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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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    I am sure that in the countless human societies that go back tens of thousands of years, someone associated love and marriage before the medieval Europeans.

    (Incidentally: LDS teaching is that Adam and Eve did not have . . . conjugal relations until after the Fall. And that that is one of the reasons we think it was a good thing.)
     
  2. C~G

    C~G Untouchable

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    It all depends how you define "love".

    It all comes in all shapes, colors and forms.

    Nowadays for some it seems self-explanatory while some even directly claim it's all just about lust, physical attraction, chemicals in your brain and spreading your genes etc.

    Just saying that how love have been seen and portrayed probably have greatly varied during different times since it varies greatly even now.

    And when somebody feels something that even mildly resembles the feeling that others describe they add to that the term "love" and the term gets new meaning. You never then know whether it's actually "love" or just something else.

    It's like that you would be angry towards someone and thinking that this must be the hate that everybody is talking about and that you will hate this person as long as you know him.

    These kind of matters should be considered when we are looking back in history and making big claims about big umbrella terms like "love".
     
  3. zxcvbnm

    zxcvbnm The Nobody

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    Have I understood right that you are the only christian(-based)s who think the Fall had good sides in it too?
     
  4. Eran of Arcadia

    Eran of Arcadia Stormin' Mormon Retired Moderator

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    Everyone else either views it as a bad thing or as basically symbolic; as far as I can tell, we think it was a good thing overall (admittedly, it had some unpleasant consequences, but those were necessary).
     
  5. zxcvbnm

    zxcvbnm The Nobody

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    I didn't know someone thought like that.

    But,

    then why those unpleasant consequences if it was a good thing overall?

    (or should this be in the 'ask a mormon'?)
     
  6. Eran of Arcadia

    Eran of Arcadia Stormin' Mormon Retired Moderator

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  7. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    The idea that the Fall was a good thing dates back to late antiquity, but it became widespread in the Middle Ages. It was actually part of Catholic liturgy until the 1960s. The doctrine is usually known as felix culpa ("happy sin"). The idea is that if Adam had not sinned, Christ would not have been sent; and having both sin and Christ is better than having neither, so things are better than they would have been had Adam never sinned. Of course this contradicts the views of some earlier theologians, such as Irenaeus, who held that Christ would have been sent even if Adam had never sinned. Christ would not have come as a saviour in that case, but he would still have come with a different role.

    Remember that orthodox Catholicism holds that everything that has ever happened, including all sins, is part of God's plan and therefore preferable to the alternative. On this view, the world must be better with Adam's sin than without it. The Latin Mass used to contain the line: O felix culpa quae talem et tantum meruit habere redemptorem, or "O happy sin, which received as its reward such a great and good redeemer." Although no longer in the liturgy, this is still official Catholic teaching. The Catholic catechism states:

    So the Mormons are certainly not alone in thinking it better that Adam sinned!
     
  8. Eran of Arcadia

    Eran of Arcadia Stormin' Mormon Retired Moderator

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    Of course, I never heard much about the Fall being a good thing, in all my years of Catholic education, but I see what you mean.
     
  9. Mknn

    Mknn Chieftain

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    Well, for most of human history, the two have been concerned with fundamentally different spheres of human existence. Love concerned personal relationships; marriage, while incredibly diverse in its structural formation, was a way to facilitate the economic exchange of women between kinship groups or, later, among social entities.

    While many cultures joined the two, as Eran mentions, it was usually in an inverse order to our current perceptions (marriage --> love, not love --> marriage). What is especially odd (historically speaking) about our current Western sense of marriage is the way it has served as a focal point for an incredibly wide range of issues: fidelity, sexual availability and control, family boundaries, economic exchange, etc.
     
  10. holy king

    holy king Chieftain

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    was the characterisation of pontius pilatus as being pushed to have jesus crucified by the crowd part of early christian anti-semitism?
    what role plays anti-semitism in the bible and early christianity?
     
  11. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    Very probably. If you compare the earlier Gospel accounts to the later ones, both canonical and non-canonical, you see that Pilate is presented more and more sympathetically, just as the Jewish leaders are presented more and more unsympathetically. For various reasons, Christians "wanted" to blame the Jews for Jesus' death, and not the Romans, but they had this awkward fact that Jesus was executed in a Roman way on the orders of a Roman. The notion that Pilate wanted to release Jesus but was somehow forced to order his death by the priests solved this problem.

    Of course this solution flies in the face of what we know of Pilate otherwise, which is that he was a pretty brutal character who had no qualms about insulting the Jewish religion and generally throwing his weight about if the priests got annoyed. What probably really happened is that Pilate was given Jesus' name (perhaps in a list of people whose execution the high priest had requested) and simply signed without giving it a second thought. And, in a way, the Gospel accounts confirm this, because according to them Jesus was tried by the temple priests (in a procedure of ambigious legality) but received no formal trial at all at the hands of the Romans.

    "Anti-semitism" is a rather misleading term for the early church, because it has overtones of racist anti-Jewish attitudes which we associate with Nazism and so on. When early Christians were anti-Jewish they were attacking Judaism as a religion, not as a (supposed) race; it was much the same as when they criticised paganism. In New Testament times, the Christians were a small minority who were increasingly being driven out of synagogues or attacked by Jews; when they denounced the Jews in turn it was not down to some kind of bigoted prejudice but a defence against what they perceived as an unjust force of oppression. In fact anti-Jewish polemics on the part of the Christians remained basically theological, aimed at Judaism as a religion rather than as a race, for a long time. This is something that needs to be borne in mind when dealing with notorious Christian "anti-semites" such as John Chrysostom and even Martin Luther. Their anti-Jewish diatribes make chilling reading in the light of twentieth-century history, but all the same, they did not mean them in the same way as Nazi anti-Jewish diatribes. For those theologians, Jews were suspect because of the religion they followed; a Jew who chose to convert to Christianity was fine (although of course many such converts also came under suspicion at various times and places in history, but this was because people doubted that their conversion was genuine). For the Nazis, religion was irrelevant and someone who had Jewish blood was tainted irrespective of what they did.

    In early Christianity, as I say, it was a matter of mutual tensions between Christians and Jews. The first Christians were Jews and apparently regarded themselves as such; according to Acts they would go and pray at the Temple. Problems arose from two sources: first, the great success of the mission to the gentiles; and, second, the very limited success of the mission to the Jews. These meant that before long most Christians weren't Jewish at all, and that non-Christian Jews were increasingly hostile to the upstart faith. Here's a brief overview I wrote a while ago about this:

    After the New Testament period, you find that most Christians are more interested in defining themselves in relation to paganism and Roman culture in general rather than the more parochial culture of Judaism. One notable exception is Justin Martyr's Dialogue with Trypho, from the middle of the second century AD. It's a long and tedious discussion between Justin himself and a Jewish philosopher, in which Justin argues for Christianity on the basis of the Old Testament. It's also interesting because of the extremely friendly tone and the way in which Justin and Trypho are always polite to each other; for Justin, the bitterness of the first century was ancient history, and a Jewish thinker was someone to engage in constructive debate with rather than someone to denounce out of hand. Presumably the book does reflect real discussions that Justin had had with Jews, although it's uncertain whether Trypho really existed. Other examples of friendly relations include Origen, who in the early third century consulted with Jewish rabbis on questions of translation and exegesis of the Old Testament; 150 years later Jerome did the same thing. But in general, you find little interest in Judaism in Christian writings of this period. The most notorious exception is John Chrysostom's Homilies against the Jews. As I've said, this should be understood as a theological attack upon Judaism as a religion - and upon those Christians who he thought were in peril from it. But it's certainly unusually antagonistic for the period.
     
  12. caketastydelish

    caketastydelish 49ers 2019

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    I read somewhere that the ancient Persian religion Zoastranism partially influenced Christianity. Is this true? Also, since Zoastranism is a monothestic religion, is it considered pagan or not? If so, why?
     
  13. Mithadan

    Mithadan Wandering Woodsman

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    Hey Plotty, can you confirm for me that Dun Scotus (or was it Erigena?) also argued that Christ would have come even had nobody sinned?
     
  14. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    No-one really knows what influence Zoroastrianism had on Christianity, although I'm sure it had at least some. As far as I know there's no evidence, or not much, of any direct influence, and I'm not sure what elements of early Christianity it could have influenced. I think any influence it had would have been indirect, via Judaism and hellenistic religion, especially the mystery religions. Since I don't know much about those religions I don't know how much influence Zoroastrianism is supposed to have had over them. I suspect that it had more influence on the mystery religions than it did on Judaism (especially those such as Mithraism that consciously drew their inspiration from Persia); but scholars today mostly think that the mystery religions didn't really have much influence on Christianity, so that's probably not a very fruitful avenue. It's possible that Zoroastrianism influenced at least some of the gnostics, especially in the way they tried to combine dualism and monotheism, and the Manichees. But I don't think these groups really had much long-term influence upon mainstream Christianity. So that's not a very illuminating answer really!

    Yes, it was Scotus:

     
  15. r_rolo1

    r_rolo1 King of myself

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    Catholic Eucharisty is a fac simile of the Mithraic rits.... even St. Justin in his Apology recognizes that when he tries to blame the devil for that.
     
  16. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    Justin recognises that there are some elements in common, namely that bread and a cup (of water, not wine) are used in Mithraist ceremonies. That certainly doesn't make the Eucharist a "facsimile" of the Mithraist ceremony - it merely means that, like practically all ancient religions, they both had rites that involved eating and drinking. Even if there were some similarities between them that were greater than that - and I don't believe that any such similarities are known, especially given how little is known of Mithraist rites - there would be no reason to suppose that the Christians copied the Mithraists. It would be more likely to be the other way around, as Justin claims, given that the Christian Eucharist was certainly being practised in the 50s of the first century AD while Mithraism is not really attested until at least a couple of decades after that.
     
  17. Zenon_pt

    Zenon_pt Civing on the real world

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    Question:
    Islam and Christianaty are roots of Judaism. Where did the cult of a single god begin? Where does Judaism come from?
     
  18. pau17

    pau17 Chieftain

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    What were your reasons for studying philosophy and religion? Have you had any personal epiphanies that have changed or expanded your thinking of humanity, or has it been a slow, steady progression of knowlege just like any other field? Do you feel more existentially satisfied having studied it?

    Also, do you feel that free will and the idea of the Christian omnipotent god are reconcilable?
     
  19. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    I don't know nearly enough about Judaism to tell you that. I do know that it's generally thought that monotheism evolved fairly gradually within Judaism; originally they thought of Yahweh as "their" tribal god among lots of others; then they thought of Yahweh as the most powerful of all the tribal gods; and finally they thought of him as the only god at all. But I don't know what outside influences there might have been - I've already mentioned that Zoroastrianism might have been involved, but I don't know enough to say.

    I originally wanted to study philosophy because I liked arguing... and you can't do philosophy by itself at Oxford, so I did it with theology as that seemed like the least unpleasant accompanying option. But as it turned out, I particularly liked the historical aspect of theology. I went on to do a master's in theology because I liked patristics so much, but now I've almost finished a PhD in philosophy, so I still swing both ways. Studying both of these subjects has certainly changed my views on religion and the universe in general in many ways, but then so has just living. I used to be more definite in my views about the supernatural but I'm less so now. I don't think any of it has much changed my views on humanity, which have never been especially positive. I generally feel more annoyed having studied it, because as I've often said, religion seems to be the one subject where people who know nothing about it apparently feel qualified to sound off at enormous length. You don't see church historians or philosophers of religion writing ill-informed diatribes about biology or chemistry, so I'm not sure why it's OK for the reverse to happen. I can never, for example, look at the frequent articles with comments on religion on the Guardian website because I know that they will contain nothing of any value.

    The divine attribute that is usually argued to be incompatible with free will is his omniscience, not his omnipotence; in fact I can't think of any reason why his omnipotence might be incompatible with free will at all. But I think in general that theism and the doctrine of free will are not incompatible. Although of course that doesn't mean I necessarily think either is true.
     
  20. Zenon_pt

    Zenon_pt Civing on the real world

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    It may be from this hypothesis: Could be part of the Egyptians when they worshipped the solar disc as a single God? What do you think?
     
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