Sunday, October 30, 2005

Mythology and the Nature of Religion

The most radical view will be that of mythology in the Bible. This is a difficult concept for most Christians to grasp, because most of us are taught that "myth" means a lie, that it's a dirty word, an insult, and that it is really debunking the Bible or rejecting it as God's word. The problem is in our understanding of myth. "Myth" does not mean lie; it does not mean something that is necessarily untrue. It is a literary genre—a way of telling a story. In Genesis, for example, the creation story and the story of the Garden are mythological. They are based on Babylonian and Sumerian myths that contain the same elements and follow the same outlines. But three things must be noted: 1) Myth is not a dirty word, not a lie. Myth is a very healthy thing. 2) The point of the myth is the point the story is making--not the literal historical events of the story. So the point of mythologizing creation is not to transmit historical events but to make a point. We will look more closely at these two points. 3) I don't assume mythology in the Bible out of any tendency to doubt miracles or the supernatural, I believe in them. I base this purely on the way the text is written.

The purpose of myth is often assumed to be the attempt of unscientific or superstitious people to explain scientific facts of nature in an unscientific way. That is not the purpose of myth. A whole new discipline has developed over the past 60 years called "history of religions." Its two major figures are C.G. Jung and Marcea Eliade. In addition to these two, another great scholarly figure arises in Carl Kerenyi. In addition to these three, the scholarly popularizer Joseph Champbell is important. Champell is best known for his work The Hero with A Thousand Faces. This is a great book and I urge everyone to read it. Champbell, and Elliade both disliked Christianity intensely, but their views can be pressed into service for an understanding of the nature of myth. Myth is, according to Champbell a cultural transmission of symbols for the purpose of providing the members of the tribe with a sense of guidance through life. They are psychological, not explanatory of the physical world. This is easily seen in their elaborate natures. Why develop a whole story with so many elements when it will suffice as an explanation to say "we have fire because Prometheus stole it form the gods?" For example, Champell demonstrates in The Hero that heroic myths chart the journey of the individual through life. They are not explanatory, but clinical and healing. They prepare the individual for the journey of life; that's why in so many cultures we meet the same hero over and over again; because people have much the same experiences as they journey though life, gaining adulthood, talking their place in the group, marriage, children, old age and death. The hero goes out, he experiences adventures, he proves himself, he returns, and he prepares the next hero for his journey. We meet this over and over in mythology.

In Kerenyi's essays on a Science of Mythology we find the two figures of the maiden and the Krone. These are standard figures repeated throughout myths of every culture. They serve different functions, but are symbolic of the same woman at different times in her life. The Krone is the enlightener, the guide, the old wise woman who guides the younger into maidenhood. In Genesis we find something different. Here the Pagan myths follow the same outline and contain many of the same characters (Adam and Adapa—see, Cornfeld Archaeology of the Bible 1976). But in Genesis we find something different. The chaotic creation story of Babylon is ordered and the source of creation is different. Rather than being emerging out of Tiamot (chaos) we find "in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." Order is imposed. We have a logical and orderly progression (as opposed to the Pagan primordial chaos). The seven days of creation represent perfection and it is another aspect of order, seven periods, the seventh being rest. Moreover, the point of the story changes. In the Babylonian myth the primordial chaos is the ages of creation, and there is no moral overtone, the story revolves around other things. This is a common element in mythology, a world in which the myths happen, mythological time and place. All of these elements taken together are called Myths, and every mythos has a cosmogony, an explanation of creation and being (I didn't say there were no explanations in myth.). We find these elements in the Genesis story, Cosmogony included. But, the point of the story becomes moral: it becomes a story about man rebelling against God, the entrance of sin into the world. So the Genesis account is a literary rendering of pagan myth, but it stands that myth on its head. It is saying God is the true source of creation and the true point is that life is about knowing God.

The mythological elements are more common in the early books of the Bible. The material becomes more historical as we go along. How do we know? Because the mythical elements of the first account immediately drop away. Elements such as the talking serpent, the timeless time ("in the beginning"), the firmament and other aspects of the myth all drop away. The firmament was the ancient world's notion of the world itself. It was a flat earth set upon angular pillars, with a dome over it. On the inside of the dome stars were stuck on, and it contained doors in the dome through which snow and rain could be forced through by the gods (that's why Genesis says "he divided the waters above the firmament from the waters below”). We are clearly in a mythological world in Genesis. The Great flood is mythology as well, as all nations have their flood myths. But as we move through the Bible things become more historical.

The NT is not mythological at all. The Resurrection of Christ is an historical event and can be argued as such (see Resurrection page). Christ is a flesh and blood historical person who can be validated as having existed. The resurrection is set in an historical setting, names, dates, places are all historically verifiable and many have been validated. So the major point I'm making is that God uses myth to communicate to humanity. The mythical elements create the sort of psychological healing and force of literary strength and guidance that any mythos conjures up. God is novelist, he inspires myth. That is to say, the inner experience model led the redactors to remake ancient myth with a divine message. But the Bible is not all mythology; in fact most of it is an historical record and has been largely validated as such.

The upshot of all of this is that there is no need to argue evolution or the great flood. Evolution is just a scientific understanding of the development of life. It doesn't contradict the true account because we don't have a "true" scientific account. In Genesis, God was not trying to write a science text book. We are not told how life developed after creation. That is a point of concern for science not theology.

How do we know the Bible is the Word of God? Not because it contains big amazing miracle prophecy fulfillments, not because it reveals scientific information which no one could know at the time of writing, but for the simplest of reasons. Because it does what religious literature should do, it is transformative.

All religions seek to do three things.

All religions seek to do three things:
a) to identify the human problematic,
b) to identify an ultimate transformative experience (UTE) which resolves the problematic, and
c) to mediate between the two.
But not all religions are equal. All are relative to the truth but not all are equal. Some mediate the UTE better than others, or in a more accessible way than others. Given the foregoing, my criteria are that:
1) a religious tradition reflect a human problematic which is meaningful in terms of the what we find in the world.

2) the UTE be found to really resolve the problematic

3) it mediates the UTE in such a way as to be effective and accessible.

4) its putative and crucial historical claims be historically probable given the ontological and epistemological assumptions that are required within the inner logic of that belief system.

5) it be consistent with itself and with the external world in a way that touches these factors.
These mean that I am not interested in piddling Biblical contradictions such as how many women went to the tomb, ect. but in terms of the major claims of the faith as they touch the human problematic and its resolution.

How Does the Bible fulfill these criteria? First, what is the Bible? Is it a rule book? Is it a manual of discipline? Is it a science textbook? A history book? No it is none of these. The Bible, the Canon, the NT in particular, is a means of bestowing Grace. What does that mean? It means first, it is not an epistemology! It is not a method of knowing how we know, nor is it a history book. It is a means of coming into contact with the UTE mentioned above. This means that the primary thing it has to do to demonstrate its veracity is not be accurate historically, although it is that in the main; but rather, its task is to connect one to the depository of truth in the teachings of Jesus such that one is made open to the ultimate transformative experience. Thus the main thing the Bible has to do to fulfill these criteria is to communicate this transformation. This can only be judged phenomenologically. It is not a matter of proving that the events are true, although there are ensconces where that becomes important.

Thus the main problem is not the existence of these piddling so-called contradictions (and my experience is 90% of them stem from not knowing how to read a text), but rather the extent to which the world and life stack up to the picture presented as a fallen world, engaged in the human problematic and transformed by the light of Christ. Now that means that the extent to which the problematic is adequately reflected, that being sin, separation from God, meaninglessness, the wages of sin, the dregs of life, and so forth, vs. the saving power of God's grace to transform life and change the direction in which one lives to face God and to hope and future. This is something that cannot be decided by the historical aspects or by any objective account. It is merely the individual's problem to understand and to experience. That is the nature of what religion does and the extent to which Christianity does it more accessibly and more efficaciously is the extent to which it should be seen as valid.

The efficacy is not an objective issue either, but the fact that only a couple of religions in the world share the concept of Grace should be a clue. No other religion (save Pure Land Buddhism) have this notion. For all the others there is a problem of one's own efforts. The Grace mediates and administrates through Scriptures is experienced in the life of the believer, and can be found also in prayer, in the sacraments and so forth.

Where the historical questions should enter into it are where the mediation of the UTE hedges upon these historical aspects. Obviously the existence of Jesus of Nazareth would be one, his death on the cross another. The Resurrection of course, doctrinally is also crucial, but since that cannot be established in an empirical sense, seeing as no historical question can be, we must use historical probability. That is not blunted by the minor discrepancies in the number of women at the tomb or who got there first. That sort of thinking is to think in terms of a video documentary. We expect the NT to have the sort of accuracy we find in a court room because we are moderns and we watch too much television. The number of women and when they got to the tomb etc. does not have a bearing on whether the tomb actually existed, was guarded and was found empty. Nor does it really change the fact that people claimed to have seen Jesus after his death alive and well and ascending into heaven. We can view the different strands of NT witness as separate sources, since they were not written as one book, but by different authors at different times and brought together later.

The historicity of the NT is a logical assumption given the nature of the works. We can expect that the Gospels will be polemical. We do not need to assume, however, that they will be fabricated from whole cloth. They are the product of the communities that redacted them. That is viewed as a fatal weakness in fundamentalist circles, tantamount to saying that they are lies. But that is silly. In reality there is no particular reason why the community cannot be a witness. The differences in the accounts are produced by either the ordering of periscopes to underscore various theological points or the use of witnesses who fanned out through the various communities and whose individual view points make up the variety of the text. This is not to be confused with contradiction simply because it reflects differences in individual's view points and distracts us from the more important points of agreement; the tomb was empty, the Lord was seen risen, there were people who put there hands in his nail prints, etc.

The overall question about Biblical contradiction goes back to the basic nature of the text. What sort of text is it? Is it a Sunday school book? A science text book? A history book? And how does inspiration work? The question about the nature of inspiration is the most crucial. This is because the basic notion of the fundamentalists is that of verbal plenary inspiration. If we assume that this is the only sort of inspiration than we have a problem. One mistake and verbal plenary inspiration is out the window. The assumption that every verse is inspired and every word is true comes not from the Church fathers or from the Christian tradition. It actually starts with Humanists in the Renaissance and finds its final development in the 19th century with people like J. N. Drably and Warfield. (see, Avery Dulles Models of Revelation).

One of my major reasons for rejecting this model of revelation is because it is not true to the nature of transformation. Verbal plenary inspiration assumes that God uses authors like we use pencils or like businessmen use secretaries, to take dictation (that is). But why should we assume that this is the only form of inspiration? Only because we have been conditioned by American Christianity to assume that this must be the case. This comes from the Reformation's tendency to see the Bible as epistemology rather than as a means of bestowing grace (see William Abraham, Canon and Criterion). Why should be approach the text with this kind of baggage? We should approach it, not assuming that Moses et al. were fundamentalist preachers, but that they experienced God in their lives through the transformative power of the Spirit and that their writings and redactions are a reflection of this experience. That is more in keeping with the nature of religion as we find it around the world. That being the case, we should have no problem with finding that mythology of Babylonian and Suzerain cultures are used in Genesis, with the view toward standing them on their heads, or that some passages are idealized history that reflect a nationalistic agenda. But the experiences of God come through in the text in spite of these problems because the text itself, when viewed in dialectical relation between reader and text (Barth/Dulles) does bestow grace and does enable transformation.

After all the Biblical texts were not written as "The Bible" but were complied from a huge voluminous body of works which were accepted as scripture or as "holy books" for quite some time before they were collected and put in a single list and even longer before they were printed as one book: the Bible. Therefore, that this book may contradict itself on some points is of no consequence. Rather than reflecting dictation, or literal writing as though the author was merely a pencil in the hands of God, what they really reflect is the record of people's experiences of God in their lives and the way in which those experiences suggested their choice of material/redaction. In short, inspiration of scripture is a product of the transformation afore mentioned. It is the verbalization of inner-experience which mediates grace, and in turn it mediates grace itself.

The Bible is not the Perfect Revelation of God to humanity. Jesus is that perfect revelation. The Gospels are merely the record of Jesus' teachings, deposited with the communities and encoded for safe keeping in the list chosen through Apostolic backing to assure Christian identity. For that matter the Bible as a whole is a reflection of the experience of transformation and as such, since it was the product of human agents we can expect it to have human flaws. The extent to which those flaws are negligible can be judge the ability of that deposit of truth to adequately promote transformation. Christ authorizes the Apostles, the Apostles authorize the community, the community authorizes the tradition, and the tradition authorizes the canon.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Problem of Identity in God arguments.

This is a discussion for my message board, between myself and Tiny Thinker




(1)Transendental Signifier (TS):

The signification mark (word) which refurs to the top of metphysical hieararchy; the organizing principle which makes sense of all sense data and groups it into a meaningful and coherent whole, through which meaning can be understood.The corrolary, the thing the Transcendental Signifier signifies, is the "Trnascendental Signified (designated as TSed)"

(2) Signifier:

The term used of writtern words in the linguistic theories know as "structurailsm" and in the theories of French Linguist Ferdenand Sassure. A signifer is a "marK," that is writting, which designates a concept forming a word, that which points to an object as the thing that it is and no other. ie, a phsyical tree is the signified, the object of the signifier "t-r-e-e."


Preliminary Observations:


(1) Any rational, coherent and meaningful view of the universe must of necessity presuppose an oranizing principle which makes sense of the universe and explains the hierarchy of conceptualization.

(2) Organizing principles are summed up in a single first principle which grounds any sort of metaphysical hierarchy, the Transcendental Signifier (TS)

(3) It is impossible to do without a Trancendental Signifyer, all attempts to do so have ended in the re-establishment of a new TS. This is because we caannot organize the universe without a princinple of organizing.

(4)TS functions Uniquely as Top of The Metaphysical Heirarchy.It's function is mutually exclusive.




P1) TS's function is mutually exclusive, no other principle can superceed that of the TS since it alone grounds all principles and bestows meaning through orgnaization of concepts.

P2)We have no choice but to assume the relaity of some form of TSed since we cannot function coherently without a TS
P3) We have no choice but to assume the reality of some form of TSed since the universe does seem to fall into line with the meaning we bestow upon it.

P4) The logical conclusion would be that There must be a TSed which actually creates and organizes the Universe.

P5) The sifnifier "God" is one version of the TS, that is to say, God functions in the divine ecnomy exacly as the TS functions in a metaphysical hierarchy.

P6) Since "God" is a version of the TS, and since TS and God concept share a unique function which should be mutually exclusive, the logical conculusion is that: God and TS share "God" concept is descrition of the Transcendental Signified.

P7)Since the TS should be assumed as real, and TS and God share identity, we should assume that God is the Transcendental Singified, and thus is an actual reality.

rational warrent for belief in God's existence, QED..
MetacrockSense of the Numinous.

Edited by: Metacrock at: 3/15/05 7:55 am

Tiny Thinker
Namo Buddha
Posts: 893
(3/15/05 9:03 pm)
Reply | Edit | Del

Re: Re-written version of TS argument
Except that, again, going from T4 to T5 is wishful thinking. It may or may not be true, but there is no necessity for going from the first set of statements to the next. It's nice to show that "God" and "TS" aren't incompatible, but there is no reason given why the two must (or even should) be equated.

"When you help others, you can't help helping yourself."
--from the broadway musical Avenue Q

Posts: 1410
(3/16/05 5:59 am)
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Re: Re-written version of TS argument
obviously they should be equated because they function the same in their respective economies and becasue they mutuatlly exclusive. that is, no other thing can be the TS bu thte TS, and no other thing can be God but God, yet they seem to do the same things. So the lgoical conclusion would be that they are the same

Is that so God damn stupid that that Davidson mother @#%$ was justified in his lies?.
MetacrockSense of the Numinous.

Tiny Thinker
Namo Buddha
Posts: 894
(3/16/05 2:07 pm)
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Re: Re-written version of TS argument

obviously they should be equated because they function the same in their respective economies

Not so. Zurbzug tastes like strawberries. Strawberries taste like strawberries. Zurbzug must therefore be equated with strawberries and since we have an argument for the existence of strawberries we have an argument for the existence of Zurbzug. I say again, God just appears out of nowhere in the argument defined in a way that makes God similar to the TS, but why accept you notion of God or the divine economy in the *first* place. Arguing for the similarity or equivalence of a model of God and the TS does not make that model of God real, just similar to the TS. If, on the other hand, you want to claim that God is just a name for the TS, then you are starting only with the fundamental or essential definition/properties of the TS and *still* need additional arguments for extra-definitional features which distinguish your model of God.

"When you help others, you can't help helping yourself."
--from the broadway musical Avenue Q

Posts: 1415
(3/17/05 2:28 pm)
Reply | Edit | Del

Re: Re-written version of TS argument

Not so. Zurbzug tastes like strawberries. Strawberries taste like strawberries. Zurbzug must therefore be equated with strawberries and since we have an argument for the existence of strawberries we have an argument for the existence of Zurbzug.

Really? Where could get this Zurbzug? Sounds interesting. Are they natural? do they grow on trees? are they berries? Is it a man-made substance?

I say again, God just appears out of nowhere in the argument defined in a way that makes God similar to the TS, but why accept you notion of God or the divine economy in the *first* place.

god doesn't appear out of Nowhere. its' called "a God argument." So you know from the outset the reason I"m giving it. God arguments don't have to be little scinetific experinces, we are observing something emprically, will it turn out to be this or that? No it's a construct, it's desiged in the mind to reflect a certain reality and demosntrate its' truth. So you know up front God is going to figure into it.

God's function in the divine economy is a de*****ion of the God concept. That seem pretty obtuse to expect that there has to be empirical being to observe or you can't theorize a contrsuct of such a being and compare it to reality to see if anything is really like that.

Arguing for the similarity or equivalence of a model of God and the TS does not make that model of God real, just similar to the TS.

Well sure, but if the points of similarity are exclusive... I mean for example if I say "Batman is a guy who wears a bat-like costum, uses amazing little gadgets and goes around finding and beatign criminals" the I find a guy doing that, can I not call him Batman? I mean he's not the guy in the comic books. Mabye he's not Bruce Wayne and there's no Gothom city, and even if there is, it's not identically the one in the comic books, its' the one in real life. But it's still close enough, what are the odds that anyone else would do that? Couldn't I say "this is the real life batman?"

S0 why can't we supposse that the guys int he Bible and I experinced the same reality that we both "God." when it's mutally exclusive and nothing else could be like it?

If, on the other hand, you want to claim that God is just a name for the TS, then you are starting only with the fundamental or essential definition/properties of the TS and *still* need additional arguments for extra-definitional features which distinguish your model of God.

Hmmmmm ok so what if I say "there is an x such that X is the object of my ultimate concenrs, and this a propery object of my religous devotion?" Then can't I say there is a "a god" since I have an object of religious devotion and that's essentailly what God is?

dont forget I"m assumming there's this mutually excluive quailty, such that no two things could share these qualities, thus anything that fits the de*****ion is pretty much it.

MetacrockSense of the Numinous.

Posts: 1416
(3/17/05 2:34 pm)
Reply | Edit | Del

Re: Re-written version of TS argument
this may be a better example.

Clark Kent is known to exist. sueprman is rumored to exist. Certain things have happened in Metropolis of late, sotries of a strong man in a red cape flying over the city, fantastic accounts of this caped-man of steel rescuing innocent people from trains and things, but no one really knows for sure if thse stories are true.

a new development, someone brought in an object that this 'Superman' (as he is now doubed) has touched. The finger prints off that object were accidently compared to those of reproter Clark Kent, and it turns out that they are identical. But how can that be? That would mean that kent has to be this Superman, but how can he be? Superman doesnt' exist!

Anyway, others have ponited out that kent looks exactly like superman, but we can dismiss that out of hand since he wears glasses and the other doesn't.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Miracles and Study methodology

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One of the standard opporating procedures I use in my apologetics on boards, is the use of Lourdes evidence for miracles. I think it's hard for atheists to get their minds around what that means. Lourdes is a town in France, and there is a major Catholic Shrine to Mary there. The town does not own or run the shrine, but it clealry benifits from the Shrine, or whatever that means. The purpose of the shrine is to mark the appearing to three frnech chrilden, one girl in particular (Bernadette Subarou) of the Virgin Mary who said to her "I am the immaculate conception." The thing is people are healed of diseases when they partake of the water and pray. Millions of peopel have been through the shrine. Estimages of healings run as high as 20 million, although documented cases are not nearly that high. Of all these the Catholic chruch has only taken 65 cases as official miracles, but there are 4000 "remarkable" cases that just barely missed because they could not meet all the strengent rules required by the committee.

The rules the committee has set have grown over the years. They are strict, they are oreitned around a scientific understanding of medicine, and they are callculted to promote a scientific outcome. For example, they don't take Lukemia cases unless they have been free of the symptoms for 10 years, that's because they know the remission rates and want to avoid the prospect of just getting someone in remission. They require complete medical documentation for the prognosis and diagosis. All x-raya snd results of other texts, and the full course of treatment must be known to the committee before they will even consider a case.

The atheist I was arguing with on CARM,and several others and different times, have demanded that I show a double blind experiment with control group and experimental group. They argue that unless I can show that the percentage of miracles is higher than the rate of natural unexplained cures then there's no way to say that something was a miracle. I say they don't understand the nature of medical research. First of all, it would nice sure, if we had an ideal double blind experiment with good controls. But we dont' have that nor can we if we are talking about Lourdes. There's no way Luourdes can do this since it has to be expost facto. The people have already had the illness, treatment failed completely, and sought and recieved healing from the shrine at Lourdes. It would be impossible to set up a control group to run an experiment that's already over before you know of the partcipants in it.

Even so, the evidence form Lourdes doesn't need to be proven in double blind experimcment to be effective evidence of a miracle. First we must understand what we are talking about. We are not talking not talking about proving a statistical average, nor are we field testing a drug. If we thought that God woreked automatically as a force of nature we would hve to seek an incidence rate, that would helpt have a control group. But God is a will, God has "his" own ideas about things, and one is suggesting that we can automatcially compell God to action by prayer. So it would be foolish to even think about a control group. Moreover, control group and double blind would be important if we thought the outcome could be affected by knowledge of the participants. But these participants of course know they have prayed adn sought healing at Lourdes so the whole concept is just idiotic. From whom would the double bilnd be hidden? In what way can the people effect their healings by knowing they prayed?

The whole concetp of a miralce is predicated upon the idea that there is 0 probalbity of this happening. Its' not that its something that is just very very rare, but could happen. It has to have a 0% probalbity. Medical science knows this for many diseases, and the Lourdes rules are dsigned to screen out cases that remitt or that don't fall within that 0% range. That's why they don't take Lukimea cases for 10 years. But the incidence rates and cure rates, death rates, remission rates, are well estabished and well known to most of medical scinece.

The point of investigating Lourdes miralces for the chruch is to give glory to Mary, not to establish a scientific law or a statitsitcal incidcnece rate on miralces. But the comparision of a 0% probalghity veres this did happen, the impossbile happened is enoguh to know a miracle happened. There will always be some epistemic gap between what we think has happened and what could have happened. One coudl stand before God in judgment and argue that it's not happening, how do I know this isn't a delustion. The first couple of million years in hell can be used to sort that one out. When a patient comes in with total black lung and prognosis gives him just weeks or days to live, and the next day after prayer his lungs are like knew, with no trace of the diesease, we know something happeened that was not suppossed to have happened. We don't need a control group of Minors with black lung and an experincmental group that we pray for to know that something amazing and beyond explianation has occurred.

One athiest arguing on CARM has stated that unless the cure rate for miracles is stiatistically higher than the rate of unexplained cures then we have to assume that it is a naturalistic phenomenon that we will someday come to understand. This is nothing more than sheer garbabe. It assumes that God is an automatic force and is bound to work x% of miracles in all cases of disease. God doenst' have to do anyting. God can't be pinned down to a statistically cure rate, that's why its' a miralce, it's contextually impossible.

form a memeber of the Lourdes commitee (quoted on Doxa):

Balzaretti with same members of Lourdes International Medical Committee (LIMC)

Italy is represented by three members; in addition to the undersigned, LIMC members include Prof. Fausto Santeusanio, Director of the Chair of Endocrinology at Perugia University, and Prof.Graziano Pretto, Director of the Otolaryngology Department of the Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza Hospital in San Giovanni Rotondo. Each complete medical file, accurately drawn up by the medical practitioner in charge of the competent Medical Service, after having been checked and accepted by the Bureau Médical, currently chaired by Dott. Patrick Theiller, is submitted to the LIMC, which meets in Paris or Lourdes once a year.

Just like a court of appeal, the LIMC confirma or invalidates the position taken by the Bureau Médical in the “first instance”, after having carefully examined and evaluated the various files and, should this be required, it can request the advice or opinion of highly qualified external experts. The LIMC is currently analysing two very interesting cases, which may lead to major developments. In order to take into account the acknowledgement of a recovery, the premises of the following two fundamental aspects (which however need to be carefully distinguished) need to exist: 1. The abnormal fact: the phenomenon of recovery itself, which is characterised by its being absolutely unexpected and unexplainable, compared to ordinary medical predictions and to scientific literature data, and which will be subject to an in-depth medical analysis; 2. The sign: which leads to the belief of a special intervention by God, by intercession of Our Lady of Lourdes; this intervention has to be acknowledged by the Church, based on the report of the cured person. But at this stage, we also need to point out: a) The definition of miracle: this is an extraordinary and exceptional event, which cannot be explained through today’s scientific knowledge; b) The features of a miracle: this is a sudden or exceptionally rapid event, with permanent effects and no relapses, which can be assessed through a scientific and interdisciplinary methodology involving biology, forensic medicine, theology, etc. c) The context in which the miracle occurs: historic age, documentation and iconography, taking place within catholic religion and not other religious beliefs and/or cultures, etc.; d) The authority proclaiming the miracle: after the favourable judgement passed by the CMIL (Comité Médical International de Lourdes), this is the ecclesiastic ordinary of the diocese of origin or another authoritative representative of the Church.

After 1977, following the proposal put forward by Mgr. Donze (who has recently died) to reword the rules laid down by Benedict XIV in the light of nowadays’ scientific and technological innovations, a 16 query scheme prepared by the LIMC was laid down; among other things, this introduced the need to rule out any psychopathic component, as well as any other subjective pathologic statea or manifestationa (which are therefore not verifiable), hence only taking into account the recovery acknowledgements relating to serious and provable affections, the only ones that could be deemed as “scientifically inexplicable”. And therefore, in this case it will be possible to close the medical report supporting a “certain and medically unexplainable” recovery, only when:

1) The diagnostics and authenticity of the disease has been preliminarily and perfectly assessed;

2) The prognosis provides for an impending or short-term fatal outcome;

3) The recovery is sudden, without convalesce, and absolutely complete and final;

4) The prescribed treatment cannot be deemed to have resulted in a recovery or in any case could have been propitiatory for the purposes of recovery itself. These criteria are still in use nowadays, in view of their highly logical, accurate and pertinent nature.

They undoubtedly and straightforwardly set out the standard features of an unexpected recovery and have actually made it impossible to put forward any objection to any form of lack of scientific exactitude on the part of the medical practitioners belonging to the Bureau and to the LIMC. The rigour of the Lourdes medical practitioners, whose scrupulousness throughout the years has been centering on the suddenness of recoveries, on the relative effectiveness of the therapies administered, on the objective evidence of the disease found, or on the shorter or longer length of the monitoring period (depending on the disease), has always been exemplary and appreciated by all the Diocesan Canonical Committees that have been called to express their opinion.

Compliance to such criteria has corroborated the seriousness and objectivity of the former Bureau des Constatations and, today, it continues to guide the Comité Médical International de Lourdes, whose conclusions have always represented an indispensable expert’s piece of evidence generating and motivating any further canonical judgements required to acknowledge the real Miracles amongst the thousands of recoveries ascribed to the intercession of Our Lady of Lourdes

Saturday, October 15, 2005

On Being in Need in America

On the comment section of the last entry we see one of the guilding principles of American culture; those who work hard suceed, and if you don't succeed it's because you don't derve to becasue you didn't work hard.That's our glorious Calvinist heritage, which is so deeply implanted that even non Calvinists agree with it. To Bomeless in America means that one is faceless, undeserving, an non person. We rationalize the fact that we let millions of people lose everything they have and wander the streets until they die in a schocking category of non-human, former people who have lost even the right to be pitted, because they are just too power and reminders of our guilt not to ourselves things like "well if they had worked hard God would have rewarded them."

I don't blame people for wanting to hang on their little middle class heavens. I've been living in the remignts of the little middle class heaven my parents created, since I moved in to take care of them full time (which of coruse I didn't work hard for three years of total self deniel where I didn't even leave the house so I could keep my Alzheimer's mother from wondering off--but that's hard work, that's just vacation--hard work is where you get a job that your cronie from college puts you on to and you join the country club and play Golf on thusdays).

Most people are only a couple of pay checks away from being homeless themselves. They know this instinctively, that's why anything over 20 buck would just cause their lives to crubmle. I don't blame them. I really don't. There are others who move into big houses and dirve Bentlies and when you ask for help they say "we don't have it, we just tie all our money up in our five hundred thousand dollar home and so of cousre we can't help you." But that's really because we dont' deserve help. By the time we are lowley enought to need help we have sinned and God is treating our sloth as it deserves by letting us die in the gutter. But hard working people never go homeless. So when we see these nameles, faceless former people we can just turn our mental eyes away and not think about them in good conscience, knowing that they didn't work hard.

The thing I resent the most is that I will have my mind taken away from me. I'm sure a lot of peole thnk that will be an improvement, but I like being able to think about useless abstract things. I like marking my failure and the useless nature of my life with this kind of thinking. When I was in seminary we went to help out at a soup kitchen. They told us there that after six months on the street people go insane and even if they are rescued after that, they are never the same again. They never get their minds back. I really resent that the most. But after all ademic work is not hard work. It's just an excuse for lazy people to read books a lot.

We took in a homeless guy once. we found him wondering the street. He was a friend of my parents who had worked at a gas station near our house. My parents were admimate about helping him. O absolutley it's our christian duty to help him. But they didnt' realize how lazy he was. When they knew him at the gas station he seemed hard working, but it was just a ruse. he was lazy and God punished him makeing him a non-human being. So we took him in, but he really wasn't the same. He couldn't function, he would break down in tears and stroke my mother's hand and strat saying "I so sorry for what I did to you..." and blubber about things he had done to his real mother--whom I guess he thought she was. We tried to find his childiren, they didn't care. Finaly we decided we coudln't cope with it, he needed help we coudlnt' give him and the way he contstantly trapsed after my mother and begged her forgiveness for things he did to his real mother was just too unnerving.

I caled his son and told him "he goes on the stree tomarrow, if you can live with that great--he's father you dumb *******." So he came and picked him up. But we heard a couple of years latter that he died on the street six months after that. He was allowed to stay at his son's house only for Thanksgiving.

It pays to work hard. I see that now. What I regret the most is all those people financial empires are ruined because I took over 20 dollars from them. If not for that I'm sure their children, recipients of powerful empires, would have cured the ills of humanity.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Get Your Metacrock theology while it's Hot!

I probalby wont be blogging must longer. I'm lossing my home (you can read about that on " I have to be out on the first and I don't have a place to go. I probalby wont feel much like blogging when I'm homless and on the streets.

you can make contricutions to Or if you think I'm a con man and you don't want to, fine. I'm tried of asking, I"m tired of trying to save the dman house. I'm just gonna live on the street.

Nice knowing you. But I may have a few more entries before the end.

click here

the site is still up. the button says "buy now" but you aren't buying anything. Its' just that they don'thave a button that says "give now."

Ssome Q&A on Necessity and Congingency

This is an exchange on CARM with Chad, one of the most intelligent sketpical posters, about my views:

Metacrock Thu Oct-13-05 04:23 PM
Member since Jan 13th 2003
7937 posts, 78 votes, 134 points

#102940, "RE: Grounding itself and contingency from necessity (Metacrock!)"
In response to Reply # 0

Chad:>For Meta and anyone else, here are two questions that have
>been wandering through my somewhat empty mind of late.
>First, we've often discussed the concept of "being itself,"
>often called the ground of being. Meta has argued that "being
>itself" is a logical necessity because (I'm paraphrasing here)
>being has to be and nothingness as a putative state of affairs
>is meaningless.
>Many of us have been unconvinced by this argument. Hans has
>suggested it is reification caused perhaps by the structure of
>the English language, while others have simply doubted that
>existence needs to be grounded.

Meta:Hans can't deny cause and effect. If effects are necessitated by their caues, then obviously there are reasons why somethings need grounding. No one has ever been abel to show me one single thing that doesn't require grounding of some kind (note: grounding is not necessary synonimous only cause, but obviously the two are going to go hand in hand). Any time something is caused by or predicated upon something else, that's grounding. No one has ever showen me anything in this universe that is not predicated upon something else, something came before, some condition that made it possible; even QM particals require or at least stem from conditions that make them possible (time, phsyical law, vacuum flux). So nothing cuold more logical than to assume that beings are grounded in being.

We know that being is different than nothingness. As long as that is the case there has to be some form of predication for why one thing is as oppossed to not being at all.
Chad:>That led me to wonder why the "being itself" argument wouldn't
>apply to "grounding itself". After all, if being has to be
>then grounding has to ground -- and "being itself" can't
>ground all other being unless "grounding itself" or the ground
>of grounding is also logically necessary.

Meta:Being is grounding. Being is the grunding for things that be. So you are just speaking redundantly.

Chad:>Is this thinking wrong? And if so, why?

Meta:synoniomous terms. Being supplies a grounding for the beings. Well that's not quite true because it makes it sound like there some seperate substance and its' really more a fact than a substance. But the fact of being as oppossed to nothingness is what's being discussed with "being itself" and the being of individual beigns is predicated upon the fact of their being rather than their not being.

Chad:>Second, Metacrock and others have made much of the distinction
>between things that are necessary and things that are
>contingent. Again at the risk of oversimplifying, the
>assertion has been made that the nature of contingency shows
>that there must be something necessary that exists --
>something that could not fail to be, could not be different
>than it is, etc.
>One problem I have with this logic is that I don't see how
>contingency ever arises from necessity. Remember, something
>that is logically necessary isn't just eternal and immortal --
>it's something that could not fail to exist and could not be
>other than it is. Otherwise it isn't necessary -- it's just
>what happens to be.

Meta:I think there is a bit a problem in your reasoning here. Contingnecy and Necessity arise out of the fact of possiblity. If something exists, it can either because its predicated uon somehting else or not. That's just evident. It's got to be one or the other (although the latter could be a null set). But then contingency stems form predication upon prior conditions or causes. If something requires perdication upon prior conditions or causes, it could have failed to exist, if it's predication failed to exist or was substantially different; just like you or I could ahve faled to exist if our mothers had married different men. Thus, we are contingetn upon the circustances of our mothers' marrying our fathers when they did. That and a whole bunch of other things I wont go into.

that's they Hans and I alway have this big brewahah over the two types of contingency. He somehow can't see how they are connected, but clearly they are, since the only real reason something could fail or cease to exist is if the preidating circumstances of that eixstent were different.

If something couldn't fail or cease to exits it would have to be eternal--without time, without beigning or end--since to begin would mean it might have failed, and it might end, it's not without time because its begiing is a point that marks time. First there was not it, then there are measurable intervls from the becoming of "it" form "not it." thus marking of time.

Chad:>So let's start with our necessary X, with its necessary
>attributes -- none of which could possibly be any different
>than they are. How then does this X cause all the
>contingencies? What causes it to cause Y and not Z?
>It seems to me that if all that exists at any instance is
>necessary then all that can ever exist is also
>necessary because everything that follows does so because of
>causes that could not be different.
Meta:If that were true, there would be no contingency. If there were no contingency that would mean nothing could cease, fail, or be perdicated upon prior things. Clealry this is not the case. We can't dismiss contingency so ealisly.

Now you might say X exists eternally but y just started up one day indpendently of X. But that would mean that for it just went "poof" for no reason. Since we never see that happen, not even one time, and since materilism is preducated upon the idea of natrualistic cause and effect, it's just not a tennable answer. If there is an eternal X it stands to reason that all the contingencies that manifest themseles in being are somehow predicated upon X.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

All God's ponit to God

I. God

God is Being itself That is to say, God is the foundation of all reality, the thing that makes being be, the essence of what is, on rather than off. God is the foundation of all being. That means God is eternal.

There must be a foundation of all being and it cannot be contingent, because then by defossion it couldn't be the foundation, since it would require a foundation itself. That's how we know it's eternal. Because it has to be eternal because it can't be contingent (eternal in some senses--either timeless, or eternal time--or just is apart from my chronic measurement).

That eternal nature of being gives us a sense of the eternal, in juxtaposition to our finite experience. That juxtaposition of the eternal and finite evokes our most basic sense of the nominees; that means it's a valid object of religious devotion.

what we have is:

(1) There must be a universal eternal foundation of being, since nothingness as PAS is impossible and contingencies Annett ultimate origins.

(2) That eternality of the necessary being evokes the sense of the numinous

(3) This is the basis of all religious devotion and object of worship.

Part II. Religion

The point of religion is mediation. Religion is an attempt to mediate between our self understanding and the sense of the numinous. All religions seek to identify the human problematic. They all have different versions, some say "moral sin" some say "imbalance with nature" does matter. They all try to account for it; what's the problem at the heart of being human? And then having identified that, to counter it through the mediation of the transformative power; meeting God, fining yourself, begin in balance, learning Kung fu, prayer, whatever.

We all experience God on a mystical level; that is, beyond word, thought or image. To put that into words, we have to load it into cultural constructs. That's why religions turn out to be different.

the same basic father figure is used an image of God across the board. The name "Jupiter" comes from the inde Aryan:

Zoo - sky
Patter (from Greek) = "father."

Jupiter = "sky father."

Zeus, that names comes from that word "zoo" meaning sky. So Zeus "the sky father" just means "sky."

The fact that different cultures have different Gods doesn't' make religions different. It doesn't even mean they are worshiping different beings. because what they are all trying to get at is that same basic mystical union that they have at the pre construct level, beyond word, thought or image, and that is the eternal foundation of Being that I already said has to be there. The fact of other mythologies and other beings is irrelevant.

that's why I say

All God's point to God

Atheists can't see the forest for the trees because they just look at the little particulars, the small picture, is God Zeus or is he Jupiter? But both are sky father so what difference doe sit make?

Part III. Tradition

The only difference is that some traditions mediate better than others. Take the Aztecs for example. They had to keep a constant source of blood flowing to feed the gods, so they did human sacrifice. See when they loaded their sense of the numinous into the cultural constructs, it was filtered though a very violent set of constructs. So while their religion no doubt mediated transformation, ti also required that thousands of people die unjustly.

One religion mediates better than all others. Doesn't mean the others are bad or their people or going to hell, or even that they don't have some insights that are better than Christian insights, but it does mean that Christianity has something going for it that no other tradition has: Jesus!

Here we have to put all our Easter eggs on one basket. The Jesus basket.

Jesus is better:

(1) Because the only one with grace.

(2) the only one who was a real flesh and blood guy

(3) The only one who made the most powerful statement of solidarity between God and man by dying for sins of the world.

So for my sins, Jesus is the best form of mediation so I follow Jesus.

Now what can you really object to about all this other than the fact that it would link you with churches and you don't like churches?

Friday, October 07, 2005

Adam, The Fall, and The Nature of Sin

As Many of you know, I am committed to a view that sees the Genesis creation story as mythological. To me mythology doesn't mean "lie" or "worthless little fictional story." It's not a dirty word, it's just a way of making a point which speaks with power to the psyche without having to be filtered through literal history. For more on my concept of this and my view of Biblical revelation, please read this page:

Java raises a pretty good question: [i]if Adam and Eve are only mythological characters, how can humanity be fallen and in need of redemption?[/i]

I take my view about the fall from the great theologian Reinhold Neibhur, who in turn took his understanding from St. Agustine. Neibhur's view is Agustinian, "dusted off." as it were, for use in a modern liberal context. Neibhur's work [i]The Natuer and Destiny of Man[/i] vol I. presented a chapter on demythologizing the fall. I read that in seminary (in Dr. Carney's class) and that really revolutionized by whole view of the fall and of Biblical inspiration. I recommend it highly. Every readable and enjoyable book!

The idea is this: Adam and Eve are symbols for us all. The fall is distributed throughout history at ever moment. It is not a historical event, but an existential one; meaning we all experience it and live it anew at every moment. it's not that we magically inherited genes for sin through omissis form some action that Adam took (wired blend of sympathetic magic and LaMarkian evolution). But rather, we engage in the fall anytime our capacity for self transcendence causes to choose our own self interest above that of the other.

Humans are rooted in two concepts which are Augusta terms: height and depth. Height means our capacity for transcendence of the physical and the mundane, depth means our creatureliness, our "flesh" in a moral sense; our human frailty. These two situations stem from our self transcendence in nature. That is to say, we are able to remember the past and to calculate the future. We know or have a good idea of what will happen tomorrow based upon your experience of yesterday. This creates an initial existential insecurity. We seek to resolve this insecurity by feathering our own nests, and that means we often choose self interest over the good of the other. But freed by height, we are also capable of understudying and rejecting this process, and thus choosing the good of the other.

Redemption in Christ changes our nature in that it gives us a basic security that relives the tension of self transcendence and enables us to trust God and do the good. The divine nature, as we partake of it through spiritual communion (which is averrable to us through the rebirth in Christ) gives us the security and strength we need to change, to make decisions that forsake our self interest and work for the betterment of the neighbor.

Christ's position as "the first Adam" (Romans) is symbolic. There doesn't have to be a literal "first Adam" for Jesus to be second Adam, after all Jesus is one man, Yet he symbolizes us all.

I can hear the objections already, "O but this means God created our sin nature, or created us with sin nature from the beginning, even without a free will action such as eating the fruit." No, because that free will action is something we all experience wheat we gain majority. When we come into the fullness of our moral agency (what some call "age of accountability") we develop the capacity to be blame worthy. This is based upon our actions, nothing God does to use individually to make us guilty. Of course God created the raw materials out of which we produce sin, that goes without saying. If God had not created a world of humans there would be no sinners. But that's the price of having life. But we still have the choice in ourselves, and with God's grace the straight to make good on our choices

Lionizing the Worldview

I don't' think we need to make arguments to prove there's a God, or to demonstrate the rationality of belief. I know Thai's ironic since I so many arguments, but I don't need them.

Religious belief is a world view. It can certainly be demonstrated to be utilitarian, good for you, advantageous and the life, but also rational and intellectual.

There are many the approaches besides argument making. After all atheists don't have little syllogistic arguments except for those who copy God arguments. But the intrinsic thus of atheism is to see it from world vel persecutive without having to make arguments per se.

But atheists do try to lionize their position. They come at this through verus means; the "default assumption" and verus other maneuvers. But theists can lionize their position through, though the idea of innate religious instinct and the obvious nature of relies belief (obvious to 90% of humanity).

The truth of it is lionizing one's world view is unfair. World views grow out of attitudes, links between opinions, attitudes, knowledge, perspectives, experience, ideals and the like. Of course one lionizes one's world view at the expense of being providential. The better option would to see an expanded world view that is mature enough to take account of other view points; one that doesn't need to lionize itself because one is mature enough and sophisticated enough to understand that no world is view is final.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Jesus myther View of history

I am discussing Jesus mytherism on a certain list. One of the participants said:

And the difference between ancient and modern events seems to me
strong enough that I've stopped routinely comparing Holocaust denial
with mythicism. (In our own arguments for a historical Christ we
highlight the paucity of ancient evidence). If I do, I always note
the difference in evidence. I've seen a Holocaust denier's letter
to a magazine in which he did not just compare but seemed to EQUATE
Holocaust denial with what he called "Jesus denial" (a term I once
used), and said that his theory should get the same respect that was
being accorded by the magazine to a mythicist. This Holocaust
analogy is very tricky. For us it can feel very right to highlight
mythicism along with Holocaust denial, but that means that the
latter is being compared with the former, and I'm not sure that such
a great crime should be placed in the same category as a bad theory
expressed at times with bigotry (such as one sees at "Jesus Never
Existed"). If two evils exist and one is greater, the lesser might
like to be compared with the greater, but the reverse will not
necessarily be true.

I see it as an epistemological crisis. There is no epistemic authority left. These guys value the form of science, even though they don't' really understand science. so for them a God argument is wrong because it's not an empirical experiment. The idea of making a thesis and then demonstrating the logically necessity of the thesis as a true statement is beyond them. They have to test a hypothesis to see if some tangible data turns up as one investigates. No, God fingerprints yet, so no God.

That's sort of the way they think about history (they think history is an empirical experiment too--like everything). The idea of a historical fact having presumption is beyond them. So they say "well let's test the Jesus hypothesis--MO empirical data of Jesus turning up--so no Jesus." You notice some of their major arguments center on the idea that witnesses were interview too late (Papas) and no historian in Jesus on day wrote about him. so even if they did accept Joshes as evidence, it would be invalid because it written too late. Unless it's breaking up to the minute news with film at 11, it's no good.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Christian forums speed trap for Christians

Christian forums exists for no other reason than to destroy apologietics. They have consisatntly taken the atheists side thoruhg the most blatant and obvious cases, over and over agian. I am a victim of persecution and injustice.

Chrisan forums sux

True Conservatism

Having voiced my discomfature with conservative, and especially Christian fundamentalists ("fundis") one can read about that below in the preivous offering. To alley fears of my critics, I wil state that my feelings are not all one sided. I said I had "tensions," and tension reqquires a dynamism streached between two polls. Of course I find conservatives who are good people, the salt of the earth, of course I have conservative friends, and there are many conservatives whom I love.There are even a few instances in whcih I'm forced to abide their politics.

True conservatism, however, is not about busieness, or law enforcement, or being peranoid about the sixites, true conservatism is about a feeling of naustalga. The concept of "the conservative" was actually started by Sir Walter Scott, who was a great historian forced to turn to fiction writting to get his ideas across to the publiic. His notion of conservatism (he did coin start the concept) was centered around the general public of Scottland and thier feelings regarding their relationship with the British monarchy. The concept was tha of a feeling, a sense of reversnse and longing for the former state of things, the way things used to be. A regard for tradition and the love of the past. In this sense my sixites naustalgia is actually true conservatism.

When I first got saved I thought that my weariness of the bourgeoise would negate my experinces in the chruch. That first sumemr I found that I was totally wrong. I foudn myself haning out with people I would never have gotten to know as a would be radial drug taking left wing college student. I actually began to see their humanity and to feel, well, love for them. I was amazed adn chalcked it up to God. Since in my ealry days of conversion miracles were coming almost every day, I just felt this was yet another mircle God was working in my life.

Of course I've always loved my parents, and they were wonderful people. But they Rosevelt Democrats so perhaps they don't count. However, I made friends with a couple of elderly people at my new chruch, Jim and Dotty. They saw me as the son they never had, and I saw them as the conservative republican parents I never had. I actually did love them, I beileve they both gone now. We lost touch over the years, this was all early 80s. But I enjoyed haning out with them, always spent afernoons on Sudnay at their house. I just overlooked wired ideas they had about the Beattles being evil and everyting in the sixities being evil and rock music being of the devil. Dottie was a music teacher, their Daughter was a virtuoso on the piano, and so we shared other musical interests.

Come to that I've always managed to make freinds with right wingers. I have had a number of unlikely friendships that most of my firends could not figure out. One guy I was frineds with in the 80s I met by accient in the 2000's when he came to my message baord not even knowing that Metacrock was the person he knew in college. Why were we freinds? We argued all the time. I don't know, but I find it a great victory that he became stark raving liberal in the 90s!

Politics is not worth friendship. We are all humans together, trying to figure it out and get by. We are all Christians toegehter thrying to serve God as best we can.