emboddies deception , and 'Satan' or the accuser who appears elsewhere - a nasty, tough figure who plays the embodiment of anger, treachery and mallice

    In the Greek world, Hades is lord of the underworld.

    The anti-Christ in the New Testament is an embodiment of evil and challenge to the church, although many scholars would suggest this figure refers to literal, historical characters (ie Nero).

    We've got an unfortunate tendency to simplify things (as I'm doing in this post) - I'd suggest that over the past 2000 years, we've simply lumped all these negative images into one - an evil embodiment of deception who rules the dead of the underworld.
     
  3. zxcvbnm

    zxcvbnm The Nobody

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    I'd like to hear what exactly those literalists, conservative evangelicals say about this.

    If someone thinks God is a violent killer-torturer, can intepret it with the same system, leaving away the parts not supporting his view. How can one know who is right?

    But those things are often twisted to fit what my earlier examole shows
     
  4. Margim

    Margim Footy's back.

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    Yep, acknowledge that, I just think they are wrong :D.

    Seriously, if one wants to believe God is a killer-torturer, not much can be done to stop them. I just don't think that's a helpful way of approaching the Bible. If one calls oneself Christian (Christ-one), then their primary mode of reading should be through the lens of Jesus' life and actions, not from the viewpoint of some sadistic war God, which Israel obviously thought Yahweh was at points in the old testament.
     
  5. zxcvbnm

    zxcvbnm The Nobody

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    I hope you understand now why I don't believe in any gods.

    It's an issue of hypocrisy because many american evangelicals twist the Bible to suit their own personal opinions which are completely different from the principles of freedom, pacifism and equality Jesus preached.
     
  6. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    That's only a problem if you assume that all these books must be consistent with each other. An alternative approach might be to suppose that the bloodier books of the Old Testament were written earlier and represent a more primitive understanding of the divine on the part of the Hebrews, while the Pentateuch was written later and represents a rather more enlightened view (even, perhaps, a tacit criticism of the earlier books).

    There are figures or principles of evil in other, and older, religions, such as Zoroastrianism. Margim's answer to this is pretty good.

    Probably true, in the same way that a clever lawyer can find a way to defend anyone. Whether it's a good defence is another matter.

    Now this I really don't know, as I don't really know much about Dante. I can tell you that the earliest Christian source for Dante's basic idea is Walafrid Strabo (809-49). Don't know if it will help with your query, but here's some information on Walafrid that I put together a while ago:

    Really that's a myth that goes back to the nineteenth century, when some extremely anti-religious writers argued that the battles then raging over Darwinism were symptomatic of the relations between science and religion in general. Two of the most famous were John William Draper, who published History of the conflict between religion and science in 1875, and Andrew Dickson White, who published A history of the warfare of science with theology in Christendom in 1895. These authors (both American) and others argued that religion in general, and Christianity in particular, was a reactionary force which invariably did its best to stifle all free thought and scientific investigation, but which always eventually lost out. This argument involved a lot of very dubious claims. For example, White argued - against all the evidence - that the medieval church taught that the earth was flat; and that Columbus had had difficulty finding backers for his voyage because everyone thought that he would sail straight off the edge of the world. Of course this was completely false (everyone in the Middle Ages knew perfectly well that the world was round, and Columbus couldn't find backers because no-one believed the world was small enough to sail from Spain to China - and they were right), but the myth is still widespread even today. The more general claim that science and religion are enemies also remains widespread, partly because it's one of those myths that provides a lot of satisfaction to those who retell it in order to place themselves on the "right" side, and partly because of certain highly ignorant popular science writers who continue to perpetrate it and sell inexplicably large numbers of books.

    That would stretch the word "religion" out of all recognition. If you think that whenever anyone believes something on the authority of a book, then pretty much all education that doesn't involve conducting experiments for yourself would be a "religion". It's also a bit weird to talk about Darwin's "teachings". He was a scientist who set out observations and hypotheses, not some kind of guru who made stuff up out of his head.

    No, because Darwinism has got nothing to do with theism or atheism.

    Bear in mind that "anti-christ" in the New Testament is not the name or title of an individual, but an attitude. See 1 John 4:3 and 2 John 7. It is later tradition, not any Biblical text, which calls the Beast of Revelation "anti-christ".

    That's not hypocrisy, that's just twisting a text to suit your own ends. Hypocrisy is when someone preaches one thing and does the opposite.
     
  7. Eran of Arcadia

    Eran of Arcadia Stormin' Mormon Retired Moderator

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    Except that the examples of which I was thinking were found in the Pentateuch, including the Book of Exodus. Other than those 5 books, the only place where the issue comes up are the historical books (Joshua and Judges, especially; also the several Samuels, Kings, and Chronicles.) But along with the Decalogue, we get accounts of the Israelites depopulating Canaan.
     
  8. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    Ah, I didn't realise. Well, then I suppose the response might be that those instances come from one source and the Decalogue from another, and the redactor hasn't noticed the inconsistency. But you're right that to argue like that would at the very least be begging the question, unless one had some other good reason to suppose that these passages represent different sources.
     
  9. Elrohir

    Elrohir RELATIONAL VALORIZATION

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    But if it can mean both "kill" and "murder", why assume that it is kill? I don't think the Jews as a whole ever believed that killing was always wrong. Why accept the interpretation that would make the Law unworkable and is utterly inconsistent with the rest of the scriptures, Jewish and Christian, when there is a perfectly valid alternative? It just seems like someone is looking inconsistencies, like they're trying to find them instead of interpreting what was said in the likeliest manner, rather than the most inconsistent manner.
     
  10. Zenon_pt

    Zenon_pt Civing on the real world

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    Yes, but don't forget he was a God. In ancient Greece, the sub-world was both paradise and hell, didn't had the separation as in Christianaty.

    Wasn't the first separation of good and bad take pleace in Iran (Persia) with Zoroastro? :confused:
     
  11. Ayatollah So

    Ayatollah So the spoof'll set you free

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    No, Ayn Rand is the profit of atheism [rimshot!]

    On a more serious note, some people do make Darwinism into a religion, I'd have to say. Or remake their religions to fit a (Social) Darwinism into them.
     
  12. Margim

    Margim Footy's back.

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    :blush: Oops. I just did exactly what I was criticising... drawing vague generalities :eek:. Spot on, thanks for the reminder.
     
  13. Berzerker

    Berzerker Warlord

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    Plotinus
    :lol:

    It appears Columbus got fooled by a map. According to Piri Re'is (a Turkish admiral) Columbus had a copy of the map he had showing a land mass across the Atlantic much closer than Asia. I dont know if Columbus knew it wasn't Asia, certainly he should have known the approximate distances. Maybe he just used the map to convince others to back him.
     
  14. zxcvbnm

    zxcvbnm The Nobody

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    You missed my point. The point was, that they call themselves "christians"
     
  15. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    They may be misidentifying themselves, but I still don't see how that's hypocrisy. It's only hypocrisy if they knowingly behave in a way that is inconsistent with what they mean by "Christian".
     
  16. Eran of Arcadia

    Eran of Arcadia Stormin' Mormon Retired Moderator

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  17. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    That's an issue that goes all the way back. Basically, pretty much all Christians were staunch pacifists until the fourth century, when Christianity became "official", at which point it suddenly seemed like violence on behalf of the church might not be quite so bad after all. The notion of "just war" was worked out by Augustine and, later, the medieval theologians, and put into practice in the Crusades. The question whether Jesus himself was a pacifist is very hard to answer, because there are conflicting texts; I suspect it just wasn't the sort of thing he was interested in.

    zxcvbnm also mentioned "freedom" and "equality"; I'm not sure what these have to do with Jesus' message either. Obviously inequality is taught in the New Testament, such as in those passages that tell slaves to obey their masters; I don't think Jesus had much to say about that. And "freedom" is too vague a word to start with.
     
  18. zxcvbnm

    zxcvbnm The Nobody

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    See, pacifism is the original one, others are reinterpretations.

    He told the masters to treat their slaves well, etc. Those were great steps towards equality in that time, as he recognised everyone's human value.
     
  19. Eran of Arcadia

    Eran of Arcadia Stormin' Mormon Retired Moderator

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    Well, the fact that the earliest Christians were all agreed on a doctrine isn't necessarily as important as what Jesus thought; especially given their political situation.
     
  20. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    It's not necessarily what Jesus taught though. As far as we know Jesus never said a word about abortion, but the early Christians were unanimously against that too.

    That's not Jesus, that's Paul. And telling masters to treat their slaves well isn't remotely like saying that they are equal, it's simply acknowledging that they deserve to be treated well. It's perfectly consistent to believe that whilst not believing that they are equal.
     
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