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

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  1. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    I don't really know much about Catherine of Siena, as she's not quite in my period. But I don't think she has had a vast amount of influence on the church, because she wasn't a particularly original theologian or mystic or anything like that; she was just one of the many mystics around at that time. She must have been a very major figure at the time, but not one who really changed anything substantial.

    Don't forget that the most of the northern half of Europe doesn't speak romance languages! Also, you don't have to be a Catholic to speak a romance language; look at the Reformed tradition in France, for example.

    Questions like this are very hard to answer because of the notorious difficulty in assessing the numbers of Christians (or people of any faith) in various countries. I've seen arguments on this very site where one person insists that a given country is still largely Christian, while another insists that it is largely unchristian, and yet they are both from the same country. How do you define "Protestant" or "Catholic"? Is it about heritage, or active participation?

    I don't believe there are any Christian monastic orders that don't involve vows of chastity. The monastic lifestyle really isn't compatible with marriage. But perhaps there are some I haven't heard of.

    There are orders which allow marriage, but these are "lighter" versions of orders whose mainstream is more hardcore. For example, the Franciscan order is celibate, but it includes a group called the "Third Order" (or, more properly, the Secular Franciscan Order) which is for seculars (ie, people who have not devoted their lives to the religious lifestyle). Members of this order aim to live their lives in a way that follows Franciscan principles, but while living a secular lifestyle, including marriage.
     
  2. Ayatollah So

    Ayatollah So the spoof'll set you free

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    Has there ever been a time when the "common man" debated theology, or scriptural interpretation, with his fellows? And regardless of whether there ever was in the past, why do you think that it isn't true now in the United States or the EU? I mean, we have freedom of speech, Christianity is commonplace, and different Christians have wildly different interpretations of scripture with wildly different political and social implications. So why the heck not? Why is there so much more debate about (for example) global warming, or video game violence, or ... well, just about anything with serious social implications?
     
  3. Mknn

    Mknn Chieftain

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    Are you claiming that religious conversation is uncommon now?
     
  4. Margim

    Margim Footy's back.

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    True historically, especially where monasticism has primarily been a catholic expression (and monks, nuns and priests within the catholic tradition all being bound to celibacy), but more recently there are more instances of protestant monasticism. I hate to refer to wiki, but here's a summary...

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Monasticism#New_Monastic_Movements_in_Other_Christian_Denominations

    Additionally, we could also consider anabaptists, mennonites and amish of earlier (and current) periods, non of whom lived explicitly devoted to celibacy, but all of whom have lived to some kind of ordered religious commitment that marks monasticism.
     
  5. Fifty

    Fifty !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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    1. To what extent (and I realize this is probably way too broad of a question) do you think that the history of christian theology has just been a sort of response/legitimation of whatever the pragmatic political and economic concerns of the Church were at that time? How much did political/economic concerns affect Christian theology in general?

    2. Would you agree or disagree with the noted literary critic Harold Bloom, who claims that what he calls the "American Religion", regardless of its Christian origins, is not Christianity as the term "Christianity" is properly construed. (His broader thesis is that all the different Christian sects in America are sortof converging on this "American Religion").
     
  6. Margim

    Margim Footy's back.

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    I'm not sure about 'pragmatic', but I think all Christian theology is shaped/formed/influenced by political, economic, and social concerns of any given time.

    I further think that the difference between good and bad theology is that;
    (a) good theologians recognise that they are living with social, political and economic concerns that naturally change how they understand their theology, while
    (b) bad theologians, for the most part, remain unaware of just how out of touch some of their ideas are with both their own context, and the ancient context amidst which their ideas are sourced.

    Both sorts respond to political, social and economic concerns, but some do it with more conscious awareness than others.

    I'd agree. "Christian" as the term emerged meant "Christ-ones", those who follow and emulate the life of Christ.

    Jesus didn't talk about homosexuality, abortion, Republicanism, war on terror, democracy or freedom, family values or a myriad of other issues that Christianity today regards as 'moral' values. Puritan morality has been mistaken for Christianity. It is not. It is a product of one kind of reading of Christianity, but in America has largely become the tail that now wags the dog...
     
  7. Mknn

    Mknn Chieftain

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    I'm not sure I agree with that reading of Bloom. I think his take on American religiosity is much more nuanced than that, and that he is well aware that there is no convergence happening. There is certainly _something_ that academics have returned to again and again as uniquely American in the manifestations of religion on these shores, but it has proven remarkably hard to pin down, partially because there is no unity to the phenomena.

    The most recent--and perhaps the best--of these is Catherine Albenese's _A Republic of Mind and Spirit_. But even here, she is grouping together under a common banner (what she calls the American Metaphysical) movements that would be at each other's throats if left in the same room (Mormonism, the Shakers, Christian Science, American Theosophy ...)
     
  8. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    I'd agree with Margim that such concerns must always be of at least some relevance. As luceafarul has been arguing elsewhere, one cannot escape one's political inclinations or divorce them from other spheres. But I certainly wouldn't say that theology is always or even typically simply a "translation" of political or social concerns into the dogmatic sphere. Although politics is an influence, I think most of the time it has been a relatively minor one. For example, it's hard to see how politics or economics can have much relevance to one's understanding of it is possible for three persons to be one substance.

    There have been times when political or social concerns have driven theology; for example, the row over poverty in the fourteenth century. Extreme Franciscans and others argued that everyone is called to own nothing, because Jesus and his disciples owned nothing; the church eventually decided that this is ridiculous (society would crumble), that Jesus and his disciples did own some things, and that only some people (the friars) are called to radical poverty. You can see similar concerns operating behind the attacks on the Cathars (who, if they had had their way, would have banned having children).

    That's not to say that political and economic matters haven't been very important to the church, because they always have been, ever since Tertullian wrote that no Christian would ever be a soldier or salute a flag; I simply think that these concerns have usually been mostly separate from theology as such.

    Ethical concerns have certainly had more of a direct influence upon theology; that's what the Pelagian dispute was really about, for example.

    I don't know about Bloom but Margimm's answer seems pretty good to me here. I'd add that there has never been any such thing as "Christianity" in the singular, only "Christianities" in the plural; so to say that American Christianity isn't really Christianity because it doesn't conform to some single ideal version would be wrong. Whether it counts as "a" Christianity or not depends on what you think the criterion is for that. Personally I don't see why it shouldn't count as a form of Christianity. Here again the problem is that there are many kinds of Christianity in America, everything from the extreme liberalism of east coast Episcopalianism which so angers Nigerians to the amazing fundamentalism of the Bible Belt. Personally I would be inclined to see the former as far closer to what I'd think of as Christian values than the latter. Certainly it's something of a historical accident that, in America, Christianity has become associated with extremely right-wing social views; there are many reasons for that, some of which I think are not yet really understood. In my view, Christianity has, historically, been more usually associated with what we would think of as left-wing causes rather than right-wing ones. So I would say that much of what we associate with American Christianity doesn't stem from Christianity at all, although it has become associated with it.
     
  9. ConanKND

    ConanKND Chieftain

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    Oh... people like Huguenots(sp?) huh..

    Well, I'm guessing by active participation then. I totally forgot about Scandinavia and Eastern Europe, thought they were atheists or maybe I was thinking too much about Odin and Thor.

    Also, apart from Protestantism and Roman Catholism, what are the other major 'sects' of Christianity? Does Anglicanism count as Protestantism? hat about those Orthodox, and Coptic?
     
  10. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    Scandinavia is mostly Lutheran; eastern Europe is mostly Orthodox.

    The three main divisions within Christianity are Roman Catholicism, the various Protestant churches, and the various Orthodox churches. The Orthodox churches are all closely allied to each other, being effectively different branches of the same church. The various Protestant churches have nothing to do with each other from an organisational point of view, but they trace a common origin back to the Reformation.

    When I say they have nothing to do with each other, I don't mean they don't talk to each other, I just mean they are completely distinct organisations in a way that the Orthodox churches are not. The ecumenical movement has been one of the most important developments in world Christianity over the past century.

    In addition to those three, there are others, such as the various non-Chalcedonian churches, primarily the Church of the East in the Middle East, the Armenian church, and the Orthodox Church of Ethiopia; all of these are quite similar to the Orthodox Church to the casual observer but are heretical from an Orthodox, Catholic, or Protestant point of view. There are also the various "Thomas" churches of India, which are dizzyingly complicated - today there are eight churches in India all claiming descent from the "original" Indian church of Thomas, and which are all "Orthodox" in general flavour although they vary in doctrine and allegiance to other churches. That's in addition to the Catholic and various Protestant churches in that country, of course.

    There are also complicated situations such as the Ukrainian Catholic Church, which for historical reasons is basically Orthodox in liturgy and practice but actually part of the Roman Catholic Church. And there are churches that really can't be categorised at all with any of the others, such as the Kakure Kiri****anc of Japan. Also, the AICs (African Initiated Churches) are one of the most important groups, but they tend to be rather different from other Protestant churches.

    The Anglican communion is usually counted as one of the Protestant churches, although some Anglicans regard themselves as a sort of wing of the Catholic church, while others regard themselves as more like the Orthodox.
     
  11. Margim

    Margim Footy's back.

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    Good points all.
     
  12. Ayatollah So

    Ayatollah So the spoof'll set you free

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    Conversation, as opposed to mere bible-thumping? In comparison to other topics of comparable importance? Hell yeah.
     
  13. classical_hero

    classical_hero In whom I trust

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    Some of the things that Jesus did not talk about were things that were not that important to a 1st Century Jew. So you need to think of the way he taught in such context. As such homosexuality was not touched on since it was not relevant to the Jews, since Homosexuality was dealt with in the past. So you need to look at where Jesus drew his inspiration when he did talk about moral issues. You will see that he always went back to the Writings that was the Scripture, the Old testament. Take marriage for example, he went straight to Genesis to explain that marriage was only for one man and one woman, so he used the authority of the Bible to back up points. He even directly quotes from Deuteronomy when he is tempted. Just because Jesus did not directly say something is wrong does not make it right, which some people do seem to say at times.
     
  14. Erik Mesoy

    Erik Mesoy Core Tester / Intern

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    I have one word for you, and it is shrimp. :p
     
  15. Fifty

    Fifty !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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    Interesting, thanks for the clarification. I seem to remember Bloom saying that there is a decidedly Emersonian twist to the whole thing, though I can't remember the details.
     
  16. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    On the other hand, when asked about taxes (Mark 12:13-18), he didn't mention the Jewish scriptures at all. Also, the teachings presented in the Sermon on the Mount show a notoriously ambiguous relationship to the Jewish scriptures: on the one hand Jesus claims that he doesn't disagree with any element of them (Matthew 5:17-20) but on the other gives a whole series of "you have heard it said... but I tell you" sayings which explicitly go beyond the scriptures (Matthew 5:21-48). Other sections simply don't engage with the Jewish scriptures at all (eg Matthew 6:1-7:27), although they may well engage with what other contemporary teachers were saying. So I'd say that the question of Jesus' engagement with the Jewish scriptures, especially in his ethical teaching, is really rather complex. This is so even if you assume that all the sayings attributed to Jesus are authentic; once you bear in mind that many of these might not be authentic at all it becomes even more complicated.
     
  17. downtown

    downtown Crafternoon Delight

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    Not really a question, but I was reading parts of the old testement in my King James version, and came across some of the lamentations (I can't remember which book exactly, I believe in one of the books of Moses), and found that the lyrical structure was the same as the 12 bar blues. When I get back to my apartment, i'll try to find some references for this.

    Have you heard about this anywhere else?
     
  18. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    Ha, I'll definitely be interested to hear that!

    The Bible of course was an enormous influence upon twentieth-century black American music, mainly gospel music. By far the most important Biblical book for this was Exodus, because the story of Moses leading the Hebrews out of slavery into the north obviously resonated for black southerners in a way which didn't occur to white people. So Moses is probably the Biblical character who appears most often in spirituals, and even in the blues:

    Moses stood on the Red Sea shore,
    Smoting at the water with a two-by-four.
    Well, if I could, I surely would
    Stand on the rock where Moses stood!

    And so on. Most blues singers in the pre-war years, and even many for years afterwards, thought it wrong to mix secular and religious material, which is why people like Ray Charles were so controversial in some areas. The blues is just as likely to mock religion as it is to incorporate it; as Son House said, "I'm gonna get me religion, gonna join the Baptist church; gonna become a Baptist preacher, then I won't have to work." There's also a character called Deacon Jones who appears in a few traditional songs, and he's not exactly a paragon of Christian virtue ("And when your girl is leaving you, tell me, who is she going to? Lordy lord, alleluia, Deacon Jones!").

    I haven't heard any suggestions that the Bible might have been an influence upon the blues from a musical, as opposed to thematic, point of view. Of course any musical or rhythmic device that works well has a good chance of turning up independently in different traditions. I once heard a segment on The prairie home companion (of all things) pointing out that "I hate to see that evening sun go down" is an iambic pentameter, and musing upon the possible links between Shakespeare and the blues...

    As far as I know, all this stuff hasn't really been studied from an academic theological point of view; I'm sure there's a lot of scope there for someone.
     
  19. Fifty

    Fifty !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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    So what was the church's general reception to Berkeley's idealist theism, and to his argument for the existence of god as the "causer of our ideas"???
     
  20. Berzerker

    Berzerker Warlord

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    what is God referring to when he says our days are numbered 120 years? Was that a different timetable or timeframe? The common explanation is it refers to approximate life expectancy but that dont make sense, God wouldn't be that sloppy.
     
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