Monday, January 21, 2008

The Boundaries of Language.

I was reading over on Elizaphanian a post by Rev Sam.
The post is entitled Muscles, metaphors, mysteries: on the grokking of God

In the post Sam is claiming that

Religious language is always on the boundary, on the cutting edge, always provisional and open to change.

He offers the idea that language that is well defined, with concrete meaning, is insufficient to discuss the topics of faith. The words/phrases will have lost a poetic and/or metaphorical quality and the ideas of faith are beyond the scope of such concrete terms. That may not be exactly Sam’s point. I invite you to visit the article yourself and draw your own conclusions. Now personally, this strikes me a cop out. For any topic I choose I can claim that the words and language to fully describe it, as I understand it, do not exist. What I am really saying is that either I don’t know how to describe what I’m thinking or, more likely I think, I don’t know exactly what it is that I think.

Religious concepts such as the Jesus being both man and God at the same time are just plain old. They are ideas which originate in a time when the average Joe would marvel at this sort of mystery and not really dissect it in the modern, post enlightenment, way.
An entity cannot be divine and human (human being a state of non-divinity) at the same time. It is similar to suggesting that a bacterium was both bacteria and human at the same time. Now you can waffle till you drop about the bacteria having aspects of humanity and bacterium at the same time or it sharing the bacteria and human nature in one form. It still doesn’t make any sense. If a bacterium has any of the defining characteristics of a human it is no longer, in any meaningful sense, a bacterium. I think humans and bacteria have much more in common than a human would with an entity so powerful that it could literally speak the universe into existence. I think this particular inanity was invented because the Christians wanted it both ways. They wanted Jesus to be an average Joe, a guy like you and me, someone you could relate to. He was just a frail ole human who managed to overcome the human condition and be something more. On the other hand, if Jesus was just a man, why should we pay him any mind? Maybe his way was not necessarily the right way. To eliminate any possible authority debate, make him GOD. It may be a wild contradiction but lets face it, they were already on fairly shaky ground with that whole sacrifice for our sins thing.

Jesus’ Sacrifice.
This has to be the crowning achievement of Christianity. Making you feel indebted to some guy who apparently did you a favor two thousand years before you were born. He got you off the hook for a crime you had no part in. You now won’t be punished by the most merciful and forgiving God for something you didn’t do because his pettiness has been satisfied by the torturous death of his own son.

Sam might suggest, and I can’t say I’d blame him, that I am misrepresenting the events. That may be so, but I would like any such error explained. My fear is that any such explanation would be unintelligible. Flowery language would once again come to the fore to muddy the waters and obfuscate meaning.

Some questions I would love to get a straight answer to from those of the Faith. Now I do mean a straight answer, not waffle or undecipherable gibberish. I’m sure I could have an argument with the leading authority on Quantum Mechanics about the uncertainty principle and never have to admit defeat by simply employing more and more obscure phrasing.

The questions.
Does God want (demand?) our worship? If so, why? Is it Ego?
Is God schizophrenic? One side of him offers peace and love and forgiveness and mercy. The other, torment and eternal damnation.
Is this a fair summation of the Christian position? God loves you. Love him back or burn forever. If not, what am I misunderstanding?

These might seem like flippant questions but I think they are valid and warranted by the confused incompatibility of the Old Testament with the new.

If you reject or at least interpret the old testament as metaphorical then a whole new set of obvious questions pop up.

Who are you to decide where God is being literal and where he is being metaphorical? The Bible say it is the word of God, so why doubt that particular?

Why would God leave so much room for doubt and misinterpretation?

We have to assume that God knew that his vagueness would cause harm and misunderstanding. God knows everything. So we can only conclude that God did this on purpose. Why would God do such a thing?

What sin was Jesus dying for if original sin is removed from the equation?

On an aside, what was the point in creating dinosaurs if they were all just going to be wiped out anyway?

21 comments:

Sam Norton said...

Hi Gary - very happy to pursue any conversation that's open-ended (ie not simply the grinding of axes); I've added your feed to my reader so I'll be able to keep up with what you write.

A coupl'a things. Firstly, my post was about the way that when we discover something new, language needs to stretch and adapt in order to incorporate it, for our understanding to grow. As we are permanently in a state of growing into God (from my point of view) our language will never get to a point when it has settled (= there will always be something new). That doesn't mean that some religious language doesn't harden up and become definite (often too definite) it's to say that the core of a religious understanding is beyond a final expression in language. That's an insight common to the different religions by the way, not just theistic ones. It was also accepted by Wittgenstein.

Now, some brief answers to your questions (my answers after a dash -):

Does God want (demand?) our worship? If so, why? Is it Ego?
- Worship gives worth to the worshipper, not the one being worshipped (ie we can't add anything to God). Imagine you've been to watch a film that you really enjoyed, and you then tell someone else how much you enjoyed it, and they join in with the enthusiasm. Worship is more like that.


Is God schizophrenic? One side of him offers peace and love and forgiveness and mercy. The other, torment and eternal damnation.
Is this a fair summation of the Christian position? God loves you. Love him back or burn forever. If not, what am I misunderstanding?
- You're putting in a personal judgement in between action and consequence, as if God was a bad schoolmaster, you've broken a strange rule, and then God loses his temper. In Christian terms sin and punishment are the same thing, or, perhaps better, aspects of the same thing, in the same way that putting your hand in a fire is 'the same thing' as burning your hand.


These might seem like flippant questions but I think they are valid and warranted by the confused incompatibility of the Old Testament with the new.
- why can't the Bible be a record of a community's evolving understanding?

If you reject or at least interpret the old testament as metaphorical then a whole new set of obvious questions pop up.

Who are you to decide where God is being literal and where he is being metaphorical? The Bible say it is the word of God, so why doubt that particular?
- where does the Bible say it is the word of God? the Bible says that Jesus is the word of God. It sounds as if you are seeking something that will do away with personal judgement. Now that may be an accurate reflection of what you have experienced Christians to be (ie people without any sense of personal judgement) but it doesn't have to be like that.

Why would God leave so much room for doubt and misinterpretation?
- it's something you have to see for yourself, nobody else can do it for you.

We have to assume that God knew that his vagueness would cause harm and misunderstanding. God knows everything. So we can only conclude that God did this on purpose. Why would God do such a thing?
- I suspect that if God did provide what you seek then all of the best things about humanity would be destroyed.

What sin was Jesus dying for if original sin is removed from the equation?
- roughly speaking, Jesus was executed by a combination of imperial force and religious authority - the sorts of things which tend to destroy human life. He died to set us free from that.

On an aside, what was the point in creating dinosaurs if they were all just going to be wiped out anyway?
- don't know ;-)

Gary Connolly said...

Sam,

Some fair points in there, I'll have to digest them a little and see where it takes me.

I get the feeling that your interpretation of the bible is a fairly liberal one :). When I get a chance, I'll repsond properly.

Gary Connolly said...

Sam,

Some fair points in there, I'll have to digest them a little and see where it takes me.

I get the feeling that your interpretation of the bible is a fairly liberal one :). When I get a chance, I'll repsond properly.

Sam Norton said...

Actually, whilst I'm poles apart from the fundamentalists I would class myself as pretty conservative for the most part. It's just that my understanding of 'conservative' means keeping faith with 2000 years of church history and teaching, not simply a 19th century reaction to liberalism....

The Barefoot Bum said...

The notion that religious language is in any sense literary is a transparent dodge.

There's nothing wrong with literature per se, and nothing wrong with using a character named God in your literature, but a literary interpretation of religion destroys the religion, specifically any claims to actual objective truth.

Proponents of religion and literature want to have their cake and eat it true: Religion is true, but is exempt from any standards of truth.

The Barefoot Bum said...

There are no fair points in Sam Norton's post. Most of it is meaningless doubletalk.

"That doesn't mean that some religious language doesn't harden up and become definite (often too definite) [having the cake] it's to say that the core of a religious understanding is beyond a final expression in language [eating it too]."

"Worship gives worth to the worshipper..."

And slavery gives value to the slave.

"In Christian terms sin and punishment are the same thing, or, perhaps better, aspects of the same thing, in the same way that putting your hand in a fire is 'the same thing' as burning your hand."

Jumpin' Jesus on a pogo stick! This makes absolutely no sense. Did Norton fail fourth-grade science class? In what way is putting your hand in a fire the same thing as burning your hand? The idea is completely retarded... especially when immediately before Sam is denying a causal connection between sin and punishment.

I can't go on reading Sam's comment; my head is on the verge of exploding. The stupid... it burns.

Sam Norton said...

BB - sometimes understanding the point of view of another person requires not just hard intellectual work but a willingness to listen. Let me see if I can make it easier for you by spelling out some things.

You quoted me with interpolation:
"That doesn't mean that some religious language doesn't harden up and become definite (often too definite) [having the cake] it's to say that the core of a religious understanding is beyond a final expression in language [eating it too]."

Here you have failed to distinguish between 'some religious language' and 'the core of a religious understanding'. In other words, you haven't actually listened to what I'm saying. I see from your blog that you're familiar with Pirsig's Lila. The distinction is that between dynamic Quality and static Quality, if that helps at all.

""Worship gives worth to the worshipper..."
And slavery gives value to the slave."


It would seem that you've never had the sense of enjoyment gained from giving someone a present, which, if true, is rather sad. Again, you're not actually engaging with what I'm saying, you're just hurling slogans at me, which show that you have failed to either listen or comprehend. I can do something about the latter, but I can't do anything about the former.

""In Christian terms sin and punishment are the same thing, or, perhaps better, aspects of the same thing, in the same way that putting your hand in a fire is 'the same thing' as burning your hand."

Jumpin' Jesus on a pogo stick! This makes absolutely no sense. Did Norton fail fourth-grade science class? In what way is putting your hand in a fire the same thing as burning your hand? The idea is completely retarded... especially when immediately before Sam is denying a causal connection between sin and punishment."


Here is a good example of failing to pay attention to what is said, both in terms of the conversational context as well as the specific language being used. First off the comments are a conversational medium - in other words, I started saying (typing) the point, and in the course of so doing realised that I wanted to clarify where I was going - so, the first thing I said ("sin and punishment are the same thing") is clarified and made more exact by the second. That second point had the phrase the same thing embedded in scare quotes in order to bring out the point that I am talking about - as stated - aspects of the same experience, not identity between them. The point I was making - clearly not eloquently enough - is that the perception of punishment being bestowed by an angry God as a consequence of disobedience is a mistaken perception. Instead of there being [Sin->divine displeasure->Punishment] as a three stage process, the connection is much more immediate, in the same way that burnt flesh is, usually speaking, an immediate consequence of the placing of a hand in a fire. It doesn't require a headmaster figure to jump up and down and say 'you've broken the rules against putting hands in the fire...NOW your flesh is going to burn'. My point is that interpolating some form of personal reaction in the midst of such an experience is a mistake. In other words, God is not like that - he's not a headmaster figure obsessed with demanding obedience to obscure regulations.

The thing is, I'm happy - as I said in my first comment - to explore this conversation further whenever there seems a prospect of mutual illumination from doing so, and Gary seems willing to run with that. I'm sure he agrees with you that my position is baseless, but he is prepared to actually engage with what I say and believe. On the evidence you've provided here you seem only to be interested in sharpening axes and taking your prejudices out for a stroll.

The Celtic Chimp said...

Sam,

Here is my more detailed response

First off, I’m going to be asking a lot of questions as I have been doing. I do so because I want to get a firm grasp of what it is that you believe and maybe get some insight to the theistic mind.

Your responses are little vague but I will try to engage with what I interpret you to be saying. I am willing to give you some credit for the limitations of language that you were originally posting about. This is not, of course, a free pass to make no sense :)

Please correct any misinterpretations.

You say,

As we are permanently in a state of growing into God…

Growing in what sense? Gaining more understanding? into God not sure what that means.
Could the above statement be paraphrased accurately as

As we are permanently in a state of increasing out understanding of God

If so then that is quite a supposition. Why do you believe this? Are we (you, theists) growing in understanding or simply changing our understanding. A theist in the early days of the Christian religion might suggest that your understanding is wrong (or more likely heresy). A quick scan of your responses leaves the impression that you discount the Old Testament as essentially obsolete. Could growing in understanding lead to the New Testament being similarly dismissed in the future?

I have to ask, do you believe the events in the Old Testament actually happened? If not, why credit any of the Bible with truthfulness?


Worship gives worth to the worshipper

I’m going to have to agree with the Barefoot Bum on this one. I can’t find any sense in this. If for example I was to start worshipping a local bag lady, am I adding worth to myself? I can only assume you mean that the worship of GOD gives worth to the worshipper but again I can’t see why this is so. Is it some form of humbling experience?
I can’t escape the remembered phrase from my childhood in Catholic Mass.
‘It is right to give him thanks and praise’. Not sure I agree. Life is an horrendous experience for many people. Not much to be thankful for. And as for praise, again it feels like an appeal to ego.


God and personal judgement

Again, my gut reaction is similar to the Barefoot Bum on this. Sin and punishment being the same thing strikes as just plain nonsensical. I’m willing to accept that your brief response is failing to properly describe your view here. Might I suggest you dedicate a post to this topic and discuss it in detail. If you have done so, could you direct me to the post.

In any case, I think you are now deviating wildly from long established church dogma.
It seems as though you are suggesting that sin is inherently it’s own punishment? If this is so, would a Christian theocracy have no laws, after all, why would you punish someone twice for the same sin?
What are the commandments if not rules? It has long been the common understanding that breaking these rules would be punished, in the direct cause and effect sense.

Why can't the Bible be a record of a community's evolving understanding?

There is absolutely no reason whatsoever why this couldn’t be the case. I think, however, it is not the case. The bible makes claims to be the word of God. God’s understanding of God is surely not evolving.

where does the Bible say it is the word of God?.

2 Timothy 3:15-17

15 And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

Is this just plain wrong or is it suggestive of the idea that those being inspired by God are to some degree employing their own opinions and interpretations? If they are, then surely anything the Bible states would be subject to the same subjective reporting. It seems also that this would be a rather serious flaw in God’s chosen method of revealing himself to us.

On the point of doing away with personal judgement. If God wants us to judge for ourselves, why bother with a bible at all? If the ten commandments were directly penned by God, I would suggest he is not too keen on us deciding what is right and wrong for ourselves.


To the Question

"Why would God leave so much room for doubt and misinterpretation?"

You responded

it's something you have to see for yourself, nobody else can do it for you

I find this answer perplexing. I’m not sure what you mean. What do I have to see for myself?

You further suggested
I suspect that if God did provide what you seek then all of the best things about humanity would be destroyed.

What best things are you referring to and how are they created/propogated by a confusing message?

Your response to the question of Jesus not dying for our sins (original sin) was

- roughly speaking, Jesus was executed by a combination of imperial force and religious authority - the sorts of things which tend to destroy human life. He died to set us free from that.

If this is the case, he failed miserably. We are currently beset by both and the centuries between his death and now have had spectcular examples of both. Was Jesus’ death pointless or unnessesary?

I think upon reflection that my stated fears have been realized. The answers to my questions are very confusing. If seemingly illogical and confusing statements are what you mean by religious language then it seems to me to do more harm than good. It restricts and prohibits understanding. It may be the case that we are trying to tackle too much at once here. Can you suggest one of the aspects of this discussion that we might focus on and perhaps at least reach a point of understanding about what we each think about the topic.

The Celtic Chimp said...

Hi Sam,

You comments to BB appeared just as I published my repsonse, I'll have a read as you are probably addressing some of my questions there.

Sam Norton said...

Hi Gary,
Very happy to pursue this, although some of these things I have written about on my blog, so I'll put in some references as we go. I'll put my subsequent words into italics in this post.

First off, I’m going to be asking a lot of questions as I have been doing. I do so because I want to get a firm grasp of what it is that you believe and maybe get some insight to the theistic mind.

That's fine - I'm happy to be a guinea pig in this exercise! One of the most frustrating things for me is precisely not being understood. I'm very happy to be disagreed with - however vehemently! - I just hate being called a 'retard' by someone who doesn't actually understand what my position is. Not thinking of anyone in particular there of course ;-)

Your responses are little vague but I will try to engage with what I interpret you to be saying. I am willing to give you some credit for the limitations of language that you were originally posting about. This is not, of course, a free pass to make no sense :)
Please correct any misinterpretations.

Fine. It may simply be that we'll end up clarifying areas of disagreement, but that's a worthwhile aim.


You say,

As we are permanently in a state of growing into God…

Growing in what sense? Gaining more understanding? into God not sure what that means.
Could the above statement be paraphrased accurately as

As we are permanently in a state of increasing out understanding of God

If so then that is quite a supposition.

I wouldn't ultimately distinguish between growing intellectually and growing spiritually (=morally, in terms of wisdom and right judgement etc). I think that when we're in the foothills of understanding the world and our place in it there is some value in discriminating between different realms of knowledge, but that distinction lessens in value as we go on. To put that in less exotic terms it seems to be that as you, for example, get embedded into the philosophy of science you realise that there are inevitable social and moral aspects to scientific knowledge, and so a fully 'scientific' understanding actually becomes one that is more socially conditioned and moral. A different way to say this is to say that only the holy can see truly, in other words, perception of the truth is something that is inherently linked to the character of the person doing the perceiving. Wittgenstein has some good things to say about this.

Why do you believe this? Are we (you, theists) growing in understanding or simply changing our understanding. A theist in the early days of the Christian religion might suggest that your understanding is wrong (or more likely heresy). A quick scan of your responses leaves the impression that you discount the Old Testament as essentially obsolete. Could growing in understanding lead to the New Testament being similarly dismissed in the future? I have to ask, do you believe the events in the Old Testament actually happened? If not, why credit any of the Bible with truthfulness?

There's a whole nest of issues here which will doubtless occupy us for a while. Firstly I do not at all see the Old Testament as obsolete, what I do think is that it needs to be interpreted in the light of the New. In other words when I read the Old Testament and there are things which contradict Jesus, or what I know of him, then I'll read them as being particularly culture-bound. However I would say that it's the same God revealed in both bits of Scripture. The second element I'd respond to is about whether the Old Testament 'actually happened' and this is a little complex. I'd argue that the books which are basically historical contain a great deal of fact. Something like the first 11 chapters of Genesis I would read as mythology. In any particular passage there will be more or less of one or the other. I don't have anything at stake in the argument that everything in the Bible happened exactly as it (seems to) say. That's a very Modern predilection.


Worship gives worth to the worshipper

I’m going to have to agree with the Barefoot Bum on this one. I can’t find any sense in this.

It probably wasn't the clearest of statements...

If for example I was to start worshipping a local bag lady, am I adding worth to myself?

Well, let's run with this as an example, because it will illustrate an axiom about worship. What would it mean for you to worship a local bag lady? Presumably it wouldn't necessarily mean changing the bag lady (ie giving her a house and an income and so on) because then the bag lady wouldn't have the attributes that you're worshipping. It would probably involve giving the bag lady things that 'bag-ladiness' held to be of value (bottles of scotch whiskey?) but, more fundamentally, it would involve taking on the attributes of 'bag-ladiness' yourself. In other words you would do things like: ceasing to wash, sleeping outside, pushing around an old shopping trolley with all your worldly goods in it and so on. And you wouldn't do this because the bag-lady had told you to do it but - because you worship the bag lady, and see her as what is worth worshipping - you see the qualities of 'bag-ladiness' as of high value. And so, over time, you would turn into a bag-lady (or bag-chimp). In other words, and this is the axiom: you become what you worship. Those things which you hold to be of highest value in life, those are the things on which you will build your life, and your character and behaviour will then be shaped around them. Consider what it means to worship Mammon (ie wealth). For someone who actually sees money as the most important thing (which is what worship means) they will change as a person in order to accumulate wealth. That doesn't mean that they will turn into a pile of gold, but it does mean that they will become avaricious and Scrooge-like.
Now mammon is seen as an idol from a Christian point of view because it is something that destroys life, it is what we call an idol. Idols can be worshipped (and they don't have to be small statues, they can be ideas just as easily) and idols give what they promise - someone who genuinely worships Mammon will become more wealthy - but what they take in return is life, is integrity. As Jesus put it 'what does it profit a man if he gain the whole world but lose his own soul'. The difference between an idol and God, in Christian understandings, is that worshipping the living God gives life in return - joy, freedom, peace etc etc. So instead of becoming a bag-chimp, worshipping God enables you to be CELTIC CHIMP in an exemplary way.
We'll probably come back to this as there is a fair bit more to say, but that's enough for now.

Actually, I'll say one more thing, because there is an inverse corollary: if you worship the living God, you become more alive, more integrated, more noble and spiritual etc - therefore, if you're not becoming more noble, spiritual, integrated, alive... then you're not worshipping the living God. Therefore if your experience of Christians is not recognisable by that description then it suggests something about who or what they are worshipping...


I can only assume you mean that the worship of GOD gives worth to the worshipper but again I can’t see why this is so. Is it some form of humbling experience?
I can’t escape the remembered phrase from my childhood in Catholic Mass.
‘It is right to give him thanks and praise’. Not sure I agree. Life is an horrendous experience for many people. Not much to be thankful for. And as for praise, again it feels like an appeal to ego.

It's definitely not about ego. As for giving thanks I do believe it to be the hallmark of holiness that thanksgiving is offered in every situation. This links into the problem of evil which is a biggie of its own.

God and personal judgement

Again, my gut reaction is similar to the Barefoot Bum on this. Sin and punishment being the same thing strikes as just plain nonsensical. I’m willing to accept that your brief response is failing to properly describe your view here. Might I suggest you dedicate a post to this topic and discuss it in detail. If you have done so, could you direct me to the post.

I clarified this above, but do get back to me if it doesn't make sense still.

In any case, I think you are now deviating wildly from long established church dogma.

As it happens I think I'm being completely orthodox, but it might help the discussion move further along if we could distinguish between Christianity A - which is what you have been taught that Christianity is - and Christianity B - which is what I believe. For reasons that will become clear over time I'd like to call the first 'Modern Protestantism' and the second 'Classical Christianity'. If you don't want to run with that, I'd be happy with 'American Christianity' and 'what Sam believes'. I don't want to get hung up on the particular descriptions, I do want to make the distinction.

It seems as though you are suggesting that sin is inherently it’s own punishment? If this is so, would a Christian theocracy have no laws, after all, why would you punish someone twice for the same sin?

Good point. I'm not sure that a Christian theocracy is possible, more certain that it's not desirable.

What are the commandments if not rules? It has long been the common understanding that breaking these rules would be punished, in the direct cause and effect sense.

Put them in context, beginning with 'I am the Lord your God who brought you out of slavery in Egypt'. In other words they need to be heard in a particular tone of voice. Not as the nutty head teacher with arbitrary dictates but more like a mother seeing a small child walking towards the road and shouting 'stop or you'll be hurt'.


Why can't the Bible be a record of a community's evolving understanding?

There is absolutely no reason whatsoever why this couldn’t be the case. I think, however, it is not the case. The bible makes claims to be the word of God. God’s understanding of God is surely not evolving.

where does the Bible say it is the word of God?.

2 Timothy 3:15-17

15 And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

Is this just plain wrong or is it suggestive of the idea that those being inspired by God are to some degree employing their own opinions and interpretations? If they are, then surely anything the Bible states would be subject to the same subjective reporting. It seems also that this would be a rather serious flaw in God’s chosen method of revealing himself to us.

Firstly, the quotation doesn't support your point. Secondly, the quotation is better translated 'God-breathed' - in other words, God can be found through the text. Thirdly the point of Scripture is to point to Jesus, who IS the Word of God, rather than to emphasise itself. Buddhists have a similar understanding of the Buddha - he's a finger pointing to the moon. The point is to look at the moon, not the finger.

On the point of doing away with personal judgement. If God wants us to judge for ourselves, why bother with a bible at all? If the ten commandments were directly penned by God, I would suggest he is not too keen on us deciding what is right and wrong for ourselves.

Are you saying that a judgement cannot be educated?

To the Question

"Why would God leave so much room for doubt and misinterpretation?"

You responded

it's something you have to see for yourself, nobody else can do it for you

I find this answer perplexing. I’m not sure what you mean. What do I have to see for myself?

This is one I think we'll spend quite a bit of time with. Are you familiar with what is called 'aspect-blindness'?

You further suggested
I suspect that if God did provide what you seek then all of the best things about humanity would be destroyed.

What best things are you referring to and how are they created/propogated by a confusing message?

In brief: human creativity. This one might be worth putting to one side until we've covered other stuff.

Your response to the question of Jesus not dying for our sins (original sin) was

- roughly speaking, Jesus was executed by a combination of imperial force and religious authority - the sorts of things which tend to destroy human life. He died to set us free from that.

If this is the case, he failed miserably. We are currently beset by both and the centuries between his death and now have had spectcular examples of both. Was Jesus’ death pointless or unnessesary?

There's a long answer to this, but, again, the short answer I would give is that the saints don't contribute to suffering. We're living in a time 'in-between' when evil is still with us but the way out of evil has been shown to us.

I think upon reflection that my stated fears have been realized. The answers to my questions are very confusing. If seemingly illogical and confusing statements are what you mean by religious language then it seems to me to do more harm than good. It restricts and prohibits understanding. It may be the case that we are trying to tackle too much at once here. Can you suggest one of the aspects of this discussion that we might focus on and perhaps at least reach a point of understanding about what we each think about the topic.

OK. I think it would help greatly if we talked about aspect-blindness before going on further. See here and here.

Anonymous said...

CC I dont know how you have the patience to talk to this eejit. You might as well go out to an asylum and try convincing someone he wasn't really Napoleon!

The Celtic Chimp said...

Anonymous,

I'm guessing you might be Irish, I don't think the word eejit has travelled to far beyond our shores :)

The Celtic Chimp said...

Sam,

Aspect blindness seems fairly self explanatory but I'll educate myself on the specifics of it and get back to you. It is as good a place as any to start.

The Celtic Chimp said...

Sam.

I have stated a new thread on Aspect Blindness.

Lucian said...

How can Jesus be at the same time both (fully) God and (fully) man ?

How can "The Celtic Chimp" be at the same both (fully) Angel according to the spiritual nature of his oul; and -at the same time- (fully) animal, according to the material nature of his body ? :-)

And as regards Jesus' holy sacrifice for us on the Cross, there are more than one ways to look at it.

The Celtic Chimp said...

Hi Lucian,

How can Jesus be at the same time both (fully) God and (fully) man ?

How can "The Celtic Chimp" be at the same both (fully) Angel according to the spiritual nature of his oul; and -at the same time- (fully) animal, according to the material nature of his body ? :-)


I would say he can't. The 'soul' is simply the brain. Consider a person who in an accident that results in brain damage. Assume the person begins acting in destructive or harmful ways they never would have before. Has their soul been altered by the accident?

Regarding:

And as regards Jesus' holy sacrifice for us on the Cross, there are more than one ways to look at it.

could you describe an alternate way of looking at it?

Lucian said...

Of course, one has to believe that the man is a body & soul entity, so for a religious person of almost any religion, what I just said would make perfect sense ... or at least it would be a good defense.

That again, if someone is, for example, an atheist, or a free-thinker, this would of course make no sense for him.

could you describe an alternate way of looking at it?

Well, I already gave You the link, didn't I? Anyway, here's another one.

Lucian said...

Has their soul been altered by the accident?

No, but their body (brain) has been; and the bond between the two (i.e., the soul and the body) is by no means something superficial; it's very real and very deep. Yet, the two remain distinct, though not separate. Only death is able to destroy that bound. (Which shall be undone at the ressurection).

[Only the Gnostics, -who treated creation and materiality with disgust, and believed them to be something inherently bad-, believed that the soul is trapped in the body as in a prison, and that the bond between them is more of a superficial nature: the soul indwells the body, but not more].

The Celtic Chimp said...

Hi Lucian,

You did indeed have a link there. Sorry, I managed to miss it.

I haven't had the chance to read the articles linked but I should have a little more time towards the end of this week. I will post some thoughts on them then.

With regard to the soul/body thing. I suppose this is the point where presuppositions color one's view. As an Atheist, I make no presupposition about intangibles like the soul. Well maybe it more my scientific, analytical brain then my Atheism. What continues to surprise me is how religious people who are normally questioning skeptics when it comes to non-faith related matters simply switch off that aspect of their minds when presented with what are almost undoubtedly the most farfetched things they will ever hear. Why does a normally sensible person believe stories which all the tangible evidence suggests are false?

I am currently making as genuine an attempt as possible (given the inescapable bias we all have) to engage with the religious worldview. I hope if nothing else to gain some understanding of it. I am finding that the greatest obstacle for me personally is the seemly arbitrary answers that are given to some questions. For example, on the idea of a person’s brain/soul being injured you gave the following explanation

Has their soul been altered by the accident?

No, but their body (brain) has been; and the bond between the two (i.e., the soul and the body) is by no means something superficial; it's very real and very deep. Yet, the two remain distinct, though not separate. Only death is able to destroy that bound. (Which shall be undone at the ressurection).


In this answer there are many assumptions and assertions. There is, however, absolutely no evidence to suggest it is actually true. You do not (nor does anyone else) really know these things. You might suggest that you do indeed know these things despite the lack of evidence but a few simple observations shows this type of knowing to be extremely unreliable. A very simple example of this would be two individuals from different faiths who just know that theirs is the one that is true.

It is this situation of one side using evidence and reason and the other using intuition and doctrine that prevents the topic being discussed on a level playing field. I don’t mean to imply that religious people are not reasoning or never attempt to provide evidence for their claims. I mean that the atheistic side of the debate will never pronounce unverifiable truth. Should anyone do so they will be corrected with vigor by other atheists and rightly so. I wonder if theists ever really stop to consider the ridiculousness of a statement that beings with the word ‘GOD’ and goes on to assume the motivations, desires or nature of god.

For example:

‘God is merciful’.

There is absolutely no evidence to suggest this is true and plenty to suggest it is not. So why would someone believed that of god? It is believed for only two possible reasons. Someone said it or someone read it.
If I told you that I was the son of god, I suspect you would not believe me. Why believe that some guy who might not even have existed is the son of god? Someone said he was and a very unreliable book says so too. The normal bullshit detectors are switched off. Why? The pomp, the ceremony, the costumes?

If it seems like I am trying to convince you that belief is unreasonable, I am not. That is how I feel about it and I’m just trying to shed some light on why I believe that. I will it there for now. I don’t have the time to continue. Also, I think I'm rambling. I am a little hung-over at the moment :)

I would like to know why you hold the beliefs that you do. Any insight you can provide would be gratefully received.

Lucian said...

I would like to know why you hold the beliefs that you do. Any insight you can provide would be gratefully received.

LOL! :-) You're not the only one! (So would I, by the way ... ) but I've just been unable to figure out a reason for that ... ANY reason ... for my entire life: it's just something that simply is or isn't, I guess ...

You might blame it on my religious upbringigng from "day one", I guess, to which I've been subjected by my cute little brain-washing granny :-) ... and on the fact that the only atheists in our country were the men-murdering and men-torturing communists.

I personally like to blame it all on God's Grace, of which I hold my religious upbringing and my granny's personality to be just a component and integral part.

As an Orthodox Christian, I believe NEITHER in being able to eXegese Christ out of the OT Scriptures, NOR in the capability to deduce or exegete God by mere observation of natural laws.

When the Scholastics tried to do just that (exegete God out of nature), the answer that they got in return was the Enlightment, or Rebirth.

When the Protestants tried to do the same thing (eXegete Christ out of the OT), the answers that they got in return were this, this, and this.

As for my answer to Your question regarding the Incarnation, it can only be properly understood by one who believes in God or the existence of the soul, though he may not even in fact be a Christian

I perfectly understand why Jews are Jews and their reasons for not accpeting Christ as the Messiah; and I pertfectly understand why someone might just simply not believe in God. The last thing that I "expect" someone to do is to wake up one morning and say: "Evrika! Now I've got it: God is Trinity, and He must've at some point become incarnated for our sake" --> that's simply absurd and it's NOT going ot happen ... EVER! Our religion is based on direct revelation from God, and as an Orthodox, to try to short-circuit that (by ways of speculation, Sola Scriptura, or natural revelation) would tant-amount to heresy or even blasphemy.

Only when we possess Revelation can we safely eisegete God into nature and Christ into the OT ... NOT the other way around!

People (normal people) think that the earth is solid and that the skies are shifting, being so aerial and aethereal in their nature ... but for us (mad little Orthodox) it's the other way around: we fix our feet solidly in the fluffy little clouds of heaven, and model the face of earth's solid crust in the image and likeness of that which lies above ("As in Heaven, so on earth": Exodus 25:40; 26:30). -- There's just nop other way, sorry to burst Your little deductionist bubbles just like that ... :-(

And You don't have to do it next week-end ... You've got Your whole life ahead ...

Lucian said...

Why? The pomp, the ceremony, the costumes?

I don't know. (Very possibly!). You see, while I was writing to You my previous answer, my mother's mp3-player was playing this little tune, which might or might not have influenced me subconsciously (if such a thing like the subconscious even exists).