Saturday, August 26, 2006

What I would answer if I used the word "Meme"

I was non-tagged by Kevin of Rock and Rose. I say "non tagged" because he says he doesn't beleive in tagging. I don't like the word "meme." But why quibble, here are my anwers:

One book that changed your life:

The Nature and Destiny of Man Vol I. by Reinhold Neibhur

One book that you've read more than once:

Frany and Zooey, by J.D. Salinger.

One book that you'd want on a desert island:

all christians are duty bound to say the Bible. I would want the Bible, I could also say "Gospel of Matthew to first question and Bible to all the qeustions. It goes without saying so I'm trying to use non Bible answers.

Non Bible book: Divine Comedy, Dante

One book that made you laugh:

that book by that Mouser guy

(not because he wrote it to be funny)

One book that made you cry:

Cry of the People: Central America, by Penny Lernoux

One book that you wish you had written:

Sources of the Self, by Chales Taylor (of McGill, not the English Charles Taylor).

One book that you wish had never been written:

Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood Piper/Grudem ...

One book you are currently reading:

The Mystery of Being, vol.1, Reflection and Mystery. by Gabriel Marcel Translated by G. S. Fraser. London: The Harvill Press, 1951

One book that you've been meaning to read:

Breaking the Spell, Daniel Dennette.

One book that you wish had been written:

The book that would have come from my Ph.D dissertation

One book that you’ve read aloud:

The Wasteland and Other poems, T.S. Elliot

I guess If I were to tag, if I used the term Meme, I would tag Graceshaker, but since he's arleady done it, I guess I'd tag George W. then we would be waiting the rest of our lives for the answers.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Is Religion LItterally a Metaphor?

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I saw Salman Rushdie on PBS, having a discussion with Bill Moyers. Rushdie is an atheist, he refurred to himself as "total atheist." But, he is one of hte most enlightened people I've ever heard speak about religion. Yet .Rushdie is nothing like the atheists I encounter on the Internet. He actual reads real theologians. He's not negative toward religion, he says nothing to imply religious people are stupid or religion is bad.In fact he seems to think religion is basically a good thing. He says, paraphrasing, if you want to believe that there is some organizing princple to unites and hold together the physics of the university with morality, and call that God, why should I object? Not only does he seem so insightful because is positive twoard religion but because his criticisms of are fair minded and not insulting.

One such criticism he made in the interview with Moyers (8/23/06) is that religious people tend to think that one cannot be moral without an overarching absolute source of authority to make morality right. But morality is the seeking to question "is this right? Is this wrong" Ruddie points out that one need to be religious to question that many non religious people find answers and live consistently with their answers.

This is a fair criticism. I have always contended that there are many atheists--I know many-- who have a strong sense of morality and loads of character, even though most Christian might disagree with many of their choices. My criticism, which I think Rushdie's argument does not answer is that even though atheists can be moral, because society is coasting on Christian memories, they do not have a logical grounding for their axioms. Rudhdie's view was refreshing that he questioned relativism saying that it is dangerous to do without a fixed standard. Yet without logical grounding for axioms it is my belief that those Christian memories will fade and society will degenerate into relativism simply because they wont have an adequate basis for adopting a particular standard.

Another of Rushdie's, criticisms, although it applies more to fundamentalism than to all of religious belief, the idea of enshrining some way of life or point in time long past. This is a criticism I can get behind. Even though it speaks to the fundamentalists more than to the main stream, it really speaks to religions that emphasize an ancient sacred text.It seems to marking out a sacred text enshrines a particular moment in time, a culture, a belief system, a way of life, a way of understanding the world, as paradigmatic. The ancient world of the Hebrew, pre temple and first temple really becomes the major paradigm for Christianity because it was the model for Jesus in his adherence to the law.

The difference between the fundamentalist who wants to force the back to some Golden age of orthodoxy, vs the liberal is who is able tom meet a Salman Rushdie half way is not so much in terms of authoritarianism, although that is a manifestation of the real issue. The real issue is one of metaphor. The fundy wants to literalize the metaphor and say "this really is the way it is; God really is a middle eastern Suzerian from the 3d from the late Bronze age." The liberal is able to say "no, this image of the Suzerian points to certain aspects that give us a hint as to what God is like, but there is also a "not like" dimension. Does this metaphor extend to the deity of Christ? the Historical Jesus? The atonement? The Resurrection!?? I'm going to bracket this question and deal with it on another day, but I will deal with it soon. Certainly the difference in literalizing or understanding the metaphorical nature of an image, is the difference between imposing one's will upon others, vs allowing others to choose the their own metaphors. This open attitude that comes from the realization of the metaphorical mandates a secular space for government and market place of ideas.

SALMAN RUSHDIE: Well, I think, you know, certainly in India, in the foundation of India the great founding fathers of India, like Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru were absolutely convinced that to secularize India was the only way actually of keeping the various communities safe. But in order to avoid a repetition of the bloodshed of partitioning you had to not allow any religious community to dominate any other. And therefore you had —India was given a secular constitution. Now what's happening I do think in a certain way is that many people perceive failures in secularism. You know, I mean I think if you look at the rise of Islamic radicalism you can say that Iranian — the rule of the Ayatollahs — was created by the failures of the secularist Shah of Iran.

Ah but the secular Shah of Iran did not foster a true democracy. He was put in power by a CIA coup in 1954, he rueld with an iron hand, and the roots of the revolution in Iran in the 1970's were as much a secular and Marxist political student revolution, as much or more so than the Islamic aspects. I had a friend whose father was an eitor of a major Tehran daily at that time. So was fairly well informed about the roots of that revolution. In any case, it is true that the religious wars of Europe (1500-1660) could only be stopped when a secular space was created in which everyone's religious view was safe in their private realm, and everyone was free to participate on equal footin in the secular public realm. Reformed fundamentalists want to turn back the clock to the Reformation, but they have no idea who much misery and destruction the reformation actually brought about.

Creating a secular space requires the creation of a demoncratic process. This requires exchange of ideas freely and without criteria of truth imposed from without. The secular sapce must make room for the arist as social critic:

SALMAN RUSHDIE: But this is the time honored role of the artist to speak truth to power, you know, and if you look at what is happening in the Muslim world some of the writers signing that manifesto are particularly concerned with the oppression of women, which is a very big subject and in the Muslim world. Others are concerned with the oppression of freedoms of speech and assembly. And others are concerned with simple — the creation of kind of overarching world view, which makes it impossible for people to consider the concept of freedom. You know, that's to say it simply not available, for discussion, you know. And one of the awful things about long term mass censorship is that in the end people can lose a sense of what it's like to live in a free world. You know, because it's not--there's nothing automatic about it. It's a thing you have to fight for and preserve.

Ironically, religion can only flourish in this secular space.This is so becasue the artsitic urge to "speak truth to power" is really an extention of the prophetic urge. This is what the prophet does. To heed the call of the prophet is to heed the word of the Lord. The artist is not a mockery or a coutnerfit of the prophet, but a geniuine instinct born of the infertace between the religious instinct and human urge to create which is the living out of the Imago dei in which we were created. God is creator, humans made in God's image are creative too. When this urge to create is combined with the desire to truely seek God we have the prophet. In both cases it is the metaphorical aspect that makes criticism and truth possible. When one is trying to impose one's own view upon the world as the truth of God one is merely imposing one metaphoircal interpretation as literal truth. When one understands the metaphorical, as only artsis can, one is free to explore deeper meanings becasue one is not stuck with an incomplete eternal truth that can't be questioned.

BILL MOYERS: And we always think in this country that persecution will lose, but it doesn't always lose.


BILL MOYERS: It sometimes so changes the frame of reference that people who grew up in it, that they no longer have any sense that there's something beyond it.

SALMAN RUSHDIE: Exactly. That is the final victory, you know. That's the final victory of oppression. And I think we need to make sure that that doesn't happen, you know. And I think it's important to speak up. And I think it's very interesting that more and more and more now almost every week you see some new powerful voice being raised, you know. Whether it's Ayaan Hirsi Ali, whether it's Wafa Sultan, whoever it may be. Many of these voices are women. And I've often thought that in the Muslim world the big change may come because Muslim women reject the oppression that they've been subjected to.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Tears among the Wheat

I have been battaling extreme fundamentalists on a cretian messag board for a couple of weeks. As stated in my previous peice, they condmed me as "the sapwn of satan" and "a wolf in sheep's clothing" because I said the passage where Paul forgot his coat was not inspried. Why would God inspire Paul to forget his coat? Or the one where he forgot who he baptized. But these authoritarian types keep at it. They eventaully put up a post declairing that all the great thinkers are in hell. Of course it's evil to use the mind. They are trying to scare the atheists on the bard by showing (show how? by asserting) that the figures they admire as thinkers ar in hell. What an aburd tactic. But Extreme authoritarian Christiantiy is more than just a few cranks on a message board. They are an army of brown shirts, and thier Republican orgnaizing has helped Republicans win all but two elections since 1980. Every four years they do their bit to hand over the governement to extremist factions. Now they are even asserting their true natures as brown shirts:

Hughes for America

the scourge of Christian Fundamentalism

Kansas University religious studies professor Paul Mirecki - a critic of Christian fundamentalism who had until recently intended to teach intelligent design as mythology - was beaten yesterday morning by two men who had been following him in a pickup truck. Mirecki said that his attackers "made references" to his recent notoriety. "I didn't know them," he said, "but I'm sure they knew me."

We've arrived at a scary destination in America. Fundamentalist Christians, holding an overwhelming majority, are in control of the federal government. Their myriad representatives dominate the airwaves. Their churches engulf entire communities. Couple that with a remarkably insane persecution complex and you've got a smoldering tinderbox of raw religious fervor, a powder keg poised to explode.

There's a good article by Michael L. Westmoreland-White which sets up an analaysis of three kinds of religion.

Westmoreland-White decides that labels such as "fundamentalist" and liberal are not that useful, so he constructs typologies based upon authority structure of the many groups.

The three types are:

(1) Mystical/ecstatic

Little social structure, sometimes communal. Examples would be Dorothy Day's commune in up state New York. Early American Quakers, or Catholic monastics of the middle ages. But this type also tends to be very individualistic.

(2) Authoritarian

Top down hierarchical. This is not necessarily dependent upon a Bishop or an elaborate high church structure,. Low church structures can also be authoritarian. Authority rules by fear.

(3) Prophetic.

Power flows form the people up to the leader who is empowered by consent to be governed.

The article is called "reclaiming the Prophetic type of Religion" so clearly that's the structure he prefurs.

By nature, this form of religion is exclusionary. Orthodoxy ("right teaching") is defined very narrowly. Differences of opinion are tolerated, if at all, on only a very narrow range of topics and only within a small degree. Thus, adherents in an authoritarian religion will have impassioned debates over distinctions that outsiders have a hard time telling apart.

No matter how much the official doctrine of this form of religion speaks of "grace," "mercy," "forgiveness," or "eternal security," the underlying ethos is one of fear: fear of heresy, fear of breaking the rules, fear of science, fear of social change, fear of other religions, fear of forms of its own religion which are NOT authoritarian, fear of secularism, fear--ultimately--of God. (A person I know who holds to this form of religion has created clothing with the slogan, "I Fear God" and cannot figure out why they won't sell!)

It is clear to me that the U.S. Religious Right, composed of Protestant Fundamentalists and the far-right fringe of U.S. Catholics, is a form of authoritarian religion. That is why its political allies are profoundly anti-democratic and engage in the politics of fear and secrecy. A democratic republic with separation of powers, checks and balances, real participation by the people is too messy. So, more and more power is invested in the Executive, laws are changed to allow more secret decisions, the legislature is turned into a rubber stamp for the Executive, and steps are taken to undermine an independent judiciary. The forms of voting are still allowed, although all kinds of tricks are used to disenfranchise groups likely to vote for another agenda. But real power is invested in plutocratic oligarchy.

Another excellent article, one that says that fundametnalism is a distortion of ture rleigion, by Lloyd Geering, Presbyterian mniister. Gerring takes on fundamentalism of Islam, Christianity and Judaism.

So fundamentalism may be described as a modern religious disease, for it distorts genuine religious faith in the same way as cancer distorts and misdirects the natural capacity of body cells to grow. Instead of bringing spiritual freedom and the realisation of a spiritual goal, as all sound religion should, fundamentalism imprisons people into such a rigid system of belief that they find it difficult to free themselves. Fundamentalism takes possession of human minds and blinds them to the realities which most others accept as self-evident. Fundamentalism fosters a closed mind, restricts the sight to tunnel vision, hinders mental and spiritual growth, and prevents people from becoming the mature, balanced, self-critical persons they have the potential to become.

My sentiments and style of religion tend to be 1 and 3. So there is a deep philosophical rift that cuts across the board. I'm not sure it is even the same religion. There may be no way to go but to split. I'm sure that will happen eventually.

The problem is many think they are defending one type when they really defend another. The authoriatian types have some prophets but that doesn't make the prophetic. The liberals have an authoritarian structure but that doesn't make them authoritarian.

The prophetic type of religion has always been the enemy of the concentration of power. Scholars have long played out the dialectical relationship between the prophetic and the priest in old testament Hebrew society. The prophetic type seeks to apply the anointing of the Spirit for the moment to a human situation, while the authoritarian seeks to subjugate the whole social scene to its own reading of the ideal. The authoritarian is the example of what St. Agustine speaks about when he says that that temporal power can never be the City of God. The authoritarian forgets this fact,a and mistakes his own sincere belief for the idea of the Spirit itself, thus considers conformity to his reading to be conformity to the ideal and to the Spirit. But the prophetic types understands that there must always be a radical break between temporal and sacred, and thta impossition of the sacred for the moment can never change the end and destiny of the city of man.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Are Evangelicals Forgetting the Gospel?

We can't do apologetics unless we know what it is we are defending. Is the Gospel, whose rational and intellectual defense we take, a Gospel of right beleif? Is it doctrine that saves us? Is it keeping rules that saves us? I find more and more that the Evangelical world seems to be opening up to a creeping cancer that teaches that the Gospel is a matter of holidng right doctirnes (beyond the basic "doctrine of Christ") and of rule keeping.

During this past week, since before the week end, about last wednesday, Ive been invo;ved in something new, arguing with fundametnalists. Why did I break my own rule and argue agaisnt the fundies rather than ignoring them? Becasue they were caght up in the machination of a certain band of trollish types who were doing nothing more than plugging their pet doctrines (such as YEC) rather han doing apologetics. This was on the apologetics board, so I decided to give them a real run for teir money. I have never been so disillusioned.

These guys were worse than any atheist every thought about being. I had two issues:

(1) I beileve in evolution and it is not a challenge to my faith

(2) I am not na inerrenist (no verbal pleanry inspriation) and I believe there are better models.

It was not three posts before one of them sent me a private message saying I am the spawn of satan. I got no rational discussion out of them at all. Here is an examlpe of the most rational end of the discussion:

Meta: Paul says "bring my coat form Troaz," why would God insprie himj to forget his coat?

Fundie: to show that he's human and makes mistates. (of course if he's human and makes mistakes why draft him to write half the NT? So he can forget his coat but he can't mistake anything else, what purpose does this serve? No answer).

Meta: why did the earth sit around for 3 millions years doing nothing before man was put on it? (rare fundie theory that "the eart was without form and void" means the earth became wihtout form and void.

Fundie: God did this to let the oil take time to develop so we would have oil to use!

Meta: why do that when he could give us solar panels and avoid all the fossil fuel problms?

Fundie: (evokes mind of God chestnut--can you believe it?)

Meat:"all scripture is God breathed" doesnt' apply to the NT because it didn't exist when Paul said that, so show me a verse that says the NT is inspired.

Funide: I did, 1 Tim (same passage)

Meta; how can this apply to the New Testament when it didn't exist when Paul wrote this?

Funide: you are over intelleualizing, you are trying to use your mind to undersand God.

That's the best they did, the rest of it was about I'm creating antoher Jesus, I'm preaching another gospel (that of evoulution--even though I said nothing about evolutino being necessary for salvation). I'm in great danger of hell fire because it's so unholy and evil to say that every single word in the bible isn't inspried.

I said say well have you gone to get Paul's coat from Troaz? Of course those words aren't inspired. but when me doing it I'm "picking and choosing what I want to believe."

I have never seen such rampanet disregard for logic and such vile charactor assasination. I would sure have hoped that Christians would do better than that. Most were agreed I lost my salvation by not believing in verbal plenary inspiriation.

They also seem to assocaite liberal theology with immorality. It seems being al iberal is just an excuse to screw. I keep asking, where's that libratine lifetyle? How come those jerks in seminary didn't tell me how to get into it?

I see this all over the net. Carico voices it well, in exhibiting this tendency:

Galatians 1:9 "As we have already said so now I say again: If anybody is preaching a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned."

And no one was preaching that man was created from apes before Darwin came along. And I won't even give someone the time of day who claims that the gospel that people accepted back then was that apes created man. There is not only zero evidence for that, it is another fabricated story.

2 Peter 2:3, "In their greed, these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them and their destruction has not been sleeping." And the notion that God didn't create man out of the dust of the ground but instead man was an accident of apes is most assuredly made-up

He's trying to say that my belief in evolution is another Gospel. But that would not follow if he did not already think that the Gospel the way it should be is a matter of holding a certain range of ideas including inerrency and creationism.

Originally Posted by GeneZ
You forgot one.....

1 Timothy 6:3-4
"If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions

In a super long post I already demonstrated that the Gospel is not a matter of keeping rules, it is not a matter of having a right set of beliefs (other than beliefs immediately pertiannig to who Jesus was and what his death means for us soeteriolgoically). That means evoltuion is not part of the Gospel and holding to it is clealry not preaching anther Gospel.

This may come as a schock to many but I am an Evangelical: believe in Evangelizing, and I hold to the five points (except inerrency but I still hold to inerrency, just my style of it). No one really trys to listen hard enough to figure I mean by the things I say so I'm not surprized that everyone has missed this. So I'm a liberal Evangelical!

So let's examine Galations 1.

Galatians - Chapter 1

Gal 1:1 ¶ Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead

He's already preached the Gospel in the opening line! Reusrrection is part of the "Gospel" not "another Gospel."

Gal 1:2 And all the brethren which are with me,
¶ unto the churches of Galatia:

Gal 1:3 Grace [be] to you and peace from God the Father, and [from] our Lord Jesus Christ,

Gal 1:4 Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father:

Right there in that simple sentence he tells us exactly what the Gospel is. Thsi is the standard (ala Pauline style) of what we are to judge "another Gospel" against!

Incredible such a simple sentence and tells us exactly what we are suppossed to be about!

Gal 1:5 To whom [be] glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Gal 1:6 ¶ I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:

what is this other Gospel? we shall see it is
(1) holding to a certian set of doctrines as pimary and soeteriolgoical which add to the Gospel that has been preached

(2) rule keeping rather than Grace.

Gal 1:7 Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.

that perversion is gonig to take the form of saying we must keep the Moseic law. So that' the rule keeping that I find is every moer so being preached among Evangelicals as fundamental to salvation.

Gal 1:8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.

does that say "if we or an angel from heaven tell you to believe in evolution? or does it say "if we or an angel form heaven tell you the Bible is not inerrent?" why not? Why in this whole discourse on what we should believe and the false gospel being preached does he totally omitt any ideas about inerrency of the Bible?

Gal 1:9 As we said before, so say I now again, If any [man] preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.

Gal 1:10 For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.

Gal 1:11 ¶ But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man.

Gal 1:12 For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught [it], but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Funny he doesn't say "I read it in the inerrent Bible." It was revaled to him through persona experince

I'm going to skip to chapter 2 for brevity sake

Gal 2:1 ¶ Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with [me] also.

Gal 2:2 And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain.

Gal 2:3 But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised:

Gal 2:4 And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage:

Gal 2:5 To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.

Gal 2:6 But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man's person for they who seemed [to be somewhat] in conference added nothing to me:

Gal 2:7 But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as [the gospel] of the circumcision [was] unto Peter;

Gal 2:8 (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles

Gal 2:9 And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we [should go] unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.

Gal 2:10 Only [they would] that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do.

Gal 2:11 ¶ But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed.

Gal 2:12 For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision.

Gal 2:13 And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation.

Gal 2:14 But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before [them] all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?

Gal 2:15 We [who are] Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles,

So he finds a social dimention to the Gospel; The aplication of the Gsoepl to the real wrold deals with how we treat people and impossin legalistic rules upon them is hypocracy.

Gal 2:16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

Gal 2:17 But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, [is] therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid.

Gal 2:18 For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.

Gal 2:19 For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God.

Gal 2:20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

Here he's saying the Gospel is a matter of the Spirit givnig us power to live right, not a matter of beleving the right doctirnes or keeping rules.

Gal 2:21 I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness [come] by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.

so that pretty much says that keeping rules is anti-thetical to the true Gospel.

belief of doctrines is a rule keeping. to say "you must beleive inerrency and creationsm" to be saved is rule keeping and it is living under law, it is another Gospel. That doesn't mean it's necessarily wrong to believe those thing. that's a matter of personal preference, of consciousnece. But to imposse it as "the Gospel" is an-ath-ema!

Friday, August 11, 2006

Necessity and Contingency

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Being is an act in which the beings (that is existing things) participate. There are only two basic aspects of this act. Either a thing exists or it does not (meaning it is just a concept in the mind). If something does not exist in actuality, there are only two options as to why: either the right circumstances just didn't happen to come together to produce them, or, the concept itself is contradictory. The latter case one can think of square circles, or in the former, pinks unicorns. A Pink unicorn could exist if there just happened to be such things, the concept itself is not too contradictory (aside from depending upon a fictional mythos which contradicts the laws of physics--that is also within the same category because the laws of physics could have been different). If a thing does exist it is either necessary or contingent, meaning either it cannot fail to exist without contradiction, or, its existence depends upon some higher cause, and thus it could fail to exist but just doesn't. So the two basic categories are Necessity and contingency

Now they can be subdivided but if we consider them in their most basic form there are only two categories into which they can fall (and no I'm not arguing that this proves God, but it is a good way to start thinking about him). Those two being: 1) Necessity; 2) contingency. And of each of these there are also two subdivisions. For necessity there is either arbitrary or impossibility. An arbitrary necessity has no logical reason for being, an impossibility is logically incoherent and cannot exist and cannot come to exist. Examples: Arbitrary necessity as I said in my post a 1962 Rambler as the ultimate origin of the universe. Impossibility, square circles. In the contingency category there is exiting contingency and non-existing. the former; everything we see in the world; the latter; purple dolphins, pink unicorns. Some of these categories could be subdivided; but these four represent the basic options. These are the primary categories in thinking about being and any others flow out of subdividing these.These are the four basic options. You can try to think up more of them, but there aren't any more basic, and their validity is just a matter of logic. Think about it.

Necessary Contingent
Impossible Non existent (contingent)

This is all very logical, and anyone who tries to claim that it is arbitrary is merely lashing out to deny anything that they fear might prove the existence of God. But these modes of being, in and of themselves, do not prove the existence for God. For that we need the arguments, but before we can turn to them there is one more crucial concept which must be dealt with:

Arbitrary Necessity:

An "arbitrary necessity is a contingency that has been placed in the position of a necessity, merely to furnish an answer to a problem. This is an impossibility, since contingencies cannot be necessities. Arbitrary necessities are logical impossibilities just as square circles are impossibilities. Many skeptics argue that we can't know if certain things are the case or not, this requires empirical knowledge. It may require empirical knowledge to be totally sure, but we can be fairly certain since we know that logical contradictions are truly contradictory and thus, impossible.

An example of an arbitrary necessity is the notion of the Quantum vacuum beyond time creating an endless stream of space/time "bubbles." There may be such an endless stream, but if so, it is not mere that it "just happens to be there." There must be some source, origin, or reason for its existence, since space/time bubbles are contingent (they have beginings) and thus they cannot be placed in the position of necessities.

Arbitrary necessities are no more logical than saying that the universe was caused by a 1958 Studebaker Golden Hawk, that just happened to always be beyond time. This would be a totally arbitrary solution, and while we do not have absolute proof without empirical knowledge, why should we believe it? All of these arguments about the assumptions that we should make. We should make the most logical assumptions that we know how to make. Arbitrary necessities are not logical.

Is Necessity necessary?

Skeptics often argue two things against this view: 1) that it is assuming God in the premise of the argument; 2) that the notion of necessity and contingency is invalid and thus only empirical knowledge serves to offer "proof" as to the nature of the universe. Both of these arguments are illogical and both are based upon misconceptions. The first is ill-conceived because the skeptic misunderstands what is being said. Most skeptics assume one is saying that the nature of the world indicates that it is necessary that there be a God. This is not what is being said. Or they assume it means that a necessary being is one that must exist because the world could not exist without it. The concept has nothing to do with the nature of the world. Rather, it is saying that the concept of God is that of necessary being, because the concept of God is such that God cannot cease to exist or fail to exist without contradiction. In other words, God is eternal and is not created by anything else.

At this point many atheists will says "How can you know that?" But it is not a matter of empirical knowledge, but of the concept itself. The concept of God is that of an eternal non-created being, whether God really exists or not. To that extent than, God cannot be contingent and must be necessary (logically necessary). That is the premise of the argument and it does not require any empirical knowledge. This is also the answer to the second argument, that the arguments don't assume that God already exists before the argument begins, but that the concept is that of necessary being. The point, than is to prove that such being is the nature of the case. We don't start with the assumption that God exists, but that if God exists, God must be necessary. With that premise as a given,which is a logical assumption given the nature of the concept, we go to reason from that point to the existence of such "a being." This means that God is, if God exists, necessary and cannot be contingent. Even if that distinction doesn't lend itself to direct proof of God, it is a very important distinction, because it is useful for understanding the nature of God and helps with many different arguments.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Did Jesus support everything in the Old Testament?

Mithrandir24 Put a note on the comment section saying:

As is the case with most of your posts, this was very interesting and informative. While I understand that the morality expressed in the Hebrew Bible was rather progressive for its time and the New Testament has been the inspiration and/or basis of much of the more advanced ethical theories in Western philosophy (Kant's categorical imperative being one as you pointed out), I have a few problems.

Surely you would agree that some of the laws in the OT are rather unrealistic in the punishments they prescribe for transgression, and in many cases just barbaric (e.g. Deut. 21:18-20; Num. 15:32-36). Now, my problem lies in the fact that Jesus seemed to affirm and condone the law of the Old Testament (Matt. 5:17). It's hard for me to believe that stoning children to death for disobedience (see the Deut. passage) is compatible with the character of Jesus Christ, who seemed to love children very much (Luke 18:16-17) and opposed those who wished to impose the death penalty on the adultress (John 8:1-11).

My question is, how do we make sense of this? Do you think evangelicals are wrong when they argue that Jesus saw the Law as infallible?

The examples of verses you give say this:

example (1)

Deu 21:18 ¶ If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and [that], when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them:

Deu 21:19 Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place;

Deu 21:20 And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son [is] stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; [he is] a glutton, and a drunkard.

Deu 21:21 And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.

Example (2):

Num 15:32 ¶ And while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man that gathered sticks upon the sabbath day.

Num 15:33 And they that found him gathering sticks brought him unto Moses and Aaron, and unto all the congregation.

Num 15:34 And they put him in ward, because it was not declared what should be done to him.

Num 15:35 And the LORD said unto Moses, The man shall be surely put to death: all the congregation shall stone him with stones without the camp.

Yes, these passages are a problem for me as well. Frankly, I find it hard to accept the OT or the idea that God would really mandate such a law. They are unjust, the leave no value for the individual, you are part of the tribe, the tribe does x, you do x, the tribe does not do y, you do not do y, you don't get to choose. that is all. I couldn't live that way. I can't believe God would really impose such vengeful and unjust ideas. So the question is, because Jesus says "the law will not pass away" are we believe that therefore, Christ supported everything prescribed in the OT? The conservative Evangelicals would have us believe that because Jesus says the law wont pass away, therefore, he's supporting every stoning of every child who may have ever been stoned in Israel. I don't think that's a fair conclusion. Jesus just didn't really really interested in sysetmatic theology. My theory, that's why he drafted Paul. Jesus was a lot more concerned with modeling behavior for us.

The answer to this question will reflect our overall theological tendencies and it will center around our views of inspiration. Those who follow verbal plenary view of inspiration ("inerrency") are bound to believe that these dictates of stoning people (almost every kid in modern middle America would wind up dead) are really God and Jesus endorse Them. I can't believe he would, they do seem antithetical, and I dont' think the "law wont pass away" passage establish that he would support it all. Jesus never gives us a theological answer about inspiration or hermeneutics or any of it. He doesn't tell us how we know, he just shows us what to do, how to be, how treat people. It's that treatment of people that is most troubling. Because how can one says who says "love your enemies" endorse killing rebellious children?

Now mind you the passage above is not talking about Theadore Cleaver skipping school to seem himself on tv. That passage is talking about drunkards, late teenage kids who really live in Sin. Be that as it may I can't really see putting them to death.

One Clue we might take from this is that Jesus tells us the summartion of the law and the prophets, the whole OT, is "love God, love your neighbor." That makes it seem even more absurd to think that he would support stoning an unruely kid, even he was drinking and smoking pot and sleeping with every girl in class; he still could be brought back. What about the story of the prodigal son, he went off as a rebellious teenager to live in sin.Jesus didn't say anything to imply that he should have been stoned. Instead he said the fathers welcomes him back with open arms when he repents. Kind of hard to do if you've already stoned them.

What about the verse "nowthing hsall pass from the law..." This fundies tell us must mean we have to live by the law, the law is good, the whole OT is inspried. I just got through having a major argumetn with a fundie who tried to prove that the Bible says a follower of Jesus will not believe in evoution because it's oppossed to the law. The logic was so convoluted I can't even repeat it. But this person totally confussed the law in teh sense of Moseic law vs "the law" as a designation for parts of the Bible that aren't the prophets. That allows him to say everything in the Bible must be believed because Jesus said nothing will pass form the law. law= whole bible, therefore, eveything in the Bible is litterally true.

Let's look at the passage where Jesus seems to support the law. Leading up the passage we have the beatitudes. Leading away form the passage we have a veriety of teaching that all center around the idea of being more righteous than the pharisees. This is important because it seems to be the fall out of the passage, nothing shall be lost from the law, do all that it says, and you have to be than the pharisees. This seems to give us a super legalist Jesus, but it's really something else.

Look at the beatitudes, leading up to the statment about the law:

Matthew - Chapter 5

Mat 5:1 ¶ And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him:

Mat 5:2 And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,

Mat 5:3 Blessed [are] the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Mat 5:4 Blessed [are] they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

Mat 5:5 Blessed [are] the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

Mat 5:6 Blessed [are] they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

Mat 5:7 Blessed [are] the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

Mat 5:8 Blessed [are] the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

Mat 5:9 Blessed [are] the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

Mat 5:10 Blessed [are] they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Mat 5:11 Blessed are ye, when [men] shall revile you, and persecute [you], and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

Mat 5:12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great [is] your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

What do we see going on here.I bet most of us would pick out the idea meekness, peacemaking, name of the blessed states, the poor, ect ect. But what he's actaully talking about is the Kingdom of God after it comes. When are the poor going to blessed? When will the meek iherit the earth, sure wont be in the Bush administration. It's obviously, after the end of thage. That's important because what he says in the major statment about the law not failing, or not being negated is that it will be fulille. He says All will be fulilled.

Mat 5:17 ¶ Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.

Mat 5:18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

He is also talking about keeping the law, I'll get to that in a minute. It is important to notice here that the actual statement "I am not come to abolish the law" is about fulfilling the law. The beatitudes are an example of this because they refer to the end of the age. That's what the law predicts, in its broader scope as a designation of scripture the law is about the coming of Messiah, the coming of the kingdom and the end of the age. This is the ultimate point he's making it's an eschatological statement.

But he's going to tie the two ideas together, he's going to tie behavior, doing what the law commands, with fulfilling the propheies of the coming Kingdom. The link is that we are living in the kingdom, in the "already aspect," of relaized eschatology. That is we live in the power of the knigdom, the power to be Godly and do God's work, to bring God's love into the world. We look forword to the complete coming of the Kingdom when God tiumphs over all evil. We are holing up a reare guard action waiting until the main boyd of God's forces arrive, led by Jesus, to complete the battle. That's the connection, because until that comes we are the outpost of the kingdom and it is the power of the Kingdom, not the law, that get's us through.

Mat 5:13 ¶ Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.

Mat 5:14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.

Mat 5:15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.

Mat 5:16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

It is our witness that will draw people into the Kingdom. Now he is where the redactor places the statment about presurving the law:

Mat 5:17 ¶ Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.

Mat 5:18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

So he is primarily concerned with fuflillment and our part in the fulfillment is to bring in as many as we can to the kingdom; we are the light of the world. We are the city of on the hill. Why does Jesus say "think not that I have come to destory the law?" what was said that in any way suggests that he's abolishing the law? That could be a rhetorical device or some reference of which I'm not aware. MOst of the Q1 statments come from this section, the beatitudes are the kind of thing suppossedly akin to Greek cynicism and thus very Q1-like. So there may even be a Greek rhetorical device at work. Actually I doubt that. I think it's because they knew he was talking about eschatological disruption, so the tendendy would be to think of the coming of the new age and the end of the old.

Now he shifts over from eschatology to dialy life. Here's where he shows us his conservative side.

Mat 5:19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach [them], the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

The talk aobut fulfillment has a downside, we also have to do everything the law says. But it get's worse:

Mat 5:20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed [the righteousness] of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.

Incidently that statment indicates that Jesus identified more closely with the more heterodox factions, like those at Qurman, he's for being more strict than the pharisees. But why does he make this shift, and how can anyone expect one to be more legalstic than the pharisees?

Actually he doesn't say to be legalistic at all. He says to be more righteous. That's the whole point of Jesus' ethics all along. He defines keeping the law in the most compassinoate sense. While the Pharisees say "put a fense around the law, make sure you keep every letter" Jesus says Yea, yea, letter, letter's good, but keep the letter but keep it in love. So even though he might say the law is ture and the law will endure, would he actually say "stone the kid?" the law doesn't have to stone the kid. You can always find that he's not that unfurley. The law allowed for sroning adulteresses but Jesus let one off the hook.

Jesus principle of keeping the meaning (which includes the compassion) and rather than the letter, or perhaps filling the contnet of the letter with meaning (spirit) is seen in the following passages, where he goes on to define what means by "your righteousness must exceed that of the pharisees."

Mat 5:21 ¶ Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment:

Mat 5:22 But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.

He's going further than just the letter here, he's dealing wiht the motivations for killing, or motivations for anger, or the subtley of anger.

Mat 5:23 Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee;

Mat 5:24 Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.

the letter of the law would say leave the gift at the alter. Jesus says hey that's not enough, bo make it right with your brother so your gift will be sincere.

Mat 5:25 Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison.

Mat 5:26 Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.

He's making an analogy between being held accontable for hatred of the brother and dealing with a legal advesary.

Mat 5:27 ¶ Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery:

Mat 5:28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.

It's not enough to just not commit adultery, but one must also snuff the motivation for straying. In all of these things he's going further than the law. He's always going in direction of compassion. Compassion would reconcile with the brother, compassion would refrain form saying the most damaging thing, compassion would not objectify a woman and would work on restoring the relationship in marraige.

Here we have one of my favorite verses because, in my view, it is tricky.

Mat 5:29 And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast [it] from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not [that] thy whole body should be cast into hell.

Mat 5:30 And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast [it] from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not [that] thy whole body should be cast into hell.

What a super legalist one might say. He's actually saying we should cut off our hands if they offend us or pluck out our eyes. Does Jesus realy expect anyone to do this? Of course not! why would he? No Christiain I know has ever tried it either. Do Christians hands offended them? I've never ask but what does it mean? There's one use of the hand that offends when I was kid that I would have gotten in trouble for if my parents knew about it. In the context of adultery what do you think he's saying? The eye is offensive becuase it leads to lust, what does the hand do? well as James Joyce once said, when a woman at a party ask "may I kill the hand that wrote Finnigan's Wake?" Joyce replied "It's done other things as well."

Jesus is not telling us to cut our hands off. He's using humar, this is actualyl some of the law mid eastern ancinet world humar of the bible, and it's sarcasim. he's saying "if you have a lame excuse such as 'my eye can't stop looling,' or 'my hand can't stop flogging the log' then cut it off!" But he know these are merely lame excuses and one doesn't control lust by putting out one's eyes. One doesn't lust becuas the eyes refuse to cooporate. Self control begins in the mind. You learn self control in the mind the eye and the hand can't help but follow. He's saying congront the problem where it exists, dont' give me lame excuses. Why is he talking about this at all? He's still working on the idea of living righteously.He's still working on Keeping the law, and he's laying out the principle that we keep the law not by keeping the letter, but by keepign the spirit of the law. This passage is proof of that. It would be letter of the law to say cut off the hand, pull out the eye. He's saying go further than deal with the motive for sin.

Mat 5:31 ¶ It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement:

Mat 5:32 But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.

Here again we have this principle enunciated even more clearly. In our modern times all we can see is "dont' get divorced." In Jesus say what they would see here is, You owe your wife something. The wife could not make a living on her own. To be divorced would be a total disaster for a woman, a come down to poverty or even worse. she should not run down and get the want adds to look for a job. There were very few opportunies for an unmarried woman to make a living without sinning.

Jesus is saying sure the letter says you can get a divorce, but the spirit says you can't. Becasue the meaning of the law is not "you get off scott free" the meaning of thel aw is a way to protect women. The divorce thign was originally good for women becuase it meant they could be let out of a marraige without being thought sinful. But then the econimic situation make it a disaster. Jesus is saying you must consider the woman's plight and you can't divorce just for convience or so you can have your own affair.

Mat 5:33 ¶ Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths:

Mat 5:34 But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne:

Mat 5:35 Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King.

Mat 5:36 Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black.

Mat 5:37 But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.

Again, go fruther than the law. Instead of having a list of what not to swear by, just don't do it.

Mat 5:38 ¶ Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:

Mat 5:39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.

Clearyly this is that principle, turn the other cheek. The law says you can take equal revenge but Jesus says you dont' have to, you can offer the other cheek, forgive, use non voiolence.

Mat 5:40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have [thy] cloke also.

Mat 5:41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.

Mat 5:42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.

Give more than is asked, go further than the law.

Mat 5:43 ¶ Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.

Mat 5:44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

Isn't that horse dead by now? Go further than the law. Don't just love the nieghbor love the enemy, make him a neighbor.

Mat 5:45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

Mat 5:46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?

Mat 5:47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more [than others]? do not even the publicans so?

Mat 5:48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

As a legalist he says "be perfect" which on one can do. In defining perfection, however, he does not order legalism, in every examle it is not the letter of law of which he is convered, it is goign beyond the law to find the meaning of the that with which the law deals, the motivation for sin, the nature of the problem, and then we apply love. That is what being perfect his, and he says it right here: eveyrone loves those who love him and hates those who hate him, when yo love everyone you are perfect as God is prefect.

Now in thinking about that stoning passage. Having my sense of hwat Biblical inpsiration mens I can see that as aamn attempt to come up with a law that we humans think is divine. I am certain Jesus really understood that that he really secretly knew all about Buatlmann and exegesis (at least on some level) and would have not really accepted such a passage.But even as an inerrentist I would not accept that Jesus would stone the kind. The principle of Jesus seems to always been the Spirit give life, the letter kills, go beyond the letter of the law and do that which is in keeping with the sprit of the law. The letter of the law says sotone the kid. The spirit of thel aw says protect the community but try to reach the kid.

No reason to think he would support everything. you can't jump from a summary that says "the sumary of the law is love." to stone the kid. It's not logical, and Jesus' standard was clearly go beyond the letter to the spirit of the law, which is love.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Biblical Morality

Some Criticis of Christian morlaity are always getting us to lose slight of the big pictue. They put so many little knit picking aruments like "in Passage X God cammands themt o kill so and so,and so and so didn't do anything that wrong."

They will present a massive profussion of such passages, most of which (thinking of the OT now) are based upon the fact that people over 2000 years ago looked at things very differently and had different standards of what constituted morality, truth, compassion and brutatlity. So natuarlly a great deal ancient world morality will seem very brutal to us.

But the atheists always distract us form the big picture. Everytime I try to demonstate one or two major princples that oversweep the whole field and tie up all the problems into one neat little point that can esaisly resolved, they just go "Yea? well abotu here, where x got stoned for blowing his nose?" "what about about where God tells them to wipe out the Pedestriakites and kill even the bateria on their dinner plates?!! that's bad, God is BAD BAD BAD!!!"

But never will they just face the central point and take it like real thinkers. They want this massive profussion of problematic verses to stand in the way of rally understanding or thinging about Biblical moralty; and often much what passes for their problematic verses is misunderstood.

DD prestens a lit of what's wrong with Jesus' morality, here's what he does:

(a) doubles up on synoptic passages so he can present them like four different enstances, instant multiplicty of examles. Now Jesus dint' say "pluck out your eye" once, but four times! four times as bad!

(b) mostly misunderstood because no attempt is made to watch for figurative language so he sees "i come to bring not peace but a sword" as a litteral statment that Jesus likes war! I can't even begin to comment.

But in this thread I want to ask each and everyone of you speicail, pease do not quote an massive profussion of texts in a vien attempt to show "how bad the bible is." Let's stick to the two central poinkts that I want to get at.Please?

Point 1: OT morality is progressive.

that's right. It doesn't seem so because it is brutal and unfair in many places. But:

(a) still better than sourrounding committies that had infant sacrafice and no ruels for freeing of slaves in jubalee year, no prohabitions agaisnt raping slave women, or civil recompense for rape or anything of the kind.

(b) Points to advancements in moral thinking over and above what the others had in terms of; written code, basic rights for slaves, expectation of humane treatment, laws to help the poor, ect.

The point; God told Israel they would be a light to the gentiels, they were. Their example led to better morality on a progressive scale; but it took time of course. Yet the standards did change.

Now of course atheists will argue that this is not indicative of a divine plan. On the other hand it meshes perfectly with my view of inspritation. It's not a memo from God but a collection of writtings that are inspired by divine/human encoutner.

Moreover, remeber the principle of shadow to substance!

the Moseic law was impossed to show how bad bad could be. It was a measuring stick to demonstrate and clearly define sin. It was not the solution to sin. So it shows how hard it is to live perfectly and how difficutl it is to keep a benchmark of righteousness, it's suppossed to be hard and unreasonable; because trying to live a holy life under our own effecists is hard and unreasonable.

But in the NT we find God entering history as a man, and we have a direct example of what to do, just follow Jesus' charater. which leads to point 2.

Point 2: Jesus anticipated the Categorical imprative.

that gives us a logical modern framework in which to play out Christian morality in a deontolgoical fashion.

The imprative of Kant anticipated (and tha's where Kant got it) in the golden rules do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

The "as you would hagve them do unto you" cluase is what makes it clever, because it is both objective and flexible at the same time.

These two points explain the basis of Biblcial morlaity and they make up for all the little picky verses where God appears to be a rotter, because they explain why the context of OT morality is so culturally bound, and demarkate a sense in which OT morality is progressive. It also explians NT as modern, advanced, loigcal and Kantian.


From this time forward, be advized. Comments not pertiaing to the issues which are negative will not be published. Personal attacks will not be published.

I am not saying you can't criticize my ideas. I do not want to hear what's wrong with my pesonality or that bad spelling means I didn't go to graduate schol. Those are not intellectual discussions?

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Do you know what theology is?

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One of the most ironic statements I've seen on the net is this person with whom I have just had a run in. He was trying to take me to task for my opinions about miracles but found it necessary to do so in an insulting manner. This is not a message board. This blog is not here for Pissing contexts, so that one can say clever things and show how much brighter than the other fellow I am. That's not the atmosphere I want and I wont stand for it. One of the least insightful and most ironic things this person said is that theology is so easy of course Ihave a Ph.D. in an easy subject.

My Ph.D. is in history of idea, which can be very hard itself. But I doubt that this posturing,swaggering bully even knows what theology is. In fact I doubt that he's read any real philosophy because he's apparently scandelized by the idea that some actually still believe in miracles. I think a real philosopher in this day and age would have more exposure to different kinds of ideas.

I'm sure this swaggering bully has probably only heard of theology second hand and equates it with Jerry Fallwell.He's probably never even heard of Charles Hartshorne or Schubert Ogden or Paul Tillich. Theology is one of the hardest subjects but an ignorant skeptic wouldn't know that because they don't have the background in thinking subjects like liberal arts. All they know about hard is math, chemestry, which can very be brutal but are not the only hard subjects. "Hard" of course is a relative term, theology was never hard for me, but I'm sure it would be for said bully.

For one thing one must learn othe languages,usually a couple of dead and couple of lives ones.I had to larn to Greek and French and that was only because I changed to history of ideas. I would have had to learn German and French and Hebrew if I'd stayed in theology. on top of that you have to know history, not just any history but ancient and modern, that's a huge task in itself, and philosophy.

Theology is not always hard but it can be hard and it's always enlightening and important. But the real theology as I say is done by academics not by preacher men. Jerry Fallwell is not a theologian. Dr. Kennedy is not a Theologian, Dr. Criswell is not a Theologian.

Theology offers an indispincible critique of the modern world. It is the only alternative to scientific reductionism other than Thomas Kuhn (who is out of fashion) or Postmodernism, whose day is done and is no longer important. Theology will reamain the vital critique no matter what because faith will reamin. Faith is a vald and factual part of our human experince. I fay "factual" because it is part of us and that is a fact and it can't be denied. Science has proven in the last few decades that our very brains are designed to emmitt God vibes that alert us to the divine. It's absurd to think that having a critque of reductinosim would not be imrotant, as though any form of modern thought can be trusted to satnd on its own without becoming an ideology. All one need do is check out a few athesit sites to see how science has become an ideology.

Here is a site that shows the greatness and difficulty of theology, one of the greastest theologians and in fact one of the most brilliant minds of the 20thc century, .Has Urs Von Balthesar Von Balthesar was one of the greatest thinkers of the past century, he is not well known because he was a preist. He wrote a thousas books and spoke 20 languages. He was also a close freind of JPII.

Here's another guy I like quite a bit. He was a major member of the group called "the radical thoeologians" of the 60s. He's become more conservaitive in his old age. A liberal who argues for the ruesrruection, .Wolfheart Pannenberg

Please read these sites and tell me how easy theology is.