Some Ultimate questions of the religious kind

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prothero
 
Reply Sat 25 Jul, 2009 05:53 pm
@Didymos Thomas,
Im not sure I want to get bogged down in arguing about what orthodoxy is.
The standard model of God in Western Chrisitan theology seems to include notions of omnipotence (including creation ex nihilo), omniscience (including foreknowledge and dwelling in eternity), changeless, impassive and immutability (that which changes must have been imperfect). I object to each and every one of these attributes as they are commonly presented.
If you want to argue that these attributes as commonly understood do not represent orthodoxy well, O.K. but these are the attributes most orthodox or fundamentalist and that Aquinas and Augustine portray.

These attributes are not biblical or Jewish, but are largely regarded to be attributable to the attempt to reconcile Greek rationalism (particularly Plato and Aristotle) with Christian "revelation". This was perhaps the major undertaking of medieval philosophy to reconcile reason with revelation "proof for God for the skeptical".
 
Didymos Thomas
 
Reply Sat 25 Jul, 2009 08:05 pm
@prothero,
I am not saying that those are not orthodox attributes of God: I'm arguing that they are not, in orthodox theology, taken a literal descriptors. Those descriptions cannot be literal as God is too great to be bound by human language. That's the orthodox God, the God of Aquinas' ontological argument, which, as Father Merton argued, is no ontological argument at all, but instead an assertion of God's aseity.

Today, people tend to take them literally. Dawkins and his crowd criticize God with the assumption that fundamentalism is the essence of religion. But, historically, they are mistaken.
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Sun 26 Jul, 2009 12:23 am
@Alan McDougall,
well, this is why the apophatic understanding, which is to acknowledge that deity is in a very fundamental way beyond knowledge, is so important. Hence 'unknowing' and the 'unknown God' which somehow 'breaks through' into this realm. While the 'standard model' is probably apt from a scholarly viewpoint, presumed familiarity does run the risk of breeding contempt, which it has obviously done for many.

This understanding is one of the very good things about the Armstrong book. There is a whole chapter on 'unknowing'. An essay by philosopher of religion John Hick makes a similar point at 'Who or What is God'.
 
prothero
 
Reply Sun 26 Jul, 2009 01:10 am
@Alan McDougall,
:perplexed:Of course to say no human understanding God is complete is not very helpful. We still have to have some concept of God for the concept to have any significance at all for us?
Is God personal?
Does God suffer?
Does God change?
Does God know the future?
It would be agreed any answers to these questions are outside the realm of experience, reason or science but in some sense we are what we believe and our beliefs influence our actions. Presumptively in the philosophy of religion we will say something other than it is not possible to know and all statements regarding these matters are meaningless.
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Sun 26 Jul, 2009 02:50 am
@Alan McDougall,
No, it is more a matter of coming from the heart rather than from thought. I am interested in something that is not on the conceptual level. That is the practise of unknowing and apophatic theology. Not that there is anything wrong with concepts but each level has its place. But I have no wish to persuade or convert in this matter. I am as I said previously very reticent about discussing 'God'. There are nevetheless many topics for discussion in the area of religion and spirituality and I very much appreciate your contributions.
 
Jay phil
 
Reply Sun 26 Jul, 2009 03:52 pm
@jeeprs,
Why is there evil?

"Perhaps the only real evil arises from human beings, and only because they are ignorant of, or rather willfully ignore, what is true and good."

"I tend to think of evil as the absence of good."

Nice statements,

To my current level of understanding I would add:
"Good" is a principle, "Evil" is a condition (not a principle).
Evil is on the side of gravity (the temporal), repetitive, boring and consists in action.
Good is on the side of grace, (the eternal), always new, never boring and consists in non-action.
The possibility of evil underscores our existential freedom to choose to violate our essential nature,
we also have the possibility to negate that choice.

A quote from Simone Weil:
"We experience good by doing it.

When we do evil we do not know it, because evil flies from the light."
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Sun 26 Jul, 2009 05:11 pm
@Alan McDougall,
I wonder if that is the understanding behind the curiously paradoxical statement of Jesus "resist not evil".
 
Jay phil
 
Reply Sun 26 Jul, 2009 05:37 pm
@jeeprs,
"I wonder if that is the understanding behind the curiously paradoxical statement of Jesus "resist not evil"."

Can you pinpoint where this statement comes from?

Thanks
Jay
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Sun 26 Jul, 2009 06:02 pm
@Alan McDougall,
Resist Not Evil

Matt 5:38 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:
Matt 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.
Matt 5:40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have [thy] cloak also.
Matt 5:41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.
Matt 5:42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.

---------- Post added 07-27-2009 at 10:03 AM ----------

the reason I have always found this paradoxical is because of the way many Christians seem to spend so much of their time resisting, berating, lamenting or otherwise battling with evil.
 
Didymos Thomas
 
Reply Sun 26 Jul, 2009 06:39 pm
@jeeprs,
There are a great many passages ignored in the Gospels, particularly Matthew. I mean, how many Christians will say that you should pray in your closet rather than raise your arms and voices in church?

That people do not always follow what they believe they follow should not be surprising - it's human. We are most easily fooled by ourselves.
 
Esquanto
 
Reply Sun 26 Jul, 2009 06:53 pm
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;79678 wrote:
Resist Not Evil

Matt 5:38 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:
Matt 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.
Matt 5:40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have [thy] cloak also.
Matt 5:41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.
Matt 5:42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.

---------- Post added 07-27-2009 at 10:03 AM ----------

the reason I have always found this paradoxical is because of the way many Christians seem to spend so much of their time resisting, berating, lamenting or otherwise battling with evil.


Interesting. The more I think about that, the more sense it makes. As Nietzsche said: "Be careful when you fight the monsters, lest you become one." I wonder if that idea, perhaps, is what Jesus had in mind. It's so easy to do terrible things when you're convinced that you're fighting for 'good' or 'right'.
 
Didymos Thomas
 
Reply Sun 26 Jul, 2009 06:56 pm
@Esquanto,
I think they are quite close, if not the same, Esquanto. Nietzsche complimented Jesus; his objection was against those Christians who followed Jesus rather than following their own path. Very much the same reason that Hesse's Siddhartha does not follow the historic Buddha.
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Sun 26 Jul, 2009 07:30 pm
@Alan McDougall,
yes, and Krishnamurti often used to say that idealists are very dangerous, they are always ready to sacrifice people for an idea.
 
Jay phil
 
Reply Sun 26 Jul, 2009 09:29 pm
@jeeprs,
Resist Not Evil = Do not resist evil that is done to you.

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

This is the Old Testament way of "seeing" or understanding: - "Letter of the law" - eye for an eye - addressed to the group, the group can understand this.

"Matt 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."

This is the New Testament way of "seeing" or understanding: - "spirit of the law" - do not resist evil with evil (do not confront evil with evil) - addressed to the individual, only the individual has the possibility of understanding this.

"The reason I have always found this paradoxical is because of the way many Christians seem to spend so much of their time resisting, berating, lamenting or otherwise battling with evil."

As far as what the "Christians" are doing in "Christendom", who knows? They seem to have a way of misunderstanding just about everything that presents it's self to them.

Like so many aspects of the study of spirituality, it is riddled with misunderstandings and pathologies. We are all for warned. Like so many of the misunderstandings of the Gospels, I think most are due to trying to taking them as some kind of external literal set of rubrics, ("letter of the law") rather than taking them internally as something dynamic to help one understand and participate in a higher level of being, and higher level of understanding, ("spirit of the law").

"Be careful when you fight the monsters, lest you become one."

I think the last few years of the current war under scores this point. We call "them" the "Axis of evil".

What we are talking about here seems to be pointing to a psychic condition, a state of consciousness or movement in consciousness that we participate in to build in ourselves. The gospels seem to be addressing such things and about "not doing". We do have a part in the making of ourselves; the question is whether it's well or ill.
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Sun 26 Jul, 2009 10:13 pm
@Alan McDougall,
quite right. That is why I signed out of that programme a long time ago. I needed to understand how to understand all the machinations of the self. It wasn't ever going to happen through the church. It has externalised and projected everything outwards and lost not only the meaning of the symbols it uses, but even that they ARE symbols. Confusion wrapped in a muddle sorrounded by a misunderstanding. But I don't want to upset/alienate/annoy Christians so I will now return to my customary position of not saying anything about it.
 
Didymos Thomas
 
Reply Sun 26 Jul, 2009 10:23 pm
@jeeprs,
Jeepers, to a large degree you are right to criticize Christianity at large as you do. But there are wonderful exceptions... all is not lost.

Of course, you have found Buddhism, which is wonderful. I would never want to try and pull anyone away from such a beautiful tradition. But, if you still maintain an interest in Christian thought, I would recommend (assuming you have not read his work) Father Thomas Merton. His book, Faith and Violence, is particularly poignant. Though slightly out of date, as it covers the American war in Vietnam and race issues in the US, we have not changed so much since the book was written and the underlying philosophy remains just as valid today. In fact, the book might be that much better for being written in the context of the 60's because we can now look back on that period with a more sober historical perspective.
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Sun 26 Jul, 2009 11:31 pm
@Alan McDougall,
If I knew then what I know now my attitude would be different. I do indeed recognise and celebrate many wonderful teachers and traditions in Christianity. I will look into that work of Thomas Merton's, the only one I have of his is Zen and the Birds of Appetite. (I have also read fairly recently, 'A Different Christianity' by Robin Amis, account of early and esoteric Christianity and how it has been preserved in the orthodox monasteries.)

Incidentally, here is a very good essay onBuddhism and the God Idea, although since first reading it I have realized I don't altogether subscribe to the strict non-theism of the Theravada outlook that it represents. I find in the Mahayana teaching and the realisation of bodhicitta something which, if not actual Deity, is not far removed from what I am sure many Christians also feel. I think my ultimate outlook remains agnosticism but of a type within which 'the unknown' represents the vast space of possibility and potentiality, not an empty space devoid of warmth and life, if you catch my drift. 'The unknown is alive with possibility while the manifest realm has already exhausted much of its potential'.
 
prothero
 
Reply Mon 27 Jul, 2009 12:15 am
@Alan McDougall,
The universe is the realm in which through process potentiality (gods primordial nature) becomes actulaity (gods consequent nature). The dipolar view of God and reality.
 
 

 
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