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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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    You illustrate my point well. Jesus didn't mention it or talk about it, yet somehow homosexuality becomes a critical topic of conversation, here as it does elsewhere. I made no argument as to whether it was wrong or right... just that Jesus didn't mention it. Yet it is such a passionate issue for so many Christians in some quarters!

    When Christianity is about following the teachings of Christ, hypothesising on an issue that Christ didn't consider worth mentioning seems somewhat pointless. These additional issues are more culturally motivated than anything else.
     
  2. Eran of Arcadia

    Eran of Arcadia Stormin' Mormon Retired Moderator

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    I think it is reasonable to say that Christianity is about more than just doing what Christ specifically mentioned. According to Christianity, after all, the central role of Jesus of Nazareth wasn't just as an ethical teacher.
     
  3. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    I'd agree with Eran there. After all, Paul had an awful lot to say about the role of Christ in salvation, but Jesus himself didn't. Yet it would seem odd to suggest that an authentically Christian view is one that ignores half of the New Testament. After all, a Christian isn't simply someone who follows Christ; it is someone who thinks that Jesus was the Christ, and that is a belief which cannot be certainly ascribed to Jesus himself. Even if he did believe it, it certainly wasn't the centrepiece of his teaching. So why base the name of the religion itself upon the title? Because the religion isn't simply about his teaching.

    A post-biblical example of this sort of thing is abortion, which neither Jesus nor Paul mentioned, but which the early church unanimously opposed. Was that opposition unchristian because it concerned an issue not mentioned by Jesus?
     
  4. Fifty

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

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    Hey Plot buddy just wanted to make sure you didn't miss my Berkeley question at the bottom of the last page! :D
     
  5. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    Oops, missed that and the other question too.

    As I'm sure you know, the main reaction to Berkeley was ridicule, mainly because people didn't bother to try to understand what he was saying properly - which is especially odd, perhaps, given how popular he was personally among the fashionable set in London. I think his ideas made minimal impact upon the church; they have always been far more significant from a philosophical point of view than a theological one. His argument for God's existence was really a version of the more standard argument for theism on the basis of the regularity of observable phenomena, which would be expressed in a more mainstream way by people like Butler and Paley. So I'm not sure to what degree Berkeley's version of that argument influenced later apologists; but they generally rejected the idealism upon which it was based. And even those who were more inclined to accept idealism of one kind or another - whether Mill, Kant, or Hegel - either rejected the possibility of any arguments for God or used their own instead.

    God might not be sloppy, but I'm sure the author of Genesis 6:3, which is the verse you're referring to, could be. I don't know what it means, except to guess that the author is seeking to explain why the characters mentioned earlier in the book have improbably long lifespans while people today do not, so he portrays God as setting a shorter limit to the human lifespan, apparently because he's a bit disillusioned with human beings and wants to limit their capacity for messing things up. Although the decision is apparently implemented gradually, because in Gen 11 various people live for a lot longer than 120 years, but the lifespan of each generation seems to be shorter than the one before.

    I suppose that 120 years is given as the maximum rather than the average, in which case it's pretty accurate since the oldest people on record do seem to die at roughly that age. No doubt the number has all kinds of occult significance too; this is generally the case with numbers in texts of this kind.
     
  6. Berzerker

    Berzerker Warlord

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    Was Abraham using a Sumerian timetable? I understand the divine year (Sar - Caesar, Czar) in Sumerian religion is 3,600 years
     
  7. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    The real question isn't what Abraham used, but what the author of Genesis - or his source - thought significant. And I really don't know anything about that sort of thing, alas.
     
  8. Fifty

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

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    As you know, through the history of philosophy there have been methodological shifts, for example, from the guys who tried to build large philosophical "systems" (e.g. Kant, Hegel, etc.), to people more concerned with single problems in isolation, without regard to building some large philosophical systems (how modern analytic philosophy seems to be done).

    Have there been any large methodological shifts in the way theology has been done throughout the history of western/christian theology?
     
  9. Margim

    Margim Footy's back.

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    Firstly, I don't think I'm entirely disagreeing with this point. I agree that Christianity naturally evolves into more than what Christ taught, and definitely includes one's perspective of who Christ is.

    I also would maintain that Christianity has to develop in response to the social, economic, and political realities of the time. I'm not suggesting that Christianity isn't pure unless it sticks to Christ's teachings - I'm most certainly not saying that it is 'unchristian' to worry about issues that Jesus didn't speak of.

    I'm simply suggesting instead that those issues are not the prerequisit to Christianity that some might claim. There was, and is, significant diversity on what makes one Christian and on which scriptures to accept or reject in the form of canon.

    To use your example here, abortion is one of those issues not central to the Biblical message but over time has had a biblical commentary added to it - a perfect example of culture and political reality informing and shaping a particular interpretation of Christianity. One should not claim to be any more or less Christian on the basis of their stance on abortion any more than their ownership of a computer. Their Christianity might influence their perspective, but is not dependent upon it.

    I'd most definitely dispute the fact that Jesus had little to say about salvation, however. The mode of salvation he talks about may differ significantly in the gospels to Paul, and to subsequent interpretations of Paul. I'd suggest Christianity post-Luther has come to particularly appreciate a Pauline reading of salvation (ie, focusing on the means and purpose of salvation by grace over law) - while other modes and descriptions of salvation have been neglected. Salvation here should be taken in the full Greek sense of the term surrounding saving - sotor/soter/soteros. Christ came to promote and encourage physical, social, and communal restoration as much as any eschatological purpose. The gospel of Luke covers this concept extensively, and the other synoptics also touch upon it.

    John's mode of salvation differs, but is clearly there... even if the specific language of salvation doesn't appear.

    I think one's view of salvation can differ significantly depending on which book they read the Bible through... Luke, John, and Romans can all lead to vastly different soteriological understandings.
     
  10. RulerOfDaPeople

    RulerOfDaPeople Chieftain

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    What is honor these days? Does honor still have a place in todays society, or has it been shoved aside? How do we define honor in todays culture?
     
  11. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    That's an interesting question although I don't really think it's a theological one - unless you think that honour is a theological sort of concept. Which perhaps it is, or at least it can be; Anselm of Canterbury made the notion of God's honour central to his understanding of salvation.

    I'm not sure how one would define honour because the concept means very little to me personally; to my mind it's something we're probably better off without. That is, if we have a notion of right and wrong, I'm not sure that also having a notion of honour really adds anything worthwhile to our moral deliberations.
     
  12. Mknn

    Mknn Chieftain

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    I guess I'd like to hear more about what the OP means by honor.

    Historically in the West, honor is inextricably tied to systems of gender inequality and to the promotion of specific wartime behavior, neither of which seem particularly positive to me.

    The more current connotations seem to revolve around a degree of truthfulness and reliability, a sense of character sometimes found in unlikely places ("honor among thieves"). If that is what the OP meant, then lamenting the disappearance of a code of moral conduct may open the discussion to other interpretations.

    Plotinus' first question holds true, though: where does the OP see the connection between theology and honor?
     
  13. RulerOfDaPeople

    RulerOfDaPeople Chieftain

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    I believe honor is a concept beyond just right and wrong; It's about commitment to your ideals of right and wrong, and not breaking that code of virture of right and wrong.

    If I can sum it up in just 2 words, I would say Virture and even more importantly: Integrity. I think those things can define honor.

    Are these not phylisophical concepts that can be discussed? Or perhaps I have a mis-interpretation of theology and am translating it too close to phylosophy.
     
  14. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    Certainly they're philosophical concepts that can be discussed and I don't mind doing so. But they're not theological since they're not religious.

    So basically you're saying that honour is about actually doing what you believe to be right. So it would be a sort of character trait, a quality of the agent, rather than a quality of the action being performed. I can understand that, and I agree that something like this is often meant by the word "virtue", but I'm not sure it's what most people mean by the word "honour". For example, sometimes people talk about "the honourable thing to do", which suggests that honour is a quality that actions, rather than agents, have.

    Also, what do you mean by "integrity"? Is that something distinct from "virtue"?
     
  15. RulerOfDaPeople

    RulerOfDaPeople Chieftain

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    Let's scrap the proposed honor discussion. I have a more theological question I'd like to ask...

    In the story of Adam and Eve, the Bible states that they were married... even though there were no people for wedding cerimonies or anything of the such. So what makes a couple married? All through out the bible there are mentionings of marriage. Even when Joseph (of the house of David) was with Mary, there is mentioning of Mary becoming of the house of David through Joseph, as her husband, but no mentioning of a wedding (from what I can recall), and I believe this was mentioned during the time that Mary had been pregnant with Jesus. (I really need to check my facts.) In todays society, Marriage is reccognized simply by a certificate and a license from the government. However, if you take the story of Adam and Eve, there was no government and there were no people to create any sort of wedding cerimony or see their union as an official legal marriage.

    So my question to you is, what is really, at the heart of it, the actual meaning in the word marriage from how it has been used, and what constitutes it, in ancient religious scriptures?

    Did marriage actually really mean that a man and a woman simply fell in love and thus then were maried and commited? Or perhaps ins some cases, maybe it just meant that a man and a woman had sex and through sex became married and had to be commited to each other and their child (via that sexual relationship)?

    What constitutes a marriage? The thought of how a simple trip to a courthouse or a Vegas big business vacation chapel has sparked this question in my mind. So has the fact that some people get locked into loveless marriages and how some miss their first love.

    I definately need to hear from a theologian about marriage. :D
     
  16. Birdjaguar

    Birdjaguar Entangled Retired Moderator Supporter

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    Prior to the middle of the 19th Century most marriages were not about love, but about gaining influential in-laws and property. Love and marriage did not go together. ;)
     
  17. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    That's because it was a man's world..
     
  18. Eran of Arcadia

    Eran of Arcadia Stormin' Mormon Retired Moderator

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    Love often followed marriage, but it was seen as the natural result of marriage, not the other way around. At least in some places.
     
  19. Maimonides

    Maimonides Chieftain

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    Actually, no it doesn't. At least Genesis doesn't. Here's what it says immediately after Eve's creation: "Therefore a man shall leave his father & his mother & cling to his wife & they shall become one flesh." After that, Adam is referred to as Eve's "husband." No ceremony or even sex is mentioned up to this point. Perhaps they were married by default being the only humans in existence. The words "married" or "marriage" are not mentioned at all.

    I'm just looking at Genesis at the moment, but I don't see any mention of "marriage" at all. It says, "And Cain knew his wife and she conceived & bore Enoch," but it never says he got married. It changes a bit several generations later with Lamech where it says he "took to himself two wives." This implies that he married them, but it actually says he "took" them.

    Could you point out an actual use of the term, "marriage" in the Torah (Old Testament)? I'd love to take a look, but I don't feel like scanning the WHOLE thing looking for it.

    Looking at the early parts of Genesis, the latter sounds most accurate, yet there HAD to be more to it then that. Then, as now, marriage would have been a possible course to greater influence & wealth. In low-tech, agricultural societies, there is a great benefit to having many children-more hands to tend the crops & defend the flocks. Culturally, there was a great taboo against bearing children outside of marriage. Bastard children were the lowest rung of society.

    There were Biblical husbands & wives that were barren-Abraham & Sarah. There's no question that they were husband & wife, yet there is no mention of a marriage taking place & they went decades before conceiving a child.

    Today, marriage is what you & your spouse make it.
     
  20. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    As I've said, I don't know much about the Bible, so I can't offer much help here. But I think Maimonides is right to doubt that Adam and Eve are ever described as "married". Indeed I think the tendency to take them as a type of a married couple pre-Fall is quite a modern thing. Certainly the traditional Christian interpretation was that Adam and Eve did not enjoy conjugal relations until after leaving Eden. Which is why all things sexual are imperfect, because they come after sin, and are not part of God's original design - which is why virginity and chastity were always thought superior to marriage.

    Questions such as how Adam and Eve got married (and who married them) or where Cain met his wife if he was the son of the only human beings in the world have always been asked, and there's no real answer for the obvious reason that these are myths that aren't designed to answer questions like that.

    I'd dispute the claim that love and marriage became associated only in the nineteenth century. On the contrary, in the Middle Ages, the notion of marriage being based upon love was popular and widespread, at least as an ideal. It's often said that the Middle Ages saw the invention of romantic love as we know it. To what degree marriages were actually contracted on that basis, I don't know. Certainly working-class people and peasants would probably have usually not bothered to get married at all; they would simply start living together and regard themselves as married.
     
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