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Ask a Theologian

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

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  1. Eran of Arcadia

    Eran of Arcadia Stormin' Mormon Retired Moderator

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    Indeed, an awful lot of those who protested against slavery took it as a given that blacks were intellectually far behind whites, but that was no excuse for the conditions they lived in.
     
  2. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    Exactly. And many of those who defended slavery did so partly on the grounds that the slaves were actually happier being slaves. Amazingly, books on the subject from the southern US were still pushing this line even in the 1930s and later. So these people believed that it was right to treat slaves well, and even that such a principle demanded that one keep them as slaves in the first place, yet they were absolutely opposed to any notion of equality. And while such a position is obviously abhorrent there is nothing inconsistent about it.
     
  3. Eran of Arcadia

    Eran of Arcadia Stormin' Mormon Retired Moderator

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    Interestingly, I am currently reading a book (The Enemy at His Pleasure) written by a Jewish playwright and author about his experiences attempting to provide relief for the Jews of the Pale during World War I (most of them ended up the victim of pogroms at the hands of the Russian Army, beyong the usual problems of being civilians in a war zone). He mentioned encountering just about every attitude possible among both Jews and Gentiles, but the one that I found most interesting was from several avowed anti-semites. They would go on at length about how they would never trust a Jew, or buy from one, and all the usual - then mention that they were also humans, and that as much as they didn't like Jews they still wanted to help them.
     
  4. Zenon_pt

    Zenon_pt Civing on the real world

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    So WHY humanity had to personify evil? :confused:
     
  5. Eran of Arcadia

    Eran of Arcadia Stormin' Mormon Retired Moderator

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    "Why" do humans personify anything? It's just what we do.
     
  6. Zenon_pt

    Zenon_pt Civing on the real world

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    Hum... What lack of imagination. ;)

    I prefer Yang Yin!
     
  7. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    Personifying evil is a way of expressing its reality and seriousness; it expresses the feeling that evil is something that oppresses or imprisons us, rather than simply something that we do. For example, look at Romans 6-7 where Paul talks about being enslaved by sin. In that passage, hamartia ("sin") is almost a sort of objective force or person which oppresses him. Talking about the devil, demons, or personal sources of evil are a mythological way of saying the same thing.

    Alternatively, perhaps there really is a Satan...
     
  8. Mknn

    Mknn Chieftain

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    Having skimmed the first half dozen pages, this seems like a very sensibly conducted thread. Congrats!

    While I probably don't have time to wade through 40+ pages (although I will try to do so), I would offer my willingness to serve as a resource as well in matters of religion: I am currently pursuing a PhD in Religious Studies, with a focus on the project of comparative religion. This is meant in support of this discussion, btw, and not at all as "taking anything from" Plotinus and his efforts.

    I am explicitly _not_ particularly well versed in Christian theology, but do have a lot of knowledge wrt other religious traditions, ranging from the East to Islam to indiginous religions of Australia, America, and Africa to various "marginal" practices that flourish on the borders of mainstream religion.
     
  9. Atticus

    Atticus Chieftain Retired Moderator

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    Which texts hint at him not being pacifist? Also it seems hard to me to think that he wouldn't have been interested about it, though this hardness might come from us understanding the word differently. Do you think there's a reason why (christian) ethics do not apply to politics (from the christian view)?

    What made a war just according to Augustine?
     
  10. zxcvbnm

    zxcvbnm The Nobody

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    Jesus was in the company of people from prostitutes to publicans, the lowest classes who were considered scum. Doesn't that show some sense of equality?
     
  11. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    That's great! As I have said, I know little about religions other than Christianity, so that should complement things nicely. Please post as freely as you like.

    Don't forget that the early Christians - and probably Jesus too - thought the world was going to end any day. In 1 Thessalonians 4:15 (the earliest book of the New Testament to be written), Paul assumes that he and his readers will be alive at the end of the world. In that sort of context, personal ethics remain important (since one is still faced with moral decisions every day), and Paul gives ethical exhortations in the same letter, 4:1-12. But it would be very hard to see much point to politics. The earthly order was going to be rolled up and dissipated before long; why get involved in politics?

    Even when the Christians mostly gave up this belief and reconciled themselves to the fact that the world probably wasn't going to end imminently (see 2 Peter 3:1-10, the last book of the New Testament to be written), politics still wasn't high on the agenda because the state was largely anti-Christian and Christians simply weren't in a practical position to think about political matters. When they did think about such things, they generally restricted themselves to bilious (though not exactly unjustified) attacks upon the immorality and bloodthirstiness of the Roman state in general and its pagan connotations in particular.

    When Christianity became official in the fourth century, everything changed, and the Christians found that political theory was now not only possible but an urgent necessity; and so we find people like Ambrose arguing that the officers of the state (such as the emperor) are subject to officers of the church (such as himself). The result of this was the first two great works of Christian politics - Augustine of Hippo's City of God and Orosius of Braga's History against the pagans.

    So there's no reason, in a Christian context, why ethics can't lead into politics, and in practice it has done ever since the fourth century; it's just that before then, special considerations (the supposed imminence of the eschaton in the first century, and the hostility of the state in the second and third) prevented it from doing so.

    Augustine believed that there are three main criteria for a just war: just cause, proper authority, and right intention. All three of these had to be met for a war to count as just.

    There is a just cause if the war is undertaken to bring about some greater good, such as the defence of a nation, the establishment of lasting peace or better conditions, and so on.

    A war is undertaken with proper authority if it is declared by public authorities who are charged with maintaining the peace – in other words, a government as opposed to a private group.

    There is right intention if the war is undertaken for a right purpose – in other words, if the war not only has a “just cause”, but is intentionally pursued for that “just cause”. So Augustine thinks that there is right intention if the war is undertaken to restore peace or correct some grave injustice. If it’s done to seize territory or take revenge upon another nation then the right intention is lacking, and it is therefore an unjust war (even if in fact it brings about greater good).

    Modern Catholic teaching adds three other criteria: last resort, probability of success, and proportionality.

    A war is undertaken as a last resort if all other channels for resolving the problem have been exhausted.

    There needs to be some reasonable probability of success if the worthwhile goals of the war are to balance out the suffering it will bring.

    And finally, the damage caused by the war must be proportional to the desirability of its aims. It would be wrong to go to war to bring about a modest improvement to the world if that war caused many people to suffer.

    So in modern Catholic teaching, all six of these criteria must be satisfied for a war to count as just. For example, the Vatican opposed the Iraq war because it felt that even though there might arguably be a just cause, the war was not taken as a last resort, and the intention behind it was questionable. It has also traditionally opposed guerilla or rebel movements, even where the cause and intention are just, because they are not pursued by the proper authority (although the Vatican’s teaching on the justifiability of rebellion is rather flexible; Aquinas argued that a rebellion was acceptable if the whole people rose up against tyranny with one voice).

    These criteria are sometimes called the ius ad bellum – the justice for war – as opposed to the ius in bello – the justice in war. Ius in bello is all about how to conduct a war once you’re in it, and it has two main criteria: non-combatant immunity (it is never right to kill or injure civilians on purpose, no matter what the justification) and proportionality (you mustn’t do more damage and harm than you must in order to achieve your goals). So it’s perfectly possible to have a war which is a just war – in the sense of meeting the six criteria of ius ad bellum and being justly declared – but which is not justly pursued, because it does not meet the criteria for ius in bello. For example, the British war against Germany in WWII might be considered a just war, but it was unjustly pursued when German cities were bombed and civilians killed. The Second Vatican Council explicitly condemned the bombing of civilians in WWII, including the bombing of German cities and the use of nuclear weapons over Japan. The council also stressed the desirability of peaceful actions even where war might be justified, and praised the principle of non-violent action. On this view, war might be justified if your country is invaded by a hostile aggressor, and the invaded country would have the right to resist, but even so, a non-violent response might still be better. So the church now generally takes a more strongly pro-peace stance than it has in previous centuries.

    Not necessarily. George III used to wander the countryside chatting to farmers and peasants, but he didn't think they were equal to him; he just thought they were worthwhile to talk to. Similarly, Jesus' acceptance of prostitutes and tax-collectors indicates many things: the fact that he was happy to talk to those considered outcasts; the fact that he seems not to have been judgemental when talking to those considered sinners; the fact that he doesn't even seem to have been particularly interested in exhorting them to repent. It doesn't indicate that he thought they were equal to everyone else. I should think that he probably did think that - or, at least, he didn't think that being a sinner makes you unequal with someone else - but in itself it doesn't prove it.
     
  12. Atticus

    Atticus Chieftain Retired Moderator

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    Ok, I didn't know those bible quotes, and was thinking that maybe you had the "Let the emperor have what's his"-thing in your mind (because some people seem to think that personal pacifism doesn't have to have any political implications).
     
  13. Berzerker

    Berzerker Warlord

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    Wasnt that an accurate prediction of future turmoil and not to be taken literally? There are a few occasions where Jesus says because of him people will hurt each other, even father against son etc... Tradition dont always die a painless death...

    How does this square with all that love yer enemies, turn the other cheek stuff...?
     
  14. zxcvbnm

    zxcvbnm The Nobody

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    So they were worth talking to? That is equality compared to what some think, that scum deserves not even their eyes laid upon them.
     
  15. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    The bits about generational conflict are certainly eschatological. That doesn't mean it's not meant to be taken literally though.

    I suppose if you distinguish between eschatological predictions and ethical exhortations you can find a way to make it consistent. I don't know though!

    That doesn't make it equality though; just inequality of a paternalistic kind.

    Besides, even if Jesus thought that prostitutes, tax collectors, etc were not rendered unequal to others in virtue of their sinful lives, it wouldn't follow from that that he thought everyone was equal. Perhaps Jesus thought that tax collectors are equal to other free people, but slaves are not. As far as I know there is no evidence whatsoever for attributing any views about slavery to Jesus.
     
  16. philippe

    philippe FYI, I chase trains.

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    How much do you think that Caterina da Siena had as an influence in Catholic Christianity as we know it?

    you know, she saying :"Voglio!" to the pope must have been an amusing sight ;)
     
  17. ConanKND

    ConanKND Chieftain

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    Bump?

    Anyway I'm not sure if this is the correct place but I'm going to ask anyway.

    In Europe, is the number of Catholics greater than of Protestants? Or is it the contrary, beacuse I found in my social studies textbook that Protestants are more numerous.
    But my opinion is that more people are Catholic, I mean all those Romance language speakers, and they practice Catholicism from Portugal through France to Italy seems like quite a lot...

    Can't believe I can't find the answer to this simple question in the internet or wiki.
     
  18. DNK

    DNK Member

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    Are there any monastic orders that allow marriage, or are they all chaste/marry Jesus type of things?
     
  19. Mknn

    Mknn Chieftain

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    There are certainly Buddhist monastic orders that allow marriage, but they're not so concerned with Jesus.

    I think the cleanest answer to the question is something like this: heterosexual chastity is predominant in Christian monastic settings. Not all require it, but certainly most do. Enforcement patterns (and success) of course varies from place to place and time to time.
     
  20. Mknn

    Mknn Chieftain

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    I'm not sure how current this is, but I have notes from a lecture that claim the following in very rough numbers:

    Christian Pop of Europe: 60%
    Catholics: 45%
    Protestant: 25%
    Orthodox: 30%

    Again, though, that's uncited info, and is probably worth taking with a grain of salt.

    One real issue is the definition of Europe: if you include Turkey, or some of the -stan's, then the Christian % decreases. I don't believe that Uzbekistan is European, but it's also certainly neither Middle Eastern nor Asian (or, if it is Asian, then how should it be differentiated from the Indian Subcontinent, China, etc).
     
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