Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Value of Theological Education part 2


An atheist on CARM recently went into a tirad complaing about theology. He didn't even know the proper term for a theologian he called the thread "stupid things theologists say." Theologists! Anyway, Here' a sample of his rant:

I'm not going to start this with an insult, just to differentiate myself from some of my theist "friends".

I was searching for a theological article that made some sense to me such that I could try and enter into a meaningful debate with Metacrock. I searched various sources - I looked at a number of publicly available journals eg.


And read through a number of the articles, but they are all the same. Each author simply puts forward their own views, without any reference to research or evidence to support their points.

Even accepting that the subject matter doesn't really lend itself to evidence, most of this stuff just looks like shameless invention.

I think the biggest paradox in reading this rubbish is that for authors who must (by nature) start with a premise that there is a deity, they don't appear to take any backward step in presuming to know the mind & motives of their particular deity. Wouldn't that in itself be the height of arrogance?

After this he said my writing is so bad he can't tell that I ever went to school. I confronted him with an article from my journal, Negations, the academic journal I published, peer reviewed and indexed and the whole nine yards. Then then somewhat changed his tune:

So I start reading (and I must say that for a dyslexic, the writing
is a credit to you),

But his admiration was short lived because he can't accept the fact that there are other forms of knowledge than the one he's been trained in. He's been brain washed to believe that only empirical scientific data is knowledge so he wont accept anything else. He goes on carping how stupid the article is aside from being well written because it isn't crammed full of facts:

and I cant get more than a few paragraphs into the article with hitting a point that as a fact driven person I can read past

You state "In so arguing, he anticipated much of Marcuse's One-Dimensional Man, and C. Wright Mill's notion of the "cheerful robot," as well as the decline which now besets our society"

What "decline" is that? Why is it that theology seems to be riddled with unsupported statement where the authors don't seem to make any effort to given even that veneer of fact?

You are talking about ideas and using thought categoreis instead of number crunching we can't have that!

"The next generation grows up thinking of civilization as freeways and flush toilets, with no concept that it could be an ideal of behavior or of individual thought, and with no concept that spare time might be a source of intellectual renewal, rather than the chance to play"

Yet here am I, discussing the merits of theology...

As though that's all there is to ethics, just the fact that you are discussing this, however badly is somehow supposed to prove that the idea of civilization hasn't moved away from ethical thinking!

Admittedly I haven't finished reading the entire article, but that's partly due to the fact that I don't think it's heading toward a conclusion that would be supported with reference to facts supporting an argument.

That statement I can't help but hear as meaning "i just can't force myself to think in terms not involved in number crunching and and I'm too uncertain in the world of ideas to mess with it." I've always suspected that these reductionist types use data to hide behind because they can't deal with ideas. This guy didn't do anything to change that impression. This guy's view point represents the major thrust of atheist thinking now days. That's very ironic because way back in the early 70s as an undergraduate I began my crusade against reductionism, as an atheist. I identified poetry, art and literature with atheism. Back then you could because the major atheist are thinkers, philosophers and novelists not scientists. Although the scientific world had its share of them. Since I left the atheist world it went whole hog into the direction of one-denominational man. Even a large portion of scientists have seen through the reductionist bs but not the atheists. The atheists on CARM thought that Thomas Kuhn was a creationist!

Stanton Jones, professor of psychology at Wheaten college, observes that philosophers were the first to notice the sciences over dependence upon positivism and it's ideological entrapment for the assumptions scientists were making. This goes back to C. Wright Mills warnings about the priesthood of knowledge that sociology was turning itself into (The Sociological Imagination). Jones observes:

The traditional posativistic view of science has been eroding since the late 1950s. Although, preceded by a substantial amount of work in the philosophy and sociology of science (Laudan 84), The analysis of science promulgated by historian of science Thomas S. Kuhn (1970) were the first to really catch the attention of the scientific world, and especially the psychological world. Since that time awareness of positivistic, postmdoern or "historicist" trneds in the philosophy of science on the part of psychologists has increased (e.g., Bevan, 1991; Gergen, 1985; Gholson and Barker, 85; Howard, 85; Manicas and Secord, 83; O'Donohue, 1989; the trend in understanding science might be as follows.

Posativisistic philosophy of science has tuaght us that data are theory laden. A simplistic empirical foundationaliam or naive realism, the view that empirical data are unsullied and indubitable, is no longer tenable. Philosophers were the fist to clearly see this. Results of contemporary perceptual and cognaive psychology clearly support the contention that data are sorted or processed from their first entry into the human organism's first sensory equipment. For instance, expectations have a profound impact upon on the perceiving process (the famous Postman studies sited by Kuhn)and these findings have made their way into the philosophy of science literature. It is commonly noted that all seeing is "seeing as." (Stanton L. Jones, "On the Suppossed Incomensurability of Scinece and Religion" in Religion an the Clinical Practice of Psychology. ed Edward P.Shafranske American Pssycholgoical Asociation Washington DC 1996, 118."

This view that empirical data is pure truth and can't be questioned is the stack and trade of the message broad atheists. It's also the reason why I say there is no objectivity. Even the most diligent scientist still has his biases and the psychological data confirms that no one ever approaches data from the standpoint of pure unbiased devotion to truth alone. Atheists are hiding behind data. They had behind the mystique of the pure unblemished truth of science to give them the illusion of total objectivity. Their standard cry, "that's subjective" leveled against all theological argument is a joke and demonstrates total naivete. When I was a sociology major, back in the stone age (undergraduate), a professor talked about and had us read a famous article that was already a classic sociology. It was by a guy named Lundberg called "Knowledge for What?" In this article Lundberg argues that the idea of pure passionless data collection with no social agenda and no idea of one's own concerns is nothing more than the ditty bag of an idiot, like a village idiot collection strings and sticks and dead birds and shiny things that mean nothing. He was countered by a sociologist named Lynde who argued that data must be pure and they had a famous journal debate that was so legendary it was in an anthology textbook. This debate was in the 30s, so those ideas were around long before Kuhn. But that stuck with me. I still believe it now, all research has not only its biases but its ulterior motives, it's assumptions, its ideologies. As Lundberg expressed it sociologists do not count the bricks in tenement buildings just for the fun of knowing how many there are. Economists do not maintain such a purse love of truth and data for sake of pure data that they research dates on coins in the economy. All of this research has a point to it. Someone has a social agenda, all scientific research winds up in someone's political platform.

It took philosophers and historians to see it because the scientists were too rooted in the data to ever step back from it and look at what they were doing. Even though these were secular philosophers and historians such as Paul Feyerabend (1924-1994 CE) and Thomas Kuhn (1922-1996), they point up two major contributions that theologians also make to the world of thought. Just as philosophers without providing tons of data and number crunching provided a valuable insight by dealing with the structure of ideas,so theologians as well provide that same function. What actually produced the observation was the very thing our atheist at the top of the essay complains about, "they are just making stuff up," dealing with the sweeping structure of ideas rather than hiding behind the body of data. To do this requires stepping back from the data and form the data collecting process, the very thing out atheist friend complains that theologians don't do (keep reading) which is exactly what do do. The process of dealing with frames of thought and engagement with ideas rather than numbers is essential to understand that the numbers can be a smoke screen hiding the ideas, which are the real driving force.

Knowledge must be global. Each discipline has a part to play. We need to be interdisciplinary in our outlook (which I learned from the History of ideas program in my doctoral work). Theology is too sequestered. The two spheres of academia (secular and sacred) work at keeping apart form each other. In spite of this theology has a part to play. It does this in two ways: First in terms of thought categories that can be used to critique all thought on a higher level, not just theological. Secondly, by providing the same function in terms of religious traditions.

(1) Critical methods and global function

One example of this sort of critique is what Matthew Lamb called "the praxis enlightenment." In the 80s theologians, far from reinforcing drab teachings or clinging to Orthodoxy, rooted out the hopeless pie in the sky thinking, Hegelian or otherwise in favor of "praxis" which involves political action, analysis and action and doing things in the world and having pragmatic impact. Revolutions in Latin America produced a lot ferment about what is really making a concrete difference in the lives of the poor rather than just blessing their poverty. This sort of criticism can be taken to secular thought and even science and was in Nicaragua. Science was used as justification for exploitation until the theologically minded members of the frente began to apply praxis to it. That is in terms of sociological number crunching and pollution and other uses ot data to justify what was being done to the poor.

Theology can charge the scene with ethical thinking and provide means of understanding the full global perspective of learning. It's far too limiting to pretend that knowledge is only scientific. We need to use global resources, all disciplines. We need to be multidisciplinary. Theology has a place in that scheme. There is a conversation in civilization. the conversation in the world of thought has been going on for over a thousand years. To take part one has to understand what's been said before. We don't need necessarily to infuse the discuss with more data, we need to understand the sweeping structures of thought and how they relate to us and to the world. Theology lends itself to this task by bringing the view of faith, which has been a crucial and central part of human experience for 65,000 years. Anesthetist try to reject theological view points as imaginary and stupid, but all they are really doing is resenting the established structures and trying to take over and control them through their own ideology.

Atheists can complain that they are "making stuff up" but these are empirical matters. The material analysis of the human conditions (liberation theology) is going to require numbers and empirical research. But it's not supplied by theologians, it has be collected and understood by theologians along with the analysis of the social scientist and the social critic. In the doing of liberation theology things can get dangerous. Many theologically based workers gave their lives for the poor in the struggles of Central America in the 70s-90s. This also requires an engagement with the people first hand, living with them, risking death with them, dying with them. This is no job for a pie in the sky sort of academic arm chair dreamer or a passionless positivist. But an army of theology students decended upon Latin America, inspired by theologians such as Moltmann, Miguse Bonino and Arch Bishop Romero, and Gustavo Gutierrez.

This function is not limited to liberal theology. The fact of doing theology at all, the fact that it offers a sens of transcendence from the paradigms of crunching and social engineering makes it a valuable blast to counter the reductionist robot making. Now the atheist can whine "they are just making stuff up" but they are taking part in a conversation. Western thought and letters are a conversation. They have been around for a long time, over a thousand years and a lot has been said. To continue the conversation one must be aware of what's been said and how it relates to the current scene and the future. That's why we need people to deal with the thought frame rather than to lose themselves hiding behind a body of data.

Since God is not given in sense data, talk about God is always going to be analogical. We have to approach it indirectly when te talk about God because there is no way to approach directly except in forms that are beyond talk (mystical experience). Therefore, theological talk will always be analogical, metaphorical, indirect, and it would be absurd to try and produce any kind of data directly relate to observations of God. That does not mean they are just making it up and it doesn't mean it can't relate to anything real or empirical. In making this grand set of metaphors that are interrelated we can we understand the sweeping structures of thoguht the frames of ideas and how they interrelate. Without that data is just the ditty bag of an idiot, odds and ends collected from nature that mean nothing.

None of this means they are just making things up. you can't just make things up you have to relate them to what's already been framed in the structure of the conversation. Maybe that stuff was made up but you have to tread upon it as though it matters and deal with it in such a way as to do a lot of thinking about it. There's automatic limit on just making stuff up. Since most people want their beliefs to relate to reality you would have to do a lot of relating of the made up stuff to reality. Look at the reader of this blog, Loren, who protests my poo pooing of her "thought experiments" in history. She can see the value of creativity in history when she uses it but can't the value of creativity when those of the hated target group that her ideology tells her is her enemy uses it. When she does it it's a clever thought experiment like Einstein, when theologians do it's just "mak'n stuff up." Even if all of those frame works and sweeping structures of thought prove to mere moon beams it's going to be the process of understanding the framework that exposes it as such, not merely the lack of data. All the lack of data will do is illicit attempts to find data to confirm what one already believes. That is the case with all sides and ideologies.

(2) within traditions themselves

Theology can illuminate religious traditions and enable them to understand themselves better. The primary task of theology is as the traditional understanding defines it (St. Anselm) "faith seeking understanding." This is the basis of theological method. The atheist quoted above carps because

I think the biggest paradox in reading this rubbish is that for authors who must (by nature) start with a premise that there is a deity, they don't appear to take any backward step in presuming to know the mind & motives of their particular deity.

The sheer stupidity of this illiterate fool misses the point that this is exactly what they are doing. They don't do it in the comic fashion that he's expecting because they are not fundie yokels. He doesn't recognize what they are doing because all he knows is number crunching. For him they are not stepping back and look at it form the big picture because they don't find it to be stupid. They don't find it to be stupid as he does because they know something about it, and he's too lazy to learn anything about it. The modern definition of theology is "participation in and study of a religious tradition." The point is the theologians strives to enable the tradition to understand itself. He/she seeks to enable those who wish to participate in the conversation what's been said and how it figures into a modern scene. It's not necessary that it be another exercise in number crunching we don't need tons of data to hide behind. Theologians deal with the sweeping structure of ideas rather than the fiddly bits of empirical data.

Theology can also be empirical. Just because we don't have mathematical equations proving the trajectory of an idea or empirical observations through microscopes showing God's DNA or something doesn't mean there's nothing empirical to deal with. We can't have empirical data of God but we can have empirical data of the co-determinate. Hence the 350 empirical studies that I use for my God arguments. We can have and do have a science of textual criticism. Atheists have no understanding of textual criticism. It's not part of science so it must be stupid. It can be demonstrated to work on secular literature. It has developed as a science, especially lower criticism. Higher criticism is the determination of authorship and dating of a text. The lower criticism is the determination of errors in a text and tracing their origins and reconstructing the original text. This has all been worked to a science and it empirical. Just as modern history thrives on texts, so theology in this sense is in line with modern historical methods. This is certainly not "mak'n stuff up."

Since theology is participation in and study of a religious tradition it invovles understanding what exactly the tradition says and why, and what that means in a modern context. The basic theological method at root is about filling in blanks. Philosophy is about asking interesting questions more than it is about answering them. By the same token theology has the answer at the end. It knows where its going but it wants to fill in the blank left by faith and show how we get there. Sometimes that has to mean re defining where are going because the imagined end result is no longer meaningful in a modern context. This would be the case with process theologians for example. They realize that the Greek based philosophy of the Orthodox was no longer tenable in a world in process so they redefined the end result, God is not static and unchanging but in process with creation and di polar. They didn't just say "I know I'll make up that God is di polar, why not it's mak'n stuff up." First there was a tradition going back the Greeks. There was Heraclitus. There was Hegel. Then there was Whitehead, who influenced modern science somewhat and the modern study of logic a great deal. There's a tradition, you have to work in relation to the tradition. Tradition doesn't mean in the academic sense just accept something uncritically it means a conversation. You have to know what's been said, to understand the sweeping structures, and demonstrate how can fit into that.

Modern theology has kept pace with modern thought. It's not making stuff up and it's not pie in the sky. It's practical and theoretical. It's empirical and idealist but it's not idealism. It's a valuable discipline, part ethics, part social criticism, part philosophy. You have to have a broad basis in the modern academy to do theology well in the postmodern age. That's exactly what the critics of theology lack. They don't have the exposure in the academy to understand the basics. They spend every day of their lives flapping their gums about how stupid theology is because one guy who tells them what to think (Dawkins) says it's stupid. He says that because he doesn't know anything about it. That's been demonstrated by his attempts to deal with it. He gave up and just started bad mouthing it and his groupies regurgitate what he says because they are "free thinkers" so they think think what they told to think.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Value of a Theological Education Part 1

Rose Window Cathedral Chartre

Recently I was chiding atheists on CARM for thier Dawkinsian attitude that they can flap their gums about the alleged stupidity of that which of they know nothing, namely theology. Somehow all of liberal arts came into it. I have always suspected that most of the real Dawkamentalists don't like art and literature and know nothing about it. My suspensions were confirmed. One of them said:

Because its only purpose is the perpetuation of theology? Literature in general is not a particularly useful field of study; theology is simply literature distilled down to the study of a single story.

Now I know atheists who love art and literature. In fact as an Atheist I loved art and literature, but things were different in my day. Back when I was an atheist, the 70s, no atheist would be caught dead saying that art and literature are useless. That's because the cultural dynamic of those who claimed to be atheist was totally different. With no internet you didn't have all these gen xers and gen y-ers coming around the net knowing nothing about Bertrand Russell. Atheist in my day were people who met on the college campus and most of them were given the courage to defy mom and dad and break out of the family mold of religious belief by literature and art classes, and of course Philosophy, science the whole college bit. In that day being an atheist was about being an intellectual, not about hating religious people. It was about being smart, and being modern. In those days the culture embraced art and literature as it's highest aspirations. So atheists had to at least give lip service to the arts. But that was back when there were intellectuals.

I blame Dawkins, not single handedly but as one major source who manged to kill of the basis of Western culture. We were already on our cultural death bed, we had already given up art and culture. But Dawkins has made it respectable among the rabble to flip off art and culture and embrace science as the only form of knowledge that matters. Atheists who are shunned for attaching my dyslexia often turn to attacking my theological career and my education. In this same discussion another one told me my education was "useless." In trying to get across to them that I don't regret a single dollar of tuition I spent or an hour spent studying it was one of the best times in my life and it would never see it as useless even if I never officially a penny form it, or even I get no credit at all for the degree. Of course understanding that would entail understanding the value of learning and it would entail understanding that there are more important aspects of learning than just science. But I don't really expect them to understand that. That would be like expecting someone who watches professional wrestling all the time to understand the importance of turning the other cheek. Let me just mention here, Fritz Von Erich never turned the other cheek! Now I know that the atheists I respect such as Hermit, your regular loyal opponent, or Quantum Troll on my boards, would never accept the attitudes I'm talking about. Hermit has made statements here repudiating that attitude. So I am not saying this all atheists.

In a two part essay I'm going to talk about the value of theological education. This first part is about the value of liberal arts in general. But I want to also point out that for me theology and liberal arts are intertwined. I really see theology as part of the world of letters, and all aspect of the world letters are important. Theology is in the area of philosophy, a form of philosophy but more specialized. Yet I see theology as a metaphor for the life of learning. Karl Garth (major theologian of the last century, called theology "the queen of the sciences." Of couse he's using the term "science" in the old European since, which is much like Kung Fu guys use the term kung fu. Kung fu is said to be anything that requires great diligent practice to master. So really fine chefs do the kung fu of cooking, and really good base ball pitchers do the kung fu of pitching, and so on. Science is any systematic study that involves first hand observation (in the European sense) so we can have science of cooking, science of pitching in baseball and so on. In this sense theology is a science.

Theology is zenith of letters. It requires expertise in everything. To be good at it one must understand the great sweeping movements of history in ways historians have long forsaken, in the way Hegel did. One must understand history as a philosopher and philosophy as a historian. It's a total interdisciplinary discipline. It requires a masterful apprehension of structure while maintaining a wit and imagination that is capable of compete departure form the script and lateral thinking. What I want to talk about here is the link to all of art and literature and why when I defend one of those I defend the others. It's not because theology is "making stuff up." Although creativity is important as it in science. But the impulse to know, to understand, to learn to think, to do philosophy and write poetry and create art all of those impulses are part of the urge that one feels to understand theology and to participate in the ancient tradition of theology. Theology is not creative per se, in fact it's supposed to resist creation. To be innovative in theology was an insult at one time. Yet all research and all discovery involve creativity. It's just a matter of how you channel it. Because theology involves understanding the entirety of the world in a general way, the structures of ontology, metaphysics, physics, life, society and how the interrelate it's a microcosm of all university subjects and all that requires systematic and scholarly learning.

Atheists who claim that theology is very stupid (Dawkamentalists) do so on the grounds that it's about something "imaginary" which they take God to be. That seems to mean they also disparage art and literature because they are merely imaginative too. The first one I quoted above says this: "I dislike fiction. It's generally rather contrived, and far less interesting than real life. This might well explain my position regarding theology." So his limited imagination sees literature only as just making up a bunch of stuff. But psychology tells us that creativity is crucial to psychological well being. Scientists tell us that creativity and imagination are crucial to scientific work. Joseph J. Kockelmans in his book Philosophy of Science
(Transactions Books 1999 ISBN: 978-0-7658-0602-4) Tells us that Scientists themselves ignore the importance of meaning and belief because they think they have to fit the image of passionless drones, they become wrapped up in the acquisition of data forget the importance of creativity in research. "I make no apology for insisting openly, even at the risk of irrelevance, on the necessity of proclaiming openly the imaginative element in science. When Scientists are ask about their own use of creativity and/or the arts, they usually affirm the value of it for doing science:

Science News
Rachel Ehrenberg
web edition, May 13,2009

RENO, Nev. — In a ceremony that’s referred to as “the passing of the torch,” hundreds of high school science students took part in a Q and A with a panel of Nobel laureates and distinguished scientists May 12. A more fitting title might be “the passing of the Bunsen burner or mass spectrometer.”

Student Terrence George, also an ISEF finalist, asked about the role of imagination in science, which prompted some quibbling among the panel. Jocelyn Bell Burnell, whose work led to the discovery of pulsars, said imagination is as important as the strictness of the scientific method. “We need the rigorous testing, but we also need creativity, wild ideas that are off the wall, because that’s where hypotheses come from in the first place.” Wüthrich then added a cautionary note: “Imagination can have its dangers,” he said. Scientists can get too attached to an idea they’ve imagined. “I would replace [imagination] with curiosity.”


Student and finalist Taylor Trew asked the panel members whether any had artistic talent and if that talent had helped in their scientific endeavors. Martin Chalfie, who shared the 2008 Nobel in chemistry for work on green fluorescent protein, said his father, a professional guitarist, gave him a classical guitar at age 12. “I still enjoy it immensely,” Chalfie said. “It is a great way to relax … and to balance everything.” Osheroff, citing his love of poetry, noted the importance of backing away from science and refreshing with the arts. He then recited from memory the cowboy poem “Reincarnation” by Wallace McRae.

The value of literature is more important than just a means inspiring scientific work. It's valuable in its own right. The things my Dawkie opponent says above are mere ignorance. One of the most valuable aspects of literature is that of the catharsis. Catharsis is a psychological mechanism which all narrative forms contain and which Freud discussed. It's the idea that you psychologically identify with the characters and with the story, you psychologically enter the story and vent your pent up rage and trauma and hurt by identification with the character. When you leave the story you are better, it has a healing quality.

Melvin W. Askew, Ph.D.

"Catharsis and Modern Tragedy"
Psychoanalytic Review,
48C:81-88 (1961). 171

The analogy between catharsis as it occurs in tragic drama and as it occurs in the psychotherapeutic situation proved to be a fruitful one; it at least demonstrated, if it did not add, another dimension to the psychological concept of catharsis. Since the analogy is such a close one, and since it proved valuable psychologically, it might be profitable to reverse the perspective in order to see, first, if the analogy cannot illuminate some of the sources of tragic effectiveness and provide some basis for a distinction between aesthetic and psychotherapeutic catharsis; second, if the somewhat deplorable critical confusion about modern tragedy—at least the confusion arising when classical tenets are applied to it—may not be clarified.The analogy is simply as follows: catharsis in classical drama occurs when the discordant actions, impulses, and thoughts of the tragic hero are composed upon the background of an orderly moral, ethical, social, and/or religious system

Matt Jarvis

Pyschodyamic Psychology:Classical Theory and Contemporary Research
Cengage learning 2004

Abreratcion is recall and re-experiencing of painful memories. Catharsis is the discharge of pent up emotions that result form abreaction. "People seek emotional experiences in books and film, and the Catharsis construct seems to explain the (counterintuative) everyday experience of seeking out entertainment stimuli that illicit anger, fear and sadness." Patients report Catharsis to be of great benefit. Jarvis writes about two studies, Mahon and Kemper in 1995,Clearly show that the patents attribute benefit to Catharsis. Smyth and Green (2000) show writing about problems helps. These studies both find positive results form narrative oriented catharsis in lue of other forms of therapy. Alternative explanations Jarvis delves into seem counter to the cathartic theory but might also involve narrative forms of release. The major such theory is "self regulation." Under a period of intense affect one might gain insight through the release of feelings. The difference here is not rather and than damming up feelings that need release one is bringing a period of insight while experiencing these feelings (which are not damned up but come on at the moment due to emotional stimuli). Yet the experience of the narrative form which puts the reading into the action is the stimulus for this critical period of insight.

Another major aspect of psychological healing and inspiration that is found in literature, and especially in poetry, the use of archetypes in symbols. Archetypes are psychological symbols which are universal to all human cultures. They are ways of dealing with ideas and problems below the surface. Symbols suggest insights that conscious minds can't grasp but our unconscious minds can deal with them through the hidden code of the archetype.

Jung's Theory of Archetypes

Clayton E Tucker-Ladd
Metal Health Net 2000
"Understanding parts of our

As you read more about personality theories, you will find other notions that give you insight into your self. For instance, Jung had a creative mind and besides describing the personality types above, suggested there are several parts of our personality beyond the id, ego, and superego. He believed that humans are innately prone to act certain ways and have certain beliefs, e.g. young children and animals are seen as "cute," almost every culture has created the notion of God and an after life, all societies have heroes and heroines, spiritual-mystical powers are thought to influence the weather, crops, health, etc., and the same children's stories are heard in all parts of the world (see Joseph Campbell's The Power of Myth). These universal beliefs or themes were called archetypes by Jung. Instincts and archetypes make up our "collective unconscious," which is this tendency for all of us to view the world in common (not necessarily accurate) ways.

In Jungian theory, there is a part of our personality called the persona which includes the masks we wear when relating to others--it isn't our real self. In contrast to the publicly acceptable masks (Jung looked for opposites), there is the shadow which, much like the Enneagram, is our dark and evil side--our sexual, greedy, aggressive, and power-hungry needs which are difficult to control. If a normally well controlled person suddenly had an angry outburst, the Jungian might assume it is the work of the devilish shadow. Yet, the shadow is always there; it compliments the conscious ego; a wise person will understand, accept, and consider (but not give in to) the shadow's needs.

Maslow Makes use of Jung's concept

Religions, Values, and Peak-Experiences, Abraham H. Maslow
Appendix I. "An Example of B-Analysis."

Maslow points out that the same universal symbols emerge in all people across culture. He confirms this connection emerges with with the use of all pyschoanalytical techniques.

"Now that may be taken as a frank admission of a naturalistic psychological origin, except that it invovles a universal symbology which is not explicable through merely naturalistic means. How is it that all humans come to hold these same archetypical symbols? (For more on archetypes see Jesus Chrsit and Mythology page II) The "prematives" viewed and understood a sense of transformation which gave them an integration into the universe. This is crucial for human development. They sensed a power in the numenous, that is the origin of religion."

"In Appendix I and elsewhere in this essay, I have spoken of unitive perception, i.e., fusion of the B-realm with the D-realm, fusion of the eternal with the temporal, the sacred with the profane, etc. Someone has called this "the measureless gap between the poetic perception of reality and prosaic, unreal commonsense." Anyone who cannot perceive the sacred, the eternal, the symbolic, is simply blind to an aspect of reality, as I think I have amply demonstrated elsewhere (54), and in Appendix I."

Studies backs Jungs theory as valid

Philip Penny

A brief look at whether the Collective Unconscious is a figment of Jung’s imagination, and whether it has any successful role to play in modern Psychotherapy.

Copyright© Philip Penny

This is all very well of course, but it simply serves to prove further that there is little to justify the notion that the theory of the Collective Unconscious is an invalid one. There is much to support the notion that there are Archetypes, or inherited characteristics of human nature, and true to say that models of human psychological process based on this assumption may prove invaluable in a therapy situation. The question of whether this theory is an aspect of Jung's imagination is a philosophical one and as stated previously it is beyond the scope of this literature to explore this adequately. The conclusion of the question therefore is left up to the reader as to conclude further may well simply result in stating a figment of my own imagination.

These aspects of literature will not be grasped by students in school. That's a shame because that's when they need to know about it. It takes time to develop a taste for great literature but over a life time one can come to feel this sense of healing sometimes very strongly in stories, novels, poems and film.It's very strong in film. One of the measures I use to gage the greatness of a film is how healed I feel after watching it. Do I feel like Ive really been through something enriching? It's a sens of wholeness like I'm back to normal. Students who are under the gun to turn in papers showing that they read the Old Man and the Sea or something are not going to get this. I takes time and experience of life, must have something to compare it to. As a young student you haven't lived enough. But there are plenty of student are sensitive enough to feel this, but they usually don't know hat they feel.I was that way.I didn't really put all of this together until just a few years ago, but I did feel healed as a kid reading The Iliad in biology class the as the teacher talked about spores, or reading Light in August in Math class as the teacher discussed algebra 2.

The healing aspect of film is quite strong in Bergman films. I've reviewed several of Bergman's films for this blog and I've discussed his theological times and how they crop up in his films. Bermgan's films are not theological statements but they are of theological importance. This is because they raise great questions and they document the searching of an unbeliever, and atheist (although in that intellectual atheist mode I spoke of above). These films demonstrate the human longing for union with the reality behind the archetype, and the frustration of not understanding what that is or being sure its' really there. Archetypes are at their in poetry where the play of symbols is most important. Yet film being visual can meld imagery right into its fabric. Consider the image from Bergman's winter light which I used in that review:

Björnstrand and Thulin in
Winter Light

The doubting minister who can't face his own calling (or lack thereof) is cradled in the arms of the mothering, smothering woman who wants to baby him and who wants to own him, their backs are to the light, they are hidden form natural (divine?) light and their backs are also to the crucifix with its rustic Norse interpretation of pain of the suffering savior. That cinematic image says more than a thousand essays could say, one does not need words. Of course the Dawkamentalists would say It's worthless, just contrived and made up. It's not scientific. Yet the whole point of archetypes is that these are telling us true we can't grasp or face consciously. This is something you can't get at through science. The thing that image tell us is not something science could tell us. We cant' do studies and say "39% of all believers feel this way (reference the image). Because we can't even put into words what it tell us. But the studies we can do tell us that the healing effects of such controlled moments of emotive release and the symbols that communicate to our pysche are profound and important for our lives. In addition to that, we can use it for science, because it was scientific studies that told us this. So some psycholgist saw some archetypal image or had a catharsis at the movies and thought of some research to do on those things.

We find this same healing aspects in the narrative of the Bible. The purpose of scripture is to bestow grace upon the reader. This, and not epistemology and not philsophy or science or history is the purpose of the Bible. So finds William Abraham of the Perkins School of Theology (my old prof and erstwhile coffee drinking partner) in his ground breaking work Canon and Criterion: From the Fathers to Feminism.(I can't over stress the importance of reading this book. I would put it on my top 10 must read books for theology). One of the most important ways grace is bestowed is through the catharsis. Another is through the use of Archetypes in the symbolism of the Bible. The cross is itself an archetype, as is the empty tomb. This is why religious people can tear up the use of religious symbols and why atheists can at times think they are stupid ad idiotic for doing so. The atheist has shut himself off from the psychological healing of symbols and catharsis. Those who don't get literature and hate it because they think its' useless are just cutting themselves off from real mental health.

All theological discourse contains these elements, symbolism and archetype. But there's more to it than that. Theology is not just a means of feeling good, it's not fiction. The value of literature doesn't end with psychological management. But there's a global relationship between all disciplines of learning. It all comes together in an education. This is why a theological education will never be a waste even one ceases to believe. Atheists who don't like poetry or literature or great art films cut themselves off from a source of healing, and source of inspiration, they also cut themselves off from the global understanding of knowledge by rejecting theology and refusing to learn anything about it. Theology may not make direct use of all aspects of the arts, but that hardly matters. The point is not that theology is art its that theology is part of the greatness of human culture and civilization at its form on planet earth. In my next installment I'll deal more directly with theology itself.

Those reductionists who reject as invalid and "useless" anything that doesn't produce pragmatic results in monetary terms, in hard data that can be used to produce monetary terms,or medicine, are closing themselves off from emotional healing by rejecting liberal arts and theology. Let us a say a boy is left by his father in his early life and he hates his father. As a a result he hates fatherhood. Let's say hypothetically that this is a reason he rejects God, too much talk of "the father." he can't see that consciously because it would be treading upon closed wounds to open that up and understand it. The symbolic and cathartic aspects of literature might help with healing and enable him to face that. Now let us assume knows everything about fathers. He becomes a social scientist and he dedicates his life to proving that children don't need to be raised by fathers. Say he learns every fact that can gleaned scientifically about the value of fatherhood. But he still can't face his wounds and he wont understand that this is the reason he can't accept God. Obviously we know what would become of him. He was spend his life posting on carm and saying snide things about me. The point is the unscientific "useless" "contrived" "made up stuff" might be the only thing that would allow him to deal with his pain and understanding all the scientific facts in the world do nothing to heal him.

I see modern "new" atheism as a symptom of the larger problem of one-dimensional man. We have as a culture destroyed our own civilization. We have given up all the intangible not obvious things that lie hidden beneath the surface. That's why the Dawkies are like very simple people who look the window and go "there's no God out there so there must not be one." We have given up everything that doesn't give us immediate gratification and short term profit and quantifiable results, and what have we in return, a failing economy a dying planet and soulless jerks manipulating us into buying their crap. Learning is global, in the sense that you can't limit it to just those aspects with quick return on investment. The business model usually doesn't work well for anything except business. Those who reduce knowledge to just the quantifiable merely limit out abilities to search for further knowledge. There is a depth in terms of human experience and vitality in understanding the self and the world in terms of the liberal arts. That can only be managed with a global understanding of learning where we can draw upon everything from Shakespeare to Sokal, to Derrida to Julius Schwartz. We need it all and those who close it off are killing the thing they try to enhance. The atheist of my day were under the sawy of the 60s. The 60s meant we learn about everything. As Joni Mitchell told us "life is for learning (the song "Woodstock")." That was the attitude. Back then the social cement was "the movement." Everyone under 30 knew something was happening and everyone was part of it and we just knew something great was going to come of it all. Now the only social cement these kids have is hating God and hate religion and being temperamental and going on message board to exhibit that snide bitch tone about "your invisible sky pixie." They are cut off from learning. Learning, they have told, is boring. They don't want that. So they lump every kind of learning that doesn't make money for their employers into the useless pile. But don't worry about their feelings they have philosopher Wayne Proudfoot to tell them they have no feelings. They are cut off from real learning, they are also cut off from God and from their own feelings.It's all in there, it's global. Life is an open ended journey, it's for learning.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Phony Standard of the Jesus Myth Scam

christ on cross

I've been "arguing" (really having a p-ing contest but you know) On ever loving CARM (from which I'm about to be expelled again). This time it's with Jesus myhters. They angered me because++ they were so rigid in insisting upon phony standard of historicity that even real historians would never support. It basically comes down to "unless you show a writer in the NT who literally says 'I was an eye witness to Jesus' then Jesus didn't exist." I made the arguments that I make for historicity and rather than argue the logic of the arrangements they just smugly insisted upon the little rigid silliness. So I started doing it back to them. I began demanding that they show a witness who said "I am an eye witness to Julius Cesar he really existed." I demanded that they say those very words, not even imply it that's not good enough. they demanded that our guys say those very words so why not. They went ape trying to meet that criteria.

You can see the original thread in which I grew perturbed at his game playing with this "he doesn't say he's an eye witnesses" and the rigidity of the standard.

these are coming from another thread that followed that one up.
here's how it went.

Here you go meta, so that we may continue the conversation concerning history of Jesus, though really now, the hundred post thing is slightly ridiculous. How these forums and threads are laid out, one particular thread can be turned into multiple ones in the thread.

Your choice to not read threads over a hundred posts stems from laziness, nothing more.

anyways, what is the said archaeological evidence you have of Jesus that apparently not having negates Julius Caesar.

Because you know, as I've shown you before, we have accounts written by Caesar that are undeniably from Caesar.

We have no writings FROM Jesus.


so you are wiling to admit that by using your arguments and your logic we could rationally take Julie baby out of history as a real guy? I'm just using your criteria. We don't have anyone who says "I knew Julius Cesar, I am an eyewitness I saw him exist."

This shows us how phony and silly your demand for such evidence is. All the stuff you said in defending Cesar I showed that same kind of evidence exists in defending Jesus existence in history. But you are willing to take out one of the most firmly established characters of history just to get rid of Christianity, that is not a objective historicism by any means. it's stupid.

are a kid? are you in junior high? you reason like someone who has never been on his own.

so now he pulls out the big guns:
Jesus Myther:

Here is Caesar's funeral oration, given by Marc Antony.


Here are writings personally written by Caesar:


If you had the quote you would use it. you are not quoting any because you don't have it. if you had it you would use it.
Here is a quote by Caesar just for you.

"Men in general are quick to believe that which they wish to be true."
Julius Caesar
Can you believe this? He's quoting Shakespeare and that's supposed to prove it's historical!

He tries to prove that argument form silence is valid form of argument.

Originally Posted by Kapyong View Post

Jesus Myther:
Why can't you get his name right, metacrock? How many times have you seen his name written, and you STILL get it wrong. Your reading skills are woeful.
o yea that's really something to worry about your generation is way to hung up on formalities.
(Jesus Myther is not really his name--I can't remember his name I think its Kapyong--although there were three I was arguing with, but these aer his responses.).

Quote:Jesus Myther:
The evidence for Julius Caesar is vast, and DOES include contemporary and archeological

evidence :Meta:
what it doesn't include is a guy who says I am an eye witness I saw Cesar. until you have hat you have nothing because that's the standard you use of Jesus.


writings from Caesar's own hand

* prove they are! I have writtings form Peter's own hand.

Quote: JM
statues of Caesar made while he was alive


we alread did this. the other did the same list. they don't prove it, you can't prove a statue is of a living person. We have statues of Mercury does prove he was alive?

coins showing his likeness changing as he aged
I have a dime with Mercury on it. does that prove he lived?

many eye-witness accounts of his actions (e.g. Cicero)

they don't say they are eye witnesses according to your standards. they don't say "I am an eye witness I saw Cesar"

archeological remains of his battles (e.g. Alesia)
that only proves a battle happened. prove Cesar was in it?

* his grave still known

Jesus grave is well known. I have show you four different churches (Orthodox, Ariminan, RCC, Protestant) that all say the same site is Jesus' tomb. Prove that your site is Cesar's tomb!

Cicero was a historical contemporary of Caesar and wrote about him, and to him. Hard, conclusive, contemporary proof of Caesar.

he doesn't say he was. why is it you are willing to accept this of Cesar but not of Jesus? why aren't you willing to meet the same standard you use to question Jesus' autenticity to prove Cesar?

So was Sallust, Nepos, Catullus, Asinius Pollio, Virgil, Ovid - all contemporaries who wrote about Caesar during his life.

same post the other guy made, You are just coping the same site he used. none of these guys go " I am an eye witness"

(there were three different mythers I was arguing with on this thread. One of them made the same exact post including the signature, wise cracks an all. I know the site he copied it from.

For Jesus?
NONE of that.
NOTHING contemporary.

none of the guys for Cesar do

It's chalk and cheese.
the other guy even had the same closing so you just cut and pasted this.

Chalk and cheese? I don't get the reference but the other guy included it in his post too.

It finally ended up with this one by him


There are numerous quotes from Cicero mentioning direct personal meetings with Caesar :

Cicero, Letters :

Here I was greatly influenced by two things the old friendship which you know that I and my brother Quintus have had with Caesar, and his own kindness and liberality, of which we have recently had clear and mistakable evidence both by his letters and his personal attentions.
...An additional motive was Caesar's memorable and almost superhuman kindness to myself and my brother,

Cicero mentions here :
* his FRIENDSHIP with Caesar
(* letters from Caesar to Cicero)
* Caesar's kindness to him and his brother

There are many many such examples which show a direct personal meeting with Caesar :

Again, later on, there followed a very pressing request from Caesar that I should undertake his defence.

Caesar asks Cicero to defend him.

And yet I was very intimate with Caesar,

Cicero was intimate with Caesar.

all the more so now that Caesar daily receives me with more open arms, while his intimate friends distinguish me above everyone.

Caesar received Cicero with open arms.

Now omens as to the future are observed by me in what I may call a twofold method: the one I deduce from Caesar himself, the other from the nature and complexion of the political situation. Caesar's characteristics are these: a disposition naturally placable and clement--as delineated in your brilliant book of "Grievances"--and a great liking also for superior talent, such as your own. Besides this, he is relenting at the expressed wishes of a large number of your friends, which are well-grounded and inspired by affection.

Cicero observed Caesar's character.

On this head I am always struck with astonishment at Caesar's sobriety, fairness, and wisdom. He never speaks of Pompey except in the most respectful terms. "But," you will say, "in regard to him as a public man his actions have often been bitter enough."

Cicero describes how Caesar talks of Pompey.

Also--for I like to jot down things as they occur to me--that when on the request of Sestius I went to Caesar's house, and was sitting waiting till I was called in, he remarked: "Can I doubt that I am exceedingly disliked, when Marcus Cicero has to sit waiting and cannot see me at his own convenience? And yet if there is a good-natured man in the world it is he; still I feel no doubt that he heartily dislikes me."

Cicero recounts a MEETING with Caesar.

We continued to spar long after this. But in fact I do realize we can document Cesar's existence. That's not the point. The point is the rigidity of demanding the exact words "I am an eye witness." I just said to each one of these, and I cut and pasted the phrase He doesn't say he's an eye witness."

this is was going bonkers by this time. You can tell my the tone of his writting.

I ended that pos with quote NT quoets that do say point blank "I am an eye witness" alouth only one of them in those words:

"That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched-this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.

1:2 The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us." (1 John 1:1-2)

"Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God's elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia,"(1 Pete 1:1)

I also quoted the passage in 2 Pete that says explicitly "we were eyewitnesses"

He tried to argue that 2 Pete is a forgery.He also tries to argue soemthing tot totally stupid about the first John Passage, he tries to say "that which was from the beginning" just means the good feeling they got thinking about the idea of Jesus.so they touched this good feeling with their hands, physically? the whole point of that is to say "he was solid." That was fighting the gnosticism.

We should expect Cesar to be better documented than Jesus. He was the leader, the center of the most civilized place in the world at that time, and the center of a great world empire. Jesus was a peasant in the sticks. No one in Rome cared what went on in Palestine and the center of writing and the writing of history was in Rome and done primarily for Romans. There's no problem Cesar being better documented than Jesus. Its' not mutually exclusive, not like if Cesar is proved then Jesus wasn't historical. The point is that with their phony standard of having to have an eye witness that literally says "I am an eye witness" even best documented characters in history can be made to look fictional.

The point of this whole post is that the Mythers are using sham standard when they demand the exact phrase "I was an eye witness" and we should not let them get away with it. That's a standards historians don't use, and as I've illustrated if they did about half of what's in history would vanish.

Oldest Chruch Raises Problems for Jesus Mythers

file footage (ancient church in Crete)

The Oldest known Christian church Has been found Rihab, northern Jordan, near the Syrian border. The church Dates to between AD33 to AD70. That is totally remarkable as no Christian stuff has ever been found that predates mid century.

"We have uncovered what we believe to be the first church in the world, dating from AD33 to 70," said the head of the Rihab Centre for Archaeological Studies, Abdul Qader al-Husan.

"We have evidence to believe this church sheltered the early Christians - the 70 disciples of Jesus Christ."

A mosaic found in the church describes them as "the 70 beloved by God and Divine". Mr Husan said they were believed to have fled persecution in Jerusalem and founded churches in northern Jordan.

He cited historical sources that suggest they lived and practised religious rituals in the underground church and left it only after Christianity was embraced by Roman rulers in the fourth century.

There is no clear holder of the title of oldest Christian church: various sites claim the honour without definitive evidence.

Pottery shards found suggest that Christians lived there until late Roman times. The problems this Not only does this offer proof of an organized church in the at least the middle of the first century, but also historical evidence of a Biblical event, the sending out of the Seventy. That event involved Jesus himself. Not only is it evidence of Christianity, but indirectly of Jesus as well. Jesus mythers have begun to argue that Christians themselves did not exist in the first century. They have begun to doubt Paul's existence, although no valid scholars do that. Some have argued there is no proof of organized worship of Jesus in the first century.

Mythers will respond with the hackney argument that worship of a mythical Jesus figure goes back to the times before Christ with the Dead Sea sect. Of course this is a fantasy and their attempt to have it both ways. Earl Doherty argues that the concrete historical story of Jesus life did not exist until the early second century. IF this site is really associated with the Seventy disciples that Jesus sent out that would be concrete evidence that Jesus existed and it would wreck the Jesus myth theory.

Another article about it can be found on Directions to Orthodoxy

Inside the cave a circular area of worship with stone seats separated from living quarters were found. This circular element, called an apse, is important says Dr Al-Hassan because there is only one other example of a cave with a similar feature, which was also used for Christian worship. The stone seats are believed to have been for the use of clergy.

Al-Hassan said: "We found beautiful things. I found the cemetery of this church; we found pottery shards and lamps with the inscription 'Georgeous'". There is also a tunnel that leads to a cistern which supplied water to the dwellers. The excavation of the tunnel and the cistern may yield yet more evidence about the lives of these early Christians.

"From the tunnel to the cistern is very important. We want to clean it and make an excavation inside it. We found a very old inscription beside it and coins also, and crosses made from iron."

Other experts say they are cautious about the claim. They want to examine the artifacts and obtain solid dating evidence. The earliest confirmed examples of churches date from the third century.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The NT is Good Evidence


This is primarily for Jesus mythers. I'm speaking to all atheists to some extent but mainly to Jesus mythers and I'm saying: NT is good evidence that Jesus lived as a man in history.

Atheists have written off the NT as though it doesn't exist. The reasons they have done so are childish and illogical. Nothing is more irritating than the tendency of the Jesus myth crowd to ignore the Gospels as though they aren't there, to assert that they were written in the late second century and even latter, and based upon a conglomeration of dying-rising pagan god types upon which the Jesus mythos was patterned. This is the most irksome of all becasue its so clearly and definitely disproved. Before going into that, however, I want to deal with the two major reasons why atheists in general write off the NT:

(1) Miracles

Atheists often take the tact that if miracle happen in a text then everything in the text must be totally wrong. Even if we assume the miralces embellishments, they have to have something to embellish. Do real historians write off texts because they are laden with miracles? No, they do not. One professor (from Oxford and had a big name reputation) for whom I worked as a TA when through and showed me a text from India where it was recorded that there were huge battles with millions of people and gods taking sides, thunderbolts hurled and so forth. They write this text off as useless? No they did not. The took from it the basic concepts that the kings mentioned were in power, they were real kings and real battles were fought. They De-mythologize it but they don't discord it!

Even in British history the battles of the Autheriad are considered to be real battles but they scale them down from thousands of warriors to about 50. Real historians do not rule out every aspect of a text just becasue it's embellished with miracles. That does not make the text invalid. If what we are after is evidence that Jesus lived as a man in history we don't even have to get his teachings right to know that people were talking about him as a real man at a certain point, so he probably was a real man.

I will show that the point at which Jesus' mythos was taken as concrete history is a much much earlier, at least a hundred years earlier than the Jesus myth theory would have it.

(2) Redaction

Redaction means editing. The redaction of the Gospels basically splice together previously existing documents, such as Q, M, L perhaps others. Atheists have a habit of speaking as though this destroys any validity to the Gospels, it does not. This is so for two reasons:

..........(a) Original Testimony survives

The Gospels were not produced by a single individual but by communities, that's what is meant by redaction; the redactors are people in the community producing the text to answer the community has raised. The work from the original testimony of the first members of the community, which was passed n orally and then written down at some point. Now I'm going to show this process was very short lived, becasue the original writing was no latter than mid first century. It's true the from in which we have Gospels today is from 70-90 but the documents the documents the Gospels were redacted from were much ealier and that is thought to be mid century. Both Crosson and Helmutt Koester agree on this point.

What this means is the whole community was the author, the whole community was the witness, and the whole community was the check on distortions in the text. So the redactoin would have taken place within the boundaries that the community knew were set from the beginning. This is born out by the fact of only one version of the story. But I'll get to this.

..........(b) It's still an Artifact

When Archaeologists find pottery shards in the ground they don't say "O it's broken, just toss it aside it cant' tell us anything." When they find lamps they don't say "O it's just a lamp, lamps aren't important what could a lamp tell us? Since we know the kinds of lamps used in different eras lamps are good means of dating other finds that are with the lamp. Even if a lamp is broken the shard still tells us something and it can be re constructed.

The Gospels, if we approach them as artifacts, tell us a lot even if the miracles are false and the book is heavily redacted. We can re construct the original and we can understand what people believed in a certain time. we can know through the science of Textual criticism (which is validated for all literature not just the Bible) what the original text contained and we can understand what people believed in a certain time.

John Dominic Crosson, in arguing against Jesus myther Earl Doherty says that the fact that people were writing about Jesus as a man in history as early as mid first century is very good indication that he was a man in history.

Now there are three more important arguments that demonstrate the veracity of the Gospels as artifacts:

(links to each of those can be found here)

I. Pre Mark Redaction shows Gospel story circulated in writing by mid first century.

go here for the documentation (2 or 3 pages)

This includes the empty tomb, the Passion narrative, and the story is told with Jesus as a man, flesh and blood man.

The point is even though latter readings are copied latter, they copy readings done earlier. We can tell when the reading was written by its Jewishness. Jewish reading is early a gentile reading is late, 70 being the dividing mark.

For example in the Diatesseron, even though the MS was complied in 172 AD the readings taht it is made from are very early readings and have been passed down in their own tradition. With this in mind reading in the Diatesseron are much old than readings in the canonical Gospels as we have them. This is how we know the story was circulating as early as mid century.

That means Jesus was understood as a flesh and blood man ni the 50s. That is almost a one hundred years before Doherty's time table starts assuming the concrete historical Jesus was being invented. That means the stories of Jesus are almost contemporary, they miss it by 18 years and since many of the witnesses were still alive we can think of it as contemporary. In an age where there was no such thing as up to the minute information, 18 years is not that far away.

When the Mythers say there are no contemporary records of Jesus this is because they have just completely ignored the Gosepl source which are handed down fron contemporary testimony of eye witnesses who saw him, heard him speak and were traveling with him.

II. Jews had oral culture which means they knew how to trasmitt oral tradition and protect its' validity.

They only had to preserve it orally for 18 years (from 33-50) and that with a passel of eye witnesses in the communities. How do we know the eye witnesses were in the communities? By the Resurrection narratives. They preserve in different forms the names of the women. I mean by that Matt has one set of woman, John only name one (MM) and so forth. that's probably because MM was in the John community, (the community that produced John) and Salome was in the Matthew community, and so on. We can also know from Acts and various statements in the Epistles (Paul comments on Andronicus and Junia who he says were from the begining and calls them "Apostles").

The community was the auhor

Oral tradition was not just haphazard rumor but could be carefully controled telling. The Jews had an oral culture and knew how to pass on info accurately.

III. One version of the story.

It's spun differently when told in different ways, but essentually there's only one version. Here's the argument:

1) Mythology tends to proliferate:multiple story versions are common

2) When historical facts are known to a wide audience, people tend not to deny the basic facts of an event.

a) eye witnesses keep it straight

b) People who try to invent new aspects of the event are confronted with the fact that most everyone knows better.

c) people know the story for a fact and just dont' bother to change it.

3) Story proliforations would probably influence further tellings, thus creating many more documents with different versions of the same story.

4) If a myth proliforates we would tend to find more versions of the same story, when there is only one version we can accept a degree of certainty that the story did not proliforate.

5) We do not find a proliforation of versions of the Jesus story in any sources we know of.

6) The most logical way to account for this single Jesus story is through p2, that everyone knew it was the case, there were too many eye witnesses to spread new versions.

a) It is illogical to assume that everyone just liked it so they didn't add to it.

b) There was no canonization process in place in the early period, and the single unified verison existed from the earliest trace of the story.

7)Therefore, we can assume that it is probably the case that the masses were familiar with the story of Jesus because the story reflects events known by all to be factual.

here's a list of facts that never different between one telling and another for the first three or four hundred years of the telling. These are not the only ones just a list I made off the top of my head one day:

1) Jesus lived on earth as a man from the beginning of the first century to AD 33.

2) That his mother was supposed to be a Virgin named "Mary"

3) Same principle players, Peter, Andrew, Philip, John, Mary Magdeline.

4) That Jesus was knows as a miracles worker.

5) he claimed to be the son of God and Messiah.

6) he was crucified under Pilate.

7) Around the time of the Passover.

8) at noon.

9) rose from the dead leaving an empty tomb.

10) several woman with MM discovered the empty tomb.

11) That this was in Jerusalem.

these are the kinds of things that would change from telling to telling. There are hundreds of sources in the first two centuries and they all tell it this way.

Moreover, there are 54 lost gospels, either existing theoretically or fragment or in other texts, such as unicials, some of them even go back to first century and may pre date the canonical (such as Thomas) but they all tell it as Jesus was flesh and blood.

Even the gnostics, who denied that Jesus was flesh and blood still kept the idea of Jesus as a man in history, at least to the appearance and the way he looked to other people. So even they locate the phenomenon of Jesus in history as something that appeared to be man. Those who denied Jesus fleshly nature came latter, the Gospel of Thomas speaks of Jesus a felsh and blood man but one who came from above.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Chemicals do not Disprove Religious Experince part 2


I was given an argument by an atheist which echos what I hear all the time in answer to my religious experience argumetns. The studies don't' conclude "God exist" so therefore they don't prove God exits. Of course they ignore the fact that I don't claim direct proof but argue for the rationally warranted nature of religious belief. They are not apt to accept anything not even slightest ground so they always fall back on brain chemistry. The fact that brain chemistry is somehow involved is just absolute proof to them that this naturalistic and has nothing to do with God. Of course they are totally ignorance the answers I give but assume that if chemicals are within 45 feet of the answer then it's a done deal.

My answer is that they are begging the question. They start out assuring there can't e a God. So evidence could ever count in favor of God. Having assumed the impossibility of God they further fall back on what they take to an absoltue certainty of disproof becasue chemicals are somehow involve and so it must be naturalistic. But this is disproved in two ways, through Newberg who argues that God would have to use brain chemistry so that doesn't tell us anything, and Hick who shows that the researchers who claim to have evoked RE through chemicals or stimulating the brain have really failed to measure in any reliable way that they are in fact getting mystical experince out of it. Since that's the atheist argumet in its entirety that actually beats their whole argument.

The real problem is they beg the question in terms of the role of the effects of having had the experince. The effect is that this is the real debarkation of God's role in the thing since no other pathology, chemistry or experince aside from these "mystical" ones can ever produce the same kinds of outcomes. Their role is to be the ultimate tie breakers. But the atheists continue to assume that as long as they can beg the question and assert that brain chemistry explains it all they just further assert that the effects could be produced if we really tried.

Here I dialogue with a carm atheist called "Phoenix."

Phoneix: on CARM


If we take HRG's example of the unicorn (analogous to your God), WHERE is there ANY kind of independent observation, i.e., the empirical evidence like the observable fact that it's people who have fingerprints and leave the footprints/fingerprints for you God. Religious experience exists (the edelweiss flowers) BUT what you don't have is any equivalent evidence that your God (the unicorn) exists in the same way the fingerprints and footprints do. It seems that you want us to "overlook" this fact that you haven't connected the dots (where's the observable evidence that would justify the rational warrant?) between religious experience and the existence of your God? (my post to you on this subject that you never responded to, so you can't really claim that I have abvoided your arguments, can you?)

Yes we know the figner prints are real, but I have given sound reasons why we should assume the effects are the trace of the divine:

(1) Its' the reaosn why there is relgion, the concept was a consruel of the meaing of the experinces and goes back 65,000 years. That's a lot of presumption for an assumption. It's never been disrpoved, and it's grown with humanity throughout the ages righ ton up into the scientific era.

(2) The effects, being unproduceable in any other way indicate something different, no realtted to the chemicals alone (althought hey are invovled)

(3) Its' what we should expect of the divine because it's what religion is suppossed to do, transform our lives.

thus this is ample reason to make the assumtion that if the correlations holds and it has over four decades of scietnific study, then there' s every reason to make the construel. Thus belief is warranted.

(4) Not to foget that I'm not claiming proof but warrant for belief.

He links to the following:

Also by him on CARM

How does religious experience "justify" your assumption that the "cause" is your God, Metacrock?

1. The most plausible explanation is that the attribution of this experience to some external source is really a misinterpretation of the effects of a particular kind of brain chemistry in a particular location of the brain (what we actually observe).

Of course that's begging the question. Who says it's more Plausible? To say that you would have to know in advance that God is less plausible. If you had a way of knowing that you would just answer God arguments with that rather than asking how they prove things?

This seems plausible because you are begging the question by assuming your belief as a fact, and also because you have inaccurate info about RE being evoked by brain chemistry. I've quoted John Hick several times on this and I've beaten this with Hicks comments. Of atheists, not being interested in reason never take note of that. Hick argues that the researchers who make these claims offer no means of understanding how to judge a real religious experience. They based it upon someone's dream or a person talking about God after the alleged stimulation and that's supposed to prove they evoked a religious experince.

My theory has accounted for the use brain chemistry and its role in the process of RE through the work of Newberg. I've quoted Newberg at length when when shows that God has to use brain chemistry if he wants to experience soemthing. We could not experience anything with brain chemistry becasue it is through neural transmitters that we feel anything. So the receptors are opening to God and that can been seen as a physical process. Just because it' snot amazing flat out miracle doesn't mean God is not involved. This is part of the baby way of thinking that atheist use to think about religious things.

Newberg says:

A skeptic might suggest that a biological origin to all spiritual longings and experiences, including the universal human yearning to connect with something divine, could be explained as a delusion caused by the chemical misfiring of a bundle of nerve cells. But …After years of scientific study, and careful consideration of the a neurological process that has evolved to allow us humans to transcend material existence and acknowledge and connect with a deeper, more spiritual part of ourselves perceived of as an absolute, universal reality that connects us to all that is (Andrew Newberg, Why God Won’t God Away: Brain Science and the Biology of Belief. (New York, Ballentine Books), 2001, 157-172).


2. It seems to me that IF what is termed "religious experience" is really a "conduit to the divine" (so to speak), then WHY are there thousands of God(s?)-concepts STILL out there?

Religious experince is beyond words. When we speak of it we have to filter it through our cultural constructs, becasue that's our understanding. Constructs are the way we understand the world. So that's why religions are different, because people have culturally relative and culturally bound constructs. RE is primarily about presence. One senses a presence.So there's no question of total enlightenment or being told all the answers to all the mysteries.

* Let's assume for the sake of argument that there is a "Creator(s?)" that is the author of this Universe, then such a powerful Entity would have no trouble in using such power to override ANY cultural theistic prism and reveal the TRUTH™ about Itself (His/Her/Themselves?) to every "experiencer".

But that wont work because you are trying to cheat. I've explained this already. You are trying it both ways. You are trying to have God be a big guy in the sky and still overcome the limits of a guy in the sky. The terminology you use is indicative of this kind of thinking. You call God "an entity" and you say "a powerful entity." God is not a powerful entity, not an entity at all. The ground of being is not just another thing in creation. A big man in the sky, even if the most powerful man anywhere, is still just another thing in creation. God is much more than that. In being more he's actually limited in a sense because he is beyond thinking like a man. Moreover, he's still limited to logical necessity so one thing he can't do is allow us freewill and yet unburden us from the limitations of our infinitude. We are human we are finite we have to see things through cultural constructs that's what language is and that's what thought is. There's no other way.


* The fact that people interpret these experiences through what I will call the "cultural theistic prism" [the God(s?) concept prevalent in a particular culture] says to me that this is NOT due any "outside (supernatural?) influence, but to particular interpretation (an erroneous one IMO) of a specific combination of brain chemistry and culture.

These kinds of experinces are in all cultural all over the world. Even in traditions such as Vedanta where they don't feel a presence but a void and where they don't believe in a personality of God they still relate to the void in the same way that theists relate to the presence. This proves that these experiences are universal. they not just limited to people who believe in a certain idea of God. They in all cultures and all traditions that proves it's external to the traditions.

3. Humans are just now able to sort out what is really going on and what we actually observe is due to natural, physical causes.

that's begging the question. There's no guarantee were even beginning.

The bottom-line here is WHY should I think that there's anything other than brain chemistry (one that pleasurable and for that reason ultimately beneficial) going one here. This is the hypothesis that fits the facts and doesn't require the introduction of "assumptions".

Because it can't account for the effects. When nothing else produces the kind of effects, no pathology, no mental illness, no external naturalistic poison or substance or pathological state, and no other context in which brain chemistry does, there's just no reason to attribute it to such things. You are only begging the question in making that attribution because it's all you've got. Without that assertion you would have no answer at all and since your ideology will not allow you to accept any other possibility that's really you can say.

It seems to me that because previous studies can document that these experiences have beneficial effects that you are attempting to stretch that into a justification for "God (your liberal Christian version)-did-it" . I don't see anyone denying that these experiences exist or that they can be beneficial. What I can understand is the very legitimate objection of attempt to use this phenomenon (one with a demonstrable physical cause) into an a very obvious case of special pleading (my God-did-it!). In other words, connect the dots:

You can't explain the effects. Come now you don't actually expect a scientific study to say "the finding of our study is that God exists?" That would be totally unscientific. But the researchers in private do often believe. There's nothing wrong with making the assumption based upon the study that well we can construe that since the experince is real the content is real and the content is God so it's logical to assume this is an experince of God. You keep ignoring the fact that this is the way we reason about all things experiential. How do I know I had a car wreck? The car is dented. I have whip lash. I have a memory of a car wreck. Now why should I know conclude that the car really did wreck? It's not really proved, and it could well be that I looked around too fast and got whip lash, a wrecking crew wrecked my car while it was parked and I hallucinated the wreck. But since the effects match the content, the effects are real, the experince is an experince of something why not conclude that the content is really what was experienced?

The criteria we use to understand reality at the epistemological level is that experiences are:

shared (inter-subjective--the same types of experience)

So Re matches the basic criteria we use to determine the reality of our experiences. So we have reason to trust it.

Since the skeptic can't show any other explaination for the effects, can't duplicate them with any other method, that's ample warrant for the assumptions.

Newberg again:

Tracing spiritual experience to neurological behavior does not disprove its realness. If God does exist, for example, and if He appeared to you in some incarnation, you would have no way of experiencing His presence, except as part of a neurologically generated rendition of reality. You would need auditory processing to hear his voice, visual processing to see His face, and cognitive processing to make sense of his message. Even if he spoke to you mystically, without words, you would need cognitive functions to comprehend his meaning, and input form the brain’s emotional centers to fill you with rapture and awe. Neurology makes it clear: there is no other way for God to get into your head except through the brain’s neural pathways. Correspondingly, God cannot exist as a concept or as reality anyplace else but in your mind. In this sense, both spiritual experiences and experiences of a more ordinary material nature are made real to the mind in the very same way—through the processing powers of the brain and the cognitive functions of the mind. Whatever the ultimate nature of spiritual experience might be—weather it is in fact an actual perception of spiritual reality—or merely an interpretation of sheer neurological function—all that is meaningful in human spirituality happens in the mind. In other words, the mind is mystical by default.(37)


Religious experience (physical evidence==>derived from a set of brain chemistry/brain location, one that can be induced by certain psychoactive drugs and in some cases by brain lesions like temporal lobe lesions) to ....(your justification)......"God-did-it" (no disrespect intended with this phrase, just my "shorthand" for your alleged mechanism).

But you can't prove they have been! I have said this so many times. Read the John Hick book. He shows that there is no valid research proving this. they just assume anything about God is a religious experience. They don't use the M scale and they don't a means of measuring religious experince. it's that simple they can't prove they evoked it.

Me from my book:

Hick complies a short list of the major arguments proposed as to the neurological causes of RE:

(1) Epileptic seizers and frontal lobe stimulation by the Presinger helmet cause religious visions.
(2) Psychotropic drugs cause various forms of Religious experience
(3) ‘Pure Consciousness,’ consciousness of the void, emptiness, sunyata is caused by consciousness continuing after cutting off the perceptual input.
(4) The sense of unity with all reality is caused by closing down the awareness of the bodily boundaries of the individual.
(5) The sense of the presence of God or other supernatural beings is caused by splitting of the self-system into two, one half seeing the other half as a distant entity.

This seems like a very impressive case, and the reductionisms make it sound as though they have really uncovered a one to one correspondence between brain and mind. Punch here, get this experience, and punch over there get this other experience. If you want the feeling of God’s presence stimulate this area, if you want the sense of undifferentiated unity stimulate this other area over there. In reality, however, such is not the case. This argument is essentially Hick’s argument, the researchers not well versed in theology or the study of mysticism, and thus they think that unusual experiences structured loosely in religious language constitutes “mystical experience.” They are missing the whole nature what RE is and what it does because they are trying to formulate this simplistic argument from sign. That’s exactly what their argument is, an argument sign. It’s not a demonstration of the naturalistic causality of RE, it’s a correlation between two events, one supposedly causing the other, but not necessarily producing authentic mystical experience. What is produced is an odd experienced loosly structured in religious language. I don’t include Newberg or D’Aquili in my broad swipe at “reductionists” but even they exhibit some of these tendencies, but to a lesser extent because they knew enough to use real mystics. The association between the physiological and RE is the crux of the whole naturalistic argument. It’s really nothing more than an argument from sign. For the average atheist message boarder or blogger the connection is very simple. It’s quite common to hear them say “if damage the brain our body stops working, so we are just nothing more than collections of brain function and extensions of brain function.” The more sophisticated argument made by scientific researchers isn’t that different from the same argument. Ramachandran links seeming mystical experiences with epileptic grand mal seizures. Of course I quote a study in chapter 3 (“Studies”) from Lukoff and Lu, which shows that mystical experience is not related to epilepsy. Indeed, it would be absurd to assume that for all the 350 studies all of these subjects are epileptic or have something wrong with them and no researcher thought to check that out. Newberg disregards the idea that RE is the result of epilepsy or exhaustion, drugs or hallucination might trigger any other aspect of brain disfuciton such as. He argues that delusional people return form such states understanding they’re incoherence but mystical visions are coherent and meaningful and mystics never back off the idea that they were shown something meaningful. Ramarchandran draws no conclusion about the existence of God. He is merely giving a descriptive analysis of findings. He backs away from saying this disproves God. He also lists a host of other conditions such as temporal lobe personality that cause mystical experience besides epilepsy. It seems pretty ridiculous, however, to assert that everyone who has such an experience is either sick or has some form of mental abortion such that they are hallucinating or having some form of brain dysfunction. After all the study finds show that mystics tend to be healthy both physically and mentally, to be successful, accomplished, not delusional. As demonstrated in chapter 3 several studies show that the behavior of mystics does not tally with that of the mentally ill.

Hick argues that these researchers are equating RE with unusual experiences structured in religious terms but they are not really dealing with the experiences mystics talk about. He says this because Persinger, for example, always goes to great lengths to report visions and feelings of supernatural beings, both God and satan and visions of Jesus and Mary all sorts of things that his helmet wearing subjects have seen or felt. But these are not necessarily what mystics talk about. Most mystics discount visions and few mystics have them. Most mystics don’t sense an evil presence, although a subject discussed by James did feel such an evil presence but its ambiguous to what that person though it was (see Chapter on Proudfoot). These examples, rather than being good examples of science disproving religious experience, are really good examples of reductionism’s ability to lose phenomena. This may sound like great scientific research because it uses high tech gadgetry and advanced knowledge of brain anatomy. In reality, as a scientific study, it basically fails social research methods 101. First, because no control group, no administration of the M scale or any other measurement of mystical experience, so that means there’s no way to actually prove that these subjects had mystical experiences. It sounds like they had strange experiences but not necessarily “mystical.” The examples that Hick quotes include visions of Jesus figures. They do include a sense of divine presence. But there is no follow up to see if their lives change or if they experienced any sort of transformative effects on a long-term basis. For that matter Newberg’s work seems to suffer in that regard too, although with him since he uses monks and nuns one can be assured there is a much greater likelihood since these are authentic religious adherents who live life styles conductive to the mystical experience and presumably spend a great deal of their time cultivating this sort of experience. Hick makes the point that Presinger and Ramachandran are neurologists studying people who go to them because they have problems. They are not studying actual religious adherents whose lives are oriented toward cultivating the mystical, as is Newberg. This could make a profound differnce. But the reductionist mentality just says hey the experience lines up with the stimulus, argument form sign; we see sign we assume causality case closed. They make no attempt to consider the context or nature of the experience.( John Hick, The New Frontier of Religion and Science: Religious Experince, Neuroscience and The Transcendent. Playgrave:Macmillion, 2006, 66)

pardon me for quoting myself from my unpublished ms but the published material there is more important since it comes from experts, Hick and Newberg. That is published and I do document it.

Originally Posted by Metacrock View Post
the Lourdes evdience is obvious and certain.
I suppose you mean like the one you are so fond of:

Society for the Little Flower (Website) FAQ (visited 6/3/01)
St. Theresse of Lisieux

http://www.littleflower.org/therese/faq.html#4 (the one is the new site for your claim, your old link doesn't work)

Regarding St. Therese, in 1923 the Church approved of two spontaneous cures unexplained by medical treatment. Sister Louise of St. Germain was cured of the stomach ulcers she had between 1913 and 1916. The second cure involved Charles Anne, a 23 year old seminarian who was dying from advanced pulmonary tuberculosis. The night he thought he was dying, Charles prayed to Therese. Afterward, the examining doctor testified, "The destroyed and ravaged lungs had been replaced by new lungs, carrying out their normal functions and about to revive the entire organism. A slight emaciation persists, which will disappear within a few days under a regularly assimilated diet." These two miracles resulted in Therese becoming beatified.
This is your evidence?! I have emailed this society, asking just what physical evidence exists that would validate the claim in bold (destroyed and ravaged lungs had been replaced by new lungs). There's no actual evidence posted here, Metacrock. We don't even know the location or the actual date this or the other alleged miracle (maybe 1916-17 for the ulcer cure). The location and date are important because the issue would be one of documentation, i.e., for instance X-rays of the lungs "before" (the alleged miracle) and "after" (the alleged miracle). If this incident was in some isolated hamlet in 1913-1923, then X-ray devices were far and few between. If this incidence happened during WWI then there would probably have been a shortage of the photographic glass used to create the images as well:

Physics, Techniques and Procedures--X-ray film

Historically, photographic glass plates were used as the X-ray film base. After the supply of photographic glass from Belgium was cut off by World War I, cellulose nitrate, used as a base for photographic film was adapted for use with X-ray film. A cellulose triacetate base was developed in 1924 to avoid the highly flammable nature of cellulose nitrate. Finally, a stronger, thinner, more dimensionally stable film base made of polyester was developed in 1960.


So what do we have here in the way of evidence? The say-so of a maybe not disinterested physician or what, Metacrock? I very much doubt that there are X-ray pics of this case in existence. IF you are going to claim this as a miracle, then one would need something other than the word of the physician because this is an extraordinary claim (no physical cause possible).

You are committing a total violation of the rules of evidence. I use a published source, authoritative that douments the existence of medical evdience and show that that diagnostic technique did exist at that time.You have more more to so of any substance so you question the physician's interest level as though that's goign to really prove soemthing. Like the xray doesn't work if the physician doesn't care enough. that's really nuts and it's totally unfair. Xrays are objective diagnostic procedure they do not depend upon the interest level of the physician to work right. I guarantee if the guys lungs grew back over night the doctor would find some interest. That is gainsaying the evidence and its' totally unfair and it tells me you are clutching at straws.

This could be a case of spontaneous remission. Here's a recent example:
Papulonecrotic tuberculid with spontaneous remission, by Tsuyoshi MITSUISHI, Kazumi IIDA, and Seiji KAWANA

ahahaha in one night!???ahahahahahahahahahahaahahaha

you really think lungs are going to grow back over night that's remission???! O get a brain man! that's stupid! learn something about it man. God almighty! Love love a duck! talk about clutching at straws!

We describe a 62-year-old Japanese woman who had skin lesions involving her extremities, chest and back that showed spontaneous remission. The skin lesions consisted of slightly atrophic scars and crusted, reddish or necrotic papules. A tuberculin test showed induration and bulla, which was regarded as strongly positivity. Histopathologically, a tuberculoid granuloma with necrosis was present in the upper dermis and the deep dermis, including the adipose tissues. Bacterial cultures were not positive from sputum, urine or stool, and the chest X-P was also normal. After skin biopsy, all the lesions disappeared within 1 month. No relapse was noted in the entire body.

Did it happen overnight? Is that the same as growing a new lung. I don't think so.
document where that's from.

Is the above a "miracle", Metacrock? Let's hope that these researchers are going to actually study this woman to find out what happened to see if they can find any way to help other suffers rather than just ASSUME that God(s?)-did-it (totally useless "explanation" with regard to helping anybody else).

do you have a reason to assume it was God? Does it not mean anything to you taht remission never mans going away without a trace it doesn't mean growing back new organs it doesn't mean over night and to call something a Miracle there as to be a reason such as the person was prayed for or something.

why don't you try to learn something about the things you are criticizing? it's the height of ignorance.